Is creating website really so hard? This is a question I get from people not in the industry after I tell what we do at AGILEDROP. My reply is that web development is hard because it is just one form of programming. And programming is hard. Difficult to learn and even more difficult to master.
TL;DR: The best solution so far for grammar check is Grammarly, a free spellchecking service with OS X app and Chrome extension.
Grammar for me is hard. English is not my native language and in addition to that, I have a case of minor dyslexia. This makes my life hard when I need to write something down. And I don’t mean shopping list, but something smart, as this blog post for example.
Spell check solution
To have a spellchecker on your laptop or mobile is easy – it’s there by default (on most systems at least). How it works is very straightforward and primitive. When you write down a word, the computer checks if this word is in the dictionary. If the word is not in there, it applies a red underline. Some “smart” spellchecks even go and try to find a word in the dictionary that is similar (or starts like) your miserable attempt.
Now, this is great if we were in 1995. Today I would expect that some context would be considered, especially when suggesting a spelling fix. Even with all the words correctly written, your content could still make no sense or would just sound wrong. When I mean sound wrong, I mean grammatically incorrect. And what happens when you post a Facebook update, Tweet or (God forbids) a blog post with grammar mistake? The hell breaks loose. Your friends, who only write when they are sexting, become grammar nazis all of a sudden!
Proper grammar check
That is why a grammar monkey like me needs a proper spell and grammar check solution. I had found it when I was fed up with my work colleague making fun of me. It was easy for him, he spent 20+ years in Canada, finished school and wrote a blog post before there were even simple spellcheckers available (and almost before the Internet as he made a website for GM when I was still playing with Legos).
After research, Grammarly was the winner. Since I use the browser for 90% of my writing, it was critical for me to be available as a Chrome extension.
What Grammarly promises:
Grammarly makes sure everything you type
is easy to read, effective, and mistake-free.
Features that I love most:
- Spell checking understanding the context (grammatical tense, declension, etc)
- Placing commas! This is HUGE.
- Vocabulary enhancement suggestions that make your content more exciting.
I started by using the free version but was soon tempted for Premium. The value of grammatically correct emails and blog posts can be lots of money. A good blog post can bring in more readers and professional email might result in getting a new client. There is one other thing I like, second brain. What this means is that now I have an assistant that looks over my shoulders as I type.
The problem with good spell checkers is that they make us even
more dumb dumber (yes I actually made this mistake, and Grammarly corrected it).
Here is a complete guide to get your drush working OS X El Capitan.
1) Download latest stable release using the code below or browse to github.com/drush-ops/drush/releases.
(Or use our upcoming release: wget http://files.drush.org/drush-unstable.phar)
2) Test your install.
php drush.phar core-status
3) Rename to `drush` instead of `php drush.phar`. Destination can be anywhere on $PATH.
chmod +x drush.phar sudo mv drush.phar /usr/local/bin/drush
4) Enrich the bash startup file with completion and aliases.
5) Add the following lines to .bashrc. (Check which PHP version you are using!)
export MAMP_PHP=/Applications/MAMP/bin/php/php5.6.10/bin export PATH="$MAMP_PHP:$PATH" export PATH=$PATH:/Applications/MAMP/Library/bin export PHP_OPTIONS='-d memory_limit="512M"'
6) Add the following line to .bash_profie
if [ -f ~/.bashrc ]; then . ~/.bashrc; fi
That’s it, you will have a fully functional drush on your Macintosh.
I like to be technology/platform agnostic, but last couple of years I’ve built everything on top of Drupal. I get this question many times: “Why not using something else?”. My answer is usually: “I became so good at using it, that it only makes sense to me”.
I tried to came up with some objective reasons, to rationalise my future decision.
1. It’s open source
Software is the bricks and mortar of your business. If you don’t own it, then someone else has the control over you startup. Open source also means no up-front cost for licenses. Since so many people know how to work with Drupal, you are also not locked in with developers.
2. Integrates with 3rd party services
Do you really want to spend your time building custom payment solutions, analytics or notifications systems? We live in a time that there is an API service for everything. There is also a Drupal module for every popular API service. This enables you to build your solutions quicker and cheaper, without developing the integrations yourself.
3. Safe and reliable code
With a community of thousands of people working on the code it became of of the biggest open source communities in the world. The biggest challenges was to ensure the code in all 10.000 modules is secure and reliable. Drupal has a centralised system for modules and it is very rare you would download a module from Github or private websites. This enables moderators to control who releases what. Also, there is a special security team watching over the code.
4. Enterprise oriented software
When I first joined the community, Drupal was compared to WordPress more often than it is today. From some different perspective I would say WP has won the battle against Drupal. On the other hand, Drupal has won the battle of enterprise CMS platforms by far. Why is this important to your startup? It puts you shoulder by shoulder to Twitter, CISCO, Tesla and many others.
5. It’s a safe investment
There is a 90% chance you will fail. Now, if you pick a technology that you will invest your time to learn, then pick something you can use on your next project. On the other hand there is a big demand for Drupal developers out there, if you will ever want to get a regular job and take some time off from startup madness.
Would love to hear from you too, what platforms would you recommend to me, and why?
Landing pages are a must-have for any web business. Every marketer will tell you that pointing ads to a home page is a waste of money. Actually, any campaign should have a dedicated landing page to maximise the the conversion.
Here is the problem: setting-up landing pages in Drupal is not easy. Modules like Panels and Display Suite sure can help, but the flexibility is far from needed. Also, landing pages have to be tweaked over and over again. This can be super time consuming and expensive if you hire designers and developers.
We found a way that enables people with no Drupal skills build completely custom landing pages within minutes. More
Campus London started in 2012 and it’s part of Google for Entrepreneurs. They have a free coworking space located in the basement with a bar, a garden and fast internet.
We ended up in Google campus on Friday, when they happen to have Google Office Hours. We registered one day before, but they were still able to provide us with a mentor from Google for a 1:1 session.
We talked with David Grunwald about where can we reach potential customers for PLY.JOBS. Instead of going directly for recruiters, he named some entrepreneurs from the recruiting space. Just during the weekend we had more success cold emailing those people that we had with recruiters.
Drupal community talks a lot about best practices. When I talk about best practices I mean code driven development, code reviews, SCRUM, automated tests… I immediately realised that introducing new ways of working is not going to be easy. So I figured, why not asking one of the smart people how to start. Amitai (CTO of Gizra) was very kind to have a call with me, explaining how The Gizra Way™ started and evolved. More
I see so many people using motivational quotes from heroes of modern world as advice on how to move along their life. Reading those quotes only makes you feel good momentarily – but does it help you take actions?
I had developed an almost unhealthy bullshit shield. It starts with understanding what the person giving the advice has achieved in their life. Does it apply to the problem I am looking the help for? Does a quote from Steve Jobs really solves my business issues? Books are a good example where most of the time authors romanticise about a possible solution, without being able to implement what they preach in real life.
The second thing I evaluate in an advice is the emotional feeling around it. What I learned is, that a good advice will make me feel uncomfortable or even offended. Good advice will break an idea in your head and turn it upside down. Even if the advice is both wrong an negative it stills brings additional value – because you think about your idea from an different perspective.
So, my advice to everyone getting advices is to embrace the negativity. The moment you feel your ego is getting an erection, you are not getting an advice but a compliment.
There were so many blog post written on how to handle emails to get to inbox zero. Having an empty inbox means you have nothing left on your mind. Having nothing on your mind is very liberating and can boost productivity and creativity.
My advice it to live by the rule of three Ds. So how does it work? When you open your email, you only let your self to do one of the following: to delete it, to delegate it or to actually do what needs to be done in order to delete the email.
Sometimes you get a newsletter that you think you will read when you have the time. You most probably won’t. Delete the sucker. Now depending on your current habits you can also archive it (this means that you don’t go and check “All emails” tab!). Don’t be afraid deleting mails from real people too. If they really need you, they will write again anyway.
Delegate does not only mean you forward the email to someone else. You can copy the task to your todo list. You can save the newsletter in your reading list. This will sound a bit silly, but sometimes I decide not to reply to an email immediately, because I don’t want to look too eager. You might just have to sleep over an email to calm down. In those cases I use Boomerang.
This action comes last for a reason. You should spend as little time in your inbox as possible. The best case of “doing” is replying. Try to keep other tasks under 5 minutes, if it takes more, delegate it as a todo item. Don’t use your email as a todo list though, because some tasks might not come from an email. When you are doing tasks from a todo, you should keep away from email.
Other very importing things around emails are also:
- Don’t check for emails too often. Disable all email notifications, specially on the phone. Try to have a longer period of time, when you haven’t checked email.
- Do not have multiple emails or multiple inboxes. For example, I had emails from info mail coming to a separated folder, and then I had to check that folder too.
- Use tools like IRC, Slack or Skype for day-to-day communication. We only use emails internally when we want to deliver longer, important messages that we don’t want to get missed in the thread.
It has been more than one year when we started playing with the idea to make an applicant tracking system. The idea was to build a simple tool that would be easy to use, for both recruiters and candidates. As many others we fell into the loop of featuritis (also know as feature creep or creeping featurism).
So, why after one year we still don’t have any customers. For us it breaks down to this:
- Not a full time commitment. In the last year we have only spend 2 hours per working day on building the software.
- No priority for features. We engineers tend to get excited when solving hard problems, but this is not always aligned with business goals.
- Motivation. It was (and still is) a challenge to motivate ourselves to work on something that might not be profitable.
How we learned to fix that during last couple of weeks:
- Stop thinking about it as a pet project. We started talking about PLY publicly, updated LinkedIn profiles etc. All this made us to take it more seriously.
- Getting customer feedback. When we learned what exactly our clients need, our focus in development went directly there.
- Embracing the risk. We are service providers and our work has relatively low risks. So how do you reduce risk of building a SaaS business? You don’t, you accept it and make it to work for you as a motivation to stay focused.
We haven’t found the magic potion to solve our problems, but we essentially understand what we are doing and this helps us going forward.