Nov 30

SEO Blogger Wordtracker Keyword Firefox Plugin

For all SEO conscious bloggers, I’ve come across a really nice Firefox plug in from Wordtracker called SEO Blogger, to enable easy keyword research whilst blogging, as well as the tracking of your keyword density whilst you’re writing your blog posts. Intrigued? I was!
It’s very simple to install, just download it. Then restart Firefox. After the reboot, you will notice a small “W” on the right-hand bottom of your screen on the status bar.

When clicking  on it, a window opens to your left and you can do a little keyword research straight away.

You can then add the keyphrases you would like to target within your blog and the tools keeps track of your keyword density while you write your blog. Pretty nifty, I thought!

You can use this keyword research tool with any blogging software. The plugin itself is only available for Firefox to date.

On this note, happy blogging! And let’s hope that I will be back with more posts sooner rather than later!

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written by Feli \\ tags: , ,

Sep 15

I know, I’ve been very quiet over the past few months. As it happens work and the summer had taken over my life a little bit too much and I’ve gone through a bit a dry spell with regards to my blogging efforts.

Over the past year I have met even more interesting people in the online marketing industry and I am hoping to pick up the interview sessions again.

This time I’m targeting social media experts. If you are one or if you know someone who is interested in participating, please send them my way or contact me today!

Over the next few weeks I shall also be reviewing a variety of SEO tools, such as Analytics SEO and Raven tools.

Until then, take care!

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written by Feli \\ tags: ,

Feb 13

Finally, I’ve managed to continue with further interviews. I can’t believe it’s already almost mid February! Time flies when you’re having fun!

This week’s developer interview goes to Alan Graham, owner at The Simpler Solution , who I’ve worked with a few years ago at Innovation Digital.

Name: Alan Graham

Bio: I graduated 8 years ago, and began working on a number of web projects using Java Servlets and then JSP technologies for various employers during the dotcom bubble.

Having become rather disillusioned with the configuration / set-up overheads of the early Java platform (Apache, Tomcat, etc), I quickly moved to the Microsoft .NET Framework upon its release.  I’ve been working with this technology exclusively since its release, in a mixture of Web, Mobile and desktop systems development.

Just over 2 years ago, I decided to move into the contract / freelance market, specialising in problem-solving existing systems, and improving software quality across entire teams.  Through this, I gained exposure to the Umbraco and Immediacy CMS platforms, which now make up around 75% of my work.

For the future, I’d like to do more freelance and less contract work, allowing me to work at home, taking my 2 year old Basset Hound for walks when the Scottish weather allows it.

Specialities: Software Quality, Umbraco CMS, Immediacy CMS, anything Microsoft .NET really!

URLs: The Simpler Solution

Twitter: http://twitter.com/alangraham

Question 1 (Colin Brown): Over the past 2 years mobile web browsing has become far more common and accessible, gadgets such as Apple’s iPhone has helped to raise the bar in this field. How important do you think developing websites for this medium is? Should mobile browsers, such as Mobile Safari be one of the web browsers we build websites to comply with?

Alan: Yes.  In my opinion there will be a slow convergence in this area, as mobile browsers become identical to desktop browsers in all aspects but screen size.  At the very minimum, your site should be robust and correct on an iPhone.  If your site is functional in nature (e.g. paypal), then I would highly recommend an alternative UI for iPhone / mobile devices.  This UI could then be designed for the particular screen size requirements of the device(s).

Question 2 (Crawford Tait): Will increasingly-sophisticated javascript applications make flash redundant?

Alan: Interesting proposition – not something I’ve thought about.  My gut feeling is that Flash will be around for a long time to come, as a large amount of people are skilled in it, and many digital agencies just want to crank out the work without improving their craft.  A similar effect exists in the web-app / desktop systems world, with systems still being written/maintained using Delphi, Visual Basic and ASP etc.

However, on the flip side, I think you’re right – the growing power and standardization through Javascript libraries such as jQuery means that flash would certainly be redundant, but I’m not sure it will go away.

Question 3 (Diego Campo): Have you thought of changing your career during the last year? If so, which one?

Alan: I’m a really keen photographer, and despite doing 5 or 6 weddings a year, I think I will remain an amateur.  It’s something I think about fairly frequently, however I already turned one hobby into a career, and I value the fact that when I’m being artistic, I’m in my own time, and am not constrained by commercial decisions.  These are the essential things I enjoy about my hobby, and to start doing it commercially would ruin it for me I think.

Apart from that – I don’t think there’s anything else I’m good enough at to take up as a career!

Question 4 (Colin McMillan): As a developer you need to keep on top of emerging technology.  Given that there aren’t enough hours in the day, how do you decide what technologies or languages to pursue?

Alan: Simple answer – I follow the herd.  I don’t work on the bleeding edge, but look and see what others have done, or are doing.  Then, I’ll evaluate that technology on a single small (often throw-away) project, and decide from there whether it’s worth it.  This is a fairly cautious approach compared to some of my colleagues, however I think it gives the client the best value for money, whilst also giving me decent profit margins.

Sometimes a client has particular requirements though.  For example a current client insisted their system was based upon the MS Entity Framework for Data Access.  Having now used this, and discovered its weaknesses and strengths, I’ve been able to give my opinion to others who, similar to me, won’t touch something until someone else has an opinion.

Question 5 (David Poblador): How has open-source/free software changed the way you develop software?

Alan: Absolutely.  It allows me to stand on the shoulders of giants.  In a morning’s work, I can have the entire Data Access, Logging and Security system for a bespoke ASP.NET app, thanks to Castle Project, Log4Net and the bundled in features of ASP.NET.

In addition, free programmer resources such as CodeProject are often undervalued.  Of course, you shouldn’t just cut & paste the code, but having a working code sample for a new technology rapidly improves your understanding.

Question 6 (Kilian Valkhof): What do you strive for most in your code?

Alan: Simplicity.  Code should be refined over several iterations, with the aim being to make it smaller, lighter and easier to understand.  I spent some time in the past as a maintenance programmer, and know only too well the pains of amending highly complex inter-connecting systems.

Through simplicity you write less code.  Less code can only mean fewer bugs, easier to understand structures, and quicker-to-amend systems.

Question 7 (Catherine Bartlett): Tell me about the best developer you’ve ever known.

Alan: I’ve been privileged to work with a great deal of truly awesome developers, so I couldn’t really single one out for victimization.

What they all shared was a passion for correctness, the bravery to voice their opinion when needed, and knowing the right balance between architectural excellence and business profitability.

In addition, the very best of them have not taken things too seriously, have realized that this is, after all, still just a job, and most importantly of all, have made their own mistakes and held their hands up to them.

Question 8 (Erik Vold): What are some of the new technology trends that you think we will see in this century?

Alan: Crikey, am likely to get this hilariously wrong…. My track record at technological trend-spotting is notoriously poor.

The last 2-3 years have seen a lot of improvement in the data layer.  Now, using Castle Project’s Active Record, and nHibernate, you don’t even need to consider the SQL at all – build your objects in C# and let the API do the hard work for you.  So, the database might not die, but it could well become a back-end thing that you rarely, if ever, think about.

Also, there’s a lot of talk of things in “The Cloud” however, from what I can see, there’s no standardized way to interact with “cloud data”.  For example, on moo.com I can specify images I want to use from Flickr, and it pulls them across.  What I’d like to see is some way to generalize these connections, so that a site could loosely connect to millions of other sites in an easy manner.

The simplest way I could imagine this happening would be through WebDAV, with some sort of central repository of all WebDAV resources.  This would work best when web-apps offered 2-way connectivity.  I could choose to twitter about a file in the public area of my dropbox.com account, or have Flickr automatically pull in pictures from my Facebook, too.  I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that, in order to entrust all my data to the cloud, I shouldn’t be forced into one or another particular service.  For example, Dropbox.com might integrate seamlessly with Flickr, but not with Smugmug or Picassa.   An open market would allow you to pick the best app for you circumstances, rather than the best app that interacts with your other apps.

Question 9 (the contributer would like to remain anonymous): How much of your work time do you spend analysing defect reports so that future instances of the same defects may be mitigated, or altogether removed from future builds?

Alan: I’ll be honest: no time at all, or very little.  When I am fixing an issue, I will always prefer to introduce a change that decreases the likelihood of a similar defect occurring, and where team education is required, I will take that on.

However, when hired as a contracted resource, my job is frequently to “Perform X tasks by Y deadline” and as such I have limited remit to get involved in this way.  In some (less enjoyable) contracts my attempts to spend time improving the team has been discouraged entirely, as I’m there to do a job.  This is always a bit of a shame…

Question 10 (Alan Graham): We are bombarded every day with new approaches, new libraries (Prototype.js vs jQuery, Java vs .NET, PHP vs everything), new free services (Google Analytics vs ???).  What criteria do you use to quickly decide what to use?

Alan: Aha, my own question, which I kind of answered above in Question 4.  Most lunchtime meetings or beers after work quickly descend into discussions over who’s doing what and how they’re enjoying it.

I’d say I’m swayed by my past experiences (I’ll naturally choose a .NET solution before anything else), but then after that I’m happy to go with what a trusted colleague has already used.

Question 11 (Richard Kelly – fellow online marketing dude): How much of a pain do you find developing and re-developing code for SEO?

Alan: Generally I’ve been fortunate enough to work side-by-side with the SEO folks, even from project kick-off.

In a few rare cases, SEO experts have asked us to do things that are technically not ideal, but I think it’s important to realize that to have an excellent architecture you need a profitable business paying the bills.  Good SEO ensures the hosting costs, and my day rate, continue to be paid. :o )

Question 12 (Felicitas Betzl): Having worked in a variety of agencies I’ve seen major collisions between account/project managers and developers for a variety of reasons. Can you think of 5 tips you can give account and project managers, which you think would make developers lives easier?

Alan: I think this question should be a bit more open, and should include ways developers could make PM’s lives easier too.

So, here are my 5 tips for an easier and smoother office existence:

Don’t lie to the client.  Not once, not ever. Every time you lie, you are digging a hole to climb back out of.  In most cases you’ll be putting someone else into that hole.

Developers: realize that “No” is not actually that helpful an answer.  Offer alternatives, discuss ways the problem could be resolved, or if you are too busy, suggest things that could be dropped in place of this request.

Accept the incompressibility of time.  If a developer reckons it will take 3 days to do a task, then it is pointless trying to do it quicker.  Similarly, if a developer realizes it will actually take longer than 3 days to complete something, then shout about it as soon as you know, rather than at the end of the 3rd day.

Act as a buffer.  A good PM should know what each developer is doing, and should shield them from the day-to-day project trivia.  Developers work best when left uninterrupted to get on with a task, and should be able to turn to the PM for clarification on details about the project.

Define what it means when a developer says “That’s done”.  I’ve heard some developers say something’s “done” when it compiles and is checked in (“Testing’s for testers!”).  More commonly: does “done” mean that the code passes all Unit Tests, that the feature is thoroughly tested from end to end, that the feature is uploaded to a test server for approval by client or that the feature is approved by the client.  Every developer has a different concept about when a task is “done”, but every PM expects “done” to mean one thing only: this task is completed entirely.

Question 13 (just for fun):  What is your favourite cartoon character?

Alan: It has to be Penfold from Danger Mouse, mostly because of the resemblance with my big glasses :)

Thanks a lot, Alan! Really interesting answers! We will have to organise an Innovation Digital reunion sometime.

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written by Feli \\ tags: , ,

Feb 08

Whilst doing some research on Google Suggest, we realised that Google doesn’t seem to like religions. See the example on Christianity, you get the same result for Buddhism or any other religion. Ts ts ts… It made made my day for sure…

Google Suggest for "Christianity is..."

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written by Feli \\ tags: ,

Jan 19

Happy New Year, everyone!

I know my lack of blogging is starting to really show, but January has kicked off majorly and work just doesn’t seem to stop.

The next few months won’t be boring that’s for sure. And hence I need more staff for the Edinburgh office. So if you know anyone looking for a junior SEO job or Link Marketer role, please pass them my way.

For more info on current openings, please check out our SEO jobs section.

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written by Feli \\ tags: , ,

Dec 25

Merry Christmas, everyone!

I am very happy this Christmas, as with the help of a variety of “Rage Against the Machine for Christmas No. 1″ Facebook groups, the old rockers did in fact stick it to the X-Factor this year.

I detest all these talent shows, such as American Idol, X-Factor and X-Idol ;) and was right behind the pre-emptive strike to not allow the X-Factor single to make it the Christmas No. 1 in 2009.

In an hour’s time at 15.00 GMT the event the Nationwide XmasDay Blast of Killing in the Name Of is going to happen. Let’s all join in all over the world for it and be satisfied about the fact that there are still enough people who really don’t want to support brainless talentshows but will happily support real talent any time.

Merry Christmas, folks!

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written by Feli

Oct 07

My new clients have brought me down to London, where I’m staying  in a penthouse of a friend of mine overlooking the London Eye, Big Ben and the sparkly city lights, which is pretty amazing. I am getting quite used the buzz of the big city but look forward being back in Edinburgh, where life is just a little bit slower…

This week’s developer interview goes to Diego Campo, a very talented developer who I worked with during my time in Barcelona. Enjoy!

Name: Diego Campo

Bio: Senior Java Developer at Enormo.com.  Have managed a small team of 3 people using Agile methodology.
4y development experience.
Worked and studied in the UK(Cambridge, Nottingham) and Spain (Zaragoza, Barcelona).
Interested in psychology and creativity in art & life.

Specialities: Backend development. AI, Information Retrieval. Java expert.

URLs:

Blog: http://xmariachi.blogspot.com

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/diegocampo

Twitter: http://twitter.com/xmariachi

Question 1 (Colin Brown): Over the past 2 years mobile web browsing has become far more common and accessible, gadgets such as Apple’s iPhone has helped to raise the bar in this field. How important do you think developing websites for this medium is? Should mobile browsers, such as Mobile Safari be one of the web browsers we build websites to comply with?

Diego: I’m not very much involved with mobile business, so I think my opinion will not be very relevant in this subject. My use of advanced mobile applications is none.

Question 2 (Crawford Tait): Will increasingly-sophisticated javascript applications make flash redundant?

Diego: Flash will probably remain being the leading technology in its niche, but its use may be reduced to those applications where Flash does give that extra plus, as opposed to some overuse of Flash we saw in the previous years.

Question 3 (Diego Campo): Have you thought of changing your career during the last year? If so, which one?

Diego: Yes. Psychotherapy. At the moment is only a thought, although I’m following a course for the last two years and always have had an interest.

Question 4 (Colin McMillan): As a developer you need to keep on top of emerging technology.  Given that there aren’t enough hours in the day, how do you decide what technologies or languages to pursue?

Diego: Depending on the areas that I want to expand. For example, right now as a Java backend developer, I have an interest in Scala and functional languages such as Clojure. But also, I’d like to know more about web developing languages such as Ruby or PHP, since I’m also thinking on some ideas for projects for the web – so I could myself build some prototypes.

Question 5 (David Poblador): How has open-source/free software changed the way you develop software?

Diego: I began to know about it on early university years. It looked like an utopia an the beginning, but as I saw how real it is, then it was clear to me it is one of the greatest initiatives in technology ever. I remember to have thought it’s the last revolution we’ve seen in the developed countries.

Question 6 (Kilian Valkhof): What do you strive for most in your code?

Diego: Clarity, testability, readability, structure.

Question 7 (Catherine Bartlett): Tell me about the best developer you’ve ever known.

Diego: He is very active, and he has an extreme ability to switch from general abstract concepts to the very detail in no time. He has a passion for producing the best solution for a certain problem, and able to explain his ideas properly, and to produce super-clear specifications. He is very flexible and always focused on the problem, while also taking care of the pieces of his team as a system itself, including coworkers and subordinates. He has deep human principles and strives for transparency.

Question 8 (Erik Vold): What are some of the new technology trends that you think we will see in this century?

Diego: I don’t know which ones they will be, but I bet they will come from countries where technology and internet implantation is growing now. A huge market in terms of population is to be open, and it will create new needs to be satisfied. Thus, it may not be so much about innovation in technology, but about a better use of it.

Question 9 (the contributer would like to remain anonymous): How much of your work time do you spend analysing defect reports so that future instances of the same defects may be mitigated, or altogether removed from future builds?

Diego: I consistently write test cases to prevent this. I spend about one to two tenths of the developing time writing these tests.

Question 10 (Alan Graham): We are bombarded every day with new approaches, new libraries (Prototype.js vs jQuery, Java vs .NET, PHP vs everything), new free services (Google Analytics vs ???).  What criteria do you use to quickly decide what to use?

Diego:

  • Suitability for the project.
  • Actual expertise of the team on certain languages,
  • Maturity of the tool and documentation.
  • Usage, support and coverage on the net.

Question 11 (Richard Kelly – fellow online marketing dude): How much of a pain do you find developing and re-developing code for SEO?

Diego: I am not facing this problem in my daily life. But I think that I could be a bit annoyed somehow if I suspect that the changes are done due to a lack of planning and knowledge.

Question 12 (Felicitas Betzl): Having worked in a variety of agencies I’ve seen major collisions between account/project managers and developers for a variety of reasons. Can you think of 5 tips you can give account and project managers, which you think would make developers lives easier?

Diego: One of the major differences I have seen is that account and project managers sometimes tend to be too short-termish on their decisions, many times driven by emotions such as fear, anxiety and need for self-assurance. Developers tend to give credit to well-traced plans and if you are able to do that, you will not have to do anything to get the respect from developers. Developers tend to like clear long-term decisions, transparency and truth. They are also sensitive to confusion, and they will normally identify as weakness if you just try to hide it – and they will really appreciate if you just come to them to ask their opinions.

Question 13 (just for fun):  What is your favourite cartoon character?

Diego: Doreamon

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written by Feli \\ tags: , , ,

Sep 30

It’s quite fascinating that I can edit my blog post sitting on the train from London to Edinburgh and have Wifi access thanks to the Nationalexpress. I’m pretty impressed with that!

I’m happy to present the next web developer interview with Colin McMillan who I had the pleasure working with a short while back. Here it comes!

Name: Colin McMillan

Bio: I’m a self-taught Web Developer and Systems Administrator with 9 years commercial experience.  I’ve built up skills through roles as in-house developer with small-scale organisations building  content managed websites, as well as large corporates building complex business applications.  I have been with Dog Digital, one of Scotland’s leading Digital Marketing agencies, for over 3 years and currently sit as Senior Developer and Infrastructure Manager.

Specialities:

  • PHP / MySQL
  • ASP.NET (C#)
  • LINUX & Windows Systems Administration
  • Networking and Security
  • Playing house and disco at the odd local party

URLs:

NHS24

ScottishPower Quote

Ideasud

DJ Andy Smith

DJ Roki (seriously needs updated!)

Twitter: http://twitter.com/djroki

Question 1 (Colin Brown): Over the past 2 years mobile web browsing has become far more common and accessible, gadgets such as Apple’s iPhone has helped to raise the bar in this field. How important do you think developing websites for this medium is? Should mobile browsers, such as Mobile Safari be one of the web browsers we build websites to comply with?

Colin: Absolutely, although the nature of the build will be dictated by the client.  Even now many clients do not stipulate mobile compatibility, and an agency will rarely put in the extra work required if they don’t have to!  This is a question about whether the agency should be persuading clients to  make the extra investment to ensure mobile compatibility, as clients don’t seem to be prioritising this yet.  However I think the new generation of mobiles are pretty good at representing the standard build so maybe soon there won’t be any separation.

Question 2 (Crawford Tait): Will increasingly-sophisticated javascript applications make flash redundant?

Colin: It certainly has the potential to, but I think it’s a while off for one main reason.  Until JavaScript has a nice dedicated development environment like Flash has, it will remain very complex, code-oriented and too abstracted from the creative process.

Question 3 (Diego Campo): Have you thought of changing your career during the last year? If so, which one?

Colin: If I could open a small restaurant in the Scottish Highlands and spend my time cooking seriously good food for a living I probably would.  It’s more a dream than a likely career change though…

Question 4 (Colin McMillan): As a developer you need to keep on top of emerging technology.  Given that there aren’t enough hours in the day, how do you decide what technologies or languages to pursue?

Colin: To answer my own question, it is sadly dictated by clients and technology marketing, and not by the best technology for the job.  I have a love/hate relationship with .NET and at one point would have run a mile rather than have to learn it.  It has now become the platform of choice for many clients and is therefore unavoidable.  I’ve had no time to investigate Python, Ruby on Rails, or even some of the PHP frameworks out there like Zend, Cake or Symfony which I feel may be more stable, easier to learn and faster to develop in than .NET.

Question 5 (David Poblador): How has open-source/free software changed the way you develop software?

Colin: I’ve come from an Open Source background, through a proprietory middle period in my career to end up using a mixture of both.  I can’t say Open Source has changed the way I develop software as it has always been the way I develop.  I have certain expectations on how things should perform which have come from using PHP, MySQL and LINUX that I am often frustrated aren’t reflected in .NET, SQL Server and Windows.

Question 6 (Kilian Valkhof): What do you strive for most in your code?

Colin: Perfection!  No really, I am a ridiculous perfectionist and have often spent far too much time trying to find the most elegant solution to a problem.  One of the biggest changes I’ve had to make in recent years is to balance timescales (and therefore budget) with producing clean, modular, and stable code.  Sometimes I manage that… :)

Question 7 (Catherine Bartlett): Tell me about the best developer you’ve ever known.

Colin: Tricky, as the only other web developers I’ve worked with are those at Dog.  I have a lot of respect for Crawford (Tait) as we’ve worked together on a number of projects at Dog and in other positions in the past too. His PhD in Computing Science gives him a great core knowledge that I’ve never had and he has a great mind for taking a problem from a different angle.  Seeing as he’s a mate but also my Manager I now feel like a total kiss-arse…

Question 8 (Erik Vold): What are some of the new technology trends that you think we will see in this century?

Colin: Hard to imagine what we’ll see in the next ten years let along this century (so I’ll deal with that more manageable timeframe)! I expect we’ll have wi-fi available across every major city.  Mobile devices will become more powerful than today’s PCs, and will be completely dependent on connectivity and integration with the Internet.  2D holographic projection will become available so you can view HD movies from your mobile on the nearest wall.  Oh, and we’ll get to work on jetpacks and hover-boards.

Question 9 (the contributer would like to remain anonymous): How much of your work time do you spend analysing defect reports so that future instances of the same defects may be mitigated, or altogether removed from future builds?

Colin: Quick answer?  None.  We don’t have such a thing as defect reports.  We fix bugs when they arise, and it’s pretty rare that the same bugs will come back.  Just different bugs… some midges, some spiders and the odd cockroach.

Question 10 (Alan Graham): We are bombarded every day with new approaches, new libraries (Prototype.js vs jQuery, Java vs .NET, PHP vs everything), new free services (Google Analytics vs ???).  What criteria do you use to quickly decide what to use?

Colin: That’s tough and relates to question 4.  It’s pretty hard to appraise these things yourself as you’d end up spending all your time investigating and not developing.  People around the workplace pick up on things and they then get tried out.  If they work then there is no need to try the other one.  We use jQuery primarily because one of our guys got into it, it does the job so there’s no point in wasting time trying to figure out Prototype.

Question 11 (Richard Kelly – fellow online marketing dude): How much of a pain do you find developing and re-developing code for SEO?

Colin: I don’t see it as a pain – more something that is now part of the job.  Obviously if you have to overhaul a site that uses querystrings to then use friendly URLs, there can be a lot of pain in getting it to work, however that’s the way things need to be done so it’s necessary.  Most of the time though, for new sites or complete re-skins, the templates and coding is getting done with SEO in mind through the whole process, so it’s just the “right” approach.

Question 12 (Felicitas Betzl): Having worked in a variety of agencies I’ve seen major collisions between account/project managers and developers for a variety of reasons. Can you think of 5 tips you can give account and project managers, which you think would make developers lives easier?

Colin:

  1. Don’t agree to something with the client without either knowing exactly what’s involved and that there’s time and budget to do it.  If you don’t know, don’t commit!
  2. Don’t let a project brief run away.  Make sure there’s a spec and stick to it (or get more time and money).
  3. Don’t micromanage, but at the same time don’t take your eye off the ball.  There’s a balance to be struck in keeping on top of a project and making sure it stays on track.
  4. Be (more) honest with clients.  A lot of the time they can tell you’re lying or spinning something.  If you’re straight with people they’ll respect you more and not be on your back as much.
  5. Answer the fecking phone!!!

Question 13 (just for fun):  What is your favourite cartoon character?

Colin: Bod!  He / she was the first cartoon I remember seeing.  I found all 13 episodes on VHS in a Co-Op for a fiver a couple of years ago.  It had a sticker that said “relive your mis-spent youth” on it and brought back so many happy memories of ice cream and strawberry milkshakes…

Cheers, Colin! This is a really fun interview! Looking forward to eating in your restaurant up in the Highlands :)

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written by Feli \\ tags: , , ,

Sep 22

Today, I am very happy to publish the interview with Catherine Bartlett, the only female developer participating in my series of developer interviews. I had the pleasure working with Cath  in sunny Barcelona. She is originally from Florida but has lived in Spain for many years now. With over 20 years of experience, I was able to learn a lot from her.

Please read below her answers!

Name: Catherine Bartlett

Bio: 16 years developing software then 5 as manager.

Specialities: streamlining, simplificiation, getting rid of fluff, psychology of development

Question 1 (Colin Brown): Over the past 2 years mobile web browsing has become far more common and accessible, gadgets such as Apple’s iPhone has helped to raise the bar in this field. How important do you think developing websites for this medium is? Should mobile browsers, such as Mobile Safari be one of the web browsers we build websites to comply with?

Cath: I don’t know.  I can’t decide if mobile browsers are all that important (even though it certainly seems to be the trend) simply because I think we are on the verge of input overload already.  Also, I think that as people who work in the technical field, we have an exaggerated idea of how other people live.  There is an enormous segment of the population that doesn’t use the internet on a mobile device even if they have and use a device capable of connecting.

Question 2 (Crawford Tait): Will increasingly-sophisticated javascript applications make flash redundant?

Cath: I sure hope so and i’ll bet you do too.

Question 3 (Diego Campo): Have you thought of changing your career during the last year? If so, which one?

Cath: I think about it every time I get pissed off but I continue to fail to find a career that I think would be more appropriate.

Question 4 (Colin McMillan): As a developer you need to keep on top of emerging technology.  Given that there aren’t enough hours in the day, how do you decide what technologies or languages to pursue?

Cath: My first response is “instinct” but we all know that that can be explained as a conglomeration of little signals that we receive and process without even realizing it.  To give a really good answer I’d need to analyze that and I don’t have time right now.

Question 5 (David Poblador): How has open-source/free software changed the way you develop software?

Cath: “Back in the day” languages and tools were part of a homogeneous environment.  Now we can and have to mix and match.  That gives us great freedom but also is a pain in the neck compared to how things used to be.

Now I don’t write much software because most of what I need already exists.  I think cars have changed the same way.  Car manufacturers used to make their own parts.  A VW had a VW transmission, for example.  The people who designed the cars undoubtedly determined the technical specs for the parts.  Now parts are mixed and matched from all over – someone who designs cars for Ford decides whether or not to use a particular model of a Mitsubishi transmission that comes close to the correct spec, for example.  So it’s more like meta-design now – simpler and at the same time more complicated.  The world of open-source/free  software has gone through more or less the same transition.  The nature of problems that one can encounter is different.

Question 6 (Kilian Valkhof): What do you strive for most in your code?

Cath: Elegance and reliability, of course.  Also to use whatever tool or code i’m using to the maximum of its capability – to find that obscure function that lets you abstract something, etc.

Question 7 (Catherine Bartlett): Tell me about the best developer you’ve ever known.

Cath: No names but his code was art.  You looked at it and understood it perfectly and knew that you never would have thought of that.  It was clean, elegant, and used available tools in ways that were shockingly good – that maybe even the authors hadn’t thought of.

Question 8 (the contributer would like to remain anonymous): How much of your work time do you spend analysing defect reports so that future instances of the same defects may be mitigated, or altogether removed from future builds?

Cath: None.  I’m too bombarded by today to try to anticipate the future.  In my opinion, the solution is to write tests for every feature and defect that is coded and those tests will protect against future instances of the same defect.  My team isn’t there yet but we’re moving toward it.

Question 9 (Alan Graham): We are bombarded every day with new approaches, new libraries (Prototype.js vs jQuery, Java vs .NET, PHP vs everything), new free services (Google Analytics vs ???).  What criteria do you use to quickly decide what to use?

Cath: Same answer as for Question 4

Question 10 (Richard Kelly – fellow online marketing dude): How much of a pain do you find developing and re-developing code for SEO?

Cath: It’s a pain.  Seems like if things keep going the way they are, that something will have to change as far as SEO is concerned, but I certainly can’t predict how.

Question 11 (Felicitas Betzl): Having worked in a variety of agencies I’ve seen major collisions between account/project managers and developers for a variety of reasons. Can you think of 5 tips you can give account and project managers, which you think would make developers lives easier?

Cath:

  1. Speak directly and clearly and imagine that developers listen in 1’s and 0’s (yes and no).
  2. Explain the problem you want to solve instead of (or in addition to) the solution you are asking for – there is often an easier way that will cost less.
  3. Take an “agile product owner” class.  This is not a RTFM comment.  It is actually quite eye-opening.
  4. Remember that developers have to treat all cases equally – if 99% of the time the feature should work one way and 1% of the time the feature should work another way, although that makes a difference for humans, it does not for machines.  Developers have to program every case correctly, which usually costs exactly the same.  This leads to the following entry…
  5. Try to eliminate the special cases that don’t do a lot for the user but cost a lot to develop.

Question 12 (just for fun):  What is your favourite cartoon character?

Cath: Yikes.  I grew up with no TV – can’t answer this one.

Thank you so much for taking part in the interview, Cath! I hope we get to work together again sometime in the future!

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written by Feli \\ tags: , , ,

Sep 18

Last night I watched Dragons’ Den, one of my favourite TV shows here in the UK, where entrepreneurs can pitch to 5 investors their business ideas and request investment in return for a percentage of their company.

In the process of finding real talent or potential investment opportunities and for general entertainment value you often see either ridiculous or useless business and product ideas. The dragons all come from different business areas, such as retail, leisure industry, hospitality.  Although one of the investors is meant to have more of a technology background, when it comes to internet ventures, the dragons are slightly overwhelmed.

A couple of years ago Theo Paphitis invested £200k for a 30% return in an affiliate site Gaming Alerts, which I found startling. Amongst the internet industry there was a lot of discussion regarding this outrageous investment. In a later show Gaming Alerts was only mentioned very briefly and it was said that they moved the team of 2 into Theo’s office building, I guess to keep an eye on them and to see where his £200k actually go. I would like to know too!

In last night’s show, Deborah Meaden invested £100k for a 15% stake in the company Mydish.co.uk, a recipe sharing site. Maybe £100k would be a fair investment but the founder of the company already raised £600k investment to date and I truely ask myself what happened to all that money, as the site doesn’t really feature any spectacular functionalities, which would have added up to this kind of money. Otherwise I suspect, that the company owner Carol Savage has been ripped off by her web development company.

Those two examples just really demonstrate to me that those particular investors may lack the necessary know how in the online industry. Although I have to admit that in both instances the pitches were really professional and the people pitching for the investments were really confident and knowlegable. This is certainly an important part contributing to the investors’ decision making process. However, I still believe that  they could have saved themselves a good junk of money if they just stuck to their areas of expertise.

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written by Feli \\ tags: , ,