We’ve always had a good relationship with Shoeboxed. It’s no wonder, really, considering we have so much in common: Efficiency, style, a deep hatred of loose pieces of paper.
Our partnership has been going so well, we decided it was time to take things to the next level. Shoeboxed and Skyclerk has seriously committed to each other. To celebrate this joyous occasion, we wanted to share the love.
Starting today, any Premium or Infinity Skyclerk user will get a free Shoeboxed account. Free! Here’s how:
If you don’t have a Skyclerk account, just register one and we’ll do the rest, from setting you up with Shoeboxed to linking the two accounts together.
If you already have a Skyclerk account, all you need to do is activate Shoeboxed.
If you already have a Shoeboxed account, we’ll transfer it over to Skyclerk. Don’t worry; we’ll pick up the tab so you only have one monthly bill.
Like any strong relationship, this one is based on a seamless give-and-take. When you have both accounts activated, your Shoeboxed transactions will be automatically imported to your Skyclerk account every day. How sweet is that?
Waltz on over to Skyclerk to get started. Ain’t love grand?
Here at Cloudmanic Labs, we’re always looking for ways to tame the document pile. Whether it’s receipts or certificates, emails or e-bills, paper or digital, the trappings of running a business can be difficult to keep track of.
That’s all about to change.
We want to let you know about something we’re working on. It’s called Heapless, and it’s an organizational tool will help you lose the heap. It’s going to be like having a dozen assistants at your beck and call.
Like all of our products, Heapless was designed to enhance the efficiency of your office. Heapless is a solution to a problem almost everyone has.
Heapless isn’t ready for prime time just yet, but we’re hard at work on getting it there. If you’d like to be notified when Heapless launches, visit our website and sign up for Heapless news.
When someone reaches out to our company trying to get something from us, such as a job, or to sell us something, I always apply what I call the the “Joker Test”. All our products are free in at least a basic way, and it takes less the 30 seconds to sign up for an account. Our products are what define us. Every decision we make is going to be in terms of how we can make our products better for our customers. So why the heck would someone not take the time to learn a little about what we do before reaching out to us?
The “Joker Test” is simply a quick search to find out if the person reaching out has created an account and engaged with our product at least a bit. If the results are positive, the person passes my first screen.
It takes very little to time to understand us; with very little effort you can discover how we tick. Your proposal to us will be so much more valuable and our willingness to give you the time of day will be much higher if you just do some research before picking up the phone or sending us an email. Or you may choose to be a Joker.
I admit it. I have made many friends and family members’ ears bleed with my constant raving of a particular product once and again. When I fall in love with a product I make sure everyone around me knows. I form a complete disdain for the use of any other product. I have never understood why until recently. Beyond my comprehension, I have always loved Basecamp over Jira even though Jira does way more. It puzzles me why I love my Mac more than any other computer when Linux gives me all the control in the world. I always wondered why I am willing to pay up for a JetBlue flight when United will get me to the same place cheaper.
I stood in line for hours to be the first to buy the iPhone. The phone really was a game changer. After a year or two I dumped the iPhone and went all Android. I had this concept that I wanted more control over my phone. I did not want Apple telling me what to do with the hardware I paid for. After almost 2 years of using the Android I went back to the iPhone. I realized all the features, control, and freedom Android offered was at the cost of a shitty product. To me there was nothing engaging about using an Android. There was no emotional connection.
I think feature bloat in most products is nothing more than mind tricks. We get wrapped up in the fantasy of all the stuff we can do with those features. We feel a product is so much better because the feature list is longer. We feel if we have the control to hack away on our products they are somehow better.
So, when I say a product is no good, or better yet, another one is simply amazing, I can’t aways give you a bulleted list of the reasons for my affirmation. I can’t always define in words why one sucks me in while the other just sucks. You just sort of know when a product is top notch. You get the feeling great care and attention to detail was put into building it. You know because you find yourself engaged using it; you look forward to the next time you get to use it. It becomes a friend to you, rather than a utility.
Think of it this way. I can’t tell you every reason why I love my wife, I don’t really know. I am not completely sure why I chose to spend the rest of my life with her. There is something so engaging about her that it brings out all my passion. Products that don’t suck are the same way.
Exciting news: We just launched Grapeshare, new social network that lets you share the wine you love with friends.
At Cloudmanic, we like wine. For years, the team has talked about wine, discovering new wine, keeping track of wines we have enjoyed, and how there needed to be a better way to share wine with friends. We looked at different wine apps, but there was no elegant tool for what they wanted. We wanted something easier and beautiful. And something that we could use to not only track wines, but discover new ones. Discover people who are like us and like the grapes we like.
So naturally, we decided to take matters into their own hands. The result is Grapeshare, a new social network for oenophiles that lets you share the wine you love with friends. You can record and rate wines, upload label photos, make connections and get recommendations.
If this venture seems a bit different from our other work, it is – and it isn’t. See, Cloudmanic Labs believes in the power of creativity. Every week, we take a little time off from our regular projects to work on other things—or to just brainstorm about what the world needs. At the very least, we have stimulating conversations. Grapeshare is one of those “other” projects. Like all of the things we do, Grapeshare was sparked by passion, and it continues to be fueled by hard work.
It’s great to be able to share that passion with the rest of the world. To get started with Grapeshare, go to the website and sign up with your Twitter, Facebook, or Google account. You can also follow us on Twitter (@grapeshare) and like us on Facebook. Check out our blog for wine tips and stories, and to keep updated on new features.
Not too long ago, before it (thankfully) fell out of fashion, bottled water was all the rage. It was common knowledge that the more you paid, the better it was. A few years ago, you couldn’t go 5 minutes without catching a glimpse of someone with a brightly colored Nalgene bottle. These days, everyone has a BPA-free aluminum water bottle or four, perfect for filling at the tap, which is now trendy. Whatever the container, the thing that made all these accessories valuable was what went in them: Water.
To which I say, “not thirsty.”
I’m something of an anomaly, apparently: I don’t like water.
I mean, I love it when I’ve been exercising and my throat is dry and the water is cold. Times like that, it’s the only thing I want to drink. But keeping a bottle with me at all times? No. Grabbing a glass as I pass through the kitchen? Why, when there are tastier options – like soda or wine – at hand?
I may be weird, but I’m not unique. I stumbled into a conversation with a friend a year or so ago in which he was complaining about not liking water. It was exciting to find someone who shared my antipathy towards perhaps the most precious natural resource. Water’s just so… boring, we agreed.
For whatever reason, I just don’t like the taste (and yes, I see the irony of that statement). Water is healthy, of course, but I figured calorie-free diet soda was OK. So I was dismayed to see this article about a study that suggests diet soda might not be OK after all.
The study found a link between diet soda and a larger waist size. And by “larger,” we’re talking 70 percent greater than people who didn’t drink diet soda. It’s even worse news for people who had two or more diet sodas a day: Their waists were 500 percent bigger.
The research also delved into health consequences of artificial sweeteners, but I’m a vain person and the waist-size data grabbed my attention more – maybe 500 percent more – than the health stuff. Yowza.
So I’m embarking on a quest to find alternatives to both water and diet soda. Most juice has a high amount of sugar; milk has lots of calories; and alcoholic beverages are clearly not suitable for on-the-job consumption (not my job, anyway). I was intrigued to read about the backstory of Hint, which was created by a woman who was addicted to Diet Coke but didn’t like water (perhaps we were separated at birth). It’s not available in my city yet, but I plan to track it down and test it out. I’m also planning to do some of my own flavored-water creations.
If you’ve got wet-your-whistle suggestions, fire away. I promise to give them a try, at least until someone says they’ll make my waist way bigger than my aqua-chugging friends.
Last week I made a comment on twitter about how I did not want to hire a candidate without previously have a Github account. I got some backlash more or less calling me a fan boy of Github. While I am a fan boy of Github, that was not the reasoning behind my comment.
If you have ever read a programmer’s resume you know it is a big listing of every programing language they have ever looked at. All languages are the same right? Once you know one you know them all right? I call bullshit on this. Yes, once you know some CS fundamentals jumping into a new language is easier. You do not need to go back to college or anything. You can generally figure it out - but you cannot figure it out overnight. Just because you are considered a senior programmer in one language it does not make you a senior programmer in another language. As a small business we can not afford to hire someone that is going to need ramping up time. We need someone that can hit the ground running. We need someone that is going to produce high quality code, quickly.
So when looking at some one’s Github account I can quickly see what language makes them high. I can see what technologies they pursue in their own time. You don’t publish code on Github unless you are at least somewhat proud of it. Going to anyone’s Github account shows you within seconds what language is their primary focus. I am only interested in hiring people that share the same primary focuses we have. When hiring I want the best of the best in the field we are looking for, not someone who can “learn to be the best” or who is the best at something else.
Lastly, the technologies we use have all made Github their official home. The leaders and maintainers building these technologies have made Github their official hangout. If you are not part of this community it is a good indication to me that you are not truly passionate about your programming craft, (or at least the craft we are looking for). If you are truly passionate about skiing you do not live in Florida do you?
Generally, I want to hire people who have a natural fascination with the technologies we use. In programming passion and fascination are much bigger motivators than a paycheck. Not having a Github account in my world says to me you are just looking for a paycheck.
One of the biggest challenges of working with remote/virtual workers is communication. Email tends to be the go-to way to communicate, but is it the most effective way? Usually not.
One of the best things you can do to improve your business communications is before you send an email, take a few minutes to think about what the best method of communication is.
Instant Messaging is perfect for two different types of communication-quick things where you need a one line response or collaborative tasks that are easier to accomplish in real time.
If all you need from Bob is a quick, one-line response, and you need it NOW, then IM is your best course of action. It’s simple, it’s fast, and it’s immediate-you don’t have to wait for Bob to check his email, then get back to you.
On the opposite side of the coin, sometimes IM is best for longer, real-time sessions, such as a brainstorming session. In this case, don’t interrupt Bob-set up an appointment, and then come appointment time, hop on your IM client of choice and get brainstorming. Also, most IM clients let you save a transcript, so you can also refer back to the conversation if need be.
Sometimes you want to throw out a new idea or give a general status update to everyone. If you’re company is using a Micro-Blog, type app such as Flowr or Yammer, this is perfect for that. It allows everyone to view the idea or status update and comment on it in their own time, along with seeing what everyone else contributed.
Project Management Apps
Many project management apps offer you the ability to post a status update or comment on a task. If you are assigning a task or have a question about a task that was assigned to you, and are using a project management app-this is the most efficient way to go.
When it comes to real-time document collaboration, Google Docs is where it’s at. You can have multiple log-in and work on the document at once, see where each person is working in a document, and even IM each other in a side-panel, perfect for discussing ideas, content, and editing.
For frequently repeated information or documenting procedures so team members can refer back to and reference the, you can’t go wrong with an intranet site. If you’re using Google Apps for business, you can easily create an intranet site using Google Sites. Or you could use something like PBWiki or SocialText. The main thing is creating a place to house and document procedures to eliminate repetitive questions.
How do you handle communication with virtual team members? Do you use any of the above?
Andrew Warner of Mixergy.com says that when he interviews founders of startups the one thing they always say is the first release of their product looked like crap. Over time the product has evolved, but in general looking back the first release was not something they are proud of today. Hearing that always makes me ponder. Sure, I believe in release early and release often. Of course building a MVP (minimal viable product) and getting it out to customers is much better then continuously polishing your product hiding behind the “its not perfect” curtain. The idea of releasing something you are not 100% proud of seems odd to me.
Many products are a spin off of a consulting firm, and founding teams often have client work backgrounds. It seems product teams forget their client work process when they build their own product. When working with clients you often practice what I call CYA (cover your ass) software development. You work with your client to really flush out their ideas. This often turns into a scope document, and the clients signs off. Then you often move into wireframes flushing out any micro detail, and once again the client signs off (covering your ass). Lastly, before much development takes place you might have some design rounds with the client getting the client to fully sign off before the development really starts. With client work you are going through these phases to really ensure you are delivering just what the client wants and make sure everyone is on the same page. What also happens during this process is you flush out the entire idea from high level all the way down to the micro details. You never say “oh we will figure that part out later”. With this process you deliver just what the clients wants on budget and on time. Never would you deliver something to your client that you are not proud of.
When building your own product so many development teams just dive right in, pick a point at random and start programing. Since it is their own product many developers tend to think the CYA process is not needed, and maybe sometimes a little boring. I say this is a mistake. Not working through the different user experience issues, the data model, the design, and so on while just hitting the ground coding is a great way to have headaches later on. The CYA process front loads resolving headaches and problems that may arise in the future. Why not do that with your own product?
I am proud that any product we have ever released at Cloudmanic Labs has been well thought out. We go through the same process we would go through with clients. Not one line of code is written until we fully flush out our ideas, manage the scope, and fully design the product. The first release of our products have often been far from crap. They are polished. Also, our development time is not any longer then other hit-the-ground coding teams. Our discipline to maintain the CYA process has made it so we have never released a product we were not proud of, no matter how far from our desired final form it is.
We of course don’t think we are going to be perfect on our first release in terms of features, customer needs, and bugs. There is always going to be things we messed up, and that is why user feedback is very important. We listen to it all and evolve our products with our customers in mind. We never skip out on any of the important steps of a product development cycle just because it is convenient to ignore them or because it is boring. We never say “oh we will figure that out later”.
CYA software development has an important role in non-client work as well.
Banned Books Week is not taking place right now.
It happens in the fall, and librarians everywhere welcome it with a twisted glee. They can be quite the rebels, those librarians. If you don’t believe me, read how how librarians kept “Stupid White Men” from becoming pulp (regardless of your feelings on Michael Moore, trust me, the story’s a good one). But back to Banned Books Week: Librarians celebrate it, making displays of all the books that have been banned or challenged. They relish in showing how some of the most popular books in history, even accepted masterpieces, have been deemed by some to be unfit for human consumption.
Not surprisingly, many of the books on the list were written for young audiences. Deciding at what age certain themes and language become appropriate is tricky enough on a case-by-case basis, never mind trying to apply standards to an entire generation.
I was lucky. As the offspring of one of those subversive librarians, I was not allowed to see R-rated movies until I was in high school—but I could read whatever I wanted. When I bothered to think about this parenting strategy, I realized it may have been lacking in logic. I could read Stephen King books at age 10, but not see the (typically underwhelming) movies based on those books until I was practically driving? Yeah.
But maybe there was some logic behind it. After all, I read voraciously then and still do today. Whenever I see “banned books” lists, I’m stunned by how many of my personal favorites are there. The very titles that infected my imagination and infiltrated my views of the world are repulsive to some. Perhaps it’s that the books that have the most ingenuity, the ones that can most radically change our perceptions, are just too frightening for some. For me, and scores of others (many of these books are award-winners), that’s what makes them magnificent.
Here, in no particular order, are some of my very favorite banned books, with brief commentary:
The Bridge to Terabithia
I remember wanting to inhabit this book. I remember crying at the end. Mostly, I remember reading it over and over again.
It’s not a love story. It is, however, an amazing accomplishment of character and language.
Just after college, I worked in a school as part of a volunteer committee. One day the other volunteers—all mothers of high schoolers—were discussing “The Giver,” a required book in one of the English classes. “I love that book!” I gushed. The mothers looked at me like I’d just said I loved burning small children with a branding iron. Turns out, they didn’t share my adoration. One mother claimed her high school daughter had had nightmares for months after reading it (I read it in fifth grade, but okay). Another pursed her lips and shook her head. A few years later, the same school drew national media attention when a parent (not one of the mothers I knew) refused to return a book to the school library, deeming it so offensive it should be burned.
Yeah, yeah, I know. The writing isn’t great, and maybe they should be banned for overuse of the word “smoldering,” but Stephanie Meyer is a genius at plotting. To those who would ban it, I can only summon a South-Park like “come on.” The kids are actually entirely well-behaved: They don’t drink, swear, do drugs or have sex before marriage. So they do lie—but only to save the lives of their loved ones and battle evil forces. People have a problem with that?
A Wrinkle in Time
The first time I tried to read this book, I found it boring and put it down. I guess I was naturally (albeit subconsciously) deciding what was too mature for me. A year or two later, I picked it up again and I don’t think I closed it until I was finished. I went on to read every Madeline L’Engle book I could find.