Review of 2009

Sunday, January 3, 2010 3:26 PM by Michael Paladino

2009 was quite a year:

Since this is my technical blog, I won’t spend too much time on the personal stuff, but I do want to talk a bit about my experiences at Rockfish.

Rockfish

Rockfish Interactive is a fast-moving company that repeatedly puts out high-quality work due to the level of talent of its employees and vision of its leaders.  Being here this past year has definitely challenged me and helped me to grow tremendously in a number of areas. 

One of the biggest things that excites me about the company is the dedication to innovation and creation of new products and technology.  While a lot of companies talk about this, Rockfish has actually followed through via its Rockfish Labs division of which I’m proud to be a part. Rockfish had previously launched products such as Fourthbook, CrazyHotJob, and FileSend but never had dedicated resources for this type of work.  With Rockfish Labs staff has been allocated to specifically focus on building these types of products and technologies, and you should expect to see quite a bit of exciting offerings coming up in 2010.

TidyTweet

TidyTweet was the first product on which Rockfish Labs focused.  A free version launched in early July and then won the Developer Launchpad Session at The Twitter Conference in Los Angeles later in September.  In October we then added a “Business” option and began to see our first paying customers. 

TidyTweet represented the bulk of my work at Rockfish in 2009, and I learned quite a bit from the project regarding software development.  I also got experience launching a public-facing product and look forward to the time when I can help do that again.

Regrets

With all the craziness that 2009 brought, there were some things in my life that have definitely been neglected.  Due to time constraints, I’ve had to regretfully take a step back from my involvement in the Fort Smith .NET User Group and the technology community in general.  Luckily, the group has some great leadership in David Mohundro and the other officers who I’m confident will help it to continue to grow and be successful.

I’ve also let my relationship with God suffer this year.  It seems silly to even list this in this post as the magnitude of that statement dwarfs the importance of anything else I’ve written about.  Nevertheless, it’s something I’m aware of, and I want to publicly commit to working on it.  Relationships of any sort require quality time and energy if they are to flourish, and I intend to devote more of both to my relationship with the Lord in 2010.

Wrap Up

It’s been a great year on a number of levels and I’m excited about 2010. 

Professionally, at Rockfish I’m fortunate to have some great projects lined up in 2010.  I’m excited to work on them and look forward to when I can talk about them publicly. 

Personally, God has blessed me with a loving wife and family, and I look forward to all that we’ll get to do together this coming year.

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A New Adventure

Saturday, March 7, 2009 11:11 PM by Michael Paladino

For those of you that haven't yet heard, I have accepted a developer position with Rockfish Interactive in Bentonville, AR and will be starting work there on March 16.  It seems so simple to write that, but that sentence means so much to my family and me.

The End of an Era

The last almost 4 years of my life, I have been blessed to work at EagleOne in Fort Smith, AR.  During that time, I've grown tremendously in the areas of software development, knowledge of the transportation industry, and business knowledge in general.  I've been able to work with some great people at a great company and wish them success in the future. 

My manager's support also helped encourage me to start the Fort Smith .NET User Group which has been a huge growth opportunity for me as well.  Through that group, I've met a lot of really bright people and made some good friendships. 

Hopefully, all those experiences have helped to prepare me for the role I'll be moving to next week.

The Beginning of a New Adventure

March 16 I will begin work as a web developer for Rockfish Interactive in Bentonville, AR.  Forgive me if I get overly excited here, but it's hard not to when looking at Rockfish.  First of all, check out their portfolio.  There are some pretty large customers in that group and some pretty impressive work as well.  After having written mainly business-focused internal applications for a big chunk of my career, I am thrilled to get to work with some of the incredibly talented designers at Rockfish.  Also, check out what they have to say about working at Rockfish.  In addition to getting to work with some of the latest technologies, there is a ton of other cool stuff to get excited about including a Silver Joe's coffee bar in the office, catered lunches on Friday, and a relaxed dress code (most people typically wear jeans).

For the technology folks reading this blog (which I'm assuming is most of you), check out the list of some of the technologies used.  I'm really excited to see the code base that they have in place and am looking forward to getting to dig into some new technologies like Flex with which I have very little experience.

The Personal Side

My wife and I have been considering a move from Fort Smith back to Northwest Arkansas off and on for a couple of years now.  We've got a 2-year-old daughter and a baby boy due June 1 and getting closer to family up around Eureka Springs, AR is a priority for us.  We're in the process of selling our home and will be moving to the Bentonville area as soon as that task is accomplished.  Until then, I'll have about a 1 hour 20 minute commute each way.  That should provide lots of time to catch up on my podcasts :)  Anyway, as you can tell, I'm looking forward to the move both professionally and personally.

A Final Word of Thanks

Just wanted to say a final word of thanks to all of you who have helped with job leads and provided encouragement during this time.  Your assistance and support is greatly appreciated.

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Switch to BlogEngine.NET

Friday, September 5, 2008 9:31 AM by Michael Paladino

As you can probably tell by the RSS craziness or by the new look, I have followed in the footsteps of numerous others (Brian, ZachTim, and others I'm not remembering) who have switched to BlogEngine.NET.  My blog was previously running on the blog module of a DotNetNuke install.  While DotNetNuke is a reasonable solution for sites with a lot of different types of content or sites needing a lot of out of the box functionality, it was a bit overkill for just a blog.  Also, the blog module was a relatively late entry into the DotNetNuke world and just didn't yet have all the functionality that other blog engines have.

I've heard a lot of good things about BlogEngine.NET and so far have been impressed.  I used a template from DesignsByDarren.com and was able to create a "theme" relatively painlessly.  The migration process ended up being a combination of custom SQL to move over the content and comments and manually re-uploading the images into the new blog.  I'm planning on migrating my family's personal site as well which will pose a bigger challenge as it is extremely image-heavy and manually moving them all is not an option.  I'm looking forward to the challenge!

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How I Got Started in Programming

Monday, July 14, 2008 9:00 AM by Michael Paladino

Brian Sullivan tagged me on this, so here goes...

How old were you when you started programming?

I was a late bloomer. College was the first time I actually wrote any code.

How did you get started in programming?

Like a lot of programmers, I had a Commodore 64 as a kid. But unlike a lot of programmers, I wasn't really that interested in it. I remember trying to type in a BASIC program and getting bored after about the 10th line of code. I played a little with my dad's PC through grade school and learned enough DOS to move files around as needed. The first time I really remember a light bulb going off and realizing that programming might be a career choice was my freshman year of college in my "Intro to Computers" class. We had an assignment to build a basic 2-3 page website and while most people paid someone else to do it or copied their buddy's, I remember spending about a week's worth of late nights in the lab working on just the right spacing on my HTML-based resume. It was also a couple of years before the year 2000, so at that time when they showed starting salaries for the different majors, CIS was at the top of the list. I would like to say that didn't influence me at all, but the fact that I still remember that should tell you whether it had an effect on me or not. :)

What was your first language?

The aforementioned HTML website was my first experience with programming. But since that's not neccessarily a language, I'd have to say C++ during college.

What was the first real program that you wrote?

While interning at an insurance company after my junior year of college, I wrote a VB6 application to allow claims adjustors to add descriptions and upload photos from their cameras to a backend to later be read by Lotus Notes. It took me most of the summer because I was really hired to do PC support and just wrote the app in my spare time. It actually ended up being used by claims adjustors throughout the state for at least a couple of years. That was the first time I got a taste of what happened when you shipped a buggy and non-user-friendly product to a large number of end users. The funny thing is, I could probably sit down and write the whole app in about 2 hours now.

What languages have you used since you started programming?

Like Brian, I'll distinguish between college and real-world. College: C, C++, Cobol, Java. Real-world: VB6, classic ASP, Javascript, VB.NET, C#. Wow, that's really not much compared to most of the other people I've seen.

What was your first professional programming gig?

I've already talked about my job at the insurance company, but I wouldn't neccessarily call that a professional programming gig since I was hired for PC support. My first job out of college was at Data-Tronics which is an IT company who provides services mostly to ABF Freight System in Fort Smith, AR. I started in Marketing working on ABF's website and helped to implement Microsoft Content Management Server 2000 to allow the ABF employees to maintain their own content.  I then moved to the Intranet group creating shared components in classic ASP for consumption by the rest of the company's intranet developers. It was a great job in which I gained invaluable experience in a wide range of technology and learned a ton from some really brilliant developers.

If you knew what you know now, would you have started programming?

Like most people that are answering these questions, I will say "Definitely". I guess if you're interested enough to maintain a technical blog, odds are you enjoy what you are doing. The profession is a constant challenge and requires consistent growth and learning. I can't imagine working in a job where I could learn what I needed to know and never have to learn anything else.

If there was one thing you learned along the way that you would tell new developers, what would it be?

Pay attention in those computer classes in school! I often feel like I should have a better base in computer science because I don't have an excellent understanding of underlying memory structures, etc. My last piece of advice would be to try to find a mentor. I've been lucky enough to work under some very intelligent developers and have learned a lot from them.

What's the most fun you've ever had... programming?

It would probably have to be my time in the Intranet group at Data-Tronics when I was developing components for use by other developers. Because of the heavy use of these classes, quality was extremely important, but usability of the class was very important as well. It was a challenge to me to make the interface to these components as clean and understandable as possible. I also took pride in the documentation because I knew that if the documentation was easy to write and understand that I had probably done a good job designing the component. I guess maybe I should be working for a component vendor. David, if you're reading this, please ignore that last line. :)

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Passed 70-536

Monday, December 31, 2007 8:00 AM by Michael Paladino

After stepping away from studying for a couple of months, I finally decided I wanted to pass my first certfication exam in 2007. So, I studied more intensely for a week leading up to the exam and finally took and passed it on December 20.

To me the exam was actually a bit easier than the practice tests that I was using from the Training Kit book, but I've read the opinions of others who say just the opposite. There were some questions I was able to figure out just based on the context of the questions and general programming knowledge. There were others that I never would have known had I not specifically studied for this exam. For example, my day to day job duties typically don't take me anywhere near topics like encryption, COM, or anything beyond basic threading, but those were areas that were covered in the Training Kit book.

I am now trying to decide which test I want to try and tackle next. I've got an upcoming web project, so I am leaning in that direction. That would be Exam 70-528 - Web Based Client Development.

After taking the first exam, I definitely have a better idea of how to study for this one. Rather than stretching out the studying over months, I will most likely study intensely for a week or two and maybe take a day off work before exam day.

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Certification Study Update

Tuesday, June 12, 2007 9:00 AM by Michael Paladino

I typically don't like to see posts along the lines of "Sorry, I haven't blogged lately. I've been busy." However, this blog is supposed to be about studying for my MCPD certification, so I thought I would explain my lack of blogging lately.

First, my employer moved from an older building where we were busting at the seams to a much more modern building with plenty of room for growth. Our server room went from a shelf next to the bathroom door to an actual computer room with a raised floor and a dedicated air conditioner unit. I also now have a private office rather than being in a room with three cubicles and I can definitely attest to the increase in productivity that a private office brings. Anyway, the move took a couple of weeks of my focus and therefore my studies suffered. Also up until a couple of weeks ago, I was under a pretty tight deadline that didn't allow time to study.

I have however begun again and I have finished Chapters 2 and 3 of the Training Kit book having to do with Input / Output, Text Encoding, and Regular Expressions. It's all stuff I've done before, but so far the practice questions seem to be very syntax-focused. This scares me because I haven't memorized syntax since I started programming with Visual Studio and Intellisense a couple of years ago. If anybody that has taken exam 70-536 has any input on this, I'd love to hear from you. For now, I feel like I'm just going to have to do a lot of memorization rather than just understanding the concepts which was my initial expectation. Oh well, I guess if it was easy, everybody would be an MCPD.

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One Chapter Down, Fifteen to Go

Friday, April 13, 2007 8:00 AM by Michael Paladino

I've finished the first chapter in the Training Kit book and it has taken a little longer than I thought. There are some basic programming principals such as boxing/unboxing, type conversions, etc. that I have never really taken the time to think about before. It's all making sense so far, and I'm feeling pretty comfortable with the material.

As far as the books, it appears the Training Kit book is going to be much simpler and less in-depth than the VB 2005 book which seems to be inline with some of the reviews I've read of both books. I do like the way the Training Kit book is broken up into lessons within each chapter with questions at the end. That provides a good way for me to start and end a lesson in one sitting.

So far I've only been able to get about 30 minutes to an hour at a time to spend studying. I'm getting pretty close to my goal of 2 hours of personal time and 2 hours of work time per week. The last couple of weeks I've come into work early on Friday morning to get some good uninterrupted study time, and I'm going to try to keep that up each week.

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