Dan Appleman: Kibitzing and Commentary

My personal blog

A Tale of Just-in-time and IT

A Tale of Just-in-time and IT

I’m a big advocate of just-in-time learning. I talk about it often – it’s one of the key principles in my Pluralsight course “Learning Technology in the Information Age“. And while I usually think of it in terms of software development, it clearly applies to all technology – including Information Technology. And I made good use of that principle over the past week or two.

I host a number of blogs – the main ones being this one, searchtheforce.com, advancedapex.com, and teenleadershipbook.com. I know there are plenty of blog hosting sites, but I do it old school – I run my own server (virtual, of course) and host my own WordPress multi-site installation. I’ve done this all along, partly out of habit, partly out of the desire to have complete control over the sites, and partly because I’ve always wanted to keep at least that level of IT within my skill-set. I think it’s good for developers to know something about the underlying systems their code is running on.

These blogs have been around for a long time. Most were running on a Windows 2012 server on WordPress 4. A couple of weeks ago I received a request to upgrade searchtheforce.com, which was running on Ubunto 14.04 with nginx to SSL, which I did (more on that in a minute). But it occurred to me the other blogs were living on borrowed time. Windows Server 2012 is a few years away from end of extended support. WordPress 5 was out, but the themes I was using weren’t compatible with it. The sites were not responsive for mobile users and they didn’t support SSL encryption. Clearly it was well past time for an update.

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Teaching Truth and Objectivity

Whether it is “fake news”, biased media organizations, or manipulated social feeds, it is increasingly difficult to figure out what is true and objective. There are many people working constantly to expose and promote the truth, but it is also essential for everyone to have the ability to look critically at charts and data and figure out if, how and where they might be lying.
I’m pleased to announce my own small contribution to that effort. My new Pluralsight course “Objectivity in Data Visualization” will teach anyone how to become a smarter consumer of charts and data. You’ll learn how charts can lie. You’ll learn how data can be manipulated. And you’ll learn the subtle power of storytelling to distort facts, even if they are 100% true.
Using real world data and examples on some of today’s most controversial topics, after taking this course, you may never look at a chart the same way again.
Remember, anyone can get a free trial on Pluralsight – so there’s no excuse not to check it out 🙂

Building a Culture of Learning

I’m pleased to announce the publication of my latest Pluralsight course: “Culture of Learning: Executive Briefing“.
I’ve authored a other courses related to learning such as – “Learning Technology in the Information Age” and “Keeping up with Technology“, but both of those are more targeted to individuals who are seeking a strategy for learning and keeping up.
In “Culture of Learning: Executive Briefing“, I take things to a higher level – looking at how to apply learning strategy to an entire team or organization by establishing a learning culture. This is critically important for organizations in addressing the technology gap – the difference between the technical skills and resources an organization has available, and the skills and resources that they actually need.
The Executive Briefing series on Pluralsight are short (30 minute) high level courses on specific topics – I think you’ll find it very much worth the time. Plus, it easily fits into a Pluralsight trial subscription 🙂

New Course: Building Software That Lasts – A Guide to Maintainable Software

Will your software outlast the original developers? Almost certainly yes. But will you be able to maintain it?
That’s one thing about being in the software development business as long as I have – you gain a very healthy respect for the value of maintenance. Sure, the studies all show that maintenance costs 50%-80% of the total life-cycle cost of software, but there’s nothing like living through the entire life-cycle of multiple software projects to really understand that.
You spend a lot of time thinking about what you might have done earlier on to make life easier now.
Which is why my latest Pluralsight course, Building Software That Lasts – A Guide to Maintainable Software, is perhaps the most important course I’ve published. If not the most important, it’s certainly the one with the greatest potential to have a real impact on the cost of software.
This is not a theoretical course full of recommendations that sound great, but never put into practice. This course was born from pain – and the sure knowledge that in many cases, especially in today’s fast paced development world, maintenance and maintainability is the last thing on anyone’s mind, or in anyone’s budget. So while yes, I do discuss best practices, I spend a lot of time focused on processes and practices that are simple and cheap – and that might actually get done even when budgets are tight and speed is of the essence.
So I invite you to check it out and tell your friends. Even if you just pick up a few ideas, they’ll be worth it – that’s the thing about maintenance: a small investment now can save you a fortune in time and effort later on.

New Course – The Future of Technology Careers

What technologies will you be working on a decade from now? Will you even be working in tech? Do you even think that far ahead?
Most of us don’t. There’s this assumption that because technology changes so quickly, long range career planning in technology is futile. So our careers are driven by the opportunities of the moment and happenstance, rather than by any real long term thought.
But it turns out that long term career planning is possible, even as the pace of technology change increases. Not only is it possible, it’s a crucial part of any technology career, for all that it is neglected.
My new Pluralsight course, “The Future of Technology Careers” can help you to start applying long range planning to your career – to think about the future in new ways.
And if that doesn’t convince you to watch it, allow me to point out that it is the only Pluralsight course to seriously address the potential consequences of a Zombie apocalypse on software development. How can anyone say no to that? Remember – you can sign up for a free trial on their web site, so what are you waiting for?

New Course: The Dark Side of Technology Careers

Have you ever noticed that most discussions of technology careers are almost relentlessly positive? Studying technology is portrayed as a guaranteed path to a great high-paying job, sometimes at a workplace that offers all the luxuries of a high-end resort. Courses on tech careers, including my own, reflect this in a way – promising to teach skills that will let you take full advantage of the opportunities a tech career offers. When we talk about our careers we tend to focus on the cool projects we’re working on.
Most people in technology do have pretty good careers, but that’s a far cry from “happily ever after”. Bad things happen. People get laid off, projects get cancelled, and companies fold. There’s politics, interpersonal conflict and various forms of discrimination and unfairness.
Bad things can happen in any career. But we in technology often seem to be blindsided – caught by surprise when things go wrong. The focus on technology, and the positive outlook we find in schools and books and courses doesn’t prepare us for reality.
My latest Pluralsight Course “The Dark Side of Technology Careers” sets out to change that. It’s about the challenges, obstacles and traps that almost everyone faces sometime in their career – how to spot them, avoid them, overcome them, and if necessary survive them. It’s about the things that we, who have been in the industry for a while, learned the hard way – the things we wish we had known starting out.
Those early in their careers will find this course an invaluable map through previously hidden career minefields. Those well into their careers will discover that they are not alone in the challenges they face, and will likely discover some they had never considered.
I invite you to sign up for a free trial to watch it on Pluralsight if you aren’t already a subscriber.