My name is Ismael Chang Ghalimi. I build the STOIC platform. I am a stoic, and this blog is my agora.

Link checker

We’re currently looking for an online application that could check all the pages of our website on a daily basis and report any broken link. If you know a good one, please send it our way. Free is best, but we don’t mind paying for it if necessary.

Waiting for iPhone 5

Pascal ordered his iPhone 5 right when the online store opened, hence should receive it anytime. But I have my reputation to protect, so I decided to do the wait-in-line-at-dawn thing, at the downtown Palo Alto Apple store (aka ground zero). I took a lawn chair and a laptop, and I’m writing this post from there. Fun stuff…

UPDATE: Got the my new iPhone 5. It’s awesome. Chiseled is the word that best describes it.

Business infrastructure

At Stoic, we’re trying to be as lean as possible, which means that we use cloud services for everything that can be automated, and crowdsourcing services for everything that can be outsourced. Here are the best-in-class services that we are using:

UPDATE: This list is now maintained on the STOIC website.

Jekyll

We just setup our Jekyll environment to publish our new corporate website and blog. It’s pretty hardcore when compared to user-friendly blogging applications like Tumblr, but it’s exactly what we need at this point. All the styling comes from Twitter Bootstrap, while GitHub is responsible for compiling and serving the pages that we design with nothing more than Markdown syntax. I’m at a loss trying to think of a simpler way to publish a good-looking website over which we have full control. We hope to have a few pages up and running before the end of the week.

Website architecture

For the past 18 years, I must have built over 50 websites, all with pretty fancy server-side stuff. For our upcoming stoic.io corporate website, I’ve decided to go minimalist, and the rest of the team could not be happier about it.

Because our user-driven development process will be supported by packaged applications, we don’t need our corporate website to provide any mechanism for authentication. And as far as dynamic content is concerned, we will support it (when we need it) through JavaScript widgets that can render data syndicated by a Stoic application. Therefore, we can make our website totally static. As crazy as it might sound, it’s actually a very reasonable way to go about it today.

So, from an architecture standpoint, here is what it will look like:

The benefits of the approach are as follow:

  • No server to install and maintain
  • Utterly simply syntax to write content in
  • Ability to edit content from a web browser
  • Out-of-the-box, oh-so-pretty, nothing-to-add stylesheets
  • Customizable look-and-feel consistent with our product’s user interface

What more could we ask?

We expect a first version to be available in early September.

User-driven development process

A friend of mine recently pointed me to a presentation about user driven development. While its look and feel certainly could be improved upon, its content is actually pretty good, and very much in line with what we’re doing at Stoic. And today, we finalized a few decisions about the tools we will use to support our own user-driven development process (aka refine), along the lines of what was introduced in this earlier post.

Phase 1: Ideation
Most of our ideas are shared on the sutoiku.com blog (powered by Tumblr). This is the place where our most ardent fans gather and provide feedback at a very early stage. Here, we can open our brainstorming to the rest of the world, and quickly assess which ideas have legs. This allows us to focus our very limited resources on the very best of them.

Phase 2: Validation
Once an idea reaches a high-enough level of interest, we will polish it a bit more, then push it to our Wish List. This is where many of our end users will meet to discuss the future of our product and prioritize the features they’d like us to work on. Collectively, they will play the role of product manager.

Phase 3: Funding
The ideas that will get the most votes on our Wish List will then be turned into Kickstarter campaigns. For any candidate feature, we will develop a fairly detailed specification and estimate the cost of developing it and supporting the resulting code for the next five years. The total cost will then directly define the funding target for the Kickstarter campaign, and we will implement the feature only if we reach this target. Backers will receive a 25% discount on future subscriptions for the main Stoic platform or any of its applications, making it a no-brainer.

Phase 4: Development
The development of new features will be done using GitHub. Some pieces of code will be released under an open source license while others won’t, but all the code will live in the exact same place. Bugs will be tracked (and squashed mercilessly) using GitHub as well (Cf. earlier post).

Phase 5: Promotion
For promoting our work, we will develop and host our corporate website with GitHub as well. Pages will be developed using the Markdown syntax and served directly by GitHub on the stoic.io domain. Styling will be handled by Twitter Bootstrap (Cf. later post).

Phase 6: Adoption
Once a new feature has been released, anyone having questions about it should ask them on stackoverflow.com. This is where the Stoic experts will hang around and stand ready to help anyone in need. We won’t guarantee that you’ll get an answer, but we’ll do our very best to facilitate the process of getting one.

Phase 7: Deployment
If you decide to deploy a particular feature and need to ensure timely resolution for any problem you might encounter, a commercial subscription with the right level of technical support is what you’ll want. For this, we will use Stoic Case Manager, which will track all cases (aka support tickets) and link them to support contracts (also managed by Stoic), product bugs (on GitHub), and technical answers (on stackoverflow).

So, to summarize, here is what the process looks like form 36,000 feet:

  • Phase 1: Ideation with Tumblr
  • Phase 2: Validation with Wish List
  • Phase 3: Funding with Kickstarter
  • Phase 4: Development with GitHub
  • Phase 5: Promotion with GitHub
  • Phase 6: Adoption with stackoverflow
  • Phase 7: Deployment with Stoic Case Manager

While this might seems like a lot of tools for managing a relatively straightforward development process, we strongly believe that we need all of them, for a couple of reasons: first, we’re dealing with different people (business users and software developers), second, we’re dealing with them at different stages of their product adoption process (discovery, implementation, deployment), and third, we’re interacting with them according to different modalities (customer-vendor relationship or community participation). In such a context, it is crucial that the tool we use for interacting in a certain way, with a certain audience, at a certain point in time, is the right one.

Underneath it all, we will need to integrate some of these applications together, especially for the parts of the process that will have the highest transaction volume. Among them, case management will be our first candidate for integration, and we will use Stoic for that. Essentially, we will create virtual objects for a few components of GitHub (Issues, aka Bugs) and stackoverflow (Questions), and link them to our Case object through automated workflow actions. These simple integration points should ensure a fairly smooth end-to-end process.

401(k) plan

Yesterday, we got briefed on our new 401(k) plan. On top of our excellent employee benefits, Sutoiku is matching the contributions of employees to their retirement plans, which are managed by Guardian, using Stadion. We’re a startup, but when it comes to employee benefits, it sure does not feel like one, which is kinda nice actually…

Updated standard equipment list

With the release of the new MacBook Pro, we updated our list:

  • Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display 8GB/256GB/2.3GHz
  • Apple Thunderbolt Display
  • Apple Wireless Keyboard
  • Apple Magic Mouse
  • Apple iPad Wi-Fi 16GB
  • Apple iPhone 4S 16GB

That brings the total budget per employee to $4,411, which is less than our $5,000 ceiling, but $411 more than what our COO would like, so the iPad might become an option added after some personal milestone…

Jacques-Alexandre, what’s your take?

Standard equipment list

As mentioned on this previous post, we offer our developers a sweet setup:

  • Apple MacBook Air 13” 256GB 1.7GHz
  • Apple Thunderbolt Display
  • Apple Wireless Keyboard
  • Apple Magic Mouse
  • Apple iPad Wi-Fi 16GB
  • Apple iPhone 4S 16GB

So, if you like Apple gear and are looking for a (better) job, drop us a line!