All about Failure

April 1st, 2013

My new project, Vox, is a content-management system designed to make life easy for agencies; especially those agencies that are great at design and communication, but may not be all that confident technologically. Keep your clients happy and let them connect with the people who matter.

But before I can proceed with Vox, I need to get a past failure out of the way. In particular, I now feel the need to talk about how EmberAds failed, and what I can learn from this. You can read all about failing and learning from your mistakes here.


An easy CMS for designers and design agencies: customer interviews

October 26th, 2012

So I started on a few customer interviews. It wasn’t done as recommended in all the “lean development” books – they were done over the phone. The mitigating circumstances were that I was talking to people I knew, so I could gauge their reactions without having to be physically present.

The key points that arose were:

  1. every site is different, but there are a number of elements in common – homepage, about/team page, contact page, privacy and terms, latest news
  2. it’s too dangerous letting the client update pages without some risk of breaking the styles – either the client gets frustrated or the designer despairs when she takes a look at the site a few months down the line
  3. if you’re not capturing email addresses then you should be
  4. social media is here to stay and you need to be able to integrate with it easily

None of this is revolutionary.

If you wanted to build a site to do that stuff, it wouldn’t take too long. Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, whatever – there are thousands of options – many of them free.

But nothing is optimised for those cases from the off. Nothing lets you get started in ten minutes. Nothing lets you hand over to the client in confidence.

That’s where we’re headed…



Small Business Website Hosting: Starting over

October 20th, 2012

This week, EmberAds moved into a new phase.

We’re still working hard at making advertising easier for publishers (paste two pieces of code and start serving relevant adverts in seconds). And we have big plans on how to push things forward.

But for now, my day to day involvement has necessarily been scaled back.

And that gives me the opportunity to return to something that’s been annoying me for a while.

The vast majority of our work at threehv has been about building web-sites for agencies representing small businesses. And those businesses all have unique requirements, with a significant overlaps in functionality.

  1. it should be possible for an agency to build a new web site in ten minutes
  2. you should be able to pick and choose your page layouts and update your site, without breaking the style and design
  3. it should be easy to build your “about us” and “contact page”
  4. it should be simple to capture email addresses and send out mailers
  5. you should be able to broadcast updates across social media

So that’s the area I’m going to look at next. And the entire process will be documented here.



Making advertising better

January 13th, 2012

Advertising is a weird thing.

A lot of people hate it.

Mainly because it’s built for money, to make money.

Most advertising is shit.

This is because the triggers that push people’s buttons can be discerned through experimentation, and they’re normally not the prettiest things.

But it doesn’t have to be shit.

It can do its job, whilst entertaining you, whilst getting out of your way, whilst being relevant to what you are doing.

There’s nothing wrong with letting people know what you do, what you have, what you would like them to see.

As long as you do it the right way.

3hv has had a good innings, with some great clients, fantastic staff and a whole load of ups and downs. But, now, it’s time to move on.

We’re going to make advertising better.


Another reason to love Ruby…

December 2nd, 2011

Nyan cat tests your code


Launchpad

December 1st, 2011

I’m trying out Mac OSX Lion’s Launchpad feature.

It kind of makes sense when you are using full screen apps (as I do on my 11″ Air) – as the Dock isn’t available to you any more.

But I really, really want to bind it to the left Command key – in other words – exactly where the “Windows Start” key is…


Telephones

November 30th, 2011

It’s no secret that the office phone is often switched off. Please just leave a voicemail and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

The reason for this is because programming involves juggling a lot of information that needs to be held in your head at the same time. Programmers call this “flow”, sportsmen call it “being in the zone”, and even a thirty second interruption knocks you out of that productive state. The worst of it is that it can take fifteen to twenty minutes to return back up to speed, so that quick call actually has a very high cost.

The trick here is that when you manage programmers, specifically, task switches take a really, really, really long time. That’s because programming is the kind of task where you have to keep a lot of things in your head at once. The more things you remember at once, the more productive you are at programming. A programmer coding at full throttle is keeping zillions of things in their head at once: everything from names of variables, data structures, important APIs, the names of utility functions that they wrote and call a lot, even the name of the subdirectory where they store their source code.


Today’s the day

November 29th, 2011

“Do something that scares you” is what they say.

Today is one of those days I’ll look back on and say “this is where it all began” or “this is where it all went wrong”.

Regrets eh?


Committing Heresy

November 22nd, 2011

I’m going to do something that is probably considered heresy amongst the people I know.

I’m going to stop reading Hacker News.

It’s a great place, full of very smart people; some of whom have actually been there and done that.

But unfortunately, it’s also falling prey to GroupThink (which is why I stopped reading Slashdot all those years ago).

“Measure everything” and “A/B test your way to success!”. Well actually I hate statistics – they do nothing for me – and I’d rather go with my instincts.

“Fail early, fail fast”. Boring. I’d rather go out in a huge fireball over the night sky. Or even better, be an actual success.

“You’ve got to be lean”. Don’t tell me what to do. Toyota make dull cars. Reliable, but dull. Not stylish, not beautiful. Money-making but dull. That’s what lean gives you.

This marks the end of phase one of threehv. Now is the time to start over…


Back to iOS

November 21st, 2011

I’ve just got myself one of those iPhone 4s’s. I really really liked Windows Phone 7, but there’s just the odd problem with it – the keyboard is just a bit too imprecise, it’s just too easy to turn a vertical swipe into a horizontal swipe. Whereas, iOS is precise and exact. And Siri is amazing (even if lots of stuff doesn’t work in the UK yet)

But the UI does look tired. Compare Spotify on iOS to the amazing Spotify client on WP7. And the live tiles are lovely.

All of this is irrelevant to Android. The reviews of Android 4 suggest it’s fixed most of its flaws but given the size of those flaws, I’d be amazed if it comes close to WP7.

So, in UI terms (which is what is most important to me) it’s still Apple out in front. But they’re being pushed hard by Microsoft.

Update: From the sounds of this review Android still has a long way to go, new font or no new font.