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Mindfire Solutions
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How You Can Utilize Off-Shore Talent to Grow Your Business

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One of the ways I’ve been able to grow my business over the last 12 years is by leveraging off-shore talent for company programming needs. My team of offshore developers has worked closely with my American developers and project managers to enable me to expand my business and help me satisfy many more clients. The key to making this off-shore working relationship successful is to have clear communication and accountability. Our project managers send the project requirements and the tasks to work on with their deadlines thru emails and an online project tracking program that they helped me build. Each day I receive daily email reports on each project with details on each field, relationship, layout, and script that they worked on. We meet weekly in a video conference to review all projects, discuss any pressing issues and learn from our work together. Recently, I visited their corporate headquarters in India, and one of their senior developers who has worked closely for our company for over 4 years came to DevCon to help out in our booth. Over the years, as developers have changed, the transition to a new developer has been smooth, as the knowledge transfer of all our […]

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Seth Zurer
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Designing Your Own Life

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Professionally, I’ve always been ambivalent. Database consulting has provided a bulwark of stability to counteract the shifting winds of my ever changing professional ambitions and a powerful tool for solving problems in every area of my life. When I graduated from college with my high-priced degree in English Literature, I stayed on in Chicago with the idea that I’d be an artist, creating theater with my friends.  But you can’t pay your rent with the earnings of an off-off-off loop theater artist.  So, like many artists, I got a job to finance my passions. It was a lucky break that my network connected me with Wizard Software Solutions, a software consulting company that creates FileMaker solutions for the corporate facility management and project management field.  A friend (OK, it was Molly!) referred me, knowing I was comfortable working with computers and learning on the fly. At Wizards, I laid a solid foundation of FileMaker knowledge – learning about interaction design, relational database structure, basic web application architecture, and most critically, how to communicate with users, eliciting technical requirements from non-technical conversations, observing and analyzing business processes to figure out the right database-driven solutions for tricky organizational problems. I worked directly […]

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SEO-Friendly Blog Post Tips for Better Site Traffic

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Writing an SEO-friendly blog post brings a whole new level of marketing to your site than just plain writing a blog. Considering that most of us write blog posts to share information with our audience, shouldn’t we want that audience to be as big as possible? Creating an SEO-friendly blog post will do just that. It will help drive more traffic to your site through SEO (search engine optimization). Not only does it help get your message out, but your site traffic will increase as well. Here’s an important step before we get to the tips, though. If you don’t have the Yoast plugin for your WordPress blog, download and install it now! And now… to the tips…. Plan First I prefer to write directly in WordPress. While it isn’t required, I learned in my freshman journalism class that if you can write where it’s going to end up, you will save yourself a lot of steps. (We were never allowed to write on paper. We had to type our story directly into the old-school word processor at the time. In fact, we even had to pass a typewriter speed test to get into the college!) But, if you don’t (or won’t) write in WordPress, […]

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Quality Assurance: An Overview (pt 2)

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Read Part 1 first! Write User Stories You’ve likely heard of user stories or maybe you’re already writing them. Again, there are lots of flavors out there; this is the one that works for me. As a (role), I want to (some function), so that (or because)… These take some practice to write and write well. The key attributes that will make a user story excellent and allow it to serve many purposes are: The role is well-defined and specific (“bookkeeper”) The function is small, precise and its success measurable The “why” clause is correct Technology-agnostic where possible (we’re solving a business problem) So for example, an effective user story might be: As a bookkeeper, I want to easily find invoices open longer than 30 days, so I can avoid incurring late fees. Notice there is nothing technical in the user story, and we know why the bookkeeper is asking for the feature. Knowing why will likely inform your design choices–or you might even scrap this feature once you know why she’s asking (for example, maybe you’ll add in automation so invoices are never late, to begin with). Let’s look all the things this user story does for the project: Documents […]

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Quality Assurance: An Overview (pt 1)

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Oops! If you’re like me, it’s likely you’ve made some mistakes that you wish you could correct with the benefit of hindsight. In the world of professional software development, these mistakes can be, at the least, minor irritations, or at their most severe, major disasters for your customer and for you. Anywhere on that spectrum, all mistakes waste time and money, leading to the derailment of projects, which translates to increased costs and frustration for all involved. Wouldn’t be it great to implement some tools or processes that helped you reduce mistakes, making your customers happier? That’s Quality Assurance. Really though, doing quality work is a frame of mind, an attitude. Just like the arts of playing piano or sitting in meditation, quality is something you practice. Measure In order to get better at what you do, you need to first measure how you’re doing today. A simple way to start is to learn to recognize a mistake, or defect, when it occurs. Defects can be technical (a code bug) or process-based (like a misunderstanding). Usually, there are more of the latter type, and these can be harder to spot, but process defects that affect your relationship with the customer […]

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Ask Molly, Doing

Ask Molly: Should I trade security for cash?

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Dear Molly, One of my clients has offered me a full-time position. I’ve been happily working on my own for over 6 years now, and the offer is significantly less than what I make on my own. That said, the promise of security and not chasing invoices is appealing. How would you weigh the opportunity? Debating a “real” job Dear Debating, Assuming you’ve already weighed the cost of benefits like paid time off and health care, you know the dollars to dollars comparison, and you’re telling me you’re looking at a job that will pay significantly less you less than you make now? Especially in this day and age, it’s funny to me that when companies try to hire entrepreneurs they appeal to the desire for job security and a steady paycheck. If you’ve succeeded on your own for 6 years you probably have a decent portfolio and ways to drum up sales when needed. I would argue your ability to work with multiple clients gives you more job security than working for a company. I also have a hard time believing there is some supreme value knowing exactly the dollar amount you will receive every two weeks, especially if it […]

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Working with Old Code: Tips from the Trenches

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Many of us work on systems which have grown over the years to become significantly complex. Most likely, in many of these systems, there are a lot of messes to clean up—inconsistent design themes, “spaghetti” code, questionable database schema elements, and so on. What do you do if you’re hired to maintain and enhance a tangled mess of code, most of which is still delivering significant value to the client, but which is rough around the edges, broken in some places, unstable in others, and so on? I spend much of my development time on one such system—used by a small company of ~20-30 users all day during the working week. What follows are some lessons learned from working with this beast. Stability is Key Every decision you make needs to be based on how it will affect active users. Make sure your basic infrastructure (servers, etc.) are more than beefy enough to handle your usual user load. When building new functionality, don’t take risks that might cause instability or system-wide crashes. If you need to build intensive routines that churn through your data, try to keep them cordoned off in an area where their intensity won’t affect the day-to-day […]

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Cybersecurity for Small Business

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Going to work for yourself can be a hugely liberating experience. When I first made the shift, I came to fully appreciate the empowering distinction between the question, “Is it OK if I take Friday off”, and the statement, “I’m not available Friday”. But for every question that boosted my confidence, there was at least one causing a new worry. As a programmer, one of the biggest was, “What if I’m the victim of a data breach?” A recent report sponsored by IBM indicates that the typical breach can cost companies as much as $4 million per incident. Even worse, they estimate that 1 out of every 4 companies worldwide is likely to experience some kind of breach in 2017. Fortunately, it doesn’t take a lot of work or money to improve your odds. At Anchor-Buoy Software, I’ve found spending a little time setting up good security practices buys a huge amount of peace-of-mind. What kind of data breaches should I worry about? There were two main types of security breaches that we were concerned with: Someone stealing data from a system and sharing or selling it. Someone stopping me from accessing my own (or a client’s) data. Although the […]

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Roger Jacques
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Building Quality into Software Development

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Software quality assurance is often thought of as QA testers finding bugs, and coders then fixing those bugs. This is very much part of our work at Tek-Connect, but we take the involvement of QA staff further than that. One of the cornerstones of our process to is to involve QA very early in the process of developing an app or a feature. There are multiple benefits to this approach. The first benefit of bringing QA into the process at the beginning is the avoidance of surprises during development. We’re talking specifically about surprises or gaps in requirements. For a seasoned software developer, bugs that are caused by typos are neither surprising nor difficult to manage. However, gaps or problems with requirements can wreak havoc on the process, resulting in budget or schedule overruns, and/or unhappy clients. At Tek-Connect, we have QA review feature tickets before the coders estimate the work. Having an extra pair of detail-oriented eyes on the requirements surfaces gaps in use cases, and helps to identify possible side effects with other functionality. Under normal conditions, QA will also write the test plan in advance of coders coding the feature. The second benefit of having QA involved […]

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Scott Love
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Marketing Isn’t Yelling

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I love baseball and my wife and I live quite near Coors Field in Denver. Go Rockies! We’ve been to a number of games and, among other things, have acquainted ourselves with some of the regulars who frequent the park. There’s one guy in particular who sparked a thought… I don’t know his name, we’ve never talked, but he wears a cardboard REPENT sandwich board and yells at the top of his lungs that we’re all sinners and are going to Hell. Presumably, he’d like to either facilitate the process or mitigate it, but I’ll admit to not having investigated further. Which, really, gets to my point. Regardless of one’s particular beliefs, I found myself musing on the marketing strategy in evidence. Here he is trolling a crowd on their way into a baseball game – arguably a competing religion unto itself – and simply broadcasting his message without regard to buyer interest. I wonder what sort of success rate he enjoys. His impressions are no doubt in the thousands – impressive, given his ad budget! – but I wonder about bounce rate. Based on an admittedly poor sampling of data, my hunch is that he likely lands one customer […]

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