Saturday 15 September 2007

Potluck 'Round the Hearth

While discussing the issues of public space for resources in Peopleware, the authors quote from Christopher Alexander's A Pattern Language:

"Without communal eating, no human group can hold together. Give each [working group] a place where people can eat together. Make the common meal a regular event."

The authors go on to highlight the relationship between shared space in broader societal terms (the home, in particular) and the office workspace.

As so many of us spend a great deal of time and a large portion of our lives at work, I believe strongly in extending my definition of "family" to include the people I work with. This fits naturally with the hierarchical structure found so often in work places: my immediate circle of co-workers becomes my brothers and sisters; my managers becomes parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunts; other colleagues in the organisation become cousins and second cousins.

From this mindset (and, admittedly from a mindset that includes fun and enjoyment!), I introduced my team to the potluck lunch about a year and a half ago. The potluck concept was not my idea: I attended a party held outside work by a colleague from my previous employer and the party was themed around the potluck; the people and layout of the workspace of my new employer simply allowed me to suggest we bring the team together on a regular basis and everyone bring a single dish of food.

Although we don't measure many things at Tourism--let alone productivity increases, the potluck lunch concept has proven successful in general. At the very least, it's a great opportunity to sit back with my work family, indulge in new and interesting food, and have a chat... a scheduled group downtime. It's also been an interesting way to introduce new team members to others in the office and give them a sense of how we work and what it feels like to be a part of our team.

We aim for a monthly potluck lunch and usually go in for some kind of theme. When our first potluck was held, we had a very diverse team and everyone brought food representative of their home culture. We'll also hold a goodbye potluck when someone leaves the team.

The rules of potluck are few and simple:
  1. Each person only brings enough food to feed one to two people (or a single dish);
  2. Each person tries their utmost to make something at home the night before--food purchased the day of the potluck is usually a rush job and tends to be deep-fried;
  3. Alcohol is a suitable food substitute (but this works at Tourism).

We don't usually plan who's bringing what--it usually just works out. As we do have a few vegetarians about we try to cater for them and generally try to arrive at a balance of savoury vs sweet (dessert is always nice!).

Thursday 13 September 2007

Web 2.0 Graphic Design

Ever wonder what makes the latest breed of web site so attractive? certainly has and the author has kindly produced a number of well-written articles on how to design a good looking, functional site.

There's a lot of material to go through on this site but it's all very well organised and worthwhile reading.

Burp. Excuse me.

I had a look at Burp proxy recently. If you haven't heard of Burp before, it's a debug proxy that has one unique advantage over the likes of Fiddler: you can manually intercept, modify, and forward individual requests and responses.

Burp is a little Java app and you don't need to install it in order to get up and running. Although the program worked as advertised, my biggest gripe is that you have to manually configure your browser proxy settings to use localhost:8080--Fiddler just works by comparison).

As I'm on a corporate network, I also had to figure out where to configure my domain account/password. The server returned security errors without this. Once set, it's done but I'm naturally wary of supplying my password to a potentially "black" app like this (I run as Admin on my dev box...); our security policy also requires I change my password every thirty days so this is just one more location I need to update my password every month.

The proxy works as advertised, stopping at every request/response passing through and allowing you to modify it, drop it, or forward it on. You can exclude requests for certain media types and automatically modify other aspects of the headers or content. I'm primarily using the proxy to inject an X-Forwarded-For header.

Wednesday 12 September 2007

German site ist wunderbar!

The German version of the site will launch officially tomorrow via Minister Sheila McHale but it's live now:
This site is just a little bit of my handiwork here at Tourism Western Australia...

Tuesday 11 September 2007

Reach for the Light

So close... yet so far.

International Resource Identifier Support in .NET 3.5

The September 2007 issue MSDN Magazine contains an interesting article about changes to the System.Net namespace. Among the discussion about sockets and other low-level changes, the authors discuss support for International Resource Identifiers (IRIs) and their benefits over URIs.

I didn't realise it was possible to use non-ASCII characters in a domain name and while many DNS servers don't support non-ASCII domain names, Punicode provides a mechanism to work around this limitation.

So in essence, you can now take a domain name containing Unicode characters (like this: http://微軟香.com) and work with it directly using the URI class. This is certainly a great thing for international visitors to our web sites but as I only read English and French, I was really clinging to the English URLs as the last remaining way to identify our pages in SharePoint! Ah well, modern times, 'tis a global world...