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Speaking of responses, I'd like to take this opportunity to redress the balance here. Over the past couple of months I've received some very abusive e-mail from disgruntled readers, shouting the odds about a number of things. First of all, I have no problem receiving e-mail from readers regarding anything in this column. In fact, I welcome it. However, if you expect a reply, then make it polite, reasonable and - most of all - constructive. If you don't get a reply from me, you can safely assume that you failed one of the criteria above. The JDJ  writers aren't here to listen to abuse, but to provide a service. To that end we want to serve you as best we can. Thus positive/negative constructive feedback is always welcome. Trust me, we get some really wacky e-mail. One that was particularly scary was from a gentleman who wanted Linus Torvald to be jailed. 'Nuff said, methinks.

Second, let me explain what this column is all about. It isn't a technical column, so if you're expecting it to be, stop! Turn back now and save yourself the disappointment. This is a thinking column. It's designed to make you think about some of the burning issues that face us all as Java developers. You may not agree with me, and that's good. I want to provoke you. I will on occasion offer some rather controversial notions. Whether or not I believe them doesn't matter. What matters is that I made you take some time to think about something from another angle. The active traffic on the Straight Talking mailing list proves this to be the case. So when you read this column, keep an open mind and allow me the chance to entertain you...if not provoke you. If we all agreed on everything, the world would be a very dull place indeed.

Last, I'd like to highlight the purpose of the Straight Talking mailing list. I write a piece on it every month, but some still seem to skip past that section. I've been accused of many things - most of it I ignore as nonsense. One I refuse to accept is the accusation that JDJ  writers hide behind their articles and don't answer or address feedback. This is complete nonsense. For starters, the e-mail address printed with each article allows you direct access to the author.

Second, we have the mailing list. This is where we invite you to join and have your say. Being a JDJ editorial board member allows me to collate any concerns and relay them to the board to be addressed. The Straight Talking mailing list has had much impact on the overall structure and content of JDJ,  and with your help we aim to keep JDJ  the best-read Java magazine on the planet.

Let me apologize if this has come over a bit strong, but I want to be clear about the purpose of this column and the mechanisms that are available to you to influence the way JDJ  operates. Contrary to popular belief, you, the reader, are the most important person to us and we want to make your time spent with JDJ  as productive as possible. So help us help you.

With that out of my system, let's get on with this month's Straight Talking column.

Growing Pains
As CEO of my wee empire I've been faced with many new challenges and this month have met some wonderful people. My company, n-ary, is steadily growing, so much so that we're seriously pushing for space. We need more bodies, but our present building has simply stopped taking, so the time has come to look for new premises. Which is a shame, as I was kinda liking this place. But I can't stand in the way of progress, and my team is a credit to me, so with this I've put on my real estate hat, looking out for that perfect location for us all.

Those of you who've had dealings with us know that we're not the sort of team that wants to work in conventional office-space dwellings. That's simply not us. We're all a little unconventional in our own special way, and as the old saying goes, "You can't put a square peg in a round hole." At present we're using an old converted farmhouse as our headquarters, and this has proved to be most successful, just not quite big enough for a dot.com company striding into the millennium (Now that sounded like some sort of nonsense a marketing type of person would come up with! I surprise myself at times.)

Our strength is our team, so before embarking on this search I asked the troops what sort of offices they'd like to see themselves in. Darren, who some of you know as "The Riddler", came up with the most interesting answer. He requested an Ally McBeal–type environment. I wasn't too sure what to make of that. Did he mean the large, open-plan layout, complete with unisex toilets? I queried him on this and discovered he was in fact referring to the quantity of good-looking available women. Bless him.

All jokes aside, we have only two women working with us - one is a Java developer and the other is my PA. I'd have to say that we are a male-dominated company. That said, we do have a woman on the board of directors. When we get CV's in, the ones with a Sex=Female are few and far between. I'm not sure why this is, but there are a number of possible reasons for this and many are controversial.

Do you think there's a serious lack of women in this industry? I guess this is always going to be a controversial topic, so let's discuss it on the mailing list as I'd love to hear your thoughts. I'm not so stupid as to alienate my female readers here and now! Knowing how seriously some of you take this column, I'm going to body-swerve that particular minefield.

But speaking of unisex toilets...do they really exist? I don't know of any company on this side of the Atlantic that has them. But since it's an American idea, do any of our U.S. readers know of companies that openly advocate them?

I'll let you know next month how our new-office search is going. We're looking at an old farm where we would convert the barns and stables into modern offices, I just need to persuade the present owners to accept the amount of money I'm offering as opposed to the amount they want. I guess this is what they call bartering.

Support Award of the Month:
Hall of Shame

This is the second in our new award section. Last month I chronicled the joys of ordering from Dell and how much fun that can be. If you recall, a staff member told me that Dell didn't use Internet-enabled e-mail internally, which I suspected was a bit of a fib. I recently discovered that this was indeed the case - the support team member who called me up the day after told me that e-mail is used a lot and that I could be cc'd into all relevant communication. What a sorry tale this was. If Dell ever responds to me, I'll let you know the dialog.

I've had some interesting feedback from readers with similar tales. It appears that if you're a small company, or a one-man band, the service from Dell is pretty poor on the whole. Truly a shame, as I have no problems at all with the kit itself.

This month's award is on hold as I'm currently researching a number of queries I've had from readers regarding two big boys. Oracle and SilverStream are in the limelight and when I have more information I'll report back.

As a side note, anyone been to the store at Oracle.com lately? Here's another example of a company with absolutely no imagination. Another Amazon.com clone. Oracle isn't the only company to succumb to this look and feel copying; BOL.com, Toysrus.com, HomeDepot.com and CompUSA.com are just some of the big household names. Come on, you big corporate chaps...you spend millions a year on your marketing departments and still can't come up with something that makes you stand apart from the competition? I bet Amazon.com is kicking themselves for not trademarking that look and feel...the money gleaned from those lawsuits would have more than made up the operating loss.

If you feel you're getting a raw deal from any company, let me know and I'll check it out and see if something more sinister is going on.

Mailing List
The mailing list is still growing, with representatives of many different facets of industry joining in on the fun. I'm thoroughly enjoying getting to know you a lot better, and with this I'm looking to arrange a sort of Straight Talking party for JavaOne this year. So stay tuned for that. We talk about anything that comes into the mind of our developers. So stop by and join in the fun. To sign up, or even just to stop by and have a look at what's being posted,head on over to Straight Talking

Our radio show is gaining in popularity I and my cohost, Keith Douglas, present a daily 15-20 minute Straight Talking show. We play music, talk Java and talk mailing list. And with The Riddler offering prizes for anyone that correctly answers his riddles, what have you got to lose?

Salute of the Month
The award this month goes to the active group of correspondents on our mailing list. You bring a much welcome break from the norm with refreshing views and takes on a number of issues. I've learned a lot from you all, and I hope we can meet up very soon. As you know, JavaOne is looming, and I'm hoping to be able to put faces to the names at the party mentioned above. Let me know if you intend to come to JavaOne.

Now that I end this column, I end it in the same state as I end the month - with a smile. I've been on the prowl for a new car. Over the last 12 months I've been driving a wonderful wee Toyota MR-2, and I have to say I loved it. However, as you know, picking up certain Sun dignitaries from the airport did present a certain logistical problem due to the lack of boot (sorry...trunk) space. Besides, I was also getting a little bored with not having a backseat. That said, I recently took delivery of a brand spanking new n-ary blue Subaru Impreza. For those of you that don't know of this particular motor, it's the one leading the world rally championships. I'm very pleased with it as I know I can take passengers, which is a real novelty.
See you next month.

Author Bio
Alan Williamson is CEO of n-ary consulting Ltd., the first pure Java company in the United Kingdom. The firm, which specializes solely in Java at the server side, has offices in Scotland, England and Australia. Alan is the author of two Java servlet books, and contributed to the Servlet API. He has a Web site www.n-ary.com and an email address [email protected]


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