Force Multiplying

28 November, 2012 § 1 Comment

Trying to get the most out of yourself and your coworkers can be a challenge when working on a large project. Through my time I’ve learned several habits that I feel help to get the most out of myself and the people around me.

1. Prioritize reviewing other people’s code over writing your own code

When other people have requested feedback or review of their work, getting a quick response to them can keep them moving at a fast pace. Whenever I’ve had my own review requests linger, I’ve picked up other work to do in the meantime. These context switches are very expensive, and it can make coming back to the original work harder. The quicker the turn-around-time, the better.

2. Prefer asynchronous communication channels over synchronous ones

While working I stay logged in to our IRC chat room. The chat room keeps me connected to the other people within the project and allows me to ask quick questions of others. In my experience I often get pretty quick responses when asking questions in the chat room, but each question there means that someone else may have to stop what they’re doing to try to get a response.

If at all possible it is better to do a little more research (which will pay off more in the long run) or send an email to the person. Emails are perfect because of their asynchronous nature. The email response can wait until the receiver has set aside time to respond to emails and finished most of their daily routine.

3. Let people who have specialties use their specialties

If I come across a bug and already know who would most likely be the one to fix it, I’ll try to let them know about it. Chances are that they can fix the bug faster than anyone else on the team. This practice can help the team move faster, but it is also important to make sure that this person doesn’t become the only person with knowledge in this area. Code reviews and blog posts can really help to spread the knowledge and reduce the negatives of information silos.

4. Leave email reading until the end of the day, but don’t let email responses linger

One of the best tips that I have learned from others is to set aside email reading during the day. Responding to emails as they arrive turns email from an asynchronous channel to a synchronous one, and the amount of incoming mail in a day can be overwhelming. I particularly like to leave email reading until the end of the day, as the amount of context switches for each email can be mentally tiring and make it hard to continue working afterwards.

Update: 5. Help mentor others

I’m not sure how I forgot this in my first draft, but mentoring others is probably the best way to help increase the output of yourself and the ones around you. Mentoring provides an opportunity to refine your skills and learn details that might be overlooked if not seen from a different perspective. While mentoring, the mentee gains valuable knowledge and is set on a path towards self-sustained contributions. This person can then in turn help mentor others, spreading the knowledge to even more people.

I find that these practices help me and the people around me work faster. Do you know of any good tips that I may not know about?

CSS tip: Creating an elliptical gradient in a square container

6 June, 2012 § Leave a comment

Creating an elliptical background gradient in a square container isn’t the most straight-forward in CSS. This is simple to do if you can change the shape of the container, but requires using a separate CSS property to change the shape of the gradient.

To change the shape of the radial gradient, you can use the background-size property to change the bounding box of the background-image.

div {
  width: 200px;
  height: 200px;
  background-image: -moz-radial-gradient(center, closest-side, red, blue);
  background-color: violet;
  background-repeat: no-repeat;
  background-position: center;
  background-size: 100px 200px;

See the page on background-size at MDN for more information.

What happened to Google SMS?

5 February, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’ve been using Google SMS now for a couple years. It allows users of “feature-phones” basic access to some of the luxuries that smart-phone users get.

Google SMS Search is accessible by sending a text message to 466453. It’s free and quick.

For instance, sending a message ncaab michigan state would reply with:

Basketball: NCAA
Michigan State Spartans (13-9)
Last game: Feb 2, Iowa Hawkeyes 72 - Michigan State Spartans 52
Next game: @ Wisconsin Badgers, Feb 6 1:00pm ET

Tip: get phonebook entries: send HELP PHONEBOOK to learn more.

This works great, providing up-to-date sports scores, local listings, and more. Lately I’ve been getting odd results when doing sports searches:

Here’s what I saw today when sending the same message ncaab michigan state:

Did you mean 'NCAAF michigan state'?

Basketball: NCAA
Michigan State Spartans (13-9)
Last game: Feb 2, Iowa Hawkeyes 72 - Michigan State Spartans 52
Next game: @ Wisconsin Badgers, Feb 6 1:00pm ET

Tip: get phonebook entries: send HELP PHONEBOOK to learn more.

No, I didn’t want football scores. In fact, college football is out of season. According to the command HELP SPORTS:

For EU Football and NBA/NHL/NFL/MLB scores and schedules, 
type SCORE and team name (ex: 'SCORE Arsenal', 'SCORE red sox').

For NCAA sports, enter NCAAB (basketball) or NCAAF (football)
and team name (ex: 'NCAAB Duke', 'NCAAF USC'). No results for sports 
not in season.

So yes, I didn’t get results for a sport not in season. But the response that I got is pretty awkward. In the traditional Google search, when you get a “Did you mean…”, it will usually auto-correct your search for you and return those results. In this case, it didn’t auto-correct my search.

So what happens if I do send a message with NCAAF michigan state?

Local listings:
State of Michigan: Branch Offices
400 Albert Avenue
East Lansing
1 (888) 767-6424

Tip: check flight status; send HELP FLIGHT to learn more.

Weird huh? All of this used to work as it prescribed. I wonder what has happened?

Windows 7 Quick tip: Docking windows

22 January, 2011 § 1 Comment

A lot of Windows 7 users enjoy the new window docking feature that was introduced with Windows 7. This feature is officially called “Aero Snap”. If you haven’t seen it before, what it does is allows you to drag a window to the left, top, or right of the desktop and the window will “snap” into position. If snapped to either left or right, the window will consume half of the screen. If snapped to the top, the window will consume the entire screen.

This is a really cool gesture that saves time and looks nice while doing so. If you have multiple displays, you may be wondering how to dock the middle two adjoining displays.

It turns out that there is a keyboard shortcut which makes this possible. The keyboard shortcut allows you to do everything that your mouse can do and even more.

Simply hold down the Windows key (), and use the directional keys (←↑→) to snap the window to the various positions. Pressing Windows key () and Down (↓) will unsnap the window.

2010 in review

7 January, 2011 § 4 Comments

As 2010 comes to a close, I wanted to cover how my blog did in 2010. Here’s a monthly chart of the of the views since I have started blogging:

Crunchy numbers

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 6,300 times in 2010. That’s about 15 full 747s.

Featured imageSince the initial launch, the blog has been viewed 10,205 times. I am really happy with the direction of the blog and I encourage everyone to make their own blog as it is a great way to grow as a writer and thinker.

In 2010, there were 42 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 146 posts.

The busiest day of the year was December 26th with 107 views. The most popular post that day was My first public Chrome extension – “Multiple Monitor Full Screen”.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for msujaws wordpress, mstest c++, memristor, youtube playlist downloader, and vs2010 c++0x.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Unit testing MFC with MSTest May 2009


C++0x support in VC10 (VS2010) February 2010


YouTube Playlist Downloader December 2008


The Missing Memristor May 2010


Using Google Mock outside of Google Test May 2009

What’s up next?

My post on Unit testing MFC with MSTest has continued to be one of my highest visited posts. I am looking at creating a follow up post with a sample project, as well as another post about what I’m now using for unit tests (hint: it’s not MSTest).

I will be continuing to write blog posts, and I’m going to try to increase the rate of posting for this blog as the rate of visits has been increasing very healthily over the years.

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