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?

Google I/O 2011: No love for Academia?

2 February, 2011 § 3 Comments

Reading blogs on the web would make one believe that attendees of last year’s Google I/O conference are allowed to register January 31, a week before general registration opens.

Yet a couple days ago I received an email telling me to “mark my calendar for February 7th, when general registration will open.”  Last year I attended the conference using the Academia discount, and as far as I can tell, the Academia discount is the reason why there is no preference.

Why isn’t Google showing appreciation to their peers in academia?

Blizzappoccageddon 2011 hits mid-Michigan

1 February, 2011 § 1 Comment

Frosty February / The Old Snowy OakTonight mid-Michigan is expecting a gluttony of snow to land on our doorstep. So much snow that TechSmith has closed the offices tomorrow and Michigan State University has cancelled classes.

In the spirit of the weather, I wanted to plug two great things about TechSmith:


TechSmith’s software allows educators to fight blizzards like superheroes. When universities cancel classes and webinars are cancelled, software like Camtasia Studio and Camtasia Relay can step in and save the day. Both of these products allow presenters to record their presentations outside of the classroom, and email out recordings to students.


The company culture is great! From ugly-holiday-sweater day to conference rooms named after classic video games, everywhere you turn you’re in for a surprise. For example, my favorite room for scheduling meetings in is Galaga, where we have our own Plinko board. If you’ve been lucky enough to grab one of our prized possessions, a TechSmith titanium spork, then you’ll love what got cooked up today at the office.

With the blizzappoccageddon approaching, we wanted a way to measure the snowfall. What better way than to build a giant “titanium” spork? A Paul Bunyan-sized spork was constructed, and planted outside of one of our buildings. The company is live-streaming the snowstorm, and we’ll have a timelapse video to share when the storm leaves mid-Michigan.


How a post a day drew visitors through the roof

31 January, 2011 § 3 Comments

I’ve been writing on this blog since November 2008 as a way to improve my technical writing skills and document the things that I learn. This year, I accepted a personal challenge to write a blog post a day.

In just this month, I’ve learned that blog posts don’t have to span multiple pages or include many citations. In fact, placing deeper posts among many shorter posts can bring more attention to the longer posts.

Since writing a post a month, my statistics for this blog have skyrocketed.

You may remember from a previous post that my total visit count for 2010 was over 6,300, whereas the first month of 2011 has brought in nearly 3,500 visitors.

I’ll be continuing to post more often to this blog. Let me know what you think, and also if you think the quality of the posts has degraded at all.

Designing through a fishbowl

30 January, 2011 § 1 Comment

Thursday night was the third IxDA Lansing meeting, held at Second Gear Co-working space in Old Town, Lansing. Davin Granroth gave a talk on his favorite process for page/design reviews.

The process works in three steps:

  1. The designer introduces the user story and the design that was created to accomplish it.
  2. The reviewers critique the design, while the designer takes notes. There is no designer-reviewer interaction (to the point that the reviewers should pretend that the designer is not in the room).
  3. The designer recaps the discussion and asks for clarification on any of the points.

Demo time!

A couple of the attendees brought designs that they had been working on and asked for feedback. We broke in to four groups of four people and walked through the process.

Everyone seemed to be having a great time, and the designers had a lot of praise for the feedback. They often mentioned that people try not to hurt feelings and thus don’t speak their mind. This type of exercise introduced a way to give feedback without hurting people’s egos.

Next up?

Do you want to present at or attend an IxDA Lansing meeting? Visit the IxDA Lansing website to find out when the next meeting will be and who to contact.


Lansing Give Camp 2011

29 January, 2011 § 5 Comments

Earlier this week I signed up for Lansing Give Camp 2011. I’ve always wanted to volunteer for Give Camp, but never felt I had enough time. Based off of Parkinson’s First Law (“work expands to fill the time available”), I decided that if I signed up for it, I would make time for it and finish my other work in a more expedient fashion.

Give Camp is a weekend-long event where software developers, designers, and database administrators donate their time to create custom software for non-profit organizations.

The event runs March 25-27, at Impression 5 Science Center in Lansing, MI. Charities will present their projects and teams will be introduced introduced around dinner time on Friday. Midnight snacks will help keep the volunteer elves burn the midnight oil. All meals will be served Saturday, with demos taking place on Sunday afternoon.

Here is a video from Give Camp 2009:

TechSmith’s DevCorner

28 January, 2011 § 1 Comment

Update: I’ve embedded the introductory video at the bottom of this post.

Yesterday was the launch of TechSmith’s DevCorner. The DevCorner is a new column on the company’s Visual Lounge blog.

Randall Brown and I are really excited about how cool it is to work as Software Engineers at TechSmith, and we also enjoy learning tons from the developer community at-large. We want to give back to the community, and also show off what it’s like to work at TechSmith.

Starting this week, we’ll be running a weekly post on the Visual Lounge. The posts will focus on common developer discussion topics, programming tips, and the development staff at TechSmith.

I’m looking forward to see what comes of the new column. Let me know what you think!

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