TeamSnap – the northwest is on fire today

TeamSnap, a product of Portland-based SparkPlug is the second northwest site on TechCrunch today and is enjoying a much smoother launch than TalentSpring’s. I saw TeamSnap on Mike Davidson’s blog the other day and it definitely is a good-looking site, but didn’t realize they were local. Congrats on the launch SparkPlug!

I used to play a lot of sports and do a little coaching before I got bit by the side-project entrepreneur bug, but not enough to warrant the use of TeamSnap. I don’t think it will help my golf game much either. If I start playing or coaching sports again (which I definitely want to do), I’ll have to remember to give this a shot.

How to blow your launch

I’m not sure if TechCrunch jumped the gun, but boy is TalentSpring awful. I noticed that TalentSpring is a northwest company (Seattle), which made me want to check it out, as I don’t bother with most of the stuff that comes through TechCrunch these days. Though I can’t speak much for the business and/or idea itself, as I’m not totally sure what the point of it all is yet. It seems slightly interesting, but the TalentSpring site itself is so unusable right now, I have no motivation to explore.

talentspring-candidates.png

First off are the 500(!) requests to urchin.js, locking up my browser. Once that is fully swallowed, you are presented with a half-empty UI. I guess there are no “Amateur Programmers” in the system? I play with the job category thingamabob and still can’t get any results. Next I try these filter widgets, and boy are they slow (this is client-side slowness, having nothing to do with the load on the site). Oh, I see that I’m “Already Logged in,” well no actually I haven’t logged in. Finally I entered some stuff to the “Get Ranked” form (I put some skills, not sure exactly what they mean by accomplishments, seems kind of vague) and hit go, and after about 30 seconds my browser finally came back to life with absolutely nothing changed on the screen. After that, I’m outta here. I can’t wait until uncov gets on this one.

User Experience is hard, I can relate with my own struggle to to create positive experiences that really get the message I’m trying to spread, across. But, simplicity can go a long way to helping that, and I would give that advice to the TalentSpring team. I think the problem is that the home page is trying to do too much with multiple kinds of filters in the browse area, the results area itself, and the “get ranked” form. But, while trying to do too much, nothing gets accomplished here, I never saw any results. Perhaps getting rid of the “Get Ranked” form and prefilling the latest resumes into the results (then the filters can be used) would be a good start. Just some thoughts.

Yahoo broke their GeoCode API

UPDATE:
It appears to be working again today (Saturday, 3 days after the first reports). I wasn’t able to make the switch to Google’s yet, so I’ll still use Yahoo’s for now. But, there are some changes I need to make to better prepare if something like this happens again.

Yahoo rolled out some updates to their Maps API on Tuesday night, but unfortunately they broke their Geocode API in the process. I know, I know, don’t rely on free APIs, nothing like a day without new users to drive that point home. In spite of knowing I shouldn’t rely on this API, I’m troubled by the way this was broken. I would expect better from Yahoo, who put a lot of resources into their developer network.

First, they didn’t version this release, it’s still “V1″. If they had bumped the version and kept the old one around, the problem could have been avoided. Secondly, it’s essentially a schema problem which are much more difficult to code around than the service being down or throwing errors. While the response still technically passes schema validation, it’s easy to see that the data is not right. Third, it is still not fixed after they’ve known about it for over a day.

Here’s the bug. Run a zip code lookup:

http://local.yahooapis.com/MapsService/V1/geocode?appid=YahooDemo&zip=97201

this is the response:


<?xml version="1.0"?>
<ResultSet>
   <Result precision="zip">
      <Latitude>45.507542</Latitude>
      <Longitude>-122.689796</Longitude>
      <Address></Address>
      <City>Portland, OR  97201</City>
      <State>United States</State>
      <Zip></Zip>
      <Country>US</Country>
   </Result>
</ResultSet>
<!-- ws03.search.scd.yahoo.com compressed Thu May 17 09:55:39 PDT 2007 -->

The city, state and zip are combined into the city field while the country is put into the state field. Whoops. So the city field has to be further parsed in order to put the data in the right place. I use this service to take care of that for me, and don’t have time at the moment to do it. So, I bumped the limit on my state field in the database in order to work around this, but my geo data will be all messed up until this is fixed and then I’ll have to go back through and clean it up.

I’d argue that zip code lookups are fairly common and there should be a test case for this. Time to look at Google’s geocoder I suppose.

New tech group in town

The folks at Pop Art have launched a new group, PDX UX (UX = User Experience), for area designers and developers to get together (via). Looks to be heavy on Microsoft stuff. That’s not an indictment against the group (I code in .NET for a living as a matter of fact), but I do know that many developers dislike Microsoft’s proprietary ways and many designers dislike working with Microsoft technology. So, it will be interesting to see how it does. I’ll add it to the list.

One of the questions that came up during the Inventrepreneurship session (slides) at WebVisions was where to find people to help build projects. Groups like PDX Web Innovators and PDX UX, as well as any of the groups in that list is probably a good place to start.

WebVisions Day 2 review

You want irony? On the day I drive 90 minutes to the convention center and nearly 2 hours to get home, I do a brief interview with an Oregonian reporter about my 25 minute daily work commute. Doesn’t seem so bad now :-). Let’s recap day 2:

Let Go! 8 Steps to Succeeding in a Post-2.0 World

Lane Becker and Thor Muller, Satisfaction (slides)
I didn’t write down the 8 specific things, perhaps they’ll show up here, but this talk wasn’t really about presenting the 8 things, it was more a conversation about their message, “Be Like the Internet.” What does this mean? It means giving up control, opening up more, looking outside for solutions, embracing chaos, being more agile. Again, look to the wiki they setup, hopefully they’ll build it out a bit.

More:
http://www.commoncraft.com/webvision-2007-review

Social Media Strategies for your Organization? Connecting the Dots

Jeremiah Owyang (presentation) (slides)
Jeremiah discussed ways to present and implement social media strategies in organizations. The slides should sum it up well or watch the presentation. I need to try some of this stuff with my company. The Air Traffic Controller idea is a good start, though hardly anything is ever said about my company in the blogosphere (perhaps that’s as good a reason to start doing this).

More:
http://www.elainenelson.org/2007/05/04/social-media-for-cos/

http://blog.vibrantjourney.com/2007/05/04/web-visions-presentation-page-hierarchy/

http://www.elainenelson.org/2007/05/04/web-application-hierarchy-after-lunch/

Lunch

Apparently neither Jacob nor Cliff have experienced a Burgerville milkshake, unbelievable. Fortunately we survived the throng of pre-teens and made it back to the conference.

Web Application Page Hierarchy

Luke Wroblewski (slides)
Luke W. is my new design hero, I just hope to never have to pronouce his last name. Not only does he work for Yahoo!, but has his own design business, writes books/articles, and is a prodigous speaker (not always covering the same topic). His slides on Best Practices for Web Form Design are the most useful, actionable advice I have ever seen in a presentation (i.e. you can put the stuff to use immediatley). I didn’t even see that presentation, just read the slides.

So, the talk was great with some sound and straightforward advice on how to focus your pages on the things that matter. Good point about the importance of a good presentation layer, it’s not just making it pretty.

More:
http://www.elainenelson.org/2007/05/04/web-application-hierarchy-after-lunch
http://blog.vibrantjourney.com/2007/05/04/web-visions-presentation-page-hierarchy

English: Web 2.0′s Universal Language

Kevin Smokler
I left the content square-table discussion for reasons similar to Adam’s and ended up in this one. It was ok. Kevin’s a smart, energetic guy, but the topic wasn’t the most exciting to me, or maybe I was just ready to go home. The discussion was on being clear in our language and making product descriptions easier to understand (passing the mother-in-law test). RSS was a common topic; it’s so great, but a lot of people still don’t really get what it is after all these years.

More:
http://www.bitclone.com/wp/105/webvisions-2007-rockstars-of-design/

I had to jet and missed the Friday keynote, sounds like it was pretty funny. Instead I spent the next two hours in the parking lot know as I-5.

Tags: ,

WebVisions Day 1 review

WebVisions turned out all-in-all to be a good time. The sessions were great and I came out of it plenty inspired and am trying to review notes and reviews this morning so that I don’t lose track of the important bits.

AJAX Inside Out (Workshop)

Jack Herringon
Slides: http://muttmansion.com/webvisions.pdf
Code Samples: http://muttmansion.com/webvisions.tgz

Waste of time. They should give refunds for this. Not sure if it was a horrible mis-communication between WV staff and Mr. Herrington, or between WV marketing and attendees. This was a demonstration of AJAX, that’s all.

Inventrepreneurship

Paul Ingram (slides)
Very inspiring talk on ideas; where to get them, and how to bring them to life. I’ve recently begun trying some of Paul’s ideas myself in regards “private virtual parnerships,” utilizing informal collectives of people to build projects so am glad to hear others are comfortable doing this as well (as opposed to creating formal organzations/agreements and hiring employees and contractors). I loved the Segway video (a hypothetical discussion of the importance of the Segway as if all of the initial hype came true) and will have to try to find that.

More:
http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?533

Social Architecture: Modeling the Next Generation

Sean Madden (slides)
Emergence, ubiquitous computing, calm technology, genetic algrorithms. Wow, this is heady stuff, and apparently this guy grew up in Tualatin, which is a stone’s throw from where I currently live. The driving point is about making systems more flexible and easier to change/evolve from the community’s use. I encourage you read the summaries below, this was one of my favorite sessions and I need to let this sink in a bit more.

More:
http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?534
http://www.jasoneiseman.com/blog/?p=168

Sensory Trasformation: How to Sip from the Information Firehose (Keynote)

David Pescovitz (BoingBoing blogger among many other pursuits)
Interesting stuff on information overload, ubiquitous computing, predicting the future. I enjoyed it. I’ll have to dump all my RSS feeds one of these days and start over, one of things David does to manage overload and find new and interesting stuff.

More:
http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?535
http://www.jasoneiseman.com/blog/?p=169

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WebVisions starting

I’m at WebVisions today and tomorrow. Jeremiah is streaming live on Ustream if you want to check out the action.

Ahhh, conferences. If I had the time and money, I’d probably just go to conferences and classes for a career. It’s a blast to learn new things and listen to different perspectives. But, I’m practical and know that you won’t get much done if you’re only learning, so usually end up doing one or two outings a year. This is my third year at WebVisions, and I have to say, I much rather would’ve gone to Microsoft’s Mix. Ok, maybe being in Vegas has a lot to do with that preference. Local conferences aren’t always much fun, you don’t get to experience the whole thing as real life is still very present. But, with baby #2 nearing arrival, leaving town wasn’t an option.

The WebVisions lineup and sessions seem a bit weaker (IMO) than in years past, but we’ll see how how I feel afterwards. Take any of my criticisms with a grain of salt though, it would take mountains moving for me to get in front of an audience to present. I can barely ask a question without shaking.

AJAX Workshop

I was late (shocking, I know) but this turned out to be a bust. The speaker was definitely knowledgeable about the topic, pretty similar to my own level of knowledge I’d say. But, unfortunately I didn’t take my own advice about not attending technical/programming sessions at a designer’s conference. The presentation was geared at beginners and it was a “presentation,” not a workshop. I was expecting to be able to plug in the laptop and work through some examples and exercises after seeing some demos and a bit of lecutre/presentation. But instead it was just demos/presentation without the ability to reinforce what was being said through concrete exercises. You can’t learn this stuff by listening, you have to do it.

More later, the Inventrepreneurship session is shaping up nicely.

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Log4Net problem finally solved (I think)

For the longest time I’ve been aggravating over a Log4Net problem using the RollingFileAppender with a RollingStyle of “Date”. This is probably the most popular style of logging, with the log file rolling over every day. But, I could never get it to work consistently. Log4Net would always start the log file over each day, but would not always archive the previous day’s log. End result being the entire log from the day before was gone! Not the best result. It would archive about once a week, so that meant this wasn’t a permissions issue. This had been going one for a year or so after an upgrade to a NHibernate 1.0 release, previous to that, everything was fine.

With the NetworthIQ move to a new, dedicated server last month, I was able to move the log directory outside of the web root (yeah, I know, you shouldn’t have logs in your web root, but they were protected). All of a sudden, the rolling is working again, with no lost logs. I guess there’s a conflict between IIS and Log4Net somewhere, maybe someone knows the exact reason, but for now I’m happy to have it working.

Dump the CAPTCHA

Why do do new or moderately trafficked sites insist on using a CAPTCHA on their registration form? A CAPTCHA is a simple test to verify an actual person is using the computer and not a machine, usually in the form of a “type the letters in this graphic” question. They are used primarily to thwart spam bots roaming the web.

Sites create an unnecessary roadblock to user adoption, and it seems to be becoming more common. The problem is, these tests can be unintelligible and a normal user can’t pass it. If you’re MySpace or Facebook and getting thousands of registrations a day, then it makes sense to worry about thwarting the bots, but until then, please dump the CAPTCHAs. Use email verification instead, which you probably do anyway, so no need to beat up your users before they’re actually users with too many tests.

Today, after 5 attempts, I failed my CAPTCHA test at fatsecret (techcrunch coverage). It looked interesting, I wanted to see how they did some things as the idea is similar, feature-wise, to what we do with personal finance on NetworthIQ. Plus, I could stand to lose a few, so maybe it could help me out. But, now we’ll never know for sure because I can’t sign up.

Have you heard of John Arnold?

I bet you will soon. I remember how aghast my sociology prof was in college when some CEO made $100 million in one year. Well, imagine what will be thought of about this hedge fund manager’s 2006 take: $1.5 – $2 billion.

Given Arnold’s record 2006 — the largest sum, we believe, anyone has ever earned in one year — a slap like that just might land someone in intensive care.

I am stunned.

(via Paul Kedrosky)