Archive for June, 2007

Google analytics

June 25, 2007

I recently watched a video podcast by Robert Scoble about paid search engine marketing. I recommend it as a primer. Watch it here.

david.

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Great paintings in Koln

June 21, 2007

billede038.jpgbillede044.jpgRatzinger

Was away in Cologne this week for a conference, visited a restaurant and was really surprised to see these great painings of Ratzinger, Gorbachev and Merkel.  The Ratzinger  painting had been moved to the back of the restaurant because of complaints.  The restaurant is located very close the cathedral!

New web site looking ok

June 20, 2007

About six months ago I launched a new website for the non-profit.  It really did not rank well with Google. Best advice said that it would take at least six months to show better rank , well it’s about three months and starting to see some growth in visitors – which is nice!

tracking visitor movements

June 12, 2007

I was thinking it would be nice to see the movements of the visitors to our web sites (mouse move, click etc) and had just started to collect mouse movement and scroll action javascript snippets when I thought it was best to check if anybody else had got something going.  I though Google Analytics might have spomething like this built in, but if it does, I can’t find it.  But a few services are out there, and I am going to give them a try, they are: crazyegg, robotreplay and tapefailure.  If anybody has experimented I would be plaesed to hear of your experiences.

David.

Great little google maps hack for saving running routes

June 10, 2007

Verena and I have started our training for Berlin.  I wanted to calculate today’s route and expected Google maps to have this feature built in, but I could not find it.  But never mind because http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/ was there to  fill the gap.  A great little site that made it very easy to put in the route.  In case you are interested, here is today’s route.

David.

Things in the past that don’t go away – my job interviews with Google

June 9, 2007

Talking with friends last evening over a late supper the subject of jobs and interesting companies to work for came up. In the last few years I have only applied for a few jobs, my non-profit being one. Google and Friends of the Earth were others, I was over-qualified for the FOE position but I really liked the organisation.

Google was a different matter, I like Google, not really because of their business success as you might imagine, instead for their philosophy, I particularly like the equity they give to small business and non-profits through search marketing as well as products like docs and speadsheets and the Google mini (remind me to post my PHP script for parsing Google mini XML). Anyway, I have not really been hands-on in IT for some years, actually I have never been a real techie, so I am very poor on IT detail. I have been told often that my strengths are problem solving, working in teams, and making use of whatever is it hand. So many people told me not to bother with Google, they would not want my broad but not ultra deep knowledge.

I found a role at google that described working with partner organistions to help them make best use of Google various services. As I have quite a bit of confidence about discussing technology and I have quite a bit of experience working with partners to make technology work for them, it seemed a good fit. And indeed when I started to interview with Google it seemed that my fears about the role being too technical were unfounded. I had telephone interviews with a couple of nice engineers, granted that they were absolutely interested in my technical knowledge, which was very rusty! Still , the interviews went ok and I subsequently spent the day at Google where I met quite a few people working in the Partner Services Group. They were all very different, and I think defied the sterotypes so often described.

They asked tough questions about business and technology, and again on the technical side I was quite rusty but did slowly start to shake it off. I really enjoyed meeting those people, they had a lot of energy and were very warm. A few weeks later I received contact from google that all went well and I felt quite happy about it, I spoke with my family and close friends and they agreed that perhaps I had been right and Google would be a good fit for me. I was asked for my references, now I am very cautious about such things, my friends are quite serious people, they mainly work in Petrochemicals, where I have spent my lions share of commercial working time (another story!), they are under a great deal of stress so I do not ask for things unless it is important but I went ahead and they duely wrote the refs. Then Google decided that I had not spoken with one of their hiring managers, and apologised perfusely but asked me to come back in, this was quite a few weeks later.

This was one of the worst interviews I have ever had, it was a strange day for me, I did not eat before the meeting at lunchtime, which is never a good thing for me, and the person I met was unsure about. We had briefly met on my previous visit and I wish we had longer to speak that first day. It was made pretty clear to me that they had not decided which position in the organisation would suit me. Eventually he decided to ask me some technical questions, gosh they did take me back, for example, asking how I would update dates in an apache log file, or if I had ever installed apache, well I mentioned a few tools I remembered using awk and grep (which of course is for finding rather than replacing), I did not mention sed which was of course a mistake, and said that I had installed apache once! And then he asked me to divide a million by a thousand, and my brain went into outer space and I said I could not do it (perhaps not the hardest sum in the world!!) He also asked a business question about a partnership negotiation, and I failed to grasp his point, he asked the question in a very terse way and did not want to work through the scenario together, frankly his approach did not suit me. it seemed that had a completely different set of requirements than all of the other people I had met.  Slowly all the trust I had placed in everyone’s claims that the job was not going to be primarily techie was disappearing, maybe my friends had been right all along.

Gosh, I was so demoralised by his questions that I pretty much wanted to leave there and then. He asked me almost nothing about myself, or my motivation (which on my previous visit, they had). I had been prepared to refresh my use of those technical tools to work with so many good people., I had been prepared to put aside my responsibility to work in their team. I had been prepared to do whatever was required. But instead I was made to feel really worthless, my two experiences in those two days could not have been more different. To this day I look back at that as a wasted opportunity and one that left me feeling pretty upset.

It was a long time ago now, but I really hope that other people have had better experiences with their searches for good groups of people to work with.

Open Source usability

June 8, 2007

Recently at the non-profit we needed a package to manipulate images for our latest project (which I might talk about sometime in the future). Somebody mentioned that we just use GIMP, at which the poor sod that had to do the work shuddered, it would save the organisation a couple of hundred pounds but his face said it all, he was horrified.

I am a big GIMP fan, it has huge power for a free application, however, I also recognise that it one of the most unfriendly applications I have ever used. Considering that the competition costs several hundred pounds, i.e. PhotoShop and PaintShopPro, there is a great opportunity to improve the interface and sell it as a low cost alternative to people that don’t want to spend loads of money.

A few years ago during my time as Business Manager at University College London I got myself involved in a great project called openusability.org, which was set up to involve usability professionals in open source projects (nobody argued with the principle that many Open Source apps could do with major design improvements).

I was already interested in usability of open source applications. Eventually though I could not find a way to make collaboration work with the university and I moved on. However, I though I would do a search on “gimp usability” and I came accross the blog of a GIMP programmer and noticed that openusability have arranged for a usability person to help the team. Also, an article last year on NewsForge brought up the subject and the comments about the package are fantastic reading, there is a lot of passion out there. Will  it be possible for a usability person to make the changes, read the history and user experiences in those comments and make up your own mind. I think that the barriers to change are more political than design or technical. A usability person can’t change that. But maybe I am wrong, and I hope I am, let’s hope the openusability inspired project works out, read the latest on m+mi works blog

David.

Great tool for prototyping

June 7, 2007

I have discovered a great firefox extension for prototyping called platypus. It allows you to remotely, add and manipulate elements of web pages without needing access to the source or any other technical garb. I will post a couple of screenshots showing how I have put it to good use. Why did I not know about this when studying for my Masters??

Great startup website

June 5, 2007

I really like the look of the podcast website called Startup Studio.  I really love reading bio of entrepreneurs, I think it is quite addictive esp. as am in the middle of starting up new business for my non-profit.

Backups for small business and non-profits

June 4, 2007

I have written a draft of an article to help CEOs and others to check that their IT teams are doing correct backups. Please let me know what you think.

I have published it through Google Docs & Spreadsheets: http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dt4fm78_195gpv6x9

David.