Expanding the Tempo Beta

2009-06-23 20:00:00 -0400


As the regular readers and some of our customers know, we’ve been running a limited beta test of the newest version of Tempo. At this point we’ve gotten quite a few big bugs and show-stoppers out of the way, and we’re ready to let everyone have at it. Hopefully, this will help us uncover any lingering issues, nagging nuisances, and hidden bugs. It will also introduce the new interface to everyone! We hope you not only find it easy on the eyes, but more importantly that you find it extremely functional and efficient.

We worked very closely with nGen Works to design this interface, bringing to them all of the concerns and difficulties our customers have expressed over the last couple of years. It’s a radical change, design-wise, although all the functionality we know and love is still there and improving. It will take a little getting used to, for sure, but we’ve found that after even just a little time in the new interface we can’t bring ourselves to use the old one anymore.

Without further ado, you can join in the beta here:

https://beta.keeptempo.com

  • Your web-browser will likely balk at the SSL certificate with a warning – we assure you that it’s safe to ignore this warning and proceed, it’s a self-signed cert.
  • This is live data, your data!
  • You can always go back to the current interface at this link.

So kick the tires, spend some time with it, and tell us what you think. The end-of-month is coming up, we’re particularly curious to see how it holds up for others when it’s time for billing — it was all aces for us last month (after we fixed a few bugs).


Amanda Palmer Shows Them How It's Done

2009-06-23 20:00:00 -0400


One of my favorite artists, Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls, has managed to make more money over Twitter in 10 hours ($19,000) than she has from her recent major-label released album ($0). She’s got a great write-up describing how she did it, but the main points are brilliant and obvious — she’s dealing direct, she’s giving the people what they want. This isn’t so much surprising as it is one of those bell-weather moments for the music industry. It’s also the first time I’ve actually heard of anybody really making money off Twitter, and it’s nice to see it’s not one of those “Internet marketing experts.”


Keep the Criticism Coming

2009-06-15 20:00:00 -0400


There were some very discouraging signs from Apple out of the WWDC with regard to iPhone developers and the App Store review process, but it sounds like the pile of online criticism is having some effect on them:

I also learned, through various statements and implications, that the App Review team tries to actively avoid major blog publicity about bad rejections, and it’s something they take very seriously. This means, fortunately for us as iPhone-dev bloggers, that we matter and we should continue to bitch incessantly whenever anything is rejected for an invalid or ridiculous reason..


iPhone SQLite Encryption with SQLCipher

2009-06-15 20:00:00 -0400


Just a quick note that Stephen’s tutorial on building encrypted iPhone applications with SQLCipher has been published by the fine folks at Mobile Orchard. Thanks, Dan!


Getting Tagging Right in Tempo

2009-06-15 20:00:00 -0400


This post is mostly concerned with the beta version of our time-tracker, Tempo. Every time we do a redesign round, we try to fix nagging issues with the UI, and I think we may have actually made a long-overdue improvement to how tagging works.

Being able to arbitrarily tag time entries is one of the things that makes Tempo’s reporting so flexible and dynamic, but it comes with some trade-offs over more static associations that other time trackers use (e.g. Activities, Tasks). One of the many benefits of using tags over tasks is that there’s no need for an administrator to set up your activities in advance – when you need a new label for an entry, you just use it. However, such dynamism can be pretty confusing to those who are entirely unfamiliar with the ideas of tagging and meta-data — which is a lot of people. Some new users end up looking at the new entry form and ask, “how do I designate my time?”

Once you explain to new users how tagging works, their next obvious (and reasonable) question is “how do I know what tags to use?” We were recently assisting a new client shop that was starting to use Tempo, and one of the main concerns there was the possibility that people might use different tags to label tasks that needed to be grouped together, that one person on their team might bill their consultation hours as ‘meeting’, while another person might use ‘meetings’. Clearly, we want new users and teams to be able to hit the ground running, so this needed to be fixed1.

To make matters more interesting, our current interface could become quite cumbersome for anybody using tags extensively. The control for adding tags is just a text-field, so all you need to do is type them in. But users sometimes want and/or need to see the tags they’ve already used. To solve this we provided auto-complete (a type-ahead suggest) on the field itself, so that if the user pauses while typing, suggestions are given based on tags they’ve already used. In addition, there’s an optional display of all tags on the selected project that the user can choose from. Predictably, this list gets pretty big, pretty fast:

What to do?

The first thing we decided to do was to give projects a set of “preferred tags”. When a user sets up a new project, she can now assign a list of tags that her teammates could/should use when billing their time:

From there we put together some custom SQL to roll-up the most frequently used tags on a project (the top ten), as well as a union of those frequently used tags with the project’s preferred tags. It’s this collection that we now display for a user in the entry form, below the tag field:

As the image shows, the preferred tags from the previous image now show up alongside popular tags on this project, such as “thuglife.” (Image was taken from our testing account.) If it’s not already apparent, the user can click on any of the tags, causing the tag to be added to the tags field. We think this solves a few problems:

  • It’s more apparent now that the Tags field is for labeling one’s time.
  • A new user can see what tags are commonly used and/or preferred.
  • The list of tags shown will only grow to 10 + (Number of Preferred Tags).
  • We retain the text field for quick entry by advanced users.

This updated interface is now in place on the Tempo beta site. If you’d like access to the beta, please get in touch, we could always use more help tightening all the screws.

1 It should be noted that the batch tags interface allows a project manager to combine, add, and remove tags from all entries in a report. This provides a facility for cleaning up entries that may have been mis-tagged.