Monthly Archives: October 2007

10 Firefox Extensions That I Can’t Live Without

Firefox is the best browser available.  It is easy to use, pretty fast response time, has tabbed browsing, rarely crashes, and the extensions capability is fantastic.  I thought that my list of favorite extensions would make for a good topic. 

  • Firebug – A great way to debug JavaScript, view the HTML source of the page, examine the page’s CSS, step through the page’s scripts, navigate through the DOM, and view all the HTTP requests the page has made.  Invaluable for any web developer.
  • HTML Validator – “A Mozilla extension that adds HTML validation inside Firefox and Mozilla. The number of errors of a HTML page is seen on the form of an icon in the status bar when browsing.”  Great to easily see if there are any HTML validation errors, and what they are.
  • Page Validator – “Validates a page using the W3C Markup Validation Service. Adds an option to the right-click context menu and to the Tools menu to allow for easy validation of the current page. Opens the results in a new tab.”
  • IE Tab – “Easily see how your web page displayed in IE with just one click and then switch back to Firefox.”
  • User Agent Switcher – “Adds a menu and a toolbar button to switch the user agent of the browser.”  This is great for testing any user agent specific code for your site (for web analytics purposes, for example), i.e. spider filtering, crawler filtering, etc.
  • Download Statusbar – Similar to the built in download statusbar, but is only visible when necessary, and is extremely compact along the bottom of the window. 
  • PlainOldFavorites – “Use Internet Explorer Favorites directly from Firefox. No need to import, export or synchronize – the same Favorites appear everywhere.”
  • del.icio.us Bookmarks – “This extension seamlessly integrates your browser with del.icio.us (http://del.icio.us/), the leading social bookmarking service on the Web.”
  • Smart Digg Button – Uses the Digg API to determine if the current web page has been submitted to Digg.  If it has, it displays the current number of Diggs of the page. Click, and it takes you to the submission. If there are no Diggs, clicking takes you to the submission form.
  • StumbleUpon – “StumbleUpon lets you “channelsurf” the best-reviewed sites on the web. It is a collaborative surfing tool for finding and sharing great sites. This helps you find interesting webpages you wouldn’t think to search for.”

One of the other cool features built into Firefox is the ability to apply skins, which change the look of your browser.  Here is a list of my favorite skins:

  • Classic Compact – “A very compact version of Firefox’s default theme, which minimizes vertical space consumed by menu, tool, tab, find and status bars as much as possible without hurting overall appearance.”
  • Vista-aero – “The most IE7-like theme with Vista Aero style! Clear and cool! Based on myFirefox themes.”  Just in case you miss your Internet Explorer 7.

So what are your favorite Firefox extensions?  What do you think of Firefox in general?  I figure that between Firefox the Browser Wars winner and this list of my favorite Firefox extensions, I should get lots of comments.

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3 Indispensable Tools for Candidate Review

Tools are a great way to shorten time to complete tasks and improve quality in a process.  Hiring, Candidate Review, and Performance Review are no different.  Here are three tools that I have founds myself using while reviewing candidates.

SkillSurvey

So I got an automated email last week.  Big surprise, eh?  If you are like me, you get dozens of these a day.  This one was a little bit different.  It was from a company asking me to provide a reference for one of my old consultants.  That piqued my interest.  I opened it up, followed the link to SkillSurvey, and filled out the questions.  The simple instructions walked me through the process, and reassured me that my comments were anonymous and would be aggregated.  There were less than 10 questions, and were simple radio button scales.  I had the ability to put in freeform comments, and send it off. 

360Metrics

 Every other year, I have been encouraged by my management to do a 360 degree review of myself.  I log into 360Metrics and choose up to 3 direct reports, clients, peers, and managers.  Each of them receive emails to complete a set of predefined questions that rate and rank my skills on on a set of core values.  They are periodically reminded over the course of the review cycle.  When the review period closes, I receive an email and can generate an aggregate report of my ratings and comments. 

BrainBench

Every time I open up a requisition to find a new candidate for our team, I get a flood of resumes.  Eighty percent of those resumes have some sort of certification.  Most certifications we see are from Microsoft.  But some certifications come from BrainBench.  They offer certifications for individuals on a wide variety of specializations from Computer Software to Management, from Aptitude to Office Skills, from Communication to Industry Knowledge.  Obviously, the ones we see most often from BrainBench are technical in nature.  BrainBench also provides Pre-Hire Testing and Employee Development services to Employers.

Benefits

  • These tools are simple to use
  • The questions can be asked and are easy to analyze quantitatively
  • The same questions are asked of all candidates, so the questions and the delivery are consistent
  • They have open ended questions that allow you to analyze free-form text
  • Since these tools are web based, they can be leveraged (both from the candidate and from the hiring manager) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Drawbacks

  • The tools may not be measuring what you are looking for
  • It is not difficult to “game” the system to produce phony or inaccurate results
  • The perception of these tools is that they measure which candidate is “better” than another
  • Some of these tools may give an advantage to good test-takers
  • The process may be too objective, and not interactive enough

Conclusion

I think that these tools can be a big help, and a great time saver.  Tools like SkillSurvey leave the evaluation up to the hiring manager, and help facilitate and focus the collection of critical hiring information.  However, the risk of relying on tools like BrainBench is that you take the interpersonal aspect out of the process.  You may miss an enthusiastic, bright candidate who is a bad test-taker, or who has the right attitude, but a different set of experiences. 

I am sure that there are lots of other tools available in this arena.  What tools have you used?  What have your experience been with them?  How do you use them in your process?

Windows Live Search Gets an Upgrade

On the Live Search Blog this week, Microsoft’s Search Team announced that it has released an upgrade to its Live Search engine.  The enhancements to the search engine include:

  • Improved Core Relevance – Improved search results for the searches you do day in and day out
  • Reduced Spam – Constantly improving to stay ahead of the curve to filter out sites that use illegitimate or malicious SEO techniques
  • Dramatically Improved “Snippets” – The site summaries have been improved and expanded in the search results page
  • Much Bigger  Index – The index has grown to 20 billion pages – 4 times larger than before
  • Smart Logic to interpret some keywords – for example NW and Northwest are the same

Take a look and see if you notice the difference.  Leave feedback about your Live Search experiences here.

TouchGraph Google Browser

Pandia reviewed a new tool called TouchGraph Google Browser.  This tool allows you to visualize the connections between sites.  You can read the initial review on the Pandia web site, and you can check out the TouchGraph Google Browser on the TouchGraph site.  The TouchGraph team is a group of interface designers who are exploring better ways to visualize information.  In addition to the TouchGraph Google Browser, they have also developed TouchGraph Amazon Browser and the TouchGraph Facebook Browser using the same visualization technology. 

This has some really interesting implications for Search Engine Optimization, Web Analytics, and Web Site Development.  Optimizing a site to have each of its pages appear in a graph like this could have its site map generated dynamically.  Having a Web Analytics Dashboard where you could click on each of the pages, or series of pages, and view data relationships between them would be very powerful. 

Check it out and let me know what you think.