Now, with the advent of the Facebook status and more recently Twitter tweets, fitting text based information into a very small space is ever more important and shortening URL’s has become big business and an interesting space to be in for startups these days. (check out some techcrunch articles here at http://bit.ly/jytKD and http://ow.ly/hWSV).
I have recently been turned on to yet another player in the field found at http://ow.ly. This url shortner is provided by a comapny called HootSuite and not only provides shortened urls but aggregates all of your twitter feeds in to one place and allows you to quickly convert all urls within a tweet into shortened ow.ly based urls. The cool thing is those shortened url’s also provide tracking analysis so you can see how many people clicked your link in a line graph inline with all of your posts. Pretty cool, if you twitter at all or can find it usefull to track a urls number of clicks beit through an email or web site give ow.ly or hootsuite a try.
Latest coool app that takes augmented reality and makes it practicle for the everyday user using GPS and the New York City Subway.
Augmented reality uses your screen to superimpose CGI or digital media as an overlay to a real life realtime backdrop. The first big example of comercial use I know was by GE who did thier own version of augemnted rality for thier website. On the site GE asked its users to print a pattern out and hold it up to the camera on thier computer. The site would recognize the pattern and place digital graphics, of a wind mill for instance, on top of that pattern but using the computers camera. They also added an audio feature so that when you blew on the microphone the windmills would start turning. Here are some other exampes of augmeted reality on youtube.
Now the latest augmented reality product is out on iPhone and allows users to not only see the nearest NY metro stops to them but it overlays a marker in realtime over the video functionailty of the camera so that you can see the marer over the landscape in fornt of you. With teh camer faced town arrows are placed on the ground, through the camera, showing you the direction you need to walk to get to the metro of your choice. Check out more iformation and a video on crunch gear showing off how it works here and learn more about the comapny that produced it called AcrossAir here.
Finnaly got the invite tonight from Google Voice, Googles completly free phone forwarding and voice mail service. Google voice is the new version of what was fromerly known as grand central. The servcie lets you choose a phone number and all calls made to that number are forwarded to a number of your choice, be it cell phone, home phone or work. There are a good deal of options and setting that come with this service and overall it seems to be a pretty cool evolution in phone messaging. Phone VM transcription services and magaement systems have been around for years but as usual Google has made this service free now so other small businesses will be hard pressed to beat that bottom line.
One great feature is the transcription service for all voice mails. When a user calls and leaves a voicemail message Google takes the voice stream and converts it to text. You can then read the voice mail via email, text message, through the Google Voice portal or through the downloaded phone application for Android or Blackberry. The transcription works well pretty well most of the time, although it’s not perfect just yet. Phone numbers were deciphered 100% accuratly, so far at least, and you can always play the voice mail along with the text if you have any problems with the transcription. Also, on the phone app the text is higlighted as the voicemail is read to you. If you want multiple numbers going to and from a single number check out vumber.com for multinumber. Note: There is one place that Google Voice charges, international calls.
As far as anyother charges that one could inccur from the phone network, I called T-Mobile and the representative said that many companies in the VM business have worked payments sytems with phone carriers out to make sure although you aren’t chareged for these services you dont abuse the carriers lines either. Of course rates will vary between plans and carriers so make sure you check your plan for details but in my plan I get 500 forwarding minutes during peak time. If thise minutes get used up then forwarding gets counted against my regular minutes, once again only during peak hours. All in all it would take alot of long messsages to go over those limits so I am happy with both sides of the system so far. I will see at the end of this month if what I was told ends up what i see on my bill..
Also, Daniel tunred me on to some cool settings for GSM phones. You can force your carrier to use a third party VM service so all your calls either through Google Voice or through your own personal exsisting number uses the Google Voice VM service. You can find out how to set that up here (http://go.danielodio.com/voice). Bassically dial *004*1[yourVMservicenumber]# (i.e. *004*15551234#) and all future VM calls will be sent to the VM service phone number provided.
Below are some screen shots of the dash board and settings provided by the Google Voice service.
Dashboard inbox diplsay VM messags and their transcriptions. You can send SMS messages and call from your dashboard as well. If you use gmail all your contacts come along with the dashboard so who is calling is not just a phone number but a name and picture could be associated with each entry.
This cool feature below lets you create VM greetings that change depending on who is calling you. Have a professional greeting for unkown and work contact and a fun one for friends.
Send transcriptions to email or via SMS, screen callers or keep calls from ringing your phoen and going straighth to VM with do not disturb option.
Google also has a widget that lets you put a contact me area on yor page so people can call yo without having to know your direct number.
The cost to scale a web application has changed considerably and therefor the way most people decide to plan out thier development strategies has changed as well. Not every web site is an enterprise solution and getting many sites or versions of sites out to the public quickly has become the greatest focus on a fledging comapanys mind. Because scaling is so cheap and servers are so easy to set up with clouds I often hear, ‘lets deploy first and see what people think and if it gets big we will just through some servers at the problem, and improve the code as we grow.’ For the most part I agree, in the case that a complex problem arises an RPC call to some seperate more efficient code base, server or algorithm can be used.
Dividing up a site into 3 parts is key, re-inventing the wheel tasks, already built better then we can build it widget/api tasks, lets solve a new problem tasks. For example: login, and register has been developed 100 times over as well as setting up projects and DB connection settings. Getting a users feedback or publishing your content to all the social networks has been done beautifully by many companies that now give it away for almost nothing and are great to use, unless your new great idea has a core innocation in such technolgies. Then there are the problems out there that may be partially solved, but there is still quite a bit of technique and brain power needed to tackle your unique version of the problem to complete your companies mission, like improved search of billions of peices of data or 3 degree+ of sepration colculations. The mission is use what you can that already exists if its not your CORE business to own such IP (often times people think they have 5 core’s….they don’t) and use what you can to get that core going as quickly as possible. This isnt true for all web startup’s — but it is for most.
I will save more on that topic for a later post. Today I simply wanted to take the problem of getting started up a level or two and look at the first part of development for non developers. I mean I personally know what I like to develop in, and it’s always good to ask someone with more experience then you what he/she thinks, but I all to often I find people that have inadvertenntly chosen the more expensive, more timley path and in the end they have a mess, a bill, and an almost incomplete site. They are then left with finding a batch of new developers who can jump right in and take over. I see this ALLOT and it breaks my heart. Is it jus a product of bad consulting? Is there a way to help get non developers a leg up and allow them to make good desicions quinatitatilbyl without a consultant telling them biasedly which way they can go to suit there own needs.
I know that oDesk, and other internet based freelance servcie is where allot of folks turn to so I went out and got some basic datapoint to start this conversation. Below are some charts I put togther using search scripts to get results sets from oDesk (whom I think should put out more repots on this matter to help out the public). I simply tried to query things people may be wondering and get results sets for each lanuage respectivley. I was suprised to see how flat the results were.
oDesk Search Results:
# high rated feedback (2+ FB & 4+ stars)
total feedbacks (4+ star)
most hours (2+ FB & 4+ stars)
$/hr of most hours (2+ FB & 4+ stars)
avg top 10 hours
avg $/hr of avg top 10 most hours
avg cheapst top 5
avg most exensive top 5
highest reqested rate
Below is a list of some languages and how many hits came up when the languages marked with an X where combined in the search. I guess what I was going for here is how many people know what combinations of languages. For example people who posted a knowlagdge of all languages was 7, and those that claim to provide services to both python and ruby were 35.
I will admit I dont like .net and I am not a fan of PHP as much as I used to be and although I enjoyed building FamilyOven.com in Java iterating over quick changes on the fly got really annoying having to compile and recompile my code. The pside of course is its great stability and easy to debug format. It’s just that scripted code suits my needs more these days. I put things together to push out new sites and stabiiy in the first year isnt that hard to do with server costs the way they are these days. Python and ruby have allot of abstraction but for the first year I probably wont care, second year I will just pull hard tasks out like I explained in the first part of this email.
The data I gathered made me seriously wonder for a moment, am I just falling into the hype or is python and ruby as smooth, efficient and easy to develop sites quickly as great as it seems? I didnt jump on the ruby, python band wagon quickly. I created a few sites on it before I formed an opnion for sure. I guess whats more important to notice here is how the hell is a non-technology/development person able is to decide on a languge to go with after talking to vendors and seeing results like these. I mean these data points love .net and php as giving off the impression that they are affordable, and popular. I feel however that those that I know that use Ruby and Python are more innovative, fast, and love what they do more so then the others, not to mention cheaper in that they get more done more quickly. (or so it seems that way as of late) I would love to get some advice on ways to mine for data that respond with data that can statistically prove my sentiment isn’t just an opinion, a sort of freakenomics style of analysis if possible. I dont want to try to manipulate data to prove my point I just want to see if there are any true data points out there that confirm what my gut tells me.
Of course being that ruby and python are new compared to the other languages one could expect such unimpresive numbers and stats, I also think that being that they are so new to the common developer tool set it is impresive just how many people code on it already and how many plugins are available. One metric that could be usefull is expense to get started materials wise, free easy to use documentation, number of plugins, and time to start a basic project/site.
Python for instance is part of the Google standard languages, that speaks highly to me. It is supported by the Google App Engine and it has jython a frameowkr taht allows python to run in java runtime. That is mportant as well as java run time is more efficient then most things out there so you have flexability. Ruby has tons of plugins as well as python. and all scripting languages take almost no time to set up. Also it is important to pointout that other then biz spark from MS getting a project developed is MS systems are not free to get started on from servers, to dev environments to documentation and support many MS product cost quite a bit which can get in the way of trial and error, innovation, speed to market, and keeping initial expenses down.
Please comment if you think I should account for a factor I missed or if youhave some data on your own. If you have some crutial data points please list them and the source you were able to get it from. THe more straight data we get the more we can help people make better descisions rather then just using he told me so approach.
The social graph has once again been pushed onto corp. America. It’s the ubiquitous comment board that allows the motive of “I want to tell people, but not specifically anyone in particular or for any particular reason” model. In this case someone is trying to put a cage around this monstrous beast so we can freely share what on our mind within a small community, such as your office.
After playing with yammer a bit I must say the sign up process is pretty neat. They make it work centric so that as you invite people you begin mapping out your corporate hierarchy. i.e. invite Jon who is my employee and Deborah who is my boss.
Another features I have already found some use for is the in-company hashtags like #sick or #launch w/ announcements, so as not clutter your inbox but still keep you informed and within a timeline.
yammerfox is cool also a cool add-on feature. It puts a FireFox plugin into your browser so you don’t have to be on the site to see what’s up. They have picked out a nice little space between IM, twitter and email in a business setting.
I look forward to seeing what else yammer can do for the company and I’m curious to see if it seems cooler then it ends up being useful…..