Welcome to my online portfolio, the complement/substitute for my resume. The opinions included herein are my own and do not reflect those of any client or employer, past or present. Please check out the new site: http://danieljohnsonjr.com

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Competitive intelligence and internet visibility

You might call it competitive intelligence.

Yesterday the COO of the company asked me to search the internet far and wide for any information about a certain company. I spent about two hours searching across as many search engines as I could find, and had a friend with a paid subscription to ZoomInfo do a search for me. I also searched the Thomas Register, Jigsaw.com, the Yellow Pages, Reuters, US Newswire, and in social networking sites like LinkedIn, MySpace, Flickr, Digg and the like.

I found a link on the NewPR Wiki about What Companies Should Monitor and used that as a resource for places to search.

While I was somewhat fruitful, I found I really enjoyed the opportunity to play detective for a little while. The company could have instructed me to sign up for some paid services, but they were looking for some quick information.

It also taught me a lesson about making oneself visible. This company has apparently done a fantastic job of making itself invisible. Contrast that to a Google search done on "Daniel Johnson, Jr." Aside from a Canadian politician of the same name, most of the top results are related to me, which excites me a lot.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Music, branding, and new media

In the world of new media, C.C. Chapman is a bellwether for me. I have listened to his Accident Hash music podcast for about one year, and for the past six months, I have caught up with Managing the Gray.

As a podcaster and new media enthusiast myself, I've been drawn into the discussion. Most recently it was about how brands are using familiar music to market themselves. Applebee's comes readily to mind with their versions of "It Takes Two" spots, but there are many, many more.

I, like C.C., am torn as a music zealot between seeing a familiar song's lyrics being twisted to sell a brand, and seeing how the actual irritation of it helps me remember the message. I would like to see more original TV theme songs and original jingles on commercials, and I know I'm not alone.

Read more and join the conversation at Managing the Gray.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Welcome JibberJobber blog readers!

This week I was following a discussion called "The Resume Experiment" at the JibberJobber blog. I sent a comment in, and Jason mentioned me on the last article of the series. So, welcome any readers that have found out about me from that article.

This blog is mainly an online portfolio of application development projects I've worked on. The discussion gets rather technical at times. In addition to these projects, I'm an avid blogger and podcaster, a new media enthusiast, and somewhat of a 21st-century Renaissance Man.

Please check out the items in the sidebar, and feel free to contact me at danieljohnsonjr at gmail dot com.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Handling errors in the payroll bridge application

Clients email the company their payroll files, and the columns on the payroll indicate Regular Hours, Overtime, Vacation, and so forth. To make the bridge application work, I and the other developer map the program that assigns payroll items based on this layout. It only works, however, when the layout is consistent. Whenever a client changes it by adding or deleting a column, the program generates an error.

One thing I have found so helpful in resolving errors is the Error Handler function. I use the Err object in Visual Basic, but I also add additional information such as the module name and procedure name where the error occurred. The user gets a message box, which is helpful for them, but I also wrote the program to create a log file with the same information so that I can go back and see errors that have occurred.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Rapid response to payroll layout change

One hour ago I got an e-mail from a payroll specialist, telling me that a client with 107 active employees had added a column to their payroll file and asking if I could fix their bridge application to allow for the new payroll item.

I opened the code, and after I made the changes needed in a few class modules, we were good to go. I tested it out on my machine and then put it out on the network for the payroll specialist to use.

I was able to get this done so quickly because there were only a few places to add some more code. Having the system set up like this was very efficient.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Expanding the 401(k) reporting tool

As the company grows, the need to be able to report on client's using the 401(k) plan does as well. We are adding clients to additional databases, and that has meant that the 401(k) reporting tool needed to be updated so that the user can identify which clients are participating in the company plan.

Using Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio, I created the additional tables: one for each additional database. Then I added ODBC links to these tables in the 401(k) reporting tool, the desktop application created using Microsoft Access 2003. I have to remind myself that, for each computer using this tool, I have to create the ODBC connection to each database and table. Then I updated the VBA code so that it can recognize and use the new tables as it compiles the information for the reports.

After testing out the changes, everything appeared to be working fine. I contacted the user and updated her version of the tool, refreshing the ODBC links where needed.

The company is now more ready to begin managing the 401(k) program for new clients.

Helping 145 employees get paid

Not my normal function, but the payroll specialist was in a pinch, so she called and asked me to run the program that loads transactions into the business system, helping 145 client employees get paid on time.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Learning .NET

I'm a little jazzed to say that I'm finally starting to learn .NET, since that's what recruiters tell me all the cool kids know. I'm going to focus on VB.NET, since that's the most easily transferable skill from what I already know.

It looks like I'm not alone: LinkedIn: Answers: What Microsoft Visual Basic and SQL Query Language Resources would you recommend?

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

When the feature became a problem

When I was initially developing the bridge application a couple years ago, I had set up the Close button on several forms to be the Cancel button. That way a user can just hit the Esc button to close the form, if they prefer to use the keyboard.

As the applications for various clients have been used, this feature had become more of a bane than a benefit. It turns out that users hit the Esc key to Undo what they have typed, but the application would close the file. This results in some records being incomplete, causing errors when the application is processing.

While you can try to anticipate the user's experience as much as possible beforehand, some bugs still show up.

No big deal. I just removed that functionality from every bridge application we have in use so that program behaves in a way that users expect it to behave.