Projects come and go, and this cycle is way important for a freelancer.
Recently I've been in a full circle for the past few months with no option to turn off for a week or so. I've been occupied even during my summer holiday (although I hadn't worked a lot there), however all of my time here is busy with existing projects, trainings, events etc.
I'm trying to close 3 CakePHP based projects at the moment and bugfix on a Croogo one. At the same time I'm doing my final lectures of my Java for QA's training for VMware. I've rejected few web projects because I cannot handle that much work and I sincerely hope that we could start something bigger. There is too much communication and coordination when you manage 4+ projects and I prefer working on 2 projects at all. That would reduce the time that we spend on meetings, skypes, mails etc with many clients at a time and help me focus on the real core of the project.
I am also negotiating on 2 Java projects, one of them is Groovy based. I am keen on Java and on scripting RAD as well and Grails does them both, so I'd be happy to code that for a couple of months, I suppose. At the same time I'm trying to teach trainings and manage more in order to have some sort of relaxation for a month or two, before I get back to the real hardcore freelance for a living.
We delivered Motoclub.BG and now it's available and accessible. The web portal is an online version of a magazine for motorcycle sports and vehicles, ATVs and others. As the bikers' favourite music is rock/metal, breaking news on concerts and live events in clubs are posted there as well.
The portal has few interesting sections for magazine online overview. You could find news and specialised articles, moto calendar with coming events, catalogue with specifications for different brands and so on. Filters and archives provide searching via keywords or month/year ranges. RSS feed on latest news is staying in the left column, next to the invitation to the Facebook group of the website.
The project is CakePHP based with MySQL database behind. I've implemented a few custom solutions on user management and RSS aggregation which I'm going to describe later.
The Skype revolution few years ago was one of the Internet innovations I was rather unhappy to happen than cool with it.
First of all, my Internet experience was based on technology that didn't allow VoIP communication at all. Hardware was weak, there were no integrated sound devices on motherboards, and the Internet connection usually was slow enough even to load pages properly. That's way my first years were related with IRC and ICQ - more chit-chatting protocols.
The other issue is the closed protocol that Skype provides. Compared to IRC that is open (free-for-all) or ICQ that is at least unlocked at some point, Skype provides no support for 3rd party clients, scripts etc. You have no idea what happens behind the scene. So in fact the only think you have is the facade, the UI that developers have meant for you to use. How does it actually work is an open question for all.
VoIP and video conf calls are great feature to talk to relatives around the world. It's free and it's good to communicate with people abroad and do more 'live' connection with voice and look. But when it comes to business, I would prefer using mails and messaging. First you have enough time to form correctly your thoughts and define it the right way for the other side. Second, you have logging which makes it suitable to keep in touch with what you have to do in a tasklist-like form. The ink is on paper, that's all.
Email/Gtalk is what I would use as an alternative.
I had a research on project management systems. My top 2 choices were .project and Collabtive. Unfortunately I was unable to properly install the .project and logically rejected using it as a personal PM solution.
What I find charming in Collabtive is the concept of usability - most important sections are in the horizontal menu on the top. The system is AJAX-oriented which makes passing through different modules almost transparent. There are few important mods:
So, what can you do with Collabtive? Add users with privillegies, write description for your clients and projects, then divide them by phases and add tasklists with tasks. You could set start/end hour for working projects and receive an invoice-like print preview of all projects and how long did you work on them. Fair enough. The only missing feature is automatic tracking and start/stop button for tasks - when you don't have to take care of start and end hour of each task.
Hope this one would be implemented, too. Otherwise you could use Toggl - either the whole PM system, or the timer only. Or use a custom tracking script.
I was surprised that I was unable to login for second time after logout. There was a technical problem with the system. I tried a couple of things to fix the issue, but no success. Some of the known issues include incorrect session.save_path in the PHP settings which can be redefined to a path with writing permissions. The other was the magic quotes option that could misunderstand your user input and therefore change the password itself.
My server had writing permissions and session.save_path changed via php.ini file so problem was hiding somewhere else. The hardcore fix was changing the password from the database:
UPDATE user SET pass = SHA1('your password') WHERE ID = 1;
The Collabtive system uses SHA1 hashing for passes, so I just hashed the pass by myself. So it's working the correct way now.
2 months ago I deployed a client project online - Оптика Зорница, for optic services, sunglasses, health consultations etc. It started with no budget for advertisements and I had to do at least basic ranking. What I did was the standard procedure:
- Chose an appropriate domain name
- Define title/keywords/descriptions
- Write valid XHTML/CSS
- Link it from my personal projects
- Submit the URL in public search engines and social networks
- Create a blog and publish information about new products, health advices and other useful data
- Simulate dynamic activity via rss feeds in the basic site
- Create Facebook fanpage of the website
I have a couple of other things to do, but I prefer doing them step by step - in order to keep regular activity and watch the continuous improvement. Currently I keep the first 2 places for the Optics name (it already existed in many ranked catalogs) and present on second page on "Оптика" search in Google. Google page rank - 2. Target is first page and blog popularity.