What not to do with your newsletters

Newsletter is a powerful communication channel – it keeps your customer informed, and even more, keep then engaged . Truth is, most of your customers won’t visit your website often, and newsletter is a very good way to keep they coming back. I myself – am an example of those customers – most of my purchases were made from newsletters. A good deal shows up and I just buy it – even thought I don’t really need it. Yes it’s not the best habit in the world, but it’s the way marketing works. You get a good sale, I get a product that I might need some day. Everyone is happy, well, might be except my wife.

However, like other channels of marketing, mistakes can be made with newsletter and drive your customers away. Make sure to avoid these:

Sending too many newsletters:

Unless your customers explicitly say that they want to get your newsletter everyday, it’s best to avoid to do so. Even if your site is full of interesting content, keep in mind that if customers received too much emails from you, their interests might wear out. It’s bad when customers start getting a habit of “Oh another mail from <blah blah>, just ignore it”. It’s even worse if they don’t open your newsletter at all, or simply create a rule to delete it.

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Books every developer should read

There’s a enormous number of books out there – (even I am writing a book!), so choosing the right books to read can be a difficult task. Yet it’s important because our spare time, is very limited: we still need to eat, sleep, socialize, take care of family and kids, while we have to spend significant time to write code and solve problems. How to get the right book and not regret spending time reading it?

There are many good books – but it’s best to categorize them into smaller groups:

  • Is the book only useful for a small group of developers, on a specific topic (such as C#, Javascript or Networking), or is it useful for almost every developer?
  • Is the book beginner-level, or does it require some experience to digest?
  • Will the content be still largely relevant after ten years, or will it be obsolete in just next few years?
  • Is it a book to read from cover-to-cover in one sitting (just kidding, I mean you should finish it when you start it), or to read chunk by chunk (read a chapter, stop for a while, read another chapter), or keep it around as a reference?

I have this criteria to categorize books myself:

Good books: A book which is on-topic and with accurate information, and in an easy to read and easy to follow style, the author(s) deliver their promises.

Great books: Good books give information. Great books raise questions. A good book becomes great when it makes readers think – not only about topics mentioned in the book, but also the bigger picture.

Legendary/Classic books: Great books which stand the time and still be useful after 10 years, or even longer. These are truly gems of their own and should be read, regardless of the topics. The topics might be obsoleted, but the thoughts/ insights are still relevant. They are battle-tested and no matter which field you are working on, you’ll still learn something from it.

Books you really should read

C programming language, 2nd edition

 

C programming language, 2nd edition
C programming language, 2nd edition

Not everyone works with C (myself included), but this book is still recommended over and over for developers. The book is pretty small, and indeed very easy to read and follow – it is widely accepted as one of the best programming books ever written, in terms of writing quality – and it provides a view of what is a function, how a program works, how are things connected to hardware-level …

If you ever write a programming documentation – and you will – make this a reference for writing style.

Code Complete, 2nd edition

Best books collection: Code Complete, 2nd editition
Code Complete, 2nd editition

This book is considered must read for everyone, especially those who are new to software development, and re-read after a while. It’s a big book contains almost everything you should follow when you’re in the software industry – coding convention, naming, how to structure your classes … Get a copy and read it from cover to cover, if you haven’t, and re-read after 3-4 years to see how much you learned from it.

The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master

Best books collection: The Pragmatic Programmer
The Pragmatic Programmer

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How to be a C# developer

C# has never been considered as a cool language (fact: It was initially called COOL – C-like Object Oriented Language) – it’s a good language, very good indeed, but because of it is “created by Microsoft” and then “tied to .NET platform”, it lost the coolness to other languages – JavaScript, C, Scala, you name it.

The table has turned and the wind has changed. Microsoft has been making bold moves with all the open source projects that run multi platforms. Once known as the “evil” of software industry, Microsoft is changing their image to be good again. And with Xamarin being free – C# is the language to learn now – if you have not already. Being a very good OOP language with powerful functional programming features, and built on a mature platform and excellent tools and library, you can use C# for almost everything these days – mobile, desktop, server, and even client.

So how?

Visual Studio Community:

Visual Studio is simply one of the best IDEs out there, and while missing some of the features, Visual Studio Community is free – so it’s perfect choice if you are a student or simply learning the language. It can be downloaded from here:

https://www.visualstudio.com/en-us/products/visual-studio-community-vs.aspx

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Big and beautiful: A quick Phillips BDM3270QP review

My screen finally arrived and I’ve spent a couple of days playing with it. It is the screen I wanted, and I tried to search about it quite a lot, but the English content about it is quite limited, so I decide to write one here, in case you’re looking for some reviews before buying it.

Why BDM3270QP?

In the specs, this screen is completely a steal. 32 inches, QHD (2560×1440) resolution, AMVA 10 bit panel (so 1.07 billion of colors), stand which supports titling, pivoting etc,… And it’s only 4390 SEK here (equivalent to 534 USD, but hey, I am in Sweden, where everything is crazy expensive, remember?), which is even cheaper than many other 27″ QHD screens. I have a habit (not sure good or bad) of checking everything before buying, and this is the list I come up with:

Plus:

+ Big size. 32″ 2560×1440 is just right, considering the distance between my eyes and the screen. 27″ QHD is a bit small, while 32″ 4k is a bit too much pixels (which makes thing smaller than I’d like). And 4k non-TN panel screens are much more expensive currently.
+ AMVA. It’s not TN! It might not be as good as IPS in term of color reproduction and viewing angles, but it’s 10 bit panel (of course that requires extra parts like the connection, the machine to make it works) so it should be comparable on some level. And VA, in general, is better than IPS in terms of contrast (black level) and not-glowing.
+ Rich in port and connection. I have anything I’d like to and more: DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI, USB (2×3.0 and 2×2.0).

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Articles software developers should read, at least once

… if not twice.

These days, almost every software developer has a blog – so it’s sh*tloads of content around the Internet. Truth is, the good, accurate, long-lasting contents are hard to be found. Most contents are supposed to be obsolete very soon – and it’s OK, because many contents are for a very specific situation in a very specific time. But can we have a collection of the precious contents that are useful not only today, this week, this month, but ten years from now?

This is supposed to be a definitive collection of great contents that will be helpful for your entire career as a software developer. It’ll be updated frequently, with new link as I found it.

The Log: What every software engineer should know about real-time data’s unifying abstraction (Jay Kreps)

Logging is essential to every serious software system. But it’s not easy – getting it right can be indeed hard, especially in real-time. This article provides a deep knowledge about the concept.

http://engineering.linkedin.com/distributed-systems/log-what-every-software-engineer-should-know-about-real-time-datas-unifying

The Absolute Minimum Every Software Developer Absolutely, Positively Must Know About Unicode and Character Sets (Joel Spolsky)

It’s been 26 years since Unicode was introduced and still, not all people can get it right. This article gives you – as the tittle suggests – a minimum knowledge about Unicode, and how to not get it wrong.

http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/Unicode.html

What Every Programmer Should Know About Memory (PDF) (Ulrich Drepper)

This is a pretty low-level paper, you will learn about how memory works at hardware level. Still interesting and useful. Who knows someday you’ll have to get your hands dirty with some memory stuffs?

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Hiring process might suck, and how to fix it

I recently read this post F*** You, I Quit — Hiring Is Broken
found it interesting. If you have time – read it (and of course you should have, because this blog is far less famous than medium – the combination of page views for post in this blog is very likely to be much smaller than that single post).

I feel bad for the author for being in such situation – getting rejected 5 times in a row, is a hard thing to swallow. Especially when he is considered famous in developer’s world/ and has big passion in coding. And it’s not the first time, we hear someone rants about the hiring process, and it’s very unlikely to be the last. Let’s agree that the hiring process for developers might suck.

But then, it’s the way it works.

The first time no offer given, it’s probably their fault. The second time no offer given, it’s probably a bad luck. The third time no offer given, it’s probably your fault.

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The quirks of coupons

If you have been using the promotion system in Episerver Commerce (or should I call it “old promotion system” – the “new promotion system” is almost out of BETA and it will soon be the promotion system), you should know about the coupon – which is an option setting for a promotion. When it is set, the customers will be required to input that special code in order to get the reward, even if their carts fulfilled all other requirements (the subtotal, the lineitems, the shipping method etc.)

The coupon in old promotion system is quite basic – you can set only one per promotion, or nothing at all. Advanced scenarios like customer-specific coupons (there are multiple coupons and each of them is valid for only one customer) are not supported. (This is one of reasons why you should consider to move to new promotion system ASAP). You can use redemption limits in combination to specify how many times a coupon can be used. But in this post we will talk about the quirks of storing it.

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Upgrade your website to Commerce 9

You know what – Commerce 9 is released. OK, I’m just kidding, it was released 6 months ago, in October 2015. Last week, Commerce 9.12 was released, and at this time of writing, Commerce 9.13 is on the oven just released. So it’s not so new – but with 6 months on the field, I think Commerce 9 has proven it’s stable and production-ready to be your next version. If you are looking for an upgrade to your website, Commerce 9 is the obvious choice. Many customers have successfully upgraded their sites to Commerce 9 – and the results have been very encouraging.

But it does not mean that upgrading is easy. Commerce 9 is undoubtedly a big upgrade, and getting there is not just an easy walk. So how to ensure a successful upgrade?

Plan ahead:

The catalog subsystem was rewritten almost entirely in Commerce 9, resulting in some very big migration steps. Depends on the size of your catalog, it can take from a couple of minutes, to hours (I would not be too surprised if it takes a day). So plan for the possible down time (even though in most cases you will be upgrading your site in staging first).

Commerce 9 is also a major release, so there were breaking changes – you will have to fix some of your code, to make it compiled. The amount of code that actually broken should be small, but it’s better if you check this list http://world.episerver.com/documentation/Items/Upgrading/EPiserver-Commerce/9/breaking-changes/ to see how much works you’ll need (tips: the less you use “internal stuffs”, the code you’ll have to change. The internal stuffs are, by convention, marked with special doc tag.).

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Understand the retry policies in Episerver

This is pretty internal stuffs – you will almost never use it yourself (you technically can, but there is no guarantee of backward compatibility whatsoever). I learned the stuff recently and found it interesting enough to share.

No matter how powerful your server(s) are, and how reliable SQL Server is, there are chances that a query can result in error. Hell, there are bunches of error codes that can be returned (and I never remember one, Google made a pretty bad habit of forgetting everything). But they can be divided into two categories:

  • The un-retry-able errors, such as a grammar error in your stored procedure, or a parameter is missing, or mismatch. These errors need human-interaction to correct them before continuing.
  • The retry-able errors, which means if you re-run the query, there is a chance that it would eventually succeed. Compared to the un-retry-able errors, these are in smaller number. A deadlock can be considered as retry-able (with the hope that the deadlock conditions are no longer present, the other threads finished their works and released the locks). A timeout error can be considered as retry-able (with the hope that the server can run the query faster, this time). In the end, your query can succeed, after some tries.

You might ask, why retry? The question is, why not? Retrying the query can make it works, and as it’s transparent from end-users perspective, it might provide a smoother experience for them. Say, they are trying to place an order. Because of your highly successful campaign, there are a lot of customers trying to do the same thing at the same time, resulting in some occasionally deadlocks. You’ll be much happy to silently retry and have another order in place, than showing “Something went wrong” to the customers. Of course, the previous errors will still be logged for further analytic, but you’re good for now.

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Make Microsoft Edge works with local sites

At Episerver, we haven’t officially supported Microsoft Edge, yet. Our QA:s do not test on it. And of course no one of us uses it for development. It has a big drawback of not supporting local sites:

Edge with local site

http://Commercedev/ is a local development site on IIS, which we add to hosts file like this:

127.0.0.1  commercedev

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