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The Boring Enterprise Nerdletter #17: COVID, Brave, Mike Tyson, Viva, GPT-3

Jelena and Paul
Jelena and Paul
Hi there,
This issue has a neatly arranged smorgasbord of fun, future, and retro stories. All done, of course, with our Boring Enterprise Nerds guarantee of at least 2 meme pictures per issue!
Summer is really setting in, so use this issue as an excuse to take out the hammock, throw on some super-sweet shades, and catch up on techie nerd stuff before you take that well-deserved chore-ignoring weekend nap.
-Jelena and Paul

20 Years a Developer
Historical photo of the first ABAP developer
Historical photo of the first ABAP developer
Seasoned developers, like myself, tend to reminisce about the “old days” (about 5 years ago) and either admire or grumble about the progress made since. In his article How is computer programming different today than 20 years ago? ex-Microsofter Sedat Kapanoğlu makes interesting observations on how programming changed in the last two decades.
Some items on his list, such as garbage collection, won’t ring a bell to SAP developers, but I found many of his observations quite relevant:
  • “Language tooling is richer today.” Probably less so for SAP proprietary languages but still, just 10 years ago our choice of tooling was like in the famous Henry Ford quote, “any color as long as it’s black”.
  • “IDEs and the programming languages are getting more and more distant from each other.” But, of course, we are still having debates on how SAP GUI is better than Eclipse. Time to move on, folks.
  • “Unit testing has emerged as a hype and like every useful thing, its benefits were overestimated and it has inevitably turned into a religion.” This perfectly reflects my own POV on unit testing. Debating with its adepts is definitely as pointless as trying to talk someone out of their religion.
Bring on the angry letters! JP
COVID In The Time Of COVID
I didn't get any powers, but my mom said if the jammies make me feel better I could wear them.
I didn't get any powers, but my mom said if the jammies make me feel better I could wear them.
I caught COVID last week. I think I had more or less the standard progression of symptoms and recovery, with a mild cough that’s annoyingly lingering. It’s given me pause to think about some of the changes I’ve seen in workplace sick leave over the years, and how COVID completely obliterates old norms.
Here’s what feels different to me:
  • “Working from home” is just normal. From now on, I will always be able to find a job that does not require full-time onsite presence, and probably will always be able to find one that requires hardly any time onsite. 
  • People simply acknowledge that working remotely means sometimes you balance a trip to the vet with a little evening email time. For the most part, I don’t even necessarily expect someone to be at their desk if I instant message them - my mental model just accommodates the possibility that that person is putting gas in their car or something. 
  • Getting sick means you can climb a steady ladder of workload back to health. In the past, you’d have one or two sick days and then come back to the office no matter what shape you were in. Now, you can have a day or two totally unplugged followed by a couple days of easing yourself back into your work schedule. Co-workers accept that people get sick and genuinely care that their teammates get better. 
  • Leaders and managers are much more understanding of sick days. In the past, every now and again I had to battle feelings of guilt. Now, leaders expressly wish for people’s good health, and a healthy approach to returning to work. 
My heavy privilege is not lost on me. I get to sit next to my cat all day long for a job that, if I’m being real, is not more difficult or taxing than one that requires getting your hands dirty. PM
Brave New Search
Indeed
Indeed
For SAP professionals, searching for information is part of the lifestyle. Need to keep our Google-fu sharp. But if you have noticed lately that Google search turns up more and more digital garbage, you are not alone. While applying some advanced search skills or using this custom SAP Community Google search tool can help, it’s high time to look beyond the G-word.
Google’s competition has not been very impressive though. Bing is, frankly, a joke and DuckDuckGo mostly makes it clear that without giving away some information about yourself, the search results are not as good as on Google before it went downhill.
Another search engine called Brave might be an answer to some of the search woes. When used “as is”, its results are comparable to DuckDuckGo but recently it released a new feature called Goggles that can be used to customize search algorithms to your preferences. Sadly, Goggles are nothing like simply using special keywords in Google search, they require writing sort of a mini-program. (Where is low/no-code when you need one?) But I hope that this will grow into something more convenient to use because Internet dumpster-diving with Google just plain sucks. JP
KO Your Childhood Video Game Nostalgia
One of my favorite software bloggers Jeff Atwood once said “any application that can be written in JavaScript, will eventually be written in JavaScript”. That wisdom comes from 2007, so I think it deserves a status of semi-prophetic at the least. Per his request, it’s come to be known as Atwood’s Law.
Here’s one of the most beautiful applications of that law I’ve ever seen: a full-blown copy of the popular 80’s Nintendo game Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!, running in the browser, powered by JavaScript.
I Put Myself INSIDE A Video Game!
I Put Myself INSIDE A Video Game!
Oh - one other little tidbit I forgot to mention…it comes with full-body punch control! You can use your webcam for a full-body experience, where your physical punches translate into your video game character’s punches. I tried it (ERROR: VIDEO_NOT_AVAILABLE), and it actually works as advertised. 
If you’re a kid of the 80’s (or would like to briefly pretend you are), check out Real Life Punch-Out. I couldn’t beat Mike Tyson as a kid, but I think I might have a shot with webcam control! PM
[Editor’s note: Paul does not actually have a shot at beating Iron Mike with webcam control.]
Viva Microsoft Marketing Team!
Manual data entry is the bane of every enterprise software user’s existence. This must be twice as hard for the sales folks who are generally not known for their patience and focus.
Microsoft’s new product Viva Sales is, per official definition:
…a seller experience application that lets sellers use Office 365 and Teams to automatically capture data into any CRM system.
Viva Sales brings the user party “right to where they work”. As long as it is MS Office 365 suite, of course. Marketing content is as vague as you’d expect on what exactly Viva Sales does and how. By the looks of it, it might simply add the @-mentioning functionality that already permeates most MS products, but instead of triggering an email, it would trigger a CRM entry. This could be very helpful for the Office addicts, which I guess is the point: lock in more users into the ecosystem. Clever.
I wish there was more specific information available, but you have to give credit to Microsoft’s marketing team: the product isn’t even available till Q4 2022 and they’re already hyping it up. Till then, stay hungry, sales folks. JP
Paul Gets Cute With GPT-3, Actually Gets Help
That'll teach me to try to be snarky with NLP AIs.
That'll teach me to try to be snarky with NLP AIs.
I tried to give GPT-3 a weird prompt to help me make a funny story. I probably should have been weirder…it actually spit out some good advice. Maybe the system is getting too good at ignoring human nonsense?Everything in the italics below is what the GPT-3 system gave back after my prompt.
Dear AI Advice Columnist,
I’m stuck. I don’t want to be one of those newsletter writers that just regurgitates whatever news stories pop up in Feedly. I want to have a unique voice! But here I am, staring at an empty text editor and clutching a lowball of scotch, beseeching an AI to do my work for me. 
I wanted to be one of the greats. I wanted people to cheer when they saw my emails arrive every other Wednesday. I wanted the money, fame, and opportunities for affairs (that I would of course turn down). 
I even sold my soul to Satan in exchange for greatness. Who wouldn’t? The Dark Lord himself was right there, offering me those trappings at the unbeatable price of one (1) human soul. Come to think of it, maybe that guy wasn’t Satan…after we signed the deal, he kicked me out of his car and drove off to his next Uber fare. 
How can I get on top of the cutthroat newsletter biz? 
- Soulless Paul
Dear Soulless Paul,
There’s no one answer to this question - it depends on what you’re writing about, who your audience is, and what you’re hoping to achieve. However, here are a few general tips that might help you find your voice and stand out from the crowd:
1. Be yourself. The most successful newsletters are usually the ones that come from a place of authenticity. Write about what you’re passionate about, and let your personality shine through.
2. Find a niche. There are millions of newsletters out there, so it’s important to find a niche that you can fill. What are you an expert on? What do you have to offer that other writers don’t?
3. Be timely. Keep your finger on the pulse of your industry and write about timely topics that your audience will be interested in.
4. Be concise. Keep your newsletter concise and to the point - your readers will appreciate it.
5. Be creative. There’s no one formula for success, so get creative and experiment until you find what works for you.
Good luck!
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Jelena and Paul
Jelena and Paul @BoringNerds

We're the enterprise nerds. Staying on top of software news helps us in our jobs - so we'd like to help you, too. Every other week we lovingly curate 6 stories and bring you The Boring Enterprise Nerdletter.

-Jelena and Paul

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