Image Matters for Remote Workers

It’s becoming increasingly common for software developers and other IT professionals to work remotely. While the amount of remote work required may vary among different companies and across the field, I think it’s likely that the trend will continue. As enabling technologies improve, web-based video calling and shared-desktop applications will be ubiquitous, and both employers and remote workers will see increasing value and share positive experiences with remote work arrangements.

Technology alone, however, cannot take the place of our social skills – you know – those abilities we’re supposed to develop that help us get along with others. In this post, I’m going to focus on video conferencing technology, or rather, on how we use it. I’ll focus on some simple things you, as a remote worker, can do to improve how your audience views you. This can be critical, since your audience is often comprised of your coworkers, managers, or most importantly, your customers.

In my work group, software developers regularly communicate with customers using video conferencing software. We all know how to use the technology, but after just a few months of meeting with developers and customers on these conference calls, it’s clear that there are individual differences in how we use the technology. I felt that someone needed to broach the topic of being aware of your on-camera self. Yes, self-awareness is a thing, Google it.

If you’re the consultant, or a remote worker trying to impress a manager skeptical of the benefits of remote work arrangements, you need to know how extremely easy it is to set the wrong expectation or make a bad impression. Below are some things to think about – preferably before you get on one of those really long video conference calls.

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Struts 2 Dynamic Method Invocation

java1I’ve been doing plenty of Sruts2 work lately, and have used wildcard method mapping quite a bit. Wildcard method mapping is one way Struts2 allows a developer to flexibly call methods other than execute() on your action classes. Recently, however, I had reason to check out another flexible method calling feature in Struts – Dynamic Method Invocation.

The struts documentation says this about Dynamic Method Invocation:

Dynamic Method Invocation (DMI) will use the string following a “!” character in an action name as the name of a method to invoke (instead of execute). A reference to “Category!create.action”, says to use the “Category” action mapping, but call the create method instead.

So basically, instead of changing your struts.xml file to support flexible method calling on your actions, you could simply target specific action methods my using the actionname!methodname.action format supported by DMI.

Of course, there are potential security risks with this, and Struts 2.3 adds the ability to restrict the methods that you can use DMI upon. Also, the Apache docs state clearly that wildcard method mapping is preferred over DMI.

If you have a Struts2 application that faces the internet, please consider disabling DMI, or at least providing a set of allowable DMI methods. Be aware that you have to explicitly disable by setting a constant in your struts.xml (or file. Since DMI enabled by default, your application could be at risk if you don’t manage how users access your action methods.  

For example, adding this line to your struts.xml will completely disable DMI:

<constant name="struts.enable.DynamicMethodInvocation" value="false" />

Given that our usage involved an internal application, we found that DMI helped us solve a problem quickly and cleanly, and its use in our application outweighed the potential for abuse.

Yes, Employment is Definitely Better Than the Alternative

handshakeIt took almost nine months, roughly the length of a full-term pregnancy, for me to find a new position. I’m not going to draw parallels between being born and being employed. Still, I found I was as impatient as any expectant parent to finally be done with the seemingly endless lead-up to the big event. Now that it’s over, I’m amazed at how much better I feel.

For anyone still looking, I don’t know that I can offer any words of encouragement other than the usual, trite nothings that everyone told me. It’ll get better. Something good is bound to happen. That sort of thing.

Even so, if you’re looking to make the shift from unemployed to employed, I can at least relate my own experience. It seemed like an unrelenting storm of worry and uncertainty. And at times it seemed like it might never end.

But it does.

It may not seem like it, but I think if you keep plugging away, keep sending out those resumes and taking calls, and reading the job boards, and forums, that eventually you catch a break. You eventually nail a good interview with a good employer, and they invite you to join their team.

And then you get to look back and watch that unemployed patch recede into the past, like a bad dream from which you’ve finally awoken.

Unemployment Sucks

This is my first real post on my newest blog.  I used to write on and on a few other blogs, but work became pretty demanding and I didn’t feel quite like making the time to sit in front of a computer and write in my spare time. That’s probably because I spent much of my workdays in front of the very same computers that I would blog on. You can do that when you telecommute, FYI.

All that ended last October when, after more than 15 years with the same employer, they decided that my services were no longer required, so I was “separated” from my position.  That’s the word they use now. Not fired, nor let go, nor laid off. If your position costs too much, your employer may decide that a separation is in order. One might not often see comparisons to a shaky marriage in a relationship between an employer and employee, but when that relationship ends, some of the parallels come into stark relief.

So what’s an unemployed IT geek to do? Find a new job is still number 1 on the to-do list, though I am not going to hold my breath on that score. Yesterday marked my 4 month anniversary of not working, and while it was nice for the first couple weeks, it stopped feeling like a vacation months ago. I know I’m not alone, and there are folks out there who have had it much worse than I have. I salute you all.

I found this list of reasons why unemployment sucks, and I have experienced many of them already. While I don’t want to experience all of those items, I think one thing I can do as an unemployed geek is go back to writing. It doesn’t matter if anyone reads this. This is my blog, and it’s going to be part of my strategy for coping with being unemployed.