Metasyntactic variable

Metasyntactic variable

A “standard list of metasyntactic variables used in syntax examples” often used in the United States is: foo, bar, baz, qux, quux, corge, grault, garply, waldo, fred, plugh, xyzzy, thud. The word foo occurs in over 330 RFCs and bar occurs in over 290. […]

Due to English being the foundation-language, or lingua franca, of most computer programming languages these variables are also commonly seen even in programs and examples of programs written for other spoken-language audiences.

A duck

While reading through insightful and funny New programming jargon post over at Coding Horror, I realized that I do a lot of duck, without even knowing it:

This started as a piece of Interplay corporate lore. It was well known that producers (a game industry position, roughly equivalent to PMs) had to make a change to everything that was done. The assumption was that subconsciously they felt that if they didn’t, they weren’t adding value.

The artist working on the queen animations for Battle Chess was aware of this tendency, and came up with an innovative solution. He did the animations for the queen the way that he felt would be best, with one addition: he gave the queen a pet duck. He animated this duck through all of the queen’s animations, had it flapping around the corners. He also took great care to make sure that it never overlapped the “actual” animation.

Eventually, it came time for the producer to review the animation set for the queen. The producer sat down and watched all of the animations. When they were done, he turned to the artist and said, “that looks great. Just one thing – get rid of the duck.”

One of the downsides of web design and development is that the results are so easy to understand for an outsider, that often people think they are qualified to participate in the discussion, even when it’s rather technical.  Suggestions, and even demands, are often made without knowing best practices or understanding the basic principles of web design, usability, color coordination, etc.  Arguing against such suggestions (and especially demands) is usually counter-productive.  The time waste is horrendous. So, “a duck” is a usually a good solution.  It comes in all shapes and forms – an ugly banner for marketing, a few typos for the language purists, ultra small font or an insufficient contrast color combination for the design-savvy, and so on.  It’s different every time and it heavily depends on who is it built to defend from.  I just didn’t know it was called ” a duck”.

Meteor vs. Meteorite vs. Meteoroid

If you are not an astronaut  or some other kind of space geek, chances are you have no idea what’s the difference between meteor, meteorite and meteoroid.  If you are anything like, you probably use meteor and meteorite interchangeably.  Apparently, there is quite a specific difference.  Here is an easy to understand description from the Mental Floss:

Say you’re a bit of interplanetary dust or debris trucking through the vacuum of space, minding your own business. You’re not very big. Certainly not big enough to be called an asteroid. In fact, you might just be a speck of dust or even smaller. Congrats! You’re a meteoroid!

But say, for example, a bright blue planet suddenly gets in your way and sucks you in, and before you know it you’re streaking through an atmosphere so fast that you ablate (fancy way to say “vaporize”) and let off a bright streak of light. You are now officially a meteor.

Now, on the other hand, if you started out big enough, then enough of you will emerge from this furnace o’ friction to hit the ground in some farmer’s field, making you a meteorite.

What is a startup?

There is a lot of talk about startups on the web.   But what exactly is a “startup”?  Different people put different meaning in the word, and sometimes it gets very confusing.  Here is one example I came across recently:

 The reason I get asked this is that I left a perfectly good start up called Preemptive Solutions to come here. When I say “perfectly good” its one that I am a co-founder, is now 10 years old, and was President (which I later became VP as I decided I wanted to live away from the HQ).

Somehow, a 10-year old company didn’t fit my understanding of “startups”.  From a quick definition check at Google I like the one from Oakridge Venture Capital best of all:

 New business venture in its earliest stage of development.

This fits my understanding perfectly.  And with this in mind, I think that most companies grow out (or die out) the “startup” stage in their first year or so.  If the company survives that period, it starts getting some routine in it (procedures, practices, paperwork, traditions, etc).  The culture of the company shapes up.  Most of the “what is good and what is not” issues are ironed out.  Etc.  And then it’s not a startup anymore.

What’s your understanding of startups?  How can you say if a company is a startup or not?