Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Coghead: democratized web development

Back in October I read a post about CogHead from Guy Kawasaki, the author of the best seller book "The Art of the Start".

CogHead simply looks amazing. It brings democratization of one of the most common web development task: create forms and workflows to support them. I haven't had the chance to play with it since the beta is still limited, but from what we can glean on the site, the service takes all its sense from several aspects:
  • zero install, everything is web based and makes good use of Web 2.0 concepts
  • intuitive visual design of web forms, simply drag and drop rich interface elements
  • collaboration throughout the conception, the development and the operation of the application
  • easy data collection and manipulation
  • amazing visual design of "actions", the workflow attached to a web form
  • of course, this would be of little use without system integration, so everything can be hooked up (or from) using Web Services
  • final touch is versioning, a must in any serious environment that evolves over time
Other similar solutions: FormBuilder from FormAssembly LLC and InfoPath from Microsoft. FormAssembly doesn't seems to go as far as CogHead. Although very powerful, InfoPath is still limited in its capacity to deploy rich internet applications, even in its latest 2007 incarnation.

I'm eager to be able to play with CogHead!

Note: I don't have any benefits derived from any of the aforementioned products or companies.

What makes a good manager?

A few days ago I read about the skills to look for in a web analytics manager.

This reminded me of two things:

  1. Early in my career I read a book called “Becoming a technical leader”, by Ken Orr, where he highlighted the skills of a good leader, but also the fact that not everyone can/should follow what appears to be a natural path to management, and would be better off becoming a “guru” in their field of technical expertise. He highlights that "Innovation", "Motivation", and "Organization" are the three key components of being a technical leader.
  2. The second thought is that oftentimes, a good manager can "feel" your passion, your emotions, and your frustrations because he/she had a similar "way of the cross". We now hear more often that an MBA diploma doesn't have anything to do with being a good or a bad manager. Experience and enlightenment doesn’t come with a nice piece of paper...
As a closing point, I wanted to share the following anecdote:

Between 1994-1999 I worked for Softimage, at that time a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft. I was hired to put the anti-piracy mechanism into high-end 3D animation softwares used in special effects found in movies and games, but I was also the "webmaster" of softimage.com (check out how the site looked in 1997! The Wayback machine is soooo useful!).

Back to my story...

One day we had a visit from a Microsoft guy who's job was to travel the world and talk about security. I don't remember a darn thing about what he said, except this little statement:
Always make your boss look good
And he went on to explain that if the boss is really good, he will get a promotion and you will take his job. On the other hand, if he is a complete idiot, he will get fired and you will still get his job!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Tag you're it! The 5 Things Meme

I first noticed the tag game on Avinash Kaushik's blog and honestly, I was secretly hoping someone would tag me! Today I was tagged by June Li from ClickInsight. A nice idea that started way back and is getting crazy all over the blogosphere. The idea is simple: part viral, part social, when you get tagged you're supposed to reveal five things about yourself, and pass the tag along to five other bloggers.
  1. For about 2 years I was a first responder in my community, the nice town of Bromont in Quebec's Eastern Township region. Ski, snowboard and mountain bike accidents were common, even occasional horseback. From minor injuries to deadly car accidents. The call that changed my life came when I went for cardiac problems just a few houses away, on the same street were I lived. 42 years old, first heart attack, was known to work long hours. Father of two, a 15 years old daughter and a 10 years old son who was sleeping upstairs and woke up in the morning without a father. One of my own son's friend. I was taking the men's heartbeat, then it stoped, we were there, we did everything we could, including use of AED (Automatic External Defibrillator). He was confirmed dead at the hospital.
    I still remember every second of it, every sound, every smell... every cry from his wife. That night, I hold my wife and kids in my arms in a very different way.
  2. When I want to completely disconnect from web analytics, from the job and the little annoying things in life, I get away at our camp. No phone, no television, no Internet and no one around.

  3. In high school I had weak results, so university was out of reach for me. I graduated with a college degree in computing in 1997. In 2003 I skipped the bachelor degree and started an eBusiness MBA. I now figure on the honor roll with a cumulative average of 94%.

  4. At age 24 I was married, had a house, two kids and a dog :)

  5. My Myers Briggs Personality Type appears to be ENFP, which means I would tend to be Extraverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving. The MBTI description is surprisingly accurate about me:
Warmly enthusiastic and imaginative. See life as full of possibilities. Make connections between events and information very quickly, and confidently proceed based on the patterns they see. Want a lot of affirmation from others, and readily give appreciation and support. Spontaneous and flexible, often rely on their ability to improvise and their verbal fluency.
Just for the fun of it, here's where it came from:

June Li < Kathryn Lagden < Michael Seaton < Mitch Joel < Ana Farmery < Heidi Miller < Tom Vender Well < Drew McLellan < Liz Strauss < Phil Gerbyshak < Pam < Wendy Piersall < Holly < Kelly < Simran < D.T.Kelly < Dawno < Victoria Strauss < Cathy Clamp < Jackie Kessler < Heather Brewer < Erica Orloff < Sara Hantz < Alyssa Goodnight < Amanda Brice < Tara M.Leigh < Karen (I stopped there... might continue later)

Since I like thinking about the Internet and its impacts on our social behavior, this tag game is very interesting. Notice the ratio of female to male, could it be that females are more inclined to play this kind of game? Getting closer to me, the background is more web analytics, then marketing, up to the early root where people profiles are more book writers and authors.

Now I need to tag five other people:
(I'm cheating a bit and I tag six people instead of five, the last two entries are not active bloggers but are closely involved with the Web and the Internet)

I also like Robbin Steif from LunaMetrics idea of turning the blog tag upside down: what do you like or dislike about my blog? What would you like to see more about? Blogging shouldn't be just writing about my interests, it's sharing it with others, and this inevitably requires some feedback and conversations :)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A book by Avinash Kaushik

While looking for some books on Amazon on few weeks ago, I stumbled on an upcoming book from someone I would consider a "guru" in web analytics: Avinash Kaushik. The Amazon.ca entry, simply titled "Web Analytics", is later stated as "Web Analytics: An Hour a Day", the book description says:

Web analytics expert Avinash Kaushik goes beyond web analytics concepts and definitions to provide a step-by-step guide to implementing a successful web analytics strategy. His revolutionary approach to web analytics challenges prevalent thinking about the field and guides readers, step-by-step, to a solution that will provide truly informed and actionable insights.
The book will cover those topics, partially gleaned from the very good posts on his blog :

  1. The web analytics field and where it’s going
  2. How to start the analysis process and the importance of qualitative data
  3. Web analytics strategy and implementation as well as a quick-start guide
  4. Advanced analytics concepts (statistical significance, SEM and PPC, segmentation, conversion-rates, etc.)

I was surprised there was no word about it on Avinash's site, and no traces on the Yahoo! Discussion Group. I thought I had stumbled on a little hidden secret, so I posted to my blog immediately. I got a very nice email from Avinash a few hours later kindly asking to keep it "low profile" about his upcoming book. In his own words, he said "This might sound a bit kooky but I am trying to keep the book a secret". Of course, I have the highest respect for Avinash so I removed my post, up until someone elses posted about it on the Yahoo Group yesterday.

A lot of people in the web analytics field suggested, asked, pleaded for a book from Avinash! I'm sure this will be a delight to read.

Guess what I did?

Pre-order on Amazon.ca or Amazon.com

Monday, December 11, 2006

Remember Bob? Here's Ms. Dewey

Remember Microsoft Bob? The annoying little gizmo that always wanted to help you out?

Well... Microsoft is at it again in a different way. Meet Ms. Dewey, she is there to help you out with your searches. It features an attractive woman named Ms. Dewey and through seamless audio/video interactivity, she does the searches for you. Watch it out, it's worth it and way cool... but one has to wonder the real usefulness of such a tool. It's powered by Microsoft Live Search and knowing Outlook 2007 includes VOIP, there might be some relations. More info on Wikipedia.