What’s in your tool chest?

first_imgThis is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.My friend Andy came to Boston on Tuesday. He lives in LA and sent me an e-mail to let me know he was coming to town: “If you’re free and interested, I’d be glad to buy you dinner.”Between you and me, I wasn’t sure if his invitation meant that he’d be eating along with me, but a free meal is a free meal, so I took my chances and said yes.He told me he was staying at the Westin Hotel in Copley place, so I suggested Legal Sea Foods, a terrific restaurant that never disappoints. We agreed to meet at 6:30.I arrived about 10 minutes early so I had a seat at the bar and ordered a beer. 20 minutes later he hadn’t shown up, so I sent him a text:Me: Here at Legal!
Andy: Seated
Me: Stand byI grabbed my half-full glass, walked into the restaurant proper and started looking around.No Andy. So I asked a waiter: “Have you seen a guy sitting by himself in here somewhere?” Nope.As I made my way back to the front entrance, things were starting to click together. I asked the hostess: “By any chance, is there more than one Legal Sea Foods in the area?”She smiled and handed me a small slip of paper. I confess that for one fleeting moment I thought maybe it would be her phone number, but no, it was walking directions to the other Legal Sea Food.I thanked her, sent a quick text to Andy and gulped the remainder of my beer. Eight minutes later, we were sitting down to dinner.Now I don’t know why the people at Legal feel the need for two restaurants so close together. Some people go years between seafood meals; certainly the rest of us could afford to hang on for three more blocks.Whatever the reason, clearly I was not the first person to make this mistake. The prewritten slip of paper was a smart idea – one that made the hostess’s life easier by her not having to keep repeating walking directions and my life easier by not having to remember them.So, what kinds of simple, efficient tools have you developed for your business? If you find yourself creating things from scratch, over and over again, it might be worth considering.Here are a few that I rely on, to help get you thinking:Directions to my office. I don’t get a ton of visitors, but after typing it into an e-mail a few times, I developed a one-sheet direction page complete with a map, instructions for parking and my contact information. I e-mail it to people the first time they come.Standardized cards. “Congratulations on the launch of your newsletter;” “Thank you for the referral;” “Good to meet you.”
 
Using an online service called Send Out Cards (my affiliate link) that automates the sending of snail mail cards from my computer, I’ve set up a number of standard templates. I customize the messages each time, but the format is done and ready to go.Service descriptions. I’ve got a handful of client programs that I offer. These are invariably customized for different people and different situations, but here as well, I begin with a standard template that I modify.New client questionnaire. I ask new clients to fill out a 30-question (or so) questionnaire about their company, goals, approach, clients, etc., before our first meeting.
 
It helps them begin thinking about our work together and gives me greater insight into who they are and what they need before we begin. Plus, it gives them the (accurate) impression that I’ve done this many times before.Newsletter sign-up form. Speaking to a group is a terrific opportunity to grow your newsletter subscriber list. If they like you, you can easily walk away with 75% of the room signing up.
 
I’ve got a form that I pass out and that I’ve fine-tuned over the years to make this as productive as possible (click “reply” to send me an e-mail and I’m happy to share it with you).Here’s the bottom line. Lots of solos don’t bother developing these kinds of simple tools and systems – they think they’re only for big companies and big projects.Not me. The way I look at it, the more efficient we can get managing repeatable, often mundane aspects of our work, the more time there is for eating seafood.Michael Katz is a Boston-based marketing consultant and founder of Blue Penguin Development. He specializes in helping professional service firms stand out from the pack by positioning them as Likeable Experts. Get a free copy of his report, “The Professional Service Provider’s Essential Reading List – 11 Recommended Business(ish) Books.”last_img read more

Several new and updated tools showcased at Microso

first_imgSeveral new and updated tools showcased at Microsoft’s Build developer conference in Seattle revealed how partners are following the trends toward AI, new software architectures and modernization. Here is a look at their news announcements:Progress announces Conversational UI for chatbot appsProgress today announced the May 16 availability Conversational UI, a set of controls built for chatbots. Part of Telerik and Kendo UI tools, the components give both web and application developers the ability to build natural language understanding into their solutions that can run across multiple devices and on many chatbot frameworks, including Microsoft’s Azure Bot Service.Among the challenges of creating a quality human-computer interaction is the difficulty in capturing visual cues. The new controls give developers the ability to create chatbot apps that use visual elements to “enhance the natural flow of conversation,” Progress said in its announcement. Using the components, developers can implement such things as calendars and date pickers, which can be used to steer the conversation.According to Gartner, “Many enterprises underestimate what’s needed to develop and deploy a conversational, platform-based chatbot. That’s because they assume that the service is either available as an off-the-shelf offering or can be built using a small dataset.”Because the new, customizable controls can be used in conjunction with Telerik and Kendo UI tooling, JavaScript and .NET developers can give the chatbots the same look and feel as any other web, desktop or mobile application.For more information, go to www.telerik.com/conversational-ui or join our R2 2018 Telerik Release webinar on Wednesday, May 30 at 11:30 am ET. Learn more about Progress at www.progress.com Bitnami simplifies app migration to Microsoft AzureBitnami announced support for Azure in its Stacksmith tool for automating application migration to the cloud.According to Bitnami’s announcement, Stacksmith takes a running application in the datacenter, repackages and optimizes it for cloud deployment, and delivers everything needed to successfully deploy it to a container or cloud platform.  Stacksmith then continuously monitors the replatformed application for updates and patches, providing an easy way for companies to keep applications up-to-date and secure.“Digital transformation and application modernization are important initiatives for our customers. Partnering with Bitnami to provide our users with tools like Stacksmith that can simplify that transition of their business directly to Azure cloud services is an exciting opportunity,” Gabe Monroy, lead program manager for containers at Microsoft Azure, said in the announcement. “Bitnami has demonstrated the ability to package, deploy and maintain 120+ applications as a key partner in our Azure marketplace and we’re thrilled to see that proven technology made available to our Azure users to migrate their own applications to our cloud platforms.”A free trial is available at https://stacksmith.bitnami.com/PureSec unveils intelligent serverless security solution for Azure FunctionsIsrael-based serverless security company PureSec released a beta version of its security solution for Microsoft Azure Functions, Microsoft’s serverless platform.According to the company, PureSec’s Serverless Security Runtime Environment (SSRE) defends against such application-layer attacks as NoSQL/SQL injection and other unauthorized malicious actions. With the release, PureSec claims to be the world’s first multi-cloud SSRE. It integrates into all serverless functions and scales as customer serverless applications do. It also provides visibility into serverless functions behavior and security events in real time, the company said.New VM templates eases deployment of Altova server software on AzureAltova has announced the release of a free virtual machine template for use on Azure, pre-installed with Altova server software for automating data processing and integration workflows.The template, available in the Azure Marketplace, installs all of Altova’s server software products, and users can active those they want. Using the Altova LicenseServer, customers can get free 30-day trials of all the products. The products in the template are FlowForce Server for data processing and integration; MapForce Server for mapping and aggregation of processes for XML, JSON, databases, flat files, and more; and MobileTogether Server, a gateway to get back-end data into mobile applications. Also included are StyleVision Server for business report generation; RaptorXML Server for validating and processing XML, XBRL and JSON; and DiffDog Server, for automating comparisons of files and directories in parallel computing environments. Learn more at www.altova.comMobilize.Net announces AI-powered code transformation toolWebMAP5, the latest of version of Mobilize.Net’s code transformation tool, adds Angular support as companies look to take their legacy applications to the web and the cloud.Angular support was added through Progress Kendo UI, a native Angular UI component library. Mobilize.Net gives organizations a way to take Visual Basic 6, C#, PowerBuilder and Silverlight applications to the cloud and web, using AI to help translate and re-architect legacy applications while removing the technical debt in those applications.WebMAP5 focuses on automation, developer productivity, performance, and broad support for industry standards, according to the company’s announcement. The company claims AI-assisted automation reduces the cost of a modernization project by between 80 and 90 percent. On the developer side, WebMAP5 leverages Aspect Oriented Programming, which enables the code resulting from the transformation to retain readability and maintainability, and keeps developers from having to learn new skills.PagerDuty supports Visual Studio Team ServicesIncident response provider PagerDuty announced integrations with Microsoft Azure and Visual Studio Team Services to offer teams insights into their operational health and event intelligence powered by machine learning throughout the software development life cycle.“Today, hundreds of enterprise customers are using PagerDuty + Microsoft Azure Alerts and Visual Studio Team Services integrations to successfully accelerate incident response, address issues earlier in the software delivery cycle before they impact customers, and reduce development cycle times,” the company wrote in a brief. The integrations sync incidents between PagerDuty and Microsoft Azure Alerts to gain more context about your infrastructure and services, the company said. The Visual Studio integration alerts teams to issues earlier in the development life cycle, where they are less costly to fix and have not yet affected customers. The alerting allows organizations to optimize response personnel while informing business stakeholders for deliver service faster while improving code quality.Dotfuscator updates add rooted device security controls PreEmptive Solutions today announced updates to Dotfuscator Professional Edition (to 4.35.0) and Dotfuscator CE (to 5.35.0) to include rooted device detection and response controls from Xamarin.Android applications. Rooting allows users of Android devices to gain access to subsystems that can be used to threaten those devices. “Unauthorized rooting can undermine even the best secure coding practices, data encryption policies, and identity management solutions,” Sebastian Holst, CSO at PreEmptive Solutions, said in a news release announcing the updates. “Every trusted source for secure coding practices — including the PCI Security Standards Council, NIST, OWASP, and Google — acknowledge the rooted device compromise as both difficult to detect and dangerous to both app stakeholders and app users.”According to the company, root detection and response is included with Dotfuscator at no additional cost. Dotfuscator Community Edition (CE) is available at no cost to qualified Visual Studio developers and Dotfuscator Professional licenses start at $1,750 per developer.Syncfusion announces Essential for JS 2 UI toolkit, dashboard platformSyncfusion has rebuilt its JavaScript controls from scratch, and now offers more than 35 controls for Angular development. It also has previewed the Syncfusion Dashboard Platform.According to the company, the components have been built in TypeScript as modules. This lets developers use only the components and features they want in their applications. Further, the controls have touch capability and will render according to the device upon which they are used, to optimize the user experience.The source and scripts for the JavaScript and native Angular components are available on GitHub, the company said.The Dashboard Platform will be available in the cloud June 1. Among updates are the ability to use dashboards as JavaScript widgets on web pages. The dashboards are in the Azure VM marketplace, so you can run them on any server but retain the data in your repositories. Visit www.syncfusion.com for more information.last_img read more