Get an online personal assistant, it will make your life easier

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The shorter version:
Checkout Online Personal Assistant. I recommend it, it’s saved me time and made my life easier. Best part is you can use it from wherever…
Try it, tell Ed you got there from here, and he’ll treat you nice ;-)

The longer version:
OK, so I’m the first to admit that I often find myself with too many balls to juggle. I find that having more to do actually makes me more productive and when I get in the zone, things happen and it feels good.

However, when you’re starting a business, or working on something important to you, and you decide that it is the highest priority in your life, then other things slip down the priority order, and they simply don’t get done.

Cases in point:

  1. I’ve needed to get a UK drivers license for at least 3 years now
  2. I’ve needed to renew my South African passport for over a year now
  3. I’ve been serious about taking up Kendo, or a Japanese Sword Art, for at least 18 months
  4. I’ve needed to sort out health insurance for a long long long time
  5. I wanted to organise a birthday bash for myself this year, for precisely the reason why it didn’t happen last year

I think you get the picture…. Basically you keep your life together somehow until something threatens to break, then you mend it so it doesn’t break in the short term, then you go back to being focussed. I know not everyone is like that, but I am, hence this post! ;-)

Anyways, I’m not really into recommending or plugging services that I don’t have a lot of exposure to, mainly ‘cos I get too many emails so it’s hard to decide whom to spend an hour for getting to know a service, and also ‘cos people don’t really read my blog for that reason ;-) I’m not Scoble or Arrington or Kirkpatrick, and neither do I want to be.

Back to the point – a while ago my friend Ed setup a service called Online Personal Assistant, and after a bit of nudging I decided to give it a try. My @Inbox was overflowing, and I really just needed to clear some stuff that was important, but not that important it could go above Kindo.

So I sent a list of stuff to my personal assistant Kevin:

  1. Book Geek BBQ venue for summer in London
  2. Book karting venue for my birthday delebration
  3. Book bowling venue for my birthday celebration
  4. Find me health insurance
  5. Find me Tai Chi schools close to where I live
  6. Find me Kendo schools close to where I live

As you can see, they’re all time intensive tasks that would mean me spending a few hours online for each one, at some point, getting to a place where I can make a decision and then do some actions… Getting my passport and drivers license require me to be somewhere in person, so I needed to do that.

Where we are now is that Ed’s team (thanks Kevin!) has spent about 9 hours doing all that stuff for me, for which I’ll pay an hourly rate. Everything is documented and tracked in an online workspace (not Basecamp), and I’m happy with the results. I have a few things to tie down now, but basically all the research is done, and all it requires is another booking, or an action on my part.

Bottom line – I’ve saved 9 hours of my time (which I value more than what I’ll pay for it), thereby enabling me to focus on things more important to me now, so as far as I’m concerned I’m a happy biologist.

I happily recommend the service, and am going to continue to use it.

Carsonified:- Matt Week – Day three and where we’re at

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I’m a bit skeptical about this, but anyways I think the results will be interesting… ;-)
_ Carsonified » Blog Archive » Matt Week – Day three and where we’re at

Day three is upon us. We have had a few challenges along the way but all of the team are making progress.

There is a bit of an air of pandemonium, but all the team are weighing in with a tremendous effort. We are getting an enormously valuable insight into what web development companies have to go through day in day out.

From an email:

As you may already know the Carsonified team have set ourselves a challenge this week – to build a web app in four days (32 hours) and we’re launching tomorrow at 5:30pm GMT.

The app is called Matt and it helps people post to multiple Twitter accounts (Multiple Account Twitter Tweeting). We know the idea for the app isn’t going to rock the world, but we’re going to share everything we’re learning in the process – so hopefully that’ll be valuable for other people.

What do you think?

Tips for landing a php job in London

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OK, so I’ve not got long so will be brief and to the point with this one, in the hope that it will help some of the people that read this blog, and maybe even some of the folks that are looking for devs to join their teams.

I’ve had to run through a lot of agencies and candidates in the last month or so, recruiting for Kindo, and these are some thoughts in no particular order:

As a candidate

DO:

  • accept there is lots of good competition; you have to stand out to be noticed
  • research on the company you’re interviewing at – it’s polite and will help you with 3, 4 and 5
  • send a cv that is relevant to the job spec – java experience won’t interest someone looking for a php person
  • learn how to sell yourself and articulate your experience – enough said
  • accept you’re going to have to send code to show what you can do – send your best relevant code
  • describe what your code is supposed to be doing to there is context – don’t just send a bunch of methods
  • comment more than you think you should – esp if you’re going to work in a team or be contracting
  • write documentation in the code for something like phpDocumentor – that makes people happy

As a general rule (unless you’re a superstar), your work environment, the people you work with, and the work you’ll be doing, should all supersede remuneration unless you have a specific reason (like a mortgage for example).

As someone recruiting

DO:
Read this first:
http://www.nickhalstead.com/2008/07/01/10-reasons-why-i-hate-recruitment-agents/

  • accept that it is going to take up a lot of your time
  • have a clear job spec and role description in place to send around
  • use your personal network first
  • get your agencies to send some cv’s to assess the kind of candidates they have
  • ask for source code if you like the cv – you’ll do less unnecessary face to face’s
  • expect them to do some filtering and work for you; if not, bin them
  • turn your phone off if you want quiet time to work
  • agree on terms first, or re-confirm them if circumstances change on your end

Hope that helps!! ;-)

Intruders.tv interview on Kindo (about scale/product/marketing/revenue)

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Was at Open Coffee last week (looking for developers), and did this interview with Vincent and Eugene from Intruders.tv on Kindo. Talked about how we’ve tackled some of the usual web app issues like scaling our userbase, internationalisation, product dev, marketing tricks, revenue generation….
_ Intruders.tv interview on Kindo.com

Kindo.com is a “new take on the traditional family tree”. In this interview, we sit down with Gareth Knight to talk about Kindo and their user acquisition strategy. Gareth shares with us his experience of attracting users to the site and the effectiveness of strategies such as blogging, Google AdWords and PR.

If you’re building a webapp, could be useful ;-)

Thoughts from recruiting for php developers in London

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I’ve spent the last week or so busy with recruiting, and I’ve learnt some interesting things. So thought I’d post something small just before I take the tube home…. I’ll try not to be too sarcastic.

  1. Most recruitment agents seem to be early 20 something bottom feeders who don’t or can’t read, and have no industry experience
  2. Most of the agents don’t really know the difference between the various technologies or just do a search on language (instead of focus), so therefore send you crud which you still have to filter out – I received a Linux systems engineer CV for a php role
  3. Warning signals include:
    • “I called you earlier”
    • “so you’re hiring a developer, what’s he going to be doing day to day?”
    • “I’m sure he’s great for your social application, he’s got loads of enterprise Java experience”
    • and my personal favourite of today “an excellent web2 ASP Javasphere candidate” (*note, not knocking Java)
  4. There are some gems who know their stuff, who listen, and who actually have good candidates = these are gold
  5. Most developers don’t seem to know how to communicate why you should hire them, so learn to ask good questions that lead to what you want to find out
  6. Your ear is going to get warm, so get comfy
  7. Take water to phone call
  8. Update:Agents seem to get surprised when you contact previous employers to get feedback on candidates (surely this is something they should do??)

That’s it – hope that helps, and I’m wondering whether you’ve had any experiences with agents and recruiting? ;-)

Test your Web design in different browsers with Browsershots

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Pretty cool utility ;-)
_ Test your Web design in different browsers – Browsershots

Browsershots makes screenshots of your Web design in different browsers. It is a free open-source online service created by Johann C. Rocholl. When you submit your Web address, it will be added to the job queue. A number of distributed computers will open your Web site in their browser. Then they will make screenshots and upload them to the central server here.

Hat tip to Steve, who finally has a blog, dammit!