01 Dec

Insta Case Study: Feature Update Notifications Down Right

icon-counterKudos to Intercom for the very smart way they integrate their change notifications to the application itself. First, they use the increasingly popular “counter over an icon” notification that is not too obtrusive yet does the job (I just wish LinkedIn stopped abusing this pattern to attract my attention to weak signals I don’t care about).

Once you get there, as you’ll see in the screenshot below Intercom combines several good ideas that add up to a very smooth delivery. Keep reading to see a screenshot and learn on all that’s right about their approach:

Read More

24 Nov

Where to Register Domain Names, Host DNS, Email

After my previous post on hosting, here are some quick notes on some other essential bits of online technology and favored/hated vendors, from the perspective of a small business looking for solid but very cost-effective solutions. I tend to pick vendors really good at one thing, rather than those mediocre across a broad range of services.  Read More

22 Nov

Website Hosting Tech: What to Choose and Why?

If your head is spinning from the deluge of tech product announcements that make you feel like you’re always trying to catch up, no matter how close you stick to technology developments – breathe deeply, you’re not alone. Here are a few pointers to frame how to think about the costs and benefits of various types of web hosting. In short, there is no silver bullet, and like most things it’s all about cost-benefit trade-offs. Yes, “the cloud” is becoming better and new solutions seem to crop up like mushrooms after rain, but you can spend days researching vendors that in the end, are pretty close to each other and won’t impact much how your business is doing. Some questions to ask yourself: Read More

08 Oct

Why Media Companies Should Pay Attention to Software Development/Operations Integration

Many if not most media companies invest relatively little in software development. But those that do have been grabbing the attention of an increasing number of readers, subscribers, advertisers, and investors. What to do if software is not in your DNA, and why do you want to do something about it in the first place?

Adopting new tools and workflows is work, no matter how you slice it, so I will highlight that this is not just about operational quality control or developer productivity – though these are important in their own right – but more importantly about maintaining competitiveness in light of shifting readership expectations and behaviors. Here is the business case for paying attention, and carefully adopting, some of the latest methodologies popular in web development circles. For many organizations this may require a significant cultural shift. Read More

05 Mar

Publishers Contributing to Open Source Projects, Maintaining APIs

I’ve put together lists of teams and people working at the intersection of news publishing, data, visualization, and online/mobile/software development to get a better sense of who talks the talk and who walks the walk. There’s a strong UK presence, while some organizations are missing that you’d expect might want to show up.

This would deserve some analysis (anyone up to datamine Open Source Report Card?), maybe later.

1. Github repositories from news orgs Read More

10 May

Zapier Devs Read My Mind, Among Other Feats

This API status meta dashboard is great, as it scratches an itch I’ve had for almost a decade. I meant to suggest to the Zapier folks that they develop exactly that, but didn’t end up sharing that thought, and here they are! Brilliant team, excellent product. Now they need to customize the datatable and RSS feed so that they can be filtered based on APIs you actually use as a Zapier customer.

18 Mar

Time to Pick Up a New Newsreader

I have been consuming newsfeeds since Pointcast (1996) and CDF/IE 4.0 (1998) so obviously once RSS gained momentum about a decade ago, I got hooked. It remains my main way to keep on top of both fresh news and background material. In recent years I tried several times setting up Twitter (by itself and via desktop clients such as Tweetdeck) but never reached an acceptable signal/noise ratio so I gave up and only check it out once in a while, certainly less than my daily RSS consumption. Read More

07 Mar

Customer Support Should Feed into Product Requests, Documentation

In our dealings with various SaaS vendors, it is interesting to see cultural differences translating into behavioral patterns. You can see from the outside which functions have heft, which ones are afterthoughts, and where are the missing integration points. A behavior that I see pretty often is a good level of quality in customer support, but a failure to properly integrate it with other parts of the company. That is suboptimal both internally for these companies, and from the perspective of the customer. Vendors miss opportunities to learn and improve, while the customer feels he’s dealing with well-meaning professionals hindered by a poorly designed organization.

In my experience two scenarios often play out that give the customer an overall “meh, whatever” feeling no matter how great the work done by support. Read More

19 Dec

Google App Engine Gets Serious About Availability, Transparency

After Zoho, Google. Now we’re talking: System Status Dashboard, Quota Details Page, and a Billing Sneak Preview. These quotas and billings make me think Google must have hired someone who used to work in the mainframe business at IBM. There’s a pretty decent roadmap and feature release log too.
Someone knows what they’re doing in this Google department. If they manage to stay aligned with Salesforce.com, the Google Apps/Force.com combo could really threaten Microsoft and Oracle a few years from now.
Google Apps + App Engine + Gears + Chrome + Native Client + network investments, they’re not toying around. There’s a deliberate web application strategy at work here with more chances to succeed than Netscape ever had in the 90’s. This is a much, much better direction for Google than weak wiki-based offerings or pondering whether to buy Digg.com. I’m starting to be excited again by a refocused Google that seems to gain from the pressure brought by the recession. It helps that Yahoo and Microsoft have been more inept at search marketing than I thought was possible, but Google is starting to show fresh vision and good execution outside of Adwords.