Archive for September, 2007

Redmonk Track at SAP Community Day: Munich

I have just posted more details about my planned session for the community day at Munich over on SDN.

WordPress meets SAP. Conversation meets Enterprise.

If you are going to be in Munich I hope to see you there.

Matt in London Town

Matt Mullenweg is going to be in London next week.

Let’s hope he can make it along to the PHP London meetup on 4 October at the The Old Crown, 33 New Oxford Street WC1A 1BH.

Hope to you you there too if you a PHP Geek and WordPress fan(atic).

The blogger confessions meme

I found this meme on Charlotte’s Web and thought it would be a good way to summarise my approach to this blogging malarky.

1. Do you promote your blog?

Not really, I link to it a bit from here and there and a few others have included it on their blogrolls which is nice of them. I am just seeing how it grows from there.

2. How often do you check hits?

Maybe once or twice a week. I am not complusive about this but I do like to see what gets traction and what doesn’t.

3. Do you stick to one topic?

I try to stick to software related topics as much as possible. The title of the blog is ‘Getting Technical’ so I try an honour that. My other passions will leak out occasionally. No one listens to a radio station that plays everything so the people that tune into this blog can expect the topics to be loosely congregated around software.

4. Who knows that you have a blog?

Aparently a few guys at SAP do! Thanks for the invite to TechEd guys. I am looking forward to it.

5. How many blogs do you read?

Again I read mainly technical blogs for the improvement of my skills and staying in touch with the industry. I haven’t counted them, but it would be less that 200.

6. Are you a fast reader?

I could be faster but I am not slow. I do skim a lot and will often not ready past a title of a blog.

7. Do you customise your blog or do anything technical?

I changed the theme and I am on the prowl for a good picture I can use instead of the standard one but I am in no rush. I should install Oliver Kohl’s cool SDN WordPress widget.

8. Do you blog anonymously?

No and I like it like that. I understand why people do but that would waste a lot of google juice.

9. To what extent do you censor yourself?

I have written some things I haven’t published. Partly due to the answer to 8. and the fact that the internet never forgets.

10. The best thing about blogging?

Making connections around the world with a whole buncha great people. That rocks.

New wine – old wineskins.

When travelling in outback Australia, many moons ago, we stayed one night in a particular Bed and Breakfast. The host was a man of many tales and apparently he knew one of the marketing exectives of Penfolds, one of Australia’s largest wine brands. The executive complained that all the customers ever asked for was ‘a nice red’. Most people wouldn’t ask for wine by its region, or grape variety or any other metric that would mark people as a wine buff. All they wanted was ‘a nice red’.

So he obliged and produced ‘a nice red’. Our host then pulled the nice red from his wine rack and there to our astonishment was  a genuine bottle of Penfolds wine labelled as ‘A Nice Red’. The back label was equally comical and totally absent of the standard ‘grassy overtones’ and ‘hints of pepper’.

Personally I am not a big wine buff. In a blind test I could identify white and red but that’s about it. I know what I like to drink and will have a glass or two when entertaining guests or out with friends.

Wine Lables

Now those who dispute the face that wine is a social object will have to look no further that this image above taken from my brother’s outhouse. What better way to pass the time when you are ‘doing your business’ to see the wonderful array of lables around you and remember all the good times you have had with friends. Looking at the picture in the bottom right hand corner is the lable of a 1986 Vasse Felix Cab Sav. Mmmmm…

Which brings me on to the announcement of the day from ‘Mr Wine as a Social Object’ himself. Stormhoek Blue Monster Reserve. It has a nice ring to it. What a great way to stimulate a conversation about a company. I love the sentiment about the Blue Monster. If you are not going to change the world the pack up and go home. It is a sentiment I have written about before.

It applies to whatever and whomever you are. SAP, Microsoft, Oracle, SFdCom. If all you are going to do is flog a few bits of sand and a few bits and bytes then pack up now. Software (and hardware) is more than just a buggy solution that you force on people. It is an enabler and transformer of people and processes.

It’s not just Microsoft that has to tell its story better. We all do. We all have to find better ways to tell our story, because we all have a story to tell.

The new wine won’t fit in the old wineskins anymore.

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Free Agent – a first look

A few months ago on reviewing my rss feeds, after a couple of weeks of disconnecting with things virtual and connecting with things sandy and sunny, I was pleased to see the announcement of Free Agent Central.

I have been reading Dennis Howlett for some time now and was secretly hoping that by reading his blog I would discover some better way of doing my accounts.

Free Agent Central seemed to be the answer.

Then… I promptly forgot about it.

The joy of having to do my VAT and Company Tax returns has prompted the search for a better way.

My accountants have already told me that I cannot continue with my 5 year old version of Sage Line 50. It is out of support and they no longer have a version in their office which makes sharing data with them tricky.

So I am looking for a new accounting package and whatever is happening with SAP A1S I am sure that I am way way way below the target market.

But I am in the target for FAC and for Quickbooks.

They are taking on beta testers at the moment and they recently released their pricing.

For a limited company they are charging £25 a month . I have to say, for what it does and how well it does it, it is pretty fair value. Putting it up against QuickBooks which I can get for £80 on Amazon my well be an argument the other way.

£80 for however long QuickBooks will last versus £300 a year with Free Agent Central. If you get in quickly with the beta program they will not start charging for 6 months as a thank you. This would knock it down to £150 for the first year.

What is the case for FAC?

Well it is easy to use and it is very niche to the Very Small Business needs so there is nothing that you don’t need to confuse you.

The upside with FAC could well be the amount of time that it takes to keep on top of this stuff. I hate really don’t like the administration of accounting but I have to do it and generally find that I am doing my VAT returns at the last minute. Not only does free agent central make it easy but you can see at any moment what your state of play is in terms of amounts owing in tax. This in itself is a winner.

FAC means less spread sheets on thumb drives, less time fussing around entering invoices into an accounting package, less time fussing with bank accounts and reconcilliation. Hopefully it also means less time for my accountants to do my returns which should drive time and therefore cost down. This would mean they could service more clients in the same time and possibly add other value add services on to more clients.

I am still going to be investigating Quick Books as I am only one half of the equation. I need to communicate my accounts with my accountants and what they are able to work with is going to skew this decision. Of course they can get access to my FAC accounts and I am hoping as I trial this software/service they will see the advantage of it.

So go and check it out and make sure the tell ’em the guy from AppsCom sent you.

By the way, I notice their updates are named after cheeses – I am eagerly awaiting the ‘Venezuelan Beaver Cheese’ update.

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Rich Heilman is blogging

OK for my regular readers, this is not much of a surprise. You know this. That’s ok  – press ‘j’ and keep reading.

For those of you who are not aware of Rich, he is one of the champions on SDN. He consistantly provides excellent answers in the ABAP forum and occasionally posts a blog there aswell.

One of his recent posts on his new blog was about out-sourcing:

Why should Company A staff someone, when their work can be done remotely by someone overseas who just got their certification after a week long course. I know what you are thinking, I am not a fan of out-sourcing, I believe that you get what you pay for, which can potentially be inferior work.

He has some valid points that I have seen proven in the field with some of my clients regretting some of the out-sourcing decisions they had made.

Rich will be a good addition to your reader and if you have an ABAP team at your disposal go and buy his new book.
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Catchup Quechup – thinking about invitations

Like Simon and others I too got an invite from Hugh to join Quechup.

I signed up, looked around, saw nothing interesting and cancelled my membership.

It is being run by a company called iDate.  I am not looking for a date, so this service has nothing interesting for me.

Fortunately the email that I used was the email I use for all sorts of things that I want to keep at arms length from my other “serious” email addresses so there was no harm done. I don’t think my signing up triggered that email spam that others have encountered but if anyone did get ‘quechup spam’ from me I am sorry. Delete it and move on.

[UPDATE: Turns out I did spam a few people. Again, sorry about that.]

My style is for these type of socially networking type sites like linked in and facebook is to personalise the invitation with something relevant to the person I am inviting. I will try to remind the person of the connection we share (however tenuous that might be). Most of the time there will be some connection allready via a user group, work connection or other mutual connection so they will know who I am. If I am trying to create a connection with someone I only know through the web I will let them know this in the invitation and make it easy for them to ignore me. That might seem a bit strange but it is a little bit of reverse psychology and a little bit appreciating their time. If I am going to interupt someone with an email to join my network that will potentially have more benefit for me than them I am going to let them know that rather than just sending the standard vanilla invite.

When I receive an invitation that I know is that vanilla invite from a site and I don’t know the person then I will usually challenge them to say why they might want to link with me.

I like Terry Chay approach with linked in Haiku. It makes the invitation fun and I think gives the receiver an way to say no without feeling guilty but makes them more likely to say yes too.

Having said that over the past little while of getting into this social network thing, and by that I mostly mean having a blog, I have been able to make and strengthen some relationships that I would not have otherwise made. For me and this blog at least, that is what it is all about. Making connections with others in the wonderful world of technology.

To come to the party invitations need to be sent. If those invitations come in an underhanded way it makes me wonder what sort of party it is and I am certainly not interested in the Quechup party.

Instead of providing a way of raiding your list of contacts, which should have your security alarm bells ringing. These websites should provide a way to upload a list of emails that you have prepared from a source of your own choosing or secondly provide a way to send a email to contact yourself and a link so the site knows where the connection comes from. Both these options are more secure, more personal and less likely to be indentified as spam. They do however, make it harder for the ‘viral’ aspect of spread than the “enter your webmail password here and we’ll raid your contacts” approach.

My final thought comes from the iDate products page. They are the guys behind this Quechup.

Furthermore, iDate intends to introduce a comprehensive referral and reward program to actively encourage members to promote the site. We believe that this will be part of a cost effective and result based marketing strategy.

Hmm – it seems that by having an underhanded signup and spam process they are getting a lot of bad press and I think they now have their work cut out for them. Not so sure if that has been cost effective.

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September 2007

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