Friday, 29 February 2008

NEW feature - improved minutes editing

We've made some changes to the agenda- and minutes-editing to make things more flexible, particularly when re-arranging agenda items which have been put forwards by other participants and automatically added to the agenda:
  • Sub-items can now be moved from one top-level topic to another.
  • A sub-item can be "promoted" to top-level.
  • A top-level topic can be "demoted".
All these actions can be carried out using the new "move" button which is displayed alongside each topic.

There are also keyboard shortcuts for each of these actions: Ctrl+Alt+P promotes the current sub-topic to the top level; Ctrl+Alt+M followed by a number key moves or demotes the current topic into another top-level topic.

Monday, 28 January 2008

NEW feature - participant status when creating meetings

We've implemented a feature which a number of people had been asking for:
  • You can set the status of each participant - present, absent, access to minutes only - when first creating a meeting.
When you tick someone on your user list to add them to the list of participants, a new drop-down box gets displayed next to their name. This lets you set the participant's status.

If you have "participants" who are only intended to receive the minutes, and aren't actually going to be present in the meeting, you no longer have to create the meeting and then edit the list of participants to change these people's status.

Friday, 30 November 2007

The Matchpeg Introducer scheme is now the Matchpeg Affiliate scheme

We've changed the name of our introducer affiliate scheme from Matchpeg Introducers to Matchpeg Affiliates. It turned out that users from outside the UK weren't familiar with the term "introducer", and too many people were missing the scheme's benefits because they never clicked on the link on the website.

The scheme itself remains entirely unchanged, and very simple:
  • Earn on-going commission by referring colleagues and friends to Matchpeg, either by word-of-mouth or from links on your website or blog.
There are no charges for joining the scheme, and the people you refer don't suffer any financial penalty - quite the opposite, in fact, because we give an even more generous free trial to people who are referred than we do to people who come to the website cold.

You receive commission whenever your referrals spend money with us by buying pay-as-you-packs or paying subscriptions. Therefore, you don't just get a one-off payment; it's recurring revenue based on how valuable your contacts are to us.

Monday, 12 November 2007

NEW feature - bulk user creation from Outlook

We've added a new feature to the user administration area:
  • Users of Microsoft Outlook can now download a small tool which automatically creates Matchpeg user accounts from contacts in Outlook.
The software can be downloaded from the existing bulk user-creation page. It's a simple wizard-based tool which works as follows:
  1. You log into Matchpeg using your normal user name and password.
  2. You let the software connect to Microsoft Outlook - this requires you to accept a standard Outlook security warning about automated access to your contacts.
  3. You choose the contacts you want to create as users in Matchpeg.
  4. You tell the tool to do its stuff.
The new user accounts are given individual random passwords which are sent out by e-mail.

(As is no doubt obvious, the tool is only for people who are users of (a) Microsoft Outlook, and therefore (b) Microsoft Windows.)

Sunday, 28 October 2007

NEW feature - extra workflow fields

We've added another new feature to Matchpeg Workflow:
  • You can now create two bespoke text fields and two bespoke number fields in each workflow definition. These can be used for any purpose you like - you simply give them an appropriate label.
For example, you can use the number fields to record two extra items of numeric information about each purchase request. These fields show up in searches, and can be downloaded in CSV form for analysis in software such as Microsoft Excel.

Monday, 15 October 2007

NEW feature - workflow descriptions and attached files

We've added a new feature to Matchpeg Workflow:
  • The description of a workflow item and attached files can now be marked as compulsory or not required.
Previously, these fields were always optional. You can now insist that users supply a description of a workflow item, or attach at least one file.

Friday, 14 September 2007

And God said to Adam...

(Part of a series on matters technological. It beats doing real work.)

We've been interviewing recently. Before hiring people for software jobs, everyone reads Joel Spolsky's Guerilla Guide to Interviewing *. You must have read it - it's excellent. Well, mostly excellent.

The bit we got stuck on is part 6:

Part 6: the design question. Ask the candidate to design something. Jabe Blumenthal, the original designer of Excel, liked to ask candidates to design a house. According to Jabe, he's had candidates who would go up to the whiteboard and immediately draw a square.

Really? A square?

A square! These were immediate No Hires.

A square does seem a bit minimalist for a house. The fashion in the UK at the moment is for buying distressed Victoriana in run-down parts of town. High ceilings, superfluous ornamental brickwork. But it turns out that's not Joel's problem:

Good candidates will try to get more information out of you about the problem. Who is the house for? As a policy, I will not hire someone who leaps into the design without asking more about who it's for. Often I am so annoyed that I will give them a hard time by interrupting them in the middle and saying, "actually, you forgot to ask this, but this is a house for a family of 48-foot tall blind giraffes."

This is puzzling. We'd much prefer a candidate who says "What's the budget for the design stage?" followed by "Well, let's hire an architect to design the thing properly".

Anyone involved in software development will leap at this sort of design question like a seal after fish. It's actively encouraging three of the most disastrous traits of the IT industry: (a) ignoring precedent and expertise, and therefore continually re-inventing the wheel in a squarer form; (b) concocting "problems" in order to be able to "solve" them; and (c) unshakeable belief in one's own wide-ranging genius. It is impossible to over-estimate the self-regard of anyone who has ever worked in the software industry. (Yes, this includes the author of this article.)

There's another problem, which we can tease out by inserting a stage direction into Joel's scene of the hapless interviewee being humiliated somewhere in the Garment District:

Interviewer:Please could you design us a house.
Interviewee:(Pauses. No further information is forthcoming. Eyes swivel in alarm at the prospect of working for people incapable of providing even the most basic brief for a project. Cursing the evil hour that they sent in their resume, the interviewee begins to draw the thing most apparently in tune with the interviewer's mental faculties: a childlike depiction of a house.)

Who wants to work for someone so inept at communicating their essential requirements? When, in real life, would you make a request such as this unless you were the worst manager in the world, or an unspeakable sadist? It's as though God said to Adam, "Don't eat from the tree of... oh, whatever, just hang out in this garden for a few days."

The following is pure supposition, but interesting: questions such as this seem designed to identify candidates with a talent for arch, knowing role-play, and for recognising when it's professionally advantageous. These are skills which seem best-fitted to large, rigidly hierarchical, politics-ridden organisations. Microsoft is the source of this interview question and many other equally famous ones. Microsoft has become notorious for its bureaucracy and back-stabbing.

(* The Guerilla Guide to Interviewing got revised about a year ago. The Design Question mysteriously vanished. The new version is great, but it's less fun and the silent changes are as informative as the article itself.)