Search This Blog

Monday, October 22, 2012

Awesome Apps - 22/10/12

This week, I've been looking at some different apps in the space of video calls and more specifically video conferencing.  There's been an increased need in my home life as well as work life to transcend the miles and make effective communication links and I've been trying to find something that gives a real experience and doesn't make it feel like you are on a call at all.

Of course a great much of this depends on the device itself, but the app is a key part in the chain.

Here's some of the best I've tried and would recommend:

  • Google Hangout - for free this is pretty awesome indeed.  In particular I like the way it handles multi person calls.  This is a great experience on the Nexus 7 tablet - better than other devices I've tried.  I guess you'd expect this from google integration.  Handles low bandwidth really well.
  • Skype - it's everywhere!  Device agnostic, I guess you would say.  And this is indeed one of its better qualities.  Having everyone I know onboard with Skype makes it pretty easy to get to them.  Call quality is patchy though, particularly for low bandwidth.
  • Facetime - if you are an apple addict you've got this already.  Brilliant point to point.  We have an iMac at home with a super HD camera.  On this device its the best experience I've ever had with video calls.  Make it feel like you're in the same room and just chatting.  Wish there was a multi person version.  Call quality is always great.
  • Airtime - just getting my head around this one.  Not used it much yet.  Starting to see the pluses and minuses.

Try them out and let me know what you think.  They're all awesome in their own ways.  It's just a question of whether they are awesome for your individual context.

If skype is your bag, then why not take a look at this as a device.  Makes your HD TV into a wonderful skype interface.  Particularly good for home use.  Also quite good for small office / meeting room: 

Look forward to your thoughts :)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Awesome Apps - 14/10/12

Foursquare - that's where it all started for me on the checkin apps.  Then came along the nice bit in facebook to do pretty much the same thing.  But there, for quite a while, it has all stopped.  Particularly in the UK.

When travelling in the USA I see that checkin apps really are part of the consumer, retail, world.  In the UK its kind of here, but not really used.  For the first time since I've been using it I received a freebie the other day when becoming a mayor of a UK hotel.  I was awarded a piece of cake :)  Nice!  But will I get one next time?

So, it's good to see that this checkin stuff is getting a new lease of life as more and more ways to utilise location and retail patterns emerge.  I like things that help you collaborate and enjoy new connections and so that's the theme of todays awesome apps....

  • Go matic - Chronicle your adventures and see what's going on around you.
  • Find stuff to do - A great big map with what's going on around you.  Particularly useful in London.  Gives you suggestions and relevance scores.
  • Grafetee - I like to think of it as a big browser for the real world.  Bookmark locations to remember them.

The first question anyone asks me when they first hear about this kind of stuff is about privacy.  But people can see where I am?  It's all a bit big brother.  What if I don't want them to see.

My short answer - its easy.  Get over yourself!  There are opt in and opt outs and this stuff is all manual right now in terms of you have to checkin / login at places and provide the information through interaction.  Autocheckin isn't happening.  Be an explorer - but when you want to be :)

Also, my top tip on stuff like this is to contribute to the community, without expecting something in return.  That's the best way to build the community.  If everyone gives and no one just 'takes' then the community becomes powerful and useful for all.

Awesome apps!  Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Awesome Apps - 25/09/12

So this week has seen a rich source of interesting stuff in two areas: Education and Online project management tools.  I thought as I had found them both so interesting that a double header blog post might just be in order :)

So, the first one - Education:

  • Khan Academy - growing in recognition this is a wonderful project.  In some schools it is even being trialled as the curriculum.  Video assets are great.  Exams and online tests useful too.  Very wide selection of things to choose from.
  • Coursera - This site is all about higher education.  Great stuff from around the world and in particular the US.  Some really interesting and in depth courses here in a variety of areas.  I'm thinking of trying out the maths and computer science courses as part of my own interests.
  • iTunes U - A wonderful cornucopia of stuff on this Apple platform for education.  Comes into its own on the iPhone and iPad.
What I love most about these is that they are FREE.  Wowzers!  In a world where education is so commercialised in the US and UK this is amazing.  Let's not overlook too things like MITX, which is building a whole new future in online higher education of the highest order.

Keep this main point in mind again: this stuff is free.  For you, for me, for everyone who can get to it through the web or a device.  And it's increasingly more tailored to our web and device interfaces, making the learning experience far more portable and interactive.

A wonderful opportunity for people of any social class, geographic region, age or experience to get involved with education and to feel the benefits to their work, their lives or just their feelings of self worth.  I genuinely think that these things are wonderful.

And the second one - online project and collaboration tools:
  • Trello - a ramped up set of Agile cards on a white board.  Few added task tools and you can add files to the cards too as well as pictures to help you visualise your end goals.  I use this every day now.
  • Basecamp - I love this site too.  It's quick and simple to use from the start.  We found in our team that it became a bit too admin heavy though - and easy to become a task in itself.  We wanted something lighter - which is where Trello came in, but we lost some of the helpful bits - like longer term planning and milestones, that were very handy in Basecamp.
  • Wunderkit - BBC Click featured this last week.  Liked it a lot.  Looks light and easy to use.  More for creative projects than technical I think, but worth a try out if you are going into an agile project for the first time.
Things I like about these tools:  They are free or quite cheap to run, they work really well, They are simple, you can do stuff straight away, anyone can use them and they mean you can collaborate much more easily over long distances.  Oh and you rarely become a slave to them and can just get on with the work.

Things I don't like: Reporting from them is a bit harder than say an MS Project, the integration with say Google logins is minimal and I'd really like to see them integrated within Skype or Google hangout environments so that you can hold a video call for collaboration with a team and bring the project board more easily into view.

In short though, if I compare them to say trying to use MS project to run a short term project, or trying to collaborate over several geographies and writing up endless meeting minutes, I think that they are FANTASTIC!  Well worth a look.

And that brings an end to today's Awesome Apps experience share.  Hope you got something out of it of use to you.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Awesome apps - 15/09/12

Well it's been a couple of weeks since I posted something about awesome apps, but please don't let that make you feel like I haven't seen any innovation in that time.  In fact, its the opposite!  So much new stuff floating in and out of view every day in this space that its quite incredible.

I come from a background of engineering and science where change and innovation is central to what we do, but takes a very long time.  In this apps space its constant, everywhere and FAST.  Exciting just isn't the word, and I have a lot to thank our uTest partnership for in terms of bringing me headlong into this space.

So, here's this weeks tiny insight into that world of Awesome Apps:

  1. Hotel Tonight - Put simply, the app I have been waiting for all my consultancy life.  Deals on hotels that night.  Special deals on price for last minute availability. #awesome
  2. Voxer Walkie talkie - Ok, so this is something I am not 100% on board with yet, but an example of a nice innovation in the messaging space.  In effect, its audio texts.  Free ones.  Brings a more rich dialogue.  Conceptually very nice.  Reality still a bit clunky for me personally but something to keep with and see where it goes.
  3. Quartz Projects - Accessibility is a key area for me right now and I like this site where they provide accessibility enhancements for twitter.  Such a key forum needs to be accessible for all!  Strong work and kudos to these guys.
Many thanks go to the International Herald Tribune and the BBC Click show for the inspirations behind todays post.  I find both as really useful, credible, mature sources of information in this space.  They form part of my daily (IHT) and weekly (BBC Click) info gathering on the market and I highly recommend them both.

More soon :)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Awesome Apps - 26/08/12

This week I have found some really amazing apps and sites, in fact there have been so many new ones that it has been very hard to get this down to just three for the blog.  USA Today, International Herald Tribune and an old favourite - bbc click - have all pointed me in the direction of some great, innovative, things.

Here's my top 3 picks for awesome app status: - This is retail rewards for just visiting a store.  You can build more points by linking a credit card for your transactions at that store too.  It's taking the rewards programme to the next level - finding out for retailers where you visit and then what you do, and of course don't, purchase. - a waiter in your pocket?!!  Well, an app that lets you order your food from the table.  Launched at Bristol airport it gives you the chance to sit down with the kids/bags/etc away from the queuing hassle and order your grub.  Then its brought over to you.  Love the idea.  Not sure on the implementation yet - but think it could be a winner!  Would love to see this rolled out to many restaurants & fast food joints. - This is a social trading game designed to get you interested in being an entrepreneur.  I like anything that encourages the entrepreneurial gene so this one gets my vote.  It is focussed on shoes though - which isn't my passion - but a lovely idea.

The world of apps is really innovating at present.  I felt like I'd seen it all, but these are great and there are more smart people doing more smart things every day particularly in areas such as

I look forward to publishing more awesome app stuff soon!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Awesome Apps This week

I've been in India this week, and I've included a little of the Indian seasoning into my Awesome Apps roundup for this week:

  • Flipkart - but India style!  Next day delivery if its in stock.  You see a lot of motorcycles flinging themselves around Bangalore doing deliveries for these guys.
  • Mpowa - Mobile payments for SMEs - UK.  Little adaptor and you can take card transactions :)  Featured in Sunday times last week.  
  • Yepme - Fashion, e-commerce - Indian style!  So similar to US and UK and yet so different!
The Indian start up market is going crazy.  E-commerce is being fuelled by a wonderful obsession with mobile devices - particularly android devices.  Access is easy and the physical infrastructure and location issues experienced sometimes in India are overcome by the mobile device.

More awesome apps next week :)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Hackney House II

So, a lot has been happening at the Olympics and East London has been going through a fantastic regeneration as a function of this.

Alongside it, has been a conscious and deliberate investment in 'Tech City' by the Mayor of London and 10 Downing street - striving to make London the go to place for Tech Start ups in Europe.

As part of this, the Hackney House technology showcase venue has been running a lot of stuff, and we've been lucky enough to be part of it.  In particular the race for apps side of things has been a key area of fun for us.

Take a look at this film that tells the story...

We loved being involved with this.  It was a real win-win.  Met some very interesting people, got inspired by some great ideas, made some new friends and some new customers too!  Most importantly for us, we started to get right in the middle of the East London Startup vibe - which is pretty cool indeed :)

Big thanks to everyone who got involved and who made this so much fun.  Special thanks go to Duncan Ray and Andrew Sissons.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Awesome Apps this week - 07/08/12

Here are the three apps / sites that have tickled me this week, in the wibbly wobbly world that is testing, TCL and other stuff:

  • Deliverance - a great app if you want take out in London.  It's not to be confused in any way with the movie!  Wonderful mobile version.  Interfaces with mobank for the payment.  Simple, easy and I love the bit on the site that tells you where your order is in the process.
  • Rated People - find trades people.  Very handy way to get things done.  Nice interface on the rating side.  Makes life easy.
  • Museum of Science - Love this place!  love this site!  Become a member and explore this museum more.  I go there every time we visit Boston.
That's my list for this week.  Hope that you enjoy visiting these as much as I have.  Look out for more Awesome Apps in future weeks.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

3 Apps I think are great :)

With all the work we do at uTest UK, and with my general nature of wanting to try new things, I tend to see lots of interesting new apps as they come to the market.  Sometimes, of course, they have been there for a while and I've only just spotted them.  This is a frenetic market place that I don't think even the likes of Mashable can do much more than keep up with - let alone be ahead of.

This week, I've found / started using three apps which I think are great and wanted to share them with the world!
Here they are:
Ringgo - solving my parking needs and giving me a very nice PDF receipt that I don't lose and can pass on for expenses purposes.  As well as making the parking conundrum (do I have the change in the car, how long will I actually be here etc) much easier, it is also taking pain out of my world and putting money back in my wallet.  From me, you get 5 stars!!

Biximo - Started using this in Boston with regards to their Hubway bike system.   It also covers the Barclays bikes here in London.  Nice little app.  Works well.  Keeps things simple.  Shows you in easy graphical form which stations have bikes and which have spaces.  V Handy!

LoYakk - These guys have put together a really nice app, which recently won our Usability prize in the Race for Apps in Hackney.  Love their approach and the way they've made a way for people to collaborate and comment in streams around venues, that can be kept private to the venue or shared more widely.  We're working with them now to set up a special feed for our next event in September to enable real time collaboration between everyone at the event and also to make a record of all the collaborations that can be shared amongst everyone afterwards.

We're involved with Hackney House over the Olympics period and meeting lots of new startups, trying lots of apps and I'll post anything here that I find really cool.

Happy Wednesday! 

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Transferring the Skills of a Tester into new roles

So, I've been in the field of testing since 1997, when I joined GEC Marconi CIS as a graduate.  It's a field I have enjoyed, and one that has used many of my skills developed in my Physics degrees.  It has also been a driver to learn new skills - formally and informally of all types.  I have not, however, always been in pure testing roles.  There have been many opportunities for me as a consultant, and as a business person, to try my hand at different things and what has been particularly interesting for me has been how consistently I have found the core skills, and thinking processes, of a tester to be relevant in these new roles.

So, what sort of roles have I been involved with?  Quite a few really......
I've been a Graduate Test Analyst, Test Analyst, Team Leader, Test Manager, Programme Test Manager, Business Analyst, Business Project Manager, Project Manager, Adviser, Subject Matter Expert, Infrastructure Manager, Head of HR, Operations Manager, Managing Director, Chairman of the Board, Non Executive Director and quite a few more besides!

With different roles I've been asked to go to different countries, and so far I've had the privilege to have the opportunities to work in the following: England, Scotland, Wales, France, Poland, Belgium, USA, Spain, Romania, Egypt, Israel, Switzerland & India.

And in the midst of all this, I've found the following to be very helpful:

  • Test to Prove Requirements - Knowing what you are expecting to see, looking for it, examining differences and looking for what's behind those differences.  As relevant in the board room, looking at governance, as it is in test execution.
  • Root Cause Analysis - In fixing problems, you are most efficient and effective if you can find the root cause / first place of the issue and then correct from there.  This is a core component to governance, to business and systems analysis as much as it is to defect management on a software project
  • Planning - As they say in Diving - Plan your Dive and then Dive your plan!  Test Plans are bread and butter to a good tester - even if those plans are on the back of an envelope, or a set of exploratory charters.  The skills to plan testing well, to look at Risk Based Testing and Failure Mode Analysis are all transferable into wider planning and strategic planning related to businesses or projects.
So, these are just three of the transferable skills - but they are very useful ones, and they've been helpful to me across many of my roles.  I had formed some seeds of these skills in my education and degree courses, but it was through my structured test training, conferences and on the job experience where I gained most of my insights and practical experience.  From there, I used these skills when faced with new challenges, and found that they worked!

Many people see Testing as a dead end.  Many people who go into testing do so out of 'fate' or 'luck' or just 'fell into it' as I did.  But what many people, as yet, don't recognise - either inside our industry or outside of it - is that it can and does provide opportunities, skills and experience that are fitting and indeed very useful for wider business roles.  It is rare for someone in a testing career to be promoted through to senior management and board directorship roles, and if they do so then it will be within a testing capacity.   This need not be the limit of our horizons!  Test professionals are more than capable of other things - my career to date is a case example. 

I plan to explore this area a little more and to find other examples of how professionals in our field have moved on to other and different roles.  It will be interesting to see what skills they have found transferable and what gaps they had to fill.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Accessibility - moving beyond simple compliance

What do you know about Accessibility Testing & indeed the needs around Accessibility?

It's an area that not many people focus on, but I think it's very interesting and rife for innovation.  In particular, I feel inspired in this area because of why it exists.

Have you ever known what it is like to be 'Internet Poor'?  To experience, in todays world, what it is like to not have easy access to the internet?  So much information, games, pay your bills, look at your bank statements, contact friends.  Well, it is a very interesting experience.

Ah, but you say this is simple - broadband is getting to more people than ever before.  Local libraries and schools offer access to anyone that needs it.  It has never been easier to get online with a smartphone in nearly every pocket.  Ok, so try this.........

  • Take out your trusty smartphone 
  • Unlock it and go to the dial screen
  • Select the number pad option
  • Visualise your own home phone number
  • Close your eyes
  • Dial it using your smartphone
  • Open your eyes and check the result.
How many digits did you get correctly entered on the phone?  In the right order?
You've just experienced a very small sample of what it is like to be visually impaired and using a smartphone.  Imagine what its like to use the internet.  

If you'd like to experience more, then set up the screen reader on an iphone and then try using an app or going to a web page.  It will drive you nuts!  

So, here's my first point: Accessibility needs are there to be met.  There's a barrier for some of the population -and a significant part of it too, that are suffering in Internet Poverty and we can help them.  On a moral basis alone there is no excuse for not doing so.

Anyone out there reading this with half an ear to the ground in the UK and USA will know that there is legislation out there to support the campaign for accessibility.  This legislation, along with standards from W3C, help define what makes things accessible.  Happy days!  This must solve the problem, right?  Well, not so much  - not so far anyway.  Firstly, it's a bit vague in places and doesn't really capture all you need, but let's look past this.  The big kicker is - no motivation to comply!!  By Law, every company in the UK with a website should make it accessible - but if they don't who makes them pay?  Who has the power to push this agenda?  Pretty much noone, but some smart people are starting to get into this and some test cases in the UK and USA are already going ahead.  Some have already finished and companies like are having to pay out.

So, here's my second point: There's a well intentioned set of legislation and standards to help us sort this out.  We should be using it!  We should also be helping our companies to demonstrate their compliance.  It should be a standard project mandate.

Let's think this through a little bit more.  E-commerce is going through the roof.  Smartphones are selling like hot cakes everywhere.  Accessibility needs are experienced by a significant part of the population - visual, cognitive or physical.  There is therefore a significant market, and significant spending power that is not being given the opportunity to buy products and services in a contemporary manner.  Are we commercially insane?  We're avoiding a legitimate set of customers -> and if you believe the BCS we are missing out on many many £Bns as a result.

So, here's my third point: We're all competing in a crowded, fast moving, globalised world.  You should never walk past a potential customer and ignore them.

I believe that great things are meant to be done in the field of accessibility and I believe we all have an opportunity and a responsibility to get involved.  I believe this so much that I've asked our teams who deliver the Zappers events to focus on it over the next few months and I've asked the team responsible for our showcase Star Testing event in September to set about bringing great minds together in this field and helping people find their way.   I hope that in these small ways we can contribute to building an ecosystem that shows Accessibility needs the proper respect and gets them incorporated as a standard project mandate on any new app or site.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Zap Zap Zap!

Hello and greetings from Boston!

I'm out here for a couple of weeks to do a number of things for work (in the first week) and then to have a week of welcome vacation with Lisa and Sofia. It's been nearly 7 months since Sofia was born and we're very much looking forward to some quality down time! Maybe, just maybe even some sleep.

In coming out here last week, and joining several of my TCL colleagues who are here on assignment, we decided to take advantage of the timing to run a Zappers in Boston. These don't happen very much nowadays and it seemed like a good idea to give it another try. After all the ones in London and Bangalore are going strong - and the record attendance for any one event now stands at 102 (set in February in Bangalore).

So, together with our friends at uTest, we set about putting together a quickly set up Zappers event. Some tweeting and inviting, some pizza ordering, setting up some space at uTest HQ and getting some laptops together. Picking some apps to test and generally pinging around we managed as a team to put it all together in just under 2 weeks as well as our normal day jobs of course. So how did it go? Well, it was a little smaller than the last Bangalore event, but there was a good vibe and some healthy competition. Certainly all the pizzas were devoured too :)

And the best bit for me -> well that was meeting Suresh. He'd driven down from Nashua with two friends to take part in the event. Sounds motivated, eh? Well that's not the least of it! He had been to two Zappers events in Bangalore as well, and upon hearing from a friend that one was being run in Boston he made the effort while on assignment here to come along. What a great chap. Oh yes, and did I mention that he and his team won the event? Obviously he'd gotten the inside track from his previous experience. It was great to see.

I love Zappers as an event. Its a competition and its a bit of fun of course, but most importantly its a social experience of like minded people. In Bangalore we experienced the first impromptu singing and open mic stuff - a great evolution, and a great example of people bringing their passion to the event.

It is my hope that these events will continue to evolve, and as we strive to be as inclusive as possible - inviting testers from far and wide, and engaging with subject experts to bring their experience to share with others around the globe I hope that we see a great deal more of what I have recently witnessed in Boston, Bangalore and London.

Zap, Zap, Zap

Google PageRank

Blogpatrol Traffic Statistics