I Participated In A Hackathon

My friend Anthony and I participated in a hackathon. We didn’t win, but we certainly did not lose. Let me elaborate. First and foremost I want to thank the folks at Valleyhackathon.com for having us at the event. It was a great experience.

 

What is a Hackathon? 

There are several formats of this type of competitions, but the dominant characteristic is that they involve technology. What do we hack, the Pentagon? No, not at all. It’s not like that. To participate in a hackathon you have to come up with a project/idea and complete it within the deadline. Some hackathons are 72 hours, some are 48 hours, but the one we participated on was 24 hours. In this instance, the entry required that you had a project that involved writing software and our team could have up to four members. We could have a hardware component in our project, but a significant software portion was required. Once the clock started ticking and we had 24 hours to finish a working product.

 

What was the product idea? 

It was Anthony who originally came up with the idea and we thought it was would be a perfect fit for the hackathon. Our goal was to create a web application that would allow people to know a bit more about what is going on in their towns. Local businesses would be able to register on the application, share the name of their business address and a short description of the services or products they offer. On the other hand, end-users could also register and choose the businesses they would like to receive notifications from. Notifications would be a way for businesses to let town folks know about a promotion or a new upcoming event. Registered businesses could schedule their announcements to be sent out to all subscribers at any specific time. We knew that this was not a novelty. I’m pretty sure that there are similar services out there, but we thought our grassroots approach would set as apart.

 

Why did we not win? 

We bit more than we could chew. For one, we underestimated the amount of work required to complete two portals, one for the businesses and another for the end users. The second factor was that we did not stick to what we knew best. We set out to try a new code library that we were not completely proficient on. The hackathon started on a Friday roughly around 6:30 PM and it ended the following day at 6:30 PM. On Saturday around noon, I began to realize there was no way we were going to be able to finish the project by 6:30 PM. I had slept only 30 minutes since the competition had started and my thoughts we were getting blurred. Long story short, we did not have a project to present by the time judging came around.

 

Why did we not lose?

Even though we did not place in the event we were able to reconnect with fellow “hackers” from previous and events and met new faces. We were exposed to what other programmers are doing here in the Central Valley. Don’t get me wrong, it would have been nice to walk away with a prize, but the experience of being there was all worth it. I’m really looking forward to next year’s hackathon.

Growing up on a farm

cow farm life

What I learned living on a farm

Many friends and family members have asked what’s it like growing up on a farm. And the answer comes to them as a surprise, because they see it as a get-a-way from all the noise in urban areas, an approach to reveal stress and anxiety.

Believe it or not, when I first moved to a farm it was hard to adapt into its constant everyday maintenance. There were daily TODO’s that had to be done before proceeding into my personal ambitions. For instance, we had farm animals to feed every morning! And I couldn’t just leave it for tomorrow because those animals had to eat. This was one of the toughest things to adjust because my weekdays and weekends revolved around farm animals and cleaning horse stables. It took a few months to adjust to this lifestyle. You know when you first started going to the gym and your body is in pain after every workout. But, you don’t shake that pain off for a few months. That is how I felt for months trying to adjust to farm living.

Eventually, I reached a point where feeding the animals became automatic. I would wake up and just get out there and start feeding them. I got good at feeding the animals that I started finding shortcuts in reducing the time feeding them.

This free time gave me an opportunity to try stuff out or experiment. Meaning, I would find ways to improve my productivity in how I fed animals. For example, by placing haystacks in certain areas of the farm it would save me time in having to return back to the barn for more hay.

farm

Apply it to your personal or work lifestyle

I started to apply my learnings from working on the farm out in the workforce. Once I caught myself doing something over and over, I would stop and begin in how to cut its time in half.

I’ve shared this with my family and friends about how not to get comfortable in their current situation, always challenge yourself. Einstein has a quote “Once you stop learning, you start dying”.

If you feel that you can change in how you do things in your daily routines, whether it’s personal or work. I challenge you to take the initiative in doing so.

If you have experienced this before. Please share by leaving a comment below.

Looking for free images?(Unsplash)

by Massimo Mancini

A website that you will love!

I believe we have a post regarding information on how to obtain free photos. But, I just can’t stop bragging about a particular online service that truly lets you download free pictures! I have shared this information with my friends and family since I first laid eyes on this site. The site is called Unsplash – “Free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos” website. Many of the photos on this blog come from their website. This site has truly saved us time when searching for images to display for our online material.

This is a great resource for any online developer/marketer needing fresh photos to display on their site. If you are running an online e-commerce site and looking to make your homepage visually appealing, why not try a photo from Unsplash?

Why and how are they free?

“All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash.” – https://unsplash.com/license

If you are someone that is constantly struggling to find eye-catching photos, check out the website. Make sure to give credit to the photographer if you ever intend in using their photos.

If you have experienced in using the site. Please share by leaving a comment below.

2017 New Year Resolution (Again)

New Year

Resolution – the act of resolving or determining upon an action, a course of action, method, procedure, etc.

We are on a yearly minded cycle, meaning once we get close to the end of the year we begin to reflect on the past and start to develop resolutions for the future. Meanwhile, your present state continues the usual routine (habit).

Why do we look for a resolution? What is a resolution going to do in return? Have your heard this phrase before “It’s not what you do, it’s why you do it?”. Before you jump ship onto your resolution, I recommend you look closely at why you need to resolve a current habit or situation. Look into understanding its core reason.

Depending on the resolution it can be an instant gratification, like cleaning out your personal email inbox from junk/promotion mail. And bam! Instant gratification! But, if you are deciding to lose weight and expecting major results in a two-week turnaround, forget about it. If you read the first sentence of this blog post. Resolution is a procedure oriented process, take small steps into resolving your situation (but, be consistent).

Buying! If you think by just buying a product or service it’s going to magically resolve your situation, forget it too! We expect things to work right out of the box. Take the time to learn exactly what the product or service will do for you. Don’t just pull the trigger because you see others with it and you need that as well. Again, learn exactly what your needs are.

Whatever you decide to change or improve. Take the time to find its core purpose, put meaning into your course of action.

If you have suggestions about to execute a new year resolution. Please leave a comment below.

Why Does Cloudtimecards Exist?

The journey started when we decided to start Edifica. I have written a post about the story of Edifica here, but I’ll do a short recap. I come from a background in construction. I worked for a drywall contractor for more than 10 years and one of the biggest challenges we had at that time was to be able to keep all information pertaining to contracted jobs in one place. I’m sure that to this day contractors still have this problem. In addition to that, when contractors are shopping for a software solution to solve this problem, they find software packages that claim to be suited for specialty contractors, but in reality they are not. Most of the project management software available is designed for general contractors and do not make a distinction between general contractors and subcontractors. Edifica’s goal is to provide a project management software solution genuinely designed for subcontractors in the construction industry and one of our main advantages is that we have experience in the construction field.

 

While Edifica was in the beta stages, feedback from companies who we presented the software to and although they liked the features Edifica provided. We kept finding a common denominator on most of the feedback. People really liked the time tracking capabilities offered by Edifica. Let me explain how the process works. Let’s assume that a construction company has foreman out at a job site overseeing 10 employees. Using Edifica that foreman can create timesheet entries for each of those employees daily which are sent to the cloud in real time and the main office can have access to this data immediately. At the end of the week or pay period, timecards are generated digitally and a text message is sent out automatically to each of the employees with a link which gives them private access to review and digitally sign their time card using their smartphone. No smartphone, no problem. The foreman can share their smartphone or tablet to let any employee review and sign his or her time card. All signatures are time-stamped, stored digitally and paired with their corresponding time tracking data. The company can also use this data to generate a flat file that can be forwarded to their payroll company to significantly reduce the time required to process payroll. Edifica also eliminates unnecessary trips to the office to drop timecards off and we stored time cards digitally for record keeping.

 

Soon after receiving all this feedback we realized that the time tracking features of Edifica could be useful to other industries other than the construction industry. We set out to extract the time tracking capabilities to create a new product and that’s how Cloudtimecards was born. We rushed to come up with a working product to get it into people’s hands and start gathering their thoughts about the product. Towards the end of 2016, we started working on a missing piece. Cloudtimecards needed a mobile application to allow individual employees to punch in and to share location data with their employers, so we created Android and iOS versions of the mobile application, which you can find here.

Summer heat in California (Central Valley)

If you are someone who lives in the Central Valley of California then you know how hot it can get during Summer season. The record shows high 116’F and average 90’s during July. If your job or business has you out in the field jumping from one job site to another, make sure to wear protected layer of clothes to prevent any sort of sunburn. And yes, drink plenty of water when on the move. On average, an adult should consume about 2 liters or half a gallon of water a day. Take your breaks, don’t just put them on your timecard for record proof. Literary, take your 10-15 minute breaks when dealing with severe hot weather conditions. Many small businesses who provide outside services, for example, pool cleaning, plumber, AC repair, landscaping services, towing services and etc… Start their day early to beat the heat wave. Re-organize your weekly work schedule to prevent working long hours in the summer heat. If you are not a morning person, consider moving your work schedule into the evenings (“if allowable”).

It’s not all work during the summer

Don’t forget to enjoy your summer with family and friends. Many memorable moments happen during the summer time. Take the family out to the lake, or to a steak house. Fire up that grill and slap some ribs onto the grill. Who doesn’t like a backyard gathering? Remember, give time to your loved ones and have a balanced life.

This info does not imply to just California. Many others who deal with summer conditions should consider in actually taking their breaks and drinking plenty of water. Or, think in how to reschedule your weekly work to prevent from working in hot weather conditions.

If you have suggestions or tips. Please leave a comment in our comment section below.

Take Charge of your Stress

As a human being, we have responded to stress differently there’re no “one size fits all” in managing stress. We explain stress as if “I just have a million things going on right now” and/or “Things are always crazy around here.” Do you blame your stress on other people or outside events?

Be in Control of Stress

Take charge: of your lifestyle, thoughts, emotions, and the way you deal with problems.  Identify what causes you to have stressed throughout your work day. For example, at your job site is it a particular job task or co-worker that causes you to have stress? Look into specifics why this causes problems: does the job task have a short deadline that causes you to worry about time, does your co-worker constantly ask for assistance in everyday tasks that causes to lose track of your priorities? Making sure to step away from your daily activities in order to effectively find what causes you to stress.

Keep the mind healthy

It does not mean to take on a challenging puzzle, believe it or not doing puzzles only activate certain part of the brain. Many doctors suggest that you take on a physical activity. This causes your blood vessels within your body and brain to dilate which activate certain chemicals that help your neurons stay healthy. Get up from where you are sitting and stretch out those muscles. Find something that will get you outside, like hiking, beach walks, dance clubs, etc… Many say that the mind is shaped by all ideas, experiences, and thoughts that you are exposed. What you choose to consume for your mind will make more-or-less healthy.

Consider looking into someone whom you admire

Is the person that you admire have good behaviors that you would like to adopt into your lifestyle. Ask them what they do on a daily basis, what they are thinking throughout their day. Consider putting the practice in developing new behaviors, because they don’t happen overnight.

Take Action

Remember stress can be managed. You just need to stop and look into your daily activity and identify what is causing you to have it. Consider into talking to someone about your current situation, it will help clear your mind in understanding ‘how’ and ‘why’ you are having stress.

If you have any comments or suggestions. Please write a comment below.

What is SaaS?

If you are not up to date on all the modern acronyms then you might not know what SaaS means, what it does nor what it means for you as small business owner. SaaS or Software as a service is a relatively new concept and it could potentially save your business a lot of money.

Before SaaS

Before this concept existed, software was already around and very useful for businesses. This was in the early to mid-2000’s. Internet connection speeds were not what they are now and the most viable way to distribute software was through a physical medium like CDs or DVDs. Let’s use one of the most prolific software packages Microsoft Office, as an example in a real-world scenario. If you owned a construction business in the 2000’s and you purchased the latest version of Office, Office 2000 in 2001 for your office staff to use. When the next version came out in 2002 you would have had to weigh the pros and cons to decide whether or not to upgrade to the new version. Then in 2003, when the next version came out you would have to have done the same, and then again in 2007 and again every other subsequent version. You get the point. Every version was a bunch of cash that had to be spent for your office staff to have the latest and greatest. Back in those days, legally, you only had two options (unless you were willing to take the risk of pirating software), which were skip a version or two of the product to save money or opt for the more expensive option and buy software every time a new version came out.

And there was SaaS

The significant improvements in internet connection speeds opened up another way for distributing software. By the late 2000’s and early 2010’s many software vendors had adopted the SaaS model. According to a Gartner Group estimate, in 2010 SaaS sales reached $10 billion. Now software vendors charge a monthly subscription and let you download the software and install it on your computer. Every so often software vendors check via the internet whether your subscription to the software still valid and if is not, they will prevent you from being able to use the software. When a new version of the software comes out guess what, no extra fee, usually software vendors let you download the new version and install it at no extra cost. This definitely changed the software market.

Conclusion

This is a win-win situation. Now, if you have a new employee coming into your organization you pay $8.25 for Microsoft Office per month instead of $229.99 upfront. If for whatever reason the new employee doesn’t work out you simply stop the subscription after a month of two and you only set your company back $16.50, not $230. This also helps the software vendor keep users on the up and up and minimize losses on revenue due to piracy losses. Don’t get me wrong, Microsoft is not the only vendor doing this Google is doing it, Adobe, Intuit (the makers of QuickBooks) and many others. If you are a small business trying to save money, SaaS might the way to go.

Keep up with Industry Trends – Don’t get left behind

How you been in moments where a friend or business neighbor shared information with you that may sound new to you. But, in reality, this information has been out since last year. Personally, I’ve been caught in this situation many times.


Trend

a general direction in which something is developing or changing.” 


What are ways to keep up with industry trends?

Social Media

Start by following key leaders who share knowledge about the Industry you are in. There are options to keep you notified when a key influencer posts information. Check your social media account settings to enable notification alerts. A good source to quickly stay informed of industry trend is twitter.

Subscribe to blogs

Subscribe to blogs is another way to keep up to date with information. This is usually the preferred way in really diving into industry trends. Bloggers tend to share insightful information with a personal opinion on top of the topic they are talking about.

Attend a conference

This option can come with a price tag, but you definitely get to the opportunity to network. Connecting and sharing knowledge about your industry can benefit both parties. You might get lucky and get a chance to talk face to face with a key influencer in your industry. Make sure to get your free t-shirts!

Join an organization

Joining an organization can help you stay informed of legal information that can affect your industry. A big plus of being part of an organization is the community events. This can help your business develop an organic presence within the community.

Being connected with industry trends is a big part of being a successful business owner. Constantly seeing where your industry is leading, what kind of technology is available? Looking into how your competition is doing. Remember, information is king when it comes to making decisions for your business.

If you have suggestions on how to keep up with industry trends. Please leave a comment below.

5 TED Talks for Small Business Owners

TED talks for small business owners

TED talks – you probably heard of this website and watch few of them or none. They share an array of topics that can leave you informed and inspired. But, today’s post topic is looking at these 5 videos if you are someone who owns or works at a small business should watch.

Here are the 5 Talks you should look into:

  1. How great leaders inspire action

“Simon Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership — starting with a golden circle and the question “Why?” His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright brothers …” – TED Talks

  1. The way we think about work is broken

“What makes work satisfying? Apart from a paycheck, there are intangible values that, Barry Schwartz suggests, our current way of thinking about work simply ignores. It’s time to stop thinking of workers as cogs on a wheel.” – TED Talks

  1. The single biggest reason why startups succeed

“Bill Gross has founded a lot of startups, and incubated many others — and he got curious about why some succeeded and others failed. So he gathered data from hundreds of companies, his own and other people’s, and ranked each company on five key factors. He found one factor that stands out from the others — and surprised even him.” - TED Talks

  1. Two reasons companies fail — and how to avoid them

“Is it possible to run a company and reinvent it at the same time? For business strategist Knut Haanaes, the ability to innovate after becoming successful is the mark of a great organization. He shares insights on how to strike a balance between perfecting what we already know and exploring totally new ideas — and lays out how to avoid two major strategy traps.” – TED Talks

  1. How data will transform business

“What does the future of business look like? In an informative talk, Philip Evans gives a quick primer on two long-standing theories in strategy — and explains why he thinks they are essentially invalid.” - TED Talks

There you have it. Check out these five clips to get in the rhythm of learning new things from industry leaders. Yes, this post could have been called “9 TED Talks That Anyone Working in Small Business Should Watch” I believe one of these talks will be informative in your daily small business activities, and hopefully inspire you to keep seeking ways to improve your skills.

If you have a video that would benefit small business owners please share it with us.