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James Rutherford

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Tag: SuperMondays

As a counterpoint for the rant about startups and politics yesterday, here is a selection of fine new web tech businesses that are gathering their wings in Newcastle:

Happiest

Happiest helps positive attitude flow, encouraging happy habits for self improvement and facilitating a happy peer support network.

The project is fuelled by a very respectable and eclectic team of local talent, is currently in private beta, but should be going for full public launch very soon.

Take a look at Happiest.

ScribeSub

ScribeSub has a different take to traditional article publishing models, allowing individual authors to release their content on a pay-as-you-go $1/read basis. It permits a more direct, rewarding bond between reader and author.

It’s in early public launch phase and hopes to gather a decent critical mass of users/content in order to get traction.

Take a look at ScribeSub.

65 Hours

Time banking turns time into currency. 65 Hours works as the centralised bank for individuals wishing to share their skills with each other, but not wishing to involve the complication of cash.

65 Hours is launched to the public and ready to try.

Take a look at 65 Hours.

Love Your Larder

Love Your Larder is an online marketplace for artisan foods. Local-scale producers can benefit from the site’s ready-to-go structure and social reach, selling with little time investment and for a minimal percentage cost.

The site launched before Christmas and is continually adding new producers. Any intermediate-expert PHP developers interested in helping to build the project further should get in touch with them.

Take a look at Love Your Larder.

Wedding Tales

My own business… writer’s privilege. ;)

Our first release from MemoryMerge is an online service to make it as easy as possible to collect in photos from guests’ cameras at a wedding, keeping them privately shared just for those who were at the event to enjoy.

We’ve currently launched to private beta (i.e. it’s working live, but we’re limiting the release). Please get in touch if you’re interested in the service for your event.

Take a look at Wedding Tales.

Other hot tips include…

Poster-child of the first Difference Engine, ScreenReach, currently rolling through funding rounds and picking up critical acclaim.

The enterprising folk behind 1DayLater, the King Brothers. Currently keeping other projects warm, but always full of ideas.

The Usable HQ team. Their first project is still under wraps, but expect some noise from them in the latter half of this year.

CustomerSure – a SAAS solution for customer service, shortly to launch.

Say ‘Hello’

It’s been exciting to feel some of the buzz from these projects. Interested parties should check out SuperMondays and the Geekest Drink meetings to rub shoulders with these folk!

Rob Lavender presented a spread of tools- some free, some commercial, that would be useful in a freelancer’s workflow.

Invoice Management

Bamboo Invoice – invoicing management tool built on CodeIgniter.

Commercial / hosted options:

CannyBill

FreshBooks

LessAccounting

iComptroller

Productivity

Rob introduced an organisational methodology called Getting Things Done (GTD) which aims to externalise the processes that some keep in the mind to make them more efficient. Tasks are pushed into a cycle: Collect / Process / Organize / Review / Do.

iGTD – Mac / free

Things – Mac / commercial

Tracks

Gtdify

Evernote – scrapbook / organiser

Remember the Milk – to do list

ActiveInbox – a Gmail plug-in to organise in a GTD way

43 folders – tips for life/career management

Project Management / Collaboration

Basecamp

Collabtive

Other 37 signals tools

Google Apps – business email / docs / sites / calendar / wave

Source Control

ProjectLocker – SVN / GIT hosting

Unfuddle – SVN / GIT hosting

Dreamhost - SVN is available inclusive with the hosting

Other Resources

Lifehacker – Productivity tips

1DayLater – Time Tracking software

opensourceCMS – sandboxed open source software for you to try out before you install.

Top 20 project management tools article.

Less Everything – assorted tools

Klok – time management tool (audience suggestion)

Resources

@robertlavender, Lavender Web Design

Rob’s slides:

Laura offered tips for putting together a solid CV for a recruiter from her experience running Altitude Recruitment (@altitudetweet).

Objectives

Be clear about what you want to achieve. Select your potential clients and target them with a personal application; talk about how your work and skills would enhance their service.

Only approach a few at a time, so that you can keep track of the responses.

Structure

Organise your CV chronologically. If you’re CV is skill based then it looks like you have something to hide.

Two pages is best, but this isn’t fixed. As long as it’s all relevant, it’ll be fine.

Include a Work/Experience section. This should list:

  • Your employer’s name, your position, some detail about the work they do.
  • Your responsibilities, e.g. planning, analysis, design, implementation, testing.
  • The architecture; systems and software.
  • Whether the projects were completed on time and to budget.
  • Any staff you managed (if relevant).
  • New techniques, procedures and practices you brought.
  • How you reduced time and money/increased revenue.
  • Any achievements that benefitted your employer.

You should include acronyms where appropriate. Some recruiters search CVs with keywords.

Your Portfolio section:

  • Sould include a link to a professional-looking portfolio site.
    • if you can’t build your own, take a look at: Behance Network, Coroflot, Carbonmade, WordPress).
    • or enlist the help of another freelancer to build it!
    • Keep your site professional- any personal stuff will be read and may give a bad impression.
    • Keep it up to date.
    • Give some cursory thought to SEO- work may come your way via your online portfoilio.
  • Ensure you have client approval for anything you present (don’t fall foul of an NDA).
  • Give information about how you work- timesheets, billing arrangement, etc. to give people a rounded view of your service.
  • Six Revisions has some good information.

Include a references and testimonials section. You should request content for this from your satisfied clients- it’s invaluable on your CV.

General Tips

No point including a personal statement on a CV for a recruiter. Possibly on a CV for a full-time job, if you have something ground-breaking to convey!

It isn’t worth including a personal photograph. These tend to be binned.

Don’t forget your name/address/email/telephone number… (Sounds obvious, but apparently isn’t!)

Working with a Recruiter

Be open about who you’ve approached already and ask who your details will be passed on to.

Feel welcome to ask advice on your presentation / cv / interview technique.

Expect to negotiate your fee.

Make sure you invoice and send your timesheets in good time. In return, the recruiter will look after payments and do chasing if required.

References

@lauramaddison

Laura’s slides:

We returned to Newcastle University’s Culture Lab for June’s event, which had a ‘freelancing’ theme.

The talks explored how to shape a CV, tools to help freelance workflow and possible methods for passive, secondary income.

Paul Easton, on Journalists

Before the scheduled speakers, Paul Easton gave a short talk to encourage freelancers to engage with offline media journalists.

Journalists are always on the lookout for good stories, particularly if you can provide a radical opinion, local or topical item. If you can offer exclusivity, then they’ll be even keener!

If you’re writing a press release, keep it punchy and don’t swamp it in adjectives- that’ll be easier for a journalist to use.

You should try to supply a good, relevant and high-quality photograph – these can carry a story and seriously increase your article size.

Most journalists are very approachable, so don’t feel intimidated.

When questioned, Paul suggested steering clear of advertorial- it’s often very obvious and a lack of authenticity won’t do you any favours.

General Admin

Paul mentioned that offices were available at Hoults Yard. He gave an example outlay of £300/month.

Those interested in a Ruby User Group should get in contact with Lee Irving (@magpieuk)

Other Talks

Detailed write-ups of the other talks will appear here over the next couple of days.

Further References

Phil Sherry has published a clear and concise report.

Dom encouraged a simple approach to SEO. His points included:

  • Pick your niche: Look at what people are searching for in your market
  • Basic structure: Get decent URLs, title and heading tags
  • Content: Produce something worthwhile
  • Be realistic: High search placements are slow to gain and easy to lose
  • Remove as much duplicated content as possible
  • Judge your sources: Don’t read any SEO blogs!
  • If you’re outsourcing updates (as with any other outsourcing), check everything
  • Don’t do everything at once: Test the impact and improve incrementally
  • Be savvy: Fact check any lines you may be being fed by an SEO agency

Areas relevant to Google for you to look at now or in the near future:

  • Google product search
  • Google local
  • Universal Search (blogs, tweets, video, etc)
  • Microformats

Dom presented a few Twitter anecdotes in his unique style, which illustrated:

  • The importance of context – information which you may not be communicating
  • That without context, meaning may warp or amplify
  • Anyone may be listening (e.g. potential future employers)
  • Strangers may go to great lengths to pull a prank (well, Dom and Tim may, at least)
  • People will interact and respond in unpredictable ways

References: Dominic Hodgson@thehodge

Related: BBC News – Be careful what you tweet

Andrew introduced a free SEO analytics tool released by Microsoft.

The tool is distributed via the Microsoft Web Platform and runs on Vista and Windows 7. [The SEO Toolkit is independent of other components- no IIS server install is required].

The tool parses as a search engine would, so can be used to examine sites built with any underlying platform (e.g. PHP, JSP, ASP, flat HTML, etc..) and will highlight a range of potential problems. It will analyse both locally hosted and publicly-released sites, so is useful for both development and audit.

It has three main features – site analysis, robots editor and sitemap editor.

It includes a powerful query engine and is extensible (in VB.NET or C#).

A very useful talk for me- this is a tool I’ve not encountered, but I could see it fitting very appropriately into my web development workflow.

Slides and talk are now up on the SuperMondays blog.

References: Andrew Westgarth@apwestgarthCarlosAg blog

Tim isolated Google as the only worthwhile ‘optimisation’ target, and introduced some common fallacies. His notable points were:

  • Google does not crawl meta data
  • Keyword density isn’t important. Mentioning a term once on a page should be adequate
  • Content is not rated by semantic relevancy
  • Buying links is officially frowned-upon, though realistically, links are very commonly ‘bought’ in one way or another- even from Google themselves
  • Markup structures are important, but not as important as most SEOs say
  • Google does analyse page structure to discount footers, advertising blocks, etc. (see ‘page segmentation analysis’).
  • SEO advice is predominantly [erm...] cobblers.

Both Tim and Dominic (speaking later) recommend SEO Dojo as a (rare) worthwhile source for SEO information.

Tim accepted a few questions, outlining how you might become relisted if Google have penalised you [with a 'reconsideration request']; how problematic penalisation can be [usually 'not very']; some potential hostile SEO tactics and how you might try to recover from them [perhaps employing a 'Reputation Management Consultant', though Tim's general feeling on those in this role is less than glowing...]

References: Tim Nash@tnash

Last night’s SuperMondays SEO event (which – breaking format – really ought to have been entitled ‘SEOperMondays’) convened at the Beehive, Newcastle University and was, yet again, well attended.

The format mirrored previous events; registration/refreshments, followed by general announcements for us North-East geeks, a number of talks and then away to the pub… which we packed out (that’s what you call a good conversion rate!)

To keep my notes digestable and focussed, I’ll be splitting them over five (!) posts- I’m cleaving off some ‘Diary Dates’ and a further three for the talks themselves.

The general notices included:

NorthernNet – Northern Knowledge

High-speed communications network connecting the North, launching a business directory (Northern Knowledge).

References: NorthernNet

Inkspot Science

Collaborative data sharing and analysis/workshop tools provided as a cloud service. An earlier SuperMondays talk by Paul Watson outlined some of the technology.

References: Inkspot Science

…and Way Back When

Long-time SuperMondays attendees may remember Craig Rothwell’s talk on the OpenPandora handheld back in January 2009. It’s taken a long time, but the good news is that the first consumer units have just started shipping- and it looks like an excellent little machine, particularly for the games player on the move! Better still, it’s a user focussed project, and units are being assembled here in Newcastle.

References: OpenPandora

This month’s SuperMondays event pulled the magnifying glass over the first intake of tech start-up accelerator, The Difference Engine.

Jon Bradford opened with an introduction to the scheme- a model which runs most successfully in the US (they have ten placements to every one in Europe).

The Difference Engine provides seed fund and mentoring for promising tech projects, in exchange for an 8% business stake. £20k funding is provided (from a mixture of public and private investment) and the mentoring runs over a 13 week period at Middlesbrough’s Boho One.

Introductions, contacts and experience are brought to the fledgling teams, and after the incubation period, they are given the opportunity to demo to venture capitalists in the North and London.

This first round had 70 applicants across Europe, of which 10 were selected (and one was lost before the 2nd March start).

He was followed by representatives from five of the nine groups:

(Interested parties should be able to glean information about their projects from Twitter feeds)

The remaining four start-ups are headed by:

Further info:

This month’s meeting of SuperMondays started with a talk from PayPalX ‘Chief Wizard’, John Lunn (@johnxcom) about PayPal’s fledgeling services for mobile app integration. These are likely to be available across the mobile platforms, but will initially be available for iPhone developers.

Apple’s terms require that 3rd party payment services must be used for ‘real world’ rather than ‘digital’ goods, so they’re restricted in scope, but, in the right place, should offer a smooth payment flow without the security minefield associated with accepting credit cards through mobile devices.

John was joined by colleague Anthony Hicks (@anthonyxcom), Jon Nairn (@jonstep, working for @neverodd), Alex Reid (@alexjreid) and Peter Bull (@RoguePlanetoid) for a panel Q&A session.

General points of note from the session and pub discussions:

  • Perhaps surprising to some, the iPhone market accounts for a small proportion of mobile devices, and Android mobiles are apparently selling at twice the rate of iPhone.
  • iPhone users are generally more comfortable with app purchasing, and represent a more general consumer demographic.
  • Submissions and updates are developer-driven for Android, so app deployment can be rapid- especially when compared to Apple’s approval process.
  • Development for the less popular platforms may attract incubation or start-up funding.
  • Some high-qualify third-party technology exists for integration, e.g. Bump, OpenFeint.
  • Commercially, producing good middleware may be a better gamble than a good app.
  • Windows Phone 7 Series sounds promising.

Events like SuperMondays are great for setting bits of your brain in motion- even if the talks don’t directly relate to your field of expertise, and your thoughts don’t directly relate to the talks!

See: SuperMobile event listing, @SuperMondays.

North-East mobile app developers, and those requiring app development should check out Paul Smith’s AppNorth group for contacts.

j0nnywill