Category Archives: Coffee break

Learn something new or simply have fun during the coffee break.

Dan’s presentation at Appcelerator Meetup @ Mobile World Congress 2012

I’m the most annoying person on Appc’s QA forum, my name is Dan and this is how I can be found:


Today I will try to talk about my experience as a freelancer that uses Titanium for all his mobile projects.

The community

screenshot of the Appcelerator community website

This is the Appcelerator Community. I’d like to tell you about what drives me to spend so much time on the QA. I love the open source movement and I think that helping other people will make us better and we’ll finally achieve world peace.

WRONG! This is wrong, but not as in lying but as in not telling the whole truth, just like marketing does 😀

Let’s take a client. Kevin (Whinnery) looks like he knows some stuff about Appcelerator and he wants a cross-platform application. Somehow he finds my website.

Dan Tamas portfolio screenshot from his website

A freelancer’s life is usually governed by NDAs. Everybody wants an NDA as if their project will be the next Angry Birds. When you reach a certain level and people start to know you, you begin to have better and more complex / interesting / nicer projects. But we all know how this usually happens.

The X (big) company hires a Marketing company to take care of their image, website and of course mobile apps. But they need programmers for this, so they hire a programming company. Well the story is that the programming company is nothing more than a few guys in-house and the rest of the team is made by us, the freelancers. And as you suspected they will want an NDA, because they also have one from the Marketing company or they don’t want the world to know that somebody else did their job.

I can tell you that I have worked for 2 companies so big that everybody in this room heard about. But of course I cannot tell you who they are. You might believe me or not but Kevin, the client, surely won’t – he needs something to see and not just simple words.

So coming back to my portfolio what does the client see?

Some certification – everybody has one – a boring FunyABC app for kids, MotorSport – an auto magazine for a German publication, some books and of course the biggest hit: the divorce calculator.

Nothing fancy, nothing outstanding. But because I’m pretty in the picture he gives me a chance and asks me for an interview.

What can I come up with?

I come up with this: I’m number 2 in the Top Experts
Appcelerator top experts: Dan Tamas is second

And this: I’m an Enterprise user of the framework with access to professional support, free modules and… free beer of course 😀
Dan Tamas profile on Appcelerator website

And I start to explain to the client that I’m a Titan, that I was chosen “Titan of the month” back in September, that I wrote some tutorials and, starting tomorrow, that I was invited to speak to an event organized by Appcelerator itself.

At this point there are very few clients that will discard me as a candidate for their project. If he’s not looking for cheap work or unless some other Titan manages to impress him better – like Aaron or Matt or any other guy spending his time on the QA forum – I’m all set.

How do you reach this level?

  1. Spend some quality time on QA, giving answers to questions, but good answers.
  2. Write articles and tutorials, people are searching for good Titanium tutorials.

Appcelerator as company is a little different because they are really helping the community, despite what some people complain on the forum. For example, most of the Titans have Pro accounts – for free – and the most active guys on QA are actually Appcelerator employees.

As you see, 1 hour ‘wasted’ on QA every day starts to bring something back.

Also reading other people’s answers makes you a better programmer, you learn for free just by reading their posts. And we have the whole stuff about clients impressed by this, as I just told you.

Bottom line

So bottom line – as a freelancer, build your business around the community. That one hour a day spent helping other people will have the best ROI you ever saw.

The Meetup in pictures

Meeting the Appcelerator guys

Kevin Javier and  Dan Tamas at Appcelerator Meetup Barcelona 2012

Kevin Javier and  Dan Tamas at Appcelerator Meetup Barcelona 2012

Nolan Jeff and  Dan Tamas at Appcelerator Meetup Barcelona 2012

Dan Tamas speaking at Appcelerator Meetup Barcelona 2012

Dan Tamas speaking at Appcelerator Meetup Barcelona 2012

Dan Tamas speaking at Appcelerator Meetup Barcelona 2012

Javier Rayon speaking at Appcelerator Meetup Barcelona 2012

Javier Rayon speaking at Appcelerator Meetup Barcelona 2012

Javier Rayon speaking at Appcelerator Meetup Barcelona 2012

Reasons to be cheerful – Chris Heilmann talking at Fronteers 2010

For those of you webdevelopers who have 1 hour to spare I am offering this Chris Heilmann talk at Fronteers 2010 in Amsterdam. I promise you it’s funny, engaging, motivating and it will make you feel good to be a part of the web world 🙂

You can find information on the Fronteers Conference website and all the 14 sessions (about HTML5, CSS3, Accessibility, Javascript, Design and more) are now on their Vimeo channel.

Funny and serious TED talks about education by Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson gave 2 very funny and impressive TED talks about revolutionizing the education (one in 2006 & one in 2010) and we got so excited about these that we decided to post them here and share them with you. In case you don’t know TED you might wanna check more talks and ideas on their website.

2006 – Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity

2010 – Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution!

Changing Education Paradigms

A wider notion of ability

A talk about abilities, recognizing the talents that each of us have and identifying all the senses we can develop and use. You can see more interesting videos at Creative Momentum page or their Vimeo channel.

In case you know about more speakers we should follow, drop us a line. I’ll keep updating this post with more talks.

Multibrowser Pixel-perfect addon for horizontal grid designs :)

It’s Friday, I was thinking to have a little fun and offer you this brand new multibrowser addon to create pixel-perfect layouts based on a horizontal grid.

Multibrowser addon for layouts based on horizontal grids

We will also think about a vertical one, or mixing vertical and horizontal grids to bring some happiness into designers’ world 🙂

Suggestions and improvements are welcome and much appreciated. 🙂

A website is not a kilogram of apples

I have recently discovered an interesting blog and while reading one of its posts I firmly believed Julio, the author, read my mind. I translated it with his help and with the help of Alex & Gillian Meldrum and here it is for you to read and enjoy.

When quoting for work, we seem to hear the same refrain – “expensive”. Why?

When you take your car to the garage to be repaired, do you automatically question the cost and suggest that the mechanic’s hourly rate is too high? Probably not. Yet we hear it routinely. Why should construction of a website be any different? Is there any real suggestion that the level of skill involved in creating websites is in any way less valuable than that of a mechanic? Or any other skilled trade or profession for that matter?

And even if your business model is geared to offer the client genuine value for the level of expertise provided, it’s still the same complaint. Somehow, clients are able to find lower quotes and still think that this will deliver the same result (“their website”) and therefore that we are “expensive”. And they are not afraid to tell us this.

There are a number of reasons why this is happening. One of them is that the market is not yet ready to really understand what constitutes a ‘good’ website. There is a difference between being able to find what you need on the web (as a user) and understanding the architecture that the site needs to guide users to it. Many clients don’t really understand what they need so they leap into the unknown and keep their fingers crossed. After all, when people are competing for your work, they will always tell you that they can deliver what you need – and they will usually tell you what you want to hear (as opposed to what you need to hear).

Let’s think about this in a wider context. If you need a very good brain surgeon, how do you reach one? How would you choose one? You can’t exactly look in Yellow Pages, under “good surgeons”! Other doctors would recommend one based on reputation and experience in their field. After all, most of us wouldn’t know where to start with a list of criteria that makes a good brain surgeon. But what if you still had to choose from a shortlist? Where would you start? What if none of the candidates is suitable? How can YOU evaluate them, when THEY are the experts?

Inexperienced clients tend to rely either on mainly subjective criteria (such as the impression given by the salesman/developer and whether their face fits) or on a very common objective one: the price.

If the quotes for the “same job” are 6.000 Euros and 1.500 Euros respectively, what quote would you choose? The majority of clients would instinctively say “the 1500 Euros one”.

But if you think about it for a moment, is it ever really possible to get more for less?

Clients are rightly wary, but if somebody offers a product for a fraction of the price, they somehow still believe that the final product will be essentially the same. But here’s the crunch: all website are not equal. And if we continue the car analogy, if somebody offers you a brand new top of the range Mercedes for next to nothing, do you really think that it’s a genuine bargain? Or do you suspect that there must be something amiss?

The truth is that, at the moment, websites seem to be bought much like apples at the supermarket. You can go to the budget supermarket, where they’ll be cheaper, because you know there won’t be much difference between them. Or if there is, it is probably so subtle that it is not really worth the effort of going to a different shop. After all, it’s only apples.

But a website is not a kilogram of apples. It’s not simple merchandise. A website is a custom development and the difference is always in the team working on it. The experience, knowledge, formation, seriousness and commitment of the team is key. The final product and its quality will be the fruit of this custom development and the results obtained from it will be directly proportional to this quality.

This is what the client needs to appreciate. If the product or the strategy of the client is not correctly established, or if the website is not usable, accessible from different platforms or if the code is not standard and semantic (and hence indexable by search engines) then they are wasting their money.

Suddenly the 1500 Euros “bargain” will be seen for what it is – a false economy. Perhaps the client will recognize that they have missed an opportunity to promote their business, to outshine their competition and to have a website that does what they need. Sooner or later they may need to develop a new website from scratch. This involves investing further time, energy and of course money.

Unfortunately, the majority of projects seem to fall into this category and that’s why a lot of companies go through various websites, always looking for “the final version”. Browsing a few random websites is enough to see how much wasted money and how many lost business opportunities there are.

Now that’s what I call “expensive”.

Other interesting posts can be found on Julios blogs: Stanque and Realidad Aparte. I strongly recommend those who understand Spanish language to take a look at Padres y empleadores. Clientes y usuarios.