As we were selected for the Alpha Program of the fourth annual edition of the Web Summit (undoubtedly the biggest tech conference in Europe), Florian and I spend our week in Dublin. With the evening activities involving pub crawls, after parties and get-togethers with fellow startuppy people, we definitely had a great time in Ireland. And we also got some important business stuff done.

On Tuesday Advantage Austria had prepared a ‘Pitch Perfect’ seminar for a group of Austrian entrepreneurs. Paul O’Dea (CEO, Select Strategies) warned us right off, that there’s no 1-to-9 plan when it comes to creating a pitch for your company. Using the battle-card canvas, he explained how explaining which problem or pain you’re trying to solve with your product or portfolio for your sweet spot customers, delivering measurable value and beating the competition at the same time, helps you drill down to a paragraph that functions as your larger pitch.

As challenges on the way to a perfect pitch, our group mentioned their struggles with picking the right storyline. And what if the product is very technical? Profiling our sweet spot customer, Paul suggested to filter them by the following ‘characteristics’:

With a 7 track conference it can be fairly hard to choose the ‘right’ talks. After an exhausting exhibition day on Wednesday, I really needed some peace and quiet. Coincidentally the Developer Stage was situated in a bat cave kinda tent. A recap from my Day 2 at the Web Summit (thank you Usersnap, for bringing me along!:

In Practicing Failure: Gamedays on the Obama Campaign, Dylan Richard explained how he got his team (40 technical people) ready for the event if technology fails. Some semantics; the 2012 re-election IT team worked 7 days a week, 12 hours a day, owned 300 repo’s, used 300 servers and catered to 1 million volunteers and 8000 staff members.

“Technology does not win an election, but you can lose because of it.” Dylan figured he needed to learn to deal with failure. “Looking at a community app, if everything falls apart but users can still communicate, you’re probably doing alright.” Suggesting that you might not know what matters, Dylan recommends talking with your stakeholders and ‘do less things, better’.

Trello is a fast, easy way to organize anything, from your day-to-day work, to a favorite side project. Trello is everywhere – on Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows 8 Tablet, and your web browser, making collaboration easier.

Usersnap integrates well with Trello, assisting you in collecting and discussing feedback between developers, customers and quality assurance engineers.

Working on a web project?

Getting annotated screenshots attached to bug reports will raise a smile on every developer’s face. Usersnap allows your testers to provide a visual description of what might be a bug in form of annotated screenshots. Additionally you will get important information such as the used browser, the used operating system and the URL where the bug has occurred. Your testers can choose between a drawing pen, a highlighting tool and sticky notes to illustrate and annotate the bug report. To enable Usersnap on your web project, a snippet of code has to be added, which is as simple as installing Google Analytics (TM). After that, a feedback-button appears and one can collect bug reports directly in Trello.

Pivotal Tracker is a collaborative, lightwight agile project management tool, brought to you by the experts in agile software development: Pivotal Labs. Pivotal Tracker helps bring everyone, even distributed teams, into the same virtual room.

It allows you to deliver on Customer Feedback, respond to changing needs and new requirements easily and supercharge your agile project teams with real time collaboration.

Usersnap integrates with Pivotal Tracker, helping you communicate effectively about issues with your users and share feedback between developers, customers and quality assurance engineers. Speed up your development process by hooking up Usersnap and Pivotal Tracker.

Working on a web project?

Getting annotated screenshots attached to bug reports will raise a smile on every developer’s face. Usersnap allows your testers to provide a visual description of what might be a bug in form of annotated screenshots. Additionally you will get important information such as the used browser, the used operating system and the URL where the bug has occured. Your testers can choose between a drawing pen, a highlighting tool and sticky notes to illustrate and annotate the bug report. To enable Usersnap on your web project, a snippet of code has to be added, which is as simple as installing Google Analytics (TM). After that, a feedback-button appears and one can collect bug reports directly in Pivotal Tracker.

Usersnap can be integrated easily to any type of web page. The Usersnap help page offers an overview of how to integrate Usersnap in your site using a simple JavaScript snippet. We offer various CMS plugins for WordPress, Drupal or Joomla – but it doesn’t end there!
If you want to customize your Usersnap integration – for example: show it only to logged-in users, or add additional backend information to the report – you need to include Usersnap manually in your template. Are you a PHP, Python or RoR dev? Then you’re in luck, as we describe how to integrate Usersnap using those languages in this post! Speed up your development workflow!

Include Usersnap with PHP

Save your Usersnap snippet in a file called usersnap.inc.php, which includes your API-Key. You can even fetch this API key from an config file or environment variable.

When you’re developing a product, you’re constantly surrounded by questions like, “How can I improve my product?”, and consequently, “What’s the next step to take?”. There are 2 ways to answer these questions:

  1. Ask your customers
  2. Decide yourself

Ask your customers

Asking your customers appears like the better solution: You’re building the product for your customers, so they should know what they need. Unfortunately, they don’t. Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, once said:

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.

Your customers are biased with current solutions for their problems, that’s why you can’t expect true innovation from them.

Decide yourself

It’s your task to innovate, not your customers’. The problem is that you don’t understand your customers’ problems entirely in advance. Your most important task as product developer is to learn to understand your customers better than they understand themselves. Make a hypothesis about what your customers need and then try to prove (or even better: refute) this hypothesis. A hypothesis is always a guess, but you will become better and better at guessing the more you validate.

I had a strange epiphany the other day when I was discussing Web design and feedback tools with a friend who just happens to be an excellent designer and has run his own agency for years. I had always thought I knew what he did for a living, but when we began to walk through the design process, and how he spent his day, I realized I knew next to nothing. The discussion started off with some verbiage about Web governance, requirements analysis, blah blah blah, and then I asked, point blank:

‘No, I really just want to know what you do all day. Really, minute-by-minute, what does your job look like?’

Or: when your colleague’s inbox zero bliss results in inbox hell for you

In the startup world, when you mention that you’re working towards / or you have reached ‘inbox zero’, you’ll get some admiring nods from whoever is listening to you. Not from me though. I’ll let you in on a secret: inbox zero is a lie. Why? Because answering all your mails – preferably before 8 am so no-one will be up to write a reply – means you’ll create ‘inbox overflow’ for your co-workers. Just pushing unreads back and forth is not going to ‘fix’ email (yes, it’s broken).

Chief Email Officer

Our CEO often jokes that the ‘E’ in his job title stands for ‘Email’. Working on the same desk, I do see a constant stream of messages coming in on his screen. There’s very little you can do about the email behavior of your clients, business contacts or external email fanatics. The very least we – as a team – can do is creating filters and stop bothering each other with loads of non-descriptive emails and funsies (or maybe create a chat room for that sort of things – one that you can mute).