Time to blow off some dust, toot my own horn, and hit the books

by Jon Davis 14. October 2019 23:59

Woah, Nelly!

Jon Davis's blog is back up! Last post was .. more than three years ago! Daaaang! How ya'll been?! Missed ya'll! Miss me?

I'm just posting a quick update here to let ya'll know that the gears in my tech world have started turning again, and to update ya'll on what's going on.

You may or may not have noticed that my root web site http://jondavis.net/ went through a couple phases and got stuck with that dorky "please wait" console-ish page. I was supposed to have replaced it by *cough* .. 2016. It's now approaching the year 2020. What happened? Well what happened was I got a few kicks in the pants. Got myself into some really humbling situations, not the fun kind. Perhaps you might say I got phased out. But I never left, so now I'm in high gear phasing back in.  I might try to explain ...

A few blog entries ago (this goes back to 2014) I wrote about how I needed to reset things, and how I needed to mull over what was going on at work. So here's a recap on my career path lately up till my previous job:

 

  1. In 2012 I was hired at Neudesic, a prominent consultancy firm. I dreamed of surrounding myself with smart people I could glean from. It turned out that things were pretty erratic at Neudesic. My first project assignment the client was Microsoft themselves. Prior to my joining they had just canned a project to build a big, beautiful Windows 8 themed web site where developers and other staff would post all-important articles and index them with Lucene.NET. Architecturally it was a disaster, and they canned the Microsoft executive at the same time they canned the project. So my joining the team, they were trying to salvage that project. I worked with them to try to dig into the code, get it up and running, figure out the performance issues, etc., and at some point I flew out to Redmond, Washington to discuss with the local Neudesic managers who were interfacing with Microsoft in person. Then I opened my mouth. I said, "Ya'll are really just makin' a blog. Why not add blog-ish things? Why reimplement Sharepoint?" Suddenly we were all fired. So then they shipped me off to Pulte Homes, where I did some work there, but the architect for that project and I didn't seem to know what we were doing on the user authorization detail and I proved blunt enough that they "couldn't afford" to keep me on after a couple months. So then they shipped me off to California to work with Ward & Brown on the Obamacare / ACA implementation there, again late to the party and annoyingly insistent to "help". But when QA and I asked around where the production/staging servers were, and they realized they apparently missed that part, they canned all their contractors. All 250 of us. So there I was stuck in the Neudesic-Phoenix office waiting for them to call me in. And they did. They laid me off. Like the child-man that I was, I accidentally let them catch me choking. They did say they might be able to take me back in a few months, though, so ...
  2. For the next few months I did some contract work for a local entrepeneur. I waited that out for a while and ultimately I wanted to go back to Neudesic, so ...
  3. In mid-year 2013 I asked Neudesic to take me back in. They did. They brought me back with open arms. It was more awkward for the lot of them than I or anyone anticipated. I'd made myself a reputation for being unrefined up to that point, I'm pretty sure. But anyway, when I arrived (a second time) I noticed that more people, including my former manager, were no longer there. They were laid off too. And I shipped back to Pulte Homes, on another, bigger project. I was up front with them, though, about what specific tools I was unacquainted with, specifically Bootstrap and the like, at the time. They shrugged that off, brought me in anyway. That project was led by--ima be frank here--a really, REALLY bitchy, control freakish, PMS-y woman. I tried to overlook it at the time. I tried to pretend it wasn't so at the time. I'm thinking back half a decade now, and I'm saying it like how I witnessed it. She was horrible. If I ever get in a situation like that again I'll run for the hills. That was awful. She was awful. But anyway, at the time, overlooking that (which I deliberately did), since the lead personality who'd previously been on that project but was laid off was now gone, and I wasn't getting much in the way of introduction, I deliberately, if bombastically, made a ton of assertions and at the same time asked a lot of really stupid, ignorant questions, which ticked off everyone on the team. So they canned me from the team. So that was fun. But what really did me in was I overheard the Neudesic chief developer director guy tell my boss that I "shouldn't be writing software". They assigned me some out-of-state ops role. I should have quit then and there; sure, I screwed up, but I'm a developer, not an ops guy. I didn't last long, and I ultimately did resign.
  4. So now in 2014 I got a very odd and delightfully educational gig with DeMark Analytics. So first of all, Tom DeMark, the owner, is a wealthy financial technician (a term I never knew before) who did what I imagined doing some years back--he studied financial charts and came up with artificially intelligent algorithms that predicted changes in the market. He's one among many people who come up with this stuff, but even so, that's what he did. So now they were building a product for people who could use these financial chart studies--a charting app, basically, with studies being overlaid over the chart. This entailed financial event data being siphoned in to both the back-end engine as well as to the client (the web browser). This is high tech stuff, and the pattern in use was CQRS-ES, which I'd never heard of much less mastered. So here's where it all broke down: 1) We all sat in close proximity to each other. No privacy. All conversations fully exposed. 2) I was hired as a lead, but I was wrong a couple times when I was adament, it was observed by the teammates, and so my authoritative experience as a lead developer was never trusted again. 3) Everyone in the company but maybe four of us was either family to Tom DeMark or close friends of Tom DeMark. It was a nepositic environment. I worked under one of Tom's sons (he was CEO/President), and another of Tom's sons worked under me--well, alongside me, since me being lead didn't work out. He was a bit spoiled. Quick on the Javascript, though, I couldn't keep up with his code, which was charting graphics. Like, at all. So I stopped trying. 4) My pay was adequate (best I can say about it) but my paycheck was cut monthly. Weird, bizarre, and painful. But it was worth it, I was investing in this, I figured. 5) My direct boss was a super high IQ ass. I asked technical questions about the middle/back end from him, like about how Cassandra was to be used, and instead of answering, he'd call everyone over--the CSS front-end developers, everyone. Then ask me to ask my question again. All to I guess humble me? .. Show me that this was "duh" knowledge that everyone would know and understand? So where this went critical was 6) I again used rhetoric. Crap, man. This pretty much got me fired. I used rhetoric! What I mean is, I insinuated, in so many words, that "your explanation sounds vague, and if I didn't know any better I'd say it almost sounds like you said [something obviously stupid]". Except I didn't say it like that, I actually, literally said, ".. you mean [something obviously stupid]?" I really, truly, genuinely trusted that he understood that I was being rhetorical, but this was the second time I made that mistake--I made the same mistake at Neudesic, "I can't read that [Javascript code]", I could, but I was getting at I shouldn't have to stop and read it--and with these guys it was sabotage. A few minutes later after we returned to our desks he threw his hands up and announced he was switching to Java/Scala. "Sorry Jon." Sorry, Jon? So yeah he was basically saying "you're fired, please quit." It took a couple more months, but I eventually did.
  5. So then I work at another consultancy firm. Solution Stream. Utah-based. They seemed to be trying to spread out into Phoenix. "I can do this," I thought. I learned at Best Software (Sage Software) when I moved to Arizona how consultants--consultants, not contractors--work, and bring prestige to the process of coming up with technical solutions and strategies, documenting them, and working them with the clients. But Solution Stream was really primarily just interested in creating contractors, apparently, but regardless, they didn't appreciate what I brought to the table, they undersold my capabilities, the executives decided they didn't like me, and they literally pulled me off a project that the client and my direct boss said I was doing great with and signed me over to Banner Health as a temp-to-hire (fire). I had no interest in being hired as a permanent Banner Health employee. When my temp-to-hire contract ended (the "temp-" part), everything ended. I swore off all consulting firms at that point. No more consulting firms. Never again.
  6. So then I got picked up at InEight. Bought out by major construction company Kiewit, InEight was building a cloud version of their Hard Dollar desktop app which manages large scale construction logistics (vendors, materials, supplies, etc). They had some workable plans and ideas. But things broke down real fast. Everyone who interviewed me quit within the year I joined, and it wasn't hard to see why. 1) They had non-technical people at the helm (senior leadership) making some very expensive and frustrating platform and architecture decisions. High performance software with minimal performance hosting, nothing worked, because they didn't want to spend the money for scaling the web tier. 2) The work was outsourced. Most of it was outsourced to India. Eventually they shipped some of it onshore to another midwestern state. But even onshore, most of their staff were H1-B visa holders. Foreigners. Nearly everyone I was working with was from India. Even after so many people quit, I stuck around as long as I could. But eventually I couldn't stand things anymore, my career path had become stagnant, and I knew I couldn't work with the senior executives (no one could, except people from India I guess). I was about to give two weeks notice, when those senior execs pulled me into a room and chewed me out for being "disrespectful". I was done. Never saw them or anyone over there again. (Actually, that's not entirely true; I have maintained strong friendship with at least one colleague from there. He got laid off a few months after I left. We're friends; we literally just met up this week.)
  7. For the last year and a half I've been working ... somewhere. For now. I came in as a lead developer, but they, too, openly declared me "disrespectful", so I've given up and just been a highly productive, proficient, heads-down programmer. This place, too, is mostly H1-B visa holders from India. I'm surrounded by foreigners. Scarcely a black, white, or Mexican face. It's depressing. I have less and less each year against Indians but my God, let me work with people of my own culture if I'm here in USA, just a few like-minded, like-raised friends, just a few? And now my team is getting dismantled, due to a third party taking over what we're doing. So I'm about to get laid off. If I'm not laid off, though, well, ... 1) as a contractor, I don't get paid holidays, I don't get paid vacations, and that was painful enough, but unexpectedly after my hire it turns out there is a mandatory two weeks unpaid leave during Christmas & New Year's, and that's unacceptable ($thousands of $dollars lost, not to mention depressing since I spend holidays alone, so yes, it's unacceptable). 2) I have been super comfortable, and super complacent, with little to gain in technical growth. It's been ASP.NET MVC with SQL Server and jQuery. And some .NET Core 2.2 and Razor Pages. Woo wee. *sigh* So yeah, I'm open to change, regardless of whether I get laid off.
There's my life story for the last seven years. Stupid, depressing, awful, I've been awful, I've let myself screw myself over time and time again. So here is my new strategy.

 
I have no one to blame, even where I've whined and complained, I have no one to blame for my life's frustrations but myself. It's part of the maturing process. I've embraced my learnings and I will carry on. I will try to let go of the past, but I only repeat and document them here because I have learned from them, and perhaps you can, too. What do I want in my career path? I miss the days when I was an innovator.

You guys remember AJAX? Yeah? I dreamed up AJAX in 1998 when IE4 came out. I called it "TelnetGUI". Stupid name. Other people came up with the same idea a few years later and earned the credit.

You guys remember Windows Live Writer? Yeah? ... Total rip-off of my PowerBlog app, down to detail. You could say I prototyped Windows Live Writer before Microsoft started working on Windows Live Writer. Microsoft even interviewed me after I built PowerBlog, because of PowerBlog and its Microsoft-minded inspirations of component integration. Jerk interviewer was like, "Wait, you mean you don't know C++?! Oh good grief, I thought you were a real programmer." Screw you, Microsoft interviewer. LOL. Anyway, Windows Live Writer came out a couple years later. Took all of PowerBlog's fundamental ideas, even down to the gleaning the CSS theme and injecting the theme into the editor.
 
You guys remember PowerShell? Yeah? I prototyped the idea in or around 2004. I took the ActiveScript COM object, put it in a C++ console container, spoonfed some commands where you could new-up some objects and work with them in a command-line shell, suggested that the sky's the limit if you integrate full-blown .NET CLR and shell commands in this, and showed it to the world on Microsoft's newsgroups. Microsoft was watching; I planted a seed. A year or so later, PowerShell ("Monad") was previewed to the world. I didn't do the dirty work of development of it, but I seeded an idea.
 
You guys remember jQuery UI? Yeah? I cobbled together a windowing plugin for jQuery a year or two before jQuery UI was released. It was called jqDialogForms. Pretty nifty, I thought, but heck, I never got to use it in production.  
 
In fact there's a lot of crap in my attic I recently dug out and up over at https://github.com/stimpy77/ancient-legacy (It really is crap. Nothing much to see.)
 
And, oh yeah, you guys remember Entity Framework, Magical Unicorn Edition? I, too, had been inspired by Fluent NHibernate, and I, too, was working on an ORM library I called Gemli [src]. Sadly, I ended up with a recursion nightmare I myself stopped being able to read, development slowed to a halt, and then suddenly Microsoft announced that EF Magical Unicorn Edition, and I observed that it did everything I was trying to do in Gemli plus 99x more. So that was a waste of time. Even so, that was mini-ORM-of-my-own-making #2 or #3. 
 
All of these micro-innovations and others are years old, created during times of passion and egotistical self-perception of brilliance. What happened?! I think we can all see what happened. My ego kept bulldozing my career. My social ineptitude vanquished my opportunities. And I got really, really lazy on the tech side.
 
My blog grew stagnant because, frankly, career errors aside, my bold and lengthy philisophical assertions in my blog articles were pretty wrong. Philosophies like, "design top down, implement bottom up". Says who? Why? I dunno. Seemed like an interesting case to make at the time. But then people at meetups said they knew my name, read my blog, quoted my article, and I curled up and squealed and said "oh gawd I had no idea what I was writing". (Actually I just nodded my head with a smile and blushed.) 
 
For the last few weeks I have spent, including study time, more than 70 hours a week, working. Working on hard skills growth. Working on side project development--brainstorming, planning. Working on fixing patchy things, like getting this blog up, so I can get into writing again. It's overdue for a replacement, but frankly I might just switch over to http://dev.to/ like all the young cool kids. 
 
Tech Things I Am Paying Attention To 
 
.NET Core 3 is where it's at, .NET 5 is going to be The Great .NET Redux's great arrival. However, the JVM has had a huge comeback over the last half-decade, and NodeJS and npm like squirrelly cats have been sticking their noses in everything. Big client-side Javascript libraries from a year or two ago (Facebook's React, Google's Angular, China's Vue) are now server-side for some dumb reason. Most importantly, software is becoming event-driven. IaaS is gone. PaaS is passe. Kubernetes is now standard, apparently. Microsoft's MSMQ is so 1990s, RabbitMQ so 00's, LinkedIn's Kafka is apparently where it's at, and now Yahoo!'s Pulsar is gaining noteriety for being even more performant. 
 
My day job being standard transactional web dev with ASP.NET/jQuery/SQL has made me bewilderingly ansy. If I want to continue to be competitive in complex software architecture and software development I've got to really go knee deep--no, neck deep--in React/Angular/Vue on the front-end, MongoDB, Hadoop, etc on data, Docker/Kubernetes on the platform, Kafka on the data transfer, CQRS+ES on the transaction cycles, DDD as the foundation to argue for it all, and books to explain it all. I need to go to college, and if I don't have time or money for that I need to be studying and reading and challenging myself at all hours I am free until I am confident as a resource for any of these roles.
 
Enough of the crap reputation of being a wannabe. Let's be. 

 

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YouTube Is No Longer For Leeroy Jenkins

by Jon Davis 28. August 2011 19:22
I am still very happy to keep my focus on web development by day as part of my day job, but for the last several months I have been getting personally acquainted with the World Wide Web's second or third most viewed web site. Not Facebook, not Google, we all know about those. These are fast getting supplanted by a web site and social network that is antiquating those two sites.

Two months ago, more than 30 hours of video content were being uploaded to YouTube every minute. Today, this number has grown to approximately 50 hours of video content per minute, and climbing. This is clearly the year of YouTube.

I am referring of course to YouTube.

The last year or so has seen a jaw-dropping surge of growth of activity on YouTube--not just in my own free time but with statistically everyone's Internet use on the whole. What was once known mainly for tired memes like the dancing baby of 1996, the fake vlogs of lonelygirl15, and the laughably bizarre martial arts moves of Star Wars fans, YouTube has recently become revolutionized by the broad availability of camera-enabled smartphones, iPads, and HD-video-ready cameras. 

Two months ago, more than 30 hours of video content were being uploaded to YouTube every minute. Today, invigorated by the proliferation of high quality video support in smartphones, cameras, and iPads, this number has grown to approximately 50 hours of video content per minute, and climbing. This is clearly the year of YouTube. Even I myself have begun dinking around with producing YouTube content, partly out of a huge curiosity I've had since I was a child in videography, photography, video editing, and video effects, and partly out of interest in the social, interactive network that YouTube is. I have also been attempting to use the video camera as a new sort of mirror, to reexamine my personal self and my life at home. The whole process has been surprisingly revealing and transformative. To boldly hold up a video camera, point it at oneself in one's own home, and say, "This is me, my life, how I live," regardless of whether one makes such content public, it is a life-changing experience to examine oneself through "another pair of eyes", so to speak. And this is especially true of me living alone, without a family (so far), with no one giving me direct feedback on a daily basis on how I think and live. On the other hand, were I married, I think we would have a blast as a family sharing real collaborative content with other vloggers rather than me going it alone.

But as far as the social network of YouTube goes, for me, YouTube has replaced both television and PC/Xbox gaming as the entertainment venue of choice. I no longer watch TV, except to watch the news and Conan O'Brien. MMORPGs have no charm anymore; LOTRO (and for that matter World of Warcraft) once enticed me with its dazzling graphics and fun gameplay, but the key ingredient in MMORPGs is the idea of doing fun stuff with other human beings around the world in a surreal way. YouTube is like an MMORPG, in a sense, too, but it is that MMORPG known as "real life", and I am entranced by the magic of watching my "friends"--that is, my favorite YouTube vloggers--crack jokes at each other, make music together, discover natural beauty of the Earth together, enjoy adorable pets together, travel the world together, or just slow down and be artistic.

Don't call it narcissism. When you have a video camera in your hands and flip the "REC" switch, anything and everything becomes a resource of creative content generation, and it's perfectly logical to take advantage of the most pliable, animate and controllable piece of material at one's disposal: oneself. On the other hand, should one be so lucky as to have other individuals, or surroundings, or other animate subject matters one can forget himself and focus on that instead.

For me, YouTube participation has replaced both television and PC/Xbox gaming as the entertainment venue of choice.

I credit the bulk of my fascination to the perfect blending of high definition video cameras, the HD video hosting that YouTube is, and high bandwidth from Internet service providers. High definition video has become the new "nice graphics" of last decade's graphics cards and gameplay; where I used to enjoy PC games like Unreal Tournament and Guild Wars because the graphics were so rich in detail, now I can watch a fresh high definition video displayed in 1080p produced by a fellow YouTube vlogger, and the video content is so realistic it is actually real. ;)  It's still only being rendered on my computer monitor, but you can even watch YouTube videos with 3D glasses, and produce video content for it relatively cheaply.

Vlogging (short for "video blogging") is taking over [written-form] blogging, and this is becoming more real by the hour. In fact, what programming I have been doing at home has involved abandoning (temporarily) the blogging software I was writing about just a couple months ago in order to work on some new desktop vlogging software I may or may not sell someday, if only for the occasional paid-for Starbucks coffee. It takes advantage of the YouTube publishing API and alleviates the problem I saw and experienced with YouTube's video upload page balking frequently on my erratic Wi-Fi connection. 

For those following for business-related interests, vlogging's growing popularity presents both an opportunity and a problem to Internet monetization. YouTube has a closed but ever-present monetization model. Owned by Google, it is Google. If you want to make money on YouTube, you need to produce compelling content on YouTube, associate your YouTube account with a Google AdSense account, and get people to watch your content. AdWords ads will then be displayed directly over and alongside the videos that are played by the viewing user. This is the traditional revenue model, and it has been succeeding even for amateur vloggers who have turned into professionals rather quickly. Cory Williams' "Mean Kitty" music video turned him into a star; in fact, it was disclosed on Tyra Banks' talk show a couple years ago that he was (at least at that time) raking in some $20,000 per month after that silly homemade video was produced. (He didn't want that disclosed, but it's very interesting to know.)

Understand clearly, I have no intentions of dropping my career in software & web development, you need to be physically attractive to make it in the vlogging world if you are not exceptionally talented in your creativity, and I am neither, though I have a few creative talents I exploit. Cory Williams is both. But that does not keep me from finding amazing opportunities in YouTube as both an entertainment and social venue. This becomes a real-life fascination when events like VidCon prove to be so much fun. At other entertainment-based social gatherings such as BlizzCon and ComicCon, you are surrounded by strangers who are either out-of-character or in full costume and looking silly. Whereas, at VidCon and the like, you are meeting and discovering the same people that you saw and "befriended" online with the exchange of video content, in their real and same form.

Businesses seeking to exploit the opportunities of the YouTube community require as much creativity as the YouTubers' creativity, to the extent of the opportunities available. There has never been a more interesting time to engage in guerilla marketing. The most jaw-dropping, amazing marketing campaign I have ever seen on the web occurred this year with Wrigley's 5 gum. Between amazing event stunts which were captured on video, highly unusual "seeding" tactics (that link is to my own video with my own ugly face! .. be warned!), and an astounding set of Hollywood-esque sci-fi-oriented interactive web sites, they literally freaked people out and convinced people that the world was going to come to an end or there was mind control going on, and they shocked everyone who was paying attention. To be honest, I think they took it too far. People became angry it was all about mere chewing gum. On the other hand, it was probably cheaper yet more effective for them to engage in guerilla marketing than to just dump a big, boring advertisement on traditional television.

Honestly, I think there can be simpler exploits. Target, for example, has really blown me away with their YouTube channel where they pay more for the content production and less for the distribution (YouTube is free!), although some of their YouTube ads have made it on the traditional television, too, I've noticed. It could also significantly benefit a business or organization to participate in, sponsor, or host an event that collaborates with YouTube "players". For example, Maxis promoted Darkspore by inviting YouTube vlogger KatersOneSeven to visit their office for a promotional round of vlogging about the game's release. More recently, a "YouStars" event might as well have been sponsored by Poland's department of tourism because a recent round of vlogs from various vloggers by way of a hosted event there have really put Poland on the map this month.

I must also make mention of video generator web sites, such as Animoto and Xtranormal. These are interesting examples of third party creative efforts to work with the opportunities of online video content production, by assisting end users with no video cameras or know-how with tools to give them an outlet for creativity. While initial tinkerings can be had for free, everything worthwhile comes at a price, and that means monetization from good tool makers. Obviously, credit goes also to the fine consumer-level desktop software applications such as iMoviePinnacle StudioSony moviEZ, and Sony Vegas. Such applications, especially iMovie, sometimes bundle a number of creative "movie-production-in-a-can" prefabbed generators, as well as transitions, text effects, and video and audio effects.

One does not have to be a video producer or AdWords marketer to be able to exploit YouTube, and it's time to start getting creative about all this.

The problem of YouTube, which I suppose is also an opportunity, is the fact that YouTube is still a video uploading and viewing web site with social features, and not a complete social network. You cannot even publish a video just to your friends list, for example, which I personally find very frustrating as I had a lot of content I ended up deleting because it wasn't appropriate for public viewing but I didn't want it "private", either. This seems to open the door to alternative web development. I have been pondering the viability of someone producing an external YouTube-like site that exploits the YouTube API and perhaps even looks and feels like YouTube, but is clearly not YouTube, and offers additional features YouTube doesn't offer, such as sharing "Unlisted" videos with people on one's Friends list. There seems to be the absence of significant external web application exploits of the YouTube APIs with compelling statistical followings. I am still yet unsure as to whether this is because somehow people are unwilling to get involved with external web sites as YouTubers, or if this is because there have just been too few attempts made to make it all work. I suspect the latter. YouTube has been integrating at the embeded video level quite successfully for several years, but to actually search for videos and browse videos and enjoy a YouTube channel on such a web site as if actually on YouTube is something I just have not seen yet, or have not seen done cleanly and in a trustworthy manner. I was hoping to see something like a re-made channel concept on Tumblr, but firing Tumblr up and poking at it for a day or two I discovered it is nowhere near supportive of such a thing.

You also cannot produce any content for YouTube besides video, video organizing, video descriptions, and commenting. Whereas, Facebook and other social networks provide opportunities for individuals and companies to produce any form of content by way of a plug-in architecture, a la "Facebook applications". This is another area where an external web site that takes advantage of YouTube's API for its content and membership features could greatly enhance the whole experience, if only it could be implemented well and gain sufficient popularity.

I'd like to see where this goes. Seriously. One does not have to be a video producer or AdWords marketer to be able to exploit YouTube, and it's time to start getting creative about all this. What are your thoughts?


 

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About the author

Jon Davis (aka "stimpy77") has been a programmer, developer, and consultant for web and Windows software solutions professionally since 1997, with experience ranging from OS and hardware support to DHTML programming to IIS/ASP web apps to Java network programming to Visual Basic applications to C# desktop apps.
 
Software in all forms is also his sole hobby, whether playing PC games or tinkering with programming them. "I was playing Defender on the Commodore 64," he reminisces, "when I decided at the age of 12 or so that I want to be a computer programmer when I grow up."

Jon was previously employed as a senior .NET developer at a very well-known Internet services company whom you're more likely than not to have directly done business with. However, this blog and all of jondavis.net have no affiliation with, and are not representative of, his former employer in any way.

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