Read my latest article: 8 things I look for in a Ruby on Rails app (posted Thu, 06 Jul 2017 16:59:00 GMT)


Posted by Wed, 04 Jun 2008 16:13:00 GMT

Kudos to the 37signals team for launching what looks like a nice way to get the word out about their products.

I’ve been using Basecamp for three years and it’s been a great tool for collaborating with our clients.


Disclaimer: This is my get-rich-quick scheme for the day.

Ruby on Rails meets the Business World

Posted by Mon, 21 May 2007 23:36:00 GMT

On Saturday, I had the great pleasure of being up in front of several hundred people with the following individuals on the the Business of Rails panel at RailsConf.

Photo by James Duncan Davidson

Moderated by:
  • Nathaniel Talbott, President, Terralien, Inc.
The Victims:
  • Justin Gehtland, Founding Partner, Relevance
  • Geoffrey Grosenbach, Topfunky
  • Andre Lewis, Earthcode Studios
  • Joe O’Brien, artisan, EdgeCase, LLC
  • Robby Russell, Director, PLANET ARGON

Overall, the experience was fantastic. I really enjoyed the questions that Nathaniel and the audience threw our direction, both during and after the session. Throughout the remainder of the conference, people would catch me and present complicated business questions to me and ask for my input. I think that I even helped one guy make his final decision about which job offer he was going to accept (btw, did you decide yet?). It’s always great to share my experiences of leaving my last full-time job (3+ years ago), moving to Rails exclusively (2+ years ago), how Allison and I went from two people in an attic to seven people in an attic in about a month... to having an office in downtown Portland and clients around the globe. I’m also always happy to share my not-so-happy experiences throughout the past few years as well. Running a business is hard stuff as it comes with a whole lot of responsibility, which can lead to stress. It was great to know that the rest of the panel has had their difficult experiences. While Rails makes everything feel easy… running a business is a whole different spectrum of challenges. ;-)

At one point during the session the audience was asked, “How many of you are considering starting your own business based on Ruby on Rails?”

The response?

Based off of my extremely scientific calculations (looking around the room), I’d estimate that around 30-40% of the audience raised their hands! Wow. It was fantastic to see that there was that much interest in people starting venturing off onto their own. Imagine… a flood of new companies, competing directly with us… and guess what? I think that’s awesome! Awesome for Rails. Awesome for future startups. Awesome for everyone!

Let’s face it. Rails isn’t going anywhere for a long time.

So, now that the conference is over, questions have begun to appear in my email box. Thank you all for writing. What if you could have a sounding board to throw questions to on a regular basis? Unfortunately, our session only lasted a hour at RailsConf and too many questions weren’t gotten to. Well, I’ve asked the rest of those on the Business of Rails panel to join me on a google group, titled, Ruby on Rails meets the Business World.

If you’re looking to (A) start your own Rails-based business, (B) already run your own Rails-based business, or ((C)) have business experience that you’d like to share with those in camp A and B… then join the community and start some conversations.

Personally, I’m really looking forward to learning from you all and hope that my experience of co-founding and leading PLANET ARGON can be of benefit to all of you.

Photo by James Duncan Davidson

Review: Highrise, part 1

Posted by Thu, 15 Mar 2007 22:45:00 GMT

So, today I got what I’ll call a platinum ticket from one of our pals at 37signals for their upcoming new application, Highrise, which is what they’d call a “shared contact manager.” The rest of you can keep hoping that you’ll win a golden ticket this weekend. ;-)

For the past year and a half, I’ve been wanting to build some sort of contact and task management tool for organizing all of the contact requests that PLANET ARGON receives about our Design and Development and Rails Hosting services. If I go away for a week, I come back to a huge backlog of people who may be waiting a response from me. Having a tool to allow others at PA to see what is in my queue and in some cases, respond on my behalf… has been needed. When I first heard about Highrise long ago, I got excited and have tried several different tools and each of those tools has left me feeling uneasy. Perhaps I’ll post some reviews of the other tools one day.

First Impressions

The signup process looks familiar… :-)

highrise signup

Look and Feel

Well, it definitely looks and feels like a 37signals application. There might have been a time when I thought that would be silly… but really, when you look at other product suites, consistency is extremely important to the user experience. While they are definitely going to attract people to Highrise who have never used any of their other products, I’d also expect a huge majority of their initial customers will be users of their other products. It’s obvious that Highrise was in response to a void in the market that people (likely customers) were asking for in other products like Basecamp.

Highrise has all the Ajaxy goodness that you’d expect in a brand new modern web application. Most of it seems very intuitive, but I found myself getting caught up on the extra tabs across the top of the screen. When new tabs appear, my natural response was to try to close them when I was finished looking at the page. Perhaps this is just a design decision that I’ll learn to really like. At the moment, I’m still not quite sure because I expect the tabs to change quite frequently.

Highrise tabs

(few minutes later)

Actually… I wonder if the interface designers at 37signals did this to help their users avoid having several tabs open in their web browser. I use Safari for Basecamp and generally have 5-8 tabs open throughout the day for different projects that our team is working on because the Dashboard view doesn’t really give me a good feel for what is happening throughout the day on our various internal and client projects. I’ll try to pay attention to my usage habits to see if I’m opening less browser tabs in Highrise.

So far, this is the one thing that I’m not quite sure about (yet).

Highrise meets Act-On

Once I saw that you could forward emails to Highrise and it’d auto-magically create a contact and store it, I jumped for joy (not literally… but I got an evil grin). I have been using (more like heavily relying on) Mail Act-On for what seems a really long time. I’m constantly forwarding emails off to my colleagues to keep things from sitting stagnant for too long. So, guess what I did?

Mail Act-On + Highrise

This is working beautifully and allowed me to move about 20 contact requests to Highrise in just a few minutes.

With this new ability, I can remove that one project in Basecamp that I was using to collect contact request information. That information now has a proper home!

Manage your Peeps


I’m taking more screenshots and going to continue putting more of our contacts into Highrise… so… consider this part one of a short series of posts.

To be continued…

Poor Communication and IT Projects

Posted by Mon, 12 Mar 2007 21:25:00 GMT

InformationWeek has a short story titled, Poor Communications, Unrealistic Scheduling Lead To IT Project Failure.

“Communications failures top the list of reasons IT projects fail, according to poll results from the Computing Technology Industry Association.

About 28% of 1,000 respondents identified poor communications as the main cause of project failure, according to CompTIA, which offers project management training.”

So, while we’re all spending so much of our time focused on improving our technical skills, are we also investing our time into becoming communication superstars?

If you look back at the following posts, you’ll see some links to some excellent books on this topic.

Seth Godin on Dialogue

Posted by Fri, 09 Mar 2007 16:37:00 GMT

It appears that Seth Godin is catching on to the concept of Dialogue.

Seth writes, “Some organizations are good at listening. Some are good at talking. A few are even good at both.”

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how I listen to clients, employees, friends, and family. All of our relationships are a series of conversations. Sometimes we can have healthy dialogue, sometimes we just fall victim to debate. (see Dialogue vs Debate)

If you’re really interested in Dialogue, I’d encourage you to review the technology of Dialogue... and check out the Dialogue-Driven Development project and introduce yourself.

Please Make Fun of the Boss

Posted by Fri, 02 Mar 2007 05:26:00 GMT

While reviewing some articles related to small business management, I came across the following post… titled, Note From Boss to Employees, by Michael Wade. As a young business owner, who only 16 months ago was working in his attic… to now trying to figure out how to run a company with over ten employees (and growing), posts like this remind me that we all have so much to learn. :-)

Here are a few that I appreciated…

“I may not have been given a huge amount of training before being named to a supervisory position. As a result, I’ve had to learn through trial and error. That’s not always bad. Many of my responsibilities can only be learned through practice.”

Yep… that’s me! The only difference is that I promoted myself instead of being promoted by someone else. I’m still not sure what I got myself into sometimes. ;-)

“I will make mistakes. Please give me the same understanding that you’d like me to give you when you blunder.”

This reminded me of a blog post from last year, titled, Avoiding the most common software development goofs, which points out that things like ignorance and stress are often to blame for mistakes in development. I feel like these are reasons for goofs in just about any environment, especially business. Let’s face it. We’re not perfect and we’re going to make a lot of mistakes. Once we’ve agreed on this, let’s take the next step and see what happens.

“If I do something dumb or am on the verge of doing so, please tell me. Don’t hint. Tell me.”

Perhaps this is a common problem for most small business owners. Are employees afraid to tell me that I’m doing something dumb?

“If either of us has a problem with the other’s performance, let’s talk about it.”

As they say, real friends will be honest with you about your faults. Not because they want to make you look bad, but because they care.

Each of the points that I have listed here are pointing to is… healthier Dialogue, which is always a challenge to accomplish… in any relationship… whether with clients, coworkers, bosses, or employees.

I’d like to add a few to this list.

  • It’s easier to ask for forgiveness, than to ask for permission.
  • I’m still trying to get the hang of this GTD stuff, so.. you might remind me if I forgot something.
  • Ask yourself on a regular basis, “Am I having fun?” If not, make time for some.
  • Please make fun of the boss! :-)

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