Managing your work email

5 April, 2011 § 1 Comment

Email is the predominant form of communication in many workplaces today, including at TechSmith. It is very easy to receive about 30 pertinent emails per day, as well as another 100 or so that consist of check-in notices, bug status updates, build notifications, etc.

Finding time to respond to emails, and the priority of which emails to respond to can be a task in itself. Some of my coworkers have different approaches to organizing their emails.

I’ve seen some that are meticulous in their folder organization, and others who make sure to reply to every personal email within 24 hours.

I probably fall somewhere in between. My work email account has:

  • An inbox
  • An archive folder
  • Filtered email folders (Changesets, Build Notifications, Sales Updates, and Off-topic)

Emails that land in my inbox are first priority. A couple times a day I will take the opportunity to sort through those emails. I don’t reply to every single one, but I try to file most. As a rough guideline, I try keep less than a screens-length of messages in my inbox at a time.

If I have read the email and replied (if necessary), then I will move the email to my Archive folder. The Archive folder exists purely for historical purposes. Once a while I will need to scan my history to find an email that someone mentions. I try never to delete an email. With hard drive storage so cheap these days, there should be no reason to delete tiny 10kb emails.

The filtered email folders get perused less often. A couple times a week I will read the changesets (aka check-ins) that have been landed on a couple projects at work that I am interested in. Build notifications almost never get read, they’re there just in case someone breaks the build (which never happens now that we are using gated builds). Sales updates and off-topic emails get read when some spare time comes along.

I find that this type of email management is simple and easy to control, and I recommend you try it out.

A response to “Comments: A Dissenting Opinion”

4 February, 2011 § 5 Comments

This past Thursday, our second post of the new Dev Corner was published and featured thoughts on code comments from Matt Mercieca.

The post is really well written and generated a lot of conversations within our internal development blog at TechSmith. Code comments are one of my bike-shed problems (I prefer green by the way), but I do feel inclined to respond.

Much of the post pits “how-comments” versus “why-comments”. I believe that it is well understood that “how-comments” are little cared for. For example, the comment in the following code offers no value to the reader:

//print out array
for(var i in objects) {

However, the “why-comments” is where the real discussion is. Respectfully, I stand on a different side of the fence when it comes to “why-comments”. I believe that what can be written as a comment can also be written as a function or variable name. Consider the following two code samples:

var printOrders1 = function()  {
  // this query is a hack due to weird SQL Server Query Optimizer bug
  var orders = sqlConnection.execute('SELECT TOP 1000 FROM tblOrders WHERE ...');

var printOrders2 = function()  {
  var executeQueryForOrdersWithHackForQueryOptimizer = function () {
    return sqlConnection.execute('SELECT TOP 1000 FROM tblOrders WHERE ...');
  var orders = executeQueryForOrdersWithHackForQueryOptimizer();

I feel that the second version contains the same information as the first version, but will be read more often. As code gets duplicated (unfortunately), sometimes comments get stripped. It is less likely that a function like this will get renamed to a more innocent name.

Where do you stand?

Ignite TechSmith

5 November, 2010 § 2 Comments

Ignite is a really cool format for presentations, where presenters get five minutes to share their passion on a stage. We’ve been running our own internal Ignite presentations at TechSmith since March 2010. In total, we have had three Ignite TechSmith presentations, featuring over 25 presenters.

I put together this video to give some more background on the event. The end of the video features one of the presentations.

Technology used: To make the video above, I used a Flip camera and Windows Movie Maker. For the Ignite presentation portion, we used Camtasia Relay for the screen recording, a Flip camera for the video of the presenter, and Camtasia Studio to get the picture-in-picture effect.

Have you ever attended an Ignite presentation before? What do you think? Could this be useful for your company?

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