Honing the Craft

This past Saturday Rhiza hosted a Coderetreat for members of the Pittsburgh development community. Coderetreat is a global organization dedicated to helping programmers become better programmers. It does this by helping local groups organize workshops - the code retreats - that let developers focus on key elements of the craft of programming without the day-to-day distractions of deadlines and bottom lines. It's also a lot of fun, and a good way to meet other programmers! Despite the fact that Saturday was one of the few unabashedly wintery days we've had all year, turnout was really strong. I think just about the whole slate of 25 signed up people showed up for the day (which starts at 8:30am - not necessarily a congenial hour for your average programmer). The day is highly structured. We were led by the intrepid Jim Hurne through a series of six 45 minute exercises. Each exercise...

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A Socially Responsible Software Company Part One: The Unexamined Life is not Worth Living

Actually, Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being." But I think we should apply the same logic to companies — and not just because they are legal "persons" ;-) At Rhiza, we've always tried to be a responsible company. But what does that really mean? My background is in computer science and philosophy. It's not that weird a combination. Both disciplines search for rules to make sense of the world with, and both have a (sometimes unfortunate) weakness for pedantic precision. So I have a natural tendency to want to clarify and systematize. What I want to do here is to explore the definition of a socially responsible software company, or, at least, start a process for arriving at the definition. Right now I have some intuitions, some things I think we've gotten right so far, and a lot of questions. The questions are...

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The Changing Location of NFL Power Schools

I needed a break from refreshing the news constantly about the Japanese earthquake disaster. So here's a little something that really has no great importance in the larger scheme of things: a picture of where the power schools for NFL players sit. I ran across a pair of datasets that attempted to rank the top 25 colleges both by their historical success in producing NFL players and their current success in producing NFL players. The former is measured by overall number of players (the dataset also contains number of Hall of Fame players), the latter by number of active players. I plotted the historical values in purple and the current values in yellow on the map below. You can hide each layer by clicking the checkmark in the legend. Notice the pronounced geographic dominance of the midwest historically. Football fans will not be surprised to see that southern schools are...

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We Don’t Need an App: Rhiza Insight is on the iPad!

Okay, I'll admit it: we're just as excited as the rest of the tech world about the iPad.  Josh, our CEO, was at the Apple Store bright and early Saturday morning to pick up his, oops, I mean, the development team's new iPad. The thing is, thanks to a few fortuitous design decisions we made for Insight early on, there wasn't much development to do to get Insight running well on the iPad. When we built the first version of what eventually became Rhiza Insight, there weren't really any next-generation Web-based mapping tools out there yet.  So we did a lot of internal prototyping to figure out how best to build the system. The two leading candidates were to implement something in Flash, or to use the Javascript Google Maps API and use standard web technologies. Flash has some advantages: if you can push all the rendering to the client,...

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