Monday, November 28, 2011

You are the 1%!

According to Wolfram Alpha, the average US household income is $43,460/year. Global Rich List indicates this income is in the top 2.17% of the world's richest people. Anyone making over $50,000/year is quite literally part of the top 1% worldwide.

I agree that corruption in corporations and government has resulted in an unfair distribution of wealth here in the United States, but it still seems pretty self-centered not to consider that much of the rest of the world is suffering true poverty.

We just had a Thanksgiving holiday where we gave thanks for what we have, followed by Black Friday where shoppers clamor to buy more. As we enter the Christmas season lets remember that there are some things every person should have, like clean drinking water, food in their stomach and a roof over their head.

Here's a list of some non-profit organizations that can help make this happen with your help:

  • Toys for Tots - deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters
  • charity: water - bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations
  • Heifer International (giving available via Heifer Foundation)- gives out gifts of livestock, seeds and trees and extensive training to those in need
Personally, I'm making a sustainable donation to the Heifer Foundation General Endowment in the name of my niece and nephew so they can be part of helping to end hunger by giving people the means to feed themselves.

Friday, November 11, 2011

5 Steps to the Six Figure Developer

What makes someone a six figure developer? Of course you need to have skills, but beyond the technical what can you do to become a rock star?

5. Attending user group and conferences sets you apart. The majority of developers aren't willing to invest their free time in their career. The more you attend user group meetings and regional conferences the more you'll find the same people and get to know each other. By surrounding yourself with other developers who are passionate about their craft and excited about new technologies you'll find yourself rising to a new level.

4. Blogging is a great resume. Anyone can list a bunch of companies and dates on a document, but years of blog posts showing technologies you've tried, techniques you've developed and solutions you've found are worth their weight in gold. Don't over think it. If you find a solution to a problem, blog it. So what if someone else posted the same solution. Their post might not be there in six months or yours might come up in a search theirs didn't. If it has value to you then it will probably be of value to someone else.

3. Speakers are given respect. As soon as you stand up in front of a group and present a topic you're given a tremendous amount of respect as an authority. Not only are you showing confidence in yourself but you're able to communicate ideas and teach others. Speaking isn't easy. It takes a lot of preparation and practice. Make sure to run through your presentation in front of a mirror and for family/friends before giving it in public. Be careful with live demos, because even the most experienced presenter can get tripped up during a demo.

2. Getting published shows off skills. Whether you write an article for a magazine, create an open source solution or develop a mobile app on the market place, having published and publicly visible work shows you can get the job done. Many developers have side projects that they've been "working on", but the best ones have finished products available to the public or articles showcasing their experience.

1. If you don't know your own value, who will? Confidence is key and it's crucial to recognize your strengths, showcase them and be willing to promote yourself. If you're a modest person and uncomfortable bragging, just couple a strength with something you're trying to improve. For example, "I have over ten years of experience developing websites for large corporations, but I haven't had an opportunity to work with some of the newer standard yet and am looking forward to using them soon." This not only shows your strengths and talent, but also conveys that you recognize areas of weakness and work to improve them.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Occupy Nashville First Impressions

Occupy Nashville hasn't had a ton of media coverage like some of the other cities, and even if it was you really can't be sure you're getting the full picture without seeing it for yourself, so I drove downtown this afternoon to see what it's all about.

The last big story I saw was from last month when Gov. Bill Haslam enacted a new curfew and sent the police in at 3am that very night to arrest the protesters. The night court commissioner surprised police by refusing to sign the warrants for arrest. Since then, a federal judge has ruled that the state could not enforce the new curfew and Haslam has asked to drop the charges.

So where does this leave the protest? When I drove up I saw many tents set up, but few people. By the time I got parked an made my way to Legislative Plaza, I saw a small group with signs posing for photos. One of the protesters who was not in the group informed me that they were on their way to picket bank offices and excitedly explained that yesterday they forced Bank of America to close down.

Rather than walk around a mostly empty camp I followed the group and caught up with them as they marched in front of the Regions Bank building chanting, "Hey hey, ho ho, corporate greed has got to go." It's not every day you see a protest so I snapped some photos. I guess I just figured they would ignore me or possibly pose since protests thrive on attention, however I did not expect the stares of suspicion and one college age protester to stand in front of me with his camera phone taking my photo.

I had my photos and, as no police were showing up, I didn't expect anything to happen worth shooting so I put my camera away and followed them as they marched around the corner. One of the protestors had a laptop rigged in a harness with a webcam and cell phone. I can only assume he was broadcasting a live stream of the protest and he kept reminding everyone that they needed to stay on the sidewalk. While I stood by and watched the picketing he walked over and pointed the laptop rig in my direction. I thought this might be where he introduced himself, shared some information about the cause, or started asking me questions, but after a moment he turned and went back to the group.

In fact, during my entire time watching the protest nobody said a thing to me or gave me a second glance unless it was one of suspicion. Between this and the fact that many of the protesters were wearing bandannas over their faces I felt very little kinship or solidarity with a group I thought would share many of my views. I agree with most of the points made by the occupy Wall Street movement and would most likely be very sympathetic to the cause of occupy Nashville...if I were able to figure out exactly what that cause was. What is this group demanding? I heard a lot of complaints about corporate greed and bailouts, but what do they expect our local government do about it? I don't often agree with the mainstream media, but it does seem that the "occupy" movement lacks a coherent message when you can spend thirty minutes watching them and still don't know what they want.

Please, if you are involved in this movement, take this opportunity to comment and enlighten me. If you are afraid to reveal your identity to the public then send me a private email and I'll amend this post with your response. I certainly don't want to take away from your efforts and I applaud those who are willing to put themselves on the line for what they believe. We just need a bit more clarification or else all we'll see is a bunch of angsty college students wearing bandannas, carrying skateboards and flags, chanting rhymes about how unfair things are.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Senior Developer Training on a Budget

So you've been in the business for over ten years and the technologies continue to change. Now everyone is talking about HTML5 and JavaScript isn't just a way to validate data or show dialog boxes. You're expected to use CSS to style your website instead of those trusty tables and this stuff is complicated. You could probably go to a local user group meeting or a conference to see a one hour presentation on the topic, but lets face it, you're not going to become a web ninja in an hour. What you need is a college level class that will take you from intro to advanced.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who's felt this way. Software developers have to be self taught, to some extent, but many things can only be learned through experience or taught by someone who has that experience. This got me thinking that maybe we need an opportunity for continued education that's more affordable than auditing a college class and taught by someone who actually does it for a living.

We're still working on sponsorship to pay for the laptops, lining up professors and scheduling the facility, but if all goes we may be holding the first classes in January 2012. What topics/technologies would you like to attend?