Random thoughts of a digital web weaver

Change by Example

One of the questions that has been on my mind lately has been how do you change the culture at a company or team? It can be a daunting task, especially in company that has been around for some time and is set in its ways.

I find that people are willing to talk about culture change but when it comes down to doing something about it, the action items get lost in the shuffle, deliverables and client commitments get priority, and the discussion fades away.

It can be discouraging when you feel like the ideas get lost on deaf ears and all the talk just leads to false starts. However, after a discussion with some colleagues, I am starting to think that culture change isn’t a plan; it’s a set of habits that form over time.

Start with something as simple. For instance, if you don’t feel like your company properly recognizes individual contributions, take a moment to thank a person publicly for some work that they’ve done. Another day, take a moment to thank a different person. Form the habit with yourself first.

The hope is that it will catch on with others and they will start doing it as well, forming the habit for themselves. As more and more people form the habit, it becomes part of the culture.

It’s going to be slow and will require a lot of patience but by developing the process of creating those habits, you create a path to changing the culture of your company/team.

Another “Women in Tech” Thought…

I’ve always been a supporter of women in the tech industry. I have been lucky to work with quite a few during my career. They have ranged from managers to developers with similar experience to those I have mentored. Through it all, I knew that as women in the industry, they had overcome larger hurdles to get to where they were than I had to.

Up until now, I think I simply acknowledged the fact that the gender issue existed and agreed that it needed to change. I can look back, put the pieces together, and see various occurrences where women I know have been discounted, pushed aside, or looked over. I look back with disappointment with myself that I didn’t recognize the pattern.

It’s bothered me a lot lately. Whether it’s guilt for not seeing things sooner, or the fact that I work with a group of incredible women who I want to see succeed, or because I continue to hear stories of women I respect being degraded even today, it makes me angry.

Lately, I’ve felt very over-protective of the women I work with in the tech industry (either directly or through social media). I’m not sure if I have the right to feel that way because despite the fact that I support them, I don’t know if I’ve actually done anything to help them. I don’t quite know what I should do. When should I intervene? When should I step back and provide space? Maybe the answers are right in front of me and I’m just blind to them?

I’ve never been opposed to asking for help and this is definitely one area where I could use it.

Thank You to the Women in Tech

The tech industry is well known for it’s gender gap. It’s an issue that continues and to which I have no solution for. I don’t even think I am qualified to provide a solution because I can’t relate to the problem. Even though I can articulate some of the issues, I will never be in a position to suffer the hostility and disadvantages as the women in the industry do on a daily basis.

I recently remarked on LinkedIn that I have been extremely fortunate throughout my career to have had the opportunity to work with many strong female developers. They broaden my perspective and help me grow stronger as a developer. They have and continue to teach, guide, motivate, and inspire me every day.

To all of the female developers that I work with daily or interact with over social media, as well as those that I don’t know, I want to say thank you. I appreciate everything you have done for myself and the industry and will continue to support you in any way that I can.

Mental Recharge

A little while ago, I was afforded the opportunity to take a day away from the office and volunteer at a warehouse for Northwest Harvest, the only non-profit state-wide food bank distributor in Washington state. In addition for volunteering for a good cause, it was a great way to get rid of some mental fatigue that’s been creeping.

We spent the day parcelling and packing rice to send to food banks. It was a rewarding experience that allowed me to meet some great people and have a good time. It also reminded me that once in awhile, I should raise my head up from the web development world and do something completely different.

It’s easy to think that taking a day away from our work will reduce our productivity but most of the time, the best way to increase our productivity is to shift our brains into a lower gear for a short period of time to give ourselves a chance to recharge.

No Phishing!

There’s a reason that websites that deal with monetary transactions provide warnings about phishing scams. They happen all the time and the people that commit these crimes are good at it.

I was posting some items up on Kijiji to sell before my move to Seattle, one of which was my storage bed (yes, cheap plug). I received a response from a buyer who said that they would purchase my bed through a PayPal transaction.

Sounds good so far, right?

I thought so too. So I agreed. The next email I got asked for my info and came with an odd request. Apparently the purchaser would get a shipping company to pick up the bed but his credit card wasn’t working so he wanted to send me the money for the shipping cost and have me send a Western Union transfer to the shipping company.

I was suspicious but I thought that if the money came through PayPal then I could use those funds for the shipping. So once again I agreed. What I got next was a set of emails from PayPal telling me that the money was being transferred to my account but it was on hold pending the Western Union transfer.

At a glance the email looked legit. It had the right text, confirmation numbers, the logos, and all the rest. It had me guessing for a second but the whole situation had alarm bells ringing in my head.

A quick check of my PayPal account revealed that there were no transactions, pending or otherwise and money was not transferred to my account. Secondly, a closer look at the email revealed that it didn’t come from PayPal but from “”. At this point I knew it was fraud. I decided to do one last check. I popped the address for the Western Union transfer into Google Maps which led me to a nice residential street in the UK. Suffice it to say, that was the end of the line for me.

Moral of the story, be careful of phishing scams! They’re out there and the people behind them are pretty smart. I consider myself pretty aware of online dangers and they got me to the point where they can spam my email now.

Here are a few tips relating to my experience:

  • If anyone wants to send you money but depends on you to complete another transaction for it (i.e. Western Union), decline the offer.
  • Don’t use Western Union for purchases/transactions. It’s great for money transfers to people you know but there is no fraud protection!
  • Always check the full email address on emails regarding accounts or transactions. Don’t just rely on the name! I can’t stress this one enough. In my case, the name said but the actual address was
  • If you’re using PayPal, check your account if you get an email saying that there was a transfer/transaction. There should be some record of it in your account. Just don’t click on any links in the email to do it!
  • Trust No One. Well, at the very least be vigilant and pay close attention.

There are many reputable companies out there on the web but there are also a lot of people looking to use those reputations to scam you out of your money. Be careful!

Voting Needs to Jump to the Web

So another Ontario provincial election is in the books and Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government has emerged the victor. The big story coming out of the election besides the collapse of Tim Hudak’s campaign is the record low voter turnout.

I think the reason for this is a combination of voter apathy and a decrease in the willingness to take time to find and travel to voting polls in order to put a little check mark on a piece of paper.

The second issue is the easiest of the two to solve. Implement online voting. People against it start ranting about concerns over fraud and security yet every day millions of people give out financial information to shop and bank online. The government even offers various services through their website that require personal information.

I don’t believe it is a huge stretch enable voting online. I can already go to a government website to put in my information to find my nearest polling station. With a few more steps, it could be extended out to create a website that allows citizens to vote. I have no doubt in my mind that voter turn out would skyrocket. If the move to the mobile web is any indication, putting something at a user’s fingertips will encourage them to use it.

A website like that may also help with voter apathy. I think part of that problem lies in the fact that people are uneducated about issues and what’s at stake. They feel disconnected from politics. For many, the political process only pops into their head every four years when the media plasters election campaigns all over. If the user goes to the voting website and is provided with information on election issues and party platforms, they may feel more informed and inclined to vote because they are aware of what they are voting on.

Now I’m not advocating the removal of traditional polling stations. They have their place. But if you want to encourage more people to vote in this digital age, you need to embrace the technology and give them the choice on how they want to vote. I believe that technology is at a level where this can happen and given this year’s low voter turnout it may be time to seriously consider the jump.

Steve Jobs – Inspiration

Photo of Steve Jobs with years of birth and death
The news of Steve Jobs’ death shocked the world on Wednesday evening. I think most people realized that his time was growing short when he stepped down as Apple’s CEO but much like NDP leader Jack Layton’s death earlier this year, it is still a bitter pill to swallow.

While I am a fan of Apple and it’s products, I must admit that I don’t know much about the man who is credited with revolutionizing the computer and digital product industry. Much of what I know has come from reading stories about him from the hundreds of posts I see lighting up the social media landscape.

I learned of the many things he accomplished within his too-short life and find myself making unfair comparisons between what I’ve done and what he had done by the time he was my age. I saw a man that by the age of 30 was being canned from a multi-billion dollar company he helped build and was moving onto his next venture.

A friend then pointed out that we shouldn’t belittle our own personal achievements just because of what others have done. She is absolutely right. It is not Steve Jobs’ success that we should be striving for, it is the manner in which he lived his life that we should emulate.

Beyond the accomplishments and accolades, I have learned about Steve’s strong ideals, his deep passion, his work ethic, and his tireless perseverance. These are characteristics we can all adopt in an effort to make ourselves into better people. When we are able to look beyond the “what” of Steve Jobs’ remarkable life and focus on the “how” and the “why”, we will see the true legacy he leaves behind.

Thank you Steve for your gifts to the world and for inspiring us not only to think different but to think better as well.