Week #364-365-366

Friday, February 16th, 02018 at 10:01 UTC

The flu caught-up to the office and wiped everyone out for weeks 364 & 365. We were down to just mission critical functions, which means weeknotes got the chop. That’s not to say we didn’t have somethings to say, so here’s a belated triple weeknote!

Week 364

Taken down due to sickness. We didn’t get much done Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday or Friday. In tiny gaps we did manage to send some emails, fix a few minor bugs and keep things moving forward.

We did manage to have a training meeting regarding some of our admin tools. It was only half-finished, but was good because what the client says they want or need on day one, always turns out to never be the case once you’re knee deep in the project.

Thursday we managed to get the most work done due to deadlines. We started 4 or 5 surveys for various customers. This involved email around 7,000 people and sending out some 5,000 SMSes. We’re pretty streamlined in the whole process by now and most of the day was spent checking and double-checking the right data is getting saved and the right data is getting deleted. We’re working harder and harder to remove any identifiable information, not only before you start the survey, but while it is on going. With each deploy of a new survey collection instance, we continue to refine and improve.

Our plan was that each Friday we’d try to meet someone new for lunch. These could be old contacts, friends, etc. The idea was to get out a bit more, find out what others are doing and see if we can help or they could help us. Sadly, this idea has not managed to materialize yet. From deadlines, sicknesses or cancelations we haven’t managed to get out and meet for lunch. That is one thing we are striving to improve.

Week 365

If weeks were days, we’d be 1 by now.

This week started off with a snow storm and continued with sickness. Monday and Tuesday were pretty much written-off to resting only answered some emails. Wednesday and Thursday we continued to push our bank of surveys. This means chasing respondents via email and SMS. When we started building our own survey software we made the decision to deploy a separate instance per collection survey. There are many pros and cons to this. In the past, projects we worked on for other companies did the same thing, with less than desirable results due to maintenance headaches, but we decided it was more important to segregate the data so we were 100% confident that other customers were not able to get access to each other’s data, but also one really busy survey server wouldn’t bring down everything. We’re glad we architected our services this way. This week we’ve spun-up several independent instances for very specialised surveys with no risk that our long running surveys would be affected. It gives a big piece of mind, which is important. But we also felt the pain of multiple instances this week too. After starting the surveys, it is only later when we start to press buttons like “Send SMS” and nothing happens that we remember “Oh yeah, we need to add the API keys for our SMS gateway”, so we do that. Only to find the same problem on a different instance a day later, then other forgotten API keys for Email and hosting providers. It is a bit of a nuisance, but once they are in, they rarely change. Plus, this is only really a problem for brand new instances, most of the time we set something-up and then re-use it year over year.

As we setup all the instances, one of the API keys we accepts is a Google Analytics tracking token. With GDPR coming-up we revisited why we use this and if we need it. Originally, we used the tracking token to give us a nice dashboard of how many people were in the survey “right now” and a nice 30 day heat map of popular hours. These were useful to know, but now that we know this information, we can stop tracking. On the near-future roadmap is to simply use or log files for this same information and to stop using as many 3rd party trackers as possible. It saves us paperwork for GDPR for something we don’t need anyway.

This was also the company’s 7th birthday this week. In the weeks ahead, we’ll have to find some time to celebrate and have some cake!

We do love notebooks around here, but sometimes that can be a bit of an over kill. Post-its are nice, but they get cluttered, lost and disjointed. To our amazement, the laser printer could print on large index cards. So we feed a few through and simply labelled them with the week number. Now, as we think of things we want to write about, we can jot them on this card, then at the end of the week decompress and write these notes. We’ll start next week and try it for a while and see how things go and maybe continue or not. Using index cards isn’t the most beautiful, but it is fast and easy to prototype. Better than post-its and easier than notebooks, so here we go.

Week 366

This week started with a minor panic about a project. It seems that there has been some fairly major movement without telling us. After a scramble and a few phone calls, it turns out it was a misunderstanding. The good news is that the client is committed to the project and they are working on their due-diligence portion which we accidentally interpreted as someone else had taken over the project. This one should really have a code name, like Hydra, since it is a multi-headed beast of a project. We also know this is not a sprint, but a marathon and our next contact with the client realistically won’t be until the autumn.

Tuesday was spent at the local FabLab using their vinyl cutter. We cut a bunch of privacy stickers for the bathroom and office windows. It is one of our own designs, basalt columns. It would be an interesting product idea until you realise that everyone’s windows are different widths. We spent a lot of time lining-up the columns to fit snuggly without any cropping into the frames. We could do something similar for others, but this certainly isn’t a mass-producible product at the level of quality and design we’d like.

Then two days of survey work. Prepping more for the upcoming GDPR by getting our processing registry in order. We list all of our providers, what they have access too, their physical location and more. It has been interesting to see which of our 3rd party providers are GDPR ready. A few say they are or will be, but there is always a catch. You CAN store data outside of the EU, but you need to get consent from the EU citizen first and explain the risks and possibilities. Fast-forward to some of our 3rd party providers. Dropbox for instance says they are GDPR ready. With two caveats: For business customers they will have an EU data center in Germany. Great, we’re a business customer we’re GDPR ready… but it is for business customers with 250 seats or more. So, while they say they are GDPR ready, and they probably fit all the regulations, any EU citizen’s data that we save into our business dropbox account is probably going outside of the EU. Which means we need consent first.

Needless to say, any company that says their are GDPR ready or GDPR compliment might still mean work for you! We have a few months to migrate services, upgrade or switch providers as needed. Luckily, we are pretty small and able to plug-n-play these 3rd party services easily if needed.

Finally, to round off the week, we’re spending today in meetings and running through the todo list for the upcoming Material Conference. We have several speakers confirmed, so now we are flipping the switch on the blind bird tickets and making some announcements.