January 26, 2009

Stackoverflow: first class Q/A for software developers

For some time now I was aware that the Question/Answer platform from Joel Spolsky, StackOverflow.com, was up and life.
But I didn't bother any further as I was quite happy with Google and the set of references and personal know-how I've build up over the time.

A few days ago I had a problem which was not solvable with my usual batch of resources and in my desperation I hopped over to StackOverflow and tried to find help there.
Within a day I got exactly the hint I needed to be able to solve my problem and continue the work.

Quite happy with this experience, I decided to give it a bit more thought and maybe also answer some questions myself if I knew a bit about it.
After some time I noticed a bar on top of the site telling me that I had earned a "Student" badge and seconds afterward a "Scholar" badge. What were these? Reading on I found out that the "Student" badge means that someone accepted/voted on my question when he thought it was an useful question. And the "Scholar" badge means that an answer from me had been accepted as the most helpful one for the questioner. And then I noticed that on top of the page there was some sort of Score, the Reputation and also a small statistic on my earned badges.

After thinking about it some more now and continuing to participate on the site I came to the conclusion that the way the questioning and answering works on StackOverflow.com is the most ingenious way to help developers I've seen so far in my life.

StackOverflow.com turns the boring process of writing a question and giving an answer on forums and webpages into an exciting game, where good questions and answers are rewarded (by upvoting) and bad ones are hindered (by downvoting). And you also have a running score (the Reputation) which you can compare to others and is calculated from up/down-votings on your questions and answers and also how often your answer was considered as the best one for the one having the question. Even the factor how often your question has been found and visited counts to points and badges.

Earning a lot of different badges and improved abilities on the site (e.g. leaving comments at Rep of 50, Retag questions with Rep 500 and even edit other peoples posts with a Reputation of 2000) add to the fact that one wants to reach the goals and also has a long-term motivation to continue giving help.
And this means qualitatively high questions and answers as this earns more points faster and consistently on the long term than quick answers which only contain tiny pieces of help and get a few points for just a few hours.

I personally already have added StackOverflow.com as a quick, reliable and qualitatively high resource to my recherche-sources and will continue to build up my highscore :)

January 14, 2009


For a few days now I've been joining another development team in our company to work on something which is more related to this team than to my current SCRUM team.

This experience is like a Deja'Vu.
The new team is just existing for 2 sprints (~4 weeks) and being in it reminds me of the beginning time of our own SCRUM team a year ago.

It's like a look in our own past where we hadn't applied SCRUM as we do today and our team was not working as closely together.

But they have the same learning progress which we had, even faster than ourselves. And that's something they have to do on their own, this cannot be done by explaining or trainings.

I think this team has the potential to become very successful.

January 6, 2009

OpenOffice 3.0 Installer issues

The problem

I just had a problem with the installer of OpenOffice.org 3.0. I wanted to modify my installation and add the Base module. I didn't have the installation files lying around so I had to download them again, which I did from http://www.openoffice.org. After downloading, the setup extracted the installation files into a specified directory and started the installation (where I expected to be able to modify my local setup). This is where the first hints of errors showed up.

The setup showed me a messagebox which told me that

The same version of this product is already installed.

and completed afterward, denying me any possibility to modify my setup. Fine, I thought and went into the Windows 'Add or Remove Programs' control panel to change my setup there. At that location I was able to modify my setup for OpenOffice 3.0 and continued to the installation. I expected it to ask me for the location of the setup files as I didn't have them at the original installation directory. It asked me for the file 'openofficeorg30.msi' and I navigated to the directory where I extracted the files after the download.

The following error telling me that

The installation file '..../openofficeorg30.msi' is not a valid installation package for the product OpenOffice.org 3.0. Try to find the installation package 'openofficeorg30.msi' in a folder from which you can install OpenOffice.org 3.0.

was a bummer. It completely refused all of my attempts to install or modify my setup at latest when it required that file 'openofficeorg30.msi' which was sitting there in the extracted installation directory and was completely valid.

The solution

It took me quite some time to track down the source of this problem but finally I got it. When I initially installed OpenOffice 3.0 the first time, I used an installation package WITHOUT an included JRE because I already had a more recent one installed. This time when I downloaded the installation files I got the default version which has an INCLUDED JRE. And seemingly, my JRE-less installation can't cope with the installation-files of OpenOffice.org 3.0 with an included JRE, throwing above stated errors at me.

I finally investigated a bit and got my hands on a setup-file without included JRE and this time modifying my setup worked flawlessly straight from the installation file itself.

The setup file with included JRE is named OOo_3.0.0_Win32Intel_install_wJRE_en-US.exe and the one without is OOo_3.0.0_Win32Intel_install_en-US.exe.

The problem here seems to be, that by default you just get JRE-including installation files from openoffice.org.

Do the following to get a setup-file for OpenOffice 3.0 without JRE:

  1. Go to http://www.openoffice.org and click on "I want to download OpenOffice.org"
  2. Don't download but click the small link below called "Get more platforms and languages".
  3. On the following page there is a small checkbox "Include the Java JRE with this download" just above the list of the download links
  4. Uncheck this checkbox
  5. Choose your favorite OpenOffice.org installation below from the list, this time you get a version which has no JRE included

Maybe this little guide is helpful for others too if they hit the same problem as I have.

January 1, 2009

Let the games begin...

Ready... Set... Go! There it is, the new year. Christmas is behind us, the year-change too, so don't be lazy and dive into it with full power.

This year is set to hold some changes for us, so be prepared.