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Intern Report #5 (Crazy Train)

posted in Internships on March 18th, 2008

I realize that I have been talking about my involvement with xolo.tv for some time now, but I always forgot to really show people what it is that we do. Well, fret not, I am not going to show you, right now, but I am going to share something special with you.

All you have to do is (left) click on this link and a new window will open with the video in it.

A note of advice: the clip is roughly 17mb in size, so you might not want to do this on a mobile connection unless you really are dying get to know the team.

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Intern Report #4 (The boy’s gone)

posted in Internships on March 18th, 2008

It has been something close to four weeks now since my last intern report and while I initially planned to make this a weekly returning series, it turns out that working fulltime can do weird things to your scheduling as well as your stamina. One of those things is that, after a full day, I sometimes feel so spent that I simply cannot bring myself to write something that is actually worth posting and often just end up scrapping the whole piece.

Lucky me, xolo.tv has what could be considered an implementation of the Google Labs idea, where you get to spend 20% of your work time on personal projects; with the biggest difference being that, at xolo.tv, I actually get to choose what I want to work on, while Google limits your freedom to something that may be used to expand the company’s product portfolio.

Be that as it may, I find myself spending most of my time with treks through the intricacies of ExpressionEngine, which is finding more and more support here every day; if not only for the fact that the system, excuse the strong language here, damn flexible, that we have not yet been able to come up with a problem that cannot be tackled with it.

Apart from my techy backend work, I have also forayed into the area of frontend development and am actually starting the first phase of a huge project this week. Once phase one is completed, I will make sure to post about it here, suffice to say that the project is bigger than most of the ‘jobs I have done in the past and combines a great number of different techniques to form a solution that delivers content across a large scale of mediums, yet is able to target highly specific needs.

While, technically speaking, the project should be considered “work”, I perceive it much more as a reward given to me by the powers that be; the reward itself stemming from work I completed earlier on, where I proved that I could carry my load and come up with solutions that, most of the time, simply worked.

In fact, my direct boss was (and hopefully: still is) so happy about my work, that he decided to give me a recommendation on LinkedIn:

LinkedIn: recommendation from Marc van Woudenberg

 

On a related note: it still feels weird to think of someone as my boss. In my short time in the field, I have always been independent. Yes, I have worked with others and yes, I have had clients that required reporting, but I never had a real boss. It is an interesting setting indeed…

As if a recommendation on LinkedIn was not enough, Gabriel Bauer, our resident movie-shooting-director-turned-producer-and-what-not dedicated a whole song to me (well, me and the two other IT guys) and the guy has got talent too (beware, the clip comes in at a hefty 25mb):


GabeB's song for Kerim

 

That’s it for now, more is coming soonish

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Intern Report #3 (Who let the dogs out?)

posted in Internships on February 8th, 2008

It has been a tad more than a week now, since my last intern report and I am finally finding some time to actually post something here.

The past few days have been busy; we have been doing a whole lot of testing, evaluating and fine tuning of one of the core components , but it is safe to say that the solution we came up with is working as expected, in fact, it is working so good that we are undershooting the projected and optimized reference values by anything between 16 and 25 per cent, hoah! to that.

Besides testing, we have also moved forward with a number of web-development related projects and I managed to convince my superiors to make use of ExpressionEngine, one of the web’s most powerful CMS as far as I know.

A few weeks ago, I posted on the topic of team dynamics and how important they are for the well-functioning of a group of people that are supposed to work together and now, after three weeks of working at xolo.tv, I can safely conclude that this team has an awesome flow.

Yes, even good teams have those moments where individual members get a tad cranky, but like in every good relationship, it is way better to talk about the things that annoy you than to keep them to yourself and, finally, erupt like a volcano and most probably damaging a relationship (for good).

It is also interesting to see that humans are not unlike dogs, at least in the way they approach each other: the first few days, I had the feeling that we were mainly trying to figure out what my position would be exactly, kind of like a group of dogs sniffing each other out and deciding if the other is a threat or an ally.

So far, I have not been bitten, so I figure they do not consider me hostile and judging by the stuff I get to do, I am actually getting the feeling that they are starting to warm up to me. And … let me tell you, it feels good to be appreciated, because that makes you want to perform even better, impress the others even more.

Intern Report #2 (This is what I do)

posted in Internships on January 31st, 2008

When I first pitched the idea of me doing my internship at xolo.tv, I was offered a chance that few interns get: I could pick my own project. Now, you have to understand that my college has some guidelines as to what an intern should do, but technically speaking, everything that xolo.tv had available, fell within those guidelines and I had carte blanche.

In the past years, I have learned that having cojones is one of the main ingredients that you need if you plan on making a difference and that, dear reader, is something I want(ed) to do at xolo.tv, to make a difference.

At a highly dynamic company like this, with a high output of deliverables, finding something that actually makes a difference can be rather difficult, unless you are foolish enough to propose to deliver a solution that works faster (in terms of time), costs less (in terms of usage) and offers a more customized feature package; the fact that this solution is one of the core components of the xolo.tv platform is just additional icing on the cake.

What it is exactly that I am doing is something I cannot tell you, due to an NDA I signed, suffice to say that it is important, interesting and even innovative.

While we gear up for the release, you might want to check out a few of the pictures we took ‘around the office.

Being offered a chance to work on something like this is, simply put, freakin’ awesome and very educative at the same time and I figure that the best way to finish this report is by giving you something to think about:

Ain’t nothing like a man that can do what he wanna…

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Intern Report #1 (All the small things)

posted in Internships on January 30th, 2008

When I moved to the Netherlands a couple of years ago, my parents decided to choose the beautiful town of Oss as our hometown.

While there is nothing wrong with Oss in itself, after all, this is the city where the world’s most famous anti conceptive, the anti-baby pill, originated, Oss’ location is anything but close to the place xolo.tv is located in, Amsterdam.

What this basically means is that I get to enjoy the Dutch Public transport on a (close to) daily basis and as such, have made some interesting discoveries:

I have been commuting by train from Oss to Breda for more than two years now and have not had a single month withouth any delays, but never had more than two days with delays directly after each other … until now.

My first day at xolo.tv started with me nearly being late, not the kind of first impression you wanna make, not even if it is out of your own control and since the Dutch Railway operators love consistency, I was graced with delays of ten to fifteen minutes every day of my first week.

On my normal route, from Oss to Breda, ten minutes do not matter, because the same train I enter in Oss, is the same one that takes me straight to Breda but the situation is quite different when you are going to Amsterdam. There is at least two trains, at worst three, which means less consistency for the traveller.

And consistency is something I start(ed) to depend on: interning in Amsterdam is great, travelling close to four hours every day - not so much, because when you have to change trains all the time, your sleeping pattern gets all mixed up and my body, for one reason or another, is very unappreciative of that.

On a more interesting note, however: since I am interning in Amsterdam, I am actually getting more sleep than I did before, due to the fact that I simply cannot stay up too late anymore and also thanks to the downtime I have in trains, downtime that is used to sleep and just let my mind relax.

Back on topic, however, public transport. When you travel a lot, you get to meet a number of interesting or funny people and you experience a whole range of peculiar situations.

Commuting during rush-hour means that trains are crowded and everyone is longing for a place to sit; me on the other hand, I do not mind standing for one part of the journey, after all - sitting is what I do at the office (when we are not playing with the frisbees that is).

So the other day, while I was standing near one of the exits, I noticed another male who was fascinated by the amount of people that had to use the John (his words). He had been traveling with the same train for about half an hour at that point and completed another part of his journey (an additional 45 minutes) with me.

The guy literally made a listing of people using the toilet and his total count, after an hour and fifteen minutes, came down to 26 people. His conclusion was that some chef somewhere the day before had probably screwed up royally and that, in turn, prompted that much bowel movement.

I know that, sometimes, we should just stop to admire the little things in life, the things money cannot buy, I am just wondering if the things this guy was fascinated with are those small things (no pun intended)…

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