One more blog! Why?

Why did we start one more blog? Our main task is making internet applications for business. That’s those boring systems controlling blast-furnaces and nursing homes that Techcrunch doesn’t write about. The creation of Selenium tests is a new thing for us which, like all other things, we are learning with passion and commitment. With years of work came many ideas, which haven’t been mentioned or haven’t been mentioned properly.

It is a fact that your appetite comes with eating and that’s why when we started blogging about our Selenium testing progress we thought if it wasn’t time to “climb out of the trenches” and talk about what “bullets we shot with” and at what targets (hopefully my humor doesn’t bend you, but if it does, you know how to reach me). So this blog is just an attempt to share our experiences just because it might help someone else.

This blog won’t have a defined topic, it will be about everything we are interested in and want to discuss or want to share. There might be a post about tunneling different types of programs with the help of ssh this week, and about our ideas how and why to create your own web analytics system next week. We will try to publish translations of posts and videos (with authors’ permission) that were favored. It would be interesting to try ourselves at translating classic creation like David Heinmeier Hansson at Startup School 08.

And now…

You’ll be the hero of the neighbourhood
Nobody knows that you left for good
You’re in the army now
Oh, oh, you’re in the army now
“In the Army Now” – Status Quo

SLOS – Life scenarios – Part I

The first post in this blog starts a series of articles about data structures from a story about a drop-down, a.k.a list, a.k.a item selector, a.k.a pick-list.

Our story will be about an ordinary list. Its’ simplicity is mirrored by the fact that values are well known, rarely change and managed by administrator. Users, normally, can’t make adjustments to the list themselves but they can address the system administrator. For example, if we present the drop list of Mendeleev’s periodic table, administrated by Dmitri Ivanovich, this would be an ordinary list, because if you think that there is an unneeded element, you will have to convince Mendeleev himself to delete it.

For our narration, it doesn’t matter how the list is visualised; as a select or group of radios/checkboxes or something else. For now we are talking about meaning not visualisation.

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SLOSW – Life scenarios – Part II

We lived happily since bringing home the bacon until …

Real life situation 1
… there came a grumpy man from OH&S department and complained that the list in his application after being entered isn’t displayed correctly. “Point 3.10 comes before 3.2 and not after 3.9” – he said.

Figure 1

“There is no point in pretending otherwise “ – we said.

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Wikipedia marketing for startups

Some words still can’t be said aloud
Some things still wait to be allowed
The sun can still be seen above the hill
The fire still can thrill
And God preserves me still.

Mashina Vremeni – Koster

When I need to find a web service or a program, naturally, I search it up in Google. For example, at the moment I am looking for a ‘list of web analytics software’ or ‘web analytics software’. Very often web pages like ’10 Promising Free Web Analytics Tools’ pop up, which are helpful to some extent but I started to notice that with every search Wikipedia web pages are at the top of the list.
In this example ‘List of web analytics software – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia’ is shown first but it is not always like this, especially if you don’t know that you have to use the prefix ‘List of’.

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SLOSD and SLOSDW – Life scenarios – Part III

Years have passed and the system has become wider and deeper, some of us has gotten stronger, some braver.

I remember that winter like it was yesterday – very hot in Sydney and freezing in Kharkov. In this contrasting mode we were developing another revolutionary application in our system. Let’s call it ’Customer support’. It has another name but we can keep commercial secrets just like you. There was a list used in this application, SLOS list, to store tech support severity level types. The people that worked in customer support will understand me – ‘critical’, ‘important’, ‘normal’, ‘not important’ ‘low’. So it became instantly clear that this list must be made into SLOSW because sorting alphabetically would confuse users.

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SLOS’s from inside – Life scenarios – Part IV

“So dream when the day is through
Dream, and they might come true
Things never are as bad as they seem
So dream, dream, dream”

«Dream» – Frank Sinatra

Before we begin discussing the mysterious ‘LL’ mentioned at the end of the previous post, it would be good to finish this series of articles on SLOS’s and look at them in depth, dreaming about their ‘perfect’ inner coordination.

In our system every list is contained within its’ own table. Right now we have around 40-50. This is of course a big heap of a nuisance but oh well. This is the case when you add one table at a time thinking it is the last one and don’t notice when they become a pile. Each table has a specific structure that corresponds to the type of list (SLOS, SLOSW, SLOSD or SLOSWD). Only one PHP class is used to manage all types of lists. It receives the name of the table (you can get the structure by its name) and labels to display. For example, the table is called [diagnose_type], but the heading needs to be ‘Diagnosis’.

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Own web analytics for startups – Part I

Part I – Where to start, first thoughts aloud

“…, but I like the way you think”

From a joke

The internet is full of information about everything, but it isn’t very easy to find a ‘step by step’ story unfolding with time and solving some problem. It is understandable as when you are trying to achieve something you just do it and there is no time to record it. You don’t keep a log of what you’ve done. A log, which could become a source for really interesting blog post series or even a book, will not be created.

It’s good to know that “Time on page” is not at all what you thought it was. It often doesn’t solve your practical task and just acts as a piece of knowledge, a fact. I always liked stories, that starts by describing the problem and bring you to a logical point, and on the way, describing all of the nuances of the solution found and the mistakes that were made.

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Ideal newsletter subscription page

How ideal newsletter subscription page should look like?

Page content starts from next line.

1. All updates are aggregated and sent at most once a month.

2. Updates contain:

- a summary of product updates from blog
- links to new interesting discussions in forum
- new and popular ideas summary

3. With our newsletter you can hit ‘Reply’ and send us a message. We are sorry, we do not send automatic ‘thank you’ back, we just read and reply.

4. Unsubscribes you automatically after your account was deleted. We do not store your email thereafter.

5. Has an unsubscribe link you can actually see and click.

Still not convinced? Look at last newsletter here.


Own web analytics for startups – Part II

Part II – what are the web systems helping clients which are not a product itself

Today we will start filling the table which we created in the previous post. Our main topic throughout this series of posts will be column A (web applications), so as a warm up let’s fill in the section B1:D6. These types of businesses have no relevance to our product, so we will just skim over them, because we know almost nothing about them. While doing this we will base ourselves on our experience, gained as users of these systems, not creators. To start off, let me explain what each line means in our table to avoid confusion.

1 – a web site which is a separate system from your product, 37signals call it a ‘marketing’ site. It contains information about your offer, pricing, FAQ, documentation, who you are and how to contact you. It is the starting point and link between all of your systems (blog, forum, client support), including your product.

2 – a blog is used to acquaint and connect interested users with things like: what the team is working on, how the product can be used best, how clients use it (with their approval of course). People are always interested in what happens behind the scenes, this makes everything more exciting, more human, and more connected. Here you can also share anything that doesn’t concern the product, it could be interesting and helpful for those around you to see how you set up OpenVPN, write Selenium tests or how you use Review Board. A blog has tags and categories, and if you use them correctly, people will enjoy reading about you and your accomplishments.

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Own web analytics for startups – Part III

Part III – thinking about surrounding our product systems

Today we will fill column A (web applications) in our table and make some conclusions about systems needed around a web application product to make it successful.

A1 – Marketing site. Is it needed? Absolutely, how else will potential customers find out what your application does, fall in love with it, and become customers for life? But as we said before, the functions of a website do not end there. It serves as the core, around which all the other systems build up into one whole. I’m not sure if examples are needed, but if you want to see some samples, feel free – JanRain, ChartBeat, Hipmunk. We put a + here.

A2 – Blog. Perhaps you will disagree, but in our opinion blogs are quite useful for developers of web applications. You can use your blog to announce upcoming changes to the product, which will show what you are working on, what direction you are heading in with the product development. On the other hand, it’s a convenient means of sharing some of your thoughts with your current and future customers, dispelling the fog of mystery surrounding product development.
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