Picking five things

Seth Pick Four Workbook PackFor the last eight years, I have worked as a freelance programmer on a product that is currently known, by the few who know it at all, as PVS.  I started with the product when it was the up-and-coming, eponymyous product of a software company named Ardence, run by my friend Richard Davis.  When Ardence was acquired by Citrix Systems in 2007, my contract was picked up along with the code.

Through four major product releases, I’ve been a remote member of a team that slowly nudged the product’s code up the scalable, enterprise-ready evolutionary ladder: from single-threaded to multi-threaded, from Access to Sql Server, and from being a stand-alone product to being a component integrated within other, larger Citrix offerings, which is how a product that is used by many is known by name to so few.

The amount of work varied from quarter to quarter but averaged 20-30 hours a week. For all these years, my Citrix hours have been the big rock that had to fit first into every day and that any other work had to fit around.  My Citrix contract has been ‘the day job,’ funding and enabling all the investment in our app product portfolio.

But as of Friday, May 31st, my last work order expired, I emailed my goodbyes, and I turned out the lights on all my remote connections to Citrix machines real and virtual.  I may need to go back to consulting to make ends meet, but not right away, and definitely not for a few months.  I’ve promised myself at least one full-time Summer of Product.  And, tempered with an appropriate amount of trepidation, I am really, really looking forward to the experience.

Citrix could not have picked a better time, from my perspective, to rationalize the resources being applied to PVS.  I frankly don’t know if I would have had the courage to jump ship right this minute but I am extremely grateful for the push. Continue Reading →

The ‘day job’ — a gender issue no more

There’s a remarkable amount of discussion going on, just now, of Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.  Sandberg is COO of Facebook.  Her book attempts to explain why women have stalled out in their march on the executive suite and “offers compelling, commonsense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential.”


In this discussion, I’m much closer to the view of Jody Greenstone Miller.  Miller is the author of a recent Wall Street Journal piece:  The Real Women’s Issue: Time — Never mind ‘leaning in.’ To get more working women into senior roles, companies need to rethink the clock.  She correctly, in my opinion, points out that many great women don’t lack the skills or aggression to advance in large corporations.  They ‘stall out’ or bail out, rather than “‘lean in’ because they don’t like the world they’re being asked to lean into.”

Amen — but . . .

But even Miller is missing the boat somewhat when she frames this discussion as primarily a gender issue.  Women working for large corporations may have lead the charge on big-corporate work values for a few decades but they are hardly alone any more.  That movement has become much deeper and more pervasive.

Why isn’t anyone talking about the fact that the same ‘problems’ that have impeded women in some workplaces for the last few decades are exactly the same ‘challenges’ that Gen-X and Gen-Y employees of both genders are presenting to employers?   Continue Reading →

Why run a contest?

SigFigPosterWe have two days left until the end of the ‘game idea’ contest we have been running over on Learning-Laboratory.com.  I’ve always figured that we would get the bulk of our entries, if any, in the last two days so I’m eager to see what rolls in by Friday.

For now, let me just say that, if you know a chem student with even half an idea for a game, you should tell him or her that the odds of any valid entry winning something are, well, quite good.

But why run a contest in the first place?  We’re in this business to make money not to give it away.  So what, specifically, was the contest intended to accomplish?  And how do we know, when we are done, if the project has been a success?  What are we trying accomplish? Continue Reading →

Facebook ads: No heartbreak for Facebook itself

I haven’t gone back to Facebook advertising since I wrote my heartbreak piece about it over a year ago.  I may try them again soon to promote a couple of new, non-phone-app products we have in the works.  In the meantime I came across this remarkable infographic.  It says:

  • nothing about how well the ads are working for the advertisers,
  • a lot about how increasingly mobile our readers and users are becoming, and
  • an enormous amount about how well ads are doing as revenue generators for Facebook.
One bit really caught my eye:  Globally, users spend 9000 years a day in Facebook.  Yikes! Continue Reading →

Apps by the dozen: TimerRN is published

TimeRN screenshotYesterday, we published our 12th Android app: TimerRN. This app has been a long time coming, primarily due to my getting distracted by other projects.  Hokan worked on the first version; Matt did some major re-work after I tested it and figured out what worked and didn’t in the original design.

The original idea for this product actually came from a conversation I had with Mark Burke of Voalte in July, 2010.  Voalte describes itself as providing “compelling software solutions for healthcare institutions that solve communication problems at the point-of-care.”  They concentrate on iPhone- and iPad-based solutions but Mark was kind enough to spend a bunch of time on the phone with me, talking about Android apps for nurses, and, among other nuggets, threw out a suggestion that we implement a ‘drip timer’ app.  TimerRN is a bit more general than that first idea. Nurses can set multiple timers and alarms for IV drips, medicines that have to be dispensed outside the standard schedule, getting patients ready for transport, or even to when to take their next break.

It’s been a busy month but Matt helped me make the effort to get TimerRN published.  We’ve made it as good as we can internally; it needs users working with it to get better.  And it’s great fun to have an even dozen Android apps in the Android Marketplace.

Our apps are sticky! (And that’s a good thing.)

My friend Mark Thoney of Wyolution added a smile to my workweek when he emailed me a link to a USA Today story on how fleeting glory is for most phone apps.   The main point of the piece was no surprise to me.  I’ve long heard that many apps, especially games, get used only for a few hours or a few days after they are downloaded.  Frankly, as a developer, I’ve always found that one of the most discouraging of factoids.  Think of all the passion and labor that goes into even a simple app.

But one quote caught my eye.  Anindya Datta, founder of Mobilewalla, an ‘app analytics firm’ says that while “80% to 90% of apps are eventually deleted,” he considers any app that’s retained by 30% of downloaders to be “sticky.”

Guess what? By that measure, almost all of our apps are sticky!  I’d been feeling a bit down about the fact that ‘only’ half of the DOT Placards downloaders still have the app on their phone.  Guess I’m going to have to revise that emotion upward, eh?

I tossed our current download and install numbers into a spreadsheet: Continue Reading →

Mobile Friendly: How easy was it?

DOT Placards Before WPTouch

DOT Placards Before

DOT Placards After WPTouch

DOT Placards After

Note:  This is the somewhat techie version of this story.  If you don’t maintain your own website, you’re probably interested in the more business-oriented version here.

Having checked out our various web sites using both our own mobile devices and the nice HowToGoMo tool that I wrote about previously, it was pretty easy to decide that we needed to invest some time in trying to increase our sites’ mobile friendliness.  And it was easy to decide where to start. Continue Reading →

Mobile Friendly: How easy can it be?

Sherprog Site after WPTouch was applied

Sherprog After WPTouch

Sherprog Before WPTouch Conversion

Sherprog Before WPTouch

I started writing a post about how easy it was for us to convert our two simplest websites to be mobile friendly.  It was pretty easy and you can see the big difference it makes.  But the details are probably only of interest to folks who have something of a DIYer relationship with their website(s).  If that’s you, check out my How easy was it? write-up.

However, if, like most business people, you had someone else build your website, you’re almost certainly going to have someone else make your mobile-friendly modifications, too.  So for you, the questions are more:  What should I expect, in terms of time and money?  How do I know if the person I’m talking is honest, competent, and going to do a good job?

Continue Reading →

Tax Time, Typewriter Time

In the U.S., April is usually thought of as ‘tax time’ since that’s when personal returns are due.  But, for small businesses, January is tax time since we have to get a ton of filings done by the end of the month.  Our own Federal returns aren’t due till March but all the paperwork we produce for others: the W2s for employees, the 1099s for contractors, and many other quarterly or annual reports are due by the end of this month.

I grew up in a family business and remember the bad old days of computing payroll taxes ‘by hand’, looking them up from the tax tables one employee at a time, late into the night, every two-week pay period.   So for the most part, with QuickBooks to back us up, I consider most of our tax reports a little bit nervous-making (Do I have the right numbers?  Am I getting the reporting quarter checked off correctly?  Is that deadline date a post-marked date or a due-there date?) but laughingly easy to actually generate.

However, amazingly to me, there are still a few tax forms that can’t be just printed out on blank paper by QuickBooks. Continue Reading →

Updated: SnapToMe email delays and failures

Update:  22 Jan 2012

I’ve been using STM+ off and on over the holidays and it was always working well.  I took several big photos this morning and they appeared in my inbox very quickly.  And I never did get any support emails or negative comments in the Android Marketplace.

So whatever problem we were having for a while in December seems to have gone away.  Of course, the wise old tech support saying is:  Problems that go away by themselves come back by themselves.  So we’ll be monitoring the STM products’ performance carefully.

I use our two photo sending apps, SnapToMe and SnapToMe Plus, all the time in my own work.  I’m always scribbling something on a whiteboard and needing to save it or show it to someone.  Snap!  And just the other day, Matt and I put together a low-fidelity mockup of a new user interface with sticky notes and needed to send it to a customer for review.  Snap!

In the past week, I’ve had a couple of days where emails from SnapToMe Plus were delayed for up to 24 hours and emailing from SnapToMe simply failed outright.  We’ve narrowed this down to being pretty certainly an issue with our email hosting service and have begun researching alternatives.  But, frankly, it’s Christmas time and we’re also trying to take some dedicated time off to be with our families.

So, please, if you are experiencing problems with one of the SnapTo’s let us know at support@sherprog.com.  We’d like to take our time, understand the problem more thoroughly, and be deliberate in our choice of what service to try next.  But if the products are working badly for a lot of users, we’ll do what we can to accelerate a solution.  Meantime, keep your eye out for an update to your app and, when you see one, please accept it.

Thanks for your patience and support.