Jira vs. PivotalTracker

Looking for the perfect tool to run your scrum projects? Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for you. There are many tools out there, however, and each one of them have pros and cons. One thing I can do is go over two of the tools I have used, which hopefully could help you narrow down your search.

Let’s start with pricing. While each of the tools I have used come out to that exact same price for 15, 25, and 50 users, Jira would cost significantly less for up to 10 users. I would like to mention that Jira also offers a cloud version and server version (which, you host yourself). However, with that being said, this comparison is only for the cloud version. The big plus I see here is that with Jira you get the Agile tool,in addition to the bug tracking tool. With PivotalTracker, you only get an Agile tool.

UX. Each have pretty nice UX, but PivotalTracker may be a bit simpler, which could get the user “up-and-running” in less time than Jira. Jira has many more features and if you are trying to learn all of them, then you might just be looking at a few weeks worth of learning.

Customization. They both have customization options. Once again, this could turn into weeks of learning with Jira. Contrarily, PivotalTracker is far more limiting on what can be customized.

Reports. They both offer burndown charts, velocity charts, and historical trends. Jira also offers an estimation chart. While PivotalTracker does not offer estimation charts, I do not find this to be very important. All you need to do is know the total amount of story points, your team velocity, and sprints length to figure out your deadlines.

Task assignment. PivotalTracker offers multiple members assignment, while Jira only allows one user per task. Depending on your workflow, this may be a problem.

Administration effort. Big companies tend to create the roll of Jira administrator. This is one person that deals with Jira 100% of their working hours. This means that if you are working with large scale projects, things can get a bit hairy in Jira.

So what do we take away from all this? I will leave the decision up to you, however I believe that for smaller (strictly scrum tracking) size projects, PivotalTracker may be a better  scrum tool option. For large scale projects (multiple teams or enterprise type situations) Jira may in fact hold the crown.

Here is a quick comparison chart:

Jira vs. PivotalTracker

Jira

PivotalTracker

Web-based
 √  √
Mobil app
   
API
   
Multi-user
 X  
User roles
   X
Notifications
   
Milestone Tracking
 X  √
Gantt Charts
   X
Cost Tracking
   X
Kamban support
   X
Custom Fields
   X

How The Cloud Has Transformed My Job

Managing two coworking spaces I need to be 100% on top of customer service at all times, no exceptions. Mind you, this is not only limited to customer service, but also includes building management, billing, sales and marketing, as well as, keeping an eye on my remote team, all while moving back and forth between offices. There are a lot of moving parts, which as you can imagine, can get exhausting at times.

The biggest saviors to my sanity and productivity for this job has been basic cloud service programs that are tried and true: TabCloud, Google Drive and Boomerang.

I can expound on the copious amounts of times that all three of these have provided the mental effort that I was too exhausted to conjure up on my own, however, I will spare you on those tedious narratives and specifically speak to how TabCloud  has saved my sanity. I can almost recall the day I discovered it– what I was wearing and where I was — it was a revolutionary time in my life. It is difficult not to wax poetic about a resource that has been transformational to the way I operate. TabCloud has enabled me to separate the many facets of my business life in a clean and concise manner. I log into no less than eight programs (I like to call them “friends”) to start my day; billing software, Trello, calendars and reservation software. I have 17 sites that I use on a daily basis. They forever keep me company.

TabCloud enables me to pivot from backend information to front facing apps without a moment of lag. If a member has a question about billing, printing, etc. I’m able to go through the program step-by-step with them, while switching to my admin view to be sure all information is syncing correctly. It has also helped me change my mindset when going from “accounting” to the more fun ”marketing” component. I’m truly am able to be more effective in each task with the help of TabCloud.

The remote access is the biggest salvation. I’m able to go to any of our offices, login to the work computer with all my daily “friends”, and within a flash they are up and ready to work – even when I’m not! Now those are quality friends. I no longer even need to be at work to do work (hooray????).

Technology is wonderful, but it isn’t useful if it’s not easily accessible. Being able to organize my sites and have them all available at the click of a single button is tremendously helpful. I remember my mother saying “if only there were two of me I could get everything done.” It is through these cloud-based services that I’ve been able to duplicate my brain space to bear less of the burden.

By

Jenny Ferrando 

Community Curator  @ The Port Workspaces

Top 10 reasons to live in SF

In the last year or so, long-term SF residents have been complaining about how the Tech industry killed SF. While some of these points are valid, I would like to provide a reminder for why this still remains one of the best city to inhabit!

1- Teary geography. My eyes tend to get a bit teary whenever I think about the beautiful SF geography. I can’t help but to feel extremely happy when I stand on a hill and I see the beautiful city by the sea.

2- Lots of cool people. No matter what the tech industry drags to the city, you will still meet tons of awesome people.

3- Home to some of the coolest Tech in the world. Most of the cool gadgets and software that is used these days, are conceived and designed right here!

4- Outdoor activities. What better place than SF’s backyard to play? There are countless outdoor activities.

5- Mild weather. As much as I like to drink a beer on a hot summer night, the standard weather of the bay is almost near to perfect.

6- Open conversations. You can always count on good conversation with open minded people.

7- There is a crew for everything. Whatever you may be into, you will always find people to do it with.

8- Bay to Breakers (my personal favorite activity in SF). If you’ve never done this, here is your excuse to move to SF.

9- Be who you want to be. No judgements here folks. Simply be the person you always dreamt to be.

10- Can’t find better burritos anywhere else. True story guys. And if burritos are not your thing, there are plenty of other awesome food options out here.

If none of these things appeal to you, I bet you are voting for Donald Trump.

8 Gadgets from the Near Future That I NEED Now!

Once again, we were tricked to believe that the future we were promised, was here now. This time Lexus presented us with a “Hover-board” video (more like a smart way to do advertising). Therefore, in response, I have made a list of 10 things I wish were actually out right now.

  1. The freaking Hover-board. Come’on guys, enough with the teasers already, let’s all get to work to come up with the real deal.
  2. Jet packs. Although this is much closer to being a reality, they still are not there yet. I’m very jealous of these 2 guys.
  3. Self-driving cars. Once again, close, but no cigar. I’m not sure how the alcohol industry hasn’t pushed harder for this one! Google, BMW, and some other brands are very close to this, but I think we still have 10 more years in the making before this is an actual reality.
  4. VR games. I’m getting very inpatient here people. We have Oculus and the Xbox kinect. How come no awesome VR games are out there for these two things?
  5. Robots. I want my own personal Bender. Well, maybe not a drunk robot, but one that will clean and cook for me.
  6. Teleportation. Only that one guy that turned into a fly cracked it. Unfortunately, he turned into a fly. So it seems like long airplane rides will continue to rule for the next 50 years to come.
  7. Underwater breathing. I’ve seen some buzz about products that require no tanks to breath underwater, but nothing solid yet.
  8. Nanobots. This one may just be the solution to the last 7 points. The only thing we will have to do is buy a billion of them, upload our memories and consciousness, and BAM! Shape yourself to whatever you want.

The phenomenon of the selfie (and then came the selfie-stick)

The “Selfie” – the cultural activity, icon, and dare I say relic or sorts, that has been auspiciously practiced throughout many people’s daily lives – has established a robust selfie-zealot practice globally. It has been venerated on Facebook and esteemed on twitter. The popularity of such a dutiful practice baffles me, particularly because it seems little attention has been given to it’s origin, like so many practices of this type. The selfie-disciples are blindly carrying out a practice that have little functional basis. While the purpose of a selfie spawned from a time of inconvenience and perhaps isolation, now it is being used to maintain the individuation of a solitary experience, intentionally preventing others from participating in an event – maintaining within the safe confines of the comfort zone of “me, myself, & I”.

I can only help to think that the first selfie was a product of not finding a person to take a picture to help capture the moment, and therefore one, reluctantly, had to do so him/herself. However, the impetus for the original selfie has been lost as “selfie-sticks” have now become marketable. Not only are people taking pictures of themselves, by themselves, but they have also decided that given those times when they don’t want to have such an up-close picture, they would rather opt for the “selfie stick” than open up an opportunity for human connection by asking someone to take a picture. The “Selfie-Stick” has provided the convenience of isolation craved so often by our culture.

Yet, with enhanced convenience comes difficulties, ironically. On Tuesday, Disney will be banning the Selfie Stick from all of their theme parks as it has demonstrated safety concerns. Concerns have arose out of fear of people getting hit on the head accidentally by the stick. Not only are people refusing to ask others to take a picture for themselves while on a leisurely vacation, but they are also neglecting to acknowledge that other people might exist within close proximity to their stick. There are some other serious side effects to self-stick usage as well. People are showing signs of increased lose of common sense as they are using the sticks on theme park rides near the operating systems, causing the stick to get stuck and putting everyone in danger.

Although I’m not a doctor, I believe kindly reaching out to another human being and asking for help to snap a quick picture could prevent head injuries, social isolation, major malfunction of park rides, and put everyone out of harms way. However, again, I’m no professional.

Enforcing laws on drones

At their inception, drones were considered dangerous and violating. Albeit still controversial, today, drones are becoming much more acceptable, even commonplace. What was once front page, headline news, readers can now find a few pages in, buried between articles about the latest start-up and what the Apple disciples are crafting next. Drones are not only for official governmental use anymore, as Bay Area residents may have acknowledged with the occasional drone flying over their cars upon crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. And perhaps this time next year, those frequenters of GrubHub might discover their “sushi a la cart” being delivered by a drone clad in bedazzled adornment, swiftly landing on their doorstep.

As drone technology becomes more of a hot commodity this summer, their will need to be more discussion amongst regulators regarding privacy, safety and fun. Law enforcement is attempting to rush to catch up to create guidelines and parameters for drone use and grappling with how to truly enforce these laws on such a fledgling gadgets. With the prescience of their value, the market jumped into production mode before law makers knew what was happening. However, the problem with drones is not so much creating laws, since some form of regulation – such as the fundamental rule of not flying over 400 feet – has been instilled in most developed countries for years. Rather the issue lies in the difficulty with enforcing such laws, especially on a product where there is little production oversight.

Other laws that the FAA – the Federal Aviation Administration – has implemented pertinent to drone regulation is 1) always fly within a line of sight 2) fly at least 5 miles away from all airports and 3) never fly over people, unless they are involved in the operation. However, the government is now acknowledging that such rules are vague and difficult to implement. On the same token, governmental regulation moves slow and therefore, in the time being, safety responsibility seems to be falling in the hands of the companies themselves.

There is a lot of self-regulating in the drone industry as the government rushes to catch up. The scenario that is taking place with drone regulation at the moment seems to be akin to the privacy concerns that came as a result of the advent of the internet. Although initially there may be misuse, in time, regulation efforts with catch up, attempting to fill in all the cracks and crevasses that left room for vulnerability.

Given that we are in the age of the Internet of Things, with technology having had advanced 10-fold since the inception of the internet, it is much easier to track misconduct and identity to a drone than 30 years ago. The advanced technology we have now demands each drone user to take full responsibility of their actions and use, since it would not be an anonymous accident or a “fly-and-run” , if you will.

Drones operate mainly on the cloud and notify the operator, in real time, where and how it should be navigating. As new forms of drone technology emerges, perhaps the small demographic of those making and flying drones will be micromanaging others to take more responsibility for devices. With increased self-regulation, drone developers might just see more approval from their neighbors for their use in more colloquial settings. Postmates who?

The Lack of Reliability of Product Reviews

When purchasing the newest technology gadget, consumers – depending on the expense and total investment – will most times carry out an extensive internet search seeking the most recent, relevant reviews before following through with a purchase. However, given freedom of speech, the internet has become a platform for open opionating. Since the advent of the internet, the need for validity has wavered to the point where all accessible information – and mind you, all information is in fact accessible on the world wide web – is considered to carry some form of weight, due to the majority of consumers being neophytes in some shape or form. Whether it is a mother reviewing a new vacuum, or an employee from the vacuum company itself offering their two cents on the product, each opinion, in many consumer’s eyes, are viewed as equal. This intense reliability and trust in the anonymous is perhaps a product of two culture phenomena. First, many consumers, when reading reviews, aren’t curious enough to take a quick peek at the writer’s profile. What is important to consider is, with every persons opinion or critique shared, there is inevitably a bit of ethnocentrism that is almost impractical to remove. However, often times this is not considered. One consumer reads another consumer’s review, and more often than not take it at face value. Secondly, many reviews are in fact written by individuals who either a) have some sort of intimate relationship with the company (i.e. owner’s wife, friends, employees, etc) or b) are professionals paid to provide a write up with a positive spin in favor of the product, in effort for the company to keep their ratings high.

What use to be an outlet for freedom of speech and unfiltered, uncensored participation, has recently become muddled by more and more people becoming savvy enough to know how to tweak their online image, company and product in their favor – because it isn’t that hard to do. Therefore, when it comes to product reviews, whether it is a result of the “anything goes” mentality or due to reviewers with conflicts of interests, product reviews are damaged. However, this isn’t to say there isn’t any validity when it comes to product reviews. You can get a baseline idea of what the product is going to be like, but if you truly want to know all the pros and cons (warning, is you find a review site that has no cons, don’t drink the kool aid), it is best to discuss with friends or seek out a reliable forum to inquire about the newest technology gadget you plan on purchasing.

Aside from quality control, another major downside of product reviews that tends to be gleefully over looked is the lack of any mention of a company’s customer service. Customer service, while it might not be a priority when making your initial purchase, will most likely be of importance when something goes wrong and you need external help. In fact, customer service is what you would expect to rely on, which is often times why it goes overlooked. However, this is of critical importance when shopping for any technology, because as we all know, technology has its defects, and after spending $1000 on something we think will bring convenience to our life, we want some quality help when that investment becomes more of a burden.

Quality, speed, response time, experience and reliability are generally the expectations we have of customer service. More often than not, we want all five of these attributes, because quality service without a fast delivery just won’t do. Granted, maybe there is no such this as 100% hassle free service, but I believe we all expect something quite close to it. However, at this point in time, oddly enough – even with the plethora of product review sites available on the internet – there has yet to exist a “one-stop-shop” for customer service reviews, as mentioned in Brian X. Chen’s article in the New York Times. And I must agree with him, with all those those tech-savvy, start-up pushing, entrepreneurs out there, this presents a pretty excellent untapped market to jump on. And yes, while collecting data on customer service does seem like an extensive project, I believe there would be some very happy shoppers out there who would be grateful to be more informed. Takers?

 

Amazon and Google tap into Home Service Market

The Home Service industry has estimated to be generating somewhere between $400 to $800 billion annually. Because of the lucrative nature of such vocational work including, but certainty not limited to – plumbers, electricians, arborists, ETC – many smaller start-ups have found an outlet to nuzzle their way into the market by creating and offering an online, third party platform – connecting customers to services. There hasn’t been much competition in this market, apart from Angie’s list – the 20 year subscription service that vets local services for customer review and purchase. However, recently Google, having acquired most of the online advertising market since the internet’s inception, and Amazon, owning more of the transactionary market than any other online provider, have both seen opportunities in capitalizing on this type of service and are now cashing in on their resources, perhaps plowing over all the smaller third-parties that came before them in the meantime.

The initial idea for creating a vetted Home Service platform was to bring high tech to low tech – bringing the efficiencies and transparency of the internet to the, at times, convoluted world of Home Services. Keeping services local, not contracting outside the remote area of where the customer lived to keep the money in the community. As most of us know, however, this is nearly impossible to do if there is a third-party involved, being that most third-parties, especially those that exist on the internet, are only able to profit by extending their network outside of localized areas. Nonetheless, they do keep your services local, taking a small cut from the final transaction for the connection they made. But what is happening now is, the little guys are getting their “science project ideas” stolen from them for the big guys to get to benefit and receive the fame. As Google and Amazon steal adopt the Home Service market for themselves, the smaller companies either have to converge into the larger companies, or move out, because lets face it, these two would hands-down win in a consumer loyalty competition. Thumbtack what? Pro.com maybe? Angie’s list? Okay I have heard of it a bit. But Amazon and Google? They are a mainstay, where consumers feel safe, secure and at home..

Initially, Google financed other Home Service platforms, financially backing them while profiting from their advertisements. However, as Google attempts to now utilized their advertisement ubiquity in the more consumer-based transactionary world, it is drawing out of their investments in the smaller companies while in incubation mode on their own google-fied version of a service offering platform. Whether or not google is intending to expand their dystopia utopia by buying into the marketplace of “vetting service providers”, or simply attempting to get their “hands-in-more-pots” by providing another option for loyal Google users, it is hard to say. But it is clear that the temperatures are rising as the competition begins to heat up. With increased competition comes more of an innovative push for creative endeavors and alternative options. For example, Angie’s List recently released an app that not only connects customers with services but now allows the potential customer to take pictures of their defective appliance in the effort to find the most appropriate specialist.

Amazon’s initiative to jump on the “Home Services’ bandwagon has been a bit more expected, being the company already offers an online store that helps customers find, buy and begin using software; providing an additional service to connect their customers to specialists in their area seemed like a pretty natural transition for a company that is attempting to take over the virtual world. Amazon is attempting to tap into the market a bit differently than it’s competition. While Google is pulling out of it’s investment with Thumbtack, Amazon is continuing to keep it’s investments with various smaller businesses. It seems to be wanting to have its hands in as companies as it can, not in an altruistic way but more in an attempt to stay in as much control of the market as possible.

Either way, this is an emerging lucrative outlet and the bigger players don’t just want “in”, their grandeur nature wants it all – even the garnish!

While Amazon customers have been waiting for the online store to fill-in the gap of the Home Service needs, and therefore expected to happen pretty rapidly as the company already has an online offering, Google on the other hand, will be slower with their transition. As it starts to transition away from being simply a conduit for other companies and into a newer realm of engaging directly with customers through transactions, Google will begin to have a facelift. It has already made strides to compete with Amazon via “Google express” marketplace, however, it still needs to work on advertising itself as a online store, as it begins to tiptoe it’s way to the retail side of things.

Amazon has the consumer-based market, while Google reins over advertising. If the two could merge and join forces, they would make an insurmountable team, giving all the startups a run for their money. However, contention is where growth and innovation prevail for these two companies and therefore, they will inevitable work independently.

As we start to see these third-party Home Service platforms pop-up, 90% of which will eventually be split between Amazon and Google, many of the companies that provide the specialists may have to cut their prices in the effort to stay competitive amongst the other specialists in their field that the third parties also advertise. Therefore, perhaps more money will be funneled into the mega-corporations and less given directly to the actual workers who provides the services, keeping the middle class caged in the middle class – and the hierarchy prevails. Let us just stop and consider for a moment what it actually entails to get a plumber, an electrician, or a construction worker yourself? An internet scan, a conversation with a neighbor, or perhaps the yellow pages (do they still make phone books anymore)? Either way it doesn’t require much. If we continue to expect there to be a service for everything – in this case, a service for a service – I believe there will be detrimental outcomes. Historically, laziness has gotten entire populations in immense amounts of trouble. And history repeats itself.

 

Are recycled grass phones the future?

It has become mandatory to own a cell phone this day-and-age. Without one, you are not only missing calls, but also loads of inside jokes shared via text, emotive emojiis and hundreds of applications that will supposedly improve your cognitive development (perhaps attempting to counteract the brain degradation that the radiation from cell phones have been found to cause). With that being said, some of us activists out there cringe at the morals we compromise when using a cellphone. Environmental and health factors run the gamut of depleting numerous natural resources alongside of using an excessive supply of energy and water, contributing directly to byproducts that cause an unreasonable amount of pollution and waste. I’ll spare you the statistics here, but just knowing that more than 140 million cell phones make their way into landfills each year, leaking lead directly into the earth and groundwater, is enough for most reasonable citizens to demand alternative options for future technology. The sacrifices that are made for our convenience is appalling.  Moreover, the one initiative we as cellphone consumers have the ability to make is the choice to recycle our phones, along with other electronics, at the end of their life line, however, less than 25% actually are reprocessed.

Therefore, for reasons that are obvious, innovators and inventors have been researching for more sustainable options in recent years and fortunate for us, it’s looking as though there may be some hope.

Just this past month, designer Sean Miles developed a cell phone that might give some of us painstaking-purists some relief for the future of gadgets. After 240 hours in the studio, Miles crafted a cell phone made entirely from recycled products and natural elements, including treated pulped grass clippings and recycled resin. He described it as a composite material similar to carbon fire – finally a sustainable alternative to plastic molding. This design was originally developed as a one-time prototype for O2 Recycle to represent the value of recycling. However, Design Works was impressed with the first model and is now continuing to look into the possibility of replicating it on a larger scale.

Cell phones are one of the major contributors to the e-waste crisis we are dealing with on a day-to-day basis. Cuttting down on some of the excess material by making these small adjustments to the design is a much-needed small step in the right direction for reducing our technology waste over time. Perhaps one day, hopefully in the not-so-distant future, we will all sport compostable phones, not because it will be a fad but rather, because it will be a compulsory country-wide mandate. One can only hope.

DeepMind and Machine learning

Google has been on the cutting edge of A.I development for some time and recently had a major advancement. Google’s DeepMind research center, consisting of a team of machine learning researchers, computational neuroscientists, and software engineers based in London, recently crafted a program that, without feeding any information to it from a human brain, learned how to play Atari games.

Machine learning has been ground breaking since its development- the ability to teach technology how to operate and learn. Educating machines has been akin to that of an infant; we have “raised” them to adopt our language, and learn from patterned experiences. Inputting information into machines over a long period of time enables the machine to pick up on patterns to eventually be able to execute on its own. But the “on its own” part has, up until recently, only been possible with human help – programing the machine with information in the effort for the technology to create relevant algorithms. However, Google’s DeepMind labs has crafted a type of machine learning program that does not require excessive inputted data from humans to effectively learn.

How is this possible?

Combining machine learning and systems neuroscience to produce general algorithms, DeepMind’s A.I. Program, coined “Deep Q-Network” (DQN), recently taught itself  how to play arcade games on its own.  Not only did DQN teach itself, the program was also able to  established farsighted strategies. It was reported that the A.I agent was capable to function right out of the box, given only “raw screen pixels, the set of actions available, and game score.”

DQN works from a combination of deep neural network and reinforcement learning – through seeking to find the familiarity and balance between the unknown, and that which is known. Reinforcement learning, inspired by behaviorist psychology, is unlike most supervised learning in that it does not correct weak actions or define the right input or output pairs. Rather, it allows software and machines to find the best context specific behavior automatically, to exploit its performance. It is trained in a way similar to how our brain experience and realize dreams and flashbacks – trained from stored samples of information taken directly from the learning phase. DQN is the attempt to create a supercomputer, a program that replicates the human brain.

Future of Machine Learning

DeepMind was initiated out of concerns over the future dangers of AI. It prioritizes the importance of human nuances, which are believed to be too complex for technology to ever understand entirely. However, the evolution of machine learning currently serves as an excellent asset to numerous fields.

A.I. has proven beneficial for certain diagnostics, especially in the medical world, where opinions and outcomes drawn from a large pool of continuously updated, world-wide data has been a great tool for providing the most relevant up-to-date information to patients. It generates global statistics from analyzed data that can then referenced to support a patient’s diagnosis. Perhaps machine learning will eventually be replacing the scientific method.

What lies ahead for machine learning is still unknown.  Perhaps leading machines will be replacing the researcher – learning as they go, coming out with the most relevant information that further helps in an endless amount of fields (stocks, economics, academia, health, etc..). Providing not only data, but data along with solutions. However, the emotional decision making and illogical tendencies of human choices is still too abstract to be captured in a program. The more advanced machine learning  that researchers are looking to develop would require complex algorithms and memory span that is, at the moment, unimaginable.