“Pre-Production” is the new “Post-Production”

There is a singular, terrifying truth that every software developer, application architect, product designer, and stake-holder must eventually embrace. Even if you build the coolest, most useful product in the world, there is a good chance that nobody will use it.

This simple truth evokes dark feelings of inadequacy within the souls of executives and and renders project managers, marketers, and developers useless. It doesn’t matter if your application is robust, scalable, or beautifully designed, you won’t know whether your audience will embrace it until you’ve actually presented it to them.

The problem here is a “known unknown” related to design. Although developers can load test an application to ensure it scales and performs, there hasn’t really been an easy way to test design except in a production environment. Focus groups are about as accurate as licking your thumb and searching for wind direction, and UI/UX consultants can give you beauty, but they can’t guarantee success. So how do you test your user experience before actually presenting your app to users? One of our colleagues wondered the same thing and came up with a pretty nifty solution.

Introducing Apptourage, an easy, cheap way to optimize usability in pre-production. Instead of spending four months developing the perfect app/ERP/CRM/tool, spending tons of cash marketing your new product, and then waiting for useability data to come in, you can upload the user experience and have it tested either by your team or Apptourage’s US-based testers. Easy peasy – Needless to say, we’re big fans of their new tool and recommend it to all of our clients. Check it out here.

Disclaimer: Yes, we have become friendly with the Apptourage crew; but, it’s mostly because we earnestly believe in the product they’ve created.

 

Extending internet to the refugees: Facebook charity or marketing campaign?

In an announcement made over the weekend, Facebook claims to want to extend internet services to reach the hundreds of struggling refugees abroad. While some might be applauding the efforts made by the multi-billion dollar corporation for putting the smallest morsel of their time, energy, not to mention insurmountably large vat of expendable resources, into a charitable cause, the initiative seems to have an ulterior motive. Given the amount of money and people power it takes for broadband and technological resources to reach those within impoverished conditions – in this case the refugees – it would actually seem more reasonable, as well as considerate, to deal with the most fundamental, basic human needs first – such as food, water, shelter, ETC – over a superfluous resource such as internet connectivity. Granted, it is recognizable that in providing internet access to the refugees (the launch date for this service has still yet to be announced), it is intended be a tool for migrants to find ways to provide for themselves and locate resources on their own, better preparing them for living on the edges on western capitalism. However, there are a slew of euro-centric assumptions that are being made with the implementation of this initiative; not everyone across the globe can hop on the internet and understand how to take advantage of it, especially in a country that is not their own.

What might be more of service, Mark Zuckerberg, is to actually use your vat of financial resources to help foot the bill for more shelters to open, which could then become educational hubs for in-person workshops and lessons to provide refugees with information about survival within a different country. This would be preliminary. After food, shelter and a basic in-house survival training for the migrants is taken care of, only then would a resource, such as the internet, be of use; by this stage many of the refugees could understand more about their role in a new country, how they can contribute, what type of discrimination they will likely receive, as well as what organizations would provide aid and help for them, in addition to other information regarding next stages of the assimilation process. It would be at this point that the internet would become advantageous. Before this comprehensive understanding and basic needs are met, internet resources might actually cause a surge of chaos, at least initially, exacerbating a feeling of inadequacy, yielding more anarchy.

However, Mark Zuckerberg will not be providing survival tip workshops and lessons for refugees, let alone will he himself ever have an in-person encounter with these folks. In fact, Facebook might actually have little interest in helping with the refugee crisis at all. The globally reported migrant issue seems to be more of an opportunistic moment for Facebook to merge their Internet.org campaign with the highly politicized story, in effort to piggy-back off of the boarder-to-boarder media coverage. Simply put, the company seems to be exploiting a traumatic situation and co-opting it for their own financial gain.

Mark Zuckerberg is blatantly taking advantage of the refugee scene to advertise Internet.org, one of his newest projects released in 2013. Internet.org is a project that hopes to bring internet to some of the four billion people world-wide that do not have a voice online. While this might seem like a admirable initiative, it is rampant with cultural insensitivity, ethnocentrism, and concerns related to cultural relativism. However, I will refrain from divulging in a long-winded harangue about that here and instead, end this with a letter to Mark Zuckerberg:

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg, or Mark if I may,

While I acknowledge your enthusiasm in providing internet to the refugees is coming from a place of wanting to leverage some of your privilege for those without any resources, perhaps I can offer you some advice regarding your charity efforts. For one, it is important to be sensitive of the demographic you are attempting to help. Acknowledging that sitting down in a big plush chair with a $5 wet latte to dive into eight hours of internet research is not on the top of every citizens’ list. It is important to be considerate that time to utilize the internet as a resource is a privilege in itself. Two, if you really wanted to help out I would suggest you fly yourself over there (of course on your company’s tab) and actually become involved with the culture of individuals you are are seeking to extend your services to; this way you would be able to better tailor the technology for the specific demographic for which it is being offered. Lastly, be honest, are you using the refugee’s disadvantages to leverage your newest project – Internet.org? Yes, perhaps this is one way to reach the 4 billion people who currently don’t have an online voice (and have you ever thought to yourself that there are in fact communities out there that are vehemently opposed to adopting western technology), but don’t you think there are other demographics you could launch it to first? Maybe societies where people actually have a stationary place of residence? Just some thoughts. I respect that you want to give back to your global community, but may I suggest using a bit more discernment.

Sincerely,

Kayleigh

How Project Management Came To Be

Project Managers and Project Management tools have both evolved, adapted, and changed over the course of the past handful of decades out of necessity, given the rate of technological advancements met with cultural expectations. However, Project Management in itself has been around since the early 1900s as projects evolved that needed a specialized skill set to meet the demands and requirements for the nuanced organizational structure a project was developed under. The skill set generally expected of such a role involves the ability to self-govern, organize, stay driven, as well as self-motivate in order to stay on top of a multiplicity of projects that require for him/ her to control the budget, human capital, communications between teams/client, and manage both resources and relationships appropriately. This position, being immersed in the thick of the internal company culture all while being in direct communication with clients, provides a unique angle to propose innovative opportunities. However, this was not always the case as the role and business model has changed tremendously from what it use to be.

Before going any further, it is important to speak to the distinct form of Project Management that is being discussed. While Project Management in itself – the role of managing “projects” – has been around for many centuries, Systematic Project Management techniques that led to the development of the project management role, often discussed today, has been developing, more or less, over the past 60 years. The development of such techniques has paralleled the development of business/organizational structures. As businesses moved out of the traditional leadership directive model of having all in-house employees following a strict line of command, into a more recursive lateral or matrix structure of shared and/or multiple points of contact for directorship, Project Management has become more autonomous in nature, and self-directive; requiring a sense of intrapeneurship. However, once again let me take one step back to discuss a little more about how it managed to get from point A to B.

While there is a lot of speculation of when the modern Project Management era began, there is general consensus that it arose sometime after WWII between 1940s – 1958. It was in 1958 that CPM/PERT was first developed. Project Management in this era established out of an increase of efficiency. As speed of communication and transportation increased, more work was getting done at a faster pace. Therefore, there was a need for more practical organization in regards to what was getting done and how, along with what resources were utilized to accomplish it. During WWII Project Management came into play in regards to the Manhattan Project that built the atomic bomb. It was at this point a role needed to be created to coordinate government-sponsored projects, along with tracking the resources and development of the project.

Between the years of 1958-1979 there were very computer-specific technological advancements that emerged. It was during this era, as mentioned above, that CPM/PERT Project Management tool was founded, and well as MRP (Material Requirement Planning). Organizations that used these systems hired people, who were to eventually evolve into the title of project managers, as specialists to operate such tools as “brokers of information”. In 1958, when NASA was created, and missions were led to explore space, a program office role was created that delineated what a project manager-type position entailed, which included maintenance, scheduling, contracting, developing protocols for performance, and focus. This followed the founding of some of the first Project Management software companies in the 70’s – Oracle, Artemis, Scitor Corp.

The IT sector revolution took off in the 80’s, eventually demanding people to multitask on personal computers. The development of the personal computer, away from the mainframe computer system, made Project Management techniques more accessible, allowing the role to be considered by individuals who were not only computer engineers. As company culture and organization dynamics began to play even more important role in team cohesion and project oversight, Project Management became essential for solidifying goals, costs, schedules, metrics and communication.

The efficiency of the internet enhanced the need for not only Project Management skills but flexibility in those skills, in effort to be adaptable to the increased diversity that was experienced with the advent of the internet. With the adoption of internet technology for Project Management tools, creating virtual and web-based project offices, managing and controlling teams as well as projects became that more productive. Today Project Management continues to be ever more demanding requiring versatility and the ability to manage multiple moving parts at once, with success. Fortunately, with the plethora of PM tools available these days, no one has to do it on there own.

The Ashley Madison scandal, a violation and a reminder about security

Password cracking has become somewhat of a modern day past time, given the advancements that have been made in technology. Specifically, in the past five years there have been more privacy and password breaches than in the previous handful of decades combined. That is an exponential increase that makes us all exponentially at risk. Something that has paralleled this increase has been password reuse, which unfortunately correlates with network vulnerability.

Privacy and security on the internet have been two of the main themes passed around in discourse regarding the internet and personal identity for sometime now. This discussion has had a resurgence recently due to the Ashley Madison password crack, where a sophisticated group of hackers known as the Impact Team broke into the website that connects married individuals with others seeking extramarital sexual engagement and exposed all the user’s private information to the world. Now, this scenario obviously is a breeding ground for public shamming, as well as philosophical disputes regarding the principles of cause and effect. However, the focus of this article will not be on moral code, given the internet already consists of copious articles that ridicules and denigrates many of these innocent people who simply were engaging in their birth right – Freedom of Choice. Sure, if I wanted to I could bring out an alternative lens that would discuss a belief that takes into consideration an invisible specter world at work with the Ashly Madison scandal, a world riddled with unknowns and mystical oversight that provides an unspoken esoteric “checks and balance system”. However, these angles would position me on a pretty rocky soap box that I don’t feel at all privy to. Because at the end of the day, the truth of the matter is, when speaking in terms of legality and not subjective ethical positioning, all 37 million of these users who were exposed were indeed violated. Hands down. The bigger matter at hands here, which in fact more of the conversations on the internet should be tilted toward, is privacy and how to further protect our online identity.

The most important piece of information that has come out of this virtual scandal, which seems can’t be reiterated enough, is a problem that has already been discussed ad nauseam – password reuse. Really, perhaps we should all think about our passwords as condemns – use them once, never share with others, and when you do throw them out make sure they aren’t visible to the naked eye – bury or destroy them. Time and time again, albeit the millions of people being concerned about identity fraud, internet users still seem to be in constant denial that their accounts could be at risk. Using the same password over and over again for each and every online account is simply asking to be violated. Whether it be an Ashley Madison, Bank of America, or Facebook site, most people tend to believe themselves to be excluded from the rational of password variation, believing that, for some reason, they are immune to being hacked. The fact of the matter is, it’s simply not the case. Hackers do not discriminate, because if they can do it, they will. Point. Blank. So until everyone has thumb-print-protected passwords on their MAC and PC laptops, it would be a good idea to never use the same password for another site, in addition to constantly updating passwords on all accounts every 30 days.

Here are some tips for creating hard-to-crack passwords:

1) Never use your name or the word “password”. Basically, don’t be a nincompoop.

2) In fact, don’t use words at all. Words are universally ubiquitous, be more cryptic.

3) Always use at least eight characters or more. The longer, the more variations that need to be tried, meaning the more difficult to decode.

4) Contain characters that include numbers, capital letters, and multiple symbols from the top portion of the key board.

5) Completely go wild on your keyboard to come up with something entirely new and obscure. The only trick is, retaining it.

And remember, you don’t have to abide by the way of the technocrat. There is always the way of the luddite.

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

Where are the mobile app experts?

Building a mobile app can be a difficult pursuit for rookies. There are many online mobile app resources to teach and help construct the infrastructure for one’s first mobile application. However, although individuals newer to the mobile app business might need tools such as online app builders to get started, it would be surprising to discover that technology companies who claim to specialize in app building services, have never built a fully functional app of their own. Yet this does seem to be the case. A recent study carried out by Telerik State of Mobile Development conducted a survey on 3,000 IT professionals, discovering 57% of developers had never truly gotten their hands dirty to build an actual app. Albeit considered “professionals”, the issues of constantly changing technology have prevented many from mastering the trade.

Although this could be a product of the fast-paced evolution of technology, other constraints may also play a role. Many of the newer start-ups are run by young professionals in their early 20s. Given the infancy stages of these developers’ careers, many have not been in the field long enough to build up the dexterity to aptly acclimate to new technology.

While the discovery of this deficiency in mobile app specialization might highlight a lucrative market that has yet to be fully exploited (i.e. app building tools for professionals), there is some caution in expanding this business. The more online mobile app builders, the more likely we will see less original, more ubiquitous user designs. Albeit efficiency, the artistry of the development and originality that gives each application it’s unique, slick look and user-tailored interface could potentially become extinct. Similar to what has been seen to the art of website design as Weebly, WordPress, and Wix’s build-it-yourself website model has infiltrated the World Wide Web in the most recent years.

But, alas, there is hope as there are still highly skilled mobile app developers who do in fact know a thing or two about a thing or two (or three, or four). To stand out from the masses and maintain your app’s competitive edge among the sea of apps that consumers are inundated with on the daily, look for a mobile app professional with a hearty portfolio, years of experience and wisdom in the field. This will generally verify they have not only perfected their craft, but most likely have been able to constantly stay one step ahead of these every changing, ever ephemeral development tools.

Don’t just look for a professional, find yourself a veteran in the field. Check out all that Rückbau has to offer in mobile and web development.

More and More coding careers, less of…..everything else

As students graduate from college with heavy-weighted degrees in the “Liberal Arts”, what they are finding is that in order to make a six figure income, what is becoming increasingly essential, outside of degrees and life experience, is the ability to code. The discouraging factor is that to acquire enough knowledge and experience in coding to land a well paying job, the time commitment and cost are both far less than a four-year degree. Within three months, and $10,000 later, a $100,000 salary can be as close as a stones throw away.

So I pose both an ethical, philosophical, and what seems to be almost a rhetorical question of whether or not it is even considered valuable to go to school for a 4-year degree anymore? To be an academic or scholar, then perhaps yes. However, in that case, you are most likely not in any rush to land a well paying career anytime soon. On the other hand, if college is simply a means to an end to land a decent paying job, perhaps it is time to reconsider.

Don’t get me wrong, not everyone can walk into a coding bootcamp course and come out as a genius engineer. The main trait one has to have before getting into any of this is intelligence. One needs to have a sharp, critical thinking, analytical mind, which college generally provides resources that can help fine-tune this much needed asset. Additionally, apart from simply accomplishing a coding course and receiving a certificate, one also needs to chart a significant amount of hours in front of a computer, geeking out over the artistry and poetic nature of code, if you will.

However, it is undeniable that the tech industry is booming, and their seems to be no end in sight at the moment. It is for this reason that graduates, among others from entirely different fields, are leaving everything they once knew in exchange for the plethora of high salaried paying positions with companies desperate for employees. Although these companies have little quality control, many are not concerned, especially newer start-ups who are backed by wealthy funders encouraging them to hire fast and fire fast if need be. Given the long line of people willing and ready to take the next available position, there is no shortage of competitive candidates. Whether or not this business model is sustainable in the long run, time will only tell.

Nonetheless, with all speculation aside, the tech industry is hands down a lucrative business for many people, all the people, willing and able minded and ready to compute.

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.