Derbylisting.com

It’s been a while since I last posted. While a lot has been happening, I wanted to highlight one thing on particular. The list of roller derby leagues that used to live in a spreadsheet is now available as a website.

Introducing… Derbylisting.com

This will make it easier to find and easier for me to update since everything is now housed in a database.  Three cheers for databases!

Here’s a list of the tools and tech used to build the site…

  • Ghost was used for the blog portion. While I’m more familiar with WordPress, I opted for Ghost to try something new, and because it’s a bit more lightweight than WordPress. I modified the free theme Purple Slimer.
  • jqGrid was used for the list display. I tried DataTables first, and while it resulted in a more aesthetically pleasing grid/table, I found jqGrid’s logic easier for me to grasp and manipulate. It does appear that jqGrid is changing a bit (and changing names to Guriddo) so I do need to make sure the new version fits my needs.  And I plan on testing jqWidgets‘ grid at some point.
  • mySQL was used for the database. I don’t particularly love mySQL, but my host offers support for it so I just went with that. It’s also easy to use, despite it’s quirks.  I tried SQLite, but it required a bit more effort to make my data model work the way I wanted.
  • PHP was used to connect to the database and convert the results into JSON so that they could be displayed in the grid.

That’s the big stuff.

Special thanks to Chris Bojanower for allowing me to use the great photo on the site.

Roller Derby List of Leagues

It’s no secret that I’m a data nerd.  I also enjoy roller derby. Recently I was asked the question…  How many roller derby leagues are there?  Well, I couldn’t give a definitive answer because the most often quoted resource for this sort of info hadn’t been updated in months.

So I set out to update it the best I could.  The resulting comprehensive list of roller derby league can be found here.  Granted, with a sport that is growing as fast as roller derby it’s impossible to stay ahead of it all, but I do my best.

Forms!

So… I’ve been researching online forms options lately and the three that have risen to the top are Google Forms, Wufoo, and JotForm.

Google Forms (http://docs.google.com) is, of course, just a fancy way to enter data into a Google Spreadsheet. However, it’s compelling is that is entirely free AND the data is already in a spreadsheet that you can manipulate to your heart’s content. The main downside to Google Forms is that the forms themselves are fairly limited in what they can do. You can’t do data validation within the form, you can’t do dynamic drop down lists, heck you can’t even batch load a drop down list (each entry has to be entered individually). Still, being tied directly to a Google Spreadsheet offers a lot of functionality on that end that can only be replicated by pushing your data from another forms app/website into a spreadsheet or similar tool. Additionally, if you don’t mind getting your hands extra dirty, you can do some pretty amazing things with AppScripts and Google Sites to add functionality that is not already there. I’m fairly lazy when it comes to this stuff, but your mileage may vary.

Wufoo (http://wufoo.com) is the darling of the party. The site is super snazzy and the features of the forms is leaps and bounds ahead of Google. There is a fairly large amount of integration options with other apps/sites built into Wufoo, but none for Google Docs. This can be remedied by using Webhooks which is supported by Wufoo. For the casual forms user, this is a bit too advanced, but there are some third-parties that can help with that for a price (zapier, iduzzit). You can also do it manually with export/import options. Wufoo, of course, costs money if you plan on doing more than testing with your form… so that’s something to consider if you don’t actually plan on doing more than one form with just enough transactions to be above their free account. That said, if it’s worth it to you, there is a lot to like about the options built-in to Wufoo.

JotForm (http://jotform.com) is a Wufoo competitor. It has much the same functionality as Wufoo. While Wufoo has more partner sites that it integrates with out of the box, JotForm has, arguably, a more important integration built-in. Your forms can be setup to write directly to a Google Spreadsheet. This is, frankly, a pretty big deal. You get all the functionality of an advanced form design with all the options for playing with your data that is offered by Google Docs. Additionally, the free option for JotForm gives you more room to breathe than Wufoo, so if you’re over the limit in Wufoo, but under the amount to make paying worth it, JotForm may be the answer.

Each of these tools has its quirks. Google Forms is the most limited as far as options are concerned, but it also has a great backend reporting via Google Spreadsheet. Wufoo has a lot of great built-in features, including its own reporting options, but automating it with Google Docs is a bit of a pain unless you have the time and know-how to invest… or the money to pay a third-party. JotForm has some quirks in how it displays and it doesn’t have nearly as many built-in integrations as Wufoo, but it does have the most important one that Wufoo doesn’t currently have.

For my current need, I’m going to try JotForm with a Google Spreadsheet backend. If Google Forms ever gets updated so that data validation within the form is available and dynamic drop-down lists become an option without having to code everything myself, then it will win in the long-run. I also looked at FormAssembly, but there is no free option. Any others I might have missed?

Promotion! Part 2

So the field of eight got whittled down to two candidates.  Next steps… We would have to interview with the CFO (the overarching head of our department) and with some of the managers in the merged department we would be supporting.

Once again, I used my time-tested preparation methods.  Clear your head and just go in.  The interview was more of a conversation.  Our CFO is smart, and his questions were probing and required long answers with details from the breadth of my work experience.  Seriously, for one question the only relevant experience I had was from the early 90s when I was still working at ye olde bank ops center.  I hadn’t thought of those events in ages, and my presentation of them probably wasn’t the best.

For other questions, I was able to use more recent experience at ye olde newspaper.  And in a couple of cases I was even able to use my current job as an example.  Still, this was a tough interview and it had me on my toes the entire time.  Originally, the interview was only supposed to last 30 minutes, but it took nearly an hour.  I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad.  I think I answered well enough overall, but there were a couple of my answers that left me scratching my head and thinking for the rest of the day.

A few days later, the other interview was scheduled.  This was the first of the interviews that I actually prepared for.  My preparation consisted of running a report to see how many open tickets each of the two departments had currently for Reporting.  Between the two, the list was somewhat extensive (some would say daunting).  More than I had actually expected.  For a split second I thought…  “What am I getting myself into!?!” I read through the lists and made some mental notes just in case questions were asked related to them.

I was to meet with four of the managers in the merged department.  Two from each side.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  After the very different formats of the two previous interviews, I was pretty much prepared for anything.  Fortunately, they had prepared some questions… and this was going to be a more standard interview.

Throughout the back and forth of the interview, I felt I had answered all of the questions really well.  I mean, when people are nodding their heads in favor of what you’re saying, it seems like you’re hitting it out of the park.  Then one question was asked and I drew a complete and utter blank.  It was like my brain was finished.  The odd thing is that it should have been an easy question for me to answer.

I don’t remember the exact wording, but the gist of it was… “Describe a time when you explained a complex subject to an executive.  Try to explain that subject to us.”  I mean… this is my bread and butter.  I do this all the time, but for some reason I couldn’t think of any specifics.  After a couple of stutter-stops, one of my interviewers threw me a lifeline by reminding me that I had described a complex situation earlier in the interview.  Whew!  But it was a weird moment for me that left me wondering if I had left a bad impression at the end.

I was on pins and needles for the next two days, wondering which way the decision would go.  Do you know how hard it is to get work done when you’re on pins and needles?  Don’t get me wrong, I got work done, but it was really hard to concentrate.  I kept revisiting questions that had been asked.  Were my competition’s answers better?  Meanwhile, my workmates kept needling me about the new job.  (I don’t think a person has ever been called traitor and Benedict Arnold more than I was over that week).

Finally, late one afternoon, I got an e-mail from my boss.  “Come to my office, please.”  I would love to say ‘you could have smelled the rubber of my soles burn on the carpet as I dashed to his office,’ but I took the elevator.  When I arrived he asked me to sit.  Braced for the worst, I heard… “Do you want this job?”

Confused for a second, I asked, “What?”  He repeated the question.  To which I finally responded, “Yes!”

I was shocked, giddy, and scared all at the same time.  I got it!

Promotion! Part 1

A few weeks ago a new manager position in my department (Reporting) was announced.  This new manager would be overseeing the Reporting team that would support a new department that was created when two others were merged together.  Being in a support role when two cultures are being merged is never easy.  Lots of shifting priorities and lots of opportunities for failure.  Difficult, but also very exciting… if you can figure out how to make it all work.

The opportunity was made available to everyone in my department, and eight people, including me, applied.  All of the folks that applied are strong reporting analysts… and great people to work with.  Competition was going to be tough.  I updated my resumé and sent it in.  A few days later, I had the first interview.

Continue reading “Promotion! Part 1”

A-Trak @ The Complex SLC

First post in almost two years to this blog.  I’m trying turn over a new leaf.  Post more stuff here and just crosspost it to the other places I frequent.  Enough about that… let’s get on with it.

Went see A-Trak last Tuesday at The Complex.  What is it with venues in Salt Lake City having these super generic names, anyway?  Of the two opening acts, I didn’t mind seeing Kid Sister, but Gaslamp Killer held no appeal for me.

I arrived fashionably late just as Gaslamp Killer’s set was ending.  Saw some friends, chatted for a second and patiently waited for Kid Sister to finish her set. Unfortunately for her, she was battling a cold and a messed up sound system. This did not bode well for A-Trak’s set, but I’m ever the optimist and I hoped for the best.

And that’s exactly what I got.  A-Trak came in there, showed us what he had… and left us wanting more.  Tight set that had me dancing for the entire time.  That’s quite a feat as my knees aren’t nearly as young as they used to be.  Anyway, here are a few pics of A-Trak’s set. Enjoy…

 

Update for the Peoples!

It’s been two weeks since I started working at ye olde online retailer.  Things are going well.  Everyone I work with has been super nice.  My boss is great.

These first two weeks have been about learning their database.  I only started to do “real” work late last week.  It’s 100% straight up SQL, no chaser.  I have the option of using Business Objects Desktop Intelligence or Crystal Reports.  However, for now, I’m going to take this opportunity to delve into some of the more esoteric SQL stuff that I never used in my 12 years at ye olde newspaper.

The company is celebrating their 10th anniversary.  As part of that, the CEO hosted a party for everyone at the Saltair Pavillion with special guests…  The Wallflowers.  It was a fun show, but the drinks at Saltair are pricey!  Good thing we were all given a couple of drink coupons to keep us from going thirsty.  If you know what I mean… and I think you do.  At any rate, I can now check off “see Bob Dylan’s son” off my bucket list.  😉

One other work related thing.  Commuting is super easy now.  I live less than 10 miles from the office.  That sure beats the nearly 3 hour drive I had in Illinois.  I can also catch a bus a couple of blocks from my apartment that takes me directly to my office without transfers.  I even rode my bike part of the way and used the bus the rest of the way a couple of times.  Gotta love that!

Liz is doing great.  She just got a cool new haircut.  You can see pictures on Facebook.  I think she looks FAB!  🙂

The puppy is doing well, but as it gets colder… it becomes more difficult to get motivated to go for walks. She’s big now… 63+ pounds… and growing.  She has developed an unfortunate trait.  She’s starting to become a digger.  I think we may have inadvertently contributed to this behavior taking root.  Now we’ll have to figure out a way to undo it before it becomes a serious problem.

Kiko is doing OK… has an ear infection at the moment, but he’s doing his thing… which mostly involves sleeping on the bear chair.

I’ve come to realize that I don’t use Livejournal nearly as much as I used to.  That’s kinda sad… really.  I like LJ a lot, but it’s not as conducive to the quick bursts that I’m doing lately.  Right now my platform of choice is Facebook… but I would dump it for something better in a heartbeat.  If Facebook had tag support, better group options (it would be nice to make a posting only viewable by a certain group (a la Livejournal), a decent search, and doubled the max character limit… it would be perfect.  Oh well.

That said…  if you haven’t joined Facebook…  you should…  and be sure to friend me.  I post a lot of fun stuff there… not just navel-gazing.  😉

Later gang… for my Orlando peeps… I’ll probably be in Orlando for a few days around Christmas.  I don’t have a lot of vacation days with my new job so I’m not sure exactly when, but Christmas weekend for sure.  See you then!

On Choosing

Today I made a choice.  I decided to take a job at Overstock.com instead of One on One. I’m super duper excited about the new job. Who wouldn’t be. I would have been excited about either job, really. Let’s break it down a little…

Overstock offered slightly more money and better benefits. Overstock is closer to my house. The job at Overstock is a defined position within a defined department doing a defined set of tasks. There is variety there, don’t get me wrong… but the idea I’m trying get across is that it’s a job that can and has been described.

One on One offered something a bit more amorphous. However, the offer implied growth, change, potentially greater rewards. The job at One on One is not defined… at all.  There are certain things that need to be done and there is the promise of more to come beyond that. As you can see… the two jobs are quite different… even though there are some similarities in tasks.

Here’s the deal…  The job at One on One sounded very good. It sounded like it was right up my alley… so why did I balk and jump in the other direction? I had a moment to think about this because One on One called me back after I turned them down.

The real reason I turned the offer down is uncertainty. After a lay off, the last thing you want to hear from a potential employer is that your actual job hasn’t been created yet. While the job at One on One would have likely been more rewarding overall… that level of uncertainty about what I would be doing took the shine off the whole idea. My exact wording was a bit more diplomatic, but that was the gist.

I’ll be honest, if I had been living in Utah longer or if I had been coming from an existing job, I would have gone with One on One… hands down. Right now though, I need something steady and certain in my life. Sure, it’s only been a month of unemployment. But I’m a worker bee at heart. Up until this layoff, I hadn’t really been without a job since the day I turned 16. And the prospect of not having a job… well, it scared me.

So when I was presented with this choice between two very different employers… I decided to take what appears to be the safer route. The thing is… I know it’s not really any safer. There will be challenges at the new job, there will be change, there will be growth, and there will be rewards. I know this… and yet I definitely feel like I might have let that big fish slip my grasp.

I had this feeling before when I took the job at USA TODAY. Back then, the other job was a technical writing position vs. the more technical job at the newspaper. I always thought it was funny that I turned down a writing job to go work at a newspaper where I wouldn’t actually be writing. At any rate, I had a similar feeling back then… like I let something go that I shouldn’t have.

After 12 years at USA TODAY though, I can honestly say I don’t regret it. I learned a lot there, I grew, I saw change on every level and ultimately it was very rewarding. I suspect the same from Overstock… and I’m really looking forward to getting back to work. Having been unemployed… I know one thing for sure. I don’t like it.

If you haven’t heard me say it… thanks to everyone that has sent a word of support. I couldn’t have made it without you. Lots of love!

Job Search

Here’s a list of places I’ve looked since the layoff on Aug 18th.

Monster.com
Dice.com
CareerBuilder.com
Craigslist.org
Overstock.com
University of Utah
State and Local governments

At this point, I’ve sent out over 60 resumés. Of those, where do you think I got a response back for an interview?

One from an ad by a small marketing company on Craigslist. One from applying directly to Overstock.com.  The vast majority of my resumé sending has been through Dice and Monster. Not one peep from those.

It’s possible that the talent pool is enormous on those sites and therefore you are competing against too many to be noticed. While I think that’s definitely part of the problem. It might actually go a little deeper than that. A lot of the companies on those sites, have opted to outsource some of the HR workload to other companies.

So instead of sending your resumé to someone in charge of HR or to a hiring manager… you get shunted off to another website where you must upload a text only version of your resumé. That text-only resumé is then scoured for keywords… and whoever has the most matching keys gets passed along. All of the qualitative stuff you put down doesn’t matter because no one is actually reading your resumé.

Or maybe that’s just my conspiracy theory brain working overtime.  LOL

In other news…  I have a third interview at that marketing company I noted above today at 2PM.  I then have a second interview at Overstock tomorrow at 2PM. I have a lot of resumés floating around out there. Let’s hope I hear back from a few more very soon. I want to be able to make the best possible decision for my future.