Best Things this Year (2011)

Here are some best things I’ve come across this year. Not all are new, or even new to me, but they kicked ass in 2011

1. Kids Dungeon Adventure – A floortop RPG for pre-school age kids and their geeky parent(s). What started out as a little game with my daughter grew into a full fledged eproduct and side business. This project was life changing for me.

2. Notepadd++ – I used the same text editor for Windows for at least 11 years, Editpad. I finally decided to try Notepadd++ and was blown away by how much more I liked it. Color coding for almost any language and built in FTP are enough right there. Love it. Side note: Editpad was introduced to me by a college friend, Jonathan Meyer, who passed away soon after college. I often think about how much he’d love what is going on with the Internet over the last 10 years.

3. HTML5 – Have you seen how fast modern browsers can draw on an HTML5 canvas? Mobile browsers still need work, though.

4. Garageband for the iPad – I love the iLife Garageband, but the iPad version is amazing and portable. Check out the theme song I recorded for Rock the Animals with Sasha. At this point the song is a bigger hit than the game.

5. Thingiverse – I built a Makerbot Thing-o-Matic at work and have been obsessed with finding a use for it other than making crappy bottle openers.

6. Sword and Sworcery – Best iOS game of the year. It’s King’s Quest meets Punch Out while having coffee with David Lynch. Jim Guthrie’s music on it is amazing (listen).

7. Honoro Vera Garnacha – Best new wine I tried all year. It’s Spanish and only $8.99.

Honoro Vera Garnacha - Best new wine I tried this year
Honoro Vera Garnacha - Best new wine I tried this year

8. Movies – I don’t think I saw any new releases in 2011, but here are all the movies I liked that I saw this year in no particular order: The Kids are Alright, Blue Valentine, The Social Network, Kung Fu Panda, Catfish, Toy Story 3, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, Scot Pilgrim vs. the World, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Shutter Island.

Launched: Evidensity for Highrise

HighriseFor the last few weeks I’ve been working on a new analytical dashboard tool for Highrise and it finally launches today! Read about it here.

In the launch post I talk about what makes Evidensity different from other tools and my worldview on sales dashboards:

  • Some people don’t want customizable line graphs
  • They want actionable intelligence about their data.
  • Sales pipelines are built on faulty assumptions and overly optimistic sales people
  • They should be built on historical data.
  • Your eyes and brain can handle it, so fit tons of data into one screen.

Creating a comma separated list

For years, whenever I have to create a comma separated list from an array I have been writing code that looks vaguely like this.

$first = true;
foreach($arr as $m) {

if ($first) {
$first = false;
}
else {
echo ",";
}
echo $m;
}

I’ve had it. There has to be a cleaner way than using $first to skip the comma on the first value. What am I doing wrong?

Spam as Spoken Word Poetry

This spam I got today on our lead generation form could easily pass for spoken word poetry at an open mic night.

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37signals Sent Me a Gift for Pwning their Leaderboards

This year I took an AK to the Answers leaderboard at 37signals, mostly answering Highrise questions. The Answers board is the best place to learn how to use Highrise because if you have a question there’s a good chance someone else has already asked it. I scoured it during our implementation in April, 2010 and continued to read it in case anything new came up. In that time I started helping people out and answering questions myself and this week I cracked #3 on their leaderboard.

I cracked the #3 spot this week
I cracked the #3 spot this week

On Wednesday a packaged was delivered to my office. I wasn’t expecting anything, but it’s not unusual for me to get random samples for us to test run from customers. I opened it up to find 6 beer glasses from 37signals.

6 premium beer glasses
6 premium beer glasses

The genius move of this is not the free gift for a good customer who gives back the company he’s already paying $150/month for business software. Any company can write a algorithmic trigger for x number of questions answered gets a t-shirt, if then else, etc. and come out a winner. The best part was the note that let me know they researched enough about me to know that I brew beer and would appreciate good beer glasses.

note from 37signals
Ben - Thank you for all your hard work on 37signals' Answers page! You've been a huge help to our customers. We hope you can use these glasses for your next home brew. Thanks again from the crew at 37signals.

I love great customer appreciation stories and for once I got to be in one. Thanks!

Beercamp Philly 2011 Recap

Yesterday I sampled beers with names like Chocrilla, Blood Orange Berliner, and the Bee Sting Ale along with the spiciest shrimp I have ever eaten. I poured my own homebrewed Amber Ale called Yakima Sax to a few hundred beer geeks and watched the legend of Beercamp Philly Camp grow.

Beer Camp is Back
Beer Camp is Back

The first Philly Beercamp was the most fun I ever had as a homebrewer, so when they announced a 2nd one during Philly Beer Week, I signed up right away.

The weather was amazing all day (we spent the morning selling our crap at the town wide Collingswood yard sale) and perfect for outdoor drinking. Getting all my equipment to the event was a little bit of a challenge. I dropped off the keg, CO2 tank, and some other beer brewing related stuff to educate others on homebrewing and then drove over to the hotel in Philly I booked on points. While I was there, Jeanne texted me and said she felt a few rain drops so I lugged two packed up party tents with me in the cab back to the “camp site,” the Jamaican Jerk Hut on South Street. I didn’t need the tents in the end since it didn’t rain. We lucked out big time with the weather.

The crowd sampling beers and Jamaican food
The crowd sampling beers and Jamaican food

Pics by Marusula. See the rest of the gallery.

Another one of my favorite pics.

Once the event got going I iced my beer down and went to hook it up, only to find I was missing the tap connector for my keg! Disastrous!!! Having to go back home to get this would have easily taken me 30 – 60 minutes. Luckily, a fellow brewer saved the day and had a spare. I declared him my new best friend and started pouring.

Everyone came away with a free pint glass
Everyone came away with a free pint glass

The beers I tried were fantastic, but what was even more fun was just meeting and interacting with beer geeks from all over the Philadelphia area. One fellow brewer stopped by and declared to my wife that the best thing about Papazian’s Joy of Homebrewing I had on display was “the chick” in the HOWTO pictures of the first few chapters. Another guy stopped by and gave me some tips on getting rid of some after tastes I occasionally find in my beer. I was also thrilled to meet up with many, many people I have only talked to on twitter.

Here’s a list of all the beers and the ones I voted for in bold.
Brunch Stout
Transcontinental – California Common
American Pale Ale
Baltic Porter
Bee Sting Ale
Cherry Wheat
Wobbly Bass Brown
Mmmm Creamy Milk Stout
Blood Orange Berliner
Ryeghteous Brown Ale
Chocrilla
Redcoat ESB
Redcoat Stout
Dunkelweizen
Golden Pale Ale
Northwestern Pale Ale
American Porter
Yakima Sax (Amber)

The winners were:
1st B WeeRd Brew D – Chorilla
2nd Saint Benjamin – Transcontinental (I didn’t get a chance to try this, but I loved his other beer)
3rd Melloproto – Blood Orange Berliner

The beers and food were great and the plan so far is to have BeerCampPhilly 3 in October 2011, which would be awesome. I’d definitely do it again. Congrats to Kelani, Two Guys on Beer, and Indyhall for putting everything together.