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06.20.2007
Experts Exchange Community News
What's New at Experts Exchange
Geniuses, Milestones, and Kudos

2007 Expert Awards Interviews
And the mid-season report for 2008

From the mailbag
Mea culpa, and a hoax

Real Certifications for Programmers
gregoryyoung poses the question
Sometimes, it's just dumb luck
It doesn't take marketing; just annoy people

More News and Notes
One heck of a Vista from up there, though

Nata's Corner
A new take on fdisk and format

New certificates
New certificate holders, through June 17
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What's New at Experts Exchange

New Geniuses: Three members of Experts Exchange have gone over the 1,000,000 point level in a single zone. VirusMinus became the second Genius in the Cascading Style Sheets zone; hernst42 is now the fourth Genius in PHP Scripting; and rakeshmiglani earned his Genius certificate in the Exchange zone, the seventh member to do so.

Milestones: Sembee raised the bar again, going over the 16 million point total. Other accomplishments of note:

Kudos: Zone Advisors know a lot; they also know that they don't know everything. Zone Advisor MHenry asked a question in the ASP.NET zone about using Microsoft SQL for logins. The help he received from AGBrown prompted MHenry to nominate him for a Genius certificate.

The customer service department at EE forwarded an email to us from j-w-thomas regarding another ASP.NET question, answered in the main by MikeMCSD. "This question was answered by MikeMCSD and I thanked him and awarded points etc in a timely manner, but I finally got around to getting this implemented (it has been hectic at work)," j-w-thomas wrote. "I was hoping that you would be kind enough to forward this message onto him and tell him that his answer worked perfectly as I know he knew it would. Best of all, I spent a lot of time studying it and I actually understand why it works too. Please tell MikeMCSD another thank you for his time and effort."

Fun and games: The best line from anyone about the new translation system implemented over the past few weeks came from Chaosian, one of the Zone Advisors: "Can I get a version that changes C#, C++ and Java to VB .NET?"

2007 Expert Awards Interviews top

At the beginning of this year, Experts Exchange recognized the top Experts of 2006 with the 2007 Expert Awards. We've added interviews from the Expert of the Year, Sembee, and the Expert with Most Questions Answered, angelIII. Learn how our top Experts learned their technology chops and hear what the hardest and most rewarding parts of being an Expert are.

New this month are graphics for Expert of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Most Questions Answered in the member profiles of all historical winners. Stop by the profiles of 2007 winners Sembee and angelIII to admire their new trophies or blast to the past with the previous winners including rafrancisco, SheharyaarSaahil, and CrazyOne among others.

It's now nearly half way through 2007 and Sembee is ahead of the competition and poised to earn his third straight Expert of the Year Award, despite his prediction in his interview. There's still plenty of time for second and third place angelIII and sirbounty to break Sembee's streak. Come 2008, we will recognize this year's Expert of the Year, Expert with the Most Questions Answered, and the Rookie of the Year. We will also recognize top Experts in our highest-trafficked Zones based on most points, most points by rookie, most questions answered, and most assist points. There are many opportunities for you to earn your "name up in lights."

From the Mailbag top

Mea culpa: We had an item last issue about a new top level domain designation in the works at ICANN, and in it, we had a link to a story that was two years old, pointed out to us by dkbustell. The correct link is to this story.

Another item we had concerned a proposed television program in the Netherlands. According to gladtobegrey, the whole thing was a hoax. "The dying cancer patient was an actress, though the two patients were real," gladtobegrey wrote. "Endemol (the production company that sounds like a cream for haemorrhoids) said that it was aimed at raising awareness of the shortage of organ donors in the Netherlands."

Finally, gwentworth responded to our From The Mailbag last week about the EPA's analysis of lightbulbs and mercury.

Real Certifications for Programmers top

gregoryyoung is a Microsoft MVP whose relocation out of the path of Hurricane Katrina found him working in the Pacific Northwest. You can keep up with his musings at his blog.

Both public and private sector organizations experience a high failure rate for IT projects. In an article by Tom Espiden at ZDNet a while back, he says that Jerry Fishenden, the chief technology officer for Microsoft in the UK, has suggested a professional body with powers of imposing sanctions for failure or incompetence, just like the General Medical Council is able to strike off doctors, which could improve the standing of the IT profession.

Albeit a tad on the extreme side, a non-partial 3rd party that oversaw the regulation of architects and developers would be very nice. I don't think its actually feasible but if it could be it could be quite interesting. I personally envision something more like the way the bar works for lawyers (and I mean the governing body, not the bar they hang out after work and beat each other up at).

Groups of peers looking at and scoring performance on a given project could be a good thing. Naturally the claimant would be charged with the expense of such a request, and I am sure they would be rather expensive in order to help remove frivoluous cases.

Then again it very quickly becomes difficult to define "incompetence" ... What about the guy who write all of his code in button clicks of a large app? Did the code work? What about things like scope creep and their effect on estimates, which is one of the largest reasons a project will fail? Is it incompetence on the part of the staff for not stopping the scope creep?

In my mind the most interesting part of this is that it is coming out of Microsoft ... At the risk of starting a religious war won't this hurt their profits by alienating many of the VB developers?

Tips From the Moderators top

Marc Asmus, EE's Community Project Manager, posed an interesting question last week, asking Experts "what makes a good question title." As one might expect, the discussion wandered a bit, but it serves as the focal point for this issue's tip from the Moderators.

We get a lot of requests for help from people who haven't gotten responses -- or good responses -- to their questions. Much of the time, it's because the question itself doesn't describe a) what the Asker is trying to accomplish, b) what he has tried (and what the results were), and c) what hardware, software, version or model he is using. But most importantly, he has done a terrible job of "advertising".

When you post the title to your question, it should be directly on point. The Experts know you need help; otherwise, you wouldn't be posting your question. The Experts assume that it is a reasonably urgent request; otherwise, you would be looking through the manuals or reading the help files. The Experts can see how many points a question is worth. So saying "Urgent! Help! 500 points" is wasted, and to some Experts, is actually a turn-off.

Another error that is commonly made is the "Can I do this" title. byundt, the Zone Advisor for Microsoft Office, put it fairly succintly: "I find it somewhat offputting to read a question where the title asks "Is it possible?" but where the Asker really wants to know "how do I do it?"" It is similarly maddening to see that the question title is also the entire text of the question.

There are several other kinds of titles that are a good way to get your question ignored. The first is the "cute" title ("Pretty please: VBA code help"). The second is THE TITLE THAT IS IN UPPER CASE. The third is the barely decipherable title: "cn sum1 NE1 hlp me".

Write a brief, descriptive title; save your explanation for the body of the question.

Sometimes, it's just dumb luck top

An editor by trade, a writer by avocation and an Expert by happenstance, ericpete is the person who puts together the newsletter for Experts Exchange.

Anyone who has been following the story of Casey Serin knows that there have been a million words written in various combinations to describe him, most of them less than flattering. We certainly don't want to add to the hits his website is getting, but we also know you will succumb to the temptation and look sooner or later, so we might as well get it over with.

If you're stronger-willed that I was, here's the upshot of the story. After attending a number of "get rich through real estate" seminars, Serin decides to go for it, so he borrows a bunch of cash from people and uses it to buy houses for more or less nothing down. He lies on loan applications, and eventually gets title to nine houses across the US -- most of them in towns not more than an hour from where we live, which shows how whacked out (that's a technical term) the real estate market in California was.

Unfortunately, he didn't really have much of an income, and lo and behold, the real estate market finally decided to enter into what the TV analysts call a "corrective" phase; in other words, the bottom fell out. At this point, all but one of the properties have been foreclosed on or sold at a loss, and he still owes a lot of people a lot of money one would think they're never going to see. It's that "blood out of a turnip" thing.

Or maybe not, which is what this item is all about. When his site first went up, it prompted an outporing of vitriol not seen since... oh, well before the last US Presidential election. There aren't very many names Serin wasn't called, and very few of them can be reprinted here because of those spam blockers out there.

It turns out that, as the philosopher once said, there is a sucker born every minute -- or someone who recognizes that a lot of people watch Jerry Springer. Serin has parlayed his notoriety into making money off advertising, and he hasn't bothered with signing up with the Googles or Yahoos of the world; he handles it himself, and keeps the money. His advertisers make no apologies; they're after traffic, and Serin delivers.

Serin has also managed to find someone who will publish his books, although I'll be damned if I can figure out why anyone would want to buy one. He's not much of a writer; he's a fraud who left his wife (who cleaned houses to pay his bills while he ordered his wheatgrass juice at Jamba Juice) at her sister's and scurried off to Australia; and the only advice he has that is worth taking is "don't do what I did."

And not to ignore the great American tradition of taking legal action, he's now threatening to sue the people who don't like him, because they discovered a business plan between him and his publisher and -- needless to say -- posted it. He also knows about deep pockets; he's threatened Google under the DMCA to try to get the search engine to delist the blog which posted.

Crazy like a fox.

More News and Notes top

One heck of a Vista from up there, though: Astronauts from the US and Russia spent a good portion of last week struggling with recalcitrant computers on the International Space Station. The computers control the station's orientation, which is important for maximum efficiency in solar energy collection; they were finally fixed -- by bypassing a switch. All of this must have been fascinating to the woman who was able to watch it on her baby monitor.

Must reading for the summer: Our cell phone contract expired in April -- well, mostly; we have this third phone that we picked up 14 months ago, as a way of saving ourselves and our daughter some money. So the LA Times article on figuring out cell phone plans couldn't have come at a better time -- even if it is 11 pages long. One thing we do know: if we do get new phones, they probably won't have Qualcomm chips in them.

Honeymoon between Gates, Jobs over: A couple of weeks after saying he and Bill Gates had kept their marriage secret for over a decade, Jobs' Apple released a Windows version of Safari, which, as every wag out there pointed out, had just as many holes as Internet Explorer. Meanwhile, we're going to let Microsoft's latest toy speak for itself, except to say that a) we wonder what a BSOD looks like b) it will make playing Solitaire much easier, and c) it looks like an Etch-a-Sketch with a thyroid condition.

For sale: Beachfront property in eastern Nevada: The Chinese government is doing everything it can to stop piracy of software and movies. Yep. Which is why the Chinese government has opened a clone of Disneyland.

The right hand needs to talk to the left hand: Adam Vitale, arrested in February 2006 for about a gazillion violations of the largely ineffective CAN-SPAM Act, pleaded guilty last week. At the same time, in a different federal court, a default judgment against Spamhaus.org, an international blacklist of spammers, has resulted in the possibility of ICANN being asked to suspend Spamhaus's domain name. Curiously, within a couple of days of getting the "win" in court, five of the major anti-spam sites were subjected to DDos attacks.

How Could A Smart Guy Like You Be So Dumb Department: We still haven't figured out how two guys were able to impersonate an Exxon executive at an oil conference. Speaking of gas prices and oil companies, Susan Kirkland had an enlightening take on the subject about a year ago.

It worked for Sam Gamgee: The imaginations of students at MIT -- hear that, GhostMod? -- are no doubt working overtime after hearing that scientists at the school were able to light a light bulb without wires, a week after finding out that scientists were also able to teleport data 89 miles.

Attn: Conspiracy Theorists: We're not much on starting rumors, but this one just begs for it. We've pointed out on several occasions that the Company Formerly Known As Ma Bell, some 20 or so years after the federal courts busted it up, has been gradually reforming itself, not unlike the Robert Patrick character in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Given the hits that both Google and AT&T for being ... umm ... less than discrete with private information, and the fact that both are involved in dealing with piracy issues (Google with YouTube and AT&T working with the movie folks), is it possible that the two are headed for a marriage of convenience?

Oh, those silly publishers are just kidding: Thinking that it would make an immediate, profound impact, Macmillian Publishers CEO Richard Charkin, at the BookExpo in New York, decided to show Google what it is like to have property taken without permission. So he and a colleague stole a couple of laptops from the Google booth at the Expo.

Sign of the Apocalypse: Computers are now our friends.

Nata's Corner top
Nata's Picture

I ran across a story the other day about a man who shot his wife's computer after he found her chatting online at 2 a.m. That was just one of the incidents that have happened in the last week or so that make me wonder if perhaps the Internet is starting to mature a little -- not that shooting a computer is a mature act, but I wonder if the newness of the Internet is wearing off, and if people are beginning to accept it like they do television: it has always been there, and we can't really remember life without it.

While we're on the subject of television and the Internet, everyone knows that the final episode of The Sopranos aired last week and apparently, nobody was happy with the way it ended. There were a few people who noted the glaring absence of cybercrime on the show, and considering the amount of money spent on those kinds of films and websites, it does seem a little strange that the writers never went into it. What was also interesting is what happened to the website of the cable channel that aired the show: viewers crashed the website.

Another aspect of the Internet that is going to be interesting to follow is the story about two women from Yale Law School who have filed a defamation lawsuit against the anonymous posters who wrote about them on a website used by law schools and firms. One of the great two-edged sword attributes of the Internet has been the relative anonymity people have; while it acts as an equalizer (anyone who wants to put up a website and say what they want can, and their stuff is just as easily read as anyone else's), it also allows people to stalk and harass with little fear of the consequences. That could be changing, if the Yale women have their way; while neither the site as a company nor the people who operate it would be liable, they could be compelled to produce logs and other information. Don't be terribly surprised if the courts wind up ordering that.

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