Development Ties

On the last day of CFUnited 2005, a group of us were out on the patio having a final drink together. I got into a conversation with Clark Valberg about linguistics. I was a translator in latter half of my time in the military, and Clark was asking if I thought my experience with learning another language had helped me in learning to be a better developer?

I absolutely agreed. I have an aptitude for languages, and always have. It's something I've picked up, and I can generally get to a point where I can effectively communicate (at least on the simplest of terms) within a very short time. Programming isn't much different, if you think about it. When I first got into computing again, after leaving the Army, I was teaching myself ten different programming languages at the same time. I had a lot of catching up to do, being out of the game for so long, so I picked up some books, found online resources, and took to the task of getting up to speed.

Maybe that's why there are so many talented developers outside the US. In the US, we aren't required to learn another language out of necessity, whereas in most other countries of the world (not all, but most) it is very commonplace for people to speak two or more languages.

You can kind of apply this in the reverse, to some degree, as well. Those who only learn one development platform may be limiting themselves. Knowing one programming language inside and out can be a good thing, but learning others can also open a developer to new ways of approaching a challenge. I've known many developers who knew a server-side language (ColdFusion, ASP, PHP, whatever), but never bothered to learn JavaScript, or how to write well formed XHTML. To me, that's limiting. Even crippling.

What are your thoughts?

Ext Custom Data Reader for ColdFusion: More Info

I wrote an article for Packt, as a follow up to Learning Ext JS, and was surprised to find it's been on their site for a while now.

The article is a follow up on Chapter 12 on Custom Data Readers in Ext JS, replacing the reader in the chapter with the CFQueryReader, which is better tuned for reading JSON data returns of a ColdFusion Query object.

Real Error Reporting from ColdFusion 8 Server

Totally stumpled on this by accident. I wrote a statement using the NumberFormat() function, and accidentally placed my mask before the value. Being backwards this threw an unexpected error, which not only told me what I had done wrong (basically told me that the value I had passed was not a valid mask), but also gave me a chart of what the valid mask syntax would be.

Now, this is in my test environment, so robust exception info is probably selected (I haven't checked), but I'm wondering why I'm receiving such outstanding and informative error reporting for this function I barely use, but I can't even get the correct line number of a query error (which it used to do)?

Where Do You Stand?

Several months ago gas in Nashville cost almost $3 a gallon. One enterprising station owner decided to charge around $2.60 a gallon, while all of his competition was at the $2.97 range. While he did this, people were lined up to get in the station. People were pouring through his little convenience mart, to go to the bathroom, or maybe pick up on his 2 for $2 Coca Cola deals. His competitor's stations (there are 4 more within a two block radius) were nearly empty.

This station owner was a very smart man. Did he lose money? His profit margin may have been smaller, but the traffic and sales increase probably doubled his typical profit intake. He had to bring in tankers three times a day to refill his tanks, and some delivery truck was almost always there restocking something in his convenience store.

There is a lesson to be learned here by America's retailers. If you've never worked in retail management, you don't know what kind of mark-ups most retailers have on the goods you and I purchase every day. Sometimes those mark-ups are anywhere from 70 - 100% of the actual cost of goods. Bars and Restaurants even more so, where the mark-up could be as much as 600% on some items. Now, to be fair, these businesses have a lot of overhead they have to pay: salaries, utilities, licenses, security, insurance, etc. But, notice they're having trouble doing some of these things right now? No one is buying.

This is called "market correction". See, we (the American public) have allowed these companies to more or less rape us for years. Why is it that an automobile that cost $3,000 is 1977 will cost $18,000 today? Why does a gallon of milk cost almost $3.50? Why is it that a gallon of gas that sold for $1.15 in 1999...? Well, because we let them charge us that much. And right now, we're done. Not only won't we pay those rates, we can't.

The government is so heavily involved in trying to 'bailout' America (Have you read the stimulus plan?), that big business is still losing the Big Picture. You want your people to stay employed? You want to get back towards the black? You want to keep getting fat bonuses, and have the funding to continue driving innovation and expansion? OK, then charge a reasonable rate for product. What is really more important, a fat profit margin, or staying in business?

I know, there are dozens of other factors involved here. Employers think they pay too much for help. Employees don't think they get paid enough. Unions want every benefit the rest of the American public can't afford. Fuel and utility costs are rising, increasing the expenditures and affecting the bottom line. When does the cycle stop? When do we, the American public, wake up and say enough is enough? When do American businesses say "We can do better by the American people, and survive, and be profitable." and start working with the boundaries of sanity. $250 for a Wii and $40 a game? It's a f@%#ing game. $200 for an iPhone? It's a damn phone. $80 for a pair of Nike? They're shoes for God's sake, they're gonna wear out in six months if you use 'em right.

When did we become so screwed up that we would continually let ourselves be taken advantage of? When does common sense sink in and we all say "No"? (When does "Common Sense" become common again?) There is a difference between being profitable, and being Greedy.

It takes people, average Americans like you and I, to stand up and be heard. It takes forcing retailers and businesses to "get it straight." What do you want to say? What do you want to do? How do you want to live? These aren't just retorical questions, I'm looking for your feedback. Stand up and be heard.