PLANET ARGON blog

Riding the Rails... for over seven years

7 Jun 2012

Programmer Robby Russell began exploring the framework just over a year ago. Within weeks, he was hooked and evangelical; he launched a crusading blog, “Robby on Rails,” and realigned his consultancy, Portland, Ore.-based Planet Argon, to work exclusively on Rails development and hosting.

Stacy Cowley, CRN from Riding The Ruby Rails In A New Direction

It's crazy to think that this was written over six years ago.

An Occupying Force

1 Jun 2012

Ultimately, the organization’s instinct is to protect the ground that’s already been taken rather than take new ground. Every organization begins as an advance force and ends up as an occupying force.

Todd Henry from The Accidental Creative

People are the web

29 May 2012

Beyond the baseline demographic data of age, race, sex, location etc, we should ponder some questions: Who are they? How are they? How well do they sleep? Are they anxious? Are they extroverts displaying their digital peacock feathers? Are they introverts who can socialize but head home early because their feet hurt and they’d rather read a book? Are 52% of them introverts who live voyeuristically through the safety of glowing screens? What is it that they want? Can we provide for them? Do we have to?

Dave Allen, director, interactive strategy for NORTH from Memorial Day musings: Facebook, Bob Dylan, Paul Krugman and introverts

It sounds like Dave had a lovely weekend down in Palm Springs and busted out this thought-provoking post about Facebook's recent IPO and what they are likely going to need to focus on as a business... while raising a lot of good questions for us all to ponder.

Where are the women?

23 May 2012

A survey of 11 recent Portland tech startups, ranging from companies with four employees to 80, reveals that their total workforces were typically 70 percent to 80 percent male, while their development and engineering teams—i.e., the people who write the actual code—have even fewer women. In many cases, none.

Ruth Brown from Willamette Week: Where the Tech is She?

It's good to see this issue getting more and more attention.

Conversion Rates as the wrong metric

18 May 2012

For any e-commerce site, I have the perfect advice on how to raise their conversion rate significantly. All they have to do is stop marketing. Once they stop marketing, the number of visitors will drop to only those who are already loyal customers.

Because those visitors are loyal, they are probably only coming to buy something. The ratio of purchasers to visitors will skyrocket. Sales will likely drop, but conversion will go sky-high.

Sounds great, right? That’s the other problem with the conversion rate ratio: it’s not at all related to the other business operations.

Jared Spool from Avoid Ratios For Metrics – Moving Beyond Conversion Rates, Part 1

Let's avoid getting too focused on conversion rates.

comScore provides mobile social media insights

15 May 2012

The 25.6 million Twitter mobile users had an average engagement of nearly 2 hours during [March]. By comparison, people visiting on their computers spent just 20.4 minutes on Twitter.com…

Mobile Metrix 2.0 findings from comScore's latest press release

In terms of mobile trends, what is perhaps even more significant than the above statistic is this: The average U.S. smartphone subscriber spent 441 minutes engaged with either the Facebook app or mobile site. This is in comparison to the 391 minutes that the average Facebook user spends interacting with the desktop site. Yowza! Mobile! I expect to see the same trends when I check the analytics of my soon-to-be wildly popular dating site, OkDeluded (OkStupid was taken).

There won't be a Web 3.0. We now have Mobile.

10 May 2012

We’ve had Web 1.0, and we’ve had Web 2.0 but there won’t be a Web 3.0. We now have Mobile.

Dave Allen, director, interactive strategy for NORTH from The web is its own thing

McMenamins - another happy customer

5 Apr 2012

I have nothing but positive things to say about our relationship with Planet Argon. Their team really has followed through with everything as promised, on time and with an admirable work ethic. A refreshing experience… we’re working with true professionals! I look forward to a long and strong partnership.

Jon Sokol, Director of Internet Technology at McMenamins from Client Testimonials

To be fair, they've been great too.

High school dropout

25 Oct 2011

Joanne had one requirement: Her child must be adopted by college graduates. So the doctor arranged for the baby to be placed with a lawyer and his wife. But when a boy was born—on February 24, 1955—the designated couple decided that they wanted a girl and backed out. Thus it was that the boy became the son not of a lawyer but of a high school dropout with a passion for mechanics and his salt-of-the-earth wife who was working as a bookkeeper.

Walter Isaacson from Steve Jobs

Definitely been an enjoyable read so far...

The culture fear

14 Sep 2011

While identity theft is a real problem, there is abundant evidence that it comes from institutional sources: from hackers breaking in to corporate databases or from gross security leaks on a mass scale. I have seen no evidence whatsoever that individuals are stealing passwords by over-the-shoulder spying.

Alan Cooper from The culture of fear

This reminded me of a project we worked on a few years ago where we dropped concealing the password field. As a benefit, we were also able to remove the password confirmation field because it was now redundant information someone could see with their own eyes.

Affected by what you say

3 Jul 2011

It’s too overwhelming to remember that at the end of every computer is a real person, a lot like you, whose birthday was last week, who has three best friends but nobody to spoon at night, and who is personally affected by what you say.

Derek Sivers from Anything You Want

Just finished Derek Siver's new book. Found his take on running a business very humbling and honest.

Sherlock on theorising

2 Jul 2011

I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

We can learn a lot from Sherlock Holmes.

Forget it.

21 Sep 2010

If you can’t define it or act upon it, forget it.

Timothy Ferriss from The 4-Hour Workweek

Jacques Cousteau made it happen

21 Jul 2010

However, during the war, the German army was requisitioning almost all of the 35-millimeter film stock in Europe, for use in reconnaissance missions; not only was the film expensive, but now it was nearly impossible to find. This presented a problem for my determined father, who searched diligently in film shops all over France. Whatever the cost, he was determined to pay it. Wherever he happened to be, he found time to look for his precious film, until one day, he realized that he did not need movie film at all. He saw that any 35-millimeter film would work equally well, so he purchased rolls and rolls of film intended for still photography. Then, he and my mother would stay up half the night, under the bedcovers, gluing the film together 36-frame strip by 36-frame strip, so that it would be suitable for moving pictures.

Daniel Paisner, Jean-Michel Cousteau from My Father, the Captain: My Life With Jacques Cousteau

A great example of Jacques Cousteau finding a creative solution to bypass external constraints that could prevent his projects from happening.

Collection system

19 Jul 2010

There are three “collection success factors”: 1. Every open loop must be in your collection system and out of your head. 2. You must have as few collection buckets as you can get by with. 3. You must empty them regularly.

David Allen from Getting Things Done

An old one... but rereading parts of this book always seems to initiate some new-found motivation to organize my cognitive space.

It hits the panic button.

2 Jun 2010

The danger is greatest when the finish line is in sight. At this point, Resistance knows we’re about to beat it. It hits the panic button. It marshals one last assault and slams us with everything it’s got. The professional must be alert for this counterattack. Be wary at the end. Don’t open that bag of wind.

Steven Pressfield from THE WAR OF ART

Day 30 could wait.

2 Jun 2010

When we launched Basecamp, we didn’t even have the ability to bill customers! Because the product billed in monthly cycles, we knew we had a thirty-day gap to figure it out. So we used the time before launch to solve more urgent problems that actually mattered on day one. Day 30 could wait.

Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson from Rework

You have no idea how many times we've managed to convince our clients to wait to do Y until after we launch X. When faced with this predicament... ask yourself, "Can we get by without X? Can we get by without Y?" Get the necessities to market first and let nature take it's course.

Narrative forms

25 Feb 2010

I was curious how it would perform against a traditional form. Would people be more inclined to complete it because of the narrative format? Or would the unfamiliar presentation format confuse people?

Luke Wroblewski from "Mad Libs" Style Form Increases Conversion 25-40%

An interesting approach to form design that we might want to explore ourselves.

As to Science

16 Feb 2010

We may well define it for our purpose as “methodical thinking directed toward finding regulative connections between our sensual experiences.” Science, in the immediate, produces knowledge and, indirectly, means of action. It leads to methodical action if definite goals are set up in advance. For the function of setting up goals and passing statements of value transcends its domain. While it is true that science, to the extent of it’s grasp of causative connections, may reach important conclusions as to the compatibility and incompatibility of goals and evaluations, the independent and fundamental definitions regarding goals and values remain beyond science’s reach.

Albert Einstein from Ideas and Opinions p. 58 (1948)

Gruber on the confused masses

13 Feb 2010

ReadWriteWeb has a weblog post that ranks highly in Google’s search results for “Facebook login”. The comments on the post are filled with complaints from confused people who think that this is the new Facebook login page.

It’s funny, yes, but it’s a fascinating glimpse at just how confused many people are about how web sites and browsers work. They don’t use bookmarks, they don’t type “facebook.com” in the location field. They just Google for whatever they’re looking for and assume the first result is correct. All this argument over whether the iPad is too simple — if anything it’s probably still too complex.

John Gruber from Daring Fireball: Facebook login

Is less self-defeating?

11 Feb 2010

So what concerns me is if this quest for creating simple software is hurting us. Are we creating a culture of users that require a dumbed down experience, at the expense of the increased efficiencies and productivity gains we can realize with more complex tools? Are we also stifling the creativity of the designers and developers who are afraid to provide useful features because of the fear that they may be complex or not immediately obvious?

Scott Blitstein from Less is Less

We can't all be builders

5 Feb 2010

Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.

Kurt Vonnegut from Hocus Pocus

Show them where to look

1 Feb 2010

In advertising we will look at what the person we see in an ad is looking at. If they are looking out at us we will simply look back at them and not really anywhere else.

James Breeze from You look where they look

One wonders how well this works on the web when selling products and/or services. Carlos What did Carlos make you look at? Carlos

Twitter usability

31 Jan 2010

This is a long post ~2k words and is intended for anyone who is involved with designing webapps and or is interested about how badly they are designed for normal people. In this case it’s about Twitter which is unique in that there are some conceptual barriers that people must first grasp before they are able to properly make use of the service.

Duncan Malcolm from Experiment: Twitter Usability

It's easy to take things for granted. As web geeks, we find web applications to be much more intuitive than they really are. Experiments like this are extremely humbling. We can do better as an industry.

Helping People Do "Real Work"

31 Jan 2010

The Real Work is teaching the child, healing the patient, selling the house, logging the road defects, fixing the car at the roadside, capturing the table’s order, designing the house and organising the party.

Fraser Speirs from Future Shock

Most of us use software as a tool to reach goals that exist outside the software. Good design makes the experience of using the software disappear and allows the person using it to focus on the "real work."