This is well-known stuff but funny nevertheless 😉
Posted on 27 September 2008 by Demian Turner
Posted on 23 September 2008 by Demian Turner
Kindo is a PHP social net app built on the Seagull framework and other open source software. At peak popularity our users were building 38k profiles/day and we acquired more than 1m profiles in our first 10 weeks. More details on my CV.
Hats off to the Kindo team and to the Kindo devs who don’t appear in the TC photo.
Posted on 19 September 2008 by Demian Turner
Even though I had early preview access to Ad Manager I only got a chance to play with it properly yesterday, now that it’s public for all Adsense publishers.
My first impression: my old pals at OpenX don’t have as much to worry about as I first thought.
While Google has a fearsome reputation for building amazing apps with clean and simple UIs, Ad Manager is the first I’ve used (29 currently listed in my gAccount screen) which is somewhat impenetrable. While it’s true that ad serving in general has above average business logic complexity, this app lets the user potentially steer in too many wrong directions, and if one of the 10 or so parameters required for an ad to be served is slightly wrong, it’s not easy to find out where you went wrong. And this is a programmer point of view, I’m trying to imagine what it’s like for a non-techy.
The good news is there are decent debugging capabilities that ship with the app, although they’re a bit buried. What you need to do to find out where you went wrong is append a debug param to the URL, like
Another PITA which is not obvious at all is if you want to add a text link creative, you need to select the type Rich Media then paste the link in the textarea which subsequently appears. Rich media, text link: not two concepts you find linked that often ..
And while we’re in gripe mode, this is one of the slowest Google apps I’ve used, ie a lot slower than AdWords. I think it’s early days still for Ad Manager.
UPDATE: This article is a good starting point for setting up your first campaign.
Posted on 09 September 2008 by Demian Turner
Increasingly I’m focusing less on cutting code and more on running a web development business. While it can be painful not to get your hands dirty as often as you would like, there are great pleasures in seeing your business pick up momentum.
But one of the first factors that needs to be brought under control is time management for yourself and your employees, and general CRM. The problem I’ve found is that the functionality scope of the various apps I’ve been using is wildly different from one to the next. I need a level of baseline functionality from a single app, mainly because the overhead of sharing data between apps makes using multiple apps untenable. I would still like to do as much coding as possible, and as we are in 2008, so there must be something out there that ticks all the basic boxes.
Well googling brought up very little. What did have good results was this thread from the php-london ML, and direct feedback from a few colleagues.
Here are the baseline features I concluded were the minimum required to be useful for my small business
Let me just reiterate what I don’t want, to be clear. I don’t want a detailed accounting app like Sage, Quickbooks, Quicken etc, but I do need to be able to know the bottom line for the business at any point. I don’t want to have to import employee/contractor times from one app into another, or transfer across the value of invoices – who has time for that overhead?
Here’s the apps I evaluated and the various pro/cons of each.
Studiometry is a desktop app available for the Mac and PC. The UI is a bit klunky, but for customer/project/timesheet management it’s great. It was the best app I found first time around, was recommended by a few friends, and I would probably still be using it if it could track expenses and report on the business balance sheet. It has a number of demo videos which hugely help learning the software, and let’s face it, if you have the choice between reading an enormous PDF or mimicking what you saw on a screencast, which would you choose? Also for the record, these guys do not answer customer support requests took ten days to respond to my customer support request.
Harvest is quite strongly recommended in the industry, and the interface is first rate, and for time-keeping it’s great. However these guys don’t claim to do balance sheet handling so it’s not really fair to compare. For timesheets and billing they’re pretty good. Did I mention the UI was sweet?
I don’t want to say too much about Basecamp because I know everyone is using it, and it’s probably bad luck to diss 37 Signals. But …. Well let’s start with the positives first. For time tracking it’s great. The UI is fantastic, and once you get to the time tracking page, it’s a pleasure to use. But what about navigation?! This app takes the prize for requiring the most clicks to get anything done. I mean I read Getting Real is it was great, but they should practice what they preach. I was even driven to mess around with bookmarklets just not to waste so much time using this app. I seriously considered logging time wasted wrestling with the time-keeping app. Ok, enough. Wait – one more. What’s up with Writeboards? So klunky to load these notepads. I can truthfully say I have migrated quite a number of people off Basecamp and onto Trac.
Billings is another sexy looking app, recommended by some of the PHPlondon guys, but ultimately it’s way too simplistic to be useful. It’s a Mac only desktop app, and after using Studiometry for several months I wish the Studiometry guys would look at Billings and get some interface ideas. But it handles time-keeping, invoicing and basic client info only, and has a few dinky ideas like ‘add url’ button that let’s you add “urls” to your projects. Better left out in my opinion. You can do estimates with the app, and you get a status of the account, but only for a given project, not globally.
Moneyworks looks like a decent accounting package and is reasonably priced, but seems a bit much for my needs. I must be honest and say that I didn’t download the demo, but after looking at the screenshots I wasn’t too impressed. Overall it seemed like a package more suitable for someone with an accounting background, which I don’t have.
Time Doctor is an accurate time tracking and time management software that helps you get a lot more done each day. It is a web-based solution that provides time tracking, computer work session monitoring, reminders, screenshot recording, invoicing, reporting tools, integrations and so much more.
FreshBooks is a very exciting app. It’s widely used in the web industry, and for good reason. The interface is fantastic and there’s a lot of functionality. Not to mention the app has been around for ages and has gone through a lot of iterations presumably based on customer feedback. And the customer service was excellent, best of the batch. I exchanged a few emails with Grace who was very helpful but ultimately let me know that the 2 features I needed (recurring expenses and balance sheet) were not available. But they were top of the feature request list 😉 This app to me looks like it’s done by 37 Signals, I guess on purpose, but FreshBooks operates out of Toronto.
Kashflow was an interesting one. They have all the features I listed above, and they’re even UK-based so great for businesses like mine. They’re web-based which should be an advantage, but the UI looks stuck somewhere back in the 80’s. And the logo is pink. In fact the whole site is pink. Not that I have anything against pink, but arguably it’s an unusual choice of colour for a business app. But the functionality is there, even if it takes a bit of searching around to get to it. In fact I think of all apps compared here Kashflow had the most functionality of the bunch. Guys, drop the ASP frontend and hire my company to rebuild your product into a web2.0 app with PHP calling out to your extensive API – you won’t regret it.
Quicken is a funny one – just read the comments 😉
Quickbooks is not far different.
FreeAgent is where things start to change. Wow was I impressed with this software. A big thanks to Nigel James who suggested it and gets my 10% referral fee with a a free beer thrown in at the next PHPlondon 😉 FreeAgent is a very complete web-based accounting/timesheets/invoicing app that’s perfect for small businesses. And if you’re based in the UK it’s even more strongly recommended, taking in its stride things like IR35 intermediaries legislation, VAT obligation, corporation tax due, National Insurance and PAYE payments, the list goes on.
FreeAgent handles all aspects of clients, projects, time-keeping, invoicing and expenses (one off and recurring). This app is put together by a team that really understands accounting and what small businesses need. It also lets you setup multiple bank accounts and manage reconciliations between what you invoice and what you collect. Paypal import is supported. Regarding income FreeAgent lets you track money you earn in terms of dividends or salary and will even guide you through the full setup of payroll for your employees, calculating Taxable Gross, Tax Code Tax, Employee NI, Net Pay, Employer NI and PAYE/NI Due to HMRC for you based on gross annually salary input. The app will also do a self assessment for you which can be used at the end of your limited company’s financial year.
But I think the main strength of FreeAgent is what you find under the Accounting tab. Included are reports for monthly and yearly profit & loss, balance sheet, trial balance, dividend vouchers, capital assets and journal entries. At any moment you can see exactly how your business is doing, how much corporate tax you owe, how many unpaid invoices there are, and how your monthly operating profit is performing. There is also a great dashboard to greet you when you login with graphs of the various business metrics and notifications of priority matters.
In my opinion FreeAgent is the strongest of all the contenders here; it combines a balanced feature set with a great interface and a fair price. It has one or two shortcomings to be fair, but not showstoppers. For one employees can login to manage their own timesheets, but they get access to the entire business financials, effectively an admin login. I suspect this will be addressed soon, I’ve certainly complained about it. Secondly there’s currently no concept of tracking revenue by product or service. This is very useful to have if your company provides a number of products as well as the usual grind of service work. I don’t think it would be hard to integrate.
Now you’ve heard my rather long-winded opinion, what are you experiences with accounting/invoicing software? Have I missed any interesting stuff? Have I left out any essential requirements? It took a lot of time to research the current offerings and I would have loved to find a decent review so I hope the above is helpful to someone.