Home alone

13 March 2009

home-alone1Phil and Alex have left me alone while they head off to see the world (insert sad face emoticon if you are that way inclined). Well actually they have left me to go show off Snagsta to the world, but it amounts to the same thing. Alex G is alone at the controls…

On the odd occasion that I am left at home alone, I like to do the things that I usually don’t have permission to do – move things around, throw stuff out or secretly store things in the spare room, etc. These rare moments of complete dictatorship invariably lead to punishment at a later stage, but that doesn’t stop me.

What then can I do at Snagsta, while the “cats” are away?

We’ve been talking about colour a fair bit recently, with the existing purple getting mixed reviews since its inception all those months ago. Some people like it, some don’t, some call it pink, some call it mauve. Some guys like it, some girls don’t. There hasn’t been a formal poll, but I think it might be fun to see if I can’t switch it out while nobody is looking.

Any suggestions on what to change it to?

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How important is a vote anyway?

11 November 2008

 

A New Leader

A New Leader

As you may have noticed, the subject of voting has been in the news spotlight recently – yep, that’s right, it was election time in New Zealand. Plus, weren’t they doing something in the U.S. too last week?

 

No, of course, it was a massive deal in the U.S., but here in the Snagsta Thailand office, we decided not to endorse either candidate, partly because we try to remain suitably impartial, but mostly because we don’t have any eligible voters on staff.

 

Personally, I like to support the underdog, but this was tricky, because who I thought was the underdog, turned out to be the favourite and who I thought was the favourite suddenly declared himself the underdog.

 

Funnily enough though, the subject of voting has been in the spotlight here at Snagsta HQ, thanks to the programming team adding in some new functionality allowing users to vote on a list.

 

We had an interesting debate on the suitability of a voting system for us, seeing as one of our core functions is to provide recommendations based on a user’s preferences, rather than other people’s preferences. However, the over-riding factor was the probability that many of our users will not necessarily be members, so of course if we can give them a way of knowing which lists are good and which aren’t, this helps them.

 

To be honest, I was more concerned about how many negative votes my lists will get, but hopefully I can convince the programmers to secretly build an admin function that allows me to cast multiple votes at one time. Democracy, with a dash of corruption. It’s the Thai way.

 

Before I close with a list (that you will not be able to vote on!), I’d just like to remind everyone to get their entries in for the tagline competition. Some of you are amazingly creative, and some of you…not so much.

 

Just kidding, please do submit your own entry soon.

 

Finally, here is a list of my favourite online memories of the 2008 U.S. election:

 

The ordinary people – funny Arab lady, Joe the Plumber

 

The music – The Obama Girl, American Boy, Will.I.Am

 

The SNL skits – The Couric Interview, The VP Debate, The Debate

 

The Funny or Die collection – Ron Howard, Natalie Portman

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Tell us what you think… honestly

4 October 2008

For those of you who have visited the private beta in the last few weeks, you may have noticed the new feedback functionality we added in the last update. Since we are also using it for bug reporting, it’s a good thing it has turned out to be one of the least buggy features in the beta.

Sadly Snagsta can’t really take any credit for this, because it is a copy and paste job from Kampyle although we can strongly recommend it for any other new sites out there that need a quick feedback feature.

They do have some hideous design options, but for the most part set up was breeze, and we even managed to inject some of our usual bad “Snagsta” humour into the compliments section.

As always with feedback, what you get back from users can sometimes be a bit of a confusing mix. So far we’ve had a bunch of bug reports, a couple of nice compliments, one submission that simply said “What??” and of course some spam.

What I find interesting though are the different attitudes that come through, with some people obviously just trying to be helpful (even if they do leave some very cryptic messages), others being helpful but also managing to somehow sound so condescending (probably unintentionally) and yet others who are apologetic as if it is their fault that they couldn’t make something work.

So, if you find yourself with some time on your hands, please feel free to leave us some feedback. We would love to hear from you.

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The downside of testing Snagsta

30 May 2008

Damn you Eddie Izzard!

On Sunday, I got shouted at by my wife.

This happens occasionally, and just between you and me, it is usually my fault, though of course I would never admit to that within her hearing.

This time though, I place the blame firmly upon Snagsta.

You see, I had told my wife that I needed to spend a bit of time in the outhouse to do some testing on the site, but unfortunately when she came out five minutes later to see if I needed anything, I was watching an Eddie Izzard video clip. She was a bit miffed, but was slightly appeased when I managed to explain that I had followed a link from one of Alex M’s lists that had cropped up as part of my testing.

About fifteen minutes after that, she kindly brought out a snack, only to find me chuckling to myself whilst reading a page of Mitch Hedberg quotes. Again, I tried to explain that I had been checking the friends functionality and seen this list of Paul’s on the site and it was all part of the testing process. Even to my own ears, this sounded weak.

The final straw though, was when she came out about an hour later and found me on perezhilton.com. Now, I had literally just seen the site mentioned on a list of Nikki Davies’ and had clicked through to have a very quick look, but it was exactly the wrong moment and of course because of this, it looked like my morning’s “work” was watching videos, reading jokes and ogling celebrities.

I tried manfully to make her see that it was Alex, Paul and Nikki, and in a wider sense Snagsta, who were to blame, but she was having none of it.

Our nanny could only laugh as she saw me getting dragged into the house by my ear to spend some time with my son.

I’ll leave you with Nikki’s list of Best Celebrity Gossip Blogs, but remember this is not for work hours:

  1. perezhilton.com
    Trashy, flashy and crass
  2. pinkisthenewblog.com
    Personal and engaging
  3. tmz.com
    At the cutting edge with breaking news and video clips
  4. jossip.com
    New York focussed gossip site
  5. pagesix.com
    The original, but no longer the best
  6. hollywood.tv
    Video-based blog
  7. hollywoodtuna.com
    Blog featuring the hottest female celebrities
  8. defamer.com
    LA focussed gossip site

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The Devil is in the Details

2 May 2008


I remember reading something a while back about how God had a huge project and he got it done in 7 days. For us though, we have not had much luck with His approach. No matter how many times Phil, Alex, Paul or myself proclaim “Let There Be Snagsta”, that only seems to work for deities.

We are at that stage now when it seems like every issue resolved sprouts 3 new issues to deal with. Not that these are big issues necessarily, but even the small issues can stack up.

It is also now that we start to see just how many tiny details there are to address in order to get Snagsta to the point where we can let you loose on the site (and don’t think we can’t see you there salivating all over your keyboard at the prospect!).

As with a lot of things, it is all about finding the right balance. Good enough to keep you interested, complete enough to keep us happy.

To close, I’m going to leave you with a bit of a cop-out list – some project management one-liners that have tickled my fancy over the years:

1. To estimate a project timeframe, work out how long it would take one person to do it then multiply that by the number of people on the project.

2. If an IT project works the first time, it is wrong.

3. A user is somebody who tells you what they want the day you give them what they asked for.

4. Good project management is not so much knowing what to do and when, as knowing what excuses to give and when.

5. The first 90% of a project takes 90% of the time, the last 10% takes the other 90%.

6. Warning: Dates in a calendar are closer than they appear to be.

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Testing Times

4 April 2008

ateam.jpg 

Somebody, somewhere said a problem shared is a problem halved, and I have a problem I’d like to lay on you, Gentle Reader.

We are starting to put Snagsta through its paces, which has been fun and all, but the next step is for each of us to put together a small team of hand-picked testers and get some (useful) user feedback. Now obviously I want my team to outperform Alex and Phil’s by some considerable margin, which is where my problem arises.

What is the optimal make-up of my team?

Here’s whom I think should be in:

1) Mister Internet Savvy – someone with a good understanding of what is already out there and some hands on experience using other comparable sites to tell me how we match up.

2) Little Miss Newbie – to contrast with above, she would be able to give me the perspective of a new Internet user to really test how intuitive the site is.

3) Sir Overly-Critical – somebody who is happy to point out the flaws we just wouldn’t have thought of. Even if he drives me crazy.

4) Miss Dedicated – you know the type. Their homework at school was always 8 pages longer than everyone else’s. Hopefully she will pick up most of the actual issues.

5) Mr. Way Out There – a creative type who will probably not find much actually wrong, but will come up with a hundred ideas we never thought of for us to sift through.

So who am I missing? Or is this the wrong approach? With such a small sample, does it make more sense to fill with “dedicateds” first and worry about the rest later?

To close, I’d like to offer a list of fun 404 pages that are worth checking out:

http://www.bluedaniel.com/404.shtml
http://www.newyorker.com/404
http://www.zug.com/404
http://homokaasu.org/errors/404.html
http://www.psycho78tacoma.com/404
http://www.psychpage.com/404
http://technorati.com/404

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Are We There Yet?

15 February 2008

They say time flies when you are having fun.

Considering how fast the days seem to be flying by at the moment, Team Snagsta must be having just about as much fun as is humanly possible without taking our clothes off.

Development of the system continues (have we made this a cliché now?), with ongoing debates about what looks right and what looks nothing like we thought it would, together with a hefty dose of change requests, a sprinkling of bugs and the odd overlooked issue or two.

It is at this time that you get a lot of “what were we thinking when we came up with that idea”, but the truth is, you can’t always tell how something is going to work out until you can see it.

But wait… Is that light at the end of the tunnel? Or have I just been staring at my monitor for too long?

To close, here’s a great list from Iain Tait (crackunit.com) highlighting a bunch of things that people who are just getting into digital always seem to propose at some point or another but really should best be ignored:

The 7 Deadly Sins of Digital

1. Tamagotchis

They say: “A game where you have to feed this little character to keep them alive, and you give them stuff, and they do stuff”

You say: “You want to create something based on an obsolete early 90s toy that wasn’t actually any fun? And you’re expecting people who don’t give a toss about your brand of fake-cheese-based snacks to go though a bunch of meaningless interactions for no real reward why?”

2. Screensavers

They say: “Let’s make a screensaver”

You say: “When was the last time you installed a screensaver? When was the last time you saw a screensaver on someone’s screen?”

3. Interfaces that look like the tops of desks or tables

They say: “We could make it look like the character’s desk, you can click on a file to read it, if you click on the answering machine you can hear a message… And so on…”

You say: “Oh FFS we can bend space and time and create things that redefine the way that the world works, but you want to use a clumsy metaphor that people are going to have to decompile in order to figure out how to get to a bit of information that in some rare case they might actually want. And it’s not extensible. And besides how many people watch youtube videos of their own adverts in the residue at the bottom of a coffee cup? And it’s not accessible… And so on…”

4. Desktop assistants / characters

They say: “You know the Microsoft paperclip, can we…”

You say: “Stop right there sonny, don’t say another word! Nobody likes the paperclip. The only good thing that ever happened to the paperclip was death. Even Bill Gates hates the paperclip.”

5. A virus

They say: “Could we create an actual virus that spreads our message”

You say: “Why not do it in the real world instead – why not just make a branded version of HIV, there’s more people in the offline world that you can infect”

6. A ‘viral’

They say: “We’ve made this film, can you make it a viral”

You say: “I’m just going outside to suck on an exhaust pipe for 30 minutes – if I make it back I’ll stick it on YouTube for you”

7. Starting a list of seven things and not counting how many you’ve got.