maandag 25 februari 2008

Tripit, it just works

Albert Einstein once said: "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." That's exactly what TripIt does.

All TripIt does is aggregate all data that you get from confirmation emails when booking flights, hotels, rental cars, ... . Adds in bits of information scraped from the likes of wikipedia, the weather channel, google maps, ... . It doesn't require a genius to come up with this, parsing some standard generated emails is a piece of cake. Adding in extra info may require a bit more effort, but still isn't rocket science. Nothing all that brilliant at first sight, but here's the catch.

It's dead easy to use, it's fantastically thought through and cleverly crafted to minimize your effort. The lazy web at it's best.

Really, all you do is forward those nasty gibberish confirmation emails. Tripit will figure it out for you. It doesn't require a lengthy, time consuming, sign up procedure. Since you sent them an email, they know your name and your email address. That's enough personal information for one day isn't it?
Once you forwarded your first mail you get a nice return mail (caught by my company spamfilter, but they are aware this happens often, unfortunately). That return email contains a link so you can quickly go check out your travel plan, at that point you'll be prompted by a "real" sign up, which has a nice skip button. So you can easily use it without having to register. Ever!
Further in that return mail is also a username (your email address) and a password, for future log-on purposes.

Finally, to add in some 2.0-ness, you can share and discuss your travel plans with friends (or colleagues) and figure out who out of your network is close to you. I still need to get some friends hooked up on this, so I can start checking this thing out :)

Conclusion. Awesome, it simply does what it needs to do, without making it complicated, time consuming. And since 90% of the population uses the same top airlines, travel agents, car rentals and hotel chains, it's able to parse everything most people will ever need (you can still manually add/change if you really have to). I know the year is still long, but this is already a huge contestant for my personal "tool of the year" award!

Also check out the demo videos. It really is that simple.

dinsdag 19 februari 2008

Product ownership

I've been catching up on agile development lately, more specific, on the scrum methodology.

After sorting through various books, course material and tons of useful talks to colleagues, peers and agile people (not necessarily claiming they are agile but definitely adopting the concepts). First of all, I wish to thank all of these people for the time they took to educate me. I feel at a point now where I have a grasp on how it works and I'm past the steep hill in the learning curve. A good time to look back.

Starting with a statement: "Having seen the waterfall system in action one to many times, I am sure there is a better way". This, combined with my current employer wanting to adopt scrum, is what drove me down this road. Being on the operational side of the building, I have been experiencing product ownership from up close and here's what I think are important qualities for becoming a good product owner.

  1. A deep understanding of the problem at hand
  2. A good enough technical background
  3. Great communication and negotiation skills
  4. A "business sense" and a vision
  5. No other job

Unfortunately, many companies (including mine), horribly fail at most (or even all) of the above, especially the last one.

In the coming articles, I'll be elaborating more on those 5 points (= nice hook to have some more articles on my blog :) )

maandag 11 februari 2008

Ardenskie 3.0

For the third year in a row, a bunch of former fellow students went on a weekend to the Ardennes. Doing all you expect a bunch of geeks to do on a boys-weekend-out. Upon arrival, the big table was taken by a 24 port gigabit switch and laptops, network cables, gizmo's and other electronics. Not that we spent a lot of time there, just every now and again setting a queue to borrow some of the friends material.

Friday night was mainly sponsored by Dr. Oetker and Jupiler. On Saturday we took some time out to sit back, chill and enjoy some of the local beverages. I put my hopes on Captain Morgan (original spiced rum), he didn't disappoint me. It's nice to just sit in the sun, share time with friends and forget all about the daily worries, even if only for a day. We ended up in Durbuy at night, in a near empty restaurant. After getting our food served, we started to understand the near emptyness of it. The food on it's own wasn't bad, but "serve with a smile" seemed an odd concept to the place. Too bad, we did have money to burn if they did some effort.

Sunday, traditionally, ended at Don Antonio for an excellent fresh made pizza.

Memorable facts of this edition:

  • Vicious Vince (aka Poofter) calling the sleeping people at 3am to hear their ringtone.
  • Bladders, Eraser, Crossmol and myself going shopping and buying all of the Mozarella Discs available at the local Delhaize.
  • Bladders having a bit of a jet-lag after 2 weeks Shanghai and so waking up at 7am every day.
  • Azzy doesn't like pizza, and still he's our friend :)
  • Many more, not all suitable for publication

Many thanks to the usual suspects for making it a great weekend. Poofter, Rubella, Punkie, Azzy, Apolio, Eraser, Bladders, Crossmol.