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Your Technology Problems...SOLVED

FEBRUARY 1, 2012

Feature Content

What's New at Experts Exchange
From the SLO and beyond

Who did this anyway?
Netminder on EE V.10

Nata's Corner
Verizon and Google

Fan mail for Experts

In Brief
Things you might have missed

Who did what through Jan. 29

What's New at E-E

In a word: Everything.

EE v.10 So what are you waiting for? After months of development, Experts Exchange launched its new site last night -- the tenth version of the site, and the first major upgrade to the systems since February 2007. There are videos:

And screencasts:

And FAQs:

Here are some of the more interesting features to the new Experts Exchange:

The Workspace: Arguably the most important aspect of the new site is the one that people might not appreciate. We still have the links to the Question Wizard, the list of open questions, the articles, webinars, tutorials (which, themselves, are pretty new) and blogs are still across the top of the page, but the box along the right side of the page is really where all the good stuff happens. You're one click from virtually everything you want to do.

The look and feel: When Experts Exchange began this process, the intent was to build a content management and component system that would enable the development of new features rapidly. In doing that, EE's creative and development teams also determined that rather than build two interfaces -- the Premium and Expert skins, a more reasonable approach was to build an interface that was both business-like and still inviting to the casual or new user.

Webinars and tutorials: EE has been doing webinars for a while, but we will be doing more of them, and will be reaching out to people outside the Experts Exchange community to contribute; trainers like Mark Lassoff and Alison Balter have already contributed to our Cloud Class repository, and our most recent webinar on keeping your business IT secure came from Mike Dillon at Quest, a California managed services company.

The Job Board: One of the items that has been on the wish list for as long as we can remember is a way for Experts to promote their skills and availability at Experts Exchange. It's finally here. If you've looked at your profile, you will notice that the Hire Me button isn't there -- but you're more than welcome to post the link to your Careers page in your EE profile.

Most Valuable Experts: The Most Valuable Expert awards recognize Experts for outstanding community contributions. This isn't about the points; this award is more about how a person goes about earning their points and contributing to the community. We'll be announcing the 2012 award winners next week, and over the next couple of months, will be telling you how you can nominate someone for the 2013 awards.

The Company Store: No, you can't buy Genius shirts. You can, however, buy a great backpack, very cool shirts, and even a snow globe.

Help with your account: If your credit card has expired, or you want to upgrade your account and can't figure out how, the Customer Service team has its own support forum to help you with those kinds of issues. If your problem is with something on the site, then just ask your question in the Community Support topic area, and the Moderators will help you.

And a new newsletter look.

Certified, customized and cool: If you haven't grabbed one already, be sure to nab your very own certified Expert Badge and show off your skills on your personal blog or website. All the cool kids are doing it!

Who did this anyway?

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Senior Administrator Netminder has been in the middle of the site rebuild almost since before it got started; here, he describes the way EE V.10 came about, and some of the more subtle changes it has had on Experts Exchange.

In early 2010, Experts Exchange's creative director, Mark Barbir, had a problem. For a year, he had been leading the development of a new content management system for the company -- something Experts Exchange needed not only to rapidly build new sites and products, but also to replace the aging systems on the then-current site -- but now he was also given the task of keeping the then-existing site in step with the new systems his team was developing. It was one thing to look at Experts Exchange and rebuild everything from scratch; it was another entirely to also maintain what was there, and making the two projects stay in lock step with each other was enough to scare almost anyone.

The problem was compounded by any number of other factors. Members wanted features improved. There were hundreds of topic areas that weren't getting used. And that was the tip of the iceberg; as he started to work on assigning teams to work on maintenance plans, he found that large segments of the code base weren't documented particularly well, so when his teams began to work on one system, it first had to find and document what that system did, and what other systems it depended on. In short, he was replicating a complex web application while at the same time upgrading the features of that application and having to coordinate the two processes.

So Mr Barbir took advantage of Experts Exchange's second Core conference to sit down with the Site Administrators with the list of items they thought needed fixing. When he looked at the list, he said "we can get this done." Then he set about doing it.

It has not been easy. First, he had to bridge the historical separation of the office staff from the online staff. For anyone who has been a member at EE for any good length of time, one of the traditional grievances members have had for the company has been its apparent "we know more about what you need than you do" attitude towards its members; those complaints stemmed from an extended history of promising features that were never delivered or features that were delivered but didn't work the way the users expected.

That meant managing the expectations of a group of six opinionated and experienced users of the site, all of whom had additional responsibilities on the site. The only practical way to do that was to let them look behind the green curtain; he had to convince them that by working closely with his staff, the staff would be better able to understand the issues the Administrators, and through them the membership in general, had with the site. No longer would questions and complaints be rebuffed by a stone wall; instead, they would get answered.

But that came with a caveat; it required the Admins to be significantly more specific about what wasn't working right, and to be much more complete in the solutions they proposed. But over the course of the next several months, as more and more wireframes and specifications for the rebuilt systems were released to the Admins, it became clear that both sides of the firewall found benefit to the new arrangement. The agendas for the weekly conversations became shorter while the discussions became more involved, touching on every aspect of the site.

We came to understand the complexity of the project. First, the entire codebase was being rewritten such that EE didn't have to reinvent the wheel each time it wanted to add some new feature -- and by changing one component (for example, the text formatting), it could be done once and plugged into every instance of its use on the site. Second, each compontent was subjected to an internal QA system that was also being built at the same time the site was. Third, the most complex system was the billing management, that included pricing components built in the last century. In order for EE to move forward, the new system had to account for both long-term customers and products that are barely more than concepts.

Second, Mr Barbir had to convince his staff that the Admins weren't coming to the phone conferences with pitchforks, hot tar and bags of feathers. He did that by having them attend the phone conferences; the more familiar staffers became with the Admins, the less threatening the prospect of extended conversations about problems would become. When Experts Exchange decided to host a summit meeting with the Admins in early 2011 -- not quite a year ago -- it became almost a "reverse Core"; instead of EE's staff asking Experts what they wanted from the site, the Admins (along with a few other Badgers) asked the staff, "what can we do to make your lives easier?"

Third, when the bulk of the site was finally ready for beta-testing, Mr Barbir had the temerity to ask the Admins to organize the process, as long as the doors were open to anyone who signed up. Over 250 people were invited to look at the site and report their findings; that necessarily resulted in a lot of duplication, but it also told EE indirectly what features the members were most interested in, and that helped set the priorities for fixing the flaws. As it turned out, only one system -- that is used by the Moderators -- needed a major makeover. "We don't have everything fixed," Mr Barbir said a couple of days before the launch, "but we'll have most of it fixed, and definitely those things that are used the most."

There have been concessions. The job board members have wanted for at least a decade is there, but it isn't integrated directly with the site yet, and the same is true for the EE store. Some upgrades to systems, like a more sophisticated question wizard, have been left on the cutting room floor. Still others won't even be seriously discussed until the dust has settled.

But for the first time in EE's history, we now have the processes in place to take the suggestions that members have for improving EE and evaluating them based on the costs of developing them and the overall benefits to the site. We know that concerns aren't going to be dismissed as being "too difficult", but rather that the difficulties will be explained such that they can be communicated to members who raise them. We know that the great divide has been bridged, and that the staff knows it is a part of the Experts Exchange community with a vested interest neither greater nor lesser than that of EE's members; what affects us also affects EE's employees.

The business of running any business has changed significantly over the last decade, and running a business whose sole mission involves the use of a website is the leading edge of how services will be provided in the future. To be successful under those circumstances, a company cannot rely on focus groups or decisions made by parties one step removed from its customers; it has to become a part of the community it serves, and it has to make its customers an essential part of its decision-making processes.

Nata's Corner

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Nata's PictureLast summer when we were back in the midwest, we took my phone into the local Verizon store, and I got a Droid. I'm still not sure whether I like it or not; for one thing, we don't have a Verizon tower out here in the boondocks, so any calls we make go through another carrier. It's not that they cost anything extra, but it's not part of Verizon's network, so we don't always get the best reception, and I can't always get the pictures my kids send me. Anyway, when we were getting the new phone, I had to give them an email address. One of the cool things about the way Verizon does things is that I don't have to worry about a SIM card; when I back up the phone, they keep all of my contacts for me, so if the phone gets run over, I at least have all of that stuff.

So the young man we were dealing with had me create a GMail account. "Okay, fine," I thought. I have my email address that works, and everyone who I want to get mail from knows what it is, so I don't think I've ever given the address to anyone, and I know I've never looked at it. Getting back to the phone itself, I use it mostly as a phone, and I've taken a few pictures and I send text messages -- but that's really about it. I don't need most of the stuff I know I can do. I don't play games on it, I don't keep track of appointments, and I don't do banking with it.

So I really didn't think much about it when I saw the article in the Washington Post about the changes Google made to its privacy policy, until we were talking about something else that's creepy and all of a sudden, my phone told me I had a text message, and since it was about 1 a.m. where the kids are, I looked. But it wasn't a text message; it was three emails (!) from Google. I didn't even know I had email set up on the phone, and one of them actually tells how to set it up. Anyway, I started to tell my other half about how I've been getting emails from our back telling me I can get money back if I shop at places like Starbucks and Eddie Bauer and Dillard's -- all businesses that we've been to in the last month or so.

And that's just plain creepy, because if you read the article, it means that if I use Gmail to be on the receiving end of the offers from the bank, and use the bank's nice little app that keeps me from digging my card out of my wallet, that Google can pretty much track me everywhere I go (I know -- they can track the phone anyway) and also see just about everything I do. Now maybe I'm being a little paranoid, but is it possible that they're also looking at the pictures of the grandkids? And seeing the texts that talk about their birthdays and when we're going to visit next? And then they'll start sending me ads that say "take the kids to Six Flags when you're there in July -- just show this little image and get $2 off on each $47 children's ticket" or something like that?

Don't believe me? Okay... but don't say I didn't warn you. Google may say it doesn't do evil and all that, but it's a short step from being able to do a thing and actually doing it "just this once."

PS: Since I've mentioned traveling, here's another reason we never book on American Airlines.


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Over the years, it has been our pleasure to highlight instances of the Best of Experts Exchange, notably the individual efforts that result in special praise for the assistance provided by Experts. What is really special, though, is when the Experts work together on a problem. sheana11, by her own admission just beginning to learn web development, got help with the basics from some of the best at EE: COBOLdinosaur, mplungjan, Ray_Paseur, routinet, jason1178, Merete and BillDL. With a team like that -- you could build a new Facebook.

There have been a number of questions asked about Exchange, ActiveSync and iOS like the one Gyan06 asked, and it seems like demazter is always there to help. This time, he got an assist from dvt_localboy: "Thanks a lot to you all for providing the information, especially Demazter and Dvt Loclboy. Once again here, I got perfect solutions from Demazter."

Ray_Paseur wrote an article about a year ago on PHP client registration and control that is still getting page views and helpful votes, but it's words like those of LezlyPrime that make it worthwhile: "I found this article, & the code samples, to be more clear & concise than the authenticate chapter of the book I'm working through. I will add security, but this code is beautiful. Again, Experts Exchange -- & its Experts -- shine, as an excellent technical resource."

We're not sure what the delay was for matthewspatrick and akoster, who took all of 37 minutes to respond to AndreasHermle's question about data labels in Excel: "Hi Patrick, wow, really a great job! Exactly what I was looking for. You really deserve your designation as MVP. Thank you very, very much for your swift and professional help. I really appreciate it... This forum deserves its name! It should be re-named Speedy Experts Exchange!"

matthewspatrick was also tinkering around in gibneyt's question about parsing a string: "Thanks very much for the brilliant code."

We're going to decline to reveal usernames in this for obvious reasons, but the post by one of the Zone Advisors was just too good to not share: "Had our weekly meeting with the government lead today and I happened to sit in the chair next to his desk. He was going through his emails looking for something. He clicked on one which was his premium membership to EE. Awesome!! Gulp...now the pressure is really on for me to give good answers if he is hanging around the [redacted] zones :) Hope he doesn't read timestamps on questions haha ... but I can argue that if I help with an issue here during the day it makes me more knowledgeable in general and in my day to day job supporting this agency."

The DB2 topic area doesn't get as much play as its more popular cousins, but that doesn't mean the Experts at EE aren't just as knowledgeable. Enyinnaya had some questions about DB2 reorgs, and got advice from momi_sabag and Kdo: "Have anybody told you lately that you guys are awesome? Well, you are in my book! Thanks a million for helping me "think" on this one..."

The Inbox: LeeOsborneUK, one of the most active members of the dozens who helped beta-test EE V.10, wrote us a very kind note:

Just a quick note to say thanks to EE for including my name in the newsletter this month for the beta testing, I really appreciate the recognition. As I've mentioned before, I only do it because I enjoy it, and to help out where I can.

How are the final stages of testing coming along? Do you require any more testing to be done on the site? I'm quite happy to run through some more over the next few days if so. I'm guessing it's not far off if you have planned downtime at the end of the month!

Again, thanks to EE for taking my comments onboard and having me as a beta tester.

Thank you, Lee, and again, thanks to everyone who helped make launching the new site successful.

In Brief

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Yeah, yeah: The worst kept secret in Silicon Valley is that Facebook is going to file its IPO. Unlike most of the IPOs we've seen over the last year, Facebook has revenues sufficient to be profitable (nominally $1 billion on $4.27 billion in revenue, so the people who pony up money for shares of Facebook aren't exactly buying a pig in a poke.

Where's Curt Flood when you need him? Over forty years ago, Curt Flood of the St. Louis Cardinals filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball that eventually resulted in the elimination of what was called the "reserve clause" that said, essentially, a player signed by a team was bound to that team for life. So it's interesting that last week a lawsuit was filed that accuses Google, Apple, Adobe, Intel, Intuit, Lucasfilm and Pixar of conspiring to not recruit each other's employees. Expect the US Department of Justice to have a few things to say about it too.

In requiem: Etta James.

One of our favorite words: Free, as in what access to the Zend Developer Cloud will be permanently if you take advantage of checking it out in beta.

Setting precedents: The world's first password was probably at MIT. The world's first case of password theft: also at MIT. Since there aren't really that many geeky things that are fifty years old, here's a slideshow of stuff that, at a quarter of a century, is olderthan ModernMatt.

We had nothing to do with it, honest: In our last issue, we made note of a very odd marketing campaign run -- at least, that's what we think it was -- run by hosting service DreamHost. Apparently, it worked, but probably not in the way DreamHost wanted; it got hacked, requiring account administrators to spend the weekend resetting passwords for all their accounts.

Sound and fury: Twitter announced last week that it might block tweets to certain countries based on the content (no more riffing on the King of Thailand), and the righeously indignate threat of a boycott was predictable. So was the workaround. Twitter also made public last year's DMCA requests. A quick glance at the list reveals a lot of recent requests from Magnolia Pictures and Cricket South Africa (which lost in the World Cup quarterfinals to New Zealand); the serendipitous connection has to be Melancholia.

SOPA opera: We noted a couple of weeks ago why SOPA was DOA (President Obama can count votes and already has a huge warchest to pay for his election campaign), but in case you missed the show, the Internet figured out that a show of force would guarantee its defeat, and it didn't go unnoticed by the staffs of the four people trying to get the Republican nomination to run against Mr Obama either. But the real issue is this: If the Justice Department could put together 72 pages worth of indictment against Megaupload, arrest seven people while working with authorities in six countries and Hong Kong, and shut down the site, then why do we need SOPA and PIPA in the first place? Needless to say, Anonymous struck back -- with a vengeance, but the files are still going to be send into the ether in the next few days.

"News of my death...": Netflix's suscriber list, revenue, and stock price are way up.

Privacy, schmivacy: Google has changed its privacy policies to include the idea that it may combine information gathered across all of its sites when deciding what advertising you're going to get shoved down your throat (and what search results it's going to show you). It also added "personal search" -- meaning it will include anything in your Google+ systems as well. The policy doesn't go into effect for another month or so, so you still have time to change all your settings, but here's the kicker: Once you have opted in, you can't opt out. My old friend COBOLdinosaur has been telling people for years that the only way to keep web documents from being seen is to keep it off the web. We already know, based on the AOL search results fiasco a few years ago, that cumulative search information is enough to identify you (so much for Ghandi). And when was the last time you saw a link from a newsletter to a website that didn't include a convoluted identifying string?

Companies don't do evil -- people do: Google knew it was breaking the law, and its employees (including its CEO) knew about it. Surprise, surprise.

Sign of the Apocalypse: IfIDie.net lets you send a message to everyone on your Facebook page -- after you've kicked the bucket. Jullian Assange is going to host a television show.


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New Geniuses: Usually in this space, there is at least one person who has earned several Genius certificates, but this issue, three members -- two who have been toiling in the relative anonymity of their favorite topic areas and the third who only in the last couple of years started to answer questions -- each received their first: GLComputing, who has been EE's resident ACT! evangelist since 2006; MASQUERAID, the Topic Advisor for Games, whose first 1,000,000 point topic is Windows XP; and DaveBaldwin, who joined EE in 2003, but didn't start answering questions in PHP until April 2010. Well done, gentlemen; you have our congratulations and thanks.


  • ozo, who will be celebrating fifteen years at Experts Exchange later this year, has earned 5,000,000 points in the Perl topic area, almost double the next closest total.
  • lrmoore has reached 4,000,000 points in the Routers topic area. He was the first EE member to earn 2,000,000 points in each of four topic areas, a feat matched by only three other members.
  • boag2000 is the latest member of Experts Exchange to reach 8,000,000 points overall.
  • alanhardisty has earned over 6,000,000 points in the Exchange topic area.
  • chris_bottomley and woolmilkporc bring to 23 the number of members who have more than 2 million points in each of two topic areas.
  • hanccocka, the 2011 Expert of the Year, has earned 5,000,000 points since joining EE. He has also reached 4,000,000 points in the VMware topic area.
Expert In Topic Area Certificate
nishantcomp2512.NET ProgrammingMaster
shabarinathActive DirectoryMaster
zzynxAdobe FlexSage
testezApache Web ServerGuru
nociApache Web ServerMaster
kaufmedC# BuilderMaster
silverkornCAD/Architecture SoftwareGuru
myselfrandhawaColdFusion LanguageGuru
RobMobilityDisplays / MonitorsMaster
jhyieslaEmail ClientsMaster
demazterEmail ServersWizard
farzanjLinux OS DevGuru
dvt_localboyMicrosoft IIS Web ServerMaster
burrcmMicrosoft OSMaster
MarkieSMicrosoft SMSMaster
ArneLoviusMisc NetworkingMaster
eeRootMisc NetworkingMaster
fgasimzadeMisc NetworkingMaster
jmeggersMisc NetworkingMaster
paulmacdMisc NetworkingMaster
Syed_M_UsmanMisc NetworkingMaster
CEHJMisc ProgrammingGuru
nap0leonMisc Web DevMaster
dqmqMS DevelopmentMaster
paultomasiMS DOSMaster
sirbountyMS DOSSage
Abdulmalek_HamshoMS DynamicsGuru
redmondbMS ExcelWizard
nobusMS HardwareGuru
Ivan_PadabedMS SharePointGuru
Expert In Topic Area Certificate
awking00MS SQL ServerMaster
CluskittMS SQL ServerMaster
jogosMS SQL ServerWizard
jogosMS SQL Server 2008Guru
jimhornMS SQL Server 2008Master
mimran18MS SQL Server 2008Master
santhimurthydMS SQL Server 2008Master
ScottPletcherMS SQL Server 2008Wizard
jrm213jrm213MySQL ServerMaster
smadeiraMySQL ServerMaster
ralmadaMySQL ServerWizard
nociNetwork OperationsMaster
tosseOracle DatabaseMaster
wasimibmOracle DatabaseMaster
KCTSOS SecurityMaster
delandaleSBS Small Business ServerMaster
Ray_PaseurScripting LanguagesWizard
itkamarajShell ScriptingMaster
giltjrSoftware FirewallsMaster
cgaliherSSL / HTTPSMaster
kevinhsiehStorage MiscGuru
coredatarecoveryStorage MiscMaster
FrabbleSwitches / HubsMaster
gowflowVB ScriptMaster
epaclmVisual Basic ClassicMaster
gowflowVisual Basic ClassicMaster
LSMConsultingVisual Basic ClassicWizard
CodeCruiserVisual C#Wizard
jfaubiontxVoice Over IPGuru
hanccockaWeb/Cloud ComputingMaster
chakkoWindows 2003 ServerGuru
DrashielWindows 2003 ServerMaster
ve3ofaWindows 2003 ServerMaster
MereteWindows 7Wizard
dbruntonWindows OSGuru
leewWindows OSWizard
hhaywood000Windows Server 2008Guru
dvt_localboyWindows Server 2008Master
giltjrWindows Server 2008Master
CallandorWindows VistaMaster
MASQUERAIDWindows VistaWizard
arnoldWindows XPGuru
ocanada_techguyWindows XPGuru
GrahamSkanWindows XPMaster