Category Archives: Introspective

Where is Bob?

You know you’ve reached a strange point in your life when you find yourself reminiscing about stuff you saw on Reddit almost a decade ago. However, sometimes something you read or see online just sticks with you. It resonates. Whether it makes you think, feel, or laugh, it leaves an impression. The “Where is Bob?” blog, which appeared on Reddit back in 2008, was such a thing for me.

Penned by a wickedly funny IT worker, the Where is Bob blog hosted a set of possibly non-fiction stories about a work place run by an obnoxious and often absentee manager named Bob. The submission garnered the praise of the Reddit community and earned just shy of 1,000 upvotes. That may seem like a pittance today, but at the time it was enough to get to the top of /r/funny and enough to get onto Reddit’s front page. It was also enough to capture the interest of a literary agent. I remember this last part because sometime after the subscribing to the blog, all of its posts disappeared and rumors swirled of a book that was to come out.

After what felt like an eternity (~17 months), “Where is Bob?” by Irina P. was self published online. Viral sensations have a very short half life, so it wasn’t surprising that the post announcing this publication netted only 10 upvotes. I was able to catch the announcement, and even though it had good reviews, I was too cheap to shell out the $10 or $15 the author was asking for it. I figured my stack of unread books was already high enough.

In the years since “Where is Bob?” was released, my pile has only grown larger, yet one day around 2 years ago I found myself in need of a laugh and thought about the old “Where is Bob?” stories. I decided to look the book up, and to my dismay, found that it and its corresponding blog were gone from the Internet.

I spent several evenings trying to track down the book: Maybe someone had uploaded a PDF, maybe it was still for sale, maybe someone had archived some of the public blog entries… but it was to no avail.

I’m never one to easily back down from a challenge though, so using some clues I found in various corners of the net, I deduced the author’s current contact information and sent her a message. I told her I that I had really enjoyed her stories and I offered, if possible, buy the book directly from her. In response she sent me this message:

Hi Pat,

Yes, indeed, it was I who wrote “Where is Bob.” How cool that you found me, despite my best efforts to stay hidden! “Where is Bob” was a really fun way to express my frustration with certain aspects of IT, which is the field that I used to work in. I even had a literary agent take interest in it, but she had a difficult time selling it to publishers because it was too short to be a novel and didn’t really fit into any other category. So I put it up as an ebook through Lulu Press, because there were a bunch of people who thought the idea was cool and were willing to pay to read the whole thing.

That was a long time ago. I have since switched careers. I currently work as a high school science teacher, and when I began that job, I decided to decrease my Internet presence as much as possible, because I wanted my non-school life to remain hidden and private from my students. I didn’t want them googling and finding that book. It also wasn’t really making any money (not after the initial surge of sales), so I didn’t think there was any interest in it. If I ever write anything again (which is improbable, albeit not impossible), I will publish it as pseudonymously as humanly possible, but if you want, I can add you to the small group of people who will be notified.

Anyway, thanks for the note, it was a pleasure.

All the best,
Irina

There was no mention of selling the book, and I didn’t want to push the issue too much. I understood her point too. I remember being in college and having friends giggle with glee about finding their professor on an online dating site. A saucy book of old IT stories from a previous career might not mix well with science class.

At the time I decided that was that and moved on. A few days ago I again thought of the book and once again I tried finding it, only to come up empty handed. This experience has underscored something that I’ve often thought about that seems to be against conventional wisdom: Stuff does disappear from the internet. As much as we think things will last forever once they hit the web, that’s only the case if the information has a caretaker that wants it around. If it doesn’t have such a caretaker, it’ll eventually either disappear or sink into the deep web.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

I’ve been bad about updating the past couple of months, I should have some interesting stories for next year though.

It’s been a pretty amazing year. I got engaged, bought a house, wrote a couple of new web apps, learned a lot about Tcl and JavaScript, visited Northern California (and then got stranded in Phoenix on my way back – due to the blizzard going on in Maryland), worked over 180 hours of overtime, and gained a lot of weight (the last one’s not a good thing, but it’ll give me a goal of losing weight for the new year).

I looked up my resolutions for this past year and I think I did ok. Here’s the list:

  • Get good at JavaScript: I feel like I’ve accomplished this one. There’s more for me to know, but I feel like I really know my way around the language.
  • Learn jQuery: Didn’t even look at it this year. There are a lot of cool JavaScript frameworks out there though. I’ll probably get around to learning jQuery at some point, but I don’t think knowing it is as important as I used to.
  • Develop More Web Apps: The Typing Speed Test, the HTML Canvas game, the Blog Stylometry Tool, and lots of updates to the Keyboard Layout Analyzer. I was sort of quiet near the end of the year, but I expect for things to pick up again here soon.
  • Read At Least 4 Programming Books: Learning Dojo, Learning ExtJS, JavaScript: The Good Parts, and Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software. JavaScript: The Good Parts and Learning ExtJS were the best of that group, and after thinking more about it, probably the only two I’d recommend from the list.
  • Join A Programming Community: I did not do this, unless you count my subscription to the Programming Sub-Reddit at reddit.com. I’ll give myself half credit here.
  • Write A WordPress Plug-In: I had a couple of ideas, but I lost interest.
  • Release Some Programming Examples: I still want to do this.

So I achieved 3.5 of my 7. Not too shabby, I feel like I accomplished what was important to me, and that’s probably better than meeting the goals I think up at the beginning of the year.

This probably wont be my last post of the year (I’ve got a book review coming), but I hope everyone out there has a great holiday and a happy new year!

Two Years Since The Relaunch…

As of March 21st, it’s officially been two years since I decided to relaunch this website. On the opening day there wasn’t any hype and the site had been down for 2 months – and before that, I think I’d only updated twice in the previous two years. Plus, on this new day, all I had up was a message saying I’d be back. I couldn’t post up anything because my previous host had deleted all of my content and my hard drive had just recently crashed, taking with it everything I had saved. Other than being a lesson in routinely backing up files, this gave me a chance to start fresh.

This site, shortly before being deleted

This site, shortly before being deleted

It’s been two years and I think this site is currently as successful as its ever been. I don’t have a community like I used to, but I do have a decent amount of traffic and links coming in. The site, as a whole, currently gets around 2,700 visitors a day. So I feel good that I’ve been able to come back with something that people (hopefully) find useful and/or entertaining. I suppose it’s just a different site now than it used to be. I’m still steering the ship, and I’m still programming, but I’m using different tools and doing different things.

I think the thing I’ve enjoyed the most over the past two years is seeing the stuff I make or post up actually being used. When working in a big company, sometimes you program something up, hand it in, and then move onto your next assignment. You don’t really get to find out the experiences of the end user or what they thought of the program. You don’t know if they struggled to understand what you did or if they loved it. Well, sometimes you find out, but not always.

The cool thing about the web is that anyone can see the stuff you make. And to get feed back one can just google around or look at their referral logs and see where people are coming from. Sometimes this leads to some interesting info about how people are preciviing and using what you have up. Check out these Stumbleupon reviews I found of my 179 Ways to Annoy People chain letter page:

Annoyed Visitors

Annoyed Visitors

I think a certain number of visitors were thinking it was a real list. I thought it was obviously a joke, but you never really know what people are thinking when they come across your site, so I added in note at the top of the page letting people know it was just a joke list. Though I suppose some of the reviewers might have realized it was a joke and were just plain offended by it, however, calling a joke list “Asshole Training” seems a bit odd. [As a side note: I’m thinking of getting rid of this page entirely, since it doesn’t really go with the rest of the site, though maybe I just wont link to it and let its only source of traffic be 3rd party services like search engines and Stumbleupon]

Another interesting observation I was able to make, this time via my stats, was that a decent number of people were going to my Text Ascii Art Generator program and then just exiting via one of the out going links on the About page. This seemed like a rather strange behavior so I changed the program to automatically display the message “Type Something” once the page was loaded. This ended up causing a big increase in the usage of the program. My guess is that people were visiting the app’s main page and then getting confused as to what they were looking at, so they’d just skim the page and click on one of the out going links. It’s stuff like this, as a developer, that I’d never catch unless I had access to usage stats or user feed back.

Anyway, for those of you who’ve decided to follow this site for whatever reason, I thank you for checking in every so often. It definitely is nice to see stuff I make being used and to get feed back on it.