Writing tip: Just say what you mean

Somewhere around the year 2006, my writing style was influenced by the CIO of a company I was working with. When trying to get a new project started, a project manager gave me a very vague description of what he wanted, and as a result, the cost estimate and Statement of Work I wrote (so I would get paid) was vague as well.

The CIO called me to her office, and then told me that I didn’t have to write anything fancy, I just had to “say what I mean.” Since then, that simple approach has been a key to my writing style.

An Akka actors ‘remote’ example

While doing some crazy things with SARAH, I realized that the best way to solve a particular problem was to use remote Akka actors. I haven’t had the opportunity to work with Akka much since finishing the Scala Cookbook, so I dug around trying to find a simple Akka remote “Hello, world” example. Unable to find a good one, I read some stuff, and created it myself.

Homage to an old, simple user interface

I’m currently working on getting two new books printed, and as I was working with the Create Space UI today, it occurred to me that I like their UI. It’s a simple, Web 1.0 UI, but everything is fairly simple, obvious, and easy to understand. The simple overlap of the rectangles shows that there is an order/flow to the way things need to be done, and they also show the status of each task. I even like that they have an “Icon Legend” on the screen. As a part-time designer and minimalist I’d like to get rid of the underlines under the hyperlinks, but in general I don’t have any huge problems with their UI.

(By contrast, if you’ve tried to use Yahoo’s webmail product during the last few months, you can see a horrible Web 2.0 UI. The designers/engineers try to do too many things, none of them well.)

Simplify, simplify, simplify (programming Scala methods)

I saw a Scala method recently that was written like this:

def abs (i: Int): Int = {
    if (i < 0) -i
    else i

There’s nothing wrong with this method, especially if you’re new to Scala. The method does one thing, and it’s very readable. However, it’s important to know that you can do a number of things to simplify the method.

The return type isn’t needed

First, in cases like this where the return type is obvious, you can remove it:

The benefits of a SEP plan

One of the best things about working for a small company is this thing called a SEP plan. In short, an employer that offers a SEP plan can contribute up to 25% of an employee's salary into a qualified retirement account.

Putting that into numbers, let's say I draw a salary of $100,000. With a SEP plan, my company can contribute an additional 25% of that amount ($25,000) into a qualified retirement account in my name. Unlike 401K plans I'm also immediately 100% vested.