Categories
Imported From Epistula trutap Work

Trutap Goes Away

(Viewers are reminded that the following article does not represent the views of anybody else at all by default, though they are welcome to agree if they like. This – obviously – includes anyone else who works for my soon-erstwhile employer. Keep your arms and legs inside the cart at all times)

As reported in Techcrunch UK yesterday:

Trutap, a leading UK mobile startup, is to let go almost 80% of its staff after failing to hit its window for a second round of funding. The blow comes only a month after the launch of its latest software application for aggregating social networks on the mobile, the milestone of over 250,000 users and the launch of a revenue-raising advertising platform.

Trutap, for those of you playing along at home, are the people who give me a paycheque every so often.

To quote one of my coworkers, just when we got our ducks in a row, someone switched off the duck harvesters. I am in the 80% of the cull, unfortunately, and so am currently looking for a brand new job. Trutap is a company it has been my absolute pleasure to work for for the last two years or so, and I’m going to be sad to leave it. This is the second startup that’s gone against the wall as I’ve been working for it. I’m hoping I’m not doing anything wrong…

Mostly, we’ve been shafted by circumstance. Our main investors – as the article says – wandered out of the market just as we were needing a new round of funding.

The various technical news sites have taken something of a depressingly predictable view of why we failed. Classically there are a couple of classes of detractors, both with the same root argument, embodied by this comment by “The Spy” on TCUK:

Doesn’t everyone, who’s anyone, just own an iPhone now? So this app/service is a waste of time

This comment annoys me for several reasons. Mostly because of the sheer level of bollockry it contains in a few short words. No, not everyone has an iPhone, whilst they are very nice devices (and yes, I have one as my primary handset) they are clearly not a panacea. They aren’t ready for prime time as a business handset yet (The lack of support for Apple’s own caldav server, let alone anything else, is a case in point) and whilst the battery-life is better than it was, it’s still not great. Also, they are expensive. I have ranted before on why you can’t just ignore the 99% of the world that does not have an iPhone, and so shall not do so again. This time.

But there are technical hurdles. Future Platforms developed the Java Applet bit of Trutap, and recently published a couple of articles on the process specifcally to us and also in general on the platform, and it’s remarkably like the same arguments that were being made a few years ago about developing websites for different browsers. You start off sniffing for specific browsers and using different page versions for each one, sharing as much content as you can, but eventually you realise that this is not a process that scales far enough and go for a general solution that uses the features you can find.

As for the TT service itself, it’s not going anywhere for a little while. The cutbacks are not total, and we’re aiming to keep the servers on for as long as we can.

As for me, I’ve got an interview to go to. And another tomorrow. And another the day after. And potentially another on Friday.

It’ll all be fine.

Categories
Imported From Epistula Mobile trutap

Trutap Two

Today, I went to the Future of Mobile conferency thing in Kensington. This happens to be the very first industry thing I’ve been to where the company I work for has had a major showing, and a major showing we made today. Not only with CEO Doug Richards going on a freeform odysssy of not only the future of mobile but its present also, up to Tom Hume of Future Platforms presented a talk on how designing multiple interfaces for each phone isn’t something that scales effort very well, and scaling very well is precisely the solution to the problem. FP are the people who build the TT App.

On top of that, CTO Carl did a panel at the end, Product Manager Luke’s on the spot for a workshop tomorrow (I think) and, generally, we were Visible.

I arrived a little late, but wasn’t too fussed about missing the first subjective five hours of the Phone Operating Systems panel, and instead only sitting though the final subjective two hours. There was a running theme of “The world would be better if the Operating Systems worked together” which was to be implemented as “You should work with us”, a theme that continued though the day, with Adobe’s Open Screen thing announcement starting off with “Do you know what sucks? The fact that everyone’s solution to the ‘There are too many platforms’ problem being to create a new platform.” I actually honestly hoped they had worked out a solution to this, and indeed they have. They have created a new platform. But it’s based on Flash, so that’s all right then.

Currently there are three main problems with developing mobile applications. They are these:

  1. The phone operating systems
  2. The operators
  1. The install base.

    1 & 2 are classic problems. There are a wide range of operating systems for phones, few of which allow for things to run on more than one of them, and the desire for Operators to not become merely another data pipe (as the land-line phone companies did before them as the Web spread) but to retain a measure of control over their users (be it by refusing to allow non-signed apps to be installed as in the US, or by limiting data use by screwing around with socket access and web proxies as in Europe. Three have even started inserting HTML into pages in mid-flight, a-la 1990s Geocities).

    The third problem is the elephant in the room that none of the proposed solutions cover. It’s all very well for the iPhone interface to be cool, for Android and new Symbian installs to allow access to the phone’s data, for the Open Screen faffery to allow porting an application from phone to browser to desktop to mind-link by redefining the interface specification, but none of those are of any use to anyone who bought a phone before 2006.

    You can’t just pull a new standard out of your arse, say “I solved it!” and entirely ignore the billions of handsets and users that are simply not using “smart” level handsets. Like the rise of CSS in the last few years, but on a much larger scale, it’s not enough to declare that everyone else is doing it wrong simply because the early adopters now have something that does it right, you can’t just stop supporting them yet. We’re not even in the transition phase, where we have something to migrate to.

    It’s getting better. Back when I was working for Internet Designers, we were working on Java-based games for some of the very first mobiles to support it. At that point, one of the phones was so strapped for memory that Nokia had sliced out the portions of Java that allowed for network connectivity. You could access the internet, or you could run a Java app, but you couldn’t do both at the same time. As functionality increases, compatibility increases, and as more companies rely on full support of the VM, it gets slowly better with phone releases. Sometimes it gets worse.

    One of the recurring themes when the tech-’bloggers’ (Still hate that damned phrase after ten years) took to the stage was that the fundamentals still have to be solved. There’s no point in developing the next wonder-app if nobody ‘normal’ will download it because they’re afraid they’ll get a bill for a thousand pounds in data charges. Comparison was made to the days before flat-rate dial-up, and for good reason. The concept of bill-shock has migrated to a new industry (Ironically, much less of a problem in places like India, where the phone is the primary network device (few people have PCs, so most access is net-café based, therefore public, therefore not used for Social Networking, both with and without capitals), because the data rate is much lower).

    It’s slow, and it’s frustrating, and I know this because I did it as a web developer, but just because the technology that makes all this so much cooler is so very close that we – the early-adopter ‘Mobipro’ capitalist westerners – can see it doesn’t mean we can leap to it yet.

    The future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet. (William Gibson)

    On that note, and because I really should mention it, Trutap – who still pay my wages – launched the new Version Two app this week, with the brand new even cooler interface:

    The new application, which anyone can download for free, blends intuitive design with a range of interactive features that make finding and keeping in touch with friends really easy. Key features include: a personal newsfeed, ‘who’s online’, status & location, extended profile, searchable user directory, private messaging, email, SMS, blogging, photo-sharing and mobile IM.

    We haven’t released ports for every phone yet – there are various different versions, and they all need to be QA’d before they’re released. If you get V1 – or already use V1 – we aim to send you a trutap message soon when your phone gets the V2 version, so bare with us 🙂

    If you’ve got any problems with it, talk to nicholas@ or support@trutap.net

Categories
2008 Current Affairs Imported From Epistula trutap

Namogromo

I should have posted this a while ago, but anyway.

This year I am not doing Nanowrimo. Writing an entire novel in november seems too much like hard work. I am doing something that will make me look equally silly, but will require significantly less work on my part.

Movember.

Movember is a sponsored mustashe growing thing, with the money going to prostate cancer research and treatment. A number of people at planet Trutap are taking part (and it was weird to go into the office on Monday to see all the bearded geeks of various stripes cleanshaven. I hope a couple are carrying ID…).

It’s such a good idea, in fact, that you should sponser me to do this, by going to the movember site and doing so right now.

Every little helps. If people donate, pics will happen. Actually, if you donate enough, pics won’t happen, and the internet will be saved more silly photos of me on the internet. Go on, help 🙂

Categories
Imported From Epistula trutap

Branded Coffee

Trutap Coffee

Categories
driving Imported From Epistula Larp LUGRadio Personal Projects social trutap

An Update

Most of what I’m doing right now is working, and due to the nature of my working, it’s dull. I’m mostly writing unit tests. And because it’s work, it’s occasionally awesome and fun, challanging and occasionally frustrating. We are, however, looking for PHP dev to work in our Kings Cross office, so if you know any PHP devs looking for a new job, fire an email at nicholas care of trutap dot net. I do hope to be able to shout about stuff we’re doing soon.

Because I’ve moved to the place with the most integrated transportation network in the country, it’s obvious that the next thing I need to do is learn to drive. Since my last experience I haven’t actually had any driving lessons at all (Well, not true. I got one while in Bedford, but taking a two hour lunch break meant I missed my bus home and didn’t get back to Letchworth until 22:00. I didn’t repeat the experience), But I’ve just signed up with Go Red for a lesson on the 1st August. Now to pass my theory test for the third, and ideally final, time.

One of the reasons for the above is my current habit of going LARPing, and the fact that lugging all my stuff on trains is annoying. Also, National Rail always seem to schedule line work over me coming back from Maelstrom, which is irritating. A car would make getting there – as well as Treasure Trap in Cambridge – easier. This weekend is another Maelstrom weekend, which should be fun.

This means that I’m going to not only miss LUGRadio Live, which annoyed me, but when it became the very last LR event ever, it just seemed like malice. I’ve listened to, and enjoyed, the show from the first episode, and while I’ve recently not been much part of the community, I’m proud of the bits I have been part of. LUGRadio is a staggering achievement, and I hope someone picks up the idea and does it half as well as the various generations of Gents have over the years. I don’t know what they’re planning to do with the site after it’s over, but if it fractures into a few dozen local LUGRadio divisions – such as was originally the plan for the series, I believe – it will be interesting.

Still not completed GTA4 yet.

Most of my “home” coding right now is being done on AqWiki, which is now running a community wiki for Maelstrom fans as well as one for an Ikariam alliance – pushing the under-developed macro system to the limit with treaty managers and databases. I’m also working on Lampstand, which is an IRC bot again for Maelstrom fans. It’s based on the Twisted framework, which is something of a run-up all of its own, and eventually I hope to integrate it into a django-powered community site.

Categories
Imported From Epistula trutap

LFG

trutap, the startup who employ me, are looking for PHP webdevs and Perl devs. Details of the perl positions are on the site, PHP stuff will be up soonish. If you want more details, talk to nicholas at trutap dot net.

We’re also looking for producty people and mobile-focused QA-like people. See the link above for further details.

All positions are London based, the office has a wii but no ball pool (yet) and does do Real Coffee. We get singing cleaners and occasional dancing drunks. I should put more of this kind of stuff on the official company blog, I suppose.

Categories
Imported From Epistula intertwingularity social trutap web development weblog

It's not for you

Chris Selland:

But as a biz dev guy (who doesn’t have time – or a reason – to be online much) – and despite the fact that my job is all about relationships – I find twitter to be pretty pointless. LinkedIn, on the other hand, I use every single day.

Oh.

Good.

I’ve been watching the Social Networking backlash with something of a professional interest, seeming as I’m working for a company whose primary product is to interact with many of them, and my primary response to “I can’t use Facebook as a professional Customer Relationship Management system” and “Twitter’s no use in maintaining business relationships” and “Google’s not helping my website get more hits” is… er…:

Oh.

Good.

Twitter is ambient sociality. It’s what it is good at. It’s for “this is what I’m doing” and – more often – a ping in the background with something that someone else is doing. Attempting to use it as a network management tool, either for people or servers, is not what it is designed to do. It works suprisingly well as a command-line interface to remote websites (I’m a new convert to remember the milk), but complaining that Twitter doesn’t help you manage your business is kin to complaining that you can’t use lego for your corporate HQ. It may look the right shape, but you need a heavier tool.

Facebook is at its best as a social – in the “go out with friends” sense – network. Not as a network of everyone you have ever met, but as everyone you’ve ever wanted to keep in touch with. I have a simple criteria for adding people to facebook. a) Can I remember something you’ve said to me, b) Were you on fire, would I look an extinguisher or piss on it if the former is not an option. Subquestion: If the former _is_ an option. As a kind of online contacts directory of everyone I’ve ever met or worked with, or wish to maintain a professional relationship with, it’s not really the target market.

LinkedIn is, though. Facebook I use daily – more this week than ever before – LinkedIn I’ll visit periodically to add someone I’ve worked with/for, or more often if I’m looking for people to work with (trutap is, incidentally, hiring perldevs, Ops team & QA folks), but I wouldn’t use it to keep track of – for example – my best friends from secondary school.

There appears to be a tendency within the web technologist literati to see there only being one online social network to which you throw your allegiances and all others can hang, but they’re all better at some things than others, and until we can transport all our networks from one place to another though an defined standard format (I have my doubts as to this ever actually happening, but leave the floor open to the more optimistic) you’re always going to have more people on one network than another, so you have to decide on whether you’re going to miss out on a person for a website account, which – to me – isn’t any choice at all.

There is no silver bullet. There’s no best language as there will never be a best social network, best operating system, best text editor (though emacs will retain it’s bottom position, obviously), there is merely the best tool for what you’re looking for right now, and you can find me on most of them.

And if just one of them is perfect for everyone you want to list as a friend,

Oh.

Good.

Categories
Imported From Epistula trutap

Systematic

After a discussion in trutap towers about companies called “System”

System 1 – Software Co
System 2 – Recruiters
System 3 – Computer Games co, made “Putty” and Constructor
System 4 – Stop Smoking method
System 5 – Italian software designers
System 6 – Austrailian Rave event
System 7 – Ambient Dance band
System 8 – Swedish geek-dance band, better than I expected them to be
System 9 – Canadian software co.
System 10 Construction supply company.

(trutap went into open beta yesterday, it’s good for having IM on your mobile, and for sending group messages to your friends. You should use it)

Categories
Imported From Epistula trutap

truth of the tap

Interestingly, it appears I have now actually been with a startup long enough to launch a brand new product.

So, we – and by ‘We’ I mean “some of us and the lead designer” – went off to San Francisco to be one of the TechCrunch 40 (Who apparently believe just because their name is intercapped so is ours), and we did our presentation.

I shall, for the sake of my sanity, draw a thick veil over the leadup to the presentation, because a) I’d like to turn it into an episode in the corporate blog, and b) I do not particually wish to be murdered in my sleep.

Most fun has been reading the reports of our presentation, which include things like

My god�¦ Trutap developers take stage and peform Boys-II-Men-style jingle. What a multi-talented bunch (and apparently quite at home with public humliation.) John Paczkowski From Digital Daily

Um.

I’m in London. I can see the entire development team from my seat. Trust me, not only are we not in San Fransisco, where it’s sunny for starters, we’re also not being publically humiliated quite yet.

On the other hand, we have just launched a new service, so there’s still time.

It wasn’t us on stage. Really it wasn’t. I really am not joking. From the dev chat room this evening:

(Vivek) what was the audience reaction to me? also, which of us do they reckon is going to be the breakaway developer?

Incidentally, we’ve launched trutap, which is the name of the product I can actually say now. It’s a messaging platform with a useful and easy to use mobile client, which also does IM from the phoen. As CTO Carl said on stage, we’ll be releasing things like APIs soon.