through sewell's eyes

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Startup Weekend NYC recap

I had a blast. Coding marathons, learning about new stuff, and meeting new people was a great experience. While I probably preferred either of the other two apps -- fashion mashup/geocoding or internet scavenger hunt, the group decided on the Greatest Meals Facebook app idea -- FavorEats. And since I'm a team player, Full Steam Ahead...

With most of my work experience us been on the back end infrastructure stuff, watching and listening how the UI teams work together with web developers was eye opening.The initial requirements that came out of UE were probably for a 5 day project instead of a 1.5 day hackfest. There was definitely push back by the development team and requirements were cut. But I think anymore cutting probably would have rendered the app unusable.

On the developers side there was one guy who deserved the credit. Without him I thinks the startup would have been in huge trouble and had no chance to launch. He really knew what he was doing - architecting, back-end development, front end
design, sys admin. He was helping everyone else while still trying to keep us on schedule. [I was trying to keep up but I wasn't doing a good job. My java is rusty and I hate parsing XML Documents. And by Sunday night I was ready to throw my laptop off the table.] The development team had to break up into different groups learning about the piece that they were going to work on -- Facebook API/FBML, Facebook JS(FBJS), Spelling/Restuarant APIS, EC2. These were all new things to us since no one really had real experience with and we needed to learn and understand to some small degree before start coding the application.

One thing about developing on such short time frame, even the smallest mistake can cause havoc on the schedule. For example, when doing db design on a regular project, you get at least a night to think about it what you designed and make modifications as needed with any impact to anybody. However on SW, people need to start developing on that scheme right away; And if someone finds an issue with it, BOOM! - a chunk of code just went down the drain.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to get something out the door. I think everyone was burned out by Sunday night and just wanted to rest. I still want to push out a product, so we will see what happens.

Anyway, it was an awesome experience and something I would love to do again. Someone mentioned startup weekend 08
- definitely sign me up! A big thank you goes to Andrew Hyde for organizing it. I'm curious if you could wonder how you actually can turn it into a longer event -- I guess that would be a real Startup. =)

Links about startupweekend :
- Ryan's blog on SWNYC
- Andrew Hyde's recap
- Another recap with video -- you can see me in it, sort of!
- Flickr (mine isn't showing up)
- Startup Weeked NYC
- FavorEats

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

iPhone Review

So I broke down and bought an iPhone . After having it for a little over 2 weeks. Here are my thoughts on it - all typed via the iPhone (cleaned up a little tho before posting).

Keyboard-non issue. took me about a day to get use to it still have some typos, bit it is a Non issue.

Spell checker- a pain in the ass! While it works, it gets in the way of typing.Wish there was a way to disable it.

Edge - very slow.the wifi helps but still you aren't always around a place to connect to.

Accelerometer- while it is a useful to be able to view the web via wide screen,it is too sensitive moving from portrait to landscape viewing mode. Every time I want for a page to load, I relax my arms/hands/wrists. this slight movement,triggers the screen to rotate. when trying to go back to portrait mode it isn't as sensitive and takes some twisting to trigger the accelerometer to change viewing mode.

Games-i just believe that apple didn't put any games on this thing!!!! Even the iPod Nanos have some.

Battery life- I get about 1.5 days on a charge-on what I think is medium-high usage on it. Based on what others PDA users experience the iPhone is an efficent user of the battery.

Phone- I'm not a big fan of how the phonecontact list works. While the interface is simple to use it actually makes my life harder. Scrolling to find names and numbers is quite cumbersome. Also, your favorite contacts are lists and not hot keys like on my previous phone so you have to switch to a specdic screen to call a favorite person.

SIM card- need to test out - see below.

Mail-very easy to use. Even loaded my gf's email account on the iPhone. When she wants to check her email she just enables her account and is able to access her mail via the iPhone mail interface( versus needing to load up safari and such).

Camera - the shutter is a bit slow which results is blurry pictures. I knewing going in that the camera didn't have a zoom feature,but I didst realize how much I was going to miss it.

Notes- love it! It let's me draft emails and blog postings (like this one) for both personal as well as work.

Safari- aside from the accelerometer, I haven't had any issues with it too much. Not having flash support is probably a good thing, since it is a huge download on the edge network.

Overall, I'm happy with what I the iPhone. I just wonder when version 2 will come out and what it will have -my predictions is jan with no 3g support.

Things that have happened since I got my iPhone :
- lost it on the subway (9/21 10:30pm) - don't get the speck belt clip for the iPhone!
- recovered my iPhone (9/22 3:00am)
- SIM card goes bad (9/25 7:00 pm)
- get SIM replacement ( hopefully tomorrow)

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Startup Weekend Project Selection Advise

I thinking about why Startup Weekend NYC wasn't able to launch the product into beta by Sunday. Everyone on Sunday was going full steam trying get it done, but alas it didn't happen. I think it was due to selecting a project that was a bit ambitious. The concept was a great one, but once you got beyond that, the functional and tech specs started to become a complex beast. [more in another posting -- wanted to get this out before the next Startup Weekend]

Advise when considering choosing a project:

Functional Specs: You should be able to list out all in 3 to 4 sentences OR even less.

Design Specs: If it takes more than about 6 sentences, you are in trouble.

People Skills: Ask who is actually coming back for Saturday and Sunday and their skills set and level.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Starting too much time on Facebook...

and I don't even know why. So, if you are on Facebook, look me up.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Joining a new startup

No, I didn't quit my current job. I'm got a ticket to an event called Startup Weekend in NYC - http://nyc.startupweekend.com

The concept is that a bunch of people (developers, sys admins, lawyers, PR, cooks, etc) get together on Friday night, come up with a idea, create a company and launch the product by Sunday night.

Sounds interesting? It is occurring in other cities as well - http://www.startupweekend.com.

I'm curious what we'll come up with. =)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Help Desk Ticket System

I've been spending the last couple of days looking for a free and simple ticket/help desk system to use at the my company. Don't really need anything fancy, just a nice clean UI to take the customer information and track the issue.

Surprisingly I can't find anything that matches my criteria. I initally found a a RoR based system called SimpleTicket. Unforunately I found it a bit buggy to use and actually had to go in the db backend to get it working correctly(it assumes id =1 is your company and I had to add the record in there -- otherwise it just crashes). The code base is a bit dated as well and the company behind it seems hesitant about putting out a new release (per their blog).

I also looked at some other solutions, including PHP and Java based system but all the interfaces on them look pretty ugly and alot of dated projects. I'm starting to think I might just have to roll my own. I think that is what most companies end up doing so they can tailor it to their internal processes and system. The basic concept is pretty easy - name, contact info, product and description of the problem. I really don't want to go that way but might be a better overall solution as I could integrate it so that bugs can be directly added into the bug tracking/project management system. Maybe I can even convince my boss to let me open source as it.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

iPod Touch ~= iTouch?

iPod Touch. It is an iPhone UI/Touchscreen minus the phone part.

Now that we got that out of the way.... I was talking to my gf about the iPhone and iPod Touch that was released [ thinking about getting the iPhone now that they dropped the price $200] and she starts referring to it as the iPod Touch as the iTouch. I start thinking that iTouch actually probably would have been a better name for it. iPod Touch just seems to be just too long of a name. Just a thought.