Too much interwebs not enough time

Posted by admin on November 30th, 2012 at 10:32 pm

Arrgh, too much to do not enough time to chill and soak it all in… I am sure you know the feeling. – Oh well time for a blab.

The Professional Heff
Anyway lets just take a quick run-through what I’ve been up to in the last year or so since I left the mighty wiggle. Moving to Net Natives has been a big deal, and I have really been enjoying it. It has certainly taken some time to carve my exact role in place at the marketing agency

As “Head of Mobile and Emerging Technologies”. my first big aim at Natives was to be the implementer of mobile versions (I say versions, I mean more integration and adaptation) of their current sites, opening them to the wider and more social mobile web market. This however just doesn’t work in the agency environment or not for our market at least. With a high percentage of our work in the education sector many clients want to implement a mobile strategy however do not wish to touch their current code bases.

The solution is simple, small mobile (in-affect satellite sites) sites to accompany their existing sites. Due to varying degrees of current client web services and feeds we aim to automate the content creation for the sites as much as possible while still offering mobile specific options too. The results are interesting – but the clients are always happy with the end product as we make them as low maintenance as possible and our market appreciates automation over combustibility and added user experience.

For me the true solution is often much simpler, by integrating mobile specific style-sheets, responsive layout, and minor tweaks to the server side code, we can dramatically reduce the size of assets required for a mobile site and the existing C.M.S. is already being used to control it, I am very surprised the large C.M.S.’s have not integrated a degree of ‘mobilisation’ already. – Alas the industry just does not want this type of solution, sadly it generally boils down to the tech team in-situ not being able to find a safe way to integrate or work on code that they either don’t want to or cant release… I say sad because it truly is a shame that people content in their safe roles do not care to explore the modern world of coding and open up the options available to them, I figure they content with no responsibility. no change means no risk for these people. – This is a pretty pessimistic view, I guess I am very lucky to work for a company that nurtures their tech team and inspires creativity

In the broader area of work at natives I have been developing a FB app for Net Natives and the guardian newspaper’s job section. It’s called whoworkswhere – its not released yet so I should keep hush… but the clues in the name. anyway its been a big project for me, I made the first Demo work in an evening however its taken a fair few months to polish it into a product for everyone to enjoy. watch this space for links to the finished product The Chief Chimp at Natives has heralded it our flagship product, so i hope we can go for some awards with it next year! NetNatives actually helped the great CERN to achieve an award for innovation in facebook pages… We are all very proud to have such a great client to be using our amazing platform.

Role Growth: In the year I have been here my focus (due to workload) has been facebook apps and integrating location to common web services (like contact pages, and listings). this has lead to some very creative thinking which appears to not have gone unnoticed, My role in the year working forward sees me accepting a more creative role in the entire company and I am lead to believe I can enjoy a free reign of experimenting with and implementing ideas that the company could deliver to clients, as engagements opportunities (mainly within facebook) The downside being that everyone will be sending me their ideas to filter and read through… which is only negative because I would like to be greedy with my own ideas! anyway there has been talk this year of bringing in a creative director to the company, I am really hoping that I will get to absorb this position and make it part of job title, but we will see how it goes, I don’t know if this is the bosses plan or if I am being presumptuous. one thing I do know however is that I need to brace myself for some public speaking this year as I will be expected to liaise with clients and present the a fore mentioned ideas to clients.

The Boss Sent a large group of the team on a presentation/public speaking course last month, the presentation stuff always goes one of two for me

1. wonderful – confident, friendly, enthused
2. despicable – tripping over myself and mumbling!

Anyway, this course really helped me to figure out what the differences are, If I have a rigid plan or a script I get into big trouble and suddenly I’m sweating like a crap candidate at a job interview. it’s when I know the subject matter and I am speaking freely about it that I seem to deal with the pressure a lot better, When it counts I can always pull myself together, I always thought I was just good at “faking confidence” I have since learnt that this is called “professional energy”, that is not how it was explained to us but it’s the mental link I made myself!

I’ve never been fond of publicly presenting myself to people but i think if I ever want to be anything like the heroes of web dev I am so enthused by myself its a skill I just have to get on with and try to enjoy…. If I can enthuse someone about my subject matter (and after all i love the work I get to do for Natives) Then its worth it, after all I really do believe we have a lot to offer our clients, especially with our new ideas factory. I am really interested to see where the boss sees this heading and what type of size of audience I can expect to be speaking to. it’s exciting in a way, but also a bit nerve wrecking – that’s quite a nice feeling though – really, isn’t it?

Also in the immediate future I will be carving the new website design and build with a case study driven showcase of our apps, products and services. I plan to go full width with an adaptive/responsive layout and strong mobile consideration (possibly developing to a full code switch for mobile at a later date, but I like the all in one “Nirvana” approach). We have decided to use the WordPress framework for the company site so we can easily have any member of staff submitting content or making page edits. We may even hang the entire front end of the site off of an JSON API and some NODE.JS instead of using the WordPress front-end.

As for personal projects. lives and breathes, and is currently receiving around 5-7000 uniqes a month and the bounce is below 40%. I was really inspired by the pokki movement last year and got right into web apps using just the hot-sauce (HTML/CSS/JS) although it always requires you build a web service with some kind of API to talk to, so I plopped a cool JSON API on top my WordPress blog, and now i can really play with some stuff. So my team mate really needs to work on content and getting audience as growth has leveled off recently

Previous Pokkis sadly failed, due to any minor site changes affecting our feed setup…. so the JSON API is just the trick. i have developed a beta pokki you can see here. It only needs a little work to finish it off and a bit of pokki integration to get the toaster icons working.

This has also lead to some cool win8 developments…. I have been waiting on win8 and what it will bring to the touchscreen market for a long while, and very excitited about the possibilities of creating hot-sauce apps as no other OS Store offers this currently.

So I hammered my boss for a win8 Surface Tablet about a month before release, and about a week after it arrived at my home, and by that night i had started setting up for development on the device, for one – it is a great way for me to see what I can do Natives with this new tech and two using just hot-sauce, a few predifened layout rules and some handy premade JS functions for the windows API, I had a small app built with the week at the moment it is just a browser for latest 50 articles, but i plan on giving it infinite scroll so you can keep going through the sites history. I tried to run it through the app store, I figure i can sell it as an ad free option for our users. However i got hung up on a simple thing, no privacy policy… so i need to add that soon and try again. the whole app submission thing is great experience for me (an ‘web-app developer’ (browser based apps) not ‘app developer’(device specific code)). anyway a small hurdle. I want to a get basic version up and working so I can work on the other features for the later versions

So a lot is happening in web app land, but I have been so concentrated on my big Net Natives facebook app project it has kind of fallen to the wayside, alas I’ll try and release something, anything very soon.

And a random affiliate site thrown in for good measure
I’ve always been interested in the domain name market, and the money powers involved in a great domain name.

I have a few URLs simply rotting away; – OK it’s a bit weak but i thought it was cool when i got it, this address would be great for some kind fashion or street-culture blog. – along side I hope one day that the bicycle company will desire the most common format in the cycle trade for an URL. unfortuanatly they are not one of the huge names, and also take some pride on being quite specialist. I bought this address whilst at wiggle, I bought the address after a chat with one of my superiors and we had some plans we decided to not implement due to our exisiting roles in the bike trade. when I left my role there (It would have been conflicting interest to run the site and work at wiggle) I made it an affiliate site, the address pays for all of my hosting, and any URL acquisitions I wish to persue. – another forrray into a throw-up affiliate site.

So anyway I know the value of the cycle trade, especially when your talking high end products, people pay upwards of 3k on a bike easily, with the cheapest pro models starting at around £1,000. and the accessories are of a lower but still high ticket prices. so even at 2% commision you can do well with just a few sales a month. So I started to research Domain in the .com area I could acquire, My ideal URL would be a currently un-loved SEDO parked domain… BOOHOO – I approached the owners of the address (Just a domain name trader company) and lets just say, I would need to pay the price of a very nice roadbike in order to even make a start… but honestly these guys are insane I swear they just pull a number out of thin air and hope you are stonking rich I would probably have been comfortable with taking a punt a few hundred quid, but these guys were talking like 4-5k as a minimum offer – Maybe one day my savings can contribute to such an expenditure but not at this stage of my life, I do this to experiment not a business. I want to play the numbers games and have fun with user journeys and if i was ever goign to make that sort of commitment to a project It would have to end in a site that does actually provide some value to the user, and not just be a gateway to products – so i would need to acquire writers…. I am just not up for that sort of in-depth site ownership.

Anyway with that URL out of the question for now, I started to try and widen the net I already owned, and had always wanted to rid myself of the ugly dash.
As soon as i hit a link on the SEDO parking on that domain it seems i was [honed from Cali about making an offer again they were talking silly money…. but not as silly I told him I would only be interested in an offer of a few hundered bucks… he lost interest very quickly. I could also see this domain was by chance expiring very soon.

There was no way I was going to pay this kind of money for a domain that no one used or loved. I researched. I researched the domain market game a little with much pay off. It was not long before I discovered I could bid for this domain myself, I was very happy and set about the means to do so. After a while it dawned on me all the people that had contacted me so quickly about these domain names the moment I payed them any attention were just middlemen in the domain market. They made themselves appear to be the only gateway to the final domain name, I took a gamble in thinking that I am probably the only person after this domain at this point in time.

The price of something is dictated by how much you need something, and then how much other people need it…. If you are the only customer, you set the price.

After a while I spotted the domain on a go-daddy domain auction 0 current bids…. HAPPY DAYS, now 0 bids that doesn’t really mean no one else is interested…. internet auctions are a strange beast, with many tactics at play. I had already braced myself to invest around £150.00 into this forray, I had just received a nice affiliate payment so was willing to outlay this back into my “game/experiment”. Just because i was braced for impact doesn’t mean I desired the impact, so I bid low $15.00. I was not interested in a slog out in the final five minutes of an action and was hoping to figure out people limits by placing some well placed bids should mine be beaten, I bounced with one user up to $25.00 and then another user a few days later up to $45.00. At this stage there were a few days left, and other offers seemed pretty quiet, I threw in my maximum bid value of $220 and was fully committed, the auction would only place a bid just over another users high bid, I just hoped no one else would try to feel out the auction as it drew closer to the end. They didn’t.

After the auction ended and two further weeks of no real activity Go-Daddy still offered the domain back to the previous owners (which I wasn’t too pleased about, but as a domain owner I understand) the deal was complete, I think i had to pay like $5 to be able to vote on go-daddy, and something like $10.00 for a service post-sale.s from affila
so all in all I was $60.00/£40.00 deep into something I would have gone into for £150, so a good show all round. oh well, until such time i can make an offer on my dream domain, this one will do. Which reminds me I must purchase CSV2POST as this is what I have been using to build my prototype site. but the full version can do such a better job as it uses the featured images much wiser. once i have the CSV process down, I can start pulling feed lists from affiliate window to pop directly on site.

I figure I’ll add products on mass, then publish them taking care to pick the best high-end products, to make the site a showcase for the finest cycling equipment you can by from the four major suppliers… Aiming for users to come back and drool over equipment many times, rather than trick them into a first sale and never see them again… hahhaha though best laid plans and all that what I need is a team of monkeys to do my bidding and complete all these projects I start! I hope to have this project off the ground by the first quarter of 2013. once its alive it is simply a case of setting posts to be published throughout the day/week. writing a small forward to go with each article would be ideal but i see it being a large problem as my knowledge is limited. once the base site is up and running I would love to add a “drool” open:graph action as a way to help promote content socially, I think the “drool” tool would be great fun and people would enjoy seeing it on their timelines. its innocent but doesn’t sound it until it has context, and all guys love tech and would like to share what they are pouring over at whatever time.

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