Stop thinking and start using Trello for your project management


I have a geeky confession to make. I actually enjoy testing out different tools. I went through a long process in deciding which note taking app I should use (It may not be too surprising to hear Evernote ended up taking my heart.) I felt a bit guilty for taking so much time running my tests to see which would suit me most. However, my argument is that by wasting a few more minutes now I could potential be a much happier person later on. Not am I in search of a suitable tool, i’m also investing my energy (and sometimes money) in the team behind the tool. The same app we use today may be completely different in a year’s time, I have to trust the direction the developers are moving in is same as my own requirements.The purpose of this post is to give you an understanding why I found Trello so amazing and why I would highly recommend it as your project management tool (I am not financially affiliated with Trello in anyway)
I like to think I have done my fair share of research for project management tools. I really wanted to allow myself in taking the time to really understand my own requirements and pick the right project management service for me. The following is a list of tools I have tried and a very quick summary of my findings:

  • Basecamp – I love what 37 Signals does, really enjoyed their insightful book ReWork but basecamp didn’t feel right to me.
  • TeamBox – By recommendation from fellow web developer, very systematic approach but slightly confusing to use, maybe it’s just me.
  • Wunderkit – Beautifully designed App, worked a little slow for me and frankly I felt the heavy graphic slightly distracting.
  • Action Method – A very well designed platform by Behance, my absolutely favourite in terms of visual design, yet its too rigid
  • Trello – The very tool this post is based on, carry on reading for my thoughts.

As I’m sure you have worked out by now I ended up chosing Trello as my project management tool of chose. It’s flexiblily is absolutely amazing, it’s as close as you can get to having a whiteboard with stick notes, you can change the titles how ever you like, restructure boards if needed and assign members of your team to task with a simple drag and drop, this is an absolutely fantastic tool. I really like how the team really take their time to communicate with the community, exchanging ideas, reporting progress and milestones to each new feature, conveniently by using a Trello Board. Although it’s currently free, like DropBox and Evernote I would gladly pay money for their excellent service.
The recent addition to the Android App is also a plus (Along side their iOS and Mobile Web app), a little slow on the load but I have faith in the team. So, like I said in the title stop wasting time and start using Trello now. If you need further convincing, have a look at this article on Trello over at ReadWriteWeb
Trello

Education is Free, 6 places to learn whatever you want online!

Technology is amazing, I love how the internet is making education free! I guess it all started from Khan Academy who made a huge difference, but credits should also be given to Standford University for putting their lectures online via Apple’s iTunes U programme.
Here’s a list of some of the best places to learn university level courses online. But first, watch this insightful video from TED Talks

Khan Academy

Found by Salman Kahn as a series of youTube videos. The Khan Academy is an organization on a mission changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere. A humble start that has rightfully developed into one of the biggest name in education.

Udacity

Udacity brings a new kind of learning experience, encouraging interaction and active problem solving. Students take part in classes from world-renowned university instructors solving interesting challenges.

Coursera

Enabling top universities to reach an audience of millions for free. World class professors share course online to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.

EdX

An collaboration project from two of the world’s most respected education establishments: Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Offering online-learning experiences and interactive study via the web.

Academicearth

Academic Earth is an organization founded with the goal of giving everyone on earth access to a world-class education.

Wikiversity

From one of the best collection of shared knowledge online: The Wikimedia Foundation – Wikiversity is a project devoted to learning resources of all levels, types, and styles. From pre-school to university level education.

Bonus 1: Codecademy

Codecademy is the easiest way to learn how to code using interactive web based lessons.

Bonus 2: jQueryAir

jQuery Air is a new way to learn jQuery directly in the browser. Learning jQuery for the first time should be fun, and jQuery Air allows you to get your feet wet in the most practical way possible.

Reminder for creating custom WordPress sidebars

This is one I keep on forgetting and have to Google on numerous occasions, so I’m adding it to my blog as a reminder.  I like to refer to the Sidebar in WordPress blog by Justin Tadlock, it’s old, written in 2010, but as far as I can see it still work.
There’s 3 parts to creating a custom Sidebar:

  1. Creating the Sidebar PHP file
  2. Registering the Sidebar in functions.php
  3. Adding the sidebar in the page template

1.Creating the Sidebar PHP file

Assuming you want to create a new sidebar called “Special” Duplicate the sidebar.php from your theme and rename it to sidebar-special.php

2.Registering the Sidebar in functions.php

Open the theme’s function.php file and search for my_register_sidebars it should look similar to the following:

<?php
add_action( 'widgets_init', 'my_register_sidebars' );
function my_register_sidebars() {
	/* Register the 'primary' sidebar. */
	register_sidebar(
		array(
			'id' => 'primary',
			'name' => __( 'Primary' ),
			'description' => __( 'A short description of the sidebar.' ),
			'before_widget' => '<div id="%1$s" class="widget %2$s">',
			'after_widget' => '</div>',
			'before_title' => '<h3 class="widget-title">',
			'after_title' => '</h3>'
		)
	);
	/* Repeat register_sidebar() code for additional sidebars. */
}
?>

Paste the following lines after /* Repeat register_sidebar() code for additional sidebars. */


	array(
		'id' => 'special',
		'name' => __( 'Special' ),
		'description' => __( 'My custom made special sidebar.' ),
		'before_widget' => '<div id="%1$s" class="widget %2$s">',
		'after_widget' => '</div>',
		'before_title' => '<h3 class="widget-title">',
		'after_title' => '</h3>'
	)

3.Adding the sidebar in the page template

In your custom page template, replace get_sidebar(); with get_sidebar('special')
And that should do the trick, But remember to add items in your widgets page.

Jonah Lehrer: The Origins of Creative Insight & Why You Need Grit


Author of Imagine Jonah Lehrer share with 99% what it takes to be creative and how grit and hard work is just as important as finding inspiration.
He talks of what we should do to find those Ah-Ha moments, how companies can learn from cities and how persistance and love is the only way forward. An inspiring talk from expert in the field, I personally cannot wait to read his book, unfortunately I have a reading list I have promised myself I would stick to and this is currently #6. It makes it worst when Steve Job’s autobiography is #2, this could take some time. Never the less, after watching this talk, I am sure it would be worth the wait.

Why I think Google will win

If i have to put my live money between the current tech leaders: Google, Microsoft and Apple. I would definitely put them on Google.
As an self proclaimed entrepreneur, I have done a fair amount of reading on businesses and startups and one of the most regularly recited advice is to “Fail early and fail often”. It doesn’t matter if they don’t work out, its better to have tried something than to have done nothing. the only way you can guarantee an successful idea is to have shit loads of it.  So work until you find something that sticks
Now combine this idea with what Edward De Bono say about lateral thinking. The first solution does not mean the best solution and you should always keep on looking. Most businesses are only willing to look at directions that works for them, in Microsofts case this is making computers, Google it was advertising, facebook it was social media and amazon was ecommerce. They all expand slowly in various directions to expand their businesses, but hardly any are willing to seek brave new ideas. Google was and still very much KING in the world of advertising and CCP, it was a very pleasant surprise when they took on the Mobile market with the purchase of the Android system and opening it up to hardwre developers. Which worked out really well. The amazing thing is, they didn’t stop there, they are keeping up with various tests and experiements into anything that is driven by technology. this is great The Nexus Q may not win against Apple TV, but the Google Glasses are definitely turning  a few heads. its great for them to carry on their various tests into different arenas. It doesnt matter if they tried and failed at different social media platforms, as long as they are still willing to test ideas like a startup with nothing to loose. They will carry on being great.
I know apple is doing similar with their oh so secretive labs, but it just feels they lack soul and excitement. The iPhone and iPad are amazing success stories and it was a brilliant play by the late great Steve Jobs but how many of that kind leaps did Apple take? Microsoft will continue being the marry giant as they are, but i can’t see them doing anything completely new. Amazon is one to watch out for, I admire Jeff Bezos, he is a fantastic visionary leader.
By pure coincidence, I saw an article on The Next Web  regarding a Pinterest board called the Google Graveyard, a collection of cancelled Google projects. On the surface and most likely by the creator’s intent was to make a joke out of all of Google’s failed services. but I’m looking at it from a different angle. I think this is more like Google’s battle scar, showing they have fought many battles and even lost a few, but it’s ok to keep on trying. A mentality entrepreneur should never forget.

 

My thoughts on being a creative & my daily practices

It sounds fantastic to be a creative, we basically do no real work and spend our time ‘finding inspiration’ by being free travelling, reading, watching movies, going to the theater, partying hard and acting on impulse.
Unfortunately I too was tricked by this disillusion. but have realised is to be a creative you need to be the exact opposite! instead of being a hippy and doing whatever your mood takes you, we actually need a lot of discipline! You can have the wildest imagination and the best ideas, but if you don’t delivery it on time, it’s pointless.  For me, the hardest part of being a creative apart from all the deadlines, the pitching, client chasing is having the right idea at the right time!
Inspiration is like a ghost, it’s hard to find most of the time, but to have the right idea at the right time is almost a miracle.

How can I be a better creative?

There are of course steps we can take to help our odds. For a start, i firmly believe the human brain is a muscle and like any muscle the more you flex it and challenge it (within limit) it will get stronger and better at what it does.
Because I know I have an awful memory, I’ve long developed the habit of writing everything down. The aim was to write down any strange thoughts or ideas I have. I could be working on a website project and suddenly thought of a cool product idea. I would write that down. doesn’t matter if the idea is strange or completely impossible or completely unrelated to what i’m working on. Just write it down!
I know writing unrelated ideas down doesn’t necessarily mean I would be able to solve whatever task is ahead of me, that is why I also turn to other sources of Wisdom: BOOKS!

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants by Issac Newton

There are so much wisdom before my time, I greatly enjoy spending the time to absorb what wisdom I could from the great minds before me, here are some of my favourite books:

  • Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko
  • Brain Rules By John Medina
  • Thinking Course By Edward de Bono
  • The Creative License By Danny Gregory

I have nothing against the internet and sure I browse for inspirations all the time, but it only provide the end result and I would rather know how to build the path myself. After all, each project is unique in it’s own way.

Enter My Daily Practice

After reading James Altucher’s blog, I have decided to be more proactive in my own creativity and have started to take part in my own daily practices. These are tasks I will complete everyday without any excuse. Here’s my list

  • 10 mins Meditation
  • 5 ideas a day (Businesses, Graphics, Gadgets, Stories… anything that interest me)
  • Exercise and Stretch

I have managed the above for 3 weeks now and am enjoying it’s affects, 5 ideas a day is the hardest, if I come out with only OK ideas, I would force myself to come up with something else.
 

E-bay vs E-commerce Site which is more suitable

If you would like to set up an online store, should you use eBay or should you set up an standalone e-commerce website? We compare the Pro’s and Con’s for each below.
ebay Advantages. 

  • E-bay is well known
  • It is a pre-designed platform, very cheap to start
  • User already understand how it works
  • There are already a lot of users
  • Advertising on ebay is relatively cheap
  • Faster to set up

 
ebay Disadvantages:

  • Your product will be listed right next to your competitions, unless you know of have an unique selling point your potential customers will definitely go for, you might be putting your self in a bad situation
  • You become dependent on buyer rating system. If one user leave a negative comment, it could ruin greatly damage the e-bay shop
  • E-bay popularity is going down
  • Expensive on the long run, as you will be paying eBay for each listing and for each sale
  • Not suitable for products with a slim margin
  • Would you target audience go to ebay to look for packaging materials? I personally only ever used it for books and camera lens
  • Limited customisation
  • You have to track down payment on each sales
E-commerce site advantages
  • Freedom to design the site how you best see fit
  • A standalone site will appear more professional and trustworthy (Anyone can set up an ebay store)
  • Expected monthly operation cost
  • Positive brand connection/loyalty
  • Less competition once the customers are on your site
  • Allow for user interaction tracking, for understanding how customers arrive at your site and how they use the site
E-commerce site disadvantages
  • A lot more effort need to be placed on marketing to ensure potential customers can see it
  • More expensive to set up
  • Takes more time to set up
  • Marketing cost

To conclude

If you have the budget and time, I would suggest e-commerce site. If you would like to get things of the ground quickly with a smaller budget, perhaps e-bay is more suitable, but this will only work if you know you can beat your competitions.

Amazing and Inspirational Video by Neil Gaiman


This is one of the most inspirational and useful speech I have ever heard. So raw with the insecurity and struggle of a writer yet so strong and powerful with motivation to do what what we do best. I have even set a calendar reminder for myself to re-watch this in 6 months time. I don’t want to forget it.
Follow Neil Gaiman – @neilhimself
Thank you to Tim Ferriss for posting this excellent talk
http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2012/05/22/neil-gaiman-commencement-speech/?

Difference between Chinese and Western websites

A recent project localising an American website for realise in China got us a bit curious. Does the cultural difference between Western and Chinese translate to how websites are designed? The websites covered in this study are:

  • News and Searches:
    Google.co.uk & Baidu.com
  • Online Directory:
    Yahoo UK & Yahoo China
  • Educational Publishers
    Pearson & Higher Education Press
  • Universities:
    Harvard University & Peking University
  • Online Book Store:
    Barnes and Noble & Bookuu
  • Business Studies –
    Stanford University & Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business
  • Business/Financial news
    Bloomberg & BizNewsCN

Appearance

The study shown, regardless of website origin, all 14 websites examined has consistently shown a conventional layout. Where the logo is situated on the top left, navigation along top of the page, followed immediately by key content and ends with simple sitemaps at the footer. 

Colours

China’s history and culture has long established it’s own set of colour symbolism that varies slightly from that of the west. Therefore when designing a website for China, one should make sure colour chosen fits into it’s culture correctly. One example of website variations for different target audience can be seen from the Peking University website as shown below.

The screen capture on the left (fig 1.1) for the Chinese version of the site shows a clean and simple design with emphasis on the colour blue, which in Chinese Culture represents Trust, Calmness and Relaxation. Where as the screen on the right (fig 1.2) showing the same website in English, focuses its design using dark red, this is to establish a sense of Leadership, Courage and Strength.
A common pattern seen in all website is the use of light coloured background with dark coloured text. (Screen capture of all websites studied can be viewed in Appendix A) The study also shown many of the Chinese websites have a tendency of using shades of blue, as stated above, this is used to help the companies and institutes establish a sense of trust.
 

Content structure and strategy

To analyse content structure of the 14 selected websites, each were examined in terms of the amount of text (file size), images and links per page as well as loading time. This is to achieve a quantifiable method of understanding how website content differs between the two sides.
The following table shows an overall summary of data collected. A detailed overview of data collected from this study can be seen in below
 

  Western Websites (Sum) Chinese Websites (Sum)
File Size 5568 kb 9841 kb
Links 2147 4190
Images 307 images 671 images
Loading time (From US) 12.28 seconds 91.4 seconds
Loading time (From HK) 61.66 seconds 83 seconds
Average Loading time 36.97 seconds 87.2 seconds

 
Using the information collected, we have established the following:

  • Western websites tend to have a higher text to image radio then Chinese websites, which are often text heavy
  • Western websites focuses each page with a smaller amount of content, while Chinese web pages has higher content concentration and many more external links per page
  • Chinese websites are in average 154% longer in page length than their Western equivalent sites (Screen captures of tested websites can be seen below)
  • Chinese websites tend to have a longer average loading time, tested using both servers from Hong Kong and US

 

Screen captures for all websites under research




 

 


Appendix B

 

  Google News Baidu News
File Size 113 kb 367 kb
Links 362 666
Images 52 images 43 images
Loading time (From US) 0.7 seconds 9.38 seconds
Loading time (From HK) 8.96 seconds 4.71 seconds
Average Loading time 4.83 seconds 7.045 seconds

 

  Yahoo UK Home page Yahoo China Home page
File Size 542 kb 1.9 MB
Links 170 1185
Images 60 images 103 images
Loading time (From US) 1.23 seconds 17.07 seconds
Loading time (From HK) 4.26 seconds 7.82 seconds
Average Loading time 2.75 seconds 12.45 seconds

 

  Pearson Higher Education Press
File Size 388 kb 685 kb
Links 156 250
Images 7 images 32 images
Loading time (From US) 1.68 seconds 9.47 seconds
Loading time (From HK) 2.95 seconds 8.98 seconds
Average Loading time 2.32 seconds 9.23 seconds

 

  Harvard University Peking University
File Size 1.7 MB 269.3 kb
Links 189 26
Images 43 images 32 images
Loading time (From US) 1.94 seconds 9.58 seconds
Loading time (From HK) 21.09 seconds 5.72 seconds
Average Loading time 11.7 seconds 9.4 seconds

 

  Stanford University Cheung Kong GSB
File Size 388 kb 286.4 kb
Links 111 111
Images 46 images 24 images
Loading time (From US) 1.97 seconds 6.12 seconds
Loading time (From HK) 3.1 seconds 12.7 seconds
Average Loading time 2.53 seconds 9.41 seconds

 

  Barnes and Noble Bookuu
File Size 1.7 MB 6 MB
Links 723 1729
Images 168 images 410 images
Loading time (From US) 2.93 seconds 29.65 seconds
Loading time (From HK) 16.17 seconds 36.97 seconds
Average Loading time 9.55 seconds 33.31 seconds

 

  Bloomberg BizNewsCN
File Size 737 kb 334.3 kb
Links 436 223
Images 53 images 27 images
Loading time (From US) 1.83 seconds 10.13 seconds
Loading time (From HK) 5.13 seconds 6.1 seconds
Average Loading time 3.48 seconds 8.12 seconds

 

Future Trends for TV

3D TV sucks

I personally don’t see the point of 3D TV. To me, they are more of a fad than functional tool.
First, lets look at the the purpose of a traditional TV: To provide passive entertainment for a number of people, most likely sitting at home during the evening. Most 3D TV sets require user to wear some sort of hideous 3D glasses, so not only will you need to have enough expensive 3D glasses for all your friends and family, you will also need to make sure everyone is sitting within the correct viewing area to experience the 3D-ness. If you have a massive TV and with an even bigger living room, fantastic!
Than there’s the issue of the clumsiness of 3D glasses, what if I’m on the iPad or busy doing something else. I would either have to put on a pair of 3D glasses and look at whatever i’m doing with discomfort or tolerate see doubled images with my eyes.
Finally, lets not forget the most important fact. 3D effects are just not that impressive. Yes we live in the third dimension, but our eyes are only able to process objects infront of us in 2D, our brain figures out what is happening and tell us what’s really happening, Unless you keep on moving your head, you’ll soon forget you are watching something in 3D, which to me renders the whole idea pointless.  Until 3D holographic projects is possible. I don’t see how 3D tv could be of use.
Bonus Moan: Smart TV like the one by Samsung with Gesture Control is not going to work for me either, why? Because what would be easier? Having to sit up right and wave your hands around to find the control you need to change channels? or, click on a few buttons on a remote? Could you imagine siblings fighting over claim gesture control? They would have to shoulder barge each other out of the way, or cover the camera – which i think would ultimately result in the TV being ripped from the wall. I prefer the Nintendo Wii U method, a smart control in your hands that can interact with the TV.