Saturday, August 26, 2006

Management Styles

Joel Spolsky, of Joel On Software, has a series on management styles.  He details three styles of management:  Command and Control, Econ 101, and Identity.  Command and Control is where management dictates everything that happens.  Econ 101 is where management uses economic incentives to get the right behavior.  Identity is getting people to do what you want by making them like you, personally.  These are all straw men and no one really uses only one style but they are useful to understand and help to shape a good mixture of styles.  The command and control model, at its extreme, is micromanagement.  It doesn't allow for any innovation in the leaf nodes.  The polar opposite is Econ 101 where the management identifies some outcomes and pays people to achieve them.  It does not, however, give much instruction on how to achieve that.  Identity is getting people to like you and the organization so they'll do what is best.  This has a similar pitfall as Econ 101 in that it doesn't necessitate helping employees. 

The best solution is a mixture.  Some people are motivated by money and rewarding people economically for contributing to the company can help them.  That cannot be the only motivation, however.  Internal motivation can be an even more powerful motivator.  If people like you, they'll give you their best.  If people are excited about the company's direction, they'll give it their all.  A little command and control can be useful too.  It helps to give the team more than direction.  A very experienced team can get by with only direction but most teams have inexperienced people and they will benefit from being told how to get things done.  The important thing is to make sure the instruction is done with an eye to making an independent worker rather than just getting the immidiate work done.  One of the biggest jobs of a manager is to grow his or her team.  Helping the team mature will help the individuals on the team but also help the output of the whole team. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Cool Search Feature

I was watching an internal presentation about Live Search today and ran across this really cool feature.  Live and Google have supported searching within a particular domain for quite some time.  However, it has always required remembering the correct syntax and typing in the full domain name.  Now, has it integrated into their search results.  It's much more readily available than before.  Try this:

1.  Go to

2.  Type in a search.  Try "msdn blogs".

3.  In the upper right hand corner of the results window there will be a slider bar.  Slide this to the right (4 horizontal lines).

4.  Click the words "Search within this site."

5.  Type in a search.  Try "unit tests".

The results are everything within that matches your criteria.

Interview with Clayton Christensen

The Innovator's Dilemma is an eye-opening book that everyone in the technology industry should read and understand.  I recently ran across an audio interview with the author, Clayton Christensen.  In it he gives a brief explanation of the main thesis of his book.  That is that there are certain types of technology that are disruptive.  They are at first underperformant of the market but allow for new uses.  Over time, they become good enough to subsume the previous solutions.  A good example is that of the PC.  When the Apple // and IBM PC first launched, they couldn't do the work of real business.  For that, you needed a minicomputer.  Over time, however, the PC became powerful enough to do everything that a minicomputer could and eventually totally replaced the minicomputer.  In his book, Clay uses examples as diverse as hard drives and earth moving equipment.  In this interview, he also starts to flesh out what he calls the "Law of conservation of modularity" which attempts to explain how the ability to make profits in a market changes over time.  He talks about how this affects Intel and how it will affect the software market.  I don't know that I agree with all of his characterizations but it is definitely thought-provoking.


Friday, August 18, 2006

LSharp Discussion Group

I've been playing a little with Lisp lately.  Unlike many other single-sourced languages these days (Python, Ruby, to a large extent C# and Java), Lisp comes in a myriad of flavors and implementations.  Even with the Ansi Common Lisp standard, each one has slightly different abilities.  There are a lot of things, like networking, that are not part of the standard and are done differently in each implementation.  When looking for one to play with, someone on my blog pointed me toward L#.  This looks like an interesting language and is a Lisp based on the Arc principles but built on top of the .Net CLR and its native data types.  This means that you can program lisp but have access to the entire .Net framework.  The L# front had been quiet for a while but now there is a new discussion forum for it which will hopefully spark some interest.  If you have interest in Lisp and want to use it with the .Net libraries, check out L# and the discussion group.

Back From Vacation

I spent the past few weeks on my Grandparents' farm in upstate New York.  When I think of New York I always think of the city and suburbia.  After spending 2 weeks in the upper part of the state, I'm amazed how wrong that view is.  There are hundreds of miles of open territory that has little other than small towns and farms in it.  Amazingly beautiful land.  Too bad I live so far away...

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

HD-DVD Looks Better Than BluRay

I was in Circuit City the other day and they had a beautiful Sony SXRD television set up playing some BluRay content.  I thought I was going to be blown away.  I wasn't.  The disc playing was a demo disc featuring snippets of lots of movies.  Each one was somewhat washed out.  The edges weren't crisp.  It just wasn't that great a picture.

Now, we have the first head-to-head reviews of HD-DVD and BluRay.  Three titles are now available for both formats.  The results are in.  The winner:  HD-DVD.  HD-DVD had better quality video, better audio, and better interactivity.

Part of this comes from the BluRay camp's choice to use MPEG2 as its format of choice.  Each of the formats has three required video codecs:  VC1 (standardized Windows Media Video 9), H.264 (also known as MPEG4 AVC), and MPEG2.  H.264 appears to be too complex for anything to decode well at this time and neither are using it.  The HD-DVD camp is going with VC1 and the BluRay camp with MPEG2.  VC1 is a much better codec than MPEG2.  It was invented many years after the aging MPEG2 standard.  It can store the same data in roughly half of the space.  This means that HD-DVD can store a better picture in less space.  Also, despite the promises that BluRay would be the higher-capacity format, it presently is not.  BluRay is shipping 25-GB single layer discs whereas HD-DVD movies are shipping on double-layer 30-GB discs.  Between the codec and the capacity, HD-DVD has space for content that is twice as good or twice as much content that is equal.

HD-DVD Podcast

Our Vice President, Amir Majidimehr, gave an interview to XBox Live's Major Nelson.  He and one of the program managers for HD-DVD talk about the market, the discs themselves, scripting, interactivity, codecs, and what makes HD-DVD better than BluRay.  It's a very informative interview.  Load it up on your media player or burn it to CD and listen away.  It's well worth your time. 

Two versions are available:



My initial take was that HD-DVD was losing the battle.  The studios all seemed to be siding with BluRay, the PS3 seemed like an unstoppable juggernaut, and HD-DVD didn't seem to have much going for it.  Now all that has changed.  The studios are still largely with BluRay but they'll go wherever the players are.  The PS3 is looking more like a hobbled old horse than the inevitable winner of the race.  HD-DVD has made a decent showing in the market.  It is available and costs 1/2 of the BluRay players.  Things could get interesting.