Saturday, December 26, 2009

First steps to effective time management

This is important to manage your time effectively, right?

For me, as for the highly addicted to emails person, I found it very important to optimize my time for emailing back and forth. Truth to be told, I never managed to use the "silent hours", when no email is accessed. I'm pretty connected all the time (except for some very rare occasions) so dropping this communication channel intentionally never sounded like a good plan for me.

However, within the time, I feel that this distracts me more and more. So I decided to review my emailing habits and find out if there is any reasonable time limits that I can incorporate into my daily schedule. What is more important, I was looking for a good excuse for setting a strict hours with absolutely no email access.

So the research comes first. I've started with a quick Ruby script to retrieve the date & time of messages in my Sent mailbox.

Here is the direct link to it:

This script gives me the CSV form of hour of the day and emails sent during this hour. I don't have a huge number of emails on with my current Gmail account, so it did work well for me in the way it is.

The next step is building a visual representation of these numbers. This is how it looks like for me:

Here is the direct link to it:

Well, what can I say now. This creates a potentially different issue for me.

This chart does not look very disordered to me. But it looks busy. I feel that I can squeeze two-three hours into one. This sounds like a good idea, because the most of these things are unlikely to be important to get an answer the same minute or even hour. Say, a slack of two-three hours might be okay. Keeping in mind that they most of my contacts have my emergency contact.

However, I still feel like this is something I might want to do gradually. By cutting one piece at a time. And probably I'll be starting with the very early and very late hours first.

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The Cost of Customer Acquisition can’t afford to ignore the cost of customer acquisition. The earlier you work on this the better, as many of the best techniques require you to build your product differently.

It is also important to ask yourself the question: can my business realistically expect to acquire customers for considerably less than the amount that I can monetize them?

Very nice insight into Customer Acquisition process.

If you don't understand this, do not start your business, until you understand every single word out of here.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Как оказаться featured в App Store?

Очень откровенный и подробный расказ о том как сделать игру и оказаться в featured в AppStore. Еще приятнее что создатель игры - украинец.


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Thursday, December 24, 2009


Вы все еще не любите чай из пакетиков?

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The Smashing Book!

Wow, my copy of The Smashing Book is just arrived. It is much smaller than it looks, but hopefully, this doesn't change the content. :)

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Flickr pushes HEAD into production

Flickr is somewhat unique in that it uses a code repository with no branches; everything is checked into head, and head is pushed to production several times a day. This works well for bug fixes that we want to go out immediately, but presents a problem when we’re working on a new feature that takes several months to complete. How do we solve that problem? With flags and flippers!

I really like this approach. It's definitely far from perfect, but gives a feeling of tech importance and value that is live. Every single moment.

Conclusion: worth considering for your project.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Online savings review by mere-mortal

Recently I had a chance to review three online banks for personal savings: HSBC DirectAlly (ex GMAC) and Personal Savings from American Express.

I would not give you a comparison list like the most money  saving sites do.  They are rarely useful for making a final decision.  I'll just cover the most important points for a regular customer, like myself.

  • Both HSBC and Ally have a debit card attached to your account. (This is good.)
  • Both of them are subject to the federal rules for withdrawals from savings account.  Which is neither bad or good, it is just the way it is.  
  • Amex doesn't provide either debit card or checks for money withdrawals.  Online only.

  • Ally gives a better rate than HSBC (1.50% v. 1.35% at the moment of writing this).
  • Ally has a history of rebranding that it tries to run away from. (Personally, I had no chance to work with GMAC before, so it doesn't make any difference for me.)
  • Amex is a pretty strong brand.  Not perfect though, like the most of banks.

Account setup:
  • Ally account setup is very quick.  Super quick.
  • HSBC is super slow on setting up account.  It includes both online and offline steps that can make you hate the idea of working with them somewhere in the middle of the process.
  • Amex supposed to be quick, but if they put you for manual processing (what happen to me) they are slow.  But better than HSBC anyways.

Verify an account:
  • Ally and Amex are pretty quick on verifying accounts.
  • HSBC is slow.

Transferring money:
  • HSBC is super slow on transferring money.  They disappear from your account next day, and travel somewhere for around 3 business days.  Than they show up at HSBC, but it still takes a day or so to become available.
  • Amex is doubtful.  The money disappear next day, and appear on the account the same day, but as "current balance".  "Available balance" stays zero.  According to customer support, they take full 5 business days to make the money posted as "available balance".  They say the money don't loose interest, because it's counted on the "current balance", however, I never double-checked them myself.  (They can probably lie.  This happens with banks.)
  • I don't have much experience with Ally yet.  I'll try that shortly.

That's it.  Feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions, I'd be happy to give you some insights and save you some time.

# Posted via email from opportunity__cost

Amazon's Kindle DRM is broken

According to a translated writeup of the Kindle hack here, Amazon engineers went to considerable lengths to prevent their DRM from being tampered with. The Kindle for PC uses a separate session key to encrypt and decrypt each book "and they seem to have done a reasonable job on the obfuscation," the author says.

The crack comes courtesy of a piece of software titled unswindle, and it's available here. Once installed, proprietary Amazon ebooks can be converted into the open Mobi format.

Personally, I think that DRM is only a headache. Amazon is probably making enough money on selling e-books, so why not allow them to be portable anywhere? Making books more available would make a bigger impact on shrinking the size of market of illegal ebooks floating around, instead of adding new protections here.

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Robots are everywhere...

These new devices on SJPD officers immediately reminded me about... the guy.


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Nokia N900

This one looks super cool to me.

I don't know how good is it in real-life, but such an unusual unboxing experience should be something worth trying.

It *is* expensive but already sold on Amazon so I'm waiting to get the price down to four hundreds. :)

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Health Care in the US

The United States is the only industrialized country that does not have universal health care. Despite exorbitant spending, health care results are mixed at best.

As I said, the system is so freaking broken. This is not a choice anymore. And it has to be fixed.

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The Smashing Book

The book has 300 pages in all, full of practical and useful knowledge for designers and Web developers. It contains 10 chapters and is printed in full color. The book is a paperback and is 8.27 × 5.5 inches (21 × 14 cm).

The book is available exclusively from Smashing Magazine and nowhere else. This first and only Smashing Book looks at Web design rules of thumb, color theory, usability guidelines, user interface design, best coding and optimization practices, as well as typography, marketing, branding and exclusive insights from top designers across the globe.

It was written by Jacob Gube (SixRevisions), Dmitry Fadeev (UsabilityPost), Chris Spooner (Spoongraphics), Darius A Monsef IV (, Alessandro Cattaneo (with co-editing by Jon Tan), Steven Snell (VandelayDesign), David Leggett (UXBooth), Andrew Maier (UXBooth), Kayla Knight (regular writer on SM), Yves Peters (, René Schmidt (system administrator of our servers) and the Smashing Magazine editorial team, Vitaly Friedman and Sven Lennartz.

While I can hardly wait for my copy of The Smashing Book to arrive, I was unpleasantly surprised that the shipping time is 30-40 days. Damn. I'd never call this *free shipping* if I'd knew. But I'm hoping for the best and that the book is worth it.

# Posted via web from opportunity__cost

Monday, December 21, 2009

(Don't) Ask a Stupid Question

You can ask “the crowd” all kinds of questions, but if you don’t stop to think about the best way to ask your question, you’re likely to get unexpected and unreliable results. You might call it the GIGO theory of research design.

Pretty good post on how to ask questions and how not to get fooled by answers. Very nice.

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How programmers see each other...

How different programmers see each other. Pretty cool.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Improving bounce rate with Google Website Optimizer

As many of you already know, Google Website Optimizer (GWO) is a nice add-on to Google Analytics (GA) to run A/B/.. and multivariate tests for your pages. And while A/B test is pretty simple thing to do, multivariate tests are more fun.

However, working with some sites, you can't always specify the conversion page very well, the goal of your tests. If it's not an ecommerce one, or lacks a typical login / sing-up pair, you're probably hitting an "information resource". But such sites still need some work to be done, to get a better feedback and user retention. I would say, testing them for bounce rate and improving it later would be the nice thing to do.

Unfortunately, it's not very straightforward with GWO. You're still supposed to specify a page that will serve as conversion trigger.

One solution is that the bounce rate can be calculated by looking backwards, by looking at the conversions to any page. It's easy to do if you've got only one or two outbound links on your page. However, in the real life, it's unlikely to happen. Pages have dozens of outbound links. Going for all of them and putting a conversion script is probably doable, but such a headache.

But likely this can be done with a very simple Javascript. Let try to test the sample landing page. First of all, let's put the control script at the top.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Define the testing blocks.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

And put the tracking code right before the body.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The landing page is set up. Now, we can start with the conversion page. You can use the same one as conversion page in your GWO experiment. However, you don't need to add any tracking code to it (yet).

What we should do know, is to add a simple Javascript that will re-write all outbound links and will add an onclick action to them. In this action, Javascript will do the call to GWO and register a conversion. This simple JS should be put right before the closing body.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

[code lang="html]


That easy. You might get an error while validating the conversion script, but you can easily copy & paste the content of script into file, and do offline validation for it.

Basically, that's it. You can finish setting up this experiment and run it. Here's how you will see results.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Have fun!

# Posted via email from opportunity__cost

Friday, December 11, 2009

Are you using todo's ?

I think I am finally managed how to use todo's in the most optimal way.  At least, for myself.

First of all, after trying out many different things, I've found myself using Remember The Milk all the time.  I think I just understood that there is no silver bullet and no product that I'd give all my love to, until I'll build it myself.  But it might not be worth it, as I can live with existing ones.

So here they are, my major points.

  1. I don't put todo's if I don't put a due date for them.  No due date - nothing to do.  (This point really helped!)
  2. If I have more than 2 things for the specific day, I prioritize it with RTM's three levels of priority.  It works the best, although, I'm not really excited with the way how I see this in RTM, but... whatever.
  3. Every night I do review the todo's for tomorrow (or the next soonest date).  If you missed something, change the due date.  Someone might find this addictive, but probably because of my psychotype, I find that the need to reschedule something gives me more pressure than missed due date.
  4. Don't plan strategy, plan actions.  If you can't do this in one or two steps, it's not one todo, but two or more.  I think the GTD principle shares the same approach.
  5. I didn't manage to handle dependencies very effectively, but I keep myself pretty much organized with due date & priority combo.
  6. Probably todo's are not the right thing for repetitive actions, but I'd probably play more with that.
  7. Todo's are not your day schedule.  And I found myself unable to keep a decent schedule (although sometimes it's pretty tempting to).

Have fun!

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Why am I not using Chrome, yet

While a lot of my friends are hooked up on Google Chrome already, on both Macs and PCs, I still deny using it instead of my Firefox.  

No, it's not like I'm in love with FF.  I actually don't like it, as it feels occasionally buggy, memory leaking and rather slow.  (Comparing to Chrome.)

But I do use FF extensions.

The most important ones are:

  1. Delicious - damn, that's an every day thing.
  2. HttpFox - yes, I do use it and quite often.

Also, I'd be happy to have:

  1. Firebug & PageSpeed - these two are also quite important ones, although I keep them disabled the most of time, as they make FF unbelievable slow (even if I'm not using them).
  2. Affiliator - the thing that adds an option to right click menu on Amazon's pages to copy to clipboard the page's URL with my associate ID embedded.
  3. Selenium IDE - it's helpful, but occasionally.

I also have a set of so-called plugins.  They include Flip4Mac WMP, Google Talk, QuickTime, Shockwave, Silverlight, VLC and probably something else, that I don't care that much.

Google Chrome does have an extensions now.  They even have a Delicious one already.  But it looks like extensions are not available on Mac platforms, yet. (Some people say they to be available after the weekend.)

But I'm looking into it...

P.S. Isn't it too much Google, yet?

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Amazon's stopped converting PDF for free?

"Damn, no!" - that was what I though when I send a PDF to my email and... got it back.  Not like really back, but it was saying:

You can download the file(s) here Dont Just Roll the Dice.pdf, then transfer the file(s) by connecting Kindle to your computer over USB. 

instead of:

You can download the file(s) here Dont Just Roll the Dice.azw, then transfer the file(s) by connecting Kindle to your computer over USB. 

And, well, it was the PDF there.  The original one.  However, after a quick call to Amazon (I like their call-to-phone feature with always less then 1 minute of waiting time for me), I found out that they actually rolled a new version, that requires to put word "convert" in the subject line now.

Now it worked.

However, while you manage to keep me pretty happy during the full cycle of communication with me, how did you manage to screw so badly with new "feature" out and even not including anything in the email you send back?

Well, my wild guess is that you desperately need beta testers for the native PDF support that you've in the new firmware, so that's the way to push people to try and see it.  And I feel that I'm not that wrong in this direction.

I don't feel really hurt because of this, but I still think you need to be less tricky (if it's intentional) or think a step ahead (if it's a glitch).  Yeah, I know the Nook is being trashed badly last days, but still its an option.

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Getting back on the track

It looks like I got off the track last month.  Almost no blog posts, only passive Twitter streaming, sounds like nobody is here.  

Well, not the real truth is here though.  I was quite busy with some stuff.  Adium has broken support for Twitter now, I don't know why, but yesterday's fresh snapshot and build couldn't authenticate me still.  So probably this explains my only passive reading list there, but no active tweets, other that occasional mobile shouts.

My blog was keeping silence mostly because this is the way it is.  It looks like my blogging activity is mainly sinusoid, or something similar to a sine wave with very relatively slow ups, sharp peaks and quick drops.  Maybe it's because I don't blog much about my day job anymore, I'm doing a lot of tech stuff that is pretty custom tailored and I don't feel like sharing it (probably because of too tiny or lack of auditory for this posts at all), and my product management ventures didn't reach those stages when I'd start seeing a lot of value there to share with others.

But I'll put my wheels back on.

Whatever, but life is going on.  I had a chance to attend Percona's new one-day training in San Francisco, which was about Developing High Performance, Scalable Applications.  That was a pioneering one, but very good. It was a training course aimed at developers building applications with MySQL, and while I'm not 100% hands-on developer anymore these day, I do build applications with MySQL.  The training covered the topics on how to optimize queries, common design mistakes in MySQL, case-studies on how to solve various theorhetical application problem and  briefly on architecture decisions that should be made in applications.  I'm pretty happy with what I spent a day for.

I also read the Deploying Rails Applications book and almost done with Designing Social Interfaces.  I liked them both, and I can probably suggest both of them, so let me put some stress on what I didn't like instead:

Deploying Rails Applications:
  1. It's a very great overview of the things around, but feels like too much of them.  Getting a better idea of what to apply and when with a good structure would probably do a better job here.
  2. It's a little bit light and hard at the same time, probably the wrong mix of content.
  3. If you do have an administration skills, you probably find the book more like, "okay, okay, got it, okay, cool - I'm done with it, what's next?".
  4. I hate to repeat myself, but once again, it felt to me that too much stuff that probably doesn't need to be mixed together.
  5. I still recommend it.

Designing Social Interfaces:
  1. While I'm supposed to say bad things, I still want to say I really liked the book.  It's probably not the rocket science, but it's very good.
  2. I felt like the author(s) got bored in the middle of the book, so did I, but it looks like he's recovering closer to the end of it (and so do I). :)
  3. Too much of Yahoo, and particularly Flickr.  I love Flickr, but too much of cliches from it.
  4. The books if pretty decent and I highly recommend it.  I still have few chapters to finish, but they'd probably not make it worse.

So basically that's it and see you around...

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