Slavatar

In between raising a newborn and coping with start-up life, I found myself acquiring a business I found on Product Hunt a month ago.

Slavatar was a side project by a pair of startup guys from Las Vegas. Driven by a need to generate some cashflow for their real-estate tech startup, they hacked their way to a simple landing page and secured the services of a freelance artist. After getting featured on Product Hunt and getting more than 200 orders over a short period, it proved to be more of a distraction.

I was one of those people who saw the Product Hunt listing and thought it was pretty cool. I was falling in love with Slack at around this time and was looking for app that played well with the service. This is by no means a Slack app. By standardizing the look and feel of avatars within a company,  it becomes a cheap and effective vehicle to promote culture.

People don’t typically go to Product Hunt to buy businesses. But Slavatar, in its minimalist glory, mentioned that the business was for sale at the bottom of the page. This business seemed small enough to be an interesting addition to my portfolio so why not reach out to them?

So I did.

After a series of emails and arriving at a reasonable sale price, I ended up taking control of the business. This included the domain name, the codebase and an introduction to the artist.

Up to this day, Slavatar is still untouched. It’s just there now, getting a couple of orders a week. It has a simple get-a-discount-if-you-tweet-about-this-button so I guess that also helped. The site is still thriving because of the Product Hunt effect.

I’ve always liked the idea of “Gravanity”, a term coined by Trendwatching a couple of years ago. There are a couple of startups serving this need right now (and pretty good ones at that) and most of them venture funded. Yet, there’s still room for a business that can compete based on decent art direction and keeping things simple.

Slavatar will make apps that startups use everyday a little bit better. Whether it’s Slack, Basecamp, Asana, Trello, or their own company team pages, Slavatar will make it look good.

The current site is minimal and I intend to keep it that way. It’s only expanding a bit with choices for portrait styles (up to 3) but everything stays the same.

Slavatar

Max

After 18 grueling hours, Maximo Alejandro “Max” Yulo Medina was born on April 11, 2015 at 6:11PM in Mt. Sinai/Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan, New York.

We’ll end up spending the next four days in the hospital due to complications  during labor. It started with my wife and I getting trigger happy with the epidural button, her tiny pelvis and Max ingesting some meconium when he got distressed. It was the longest day, and during the labor my father-in-law and I chose to wait at the ground floor lobby – after being told that they had to bring Rica to surgery to perform an emergency c-section. As soon as we got a message from my mother-in-law that Rica finally gave birth, we were relieved.

As it turns out, Max wasn’t breathing when he first came out. After performing  an emergency procedure to facilitate breathing. Rica just had enough time to see Max before they brought him to the NICU. Needless to say, we were pretty much worried at this point.

Thanks to the amazing team of doctors and nurses in the hospital, mother and child recovered well, with Rica managing to walk a few days later. It was pretty moving to see Max for the first time and holding his hand (he got his dad’s giant hands). Max started feeding and breathing well, and would eventually get a clean bill of health from the hospital. I can’t imagine how Rica and I would survive if it weren’t for the support given to us by our in-laws. It really made all the difference in the world.

It’s been a little over a month since we welcomed Max. He’s been great, sleeping for 4-5 hours straight and loves being breastfed. Max has gained a bit of weight since he was born and his cheeks are starting to swell up. We typically get a day where he’s extremely fussy, then get rewarded with a pretty relaxing, zen-like day after.

I jokingly told my friends that we’ve pretty much hit our quota for life changes this year, having moved offices, had a baby AND moved to a slightly bigger (but cheaper!) apartment in the Upper West Side. We can’t deny the fact that we’re exhausted, but it’s balanced out  by  the sheer joy of Max’s presence. We think he’s going to enjoy the rest of the year, now that it’s starting to get warm.

Assigning Task Clusters Across Different Browsers

I’ve been finding myself opening multiple browsers types (say, Chrome, Safari and Firefox)  just to run specific workflows at work. This was brought about by a recent acquisition by my company that required me to log in to different accounts from the same website. Going through this process was pretty hard, considering that  I had to log-in to some sites where I actually have a personal account (case in point, Amazon). So as to preserve my cookies and a rock-solid Chrome workflow that relies heavily on the Bookmarks bar, I’ve resorted to opening Safari and Firefox just to perform a series of tasks.

Having said that, I’m totally fine with this until a better solution comes to Chrome (or a better approach). I find grouping tasks by browser pretty productive as well since I have a different set of browser-specific bookmarks that I can just click in sequence. To illustrate, I currently use Firefox for Payroll, Accounts Receivable/Payable and updating our monthly P&L. Safari on the other hand, is used for tasks that require me to regularly check account balances. It’s just easier this way. I once used the Incognito Window in Chrome for this, only to realize that I’m just wasting so much time trying to log-in and out of these accounts. So the obvious solution? Multiple browsers.

So let’s get this out of the way, Chrome remains to be my default browser but I’m not happy with the way they supposedly improved the native bookmarking feature. I find it really hard to manage multiple bookmarks and organizing them to workflow specific folders. It’s a classic case of list view doing the job pretty well.

Panic's Status Board

Revisiting Status Board

I first talked about almost forgotten apps in my last post with the OS X Dashboard. Since then, I actually took some time diving deeper with OS X’s notification center. Maybe it’s wasn’t them (Apple) all along and I was just being stubborn, hanging on to this to feature. I cleaned up my notification center a bit and still find more value in getting some stuff done via the OS X Menu Bar (with an active developer community around it).  I’m still using my Dashboard.

Another ghost town that I’m still rooting for is Panic Software’s Status Board App. Released in April of 2013, it  reached #1 on the AppStore charts when it launched. Like a lot of people back then, I was a big fan of the original blog post that inspired the creation of the app. Paying $9.99 for the base app was a no-brainer.  I’ve always dreamed of  a dashboard as my third screen so a few days later, I ended up buying a gooseneck mount in Amazon.  Community driven sites like statusboardapp.info had a steady stream of DIY panels in its database.  Apps like Vigil (which I still use) and GoSquared played really well with the board with native support.

The Status Board app got its last update in October 2014 and by this point, I’ve stopped using the app. Some fans have expressed their disappointment too, it seems. On the app page, you’ll see 1-star reviews from users complaining about how Panic just abandoned the app. My interest in the app came back when I upgraded my RescueTime account to the premium version and learned that they have a custom panel for Status Board. Awesome! Almost two years after first installing Status Board , I’m rebuilding my board again and looking for panels that I missed.

So maybe it’s not really a ghost town, it’s still ranked pretty well in the Productivity Charts. My only wish at this point is for SaaS developers to allocate some time and resources (I don’t think it’s that complicated) to add Status Board support. After all, it was what prompted me to sign-up for services like Vigil and GoSquared before.  Sure, there are a lot of DIY panels out there in the wild, freely available on Github but adding these to a Status Board still takes a lot of work (except for the awesome Fitboard.me ).

Developers should also be incentivized here, like a simple app-store for Statusboard panels. IFTTT and Zapier support would be great too.

The OS X Dashboard

I’ve been a fan of hot corners on OS X since I switched to a Mac in 2006. On the top left, I have Mission Control, Notification Center  on the top right, Desktop on the bottom right and on the bottom left, you’ll activate OS X’s legacy Dashboard view. Yep, the one with the widgets.

Some people have been declaring the Dashboard’s demise for quite some time now.  While people are celebrating its evolution to the notification center, some are shocked to learn that it still shipped with the latest version of OS X with no new features or improvements whatsoever. While OS X has transitioned to a flat aesthetic, the Dashboard seems to hang on to its Skeumorphic UI. Not even Apple could be bothered to change it. And oh, have you seen the Throwback Thursday feel of  Dashboard website?

Is this the equivalent of an OS appendix? 

Well I’m quite happy with my appendix thank you very much. Despite the obvious lack of support, I still find myself using the dashboard only because I’ve built certain habits around it through the years. It’s just easier to browse stocks and foreign exchange rates, use the calculator and view my the world clock instead of scrolling down notification center.

I still see no reason to decommission my Dashboard. It has served me well. The fact that Dashboards have a full screen view dedicated to it means that you can focus on each and every widget. It’s just a shame that we’re not seeing new widgets for stubborn ones like me. Maybe it’s time to develop meaningful experiences again on the dashboard?