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Your Technology Problems...SOLVED

MARCH 30, 2011


What's New at Experts Exchange
From the Central Coast and beyond

The site's senior administrator

Success By The Numbers
Revisiting success as a boss

Nata's Corner
California, YouTube and spam

Tip From The Mods
A rant about Microsoft Office from a Zone Advisor

More News and Notes
"Each time history repeats itself, the price goes up."

Who did what through Mar. 26


Changes: In addition to Computer101 going on hiatus, our friend and colleague Danae LaSalle is leaving Experts Exchange at the end of this week. During her tenure, we have come to know Danae as the person who gets things done. She has been responsible for everything the online staff asks of EE -- from getting bugs fixed to shepherding new projects through the system to organizing conferences to seeing that Christmas cards go out on time, all with a calm grace and elegance one rarely sees in such managed chaos. She will be missed, and we wish her the best of everything.

SummitSummit: Experts Exchange hosted its second Summit meeting with the Administrators and several selected members a couple of weeks ago in San Luis Obispo. In addition to hearing details about new products from Redsource Interactive, the parent company of Experts Exchange, the group heard about the ongoing process of stabilizing and rationalizing the code base for Experts Exchange from CEO Randy Redberg and MarkMark Barbir Barbir (right), EE's creative director. The conference also featured what became known as a "reverse core", at which the Experts and online administrative team introduced EE staff members to how all of their work got used by members; for many staffers, it was their first real conversation with anyone from the site regarding what they do for EE's membership. By all accounts, the Summit's sole disappointment was that there wasn't enough time; both the members and the staff were thrilled with the results.

Win an iPad 2: Experts Exchange is giving away a couple of engraved iPads for the two people who ask and answer the 3,000,000th solved question at EE. Don't worry -- the Moderators, Page Editors, Zone Advisors, Cleanup Volunteers and Administrators aren't eligible. In case you're curious, The 1,000,000th solution came on August 31, 2004, and the 2,000,000th came amid significant hullabaloo on November 13, 2007.

Secure log-in: From Mark Olsen in EE's engineering department: A couple of the Admins requested a secure (https) login page to EE. This is already in place, perhaps a mention of it in the next EE Newsletter could help spread the word: Secure login URL: https://secure.experts-exchange.com/login.jsp. Once logged in it will redirect to the regular (non-https) home page. Thanks, Molsen!!

Webinar: If you missed Brad Yundt's webinar on Excel formulas and VBA, you can now download the whole thing.

Not a Webinar: DrDamnit's article on not fixing computers for free has been released as a movie.

Kudos: chrisfixit posted a question about a virus in Windows 7. It got the attention of younghv, who has seen enough questions about the virus in the last couple of weeks that he wrote an article about it: "Thanks Roguekiller did the job :-)"

cbbisu posted a question about treeview in Visual Basic, and though he came up with his own solution, he got assistance from angelIII and benny_ca: "Experts Exchange is a wonderful site."

A possible virus was the problem itsmevic was dealing with when rpggamergirl posted her suggestion -- the eventual answer -- all of 38 minutes later: "Awesome input! Suggestions that were solid and worked. Thank you to everyone. Wish I had more points to give..."

Japsterex had what he thought was a relatively simple problem with group policies not being restored when he made what he called a "silly mistake" implementing the suggestion made by demazter mere minutes after the question was asked. Seven hours later, after the problem was solved: "demazter is a credit to Experts-Exchange, went far beyond my original question to help and get my systems back online after a silly mistake I made in applying his fix. Once again thanks man you're the best :-)"

demazter was also involved in Ohmit's question about mails being rejected; his solution was to post a link to an article by his close friend (and archrival) alanhardisty: "Mr. Demazter, You are my new hero. You are an oracle, the king a god!!! Server had 2 GB of available space but this was not enough. Moved Exchange IS to another disk leaving 20GB of space and VOOOOOPS mails came rolling in!!" alanhardisty was nonplussed: "Ohmit - he only posted my article (laughing)! Be careful -- his ego will go into overdrive if you praise him too much. He is best praised modestly, otherwise he becomes unbearable!"

From the inbox: We received an email from a woman we have no recollection of ever hearing from who isn't a member of Experts Exchange, but the content was worth passing along, even though we're pretty certain Nata has mentioned this in her column at least once: "Go to http://www.spokeo.com and type in your name. A list of everyone with the same name across the country will be displayed on the left side of the screen. Click on your name. You can see all kinds of information on yourself including a picture of your house and what it is worth, your income, social security number, etc. You can have your name taken off the list. Copy the URL and go down to the lower right hand corner of the page to the 'PRIVACY' option. Paste in the URL, enter your email address, enter the code and click on Remove. You will get an email and now your name and information will be removed from this website. Pretty scary stuff ... anyone can get at." Thanks, Donna!

Spokeo limits the number of times you can ask to have information related to one email address removed to two per day; it also does not take care of removing the information from the original sources.

Register a Friend for FREE! Have a friend who knows a thing or two about technology?

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Netminder is one of Experts Exchange's site administrators.

Ten years -- especially in Internet terms -- is a long time.

That's how long Computer101 -- Glenn -- has been riding the wave that has been Experts Exchange, and as he approaches his tenth anniversary as a Moderator, he has decided it is time to focus his attention on new responsibilities out in the "real world".

Glenn was among the members named as the first volunteer Moderators, a group that was built from among the top level Experts on the site, at a time of extraordinary change in EE's history. Experts Exchange had just closed the offices (opened by the venture capital group that had acquired the site) in San Mateo and had moved back home to San Luis Obispo; shortly after that, most of the staff had been laid off.

Most of the Moderators left the program shortly after that; Glenn stayed. The current ownership purchased EE in late 2001, and in early 2002, he was named the site's administrator, setting the stage for a run that now defines Experts Exchange as perhaps the only truly self-managed community on the web. Through his leadership, the Moderator program went from a disconnected group of individuals, each with his own vision of "the way it's spozed to be" to a consistent, balanced group of people whose mission was site-wide.

His efforts in defining the cleanup process were paramount to giving Experts the expectation that they would receive the points they had earned; it also had the long-term effect of improving the Previously Asked Questions by reducing the number of unanswered questions that were saved. His guidance and counsel to Moderators -- notably his patient and elegantly straightforward manner of removing all of the clutter and noise from an issue -- has marked generations of Moderators. He shepherded EE's membership through darkness, uncertainty and the onset of stability. "The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do," General Norman Schwarzkopf once said. "The hard part is doing it." Computer101 had no problem doing the right thing.

Sportswriters talk about intangibles, and how important they are to the overall success of teams; Glenn's picture could be in a dictionary as a definition of the word. He brought a poker player's ability to read people (even through the imperfect medium that is an Internet post), a general's quiet, strong leadership, and a top level manager's attention to the welfare of his troops to the party, all the while maintaining that he was no better than they were. One wanted to work with Glenn because he made it so easy for you to succeed by filling in the blanks one couldn't quite get to. EE will miss that.

More than that, though, we are going to feel the absence of a great friend and colleague -- at least for a little while; he is, after all, a soldier, and he will quietly fade away. We will miss the phone calls and IM conversations stretching into the night. We will miss his subtle skill with a foot wedge on a golf course. We will miss the terrible jokes and the gentle reminders to "step away from the computer."

We will also leave the door open for his return. Best of luck, Glenn!

Success By The Numbers

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An editor by trade, a writer by avocation and an Expert by some cosmic practical joke, ericpete puts together the newsletter for Experts Exchange.

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article that was mostly about managing businesses, but had a little bit of stuff on managing people. Some of the stuff I wrote was things we learned accidentally, like outworking the people who work for you; in my case, when I found myself in my first supervisory position, it was pretty easy because at the time my six or seven years of working for my parents' newspaper was as much experience -- in every aspect of putting out a weekly newspaper -- as the entire staff of the college paper I was suddenly the assistant editor of, barely three weeks after arriving. Other stuff came from the school of hard knocks; when you're young and have just gotten that first decent promotion, it's hard to not think you're special, so admitting you've made a mistake and recognizing that it isn't all about you takes a few failures before you get it right.

The real flaws in the article are twofold. First, it isn't really focused. Yes, I still stand by everything in it, and I think it has a few good lines in it, but it's a little too broad -- a reflection, perhaps, of the fact that I've done a lot of different things. It talks about businesses in general, relationships with employees, the effective use of time -- all important issues -- but it's still kind of all over the place; it's a bunch of observations and quips.

The other is that when push comes to shove, management comes down to getting other people to do what you need them to do as efficiently as possible. "Efficiently" can be a lot of things; it can be anything from the number of customers handled by a cashier per hour to making a deadline week after week to having an engineer aware of the product you're going to bid as an equal to the one he specified. It doesn't matter. Figuring out how to buy low and sell high takes a little work, but most people get it that when you run out of something, you need to order more next time -- and if you have a lot left over, you've ordered too much. But managing people -- even your local used book store will probably have about sixty linear feet of shelf space devoted to the subject.

Your people will make or break you. Period. Sometimes, it's as simple as not having enough good talent; basketball teams usually have a few good players and a few who are there to make sure you have enough to scrimmage. When that team runs into a squad that's better prepared and has more skills and has more, better players, one can only think of Damon Runyon: "The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet." More often, though, and especially in the world of commerce, how your people perform is a direct result of how you manage them.

That was the central theme to a couple of columns I came across recently, one by the New York Times' David Brooks about modesty and how Americans [erroneously] think of themselves, another by Forbes magazine's Jennifer Kahnweiler about introverts and leadership, and one in the Boston Globe that talked about the power of solitude. What all three infer is that someone who takes the time to examine his own reasons and methods of doing things, especially with the knowledge that he's as flawed as everyone else, will have a much better chance of being successful managing others. Soul-searching may be the lowest form of entertainment, but a little quiet meditation doesn't hurt when it comes to seeing how others perceive you.

It will also make things a lot clearer for you when you start trying to figure out what motivates people. There are, it seems, three techniques for motivating people: fear, greed and fun. Fear is pretty straightforward: Nobody wants to be unemployed, really (okay -- maybe a few people do). Most people I know are addicted to eating and sleeping indoors, and the fear of not being able to do both makes them show up to jobs they hate, with co-workers they barely tolerate, for bosses they despise. There's fear of failure. There's fear of not having, as Billy Ray Valentine said, "no money to buy my son the G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip!".

Greed is a little more refined; there's a fascinating talk by Google's former director of Global Operations, Lloyd Taylor, in which he talks about the transitions companies make as they grow. The upshot of his thesis is that as startups become bigger, their culture changes, and that some organizations just want to become bigger and more profitable at all costs. For those organizations, the promise of more money (or status, or perks) is enough to attract and retain people (Taylor calls it a "mercenary culture"). That's all well and good for an organization that does the same thing year after year; financial products, for example, don't change all that much.

But for much of the tech industry, much of what we do is a little more sophisticated. There is constant pressure to innovate and create; time contracts as new products and companies appear almost daily. Managers need to learn new skills to deal with people for whom another opportunity is barely more than a couple of clicks away. To motivate those people, most of what bosses know has been learned much the way I did -- by the seat of one's pants. Yes, there have been lots of studies, but there haven't been many that match what Google has been up to.

Starting in 2009, the company started using its own statistics to find out what makes a better boss, and while nothing on the list is particularly new, what matters most is the order of importance the research shows for the various factors.

  1. Be a Good Coach: provide constructive feedback, with positive and negative, and meet one-on-one often.
        The key word is "constructive" -- something any number of managers rarely learn. All too often, an "attaboy" or the lack of a bonus is the feedback, but there's nothing that tells an employee what the feedback means, or why it's being given. Employees -- especially those whose jobs involve choosing options for proceeding -- want to know what they have to do to improve. They want to get better.
  2. Empower your team and don't micromanage.
        By the same token, nobody likes their decision-making (even if it's something like whether to color a column of numbers light blue or light gray) examined in complete detail. A manager is paying an employee to do a job, presumably because the employee knows how to do it. If that's the case, examining the work to "make sure it's done right" is sending all the wrong messages -- that he doesn't trust them, that he has no confidence in them. That's a good way to tell an employee to start considering a career change.
  3. Express interest in team-members success and personal well-being. Get to know their personal lives, and make sure they feel welcome onto the team when new.
        WARNING: This doesn't make a boss a friend. As a manager, it's your job to respect your employees, and to know how their personal lives are affecting (positively and negatively) their performance at work; it also means that your job is to provide an environment in which your employees can be productive and prosper, because that affects their personal lives. That business of keeping your personal and business lives separate? Nobody can do that, so thinking people can is nonsense.
  4. Don't be a Sissy: Be Productive and Results Oriented. Focus on what you want to achieve, and help achieve it; help employees prioritize.
        Forget the jargon. Be clear about what you are trying to accomplish; if you don't know, then you will have difficulty communicating it to your employees, and your odds of success are about the same as a snowball's in the Gobi Desert.
  5. Be a good communicator, and listen to your team. Communication is two-way.
        One of the biggest difficulties with becoming a communicator isn't just hearing what people say; it's having an open mind about what they say. About the only thing worse than having a boss who doesn't pay attention to you when s/he asks for your input is the one who has preconceived ideas and has already dismissed anything you have to say before you say it.
  6. Help your Employees with Career Development.
        Managers worry about people who want to get better at their careers are missing the boat. Helping employees improve their skills breeds loyalty. Better skills makes for better performance, which improves the results of the group. And it isn't just a matter of "allowing" them; it's about helping employees identify the skills they need to improve.
  7. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team.
        I'm not sure why this one wound up as low on Google's list as it did; to me, it's the most important factor any successful manager's arsenal. Without a clearly communicated vision of the mission and goals of the team, nothing else a manager does -- not being a good coach, not helping a staff improve, and not giving the team's members the room to do their best -- will make any difference. If you don't know where you're going, you're eventually going to wind up somewhere -- but the only way it will be where you want to be is if someone has a map.
  8. Have key technical skills so you can advise the team.
        Much of every article I have read on Google's list has made a big deal about the fact that this is at the bottom of the list; I think superior technical skills are an anomaly for successful managers. Certainly, having some technical knowledge is important; a guy who has run restaurants for 20 years would have a hard time understanding the intricacies of supporting a 20,000 user Oracle CRM database networked over three continents. But he doesn't have to know how to flip eggs to motivate his employees, and the manager of our mythical CRM network doesn't need to know everything about the specifics of the code base to understand the challenges his team is facing or the problems it has to resolve.

One last thought. One of the worst, and most frequent, mistakes that organizations make is to take their best people at a function -- their best teachers, their best engineers, their best horticulturists -- and turn them into managers, on the theory that because someone can do something well, they can supervise others who are doing the same thing. But no amount of sitting in a classroom can teach people how to be good managers and supervisors and bosses. It takes practice and mistakes and time -- and being aware of when you're doing it wrong.

More News and Notes

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"Each time history repeats itself, the price goes up.": We went through this once. The company that at one time was the Phone Company for most of the US, that was caught spying on US citizens for the government (the lawsuits over it were revived last week), that wants us all to let it have its way when it comes to deciding who gets the blazing internet speeds and who gets to putter along, and whose bandwidth measuring methods are at least somewhat questionable, now wants the US government to sign off on its acquisition of T-Mobile. Believe it or not, the only winners, according to several analyses, are stockholders -- go figure.

chartIn requiem: Iconic actress Elizabeth Taylor, and Geraldine Ferraro, who in 1984 became the first woman nominated for vice president by a major party. Also, if you believe the rumors, Digg and MySpace. As the image at left shows, TechCrunch's parent company has some issues to resolve too. On the other hand, if you believe Oracle, Intel's Itanium processor is headed for the dustbin. Intel says, "Huh?"

"Sittin' there with his hooter scrapin' away at that book!" (Yes, that's for you, Ed.) It's been a strange couple of weeks for books. First, Microsoft, ever known for suing because they're behind the curve, is claiming that Barnes & Noble's Nook -- which runs on Google's Android OS -- violates Microsoft patents because Android has a Linux core that Microsoft has long browbeaten companies into signing licenses over. Sorry, Mr Ballmer, but you're not fooling anyone. (Android has its own share of problems, but that's off-topic.) Meanwhile, the settlement between Google -- which wants to digitize books that have no copyright holder -- and publishers -- who want to make money by publishing books they don't have to pay royalties on -- was rejected by the judge hearing the case. Joining the publishers was the US Department of Justice, which has been looking at Google over the ITA Software acquisition (which wasn't at fault when Alaska Airlines' flight planning system crashed over the weekend). Finally, our final item in this section notwithstanding, Engadget has it right about the forthcoming apocalypse: OMG, FYI and LOL are now in the Oxford Dictionary. Double You Tee Eff?

Stop the presses: Governments, like everyone else on your buddy list, are spying on you. By the way, the video at the end of the article is one of a series of thought-provoking themes by RSA.

Shiny new objects: RIM has a tablet priced to compete with Apple. On it's first day, Firefox shipped almost three times as many copies of its browser as Microsoft had of IE9, probably because it doesn't work with Windows XP. One reviewer of both said "They both look like Chrome," which is apt because Chrome 11 is in beta.

Ouch: We can't say enough good things about Chris Hiatt, EE's head of customer service. He knows online communities, he has a great staff (despite hating to do interviews), and he brings a great sense of fairness to his job as the interface between the Mods and Admins and the company. But his quiet demeanor hides a wicked sense of humor that was directed at Netminder last week:

Texting Codes for Senior Citizens
ATDAt The Doctor'sBFFBest Friend Fell
BTWBring the WheelchairBYOTBring Your Own Teeth
...FWIWForgot Where I WasGGPBLGotta Go Pacemaker Battery Low
GHAGot Heartburn AgainIMHOIs My Hearing-Aid On
LMDOLaughing My Dentures OutLOLLying On Lounger
OMMROn My Massage ReclinerOMSGOh My! Sorry, Gas
ROFLACGURolling On Floor Laughing And Can't Get UpFKIFiber Kicking In
TTYLTalk To You LouderWTPWhere's The Pills?

Broken record department: Someday, they'll learn. China is blocking Google -- again. Then again, China is also blocking Hamlet.

Better late than never: We probably should have included this a month or so ago, but for all of you who celebrate this particular aspect of Western religions, here are some tips for giving up Facebook for Lent. Others gave up more useful albeit distracting habits.

Our new favorite site: AboutEveryone.com, featuring "anonymous comments about every facebook user." If they build search and sort features, it will replace ClientsFromHell as our favorite time waster.

And here all you thought they thought about was basketball: Most people know that Wisconsin's governor, Scott Walker, has made quite a name for himself by getting a budget approved while cutting state employees' collective bargaining rights. That's politics, right? But tech has played a role in the story since then. First, a deputy attorney general from Indiana (?) was fired over Twitter posts he made saying that "live ammunition" should be used against protesters in Wisconsin. Then last week, a deputy prosecutor from Indiana -- what is it that Indiana publicly employed attorneys have against Wisconsin? -- resigned after sending an email to Governor Walker suggesting that Walker fake an attack on himself and blame the protesting public employees. (Thanks, Susan!)

Signs of the Apocalypse: Google has a patent on its doodles, and the recording industry wants $75,000,000,000,000.00 from Limewire. Also, Duke Nukem Forever may be a popular graduation gift.

Nata's Corner

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Nata's PictureWe live in California, where the state's budget is a $25 billion dollar mess, so it shouldn't be all that surprising that state legislators are chomping at the bit to get their hands on sales tax revenue that would be collected by Amazon and other online retailers. One suspects that Amazon doesn't like the idea because every state is different, and for most states, there are local rates added on (city, county, transportation district), not to mention different forms and rules, but they're not so dumb as to cut off their nose to spite their face. California is a huge market, so the sensible thing for its legislators to do is to come up with a way of meeting in the middle -- a minimum level that all of the other states and Amazon can agree on. On the other hand, maybe if the state gave decent service, it wouldn't cost as much.

Jerry Springer has made a heck of a living off of people being willing to do dumb things on television. Now, it's all about YouTube. There's the mother who urged a couple of teenagers to fight and then posted it online -- and got arrested. Then there's the guy who stole a laptop, created a video of himself on it, had the computer found, and had the video posted online, turned the computer into the police, and then wrote to the owner asking him to take down the video.

Unlike my other half -- he's the Anti-Facebook -- I use it, although I've begun to have a few second thoughts about it because of all the junk I see. Now it looks like there may be a solution. A plug-in for Firefox called Coccon says it will keep Facebook and other companies from tracking your browsing, and it also protects you from spam and malware. One application I don't think I'll be using is one for smartphones called Color. If you have it installed, your profile is tied to your phone, and then anything you share with the Color network is immediately visible to anyone. Memo to self: don't trust anyone talking on a cell phone at WalMart. And you know what's even scarier? Someone gave them $41 million. Sometimes I read these stories and want to cry.

There was good news on the spam front last week. Microsoft and the federal government seized machines at seven hosting facilities that were running the Rustock botnet, supposedly responsible for nearly 40 per cent of the spam generated worldwide. At the same time, there's a lot of bad news on the privacy and security front. Harris Interactive says that too many people leave their personal inormation as "mostly public" on Facebook (probably because they don't know better). RSA -- the people who make those neat little dual security systems -- was attacked and breached, though it says no customers are directly affected. Even TripAdvisor had some email addresses stolen.

Finally, I found a little trick almost by accident the other day if you happen to come across a website that has blue text on a black background, or very pale gray on a white background that my other half says may save him from firing off nasty emails. If you see a site like that, simply click Ctrl-A (which is like doing Edit --> Select All in most browsers). It won't make the site any prettier, but at least you'll be able to read the text.


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New Geniuses: Two Experts Exchange members have earned their third Genius certificates: Dhaest in ASP.NET, who also went over the 5,000,000 point level overall and BlueDevilFan in Exchange. Also earning his 1,000,000th point in Exchange was MegaNuk3, while orangutang became the 17th Genius in Windows XP. Outstanding work!


  • TheLearnedOne has earned 15,000,000 points in his Experts Exchange career. He is also one of only two EE members with more than 2,000,000 points in each of five topic areas.
  • lrmoore has earned 12,000,000 points overall.
  • RobSampson has earned 6,000,000 points since joining Experts Exchange.
  • alanhardisty has 5,000,000 points in the Exchange Server topic area.
  • Netman66 has earned 5,000,000 points since joining Experts Exchange.
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