Snappy is Saved!

Phew, it’s been a whirlwind of a week. Last Wednesday I announced that we’d be closing Snappy. It wasn’t an easy decision, but one I thought was right for all parties. You can read more about that here.

Today, less than a week later I’m extremely happy to announce we’ve come to an agreement on the sale of Snappy. The short of this is that Snappy will continue to run and grow indefinitely!

The slightly longer version is that we had a HUGE amount of interest in Snappy. Looking back, I should have made a more concerted effort at a sale up front. Just another error for my long list of them 🙂

After going through all the emails and talking with a bunch of folks, I found a fit. A team with a big vision for what Snappy can become and the means to do it.

I’m not going to get into details on them just yet; they’ll do their own announcement once the deal is fully executed. However, I wanted to provide this update as fast as possible so that everyone (most importantly Snappy customers) would be aware of it.

So many customers have contacted me this week expressing their love of the tool and in every case their understanding of the circumstances. They’re an amazing group of customers, and I’m thrilled to be able to keep the service running.

Not only running, but growing and thriving. That was the aspect I thought we wouldn’t be able to bring long term and now with the new team that will become a reality.

I’ve always believed in Snappy and in fact I’ll continue to be a minority shareholder in the new Snappy company. I’m really excited to work with the new team. I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

The Apple Watch Money Grab

The Apple Watch is Apple’s purest (first?) money grab to date. If you step back and really think it through, there is no other viable conclusion. At least not for THIS version of the watch. Maybe in the future there will be a version that does amazing things, but this version is a money grab and little more.

Let’s first look at the devices usefulness. The device itself has no logic ability. It sounds like eventually you’ll be able to do programming logic on the watch, but at least in phase 1 no logic. So it’s just an external monitor for your iPhone.

How many people need to get notifications, but can’t pull out their phone when they to? Is being on your phone a social no no these days? I think not. Right now, just look up from your phone and you’ll see everyone else on their phone.

So now we’re down to some group of people who too are busy in meetings and have their phone with them (because you must) but don’t want to pull it out. That’s obviously not a core market for Apple.

Is the Apple Watch revolutionary? No way, not even close. The iPod, iPhone, and iPad were all clearly revolutionary products. Not that the categories were invented by Apple, but they were perfected by them.

The Apple Watch is not a huge evolutionary jump. It’s just like every Android watch out there that shows notifications and not much more.

It is prettier of course, though to my eye at least not the huge jump there either that iPhone/iPod/iPad were.

It has a few health functions. OK, but the ones it has are not that great and second most people don’t care about any of that. Maybe they’re trying to change that, but at Apple’s scale health nuts are not a core market. Also, what super health nut wants to carry and iPhone AND an iWatch while they’re running, lifting, playing soccer, etc. The watch doesn’t even have it’s own GPS!!

So what is the purpose of the Apple Watch?

First, I do think there’s a part of this which is to finance the future. Yes, this watch sucks but over the coming years electronics will get smaller, etc etc. So the watch 5 years from now will have a lot more stand alone capabilities and be potentially more impressive (though lack of screen size will always be very limiting without some new UI breakthrough).

Selling it now lets it finance itself. Though, this seems a very un-Apple like thing to do, it potentially makes some sense.

The main purpose of the watch though is pretty clear. It’s simply a money grab. Apple has a huge install base, an extremely loyal one. Apple focuses on the top of the market, so a good chunk of the install base has significant disposable income.

Apple already sold them a super computer for their desk, their pocket and the couch. There’s not a lot of room left there. So, the move to fashion. They’re simply going to use their huge popularity to make this watch fashionable and sell it based on that. A mostly useless chunk of metal that is a status symbol and little more.

There’s even a few oddities on the fashion front given some recent rumors that most of the bands won’t be available as add-on’s. That you’ll get once nice band with the watch and can only add-on a plastic one for when you work out (with your $20,000 rose gold watch?). To me, the band was the most interesting aspect of the entire watch.

The display will be crap in a year or maybe two, but the bands. Great bands that are easily switchable. That’s something I could perhaps be tempted to invest in while swapping out the watch body each year. It’s all so very confusing.

All this is not to say that I don’t think it will work for them. They do have a huge market, they do have many middle class to very rich folks looking to throw money at anything Apple. If even a few percent of their customers buy one it will add billions in revenue.

It’s just odd that Apple is releasing a product which is so much about them and so little about us. Nearly all Apple products are fashion symbols these days, but all are useful tools above all else. The form followed the function. With the Watch it feels like there is only the form and Apple desperately seeking a function for it.

Why Apple Watch Is All About The iPad

I was pretty down on Apple Watch yesterday. I was really expecting something far more revolutionary.

It had no real surprises in terms of tech other than perhaps not having any connection capability of it’s own at all, making it a simple accessory for the iPhone rather than a freestanding device.

The more I’ve kicked it around though, I think the long term play for the Watch becomes apparent. It’s the successor (in a business sense) to the iPad.

It’s widely known that iPad sales have gone flat and are likely to decline. People keep iPads longer than phones because they’re not subsidized and are simply less critical/useful for most people than a phone.

Now, enter the era of the 5.5” phone. Many folks will say there’s no good reason to have a 5.5” phone in addition to a 7” or even 9” tablet. The phone does everything the tablet does with only slightly less screen room. Why buy a $700 phone (before subsidies) and a $500 tablet?

So what is Apple to do? iPads are already on the slide and now they’re introducing 4.7” and 5.5” iPhones that are only likely to further cannibalize iPad sales.

Apple did sell about $100 billion in iPhones last year so they’re not hurting, but to maintain that $500 billion dollar valuation you have to sell a lot of everything. iPhones on their own aren’t enough, the iPhone needs a +1.

In this sense the watch, at least on paper, is a great fit. It’s dependent on the phone (for now), but even better it can have an entirely different marketing angle.

The problem with the iPad is it really is just a big iPhone. Yes, it’s nicer to sit in bed with your iPad than your 4” iPhone, but it’s not THAT much better. And when you’re phone is 5.5” many people won’t think the iPad is different at all.

The watch is nothing like the phone/tablet so there’s already a nice marketing angle as an accessory. Better yet, it’s primarily a fashion item. It’s apparent they’ve put a lot of thought into the metals used and the band system. Really the fashion end of the Apple Watch is more fleshed out than the actual technology end.

The huge iPhones are also just less nimble to carry and take out. The iPhone now becomes your base station with the watch as the (first?) satellite accessory.

Instead of selling you an iPhone and a big iPhone (iPad), they can focus on the “it does everything” iPhone and the handy and fashionable watch as a nice add on sale.

This is actually a pretty interesting strategy. Beyond that, it’s very short sighted to think about it as being about this year. This year means very little. The Apple Watch is all about version 2 and version 3. 

That’s when it’s really going to shake loose. It will get thinner of course, but also add in those bits it needs to be truly useful such as GPS and probably wifi. The ability to let you untether from the phone at times like when you’re working out or hiking or just running your day around the house.

That’s the part I was most disappointed in. V1 needs the phone at all times. A huge 5.5” phone, but by V2 and V3 I’d expect that need to be gone. Sure, you’ll probably need your phone to make calls, but it will be able to work on it’s own for long stretches to map your run, make edits to your calendar and so on.

I suspect we’ll also see a lot of outside the box uses. The  clip system for the bands looks ingenious. They’ll be clips to hang it off your bike, lock it to your fridge, place it anywhere you might want a phone satellite.

Yesterday I wasn’t that excited about the Watch, but today I’ve started to get more interested in the possibilities. Especially for what it may transform into over the next few years, just like the iPhone transformed between version 1 and 2.

Wufoo as CMS

I made a CMS out of Wufoo.

It’s pretty cool actually. I wanted to put together a quick little site for Laravel consultants that would be my go to place to send people when they ask me where they can find Laravel consultants (genius!). 

I wanted to spend as little time as possible on this. In reality we’re talking about building a list here. This would only take 1 table in a database, but I don’t want to run another database. We have databases everywhere.

I could have manually built the list, but then I’d have to type all the info in. Plus, I still need a way to get the info in the first place. This is where Wufoo comes in.

You probably already know that Wufoo is a form building tool. It’s pretty good at collecting basic info, but for my purposes what’s even better is it has a decent API. It can handle the things you’d expect like getting a list of your data, but it can also do more advanced stuff such as send you back a filtered list.

So what I did was build my Wufoo form and via Twitter got people submitting their entries. Next, I built out a simple site in Laravel that has exactly 2 application routes. One that queries the Wufoo api, caches the results and lists the entries and a second for me to manually clear the cache when we get new accepted submissions. 5 minutes of work!

They have a pretty good editing interface, so nothing to build there. To mange the listings I made a few hidden fields. One of which shows if I’ve accepted a company for listing and another where I can store any special tags/notes that need to be show. These are used for highlighting companies that have sponsored Laracon’s or use LaraJobs to hire developers.

I manually edit these fields as needed, hit the route to clear the cached version of the homepage and whamo, the listing is live.

<

p class=””>Of course, I could have built all this, but it was fun to do it a different way and it still took less time than building out my own forms with validation, file uploading for the images and all that mess.

Eat less carbs

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/02/health/low-carb-vs-low-fat-diet.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0

People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study shows.

We’ve eaten Paleo/low carb for the past 4 years or so. I’ve probably been less physically active than ever in that time (this will be changing soon!) and still lost about 30 lbs (60lbs off my all time high) and have my other health numbers all in good shape. It’s remarkable.

How To Prune Your Twitter Account

Over the past few months I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed by twitter. It seemed my timeline was a never-ending stream of things I felt compelled to read.

Some of it truly was important (Well as important as a tweet can be). Much of it though was just chatter. Blocking me from reading more important things and honestly just plain demoralizing to read constantly.

So I decided to act. To take back my personal twitter steam.

I was following 299 accounts and my goal was to bring it down between 50–75. It ended up being easier than I thought to be honest, with minimal bloodshed. In the end I got it down to 90, a reduction of 67%.

The results were immediate and amazing. After being offline for hours I’m able to go into Tweetbot and have a handful of posts to read rather than hundreds. I can spend more time on replies and less feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume.

Tools

The only tool I used is called SocialBro. It’s free for up to 2 accounts. Really any of these social management tools will probably work. What won’t work very well is your normal twitter client or the website.

You’ll need access to some more data than they provide. In addition, you need a tool that makes it easy to quickly delete a lot of your following. SocialBro has both, though they’re a little wonky to get at. Here’s a few screenshots to show you where the important stuff is and how to set it up.

SocialBro_-_Browse_your_Twitter_Community_1


Banners_and_Alerts_and_SocialBro_-_Browse_your_Twitter_Community
The criteria drop down also has several other important options such as the ability to show you who you are following who’s not following you (dead meat!)


SocialBro_-_Browse_your_Twitter_Community

Getting in the right mindset

Now, you’re going to feel oddly sad about starting this process. You know these people, they’re your virtual friends.

Well, some of them are going to have to go 🙁

The good news though is that those who remain will get your complete focus. Also, you’ll be surprised how many accounts you follow aren’t people at all or are people that you have no idea who they are.

So let’s talk about the steps involved in purging your twitter account.

Step 1: Set a ridiculous goal

I literally thought it would be impossible to cut my following count anywhere near 100. Setting a goal beyond what you think is possible will help you click that unfollow button on those accounts that are borderline.

Step 2: Work through the list

Now, just start working your list. Here’s a few things you’ll want to sort by, look at and consider.

Celebrities

Pretty much all famous people and most internet famous people can go. You can catch up with them on TMZ or Hacker News (you don’t read that right? right?).

Link feeds

Top code tricks, inspiring advertisments, historical pictures, etc etc. All of these have to go. Replace them with RSS feeds if you can. Go read the actual sites if you have time.

These are some of the best ones to remove. They tweet often (always via automation) and usually contain links or other distracting things. Remove the accounts, remove the distractions, gain back 30 minutes a day.

Companies who added you on their own

If you use Twitter to authenticate with other systems or for those systems to tweet on your behalf they’ll often just add themselves to your following. Obviously those go.

People who don’t follow you

If they’re not following you they’re not going to be offended you ditched them! I realize this is a little bit harder for folks who don’t have a large-ish following, but if they’re not following you and you don’t regularly get value from their tweets let them go.

People who don’t tweet

We’re shooting for a goal here. There’s no point in following people who don’t tweet. They’re just clogging up your list.

Remove anything you can replace with RSS

A lot of companies and systems are just tweeting what they’re posting to a blog somewhere. Remove them from twitter and add them to your feed reader (I like Feedbin.me) and read it as you have time.

People you haven’t interacted with in forever

You know, the person you met at that conference 4 years ago. Those old coworkers you never talk to, etc. They have to go.

Move companies (only companies!) to a Twitter list

There’s some companies I need to follow. Perhaps they provide a critical system for one of our products for example. I want to stay up to date on what’s going on, but I don’t need it realtime in my timeline. For them, unfollow and add them to a Twitter list.

A lot of people recommend using lists to organize your twitter reading in general. To me, turning twitter into a 20 list Hydra sounds even worse than a single busy timeline. So 1 list for companies/services, that’s it.

Gut checks

People you kinda know, you sometimes interact with. Perhaps they’re part of a community you’re a member of. These are close, but most of them have to go.

Remember, they can still read you, they can still @ you, if you leave enough people from the community in your feed you’ll likely still catch important things they say/do via RT’s etc. You’re trying to up the value of your twitter world by subtracting noise.

Some of the noise is from nice people who you like and don’t want to offend. That’s why it’s better to rip the bandaid off! Get everyone removed all at once. Hey, you can always add them back if you need to.

The pause

Ok. You’ve worked through it all. Now let it rest for 20 minutes. Then go back in for another pass. You’ll see accounts you missed the first time. It also gives you time to think through any borderline ones you left in.

Step 3: Bask in the glory

Twitter is the fun useful tool you remember it being before you were following 800 accounts. You’ll be shocked at how much more time you have as well as the amount of focus you’re able to give what remains.

Bitcoin

Article: Why Bitcoin Matters by Marc Andreessen

I was a big detractor of Bitcoin I have to admit. I’ve gone through more than a couple rounds of fighting in the UserScape chatroom on it.

I thought it was all silly geek stuff and maybe it is, but the article linked above has really connected some dots for me. It’s the first thing I’ve ever read on Bitcoin that was well thought out and talked about more than what’s on the surface.

All the chatter about people trading it like currency has little interest to me, but the article points out much deeper possibilities. The article really struck a nerve with me.

The closest thing I can relate it to is someone explaining the web to you in 1990. Could it be that kind of thing where right now is the time to get in and help shape it?

There’s definitely something there. Just like the internet isn’t only for viewing porn, Bitcoin apparently isn’t only for buying drugs. It’s potentially bigger than just making (or losing) a few bucks off a currency trade.

So what to build? How do you contribute? It’s a fairly complex technical challenge to even involve yourself in and base level apps and services are only starting to form to abstract some of that (which is why it smells like opportunity).

Money to be made, surely. But even beyond that, the potential to be in on the ground floor. That rare event that only happens every 10–20 years in tech to participate in something radical and brand new like PC’s or the Web.

Intriguing.

9 Tips For Working Remote With Kids

Never lock your office door

You’re going on a phone call and you want to lock that door so the kids won’t come in and interrupt. All you’re doing is guaranteeing a barrage of knocking and yelling that you’ll have no way to stop since you’re on a headset plugged into your computer.

Instead, leave the door just touching the jam. You get most of the benefits of a closed door, but kids can poke their heads in easy so you can play a mime and shoo them away.

You should have office hours

Most people think of working from home as working anytime you want. Some people do work this way, but I’m not a huge fan of it in general. With kids I think it’s even worse. Having set times of day that you’re working vs not makes the entire thing much easier for children to grok.

Get a decent noise canceling microphone

This is obvious, but you’ll want a decent headset that can remove at least some of the background noise. It’s impossible to keep kids quiet so don’t try, you always have to be thinking mitigation not prevention.

Try and be consistent about play time

I try to be as consistent as possible about post work time. We do dinner and then play/read after work. The kids know what to expect because it’s our regular schedule every night.

Limit exceptions

If you make a mid-day exception to your normal working routine to play a game you’re opening yourself up to constant interruption thereafter. The child will require all new retraining 🙂 This makes you sad when they come in to play games all the time and you have to tell them no.

Wait for lunch or after work.

Make exceptions

Sometimes you just need to make those exceptions! You hear a crisis in process, go ahead and find out what’s going on. Some kind of special occasion, take some time to celebrate with them. You’re working from home after all!

Yes, I just contradicted myself. It takes some time to learn to balance the right amount of “I’m working so I can’t acknowledge the outside world” and “I’m home so it’s silly not to do xyz”.

It’s 2014, people know about remote work

If your child does interrupt your call or is making some noise it’s OK to say you’re working from home and sorry for the interruption. Most of the time the other person on the phone just says it must be great to be able work from home!

3pm intrusion

If you have school age kids you’ll probably get interrupted around 3pm when they get home. I find it’s best to allow this intrusion. Take a minute to get a hug and ask how their day went. It gives you a short cuteness break and gives them a moment of attention before they go off and play.

Be understanding

It’s really confusing for kids when you work from home. Home for them is where they relax and play and you working there just doesn’t jive with that. It takes a lot of time and patience to get them to fully understand what you’re doing and why it’s important.