Business

New blog – a seperation of concerns
22 March 2009 in Blogging & Business & Mindscape | Comments (0)

Right-o! One thing I’ve juggled a bit on this blog over the years has been a separation between technical and business. I’ve sorted that out by deciding to push any business related posts onto my new blog over here: http://www.mindscape.co.nz/staff/johndaniel/.

This blog will still exist and be used but I’m going to be covering more general technology stuff here. If you like tech, stick with this one. If you like business grab the other one. Ideally grab both – all the cool kids are doing it!

My first post on the other blog covers the initial start of Mindscape – what I was thinking prior and how we kicked things off. I appreciate any feedback you have for ongoing topics on either blog.

Ah, blogging on a Sunday night – it’s actually a great way to wind down the weekend.

Cheers,

– JD

Mindscape gets #2 NZ Start-up
15 February 2009 in Business | Comments (5)

I was pleased to see that Mindscape was named the #2 start-up in the New Zealand Top 10 Start-up awards. It’s always nice to get recognised for the work you are doing and I’m thankful to those that voted for us as well as our supporters and customers who have helped us to where we are :-)

Published on the New Zealand Herald Website:

Mindscape was founded in February 2007 by John-Daniel Trask, Jeremy Boyd and Andrew Peters with the intention of creating software products that “didn’t suck”. Tired of software feeling slow and bloated, they set about creating the tools that they, as software developers, would love to use tools that were small, blazingly fast and effective.

Recognising the skills of the founders, Microsoft got in touch with Mindscape and enlisted their help to develop BackgroundMotion a technical best-practice open source application to aid other .NET developers worldwide in understanding how to best architect modern Web 2.0 websites on the .NET platform. This initial development work helped aid early profitability on top of the small seed capital the founders had provided at launch. Since this time Mindscape has released three products for software developers, continued to grow profits and revenue and has customers all over the world – including Fortune 50 companies.

Mindscape has achieved all of this with only three full-time employees and no external funding. They’ve been profitable since inception and continue to develop both the product and consulting sides of their business.

Give the gift of giving – Givealittle.co.nz
4 December 2008 in Business & Mindscape | Comments (1)

Last night we finally pushed the big red button – the release button – on Givealittle.co.nz. It’s been a huge effort with many players involved in the creation of a website dedicated to making it easier for people to donate to causes they feel passionately about.

Givealittle.co.nz

One of the nice things about Givealittle is that it really helps raise the transparency about where your donations are going. You can elect, for example, to only donate to projects where they have to meet their goal (for example – “we want to build a shed” might need 10,000 – what happens if they never reach their target? In this case your donation can be returned to you and you can be comfortable in the knowledge your donation wasn’t squandered). There are heaps of features and capabilities like this to help make giving more central and accountable to you. If you’re a company by the way, you can get Givealittle gift vochers – good timing for end of year Christmas gifts :-)

I’d love to hear any feedback – either on my blog here or on the site.

You can check out my Givealittle profile here: John-Daniel Trask’s Givealittle Profile.

We still have plenty more things to add and will continue to do so going forward – join today so you can be kept in the loop. Better yet, try it out and help a worthy cause :-)

On the technical front

As this is primarily a technical blog, it’s worth sharing how we created the site.

The site is built from the ground up using the ASP.NET MVC Framework – we’ve been evolving it from about drop 2 of the framework and it’s been great to see the new bits and pieces getting added the framework throughout development.

The entire code base uses .NET 3.5 so that we could access all the great stuff there (including, but not limited to, the fact that ASP.NET MVC requires .NET 3.5). The Views use Andrew’s excellent NHaml View Engine.

Data access and domain modeling was handled by Mindscape LightSpeed – you can be sure that we’re dog fooding our own products here. This made things like entity validation, site search and data binding work very easily and saved a heap of development time.

The site runs on Windows 2008 + SQL Server 2008. The JavaScript library of choice was of course jQuery.

A call to action

There are plenty of great causes already listed on Givealittle – and many more to come. This is an opportunity for all of us to help improve the lives of others by giving to causes you feel passionately about.

Join today: http://www.givealittle.co.nz

Thanks.

Announcing FlightCheck.co.nz and KnowledgeCue
23 June 2008 in Business & Events | Comments (2)

Things have been progressing at a rapid clip lately and while it has been fun it has resulted in more than a few blog posts where I just announce new things I’ve been involved with. I’m going to work on changing that – not by doing less, but by ensuring I post more about general technology and business.

FlightCheck.co.nz logo

First I’d like to announce FlightCheck. FlightCheck is a YouTXT initiative to provide flight information for travelers either online or via text message.

Check out FlightCheck here: flightcheck.co.nz

Currently you can browse for any delays for flights to any NZ airport. You can also text your flight number (e.g. NZ898) to 8808 and get texted back the departure and arrival time (including changes if there are delays). We’re working on adding other helpful information to this service as well so I appreciate any feedback.

KnowledgeCue logo

Second, while not a business connected to me, I’d like to give a shout out to KnowledgeCue.

KnowledgeCue has been setup by local SharePoint MVP, Chan. Chan has spent considerable time working with SharePoint and has worked with top organisations in Wellington as a SharePoint expert.

You can find out more about KnowledgeCue here: knowledgecue.co.nz

Without a doubt, SharePoint is proving to be a highly successful product for Microsoft but it can be a bit of a tricky beast from an installation/configuration angle and therefore using the services of organisations who have a deep understanding of SharePoint is going to save a lot of headaches for your business.

Now, let’s get back to sharing some coding or business discussion :-)

John-Daniel

Valuecruncher – free business valuations
2 June 2008 in Business & General & Mindscape & Tools | Comments (0)

I’m pleased to announce that Valuecruncher is now live!

Valuecruncher - explore, create and share valuations

What is Valuecruncher?
Aside from clicking the link and finding out directly, Valuecruncher is an online tool to facilitate creating, sharing and finding company valuations. The valuations are created using a Discount Cash flow Model which is a tried and true mechanism for creating business valuations. We’ve worked hard to try and make the site as easy to work with as possible by pre-populating many values required to compute it and providing a nice user interface for creating a valuation. You start with an existing valuation, modify as you see fit and then save. Try it for yourself – click here to go and create a valuation of Apple Computers.

What companies can be valued?
Currently we’ve included many public companies from the NZX50, S&P 500, FTSE 350, ASX 200, TSX Composite. If you don’t know what these mean that’s ok – just browse around and you’ll spot companies you know like Microsoft, Apple, Dell and more.

Currently creating valuations is limited to a selection of public companies that are suitable for a discount cash flow valuation.

What’s the technology behind Valuecruncher?
This is a geek blog primarily so it makes sense to answer this. Valuecruncher is built using Ruby on Rails and the blog is powered by WordPress. The simple interface of the site hides the fact there is some seriously grunty code running behind the scenes.

Who’s behind Valuecruncher?
Valuecruncher is a new business venture that was built by Mark Clare, Sam Stewart, Rowan Simpson, Andrew Peters, Jeremy Boyd and myself. Simply put – Investment bankers, Ex-Trade Me guy and Mindscape.

I’m very happy with what the current site offers but believe me, we have a long list of new exciting features that we’ll be adding to the site in the future. I’ll be blogging about the new features as we release them but I’d urge you to subscribe to the Valuecruncher blog and join the site so that we can keep you in the loop more directly :)

Even if you’re not a finance person, I would really appreciate any feedback you can provide!

John-Daniel

YouTXT web services launched
17 March 2008 in Business & Tools | Comments (0)

Recently YouTXT, a company I’m involved with, made available a set of web services to help users automate and integrate YouTXT services into their applications and websites. At the moment these services are effectively CRUD methods for your stored messages (Create, Read, Update, Delete) however I’d like to hear feedback about what other functionality people would like to see provided by the web services.

What is YouTXT?

YouTXT allows small businesses to get into the text marketing game at no cost. Simply create an account and create “codes” to be sent to 8808. Once you’ve created your codes you can publish them in your marketing material (e.g. “Text ‘coke’ to 8808 for more information”).

YouTXT also provides detailed logging of how your text messaging campaign is running – at any point you can view your statistics online or download them into Excel. From this data you can see exactly when a text was sent and who sent in the text message.

What never ceases to amaze me is the creative ways that people use YouTXT. We have accounts where people create codes as virtual business cards (Text their name to 8808 to get their details), organizations running competitions and tracking those who text and being able to phone the selected winner from the cell number stored in the logs, even groups use this service to track cancellations or when a next event is held.

You can find out more or create your own accounts by visiting the YouTXT site here.

For more information specially about the web services check the API page here.

John-Daniel

Mindscape – 1 year in
18 February 2008 in Business & Mindscape | Comments (2)

It’s hard to believe that Mindscape has been trading for a year today! It feels like just yesterday we were setting up the office, stocking the fridge with coke and ordering chairs (which incidentally arrived about a week after the desks!). I thought I’d make a post about my views on the year that has passed.

Rod recently mentioned that he was pleased to see Xero generating export income in the first 12 months and I’m pleased to say that we also managed to make export income quickly as well (around the six month mark). It’s great to know that you’re helping the wider economy by bringing more money in.

We launched two products to market, LightSpeed and the WPF PropertyGrid. LightSpeed has had two subsequent releases and is at version 1.2. We’ve received a heap of positive feedback from users who are super impressed with the performance and ease of use. The buzz that you get from building, shipping and then getting positive feedback is second to none!

We grew our team, Ivan Towlson came on board and has added significantly to our ability to develop new products – his contributions have been impressive.The Summer of Code came along so we took the opportunity to have a student work with us for the summer. Mat has been working on various research pieces for us.

Of course we haven’t done this all alone. We knew right off that bat that we needed to surround ourselves with fantastic advisers and supporters. I’d like to comment on two of them in particular:

Rowan Simpson
Rowan has been an adviser to us for about six months and has provided a lot of great advice that has helped up grow and evolve. It’s certainly hard to see the forest for the trees when you’re working in a business and Rowan often provides the 10,000 foot view that helps clarify situations. The thing that stuck me early on is just how passionate Rowan is about business and technology – the amount of time he invests in learning about anything relating to these areas is impressive and that knowledge had helped us immensely.

James Martin
James was at Bell Gully when we were looking for our first office space. Things tend to move pretty quickly when you find a place you like so we called up BG and got put through to James who invited us in to have a chat. We covered off on what we had to do and he was very professional. We have since built a fantastic relationship with James – he’s honest, friendly and always has time for us despite our size compared to the organisations he normally deals with. James has since moved from BG to Kensington Swan and while he specialises in property, I would recommend him to anybody in business.

There are, of course, many other people who have helped us get to the end of year 1, too many to list.

Year 1 is down, now it’s time to tackle year 2!

– JD

HTML Rendering Unification
1 October 2007 in Business | Comments (4)

I’ve been thinking about this for a while – why doesn’t an organisation such as the W3C undertake the development of an HTML rendering engine that can be used by all browser makers? Ignore that they may not have developers or money for a moment.

It strikes me that one of the bigger slow downs in web application development is trying to deliver for multiple browsers that supposedly support all the same standards. There is very very little benefit to any one browser being ahead of the pack in terms of standards support because developers still need to build for all browsers and their employers need to pay for that (read: zero competitive advantage in building the most advanced rendering engine).

If browser makers focused more on the chrome and value-add features I’m sure we should see some terrific innovation in browsers. Feature additions to a renderer, outside the standards support, only serves to splinter said standards.

The same could be extended to elements of that browser, e.g. the javascript engine.

John
believes this would be the worst case scenario – there would be no innovation of the underlying engine. My argument is that standards move slowly and, despite their being 5 major browser makers I can think of, innovation of the renderer is somewhat slow anyway. Perhaps because there is no major competitive advantage for supporting new standards when nobody else supports them yet?

All very pie in the sky but sometimes it is worth pondering the theoretical.

John-Daniel