January 2011 - Digital Tool Factory blog

The Digital Tool Factory Blog

An awesome proposal application – Bidsketch reviewed

Description: In their own words, Bidsketch is  “Simple proposal software made for designers”.  I found that to be true.  It simplifies and organizes what often frustrates me most; writing proposals for new projects.

With Bidsketch, you just log into the web app, feed numbers and descriptions into one of several templates, and then send if off to the client.  Bidsketch then keeps track of  the proposal and its approval status (another problem of mine).  I’ll leave it to you to take their tour, but I found the interface to be well crafted, the writing concise and the entire app  highly useful.

I’ll use the following methodology (originally created for Startup Atlanta but it will do for here) for my reviews of web apps

  1. Problem Solving – It can be a cool product, but does it make anyone’s life easier?
  2. Actual Customers – I define the customer as someone with both problems and money.
  3. Simplicity of Pricing – Can the fees be described to anyone?  Do you need more information about the prospect before you can offer a quote?
  4. Chicken and Egg Problem – does the product require a lot of Customer A before Customer B becomes interested, and vice versa? This applies a good bit to middleman/broker type companies like E-Bay.
  5. Remarkability – that is to say, can someone who heard a quick presentation about it describe it to someone the next day, and have it be understood?

So, with no further ado, here is my review of BidSketch

    1. Problem Solving – 8/10 – Writing proposals, particularly for new clients is a huge time sink for me over at my other company, Digital Tool Factory.   It is definitely a problem of mine, so this gets and eight out of ten.
    2. Actual Customers – 10/10 –  After reviewing the site I signed up for the service, so ten out of ten.
    3. Simplicity of Pricing– 10/10 – Only two options!  I like that a lot
    4. Chicken and Egg Problem– 10/10 – no chicken and egg problem that I can see
    5. Remarkability– 9/10 – “Simple proposal software made for designers” – pretty simple and specific, I like it, very easy to describe.

Total Score: 47

Quibble: I found it easy to create multiple copies of “sections” with the same name and different content

Suggestions:

  • Have more standard templates.
  • Partner with a copywriting service and poll your best customers and present them the following offer: Let us write one each of your most problematic proposals, and then genericise it for all Bidsketch clients.
  • Integrate with QuickBooks (somehow)

I recommend signing up, it solves problems and pays for itself in the first hour.  Plus it helps you have an easier, simpler, and more productive day.

 

This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog


24
Jan 11


Written By Steve French

 

How to fix problems with Clear Wireless internet service

Power-Tape-Measure_13331-480x360photo © 2010 Emilian Robert Vicol | more info (via: Wylio)
The Problem: You have have Clear Wireless internet service, as well as a wifi network, and you get periodic drops and random slowness.  You contact tech support, and they tell you to make sure that the wifi router and the Clear Wimax receiver are at least two feet apart.  That does make sense, since the two units are fighting for limited parts of the radio spectrum.  You move the two apart, but that does not fix the problem.

The Cause: What the tech support person actually meant by “at least two feet apart”  was “at least twelve feet apart”.

The Solution: Move the Clear Wimax unit twelve feet or more from the wifi router.    I did that and both my upload and download speed quadrupled!  It would have been nice for Clear to tell me that initially, but life is experimentation.

 

This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog


20
Jan 11


Written By Steve French

 

Quick guide to Charlie Munger

I’m not sure why, but during my extended work sessions this weekend I listened to, and read up on Warren Buffet’s secret brain, Charlie Munger.  These three links contain all you need to know about the man, and his extra wise brain:

 

This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog


17
Jan 11


Written By Steve French

 

How to raise your social status

One surprising  claim in David Rock’s book was that evolution hardwired a desire for zero-sum status in our brains.  That is to say, I feel good when I am somehow superior to someone else.  There must be a winner and a loser.  I thought the status claim was a bit dubious.  I’ve never felt like someone is dramatically above or below me in some social pecking order.  If it never applied to me, how can it apply to anyone else?

Now, after reading and listening to an interview with Pete Michaud on niche marketing I’ve come to think the desire for status is  absolutely true; I’ve just defined myself into an obscure niche where I tower an order of magnitude over everyone else and will be forever king

The activities that A) I care about, and B) where I compare more or less directly with others are:

  • Music: specifically bluegrass, specifically bluegrass influenced by 30’s country
  • Programming/WebDev: Specifically ASP.net/C#/Silverlight/Sql Server/html/Css/Photoshop
  • My startup company (hey, I’ve made it to beta, that’s more than most) – and I have the best visual contact manager out there.
  • Politics: specifically libertarian, utilitarian minarchist, practical Constituitionalist, properly informed social Darwinist
  • Trivia: specifically Atlanta, general military history and political thought
  • Economics: specifically the field of law and economics

If you add all those up no one is even close to where I am now, or where I’ll be in the future.  There will always be people who make more money, and for that matter, code better and play music better, but how many of them can hold an informed conversation on the legacy of Eric Hoffer and the history of private currencies in America?  None I would imagine.

So how to raise your social status and self-esteem?  Just be specific and niche it down.

 

This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog


13
Jan 11


Written By Steve French

 

Software reviews coming soon

As the entire city and all of my consulting clients are snowed in today, I’m experimenting with small business financial software InDinero,  proposal writing software BidSketch, and project planning software Tom’s Planner.  Reviews coming soon.

 

This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog


10
Jan 11


Written By Steve French

 

How to measure offline social influence – a first attempt

Crawdad Network-Reuters coverage, 9/11/2001, 11am-noonphoto © 2007 Kevin Dooley | more info (via: Wylio)People have not written much about offline social influence.  Here is my first attempt on how to do that.   My intent of this is not to create an exact, objective measurement.  My intent is  to create a useful measurement that can be recorded and used later after the memories of an initial encounter with someone have faded.

Key Assumptions – Influence does not span topics equally.  People can have both general influence, and topical influence.

Here are our factors, as I see them.   some are subjective, some are not.  Please note, life is not fair, and things like physical appearance and height do matter.  Remember, this is an attempt to measure someone’s influence in society so it can be used after the specific memories fade.  It is not an a measurement of true worth or intelligence.

The format below is Name – (Abbreviation).  All of the factors are measured on a scale of 1-5.

General Factors

  1. Physical appearance  (PA)
  2. Verbal articulation  (VA)
  3. Height (by quintile, i.e. someone in the 80th percentile of height would be a 4) (H)
  4. Age (just rank it by cultural stereotype) (A)
  5. Conformity to cultural steorotype  (CSS)
  6. Overall social status  (OSS)
  7. Overall education level  (OEL)
  8. Personal charisma  (PC)

Specific Factors

  1. Confidence with subject matter (CSM)
  2. Amount of education on topic  (AET)
  3. Familiarity with specific instance of topic  (FSI)
  4. Passion for this topic (PT)

Two formulas arise from this, general influence, and topical influence

My initial wild stab at the general formula:

PA + (VA *2) + H+ A + CSS + (OSS  * .8) + (OEL  * .8) + (PC * 2)  = General Influence

My initial wild stab at the topical formula:

PA + (VA *2) + H+ A + CSS + (OSS  * .8) + (OEL  * .8) + (PC * 2) + (CSM * 1.1) + (AET * 2) + (FSI * 3) + (PT * 3) = Topical Influence

So, (using myself as an example), I am an average looking,  articulate 37 year old male with a bachelor’s degree in economics, normal in dress and visible habits.  Someone using this system could rank me as the following:

3 + (4 * 2) + 3 + 3 + 4 + (4 * .8) + (4 * .8) + (3 *2)  =  33.4

Here is my topical influence score on a loose vs tight monetary policy (I feel strongly about the topic and it was the focus of my economics education)

3 + (8) + 3+ 3 + 4 + (3.2) + (3.2) + (6) + (5 * 1.1) + (4 * 2) + (4 * 3) + (5 + 3) =  73.9

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

 

This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog


05
Jan 11


Written By Steve French

 

The most time-saving sql code I have ever written

database schemaphoto © 2007 gnizr | more info (via: Wylio) I decided to update my JargonDatabase.com web property last month started to update define the user-submitted jargon terms.  Much to my surprise users had submitted over 15,000 unique undefined jargon terms.  Some of them were conceptual duplicates, like “whites of their eyes” and “the whites of their eyes”, but how to filter the terms to see if they were duplicates or not?

After much pondering I decided to try to match words in the term with words already in the database – there would be many false positives, but was that method was the best way of ensuring I did not delete anything by accident.

To do that I created a function and a stored procedure.  The function:

CREATE FUNCTION Split(@String varchar(8000), @Delimiter char(1))
returns @temptable TABLE (items varchar(8000))
as
begin
declare @idx int
declare @slice varchar(8000)
select @idx = 1
if len(@String)<1 or @String is null  return
while @idx!= 0
begin
set @idx = charindex(@Delimiter,@String)
if @idx!=0
set @slice = left(@String,@idx – 1)
else
set @slice = @String

if(len(@slice)>0)
insert into @temptable(Items) values(@slice)
set @String = right(@String,len(@String) – @idx)
if len(@String) = 0 break
end
return
end

The function takes a string, splits it at every occurrence of a space (” “), inserts those new records into a table, and then returns that table.  From there I created the following procedure.

CREATE PROCEDURE FindSimilarSearchTerms
@SearchTermID int
AS
BEGIN
declare @SearchTerm nvarchar(450)
SET @SearchTerm=(SELECT top 1 SearchTermTerm  FROM UserDefinedTerms WHERE SearchTermID=@SearchTermID)
CREATE TABLE #tmp (TermID int IDENTITY, TermWord nvarchar(450))
INSERT INTO #tmp(TermWord) select items from  dbo.split(@SearchTerm, ‘ ‘)
SELECT JargonID, JargonTerm FROM JargonApprovedTerm, #tmp WHERE JargonTerm LIKE ‘%’+TermWord+’%’
DELETE FROM #tmp
DROP TABLE #tmp
END
GO

The procedure takes the ID of a search term, grabs the text of the user-submitted name (the “SearchTermTerm” field) and from there creates a temporary table, and then matches any word in the user-submitted name to any word in the approved jargon table in the database, that provides a quick way of knowing whether or not I can safely delete a term. Definitely a time consuming task, but a lot better than it could be.

 

This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog


04
Jan 11


Written By Steve French

 




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