Distracted Engineer


A view on anything from an easily distracted engineer

Redness Tech - Experiments

Some of you may know that in addition to my normal day-to-day job, I run a very small (and very low revenue) business. The business is called Redness Tech, and it’s current primary activity is the operation of a web-based roster management system - Redness Tech Roster Management System (RTRMS). This is actually the same product I referred to in my recent blog post Search for a Business Partner - I haven’t had many hits on that either, sadly.

In an effort to get a better face on the business and the product, I have recently been experimenting with getting logos and web design by way of outsourcing. While I do hope that these efforts may translate into some more business, I’m mostly doing this for a little bit of fun and curiosity. The reason I am outsourcing these activities is because I just don’t have the time or energy to do it all myself… and that I don’t have some of the skill required.

So what have I done? Firstly, I’ve updated the Redness Tech logo from this:

here - and please let me know your thoughts in the comments.

I’m also experimenting with outsourcing some of the web design for the Roster Management System. This hasn’t been quite as successful, I think due to language barriers (most of the contractors are Indian) and possibly vague instructions. Time will tell, and at the very least it will be a learning experience.

So how has this “outsourcing” actually being done? Let me introduce you to Elance. Elance is a marketplace for trading services - you can post up jobs for free and allow contractors (who have to pay) to bid on that job. The type of jobs range from virtual assistants to web design to legal etc. What I am learning quite quickly, however, is that while you can get things done very cheaply sometimes, you do get what you pay for…

If you have a little bit of money lying around and are curious, I seriously suggest trying something like this.


Some Interesting Websites

One of the things I really enjoy is discovering and trying out new websites and services on the internet. So I thought I’d post a few of my favourites / recent discoveries.

Console.fm

This website allows you to stream a playlist of music from different electronic genres. It’s very simple, and I’m not actually sure how they make money, but if you’re stuck without your own music its great.

Codecademy

This is one of the recent sites from Y Cominator that seems to be a platform for teaching people how to code. It seems pretty scant on the courses at the moment, but it has a very clean interface and the tutorials are quite nice. One to watch I suppose!

Stypi

Here’s another Y Combinator child - Stypi is a really sleek online collaborative editor with chat. It has a few features from Google’s Wave platform, like a “Playback” feature an simulatenous editing. It seems to be aimed a little towards the programmer user given it allows for code highlighting etc - but I think that people just needing plain text collaboration would find this massively useful also!

Jig

Jig has just launched services from Tasy Labs and seems to be a “need marketplace”. It lets people post “needs” as well as suggest solutions for other peoples “needs”. Its an interesting spin on traditional “post everything” networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+. My profile is here.

Zerply

A very pretty “about me” type site. Allows you to have a profile page about yourself - can fetch from LinkedIn etc. Here’s mine

Workflowy

Workflowy is probably my favourite - and most heavily used - website at the moment. It’s motto, “Organise Your Brain”, is exactly what it does. It basically a sleek interface to bullet point lists. The lists are nestable, which means you can have lists of lists of lists etc. Additionally, to cut down on information overload, you are able to zoom in so that only a sublist is shown. You can also share lists and make them editable by others if you wish.

I use workflowy for a heap of things - A todo list, knowledge base, organiser, collaboration, brain storming, etc. I seriously encourage you to check it out ;-)

 

I hope you get the chance to check some of these sites out, and perhaps even use them for a bit. I think I’m going to do posts like this on a more regular basis so let me know what you think. Also, if you have any really cool sites that you think I should check out, let me know!


Search for a Business Partner

For a little while now, I’ve been running a very small business that provides a web-based roster management system for two pizza stores. I developed the application myself while actually employed at these stores, and after leaving, allowed the owner to continue using it for a monthly fee.

The plan was to use these two stores as a testbed to improve application and eventually get it to a point where I could market it to other small businesses. However, due to a lack of time and energy on my part, this plan hasn’t quite come to fuition.

My hopeful solution to this problem is, simply, to get some help. I haven’t kept this project going in the hopes that I might get rich from it - rather I was hoping to use it as a learning experience both technically (the application itself) and commercially (how to run a small business). Taking this into account, I can see no harm - in fact I see a necessity - in getting someone else on board to give me a hand.

So what am I actually looking for? I am looking for someone similar to myself - i.e someone looking to learn by doing about running a small business as well as building a software application. Surely, somewhere there is is a person out there looking for a small project to work on - I know I would be (and perhaps have in moments of weakness). I can’t promise any immediate financial compensation, but depending on how things go I am more than willing to talk formal partnerships and profit sharing.

Some background on the product:

 

  • Built in PHP - and not some of my best work if I’m honest
  • Uses some jQuery on the frontend, but nothing major.
  • Using MySQL for a database
  • Code comments could be improvement
  • Currently running on Jumba Web hosting
  • It works - but isn’t particularly pretty
  • Handles rosters and availabilities for two stores currently - each staff member is able to login and enter the days they can work.
  • I have started an overhaul project to clean up the code and make it more functional - this is running on a VPS

I am very keen to talk to anyone that is interested, but I really am looking for someone who could see themselves committing to this project at least as much as myself. Feel free to ask as many question as required.

On a side note, I will be putting this post (or at least a link) onto a few services to getting a better change of engagement. If you know of anyone who could be interested, please let them (or me) know!

 


Turntable.fm - Social Music Listening

Just a quick note to introduce a fantastic new service that is spreading like crazy. Turntable.fm is a really cool site that allows you to join Rooms and listen to and DJ your favourite tracks - socially.

The site is only technically in beta at the moment, but you can get access if you have a Facebook friend already with access or by requesting an invite. Turned out I already had a friend with access, so I could jump straight in. (Thanks whoever that was..)

This is how it works. First you join a room, say this one. Initially, you will join the “crowd” and listen to the tracks being offered up by a number of other users on the Deck. If a spot on the deck becomes available, you too can jump up and play your songs to the crowd. Each of the DJs takes a turn at playing a tack, looping around while DJs come and go.

You can see an example room in the image above. To get a sense of whether a track being played it liked or not, there is a meter displaying the popularity as measured by votes from the crowd.

There is a social gaming aspect to the site too. Every time you play a song as a DJ, you get a point. The more points you have, the more avatars you have access to. You can see above the DEADMAU5 avatar, which have access to at 1000 points.

The site also allows you to create your own rooms, if no current rooms suite your taste or if you want a semi-private experience. Only catch is that you need more than one person in a room before full tracks can be played due to license restrictions.

There are two ways to add tracks to your “DJ Queue”. Firstly, you can add from the Turntable.fm library. Second, you can upload your own track. When a track is playing, you are given the option to purchase the song in iTunes or add it to Last.fm or Spotify. I assume this is how they are making some money at the moment.

Anyway, I highly suggest you check this site out. I have been addicted to it lately, and I suspect many other will be too. If you have me as a friend on Facebook, you will automatically have access! (I will more than likely be hanging out in the Coding Soundtrack room)


Thesis Update #7

Its been a while since an update. This is largely because I have been swamped trying to get my project ready for demonstration. Thankfully, I managed to get everything working well enough to demonstrate to my examiner and supervisor on Thursday. To say that things worked was a relief is an understatement, but it turns out that the demonstration endured far less scrutiny in terms of my design and implementation than I expected. I'm not quite sure why this is... but hopefully it isn't a bad sign.

I want to get some sort of video demo up for everyone to see my project in action at some point, but thats most likely going to happen after my actual thesis writeup has been done.

I thought it would be interesting to get some sort of tracking of the number of words my thesis contains versus time. I can't explain exactly why... other than I think its cool. So below I have included a Google Docs Chart that contains a graph of the number of words in my thesis document over time! Hopefully you should see this line skyrocket in the next few days....

 

Let me know what you think!