Wedding Websites - Tools of the trade

So having recently gotten married, a website is very useful when it comes to updating guests on the latest information, gathering RSVP’s and generally building excitement towards the big day. Initially I looked at using one of the many services available but most of the free ones are very limited in functionality or you have to pay an huge fee to get the decent features. I then figured that I do it myself for much cheaper using existing resources I had at my disposal.

The website itself is another Jekyll site with a bootstrap based theme. The site structure was controlled by configuration in the _config.yml file, and content was from markdown files (although I did write a lot of html and some javascript). The site is hosted next to this one using nginx, with the only extra was to add a .htaccess file and associated configuration to have a password protected area on the site. All other backend requirements were fulfilled by using Zapier. This is a hugely useful service for businesses and personal alike, they very simply join internet services together without any coding required from the user. Initially I used it to take Typeform responses and add them to a Google Sheet, again I cannot recommend Typeform enough a beautiful, easy to use service (although a bit pricey if you need to pay and are just one person). Then I used the inbuilt Zapier webhooks in combination with a ReactJS UI to take process the more complex response (multiple guests from one submit) of the RSVP to email a confirmation and again add them to a Google Sheet. All of the above allowed for a very smooth interaction on the site with minimal costs ($40 for 2 months of paid Zapier while we took RSVPs).

The other main task when organising a wedding is emailing out information or reminders and allowing people to email you. Luckily I have a Google Apps account from when it was free so it was incredibly easy to setup a new user with the domain we have purchased and then forward emails to both me & my wife. For those that do not have the fortunate access to Google Apps and would like to use a custom domain I would recommend Mailgun (check out this post for details). Finally for emailing everyone we used Mailchimp. With their list management you can organise each guest into groups making it easy to target specific guests with relevant reminders. Also given each email is wrapped up in a marketing campaign you can (in a slightly creepy way) track opens & clicks of links making it super easy to follow up individually when needed.

One thing that I have left todo is use flickr (and if possible Google Photos) to display photos of the day on the site and if guests still remember submit their stories from the day (still working out how to do this easily…!)

#website #wedding #zapier #react #mailchimp

Meetup & Website Improvements

Two smaller topics for today!

Firstly I attended the London React Native Meetup, it was an excellent event with 2 very interesting talks, good food and location (many thanks to the fine folks at Theodo & Masabi). The first talk explored how to plug the gaps in React Native with the Native Modules API and the second explained about a boilerplate project called Pepperoni as well as giving a very swift tutorial on React+Redux. Both were very informative and filled some gaps in my knowledge.

The second topic for today is that the website is getting an small upgrade. Tags that have been appearing at the bottom of each post are now links! These links will take you to all posts related to that tag. I am now also posting to Twitter as well as Linkedin when I publish a post.

#meetup #mashup #upgrade #website #reactnative

Bitesize Learning

I have a love for new information, be that new code tricks to use at work, a new perspective from a book or magazine or new recipes to adapt into something new creation in the kitchen. So often though I lack the time or will power to read a whole book, or create a new code project to play around with a new library, which is why I am particularly enjoying the new trend of bitesize learning. Most have probably seen the 60 second recipe videos on Facebook from Tasty, I have yet to follow one exactly but they have certainly inspired me to try and combine different ingredients that I wouldn’t have thought of before.

It is two apps that I want to highlight that are really pushing me into this trend of bitesize learning, the first is called Enki which allows developers to get a 5 minute daily mental workout. First, you need to select technical topics that interested you (eg python, scss, linux, git, etc), set a time to be reminded to do your workout (mine is ~8am), and then finally each morning I get 5 small lessons around one of those topics. They have also built simple games to test your knowledge as well as feedback, commenting and even recording your progress on Github. Currently the app is invite only, but I can certainly recommend it as I have learnt a number of tips & tricks already.

The second app is called Blinkist, to get the full experience of what they costs a fair amount, however I am still trying to build a habit around what they offer for free. Anyway these guys take non-fiction books and break them down into ‘blinks’ which are ~1-2 minute summaries of the main points of a book. Therefore you can cover the whole book in an average time of 10-12 minutes. One feature I find particularly interesting, it that they recommend who should read these ‘blinks’ which really helps define if you would be interested in the book. They have a huge selection which you can pay for, but the free tier offers just one pre-chosen book every 24 hours. I personally find this constraint interesting as it will force me to consider books I would never normally pick up, however as mentioned I have yet to work this app into my daily routine. Again this is another recommendation from me, although the paid options are personally a bit steep the free option is definitely worth a try, however for someone who loves non-fiction this would be a worthwhile investment.

#apps #learning #bitesize #books #code

Deep Work by Cal Newman

Towards the beginning of the year our founder & chairwoman bought the whole team the afore mentioned book. It was definitely an interesting read, although the first half could be seen as a waste of time, I found that it put the subject in context which leads to the actionable points in the second half of the book.

The major point that the book makes is that we have two modes of work: ‘shallow’ and ‘deep’. Shallow work is all the emails & social media you can handle along with meetings and other appointments. The real success in today’s knowledge economy is when you can do Deep work, focusing on the task at hand, this allows you to be very productive but it takes training to be in this mode for long periods of time and even then one can only do about 4-5 hours a day. Distraction is the enemy when you want to be in this state, the often quoted phrase ‘It takes 15 minutes to get back into work you were doing once you have been distracted’ rings true.

Distraction is one of the latest problems that we as a society with the aid of technology have beset upon ourselves. Social media is one of the main culprits, so expectantly one of the action points from the book is to cut it out from your life. I haven’t managed to do this completely yet, although I have managed to wrangle myself free from Twitter (although I was never fully in that sphere anyway…). One practical example the book suggests is if you can leave X site (without telling anyone) and you don’t get anything from them to pull you back then you don’t need it.

Another bit culprit of distraction is our inboxes. Personally one of the biggest takeaways I have from this is that you do not have to respond to every email. It may feel rude, but really it just lowers the mental weight on all parties if a conversation doesn’t need a response. Another practical solution is when composing an email, compose in such a way that the response for the other person is very predictable so they do not have to take mental effort to compose a response, for example do not write emails as follows:

Hi XXX, <https://example.com/interesting-link-here Thoughts? Cheers

It should more be along the lines of (although still not perfect):

Hi XXX, I came across this link the other day: <https://example.com/interesting-link-here I would appreciate your input on this, but understand that you may not have time so I have summarized the key points:

  • First Point
  • Second Point I think we could take these ideas and apply them to project ABC as it meets the specification Please could you reply to confirm you agree or if you don’t state why and suggest an alternative solution. Cheers

To round off this book was certainly interesting with some great methods to greater productivity. I would certainly recommend it to anyone looking to improve their work ethic and productivity.

#productivity #work #deepwork #knowledgeeconomy

Podcasts!

Well I hope you enjoyed the long weekend, I certainly did! played a few games (both board & video), spent time at the pub & starting learning React Native & Redux. It’s still early days but perhaps I will write a post about those 2 libraries at some point.

Quick post summary today, which is just a list of the podcasts I listen to on a weekly basis. I will likely do a bigger recommendation on some of these in the future.

  • Love Your Work by David Kadavy - A hugely entertaining podcast about those who have defined there own success or very short segments on productivity hacks to improve your life. His favourite motto is: ‘Time management is mind management’, this rings so true for myself.
  • Talking Machines - This is all about machine learning and it is at the forefront of the subject, therefore is complex to understand but still very interesting
  • Wired UK - Latest news from the Wired UK team, always great to hear from these guys, I love the magazine (that’s another post…) and this is just as good.

Below are podcasts that are all game related (mostly video games) (NB more likely to have strong language ahead)

  • Idle Thumbs - These guys are based in San Fransico and have work at various game studios in the past before setting up there own and produced Firewatch. They cover the latest goings on from their perspective. They have also built up a network of podcasts and communities to complement each one. I cannot recommend them enough!
  • Idle Weekend - You may have guessed from the title that this is part of the same network as Idle Thumbs. These two dissect a larger topic or question before covering what else is grabbing their attention each week.
  • The Crate & Crowbar - Games journalists based in Bath, UK. Similar to Idle Thumbs these guys & girl give there opinions on the latest games they have been playing, this can range from AAA games to tiny indie games.
  • Daft Souls - Currently on a break, but these guys again cover what they have been playing and giving their honest verdict.
  • Shut up & Sit Down - Podcast about the latest in Board games, it has reviews & interviews with designers - love these guys and what they do!

P.S. I listen to all my podcasts at 2x speed, it takes a bit of getting used to, but it does mean you can fit twice as much in :)

#podcasts #favourites #list