Announcing tmpby.com, in support of the Tampa Bay Tech Community
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tmpby_avatar_bigger.jpgAbout two weeks ago, Josh Hemsley, partner with me on Peepnote.com, tweeted about a site I had not yet heard of, prtlnd.com. It was an online directory of people in the tech community of Portland, created by Chris Kalani. The second I saw it I phoned Josh and within 24 hours, Josh, Dan Denney, creator of the Front-End Design Conference, and I we were discussing design and our own take on the concept. Dan and I had already been discussing how to assist the tech community in some way, and this concept seemed like a good starting point.

Yesterday morning we launched our two week effort, tmpby.com, in hopes of bringing together the growing tech community. We have no desire to replace any of the great meetups and groups already meeting all around the bay area, but instead, to aide them in their work, demonstrate our strength to the other tech communities around the country, and help local tech users become more aware of others in their same area of work and study.

We will also announce local tech news and events on our Twitter account so take a moment to follow us there and please spread the word to everyone you know in Tech in the Tampa Bay area.

How Technology Helped Me Lose 12 lbs in 4 weeks and Improved My Dining Experience
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I love technology and I love stories of how technology improves our lives. This time, the story is my own.

Saturday night, I sat with my family in the parking lot in our car trying to decide where to eat dinner. It’s extra difficult these days because I’m on a calorie counting diet. I took out my iPhone and pulled up the DailyBurn iPhone App to check and see how many calories and fat/protein/carbs I had left for the day. I knew that Chilis was on the way to our next stop so I used Safari mobile to pull up their nutritional menu. They had enough healthy options on the menu that I quickly agreed with my kid’s request that we eat there.

withings_scale.pngWhen we arrived, I used the same online nutritional pdf from their web site to decide on my order. Then as the food came, I used the FoodScanner iPhone App to enter in all the foods I would be eating that night. I saw that if I only ate half of what I ordered, saving the rest for left-overs the next day, I’d still have room for a little dessert after. By the time the food had arrived, my calorie count was already updated simply by typing in the names of the foods and doing a search on them in the FoodScanner iPhone App (also by Daily Burn).

As we finished eating, it was suggested we go to Smoothie King for dessert. I looked up their nutrional guide online, found a healthy protein smoothie, and within minutes had also added iy to my calorie count. That would complete my calories for the day, keeping me well under my target. The shake, by the way, turned out to be beyond my expectations. I’ll be returning again regularly.

When the Chilis bill arrived, I used the Check Please iPhone app to calculate the tip (automatically adding 18% and rounding off to the nearest dollar). I filled out the credit card receipt, and then, using the Shoeboxed app, took a photo of the receipt which was auto submitted to their web site, and will be scanned and added to my budget tracking without any work on my part. I can leave the paper receipt right on the table…no need to take it home and fool with it later.

Tomorrow when I wake up, I’ll step on my Withings wifi enabled scale, which will take my weight, measure my body fat, calculate my BMI and submit the data to the Daily burn web site to help me track exactly how many calories I should continue to eat to reach my goal. Again, no work on my part, no time wasted in trying to reach my dual goals of getting leaner and staying on budget.

It is with this process that I’m able to keep on track with my financial budget for the year, and, it is with this process, only accomplished thanks to today’s technology, that I have also managed to lose 12 lbs in 30 days…without any exercise at all and very little stress.

Yes, I do love technology, and it is making life better…and this is all with just using the iPhone. I can’t wait to see how much better it will be when my 3G iPad arrives.

Update: One month later, I’ve now lost 19 lbs, continuing to use this strategy.

For the FoodScanner iPhone App, DailyBurn iPhone App, Withings Body Scale visit the Daily Burn web site.

Visit the Shoeboxed web site to read about their services and the iPhone app.

PeepNote Spring Peeps Giveaway!
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Giveaway basketWe are running a giveaway right now at peepnote.com/giveaway. One winner chosen at random will win the basket full of Spring goodies including a stuffed Peep and a bunch of Marshmallow Peeps, and a lot more. It’s worth over $129 and will be shipped at no charge to the winner’s door. It’s great for yourself or as a gift to a child for Easter.

The giveaway ends Sunday, so hurry and follow the directions to enter today.

 

The Use, Application and Future of the Agile methodology
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I recently received this question about the Agile method of developing software and thought I’d share it and my answer.

Q. I am doing some research on agile methods, and wanted to know what you think about the use and application of agile methods? Will they continue to be used more in the next decade in internet software development? And what agile methods do you use?

A. Many startups have been using a more “agile” project management methodology without really knowing it. It’s the formalness of the “official” Agile and Scrum practices that are gaining in adoption now. As to if that official set of rules will stay around for a long time it’s impossible to predict, but judging from history, I think certain exact sets of guidelines come and go in popularity. The principles behind what is considered Agile however, I believe will last a long time. Many of us have seen the failure of planning out year long projects, holding daily hours long meetings to discuss statuses, and building 100 page analysis documents before anything is ever built.

Small, lean, flexible teams, working on shorter production cycles will always produce better software than rigid, bloated teams working on long drawn out project timelines. But most teams will do so without ever getting certified as a Scrum master or some official title for following some group’s rules as to how to manage a project. They do it because they observe the failures of the opposite through experience, particularly if they ever worked in a large corporation and had to follow the time wasting mess of project management that typically emanates from such places.

For me, following rules for how a project should go is not agile enough in itself. Guidelines are great, and I recommend understanding the Agile method so you can learn from it’s principles, but true agility comes from fitting the process to the specific team and project at hand. So I recommend never becoming allegiant to a certain methodology of project management, nor even to a certain development process. Use them as guidelines, but adapt them to your specifics and let them grow with you as you learn and experience more. Ensure the team shares in the understanding of why the agile process is better versus things like the water fall approach. Once they do, wether you stick to the Agile Manifesto or not will not be the significant deciding factor in the efficiency of your software development. It’s the underlying principles that matter, and those I believe will be with us for a long time.

10 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Web Venture
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In today’s world, with the innovations we’ve had in technology and the large amounts of free and low cost Internet software, almost anyone can create an Internet-based business, and, sometimes it seems, almost everyone is. There is an endless stream of new web sites on a daily, if not hourly basis, revealed to us through our many social networking feeds, emails, friend recommendations, roadside billboards, even TV and magazine ads.

But with all those sites being created, we may not realize how few are ever successful, nor how much work goes into making a web venture successful. I plan to define this success in a future article, but for now I’ll leave that to personal interpretation. But any way you define it, it is the unusual venture that actually sees real success, real growth, real usage, and thus persists, beyond the initial launch and buzz phase.

Many people with a web site idea, but no past experience creating one, fail to realize going into it, just how much work is involved. While the startup costs are lower for a web based business than for a brick and mortar one, I would say the time and effort, the “sweat equity”, needed for success is the same, and this is something most web venture founders aren’t aware of. Often they aren’t willing or even able to invest the proper effort, and as time goes on they lose their passion, come up with a better idea, or move on to other things.

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
~ Albert Einstein

This is why it’s important, when you are preparing to step into such a large undertaking, to ensure that the idea you are pursuing, that is, the web venture you hope to build, is one that you can stick with, even as the chasm between you and success lengthens and deepens.

For that reason, I have below 10 questions to ask yourself before starting a new web venture. Answer these honestly to yourself; give them significant thought, and ensure before setting out on the quest, that you are truly ready emotionally and physically for what lies ahead.

  • If a competitor comes along and beats me to my idea, or does it better than I have done at that time, will I feel overwhelmed by the pressure and competition, or will my secondary drive kick in propelling me to work even harder, investing even more time, improving the quality of the product and my customer service, even entertaining the possibility that I may have to rethink the entire site, in order to give consumers something that makes them come to me instead of my competition?
  • While on vacation, and my mind is far away from work, but I receive a call or an email about a web site related problem from a teammate or customer, will I gladly take care of it, even canceling the days plans, or will I see it as only a nuisance and interruption?
  • When I get another great idea for a web venture, but have no time to work on it as well, will I regret having to work on my existing web site, or will I be able to shelve the new idea, even if I know its better, because I also recognize that its not the idea that leads to success, but perseverance and hard work?
  • When, after having invested months of my time, energy and passion on this venture, and not one single person visits on opening day, no one blogs about it, no one Twitters about it, and the site gets no traction at all in the beginning, will I feel committed to press on or begin to question the original concept of the site, even question myself and in the end give up?
  • After months of nightly sacrificing personal and/or family time to maintain the site, will the pressure to balance family and personal time with business time become too overwhelming to continue?
  • When the partner that originally promised to help with the venture loses interest or takes on other commitments and I’m left alone, will I want to continue investing myself in this site even when there is little support or even little belief by anyone that it will succeed?
  • If this is the only site I ever get to do, because of the time it takes to commit to it, would I still want to do it?
  • When money is needed to quickly improve the servers or hire a specialist with a particular skill that is needed quickly, would I be willing to go into debt to get the job done? Sell my car and take the bus? Mortgage the house? Never eat out? Take no vacations?
  • Is this idea the most important one I could dedicate all my time to? Is it the one I believe will help me reach my goals or is this simply a neat idea, that seems simpler for now? If so, what if this one takes so much time I can never make it on to the more important project?
  • If I found out, that right now someone else had this exact same idea, would I lose my passion for it? Is it the idea of the site that gets me excited, or, is it the prospect of the journey to bring it about, and make it the best possible implementation of that idea that gets me excited?

If you can truly answer yes to all these questions, and if just reading them fills you with passion and determination, its time to take the next step in bringing your idea to life. Watch my site for further articles to help you on your path to successful web venture.

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