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Wildwood Rules Cheat Sheet

Lincoln Strikes again, this time with a handy Wildwood Rules Cheat Sheet. How does the Two Point Rule work? What’s the Stall Count? Am I In or Out of Bounds? All these questions answered in one simple, concise and convenient page.

Get it in PDF form here: http://goo.gl/Jb5cn

Lincoln’s Guide to the Wildwood Beach Ultimate Tournament (W2BU)

The Wildwood Beach Ultimate Tournaments (W2BU) is the world’s large beach ultimate event with several hundred teams and several thousand players in one location for two amazing days of Beach Ultimate. Preparing for, and surviving this experience can be a daunting undertaking, so Lincoln is here to demystify every single aspect and facet of this amazing weekend long ultimate fest.

This is intend to be a comprehensive guide. However, it is far from complete and Lincoln guarantees no specific detail, results, or any of the information contained within. It is incumbent upon each team, captain, and player who reads this guide to do their own research, set their own expectation, and come to their own conclusions. If you find any inaccuracies or have suggesting for changes or inclusions, please comment on the Reddit thread at http://www.reddit.com/r/ultimate/comments/1hfvef/lincolns_guide_to_the_wildwood_beach_ultimate/ and Lincoln will make every opportunity to make changes and corrections.

As with all things published on the internet: Things are subject to change and YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).

ABOUT W2BU

What is W2BU? Wildwood is the largest beach ultimate tournament in the world. It has been running since 1992 and annually hosts approximately 400 teams, made up of around 5000 players. There are about 150 or so fields setup, and games playing non-stop from 9 to 5 on both Saturday and Sunday. It is an incredibly fun and exciting tournament full of great people, amazing ultimate, and outstanding spirit. Lincoln cannot recommend this tournament enough.

When is W2BU? Wildwood takes place the last weekend of July every year. Here’s a rough schedule for the next ten years…

July 27-28, 2013
July 26-27, 2014
July 25-26, 2015
July 30-31, 2016
July 29-30, 2017
July 28-29, 2018
July 27-28, 2019
July 25-26, 2020
July 24-25, 2021
July 30-31, 2022

What can I expect? You can expect to play 4 full games of Beach Ultimate on Saturday and anywhere from 1 to 3 games of Beach Ultimate on Sunday. Each team is also allotted a certain amount of free food and water, to keep energy up. All players over 21 also get access to the Beer Garden on Saturday Night with free beer, live music, and films of past tournaments.

What can I REALLY expect? You can expect to meet a lot of really cool players and teams, to see crazy layouts everywhere you look, and to have the time of your life. This is not hyperbole. Almost anyone who has ever gone to Wildwood once, returns the next year.

How Much does W2BU Cost? The only official expense for W2BU is registration, which, as of 2013 was $400 per team. If you carry a team of about 10 players, this is $40 per player. That said, the other costs of Transportation, Accommodation, Food, Alcohol (optional), vary greatly. Lincoln’s personal estimate is that it runs somewhere around $400 per person.

Where can I find out more Information? You can visit the W2BU Website, W2BU Facebook Page, or W2BU Twitter account to stay up to date on all the latest details.

TEAMS

How is W2BU Structured? W2BU is structured into different divisions, each with any number of sub-divisions and groupings.  A team registers for one division. Within each division teams are divided into a Class.  Each Class is further divided into Pools with 4 teams in each pool. So for any given team you will have a division (2/2 beer, 3/1 Competitive, etc), a Class (Golden Monkey, Helios, etc), and a Pool (as determined by your team letters).

What Are the Different Divisions? There are currently four different divisions of play for which a team may register. Each division is outlined below…

  • 2/2 Beer – 2 Male, 2 Female on the field for each point. Beer Divisions are for teams who care more about fun than winning. Commonly, beer division games will often, but not always, feature more casual play interspersed with practices like boat races, disc chugs, beer points, bust-a-move points, T-Rex vs Pterodactyl, and the like. If you are not interest in such antics, go play Competitive.
  • 3/1 Beer – 3 Male, 1 Female on the field for each point. Beer Divisions are for teams who care more about fun than winning. Commonly, beer division games will often, but not always, feature more casual play interspersed with practices like boat races, disc chugs, beer points, bust-a-move points, T-Rex vs Pterodactyl, and the like. If you are not interest in such antics, go play Competitive.
  • 3/1 Competitive – 3 Male, 1 Female on the field for each point. Competitive Divisions are for team that want a more competitive setting of play and are less interested in the goofy alcohol fueled antics of the Beer Division. If you want to be serious about the game, play this division.
  • Juniors – For teams 18 years old and younger. I’m not sure what the enforced gender ratio is. Junior division is for our younger participants.

Which Division is Right for You? Ultimately, which division is right for your team is up to your own judgement. In the Beer divisions you should not be surprised if opposing team challenge you to beer related points or contests and other silliness now and then. Beer divisions also tend to be more casual about the games as a whole. Competitive division is more about the pure joy of ultimate and the love of the game without all the beer division silliness. Teams in the competitive division are giving it their all to win the game, versus beer division teams which are giving it their all to fight off the hangover from Friday night.

Which Time Slot should A Team Choose? Some divisions have the added choice during registration for if you would like the first or A slot (earlier) or the second or B slot (later).  The First/A slot games play earlier than the Second/B slot and then games alternate from there on in.  See below for the schedule. Choosing a specific time slot during registration is not a guarantee of that time slot.  The organizers reserve the right to assign you to whatever time slot is necessary for field balance.

How Do You Build a Team? To build a team, get 10 or so of your closest Ultimate Frisbee friends to agree to go spend the weekend in New Jersey playing Beach Ultimate. This is much harder than it sounds. Being very organized about the whole thing will help greatly.

How Big Should a Team Be? Lincoln personally recommends you carry 2.5 to 3 times the number of players that must be on the field at any given time. For 2/2 teams Lincoln would carry 5 to 6 males, and 5 to 6 females. For 3/1 Lincoln would carry 7 to 9 males, and 3 to 4 females. You should be prepared for the eventuality that several of your players might get hurt or otherwise impaired from playing after you arrive at Wildwood.

How Do You Find Male Players? Show up at your local Ultimate Frisbee league and shout out that you are looking for guys for Wildwood. Should be a swarm of them.

How Do You Find Female Players? This one is usually a little tougher, unfortunately, to do.  Lincoln believes in home growing female players by introducing new women to the sport and encouraging them to get out and play as much as possible.

REGISTRATION

How do You Register a Team? Once you have enough people to move forward with a team, you go online to the W2BU website to register it. It is recommended that you register earlier for better field position, although Lincoln has never found this to matter in the slightest. The Team Captain should register the whole team at once by going to the website and completing the form. The registration fee ($400 as of 2013) is due at that time.

When Does Registration Open? Registration opens somewhere between March and April. The Wildwood Twitter account or Wildwood Facebook page should have these details, although W2BU is notoriously bad about announcing these details. Personally, Lincoln likes to register in late April.

When Does Registration Close? Unofficially W2BU has never turned a team down, so there really is no ending to the registration deadline. That said, Lincoln would make sure to register by July 1 just to be polite.

How Much Does it Cost? As of 2013, registration costs $400 per team. The current trend seems to be an increase of about $25 per year.

Can I change My Registration After I’ve Registered? Yes, you can. There is an email form at http://wildwoodultimate.com/?page_id=98 that can be completed to contact the organizers. They are VERY HELPFUL and will work with you to make any necessary adjustments. There is also a phone number to call if the email form does not net you any results.

Can I cancel My Registration After I’ve Registered? Lincoln believes you can cancel your registration at any point. Again there is an email form at http://wildwoodultimate.com/?page_id=98 that can be completed to contact the organizers.

Can I get a Refund after Cancellation? Lincoln does not know for certain, but believes the W2BU people will try to return your money if you do cancel your registration. There is nothing on the website to contradict this, but there is also nothing posted about it either.

Do I Need to List ALL Players to Register? No, you do not need to have a set roster to register, or at any point during the tournament for that matter. They only constants is that when your Check-In on Friday night you will be asked for your waivers (see below) and that will be how many wrist bands you receive. That’s the roster number you have.

ACCOMMODATIONS

Where To Stay in Wildwood? Your choices for accommodations at Wildwood are Hotel, Campground, Beach House/Condo, or Sleep in your Car.

  • Hotels -There are literally hundreds of hotels in Wildwood and staying in one is probably your best choice. You can find a complete list of hotel options at http://wildwoodultimate.com/?page_id=92. Keep in mind, the following…
    • Most hotels, like the Beach House/Condo option below, will be initially reluctant to make reservations for less than 3 nights. However, if you tell them you are “with the frisbee tournament” they often will make an exception because they “love those nice frisbee people.”
    • The closer the hotel to the beach, the more expensive the room will be.
    • You must be 25 years of age or older to book with most hotels in Wildwood.
    • Please be polite to the hotel staff and treat the hotel with respect. Your actions at Wildwood will affect occupancy for years to come.
    • Generally speaking, almost all the hotels at Wildwood are best described as Crappy and Small. It’s the nature of the Jersey Shore.
    • All Wildwood Hotels will require a credit card to hold the room and about 50% of the cost as a deposit. All have very detailed cancellation policies with most hotels keeping 25% to 50% if you cancel. Read the find print carefully.
    • Hotels want you to check out by 11m (or so) on Sunday, so you will need to Checkout and then get to your game.  For some hotels this will also involve parking your car somewhere else for the remainder of the day. Please see parking notes below.
    • Most hotels come with some form of limited parking.  Make sure to ask.  For example, you can park up to 2 Cars per room or something to that effect.
  • Camping – There are a number of campgrounds in the Wildwood area with very reasonable rates. As with all things Wildwood, Lincoln recommends you make a reservation in advance. You can find a list of Camping locations at http://wildwoodultimate.com/?page_id=95.
    • Please note that Camping on the beach is not permitted.
    • If you do Camp you will still have to Park your car when you drive over to the beach for your games. Please see parking notes below.
  • Beach House/Condo – My personal experience with renting a beach house/condo is that it is incredibly hard to arrange. Most condos/beach house owners want to rent a minimum 4 to 7 night stay and do not really want to rent for the weekend.
    • If anyone has more advice on this front please share and Lincoln will happily add the info.
    • Every time Lincoln has tried to arrange this it has failed miserably.
  • Sleep in your Car – There are always stories about players sleeping in their cars at Wildwood and it appears to be pretty common. If you do sleep in your car you must be prepared to be rousted by the police to move along as it is not permitted in most places. That said, Wildwood is full of nooks and crannies (especially if you get further away from the beach) where you can park for a few hours of shut eye.
    • Please note that sleeping on the beach is not permitted.
    • Even if you do Sleep in your car you will still need to find beach parking at game time.  Please see parking notes below.

How Far Out Should I Book The Accommodation? As soon a possible. Once you have a good commitment from most of your team, get the rooms booked. Most Hotels in Wildwood are generally closed during the winter months, so Lincoln recommends calling somewhere around February to book your rooms. As with all places, the best rooms go the quickest.

WAIVERS

PLEASE NOTE: All details in this section on waivers is SPECULATIVE until confirmed.

What are Waivers? Each player at Wildwood is required to fill out and sign a waiver. This is your standard indemnification waiver that you have to fill out when participating in most sports events. Waivers are submitted to the Wildwood staff AT CHECK-IN where they will be checked for signatures and counted. The number of wrist bands you get will be equal to the number of waivers you submit.

Where is the Waivers Form Found? You can find the Waiver in PDF form at http://wildwood.usetopscore.com/uploads/923/media_items/wildwood-waiver-waiver.original.pdf. You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed to view and print the form.

When do I turn in my Waivers? Waivers are turned in, en masse, during team Check-In on Friday night. Your captain should collect the forms and turn them in for all players of the team, instead of having the whole team go over to check-in.

What if I am a Minor? Please have your parent/legal guardian complete and sign the Waiver.

TRAVEL

How do I get to Wildwood? You can Fly and Drive, or you can just Drive. Here’s a Google Maps link  http://goo.gl/maps/2R0VO. Figure it out from there.

Where Should I Fly Into? There’s an airport in Atlantic City which is just north of Wildwood, but will be crazy expensive unless you are an Oil Tycoon. Otherwise, Fly in to Philadelphia which is about 2 hours drive and then rent a car.

How Long will the Drive Take? Depends on where you are coming from: Boston is about 6 hours although weekend traffic can make that as long as 12 hours; Philadelphia is about 2 hours; Baltimore/Washington DC is about 4 hours; NYC is about 2 to 3 Hours.

Where can I Park? There are a number of “Pay for the Day” Parking lots near the boardwalk at the beach.  These are generally your best bet for parking.  Street Parking is all metered, all the time, and enforced vigorously.  If you do street park, make sure you stay up on feeding the meter.  Some meters have cell phone enabled payments. Lincoln’s last parking ticket was $45.

PACKING

What Do I need to Bring? For playing at Wildwood you will probably need a pair of shorts and a shirt for each day, and possibly your swimsuit since this is the beach, maybe a towel as well. Also you will need water for hydration and a LOT of sunscreen. Do not under-estimate how much sunscreen you will need. Lincoln personally recommends spray on sunscreen as the rub-on lotion kind will be very painful once you get even the slightest bit sandy.

Sandsocks? The beach sand can get hot, real hot. Blister hot. One very popular option is the usage of Sandsocks for protection from the hot sand. These are basically socks, with a toughened sole for sand or water usage. Lincoln recommends buying Sandsocks and playing in those, but to each their own. A great Sandsock vendor is Vincere and you can buy them on Amazon.

Other Footwear? W2BU allows players to play in Bare Feet, Sandsocks, or Tennis Shoes (if necessitated due to injury and acceptable to both teams). No cleats or other type of shoe is allowed!

FOOD/EATING

What’s the Best Place to Eat At? Sorry to say, Lincoln has never found a good place to eat in Wildwood.  Most of the restaurants are adequate, but not outstanding. But then Lincoln can be a bit of a food snob.

Where’s the nearest Supermarket? There are a number of nearby supermarkets, but Lincoln likes the Shop Rite Supermarket on the way into Wildwood.  1700 New Jersey 47, Rio Grande, NJ .

What is the best way to do a Team Dinner on Saturday Night? First and foremost, avoid taking the whole team to restaurant and trying to get a table.  It’s difficult to do and often requires a long wait and exasperated staff.  Instead consider these options:

  • If your lodging has a kitchen, cook a meal like a big batch of Pasta or something.
  • A lot of hotels have grills for use by hotel guests.  Fire one up and grill some fat steaks and veg, or whatever your food is.
  • There are a number of decent pizza places down on the boardwalk.  Buy a few pies and walk out onto the sand for a sand pizza picnic.
  • If you are camping, campfire cooking is awesome.  Roast some weenies and s’mores.
  • Prepare ahead of time and bring deli fixins and let your team make sandwiches and hang out.

CHECK-IN

What is Friday Night Check-in? All teams must Check-In on Friday night to turn in their Waivers and collect their Team Packet. The Team Packet includes your schedule, your free stuff card (for water and food), wrist bands, and any promotional sponsor items. You will also need to get the time and location of your first three games for Saturday. These are usually posted inside the Check-In room. It is the Captain’s responsibility to write down the information and inform your team.

What do I need to Bring to Friday Night Check-in? You will need to bring a completed waiver for each player of your team. Also, because Registration is in a bar you should bring a photo ID to get inside.

Where is Check-In? Check-In takes place at the Bolero Resort & Conference Center, 3320 Atlantic Avenue, Wildwood, NJ. It is actually held at the bar/nightclub attached to the hotel, so don’t go into the hotel, but go next door to it. You will see a lot of Frisbee players standing around outside probably. Once inside go up the stairs to your left and get in the line wrapping around the upper level.

When does Check-In Open/Close? Check-In begins at 8pm on Friday night and runs until about 12am Saturday. Be warned that the check-in line can be VERY LONG. Buy a beer at the bar and make friends with the people around you.

Can I Check-In Saturday Morning? I believe there is a limited check-in available Saturday morning, but I have no idea where this takes place. Anyone got any info on this?

What are the Wrist Bands For? Each playing person is required to have a wrist band.  That said, nobody really seems to care.  But, you absolutely must have the Wrist Band in order to get into the Party on Saturday Night.

SCHEDULE OF GAMES

What is the Schedule? Below is a rough outline of the schedule.  Please be advised that the schedule may change.

DAY STARTS ENDS CLASS TYPE
Saturday 9:30am 10:15am A Pool Play
Saturday 10:30am 11:15am B Pool Play
Saturday 11:30am 12:15pm A Pool Play
Saturday 12:30pm 1:15pm B Pool Play
Saturday 1:30pm 2:15pm A Pool Play
Saturday 2:30pm 3:15pm B Pool Play
Saturday 4:00pm 4:45pm A Pre-Quarters
Saturday 5:00pm 5:45pm B Pre-Quarters
Sunday 10:00am 10:45am A Quarter Finals
Sunday 11:00am 11:45am B Quarter Finals
Sunday 12:00pm 12:45pm A Semi Finals
Sunday 1:00pm 1:45pm B Semi Finals
Sunday 2:00pm No End Time* A Finals
Sunday 3:15pm No End Time* B Finals

* The Final games are played to points, not an ending time.

When do we show up for the First Game of the day? Please, please, please get to the field for your first game 1 hour before the game starts.  It will take your team a lot of time to get setup, warmed up, and ready to play.

When do we show up for subsequent Games? After each game there is at least 1 hour of time before the next game, you can show up to your next field a little more casually.  That said, try to get over to the next field with about 30 minutes to allow for more warm up, meet and greet, etc.

PLAYING

What Do I Need to Know as a Player? Play hard, play with spirit, and have fun. Oh, and sunscreen is critical. And hydration.  Don’t forget the hydration!

What Do I Need to Do as a Player? Help your captain. Get your ass out of bed in the morning and to the field on time. Show respect for your fellow players.

Is a Team Captain required? While it is not required to have a captain for a team, most teams usually have someone who does the majority of the organizing, the cat herding, and the score reporting. That’s your captain. Show them some respect and buy them beer.

What Does a Captain Do? As captain your responsibility is to…

  • Check-in your Team (see above).
  • Inform your Team about when and where they are playing.
  • Get your team to the field on time, about 1 hour before game time for the first game.
  • Report the score when the game is over. Make sure you do this even if the other team says they are going to do it. Do not rely on the other team to do it.
  • Agree with the other team over any special rules, beer points or the like.
  • Lag the disc or appoint someone to lag the disc for determining the initial pull.
  • Be cognizant of the rules.
  • Be aware of the time, stop horn, and the like.
  • Set the example for on field spirit and awesomeness.

How Do I Captain Well? Lead by example, be super spirited, and don’t over-think the chaos around you. Most importantly, get your team to the field on time. The other team is waiting on you.

TIME LIMITS AND HORNS

How long does Each game run? Each game begins at the allotted time.  One long blast of the horn will sound to signal the beginning of each game.  Games are played for 45 minutes, except for the Finals which have their own rules.  Three short blasts of the horn will indicate the end of the round. When the three shorts blasts of the horn occurs, the following rules come into play.

  • If a point is in progress at the sound of the horn, finish the point.
  • If after play has stopped one team is ahead by 3 or more points, that team wins.
  • If a team is winning by 2 or less points, then another point is played until there is a team with a higher score.  (Essentially, a hard cap is established at 1 more point greater than the team with the higher score.)
  • A team does not have to win by 2 points.
  • If the time reaches the time for another game to begin, the game is over. In the event of ties, see Specific Rules below for resolution.

How long does the Final game run? The final games is not timed, but rather 3 games played to specific points.  The best 2 out of 3 games wins. The firs two games are played to 7 points.  The third game, if needed, is played to five points.  In the Finals, each team gets 1 time out per game.  In the Finals, each game is separated by 3 minutes before the next game must begin.  In the finals, the team that scores the winning point will begin the next game by pulling from the end zone they scored in.

What do the horn blasts mean? The horn is used to signal the start and the end of each game.  The patterns have the following meanings:

  • One Long Blast: This indicates the start of a game.
  • Three Short Blasts: This indicates the end of a game, 45 minutes after the start of the game.

SPECIFIC RULES

What are the Official Rules of Wildwood? Wildwood follows the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) rules for ultimate with the 4-on-4 Beach Ultimate Appendix.  Additionally Wildwood has it’s own set of rules that you can find at http://wildwoodultimate.com/?page_id=66.

How Long does a Game Run? Each game will be played to 45 minutes in Pool Play, Pre -Quarters,  Quarter Finals, and Semi Finals. All games have an extra ten minutes for any additional play that may be needed after the horn goes off.

How does the final Championship Game work? The championship game will be the best two-out-of-three 7-point games, with the third and deciding game played to 5 points. Each team has one time-out per game. No carry-overs of time-outs into the next game. The team that scores the winning point of the first and second game will start the next game by pulling the disc from the end zone that they scored in. 3 minutes between games.

Is Gender Matching Required? Each team must field exactly the gender dictated by their league for each point.  For 3/1 Leagues, you must have 3 male and 1 female players on the field.  For 2/2 it is 2 male and 2 female players. If a Team cannot field those numbers, they may play down a player.

What is the Lag? The captains of each team will choose a representative to “Lag” the disc. One representative of each team will throw the disc from the back of the end zone, trying to get it closer to the back of the opposite end zone without the disc going over the line. Both representatives throw the disc at the same time on a count of three. If both discs go over the line, then the closer to the back line wins the choice of either starting on offense or selecting which end zone to defend.

What are some alternative to Lagging? Any game or challenge which both team can agree to is acceptable in place of lagging.  If nothing is acceptable, please use the lag rules. In Beer Leagues challenges like Boat Races, Shotgun Races, and Disc Drains are common practice.

How must a Pull be Done? Each pull must be an inverted type throw (Hammer, Scoober, etc). When the disc is pulled it shall be at least 91 degrees (perpendicular) to the ground.

What happens when the Disc Goes Out of Bounds on the Pull? If the disc first touches the ground in bounds or touches an offensive player and then rolls out of bounds on the pull, play is resumed at the point where the disc exited the field.  This includes discs that travel out the back of the end zone. If the disc becomes out-of-bounds without first touching the playing field or an offensive player, the thrower may establish the pivot either at the brick mark closest to their defending end zone, or at the spot on the playing field proper closest to where the disc went out-of-bounds. The brick option must be signaled by the intended thrower before picking up the disc by fully extending one arm above their head.

What happens when the Disc Goes Out of Bounds not on the Pull? If the disc travels or rolls out the side of the field, play is resumed where the disc exited the field.  If the disc goes out the back of the end zone, the defender who takes possession may play the disc at the back of the end zone or at the goal line.

How long is the Stall Count? The person with the disc has 6 seconds to throw the disc to a teammate. The defender (Marker) guarding the thrower counts the seconds out loud (“stalling one, two, three…”). The Marker must be within 3 meters of the thrower to initiate the stall count, and must stay within 6 meters of the thrower.

Are Boundary Lines In or Out? The boundary lines are part of the playing field proper. If the bottom of the players foot steps on the line, then they are considered in-bounds. If they drag the lines out of their original position, they are to be considered out-of-bounds.

How Does the Two Point Rule work? Any throw that travels from the defending end zone to the scoring end zone is worth two (2) points instead of the usual one (1) point.  The end zone line is considered part of the end zones for the purposes of determining if the score is a two point or a one point.  For any play where the disc is walked up to the front of the end zone, the throwing player is considered to be in the end zone for determining if the throw was worth two or one points.

How many Timeouts does a Team get per Game? Each team is allowed two (2) Timeouts per game in the Pool Games, Quarter Finals, and Semi-Finals up until the horn sounds.  Only one (1) timeout can be used after the horn has sounded. In the Finals, Each team has one time-out per game. No carry-overs of time-outs into the next game.

How Do Games End? All games, except the Finals, are timed.  The horn will sound three short blasts at the end of allotted time for each type of game. When the three shorts blasts of the horn occurs, the following rules come into play.

  • If a point is in progress at the sound of the horn, finish the point.
  • If after play has stopped one team is ahead by 3 or more points, that team wins.
  • If a team is winning by 2 or less points, then another point is played until there is a team with a higher score.  (Essentially, a hard cap is established at 1 more point greater than the team with the higher score.)
  • A Team does not have to win by 2 points.
  • If the time reaches the time for another game to begin, the game is over.

How are Ties resolved? Ties are resolved by point differential between the teams involved. If there is still a tie, then it will be point differential between all teams in the pool. Please consult the Scoring personnel at the Command Center.

What type of Footwear is allow? W2BU allows players to play in Bare Feet, Sandsocks, or Tennis Shoes (if necessitated due to injury and acceptable to both teams). No cleats or other type of shoe is allowed!

FIELDS

How to Find Your Field? Each team is provided a field map during Check-In.  Additionally, each field is numbered at one end with a placard that says “Field XX”. Figure it out. Make sure before you play that the team your are playing against is on the right field. If you see a fallen field placard, please replace it/stand it up.

What is Combing the Field? The first team that plays on a field should spend a few minutes before the first game “combing” the field. This is done by both teams lining up on one end of the field and walking, as a unified line, to the other end. As you walk pick up any glass, sharp sea shells, nails, or other detritus that you find that could cause injury. This is VERY important to do as the Wildwood sand can hold all kinds of vicious and sharp objects.

Where is the Command Center/Medical Tent/Score Reporting/Food Distribution/Sponsor Tent? In the middle of all the fields, at the Ocean end of the main pier, called Morey’s pier.

WEATHER

Rain or Shine? Wildwood games are played whether it is raining or sunny, hot or cold. Please prepare for all conditions and dress accordingly. Standing water on the field after a rainfall is not uncommon and should be played thru. Honestly, that’s part of the fun.

What about Lightning? The exception to the above is that in the event of Lightning or Severe storm, all games are stopped and cover should be sought. Any game stopped due to lightning or severe weather is considered paused until the expiration of game time at which point the last standing score becomes final.

MEDICAL

Where Is the Medical Tent? At the end of the Morey’s Pier at Wildwood is the W2BU command center and Medical Tent. Please go there for any non-life threatening emergency. For a life threatening emergency, please call 911.

What Services does the Medical Tent Provide? The medical tent is there for any non-life threatening emergency or Ultimate Frisbee medical support services. In particular they can provide ankle/foot/toe/hand wrapping prior to playing to help minimize injury. Injury Massage and treatment is also available. If you are thinking of getting an ankle/foot/toe/hand wrapped on Saturday morning, go over extra early as a bit of a line can form.

REPORTING

Where do I Report My Scores? Near the Command Center, at the end of Morey’s Pier, there will be a large moving truck.  Each side of this truck has schedules posted on it.  Report your scores here to the personnel staffing the score sheets.

How Do I Report My Scores? You send a team representative to the Scoring Truck (see above).  Once there you will find people at the side of the large truck with the schedules on it. These people have markers.  Politely wait until they are not busy and then tell them your team Division, Class, Team Letters, and scores.

What is the Score Reporting Etiquette? Each team should send a representative to the score reporting area to report the score.  If the team you just played reports a different score, ask the scoring personnel to make a correction if you disagree with what was reported. Please be polite to the scoring personnel.

How Soon After my Game Should I Report the Score? You should report the score immediately following your games.  This is especially critical during the 3rd game of the day on Saturday.  At the end of the 3rd game, your scores and record is used to determine against whom and on what field your next game will be.  In order for this to happen, all the scores from your grouping must be turned in.

Can I just Skip Score Reporting and Assume the Other Team Did It? No.  That is crazy disrespectful to the other team, the other teams in your group, the personnel working the score boards, and your team. Make the walk, report your score, then take a dip in the ocean.

PROBLEM RESOLUTION

How do I resolve problems prior to Wildwood? There is an email contact form at http://wildwoodultimate.com/?page_id=98 that can be completed to contact the organizers. Start there.  Be nice, these people are volunteers.

How do I resolve problems at Wildwood? At Friday night check in, you can ask for assistance resolving your problems.  Be warned however, that things are moving pretty quickly and trying to get things resolved then can be difficult and chaotic.  Be extra nice to the people working. After Friday night, please contact someone at the Command Center for assistance.

What Happens if our Opponents do not show up for the Game? If after five minutes your opponents have not arrive for the game, check around at nearby fields for them  Sometimes teams go to the wrong field.  If you still cannot find them, report to the Scoring personnel for assistance.

How do I resolve on the Field Differences? As with any Ultimate Frisbee difference, make the call, contest or don’t contest, move on.

How do I resolve Score Reporting Differences? Ask the scoring personnel for assistance.  They can help you sort the matter out.

PARTYING

What’s the Beer Garden? On Saturday night the Beer Garden is a gift from the Tournament directors to the players.  It opens at 4pm and runs until 10pm.  The Beer garden is open to all attendees whom are 21 years or older and have a valid ID and W2BU Wrist Band.  Free beer is available as well as Live Music and films from past years W2BU. Get there early to avoid the long entrance line.

Where is the Beer Garden? It’s near where the Command Center is, at the end of Morey’s Pier.

When Does the Beer Tent Open/Close? The Saturday Night Party runs from 4pm to 10pm.  Get there early to avoid the long line to get in.

What Do I need to Get into the Beer Tent? You are required to have a valid photo Id proving your are 21.  You must also have your W2BU issued Wrist Band.

What if I’m Under 21? Hang out outside the Beer Garden and enjoy the music.

RESPONSIBILITY

What are my responsibilities as a W2BU Participant? While there is no formal responsibilities for attendees, there are several informal ones.

  • Always remember Spirit of the Game.
  • Be polite and courteous to the local residents, employees, and visitors.  We want to be allowed to come back next year.
  • Party responsibly.
  • Respect the W2BU Volunteers and let them know how much you appreciate their hard work.

SOME SECRET INSIDER TIPS

Beer or Competitive? If you care about winning, play competitive.  There’s nothing worse than playing a team of snotty competitive players whom are slumming in Beer league.

Which Time Slot is Better? Most teams generally want to play in the later game slots so they can sleep in a bit.  However, if you want to take the team out for dinner, the earlier slot gets you off the field sooner.  Also, if you want to leave sooner on Sunday, earlier slot is better as well.

Register Sooner or Later? Typically, the over aggressive teams register earlier, and the lazier, haphazard teams register later.  So, if you looking for less challenge there’s an argument to be made that you should register later.  Honestly, this is all guessing though.  The one thing the Organizers do say is that registering you earlier gets your fields closer to the command center.  Lincoln has never found that to be the slightest bit true and not necessarily a positive thing even if it was true.  You really want a field that is closest to your hotel/car.

What’s the Best Way to Collect Waivers from my Player? Get everyone on your team to mail them to you weeks before the event.  Otherwise you’ll end up rushing around trying to collect these at the last minute.  Do not rely on someone to show up and sign their wavier on Friday before you have to turn them in.  Lincoln guarantees you will end up waiting for that person as they are stuck in traffic somewhere.

What the Best Hotel to Stay at? Lincoln is not telling.  Sorry.

Should I Really Book the Hotel Five Months Ahead? Well, maybe not five months, but Lincoln would certainly make sure to have it done by 3 months out, say April 15.

How can I Land a Beach House? Good Question, Lincoln will get back to you on that once he knows the answer.

Got Any Good Places to Sleep in your Car? Lincoln does not specifically know any, but if you drive a bit away from the beach Lincoln is sure you can find all kinds of interesting places to park.

How do I avoid the long line for Friday Night Check-in? Four tactics work here…

  • Show up later, like at 11:00pm instead of early at 8pm.
  • In years past there has been a separate line for 2/2 than there is for 3/1.  If you are in 2/2, cut to the front or near the front.  Ask around you.
  • Buy a buttload of beers at the bar and bring them upstairs with you.  Hand out free beers for trading places in line.
  • Just drink those beers yourself and get to know the people around you in line.

Do I Really Need to Get the Team out 1 Hour before out first game? Yes!  Hell Yes.  Lincoln personally likes to get the team moving from the hotel toward the beach 1.5 hours before the game.  The reason for this is that 1). It never really happens on time, so some extra padding is good. 2). There is a ton of things to do once you get to the field like find your field, warm up, get your sand socks on, apply a liberal dose of sunscreen, setup your gear, crack your first beer, lag with the other team, discuss strategy, and cheer.  Also, do not under estimate just how long it will take to walk from your hotel to the field.

How do I get my Team to the Field on Time? Make it clear when they should be getting up, offer them breakfast if they are up by that time, and leave anyone behind whom doesn’t get their ass out of bed.

What’s the One Must Have Thing to Pack? Something fun like cool costumes, a Sombrero, a six foot long stuffed tiger, what ever fit’s your team name.  Have some fun.

Do you recommend a Canopy Tent/Tailgate Tent for Shade? Some players hate the canopy tents because they create dangerous obstacles alongside the fields.  That said, the shade the Canopy Tent provides is priceless for surviving the unrelenting sun. If you do setup a Canopy, please try to do it away from the edge of the field (and especially not on the field).

Do you recommend Beach Chairs? Yes, absolutely. Siting on the sand for a whole day can be tough.  Lincoln also likes to bring a cooler, but that’s just how Lincoln rolls.

What Do we Do if our opponents Don’t Show Up on time? Be nice, but if they’re not there by 10 minutes after the game start time, report them as forfeiting.

What’s Better Laying Out in Sand or Laying out in Rain Puddles on Sand? Yes.

How Early should I get to the Medical Tent on Saturday for Pre-Wrapping? On Saturday, getting to the medical tent 30 minutes early is recommended as quite a line can form. After that first game, the tent is pretty accessible.

What do I do if the other team reports the wrong score? Discuss the matter with the Score Personnel. They can advise you.

What do we do if the team we are playing is full of jerks? Be polite, be Spirited, and suck it up.  Get through it as best you can, the game is only 45 minutes long.

Where’s the Best Post Beer Garden Party? There are lots of Bars around Wildwood.  Pick one, make friends with the Ultimate people partying there.  Buy them beer.  Follow them from party to party.

Where can I find Good Beer? Basically, you are screwed.  Wildwood is a dead zone for good craft beer. Bring your own good beer with you.

ABOUT LINCOLN

Abe Lincoln F/Huckers is a repeat offended at the Wildwood Beach Ultimate tournament.  We’re in it for the beer.  You can find Abe on Twitter at @AbeFHuckers.  If you see Lincoln at Wildwood, buy him free beer for all his hard work typing this guide up.   Abe Lincoln F/Huckers is captained by the captain himself: http://www.bartleby.com/142/193.html

 

Annoucing npmbox

So, I have problem with npm in my current work. Basically it’s this: the systems I work on are disconnected from the internet but I still need certain node modules. So in order to get a module over to these systems I have to install it locally, zip it up and move that file. But technically, that file is an INSTALLED version, not the raw version of the install. So what I need is the raw installed files of the npm install, and then I need a way to install from those files.

I recently filed a feature request for npm describing this very request. Yet, I don’t think everyone understood the request, plus I thought it wouldn’t be that hard to actually build it. So I did.

Announcing npmbox. A command line utility add on for npm that when given an npm package

npmbox <package>

downloads the package and it dependencies and creates a .npmbox file which is a .tar.gz file of all the raw files necessary to install the package which includes the package, its dependencies, and its optional dependencies.

Taking this .npmbox file, you can then move it to your offline system and issue an npmunbox commmand against it.

npmunbox <npmbox-file>

This will take the box file, unzip it, and install its contents into the current folder.

Thus this achieves the process I am looking for, bundling a package for offline use and then installing from that bundled package.

My sincere hope is that the npm people take a look at the functionality and actually add it directly to npm. I’m not expecting they use the code, just the basic idea. I’m sure there are far better ways to achieve this from inside npm than what I am doing. So have at it.

JSConf 2013 Beach Ultimate Frisbee Game

Want to getaway from the conference and get some exercise? Do you know or want to learn what a huck is? Do you want to physically do a layout instead of building one in CSS?

Come play some Beach Ultimate Frisbee!

Join like-minded individuals on Thursday, May 30th from 5:00pm until dark as we toss the disc about and hopefully, if we get enough interest, have a sweet game of Beach Ultimate. I’ll bring the cones and discs, you just need to bring a White and a Dark shirt (Grey does not count as either).

We’ll be playing out on the beach at roughly the location marked on this map, but I really have no idea what the beach conditions or obstacles might be. Even the layout of the resort is a bit of a mystery, so just head out past the pools to the beach and look for the floaty white disc being thrown.

This will be entirely friendly and uncompetitive, just trying to have some fun. If you do not know how to play Ultimate Frisbee, feel free to join in and I will teach you the basics about an amazing sport I love to play. Just let me know if you want some pointers.

If you have any questions, please send an email to jsconfulti /at/ arei /dot/ net or hit me up on twitter (@areinet).

Resume, Samples and Jobs

Welcome to my resume page.  This page is for perspective employers, recruiters, and curious bystanders.  Within this page you will find all of the most important details about why you should want to hire the most awesome Software Engineer this side of the Mississippi… me!

First, off, you probably want to take a look at my resume.  It’s chock full of technology keywords that drive the HR/Recruiter types mad with glee. I update this resume about once a quarter (every three months) or so.  You can choose one of three delightful formats that works best for your particular corporate needs…

PDF | TXT | DOC

But more important than a resume is getting to know me and really understanding why you should hire me.  So here goes…

THE THREE SENTENCE SUMMARY

I am a twenty (20) plus year veteran of software engineering who specializes in full stack development from datatbase to the interface, but with a strong focus in JavaScript and User Interfaces. On a daily basis I take a given idea or feature from brainstorming to design to development to deployment using the most appropriate technology for the need. Give me a crazy, half-baked idea and I’ll have a design for you in a day, a rough mockup for you in a week, and a full system built in a month.

MORE ABOUT ME

I love to program. I have been writing code since I was twelve years old and getting paid for it since I was fifteen.  A day in which I do not write code is a bad day for me. This means I have over 30 years of real world programming experience under my belt which I bring to bear on my every day work.  Additionally, I am crazy passionate about the technology I work with and actively strive to keep myself informed about the latest trends, changes, and next big thing in my field.  I participate in communities like Github, JSConf, Reddit, and Twitter reading all the latest articles and happily offering advice and commentary to anyone whom wants to listen.

WHAT DO I KNOW

JavaScript: I have been using JavaScript on an almost daily basis since 2005 and while I am no Brendan Eich or Douglass Crockford, I am highly familiar with the ins and outs of this amazingly powerful language. I am comfortable in JavaScript, CSS, HTML, and nodejs.  I have used JavaScript libraries like YUI, PrototypeJS, and ExtJS, but more importantly, I am quite good at picking up a new library and understanding it’s syntax and structure, it’s strengths and weakness, and when it’s good to use or bad to use.

Java: Before my JavaScript days I spent about 10 years writing Java Swing applications to provide amazing User Experiences.  You might scoff at the idea of a Java Swing application being an amazing User Experience, but then you probably have never seen one of mine.  As with any framework, Swing can be very powerful when built by someone who understands the intricacies of the framework.  Interestingly enough, a lot of those intricacies translate into web programming and JavaScript.

Other: I have worked with all sorts of technologies over my 30 years in the field.  Everything from Assembly to Ant, Pascal to PHP, and SQL to Shell Scripting.  I have implemented medium (200+) client networks from scratch, designed complex build and deployment systems, and assembled my own hardware for decades.  I have an intuitive understanding of how computers work and am entirely capable of designing and developing whole systems from hardware to data storage to user interaction.

If you want to see the big bullet list, go checkout my Resume. (PDF | TXT | DOC)

MY PROGRAMMING PHILOSOPHY

I believe in well designed and structured code that focuses on inheritance, avoids coupling, and encapsulates behavior as much as possible.  This means that I like to write clean objects which contain exactly what they need to get their job done and that do not rely heavily on external interactions.  Whenever possible code should be well formatted, readable in its own right, and highly defensive. I hate pyramid code and fully understand the various means of dealing with it.

MY DESIGN PHILOSOPHY

While I am no artist, I am capable of doing most User Interface design.  In these designs I strive to emphasize consistent, understandable, and intelligent systems that maximize user flow and customization.  I am extremely detail oriented and believe that a pixel perfect implementation is always worth the effort.  My designs ideals focus on helpful but not intrusive, clean but not minimal, informative but not ugly.  The best User Experiences stem from tools that give you exactly what you need without being over bearing.

MY PROCESS PHILOSOPHY

In the last 20 years in this industry I have seen just about every software process management technique you can imagine.  I have participated in large waterfall projects.  I have done the scrum (and I am, in fact, a Certified Scrum Master). Ultimately, I have learned that the best processes are the ones that largely get out of your way and let you focus on the things you need to get done.  I believe that the best teams have natural, organic communication in which participants share openly of their own volition instead of having forced discussions. To me, a good team is everything.

WHAT I AM LOOKING FOR

Here’s a list of my ideal job features… It’s a dream list, not a requirements list, so please don’t self censor your position just because it doesn’t meet all of these.  Also, these are in no particular order of importance.

Coding: I love to code, so any employer that wants to hire me should know this right up front.  I am going to write code on a daily basis whether it be for your company or in my own spare time. The cool thing for any company that does hire me is that I am very prolific, especially when I get into my flow state.  Let me write the code and I’ll amaze you every time.

Creativity: I draw strength and energy from creative outlets, whether they be in my work or in my personal life.  A project that maximizes my creativity and allows me the opportunity to express myself in my work is going to reap the largest reward of my experience.  I am equally comfortable creating visually (as long as you don’t expect great art), textually, conceptually, or architecturally.

Learning: I am very passionate about my work and keeping my skills in top form.  To that end I spend a lot of time staying current and attempting to learn everything I can. I am constantly on the internet learning a new language, a new library, or the life and times of Charles Dickens. Anything I can do to increase my understanding of technology and the world around me, I’m there.

Challenge: I want to be mentally challenged on a daily basis to produce something extraordinary and I want to be invested in whatever that is.  To do so, I like to be part of the process from the very beginning, not just an engineer on the outside of the architecture looking in. I am not the kind of engineer that you drop a one hundred page requirements document on and expect results.  I don’t think anything good comes from disassociating the developer from the design.

Meaning: The more I believe in the product I am working on, the more faith I have that I am building something for which there is a genuine need, the more invested I am in what I am writing.  This naturally leads to me being more passionate about what I’m doing which in turn makes me more productive.  So, given Transitivity of Implication, invested is directly equal to productivity.  Bonus points for letting me build things that will save lives, end suffering, enable world peace, or any other good karma producing activity.

Comfort: I believe that a person’s work environment is critical to their ability to do the best job possible and that for each person those environmental needs are different.  The ideal job for me is one that recognizes this fact and provides the greatest possible flexibility for all employees. These environmental factors include things like casual dress, flexible work hours, comfy chairs, indirect lighting, etc. Bonus points if I can bring my dog to work.  I don’t have a dog, but a company that allows that is my type of place.

Telework: With regards to Comfort from above, I am very interested in roles where I can perform Telework as needed.  I am actively seeking a 100% telework role, but I’m not adverse to traveling to your home office once in a while for some solid face time.  I am an active user of tools like Instant Messaging and IRC, and have no objection to Google Hangouts or FaceTime.

Mentoring: One of my great joys is teaching other people how to do things.  Whether it be why they should be using === instead of ==, or what exactly is cool about function currying, or how to run a Horizontal Stack Offense in Ultimate Frisbee, you will always find me ready and willing to instruct.  I prefer the collaborative approach to instruction over explanation or demonstration.

Technology: I love technology and have been tinkering with it since I was a wee little kid.  I rebuild my own home computer systems and laptops on a regular (almost yearly) basis, making sure I have the hottest and most powerful tech around. I like big RAM, amazing resolution, and blazing fast speed.  Given my preference I would prefer to buy and bring my own computer with me when hired because I can all but guarantee that it’s going to be better than the Dell with which you wanted to saddle me.

MY EMPLOYMENT LIMITATIONS

While I don’t want to limit myself as to whether or not I would be interested in working for your company, there are some things I am not willing to compromise on and these are listed here below.

Location: I live in Columbia, MD and am unable to relocate.  Also, I am actively NOT interested in commuting to Washington DC or Arlington, VA on a daily basis.  I am, however, very willing to work remotely with occasional trips into the office.  This has the advantage of providing me with the Comfort and Technology I seek without any overhead to the employer.

Bad Technology: I have no interest in working with the following technologies… SAS, COBOL, Fortran, iLog Rules, C, or Flash/ActionScript.  Yes, I know I list these on my Resume, but that doesn’t mean I want to work with them again.

Experience: I have 20+ years of experience in this field.  I am not a junior developer, or even a mid-level developer, and I am not looking for employment in those roles.

Web Design: As I have said before, I am not an Artist and thus I am not technically a Web Designer.  I can do a decent job at it, but if you are looking for ultra flashy then I’m not your guy.

Suits: If you’re a button up collar and tie type of company I’m just not interested.  While I do not object to dressing up on occasion to meet customers or go to the opera, I do not want to do it on a daily basis.  My ability to write code is not made better when I wear a tie.

SAMPLES OF MY WORK

For the last 10 years or so I have been working as a Government Contractor and as such there are no examples of my work online.  However, there are few other places you can checkout some of my code…

arei.net – This website is built on top of WordPress.  However, the WordPress layout was rewritten by me in PHP to better suit my needs.  Likewise, the style/CSS was completely designed and rewritten by me (including the logo work).  Additionally, in the upper right hand corner of this website you can see my latest Twitter and Untappd comments.  This feature is powered on a custom built NodeJS service.

A Story of Glen – I designed and built a little animation framework and animated story to show it off.  All code is mine with the exception of PrototypeJS and the Meyer CSS Reset.  Feel free to pull it open in your favorite web developer tools.

The Game of Life – It has been about 15 years since I last tried coding the Game of Life and I thought I’d do a refresher.  I was particularly interested to see how this might be implemented within the Web space and how performant I could make it.  So, here it is.  The source code is also available over on Github.

Github – I am the original author and maintainer of several small libraries/tools like the node-untappd library and the npmbox utility.  You can find these on my Github account.  Additionally I like to park little snippets of various ideas I’m playing with, whether or not I am intending to release them, on Github.  So please, feel free to browser on over and take a peek at some of my code.  Keep in mind it can be pretty unfinished over there.

GiftSocial – I am the technical co-founder of giftsocial.us, a wish list management and sharing tool.  All of the technology behind GiftSocial from the PHP to the JavaScript to the CSS was designed and written by me.

J&M Comics – A friend of mine owns a Comic Book store in Eldersburg MD.  I built his website.  Again, it’s backed by WordPress, but the CSS and JavaScript is completely rewritten for the site.

LinkedIn – No, I didn’t write this site, but I thought you might like to hit up my LinkedIn account and see some of the great comments my customers and coworkers have written about me.

Twitter - I am constantly on Twitter.  Checkout some of the things I’m tweeting and retweeting.  This is a great way to get to know me, but keep in mind that it’s a personal account and can occasionally get a little silly.

GETTING IN TOUCH

So now that you’ve read all about how awesome I am and how cool it would be to work with me, what’s the best way to get in touch? Why email of course. Simply drop me an email at jobs . at . arei . dot . net and introduce yourself.  Show me that you’ve read this page and that I’m someone you’d like to work with and I’ll respond back, usually quite quickly.

And just in case you missed it, go checkout my Resume. (PDF | TXT | DOC).

 

Hiring Cleared JavaScript Developer, Ellicott City, MD

Generally I avoid recruiting people on behalf of my company, but they have recently asked me to hire a person to work directly for me and to hopefully even replace me in the future.  And, quite frankly, I’m tired of interviewing people brought to me by the company recruiter who have no understanding of what is really involved in writing code.  So, I wrote this way more interesting sounding job description and now I’m looking to find someone to fill it.  Are you that person? Know someone whom is that person? Let me know with a quick email sent to vstijob/at/arei/dot/net.

Are you an up and coming hot shot Web Developer who somehow ended up working on government contracts?  Are you horrified by the state of technology that the government contract you are working on has saddled you with using? Do you wish that your project would stop supporting browsers that are 11 years old and move into the future? Do you want to move beyond writing JSPs, Web Services, and XML? Are you ready to give into the dark gibbering madness that comes with embracing technologies like JavaScript, CSS3, JSON, and NodeJS? Are you ready to awesome-ify your career?

VSTI, A SAS Company, is looking to hire a Junior to Mid-Level Web Developer/Engineer and we want it to be you. Well, we want it to be you if…

  • You have a good basic understanding of JavaScript and are ready to learn a lot more.  And by ‘basic understanding’ we mean that you know what a closure is and how to write one in JavaScript, but you really want to understand why this makes JavaScript so powerful and all the really cool things you can do now that you know what a closure is.  We’re not looking for a JavaScript expert, but someone who wants to become a JavaScript expert.
  • You know more about HTML/CSS than just how to write tags and believe that 90% of HTML should be written using only DIV tags and some amazing CSS. In fact, you should be able to tell the difference between block and inline elements at a glance.
  • You find the possibility to use cutting edge technologies like NodeJS and ElasticSearch to be darkly enticing. In fact, just the act of us mentioning that you could work with those technologies makes you giggle like a mad scientist.  After the giggling has died down you decide to go read the documentation just for fun.
  • You have a serious passion for technology and want to learn more, a lot more.  Ideally, you wish you could learn everything through some sort of cybernetic implant process, but you realize that you still haven’t invented that yet and the only way to learn is to read and to get first-hand experience.

Here’s the obligatory job posting details…

  • You must be willing to work in Ellicott City, MD on a daily basis.  No telework is possible.
  • You must have an up to date TS/SCI Full Scope Polygraph clearance.
  • You must have a solid understanding of JavaScript, CSS, and HTML.
  • You must be willing to be figuratively thrown into the fire.
  • You must be passionate about learning new stuff.
  • You must desire to become an expert in Web Technologies.
  • You might also have an understanding of any of the following… Java, Groovy, Ant, Grails, more than one JavaScript frameworks (like jQuery or Prototype), Agile/Scrum/Kanban, CSS Resets, SVN, Hudson, CSS3, Rally, Apache Tomcat, or Git.
  • If you have a Github account, a blog, or an active twitter account that will help your cause greatly.
  • You might also be competent with some art software like Adobe Fireworks or GIMP, but it’s not a requirement.

In return for all of this VSTI, A SAS Company, will provide you with the following…

  • A very competitive salary.
  • Amazing benefits that you not likely to get elsewhere.
  • Small company feel, Large company resources.
  • An amazing chance to learn and grow your skills.
  • Patriotic pride in what you do (since this is a government contract after all).
  • The opportunity to be part of a team where your opinion is valued and taken into consideration.
  • The possibility of free beer if you like that sort of thing.

So, if any of this sounds cool to you then you should apply for a job.  We’re interviewing now and we’re looking to hire very quickly.

node-untappd v0.2.0

Just a quick note to say that last night I released to Github and NPM v0.2.0 of node-untappd, the Node.js connector to the Untappd API.  This new version supports the latest v4 of the Untappd API including OAUTH authentication.

Lots more details at Github: https://github.com/arei/node-untappd

Introducing functionary.js

I am pleased to release another open source project, functionary.js.

functionary.js is a simple JS polyfill and enhancement for adding additional behavior to functions.  Fundamentally, it allows developers to modify and combine functions into new functions to develop novel patterns.  It is very similar to sugar.js, prototype.js, and the jQuery Deffered object and behavior.  It is sort of like Promise/A but not really like it at all.

Functionary is a prototypical modification to the Function object.  This may cause some users considerable consternation as there is some belief that JavaScript should not be used in such a manner.  I, however, believe that JavaScript was actually designed to do this very thing and should do it albeit with great care.  That said, functionary.js never will overwrite a function of the same name on the Function Prototype.  So if Function.prototype.defer is already created by another Library (like Prototype JS) functionary.js will not overwrite it, but use it instead.

functionary.js works in both browsers and node.js implementations.  However, functionary.js does modify the global Function prototype and should be used with care and full understanding.

It breaks down into two distinct classes: Threading enhancements and combination enhancements.

For purposes of the following discussion, the following things are true:

var f = function() {};
var g = function() {};
var h = f.something(g);

In the above example, f is the bound function of something and g is the passed in function.  Understanding this will help the discussion below be more clear.

Threading Enhancements

While javascript is inherently single-threaded, it is possible to create threaded like behavior using the single thread model and eventing.  This is not a replacement for true multi-threading, but an okay approximation and the fundamental underpinning of javascript and node.js.  functionary.js provides a set of function modifiers for working within the confines of this “threading” environment to produce cleaner and expanded function behaviors with regards to threading and event behaviors.

The following functions fall into this group: defer, delay, collapse, and wait. defer and delay will be familiar to many JS developers, but collapse and wait are the really interesting additions.

collapse basically will collapse multiple executions of a function (call it f) into a single execution. So regardless of the number of times you call f() the actual execution will only happen once… the executions are collapsed into a single execution.  collapse can be used in one of two forms: Managed or Timed.  In Managed mode, the execution of a function is not actually performed until manual execution of the f.now() is called.  Thus repeated calls to f() are short circuited until f.now() is called.  In Timed mode, the execution of a function is automatically performed x milliseconds after the first call to f() and then everything is reset.  This ensures that execution happens based on some period of time.

wait is used to defer execution of one or more functions which are passed as parameters to wait.  Once all those functions have been executed, regardless of results, the bound function of wait is executed.  In the following example f.wait(g,h,i) wait allows a developer to defer execution of function f() until g, h, and i have all executed.

Combination Enhancements

The other aspect of functionary.js is to provide some simple ways to combine functions with other functions in a clean and concise manner.  Sure, it is possible in unmodified javascript to combine functions, but functionary gives you a more clear way to do this.

At the core of this group of functions is bundle which takes the bound function and combines it with the passed in function(s) to produce one single function.  Think of it as taking function f and function g and bundling them together into function h.  Calls to function h then execute f and g in that order.  While in some cases it’s easy enough to just call f and g directly, in others being able to pass a single function like h can be incredibly useful.  Consider this:

var f = function() {};
var g = function() {};
var h = f.bundle(g);
h.defer();

The last line of this code ensure that f and g run together, but after being deferred.

Other functions include chain, before, and after.  These functions are all, in essences, some form of bundle above, although with different orders of execution.

functionary.js provides two new functional wrappers, completed and failedcompleted ensures that the passed in function will only execute if the bound function returned without an exception.  failed is the converse and will ensure that the passed in function will only execute if the bound function DID return an exception.  These two functions offer a unique approach to try/catch paradigms.  Coupled with bundle, a try/catch/finally model is easily possible as shown:

var compl = function() {};
var fail = function() {};
var fin = function() {};
var f = function() {};
var h = f.completed(compl).failed(fail).bundle(fin);

Finally, functionary.js offers a wrap function akin to sugar.js and prototype.js where once can wrap the passed function around the bound function.

Documentation

Please see the documentation on github for all the details of using these functions.  Also, play with the code, it probably won’t bite.

Installation and Details

You can get functionary from github.  I encourage you to check it out, fork it, and submit changes.  The ultimately goal is to make functionary the go to polyfill/add on to JS for functions.

 Thoughts, Comments, Suggestions?

If you have thoughts, comments or suggestions, please put them on github or contact me on twitter at @areinet

Adding Last Beer and Last Tweet to a Website

So, I updated the site today adding two new features that I have wanted to add for a long time: Last Beer and Last Tweet.

Last Beer is a peek into the last beer that I consumed and checked into on Untappd.  Don’t know about Untapped? It’s basically foursquare for beer and if you aren’t using it, you are really missing out.  I’m a big fan and regularly use it to track my beer consumption and history.

Last Tweet is, as imagined, the last thing I tweeted, retweeted or replied on twitter about.  It’s about as basic as it comes.  I am a huge twitter fan/user and if you are not, you should be.  Twitter is where it’s at and Facebook is incredibly lame.

The really cool thing about these two features is that they are both built and running on node.js.  What’s more, Last Beer uses the Node Module node-untapped which I wrote back in march as my very first node module.

I will say that getting node.js up and running in my hosting environment was a big PITA, but only because my hosting environment in a shared hosting and running server processes is a big no no there.  I ended up having to buy a VM and run it there.  That meant a fair bit of research and what not on which service was better and cheaper and all that, but I finally settled on one in April.  Once the server was provisioned getting node.js running was trivial.  It’s really been a pleasure to work with once you figure out what you want.  Perhaps I will blog about the experience in more detail at a later time.

http://untappd.com/user/arei

5 Interview Questions for finding Software Gods…

So, I have, from time to time, been asked to interview various candidates, despite not having much say in the hiring process in general.   Mostly, I’m asked because my employers want me to tell them if the candidate is technically competent or not.  But for me, technically competency is only half of the picture.  I want competent, but I also want passionate, and that, is by far the hard trait to find. Passion is the difference between merely writing code and breathing code, the difference between a cog and a creator, the difference between collecting a pay check and committed to the future.

To that end I have developed a series of questions that helps me narrow the pool some.  These are questions aimed at gauging beyond competency, but the passion one brings to the team.  Without passion, you are just a robot and robots are a dime a dozen… (especially in government contracting).

So, here are my top five interview questions for finding the kind of people with which I want to work.  These are all related to software development, but I’m sure you can adapt these questions to whatever industry you work in. I don’t really have an opinion on your industry, so you are on your own.

Question 1). Describe the coding you do outside of work.

The answer a candidate has for this isn’t nearly as relevant as the fact that they have an answer for this.  A candidate who is not programming outside of their work structure is, generally speaking, not in love with what they do. If you don’t love what you do you might as well not be doing it, you are certainly not worth my time of investing in you.  I will give some credit to someone who describes what they would like to be doing outside of work, but they cannot find the time because of family.  I know families take up a butt load of time, so I respect that.  Often times when I am interviewing this question is asked obliquely in the form of “What’s your Github account.”  It’s the same thing really, although this will also let prospective employers view your work directly as well.

Question 2). Tell me what websites/sources you regularly read in order to stay current in your field?

This is a great question to separate the amateurs from the experts.  If you are not reading multiple regular sources to stay relevant in your field you might as well retire. Every field and industry has sources devoted to keeping you up to date in your field, follow at least three and stay on top of it.  When a candidate fails to answer this question I pretty much stop right there.  This is even more true for technology people than others, but can be applicable in other fields.  For example, my fiancee Jennifer is in Acoustics and she regularly reads science journals to stay on top of her field.  Technology just makes it easier as there are thousands of sources.

Question 3). “I see that you list Library X on your resume.  How would you change X and make it better?”

This is one of those dual purpose questions… You can answer this technically, but any answer you give will also show whether or not you have passion to make things better.  I can judge both by your answer here.  The worst possible answer though is “I really love the way X does this and wouldn’t change it at all.”  If you don’t want to change X you probably aren’t using X very much.  Actually, there is a worse answer than that and that is the answer where you fumble around trying to find an answer which tells me you lied on your resume.  Fail.

Question 4). “Who are some of the movers and shakers in your field that you like and why do you disagree with them?”

Again, this question goes to whether or not the candidate is staying current.  But more importantly, it delves into the candidates opinions and ultimately, passionate people have strong opinions.  You might not agree with them, but you cannot fault their passion and commitment to a point of view.  The follow on questions from this one can really be intense as well and give an interviewer a great chance at delving into the prospective employees views.  Don’t miss out on the chances this question can open up.

Question 5). “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever written and why?”

A great question that challenges the interviewee to examine their own work and then defend it.  This can be followed up with all kinds of interesting question to get at problems or desires, success and failures.  Passionate people not only recognize their failures, they have loads to say about how they would change things.  A person who doesn’t think they have improvements to make on their own work, is one I don’t want to work with.  Continually striving to better oneself is a must.

So there are my five questions.  As with all Interview questions, these are incredibly leading question which allow for a great deal of follow on and discussion.  And they are meant to be that way.  A single interview question isn’t an end, but a beginning to a discussion.  Ultimately, these question do not guarantee that you are going to find the perfect person.  Rather, they serve as a guide to allow you to delve into the depths of what really excites a person about the work that they do and the work you envision for them.

And there isn’t a score here for questions they got right.  All of these questions lead to discussions that will reveal the characteristics that I am trying to get at, namely whether or not the interviewee is passionate about their work.  Each interview is obviously different and have to be judge differently.  In the end it really comes down to a gut decision.  The hope here, however, is that these questions can lead you to better gut decisions.

The goal here is to determine a persons passion, their excitement for their job, because a person who lacks that kind of edge is really not worth the time.

 

 

Why Dependency Management Pisses Me Off

Yes, it’s true. Dependency Management Pisses Me Off. Jason van Zyl over at Sonatype needs to be kicked in the groin… repeatedly. (Sorry, I don’t really know Jason and it’s not nice to say such things, but I wanted to really hammer home the point. Jason, I apologize to your testicles.) Seriously, when did we become so amazingly lazy that saving a JAR file into our SVN repositories became a big deal?

Now, I don’t want you to just think I’m some raving lunatic out there on his soap box shouting into the wind despite the accuracy of this picture; I want to at least pretend that you are not going to scream “TL;DR” and actually read the damn posting, so here is why Dependency Management pisses me off. Feel free to reply back to me on Twitter (@areinet) and I will engage you in some spirited debate. And I promise I won’t hurt your testicles in the process.

1). Dependency Management adds unnecessary complexity. Are we not just talking about saving some files into our SVN repository after all? Why is that so hard? And who on earth thinks that writing and changing a pom.xml file is actually easier than this? Also, there are people who would say that you shouldn’t be committing built objects into SVN (or whatever) and that we shouldn’t waste disk space. To these people I say this: Disk space is cheap. Seriously, the going rate for a HD is around 9gb per $1 USD. I assure you, no matter how many JAR files your project needs this is incredibly cheap.

2). Dependency Management puts someone else in your build loop. When I build a project, I want to rely on as few people as possible to fuck things up. Yet Dependency Management injects a completely incalculable third party into your system, and that’s just for one dependency. Sure, that dependency is always there, but with external dependencies, your are practically begging for your build to break because John Bozo three countries away from you removed six bytes of code from that one project you were relying on. Now, of course, you shouldn’t be using LATEST in your dependencies, but I really don’t want to rely on the fact that our build people are smart enough to realize this. If I just committed the version I wanted to the repository, none of these problems happen.

3). Licenses Change. When your build person goes out there and changes a version number, do you think they actually read a license file? Let’s assume for the sake of reality that people are incredibly lazy… now, do you want to take the risk that so and so actually read the license? And that the license didn’t change? Seriously, it would take me about six seconds to change the license on some sub-project you use and then commit it. And suddenly the sub-project owns all of your IP simply because you used them. Now, the legality of that is a debate for other scholars than I, but it could certainly cause a mess. The only thing stopping a sub-project from doing this,is the hassle of suing your ass into oblivion… And we all know that people are getting more and more litigious every day.

4). The Internet is, by it’s nature, unreliable. Do you really want to rely on the fact that the internet providers upstream from you are not going to screw something up right when your absolutely must deliver build has to get run? Seriously, the more people that have input into a process, the more likely that process is to get derailed. I do not want to think that my ability to deliver is dependent on whether or not Anonymous is going to cause a world-wide outage in protest over SOPA (which sucks by the way). Sure, you can run a mirror of x repository and spend your time maintaining that as well, but wouldn’t you rather spend time, oh I don’t know, outside? With a girl? playing WOW? Doing anything else?

So the point here is this and this is the TL;DR for you lazy people as well… Dependency management adds both complexity and unpredictability to your systems and this is not a good thing. A Build process is about Rigor, and Dependency Management is antithetical to rigor. By using a Dependency Management solution you are willingly signing up for problems and extra work. Who wants that? When given the choice between that and just storing the files I need into my repository, I will choose the latter every time.

Now, I do think some dependency systems are way better than others. The node.js NPM system is amazingly clean, but it’s still begging for the problems I outline above. So, maybe not that awesome. It is easy to use though, wish Maven were half that easy.

So, that’s it. That’s why every time my coworker comes in and raves about how awesome Maven is I just point at his crotch and start laughing. I mean, really, Maven? Awesome? You got to be an idiot to think that. (My apologies to my coworkers.)

My Ideal Job

Lately, I’ve been asking myself if my current work role is really the best use of my talents.  But shortly into wondering about the answer to this question, I had formed an even more important question: What exactly do I consider the best use of my talents.  So, here, for better or worse, is where I think the best use of my talents lies…

First and foremost, I’m a hacker type through and through.  A work day in which I am not writing code is a terrible day for me.  A work day in which I write a little code is a terrible day for me.  A workday where I am heads down, balls to the wall buried in code and completely oblivious to the passage of time.  Ding!  Awesome day.  What’s even better about those kind of days is that when I’m in the zone like that (Interface Designers call it “Flow”) I am disgustingly prolific. I mean oodles and oodles of code being churned out.  That’s a win for not just me, but the company for which I am working.

Next, I am a very creative person.  This means I get strength and energy from creative outlets.  I am not going to be your go to guy to write that piece of software for which you have painstakingly provide pages and pages of detailed specification.  No, I’m the kind of guy you come up to and say, “Hey, I had a friggin awesome idea, can you whip something together for me to test the idea out?”  I will take your crazy ass idea and run with it.  Now, the result here can be mockups or it can be straight to code, I’m comfortable either way, although I think I’m more productive in code, but whatever.  Just give me an idea that I can contribute to and put my own spin on and I will exceed your most wild expectations.

Also, I love writing reusable components and libraries.  Recently Jacob Thornton an engineer at Twitter (@fat) shared a tweet at JSConf 2012 that I really found interesting.  He tweeted, “new interview question: you have 45 minutes to write JQuery from scratch. get as far as you can. start from wherever you’d like.”  I absolutely loved this question, not just because I think it would really separate the wheat from the chaff as it were, but also because I would love that challenge.  Ultimately @fat concluded that anyone trying to answer that question would be screwed because there’s so much depth to JQuery, but I would absolutely love to try.  I could spend a lifetime reanswering this question over and over and over, getting it more and more perfect each time.  I have been fortunate in my career that the work I am asked to do more often than not has limitations that prevent us from using certain libraries.  I get to go in, study those libraries and then recode them for my project.  It’s quite enjoyable and amazing enriching.

Finally, I love sharing my knowledge with others and learning their ideas and knowledge as well.  Mentoring to me can be quite a lot of fun and there is nothing better, IMHO, than a willing and eager student/peer that wants to learn or wants to debate.  I love that sort of thing.  The caveat, though, is that these activities must not take away from the above two activities.  I like mentoring some of the time, but when it becomes a full time job, when I start managing, that’s where I lose interest.  Surprisingly, I am extremely good at managing and have had a number of management position in the past, but ultimately, I have no interest in doing it in the future.

So, all that said, my ideal job is Hacker and Evangelist of Prototype Libraries. Now, I know that’s probably not a real job (if you think differently, please send me an email!), but that’s what I would ideally like to be doing. And it’s pretty cool that I’ve figured it out.  I now have a benchmark by which I can hold up two jobs and ask, “How much does each of these jobs approach the ideal for which I have set myself.”  That’s the job I’m more likely to take, that’s the job I want.

So, current job, how much do you think you live up to my ideal?

node-untappd: A NodeJS Library for using the Untappd API

Last night in anticipation of the upcoming JSConf, I released version 0.1.0 of node-untappd.  node-untappd is a NodeJS API Client for using Untappd services. My hope is that someone out there might use this to make some really cool things that they will then share with me and offer to buy me beer for my hardwork.  We’ll see how that works out.

If you are unfamiliar with Untappd and drink beer at all, you need to make yourself familiar.  Untappd is a socail tracking application for beer.  Think of it as FourSquare for beer.  Users checkin, rate, comment, track, and share beer consumptions and notes.  It’s an awesome little tool for keeping track of exactly what you are drinking, where you are drinking it, and what you thought of it.

node-untappd connect into the Untappd application by exposing the Untappd API to your Node application.  You can do all kinds of queries, checkins, comments, and the like right from within your own tool.

You can install node-untappd by using

npm install node-untappd.

Make sure to read the README.md file

To learn more about node-untappd or see the source code at the github repository: http://github.com/arei/node-untappd.

To see the API details go to: http://untappd.com/api/docs/v3.

Enjoy!

 

Easing NodeJS into the Future

Let me get this right out of the way. I’m a fan. NodeJS is really cool, easy to use, and feels just right the minute you try it out. I’m all in.

Now for the bad news…

There are some problems that NodeJS is facing this year. The upside though, is that these problems can be easily addressed. I only hope it is not too late… but maybe with a little effort, a little organization, and a whole lot of additional groundswell, we can propel NodeJS forward by a giant leap.

Hello, World

The very first time programmatic encounter a new user of NodeJS will have is the Hello World example. This is a universal concept across all languages, the entry point is always Hello World. Hello World is the single most simplistic concept in writing a program in any language. It is fundamentally the most basic thing you can do.

The NodeJS Hello World example:

var http = require('http');
http.createServer(function (req, res) {
res.writeHead(200, {'Content-Type': 'text/plain'});
res.end('Hello World\n');
}).listen(1337, '127.0.0.1');
console.log('Server running at http://127.0.0.1:1337/');

The problem is that the NodeJS Hello World example basically says that NodeJS is all about building Web Servers and in my opinion that is way too narrow. NodeJS is absolutely awesome at the Web stack, no disagreement. Yet, I believe that NodeJS is so much more and has nearly limitless potential: today we can build CLI programs, statistical analyzers, and stand alone applications all in NodeJS and not once do we need to create a Web Server to do it. By defining our most basic of examples in the terms of a Web stack we are defining our entire ecosystem in those terms and that will continue to limit our potential. It is time for NodeJS to grow out of that perceptual constraint and I believe it starts with Hello World.

My solution, one line long:

console.log(‘Hello World’);

Once you get users in with one basic example, you move on to the next one and the next one after that. Absolutely we should be teaching our n00bs how amazingly simple it is to host your own servers in NodeJS, but NodeJS is so much more than that. We need to appeal to all the use cases, not just those who want to build servers. So show us how to do it all.

Which leads to the next point…

Documentation

One of the big problems of the documentation is that it is trying to serve two different masters and it need to separate it’s interest. On the one hand, it wants to be a teaching tool, helping new users through common problems and examples. On the other hand, it needs to be a resource document to which the more experienced users can turn. Regardless, both of these objectives is utterly necessary, but also at odds with one another. So lets split them apart but keep them cross referenced with one another. So the reference has pointers to the examples and the examples cross link to the references.

Once we have separated the concerns from one another, then the community can put some real effort into beefing the documentation up big time. With regards to the examples, we need to put some serious effort into teaching our users event driven programming and how it works, why it works, where it is good, and where it is bad. On the reference material side of the house we need to flesh stuff out: every single function, identifier and object needs to be described and commented upon. Also every callback needs to also be defined with exactly what is being passed into the callback when it is fired. I swear I spend half my time outputting arguments from various callbacks to understand what they are before I can actually use it.

There is literally thousands of examples on the Internet about how to use NodeJS and thousands of people willing to share their insights. So let us put all that collective talent to work creating an amazing system dedicated to teaching the technology we are all so passionate about. Everything from video tutorials (like that one on youtube), to cross referenced API documentation, to examples to do virtually everything we can think of, to sample applications and configurations. There needs to be a one stop shop to all things NodeJS and it’s name is not Google. I want to know how to do X and I do not want to hunt all over the place to find it. It is all about making NodeJS more approachable and easier to use.

And with that segue we move on to…

Startup

Simple NodeJS startup is wonderfully easy, just type node and go. Or you can get more fancy and supply a filename to start execution. The reality, however, is that most of us are not working in a simple world. We work in complex, custom, evolutionary, hybrid environments that defy description. I know this first hand, I’ve tried to describe them, it’s not pretty.

So we need to make starting NodeJS easier. After all, if it seems like its hard to do (whether or not it really is) we are not going to do it.

See, System Administrators today have a lot invested in their current solutions. They’ve been using Apache Web Server (for example) for almost two decades. They have put a ton of work into whatever cobbled together solution they have. Asking them to change, while great for progress, is just asking for a whole lot of argument. So why not make NodeJS fit into the architecture they already know and love? Why not provide them options and at the same time, show them how easy it is to love NodeJS.

This comes down to three different ways NodeJS needs to run:

First, some people just want to run NodeJS. We got this one covered today. It’s easy, it’s powerful and it has a lovely command line interface built in if you want it.

Second, some people want to run NodeJS from a Web container. This is basically the PHP or the JSP model where NodeJS runs behind a Web Server and the Web Server sends specific request too the NodeJS as it needs. There are dozens of protocols for doing this (CGI, FastCGI, AJP, etc) and implementing several of these should be and is pretty easy. A few github projects do this to varying levels of success. The ultimate goal though, is to bring these things right into the runtime so things are as painless as possible to setup. It could be as simple as just adding a command line switch to the NodeJS runtime to tell it that the incoming request is a CGI one or something. I am not trying to implement here, just throwing ideas out.

Finally, some users just want to run NodeJS as a robust service. For example, anyone whom wants NodeJS to be the only Web Server and does not need to rely on third part tools. To do so, NodeJS needs to ship with the code and tools necessary to working with full fledged services. Upstart and Forever are two tools to help with this, but why can we not put this technology into the runtime? This speaks to making it as easy as possible to get setup and rolling the way a user wants to get setup and rolling. And let us not forget not everything runs on Linux like it should; Windows still has its proponents and we need to be more approachable to everyone. Ideally integrated technology for keeping a server up, running, and monitored would be ideal. As more and more NodeJS users look to deploy NodeJS into production, easing this process becomes more and more critical.

And I’m Spent

So that is about all I got so far. I’m sure there are dozens and dozens of other things that could really help NodeJS grow, but to me these are the big ones. Yet, these are also the ones that I think can be fixed right now.

Ultimately, we need to make NodeJS more approachable, more understandable and more reliable. Today NodeJS is crazy popular, but I believe we are rapidly approaching a turn which can direct NodeJS’ fate for the years to come. It is the classic dilemma for any fledgling technology and the roadside is strewn with the corpses of those that have come before us. I honestly believe that this community can steer NodeJS to greatness, if it is willing to do so. This involves hard work, it involves decisive action, and most importantly, it involves foresight to see what is to come. If we, as a community can accept this role, NodeJS will explode to heights even we failed to imagine.

Dear Stupid Recruiter…

Let me be blunt: When you email me to tell me all about how you have positions and could I just call you to find out more details… ya, that just pisses me off.

I am a busy individual. I have a really good job. If you want to have any hope of luring me away from that really good job, you have to be (or offer) better. And I’m not talking about money here. I’m talking about better understanding, better service, and better opportunity. You have to understand that in our industry (software) there are more positions out there than there is talent; you have to understand that I have no interest in talking to you about the same boring job every other recruiter is pitching; you have to understand that YOU are trying to use me to make money and therefore have to provide ACTUAL VALUE to me.

Let’s take a recent example… I got an email from a recruiter telling me that his company had available positions in Infrastructure, Software Development, Integration, Engineering, and Information Assurance, and if I would like I could call him for the details… DELETED. That’s right, straight to the trash can with that email. Why? Because everyone has positions in Infrastructure, Software Development, Integration, Engineering, and Information Assurance available. Oh, and also because I’m not going to waste time talking to you about a generic job posting.

So how about a better example… Well, one recruiter piqued my interest with the generic sounding descriptions, so I emailed back and I share with you what I wrote:

Dear XYZ, I am very intrigued by the positions you listed.  I would love to hear more about the specific position you have in mind for me.  Could you email me some details and I will let you know if I am interested?  I’m very busy right now, so email is the best way for us to communicate, if you don’t mind.

The answer I got back was:

Dear Glenn, you can reach me at xxx-xxx-xxxx.  I’d really like to talk to you about this opportunity.

Okay, for starters, spell my friggin name correctly.  You misspell my name, automatic trash bin for you. Secondly, I’m not going to call you until I am convinced you can provide me value.  You’ve already failed to understand that people are busy and it doesn’t look good for our relationship. Finally, actually take the time to READ the email I sent you.  The fact that I sent you one at all, considering how many recruiter emails I see during the course of the day is amazing.  You should hang on my every word.  Seriously.  I would estimate that I pretty much delete outright 95% of the emails I get from recruiters, and the other 5% gets deleted after one email exchange.  That’s pretty sad.  You can do better.

So how, as a recruiter, does one actually do better?  I’ve wrote you a list.  (Now consider this… I am willing to spend 30 minutes more writing a list about how to do better than I am willing to spend responding to your lame emails.)

1). Actually read my resume and have the technical ability to understand it.

Yes, I list Java on my resume just like everyone else. But, if you actually took the time to read my resume you would see that I don’t actually list java in a job for the last 5 years, but rather there’s a lot of talk about JavaScript.  Now, which type of technology job do you think I am looking for? The one from five years ago which is slowly dying or the one that i have been working in for the last five years that’s hot as shit right now?

2). Stop trying to appeal to the morons.

A lot of recruiters just go by keywords and the mass mailing approach to getting clients.  Maybe this works for some, but it will never work with me nor anyone whom considers themselves my peers.  Believe me,  I can find a crappy, middle of the road job by myself, I don’t need you.  What I need you for is to find me that one job that is way over and above what I can find myself. All your offering me is, to quote Hamlet, “Words, words, words.” I want the dream job, not the boring average job. Which leads me to my next point…

3). A job that is described in keywords is not a job in which I am interested.

Jobs descriptions are marketing tools.  If you want to sound like Budweiser and says “We taste just like everyone else!” then bully for you, but I am still not drinking it.  Why would I when I can consume an experience like Heavy Seas Loose Cannon or Boulder Vanilla Porter.  Spice it up and really try to sell it… without using the same damn terms everyone else is using. Be creative… I know, TV has killed all creative instinct in you, but surely you must remember something from being a child.  Try it out.

4). Take the time to be right.

Grammar and spelling mistake = Deleted.  No exceptions.  If you cannot be bothered to wordsmith simple emails, I cannot be bothered to read them, and I’m certainly not going to trust you to be accurate when representing me to a customer.

5). Listen.

If I tell you in an email that I am really busy, try listening to me and working with me through email.  Stop trying to get me on the phone.  And worse yet, do not send me your form to fill out.  I’m not applying to a job at Burger King.

6). DO NOT copy and paste a job description.

Google may be the best thing you ever found for finding leads, but it’s also your enemy when it comes to job descriptions.  I am willing to bet that I can find the company hiring directly and circumvent you (not that I ever had) just by using Google and the cut and paste you just did of the job description.  Yes, it might take a little longer to recreate the job description and worse yet you might have to actually understand technology to do this, but it shows me that you are actually trying.

Now, I know many of you recruiters have reasons why you do what you do and I really want to believe it’s not just because you are lazy.  So let me try and answer some of your concerns.  (I’ll add to this if you email me some constructive feedback.)

I need to reach as many people as I can  – Go watch the first 10 minutes of Jerry McGuire.  Now, watch it again and this time try listening.

The only way I have to understand you is your keywords – That’s great.  Use keywords to find me, by all means, but then take the ten extra minute to actually read what you found.  Bonus points if you actually look at any other part of my blog while you are there.  Actually take the time to try to UNDERSTAND me.

I don’t have time to read through all the resumes I see – Make the time.  Quality not quantity, if you think different than I salute your mediocrity.

Staying on top of Technology is hard – Yes, yes it is.  Yet, some of us manage to do it just fine.  Twitter can be your best friend here.

Company X wants its job listed as Y – So what?  Eventually sure, share that with me… but for initial contact, sell it.

I can’t afford to spend all my time on you – Then I cannot afford to spend time on you.  Remember, you only make money by me changing jobs, which is a ridiculously hard thing to get people to do.

Quality is nice, but Quantity pays the bills – But quality builds reputations.  Take for example where I live… there is nothing but chain restaurants here with a few notable exceptions and I have never been known to espouse the amazing food I just had at a chain restaurant.  With a few notable exceptions. Even then, it’s the quality I’m espousing… not the quantity. If you want to be the kind of recruiter that people tell their friends to go to, then quality is a must.

When it gets right down to it, I just want a recruiter whom I not only trust, but that I know I can return to if I need to.  Someone who understands my SPECIFIC needs and desires in the workplace and doesn’t just want to represent me because of the money, but because he or she is actually helping me succeed.  In twenty plus years I have only met two recruiters who meet those goals.  And I keep in touch with both of them.

 

Quick Answers to a Hard UI Question

The Question

A friend of mine recently asked the Twitterverse the following question: “Can anyone recommend a good book on designing a good software UI? What works, what doesn’t, and in which situations.”

The Simple (but ultimately unhelpful) Answer

Keep reading for the real answer.

The Difficult Answer

I love it when people ask me this question, because it means that they are actively thinking about the Interface and they want to improve. I applaud their willingness to change. Unfortunately, wanting to change and reading a book (or two) will not get them the results they desire.

User Interface Design is a huge field of study, a speciality of decades (even centuries if you talk about Information Design) of research and learning.  There are undergraduate and graduate programs around the world that teach only this subject.  Succeeding in one of these programs is only the beginning.  Experience is what really counts in this field. A person, my friend or any person, is not going to learn this subject by reading one book.

It’s akin to me going to the bookstore and buying “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting Your Own Business”.  Sure, this book will tell you the basics and give you some insights, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg.  Starting and running a business is an extremely complicated process and to think one book is going to get you there is woefully short sighted.

My problem with the original question is that it is naive.   It is naive to think that simply having the rules will allow you to effectively apply those rules.  It is naive to under-value practical experience in this field.  It is naive to treat an entire field of study as an after-thought.

The Real Question

The real question being asked is “Are there a couple of things that I can do to make my interfaces better?”

The answer to that is No … and Yes.

No, because as I’ve just said, there is no way to summarize quickly an entire field of study or years of experience.  Do not under-estimate just how valuable these things are to someone practicing in the field.

Yes, because I believe there are a number of tips that everyone can use to make their interfaces better from day one.  I’ll go into these really briefly, but I want to be very clear there’s a whole lot more to it, a whole lifetime of learning if you are willing to do it.  It’s an amazing, wonderful field and I thoroughly encourage everyone to study it.  Just be warned that it’s big, complex, and sometimes very unrewarding.

Remember: Interfaces are Everywhere

Anything people interact with is an interface: A Dictionary (the physical book kind) is an interface, a web site is an interface, a form you fill out for your employer is an interface, and a software API is an interface.  Each interface needs to be designed for the user.  So the next time you design something that someone else is going to use, or even for your own use, consider: how the interface works, how easy it is to use, and whether or not it meets your needs.

The Real Answer

While I encourage you to go and read the above books, if you do nothing else, keep the following rules in mind when you are designing any sort of user interface.

Consistency

The number one thing any software engineer can do to make interfaces better is to make things consistent.  I cannot begin to tell you how many interfaces I see that are inconsistent. (I’ve even made this mistake myself a number of times.)  If you do something one way in one part of your interface, always do it that way throughout the entire interface.  For example, if the Okay button is on the left and the Cancel button is on the right, do not change the order of these things somewhere else in your interface.

This also means adhering to the consistency norms defined by your Operating System or Operating Environment (a Web Browser is an Operating Environment).  Yes, you might not like it and you might think you can do it better, but the interface is NEVER (underlined and bolded) about you.  NEVER.

Details, Details, Details!

Anyone who does Interface Design should be horribly detailed oriented, almost compulsively so. Every aspect of your interface needs to be examined to ensure that the details are, going back to my previous point, consistent.  Form fields should be the same size, buttons the same size, everything aligned correctly, everything positioned perfectly, etc.  The details of the User Interface are the critical difference between good work and sloppy work.  And sloppy interfaces are bad interfaces.

Nothing annoys me more than going to another company and filling out their poorly designed forms.  (My current company is especially bad at this.)  These, as I mentioned before, are interfaces and spending a little time to make them more clean and more clear is worth its weight in gold.  I have, in the past, walked out of companies that were interviewing me merely because their HR forms sucked.

Know your Users

When beginning your design the first thing you should be asking yourself is what do you know about your users.  Shniederman and Cooper (the books above) can tell you a lot more about Actors and User Stories and all that, but it really just comes down to understanding how your users like to work, and how your interface is going to make some aspect of that easier.  So, get to know your users.  Are your users computer illiterate? If so, it’s not likely that they will understand something like Drag and Drop right away. Once you understand your users motivations and needs, then you can begin to design a system that best reflects them.

This is often very tricky because none of us have millions of dollars to do user studies, and shadowing, and user testing.  A lot of times our customers are abstract visions of customers.  That’s okay.  Just take some time to try and imagine (acting or role-playing training can be really helpful here) what those customers motivations and needs would be.  It’s not perfect, but it will do in a pinch.

Ease of Use

So it goes without saying that the easier to use an interface is, the more people will like it.  Of course, this must be tempered against the motivation and goals of the actual users.  So the real goal is that it must be easier for the users to do what their motivation and needs require.  I once read that Ease of Use can be defined as the number of mouse click or keyboard interactions required to perform some task.  It’s not a perfect measurement but keep it solidly in mind when designing.  And this segues into my next point…

People are Lazy

Assume that people are lazy and you will never be disappointed.  They want to do the least amount of effort for the greatest amount of payoff.    I call this the commitment factor: how much of my effort do I have to commit to receive the greatest payoff.  This is why the Lottery is so effective.  It does not seem to matter that statistics are stacked against the players, they still play because it’s easy to play and the potential reward is huge.

In interface design this is equally true.  The users will like any interface that makes things the easiest.  The converse of this, however, plays a valuable role as well… the users will like any interface that makes things easier, so long as they can control the results.  This means that lottery users like playing the lottery, so long as they can pick the numbers.  The more complicated the system to automatically pick the numbers, the less the users will like the results.

Ideally, the best systems are predictive systems that let the users control just the right amount of variables.  What is the right amount, well, that where iteration comes into play.  Try a low amount, try a high amount, calculate the best amount, and then keep refining.

Understand Flow

Cooper defines Flow as “When people are able to concentrate wholeheartedly on an activity, they lose awareness of peripheral problems and distractions.” (Cooper, 4th Edition, p119). We’ve all had these Flow moments: where what we are doing is so focused, so in-depth that we don’t notice external things such as what time it is, coworkers leaving for the day, or even phone calls from our significant others wondering why we are not home yet.  This is Flow, and it’s a very, very good thing.  Flow allows users to work on their specific need at an optimum level.  It is the goal of every good interface.

Poor interfaces interrupt flow with things like unnecessary dialogs, errors, hard to use process, etc.  The interface that interrupts less and is easier to use helps to encourage Flow.

As part of Flow I generally include visual flow in the discussion.  Visual flow is the ability of the human eye to find what it needs.  To this end, interfaces that focus or showcase what is most important to the user are better.  In the western world we read top to bottom, left to right, so items on the top left receive more attention than what is in the bottom right.  Keep this in mind as you build your interface.

Also, be aware that animated things attempting to engage or grab the users focus on your interface ALWAYS disrupt flow.  Use animation to enhance, never to engage.  Assume users have become oblivious to animated, blinking things and largely screen them out these days.

Design for Accessibility

One of the big failings of modern day design is that they fail to account for differences in human beings.  Some human beings cannot see, some cannot manipulate a mouse, some cannot determine the difference between red and blue.  Build for accessibility.  Be aware that some people view your site in really low resolution and that some view it in really high resolution.  Account for the differences in your fundamental design and from the beginning.  Going back and having to engineer your sight to meet section 508 standards can be extremely painful.  Do it right from the start.

One of the big things here is when sites use color to indicate differences.  Estimates seem to place color blindness in the US as 10 to 20% of the population.  Therefore using a color to indicate that some change has happened is not an acceptable solution.  When in doubt use a color change AND some other indicator (selection count, underlining, etc) to indicate response.

Feedback

Feedback is the process of responding to user behavior.  The more feedback, the more the user knows that they are doing things.  A common flaw is to do something without providing feedback to the user that something is occurring.  We see this in lots of User Interfaces because almost all User Interfaces rely on a single thread model wherein the interface rendering and response happen on the same thread as most processing.  The developer who pushes processing off into other threads (or into WebWorkers in the Web space) can respond with appropriate feedback to the user without waiting for the process to resolve.

Feedback is a key factor in responsiveness of a site and responsiveness is a key factor in a sites usability.  The more response a site appear, the more users feel like they are in control of how the system is behaving.

You Cannot Please Anyone

Just assume that no matter how great your user interface, not everyone is going to like it.  Instead, your goal should be to hit the 80% of user whom will like it.  There will always be edge users whom have different motivations and needs.  So upfront, identify all the users and determine what the 80% is that you can achieve.

Sure, it is possible to build an interface that scales to every type of user.  However, you will spend a disproportionate amount of time on the last 20% than on the middle 80%.  Think of a bell curve,and try to get the middle of that curve.

I know two sections back I just said to design for differences, but there is a separation between accessibility difference and designing for the edge users.

Learn from your Mistakes

Finally, learn from your mistakes.  I always believe that next version of your interface will be superior to the previous version, largely because you learn from the problems your users had with the current one and build a tighter interface for the next one.

As a co-worker of mine often says: It’s an Iterative Process.

Conclusion

So that’s what I have for you.  My long answer to a friends very simple question.  I hope I did not insult my friend, but the reality is that things are much more complicated than his initial question assumes.  That said, maybe my last section really answers the question he wanted answered.  Remember, User Interface Design is extraordinarily complicated.

A Final Note:  This topic does not take into account the whole Graphic Design aspect of UI design.  For that is an entirely differently field of study.

How to Captain

So I’ve been doing the captaining thing for Ultimate Frisbee for a long time.  Generally speaking, I have great teams.  We don’t always win a lot, but we have a lot of fun in the process and I think just about everyone comes away having learned something and with renewed spirit in Ultimate. I always assumed that player’s on other teams where having just as great a time.

This summer I had to take a season off from captaining (too much on my plate already), but I would never give up playing, so I signed up as just a player.  I won’t bore you with the details, just a paraphrase of a Simspon’s character… Worst. Captain. Ever.  (And no I’m not talking about Janeway. Nerd Humor, sorry.)  Now, normally I’d just step in and take over, but like I said, too much on my plate already… and eventually someone did take over which helped to make the tourney very enjoyable.

Yet, this got me to thinking about what it meant to be a captain, what kind of person it takes, what it required, and what one got out of it. I kicked around a lot of notions, but eventually it occurred to me that anyone could be a decent captain if someone would just tell them how.  And then I started writing.

So here, at last, is my article detailing that How To Captain.

Go forth, read, and then sign up to captain.

 

Tweet and Like

Today I removed comments from the site. I replaced them with tweet and like (facebook) buttons. Although I still maintain my stance that Facebook is dumb. Twitter on the otherhand, is the awesome.

So, if you see something you like here, tweet about it. Or Like it if you swing that way.

Breweries to Watch

It’s been a long time since I posted, so here’s quickie to get me off and rolling again…

TOP FIVE BREWERIES I’M WATCHING LATELY…

Longtrail – Based out of middle Vermont where I spent most of my childhood Skiing.  They’ve put together some really great brews recently.  I’m especially big on their porter.

Clipper City/Heavy Seas – This one is local for me which I normally would discount, but they continue to please me with their beers.  Favs include the Siren Noire and the fact that they are going to have beers at Camden Yards and I can stop drinking the swill there.  Also, if you get a chance to do the brewery tour, the staff is made up of the friendliest people on earth.

Boulder – I’ve had tons of their beers on tap and in bottles and the Obovoid Oatmeal Stout in a bottle is hands down my favorite.  I go out of my way for this brew and regularly stock it at home.  Although I do have to say that a Flash Website sucks.

Breckenridge – So when I was actually in Breckenridge like 5 years ago for a friend’s wedding, we went here and I was unimpressed.  Lately though, these have started popping up all over the mid-atlantic and I’ve given them another chance to my pleasent surprise.  I suggested you do likewise.

Oliver’s – I’m not crazy about Oliver’s beers when I get them in bottles or at bars EXCEPT for at Pratt Street Alehouse.  Oliver’s when it’s hand pumped, is one of my favorite things on earth.  Nothing is better than Real Ale, and Oliver’s Best Bitter is one of my favorites.  Look for me there prior to just about any Red Sox vs Orioles game.

The Great Migration

I recently moved arei.net to a new hosting solution.  a Little more monthly cost for a whole lot more stability and experience.  So far I am pleased and the migration could not have been easier.  Plus, the new hosting company lets me do other domains without blinking.  So all of the other domains I own (arei.me, sosay.us, and more) are now hosted with their own pages. (mind you arei.me is a mirror of arei.net and sosay.us is merely parked, but the point is that I could use them if I wanted to use them.)

Anyway, hope you like the new host and notice the performance upgrades.