The Dovetail Blog

Nice work, Apple

I've never really been an Apple fanboy, but incidents like the following could win me over.

I just had to make a support call to Apple. I really tried to avoid it but I simply couldn't so eventually I jumped in, filled with dread and pessimism, expecting to waste half an hour getting nowhere.

But here's how it went down:

  • Apple's Irish freephone support number was easy to find
  • It was answered immediately... (Hooray!) ... by IVR (Boo!)
  • But the IVR was accurate, responsive, and most importantly put me through to a human when I couldn't produce a key bit of data
  • The human (Elaine) answered immediately, was courteous, knowledgable and clear.
  • I was never put on hold, even when Elaine had to spend several minutes sorting something out. She just told me what she was doing and let me listen to her typing. That's WAY better than hold music!
  • As far as we can both tell, she resolved the issue on that call.
  • To top it off, Elaine offered to call me tomorrow to confirm it is resolved!

Apple Support Email

 

That's amazing: I made a support call to a huge organisation, and came off the phone happy. That's worth a lot.

[Update:] Apple did indeed call today. I spoke to another helpful person. The whole experience was just right.


Maps, and Sample Testimonials

This week, Mossy updated several projects to use MapBox instead of CloudMade to render maps as the free usage of CloudMade expired on the 1st of May. 

Dovetail are facing an interesting problem. We're ranking highly for some undesired keywords in various search engines. For example:

 Sample Testimonials

But search for some terms that people normally associate with Dovetail and:

Awesome Software

We're nowhere to be found. Google need to get their act together!

The undesired traffic is starting to dwarf the desired traffic so we've had to ignore the testimonials page from our analytics. 

Here is the link to the testimonials page so you can see what all the fuss is about.


Case Studies have been updated, Simulty Testing

"It's been another [[positive adjective]] week here at Dovetail."

My editor, Mossy, tells me that I'll have to come up with a new way of starting a blog post, but I think it's perfect. I might even automate the process of coming up with the adjective (which is the hard part) - we'd get beautiful sentences like "It's been another crackerjack week here at Dovetail."

You may have noticed that the case studies section of the site has grown substantially since the last blog post. Martin and Trevor beefed it up with lots of interesting case studies of recent projects. I've enjoyed reading it and it's worth checking out.

Martin, Mossy and I participated in some user testing for Simulty this afternoon. We probably would have gone even if they didn't offer free lunch to those that attended. They've developed a cool application and it was interesting being able to give feedback on it. I hope they learned from our use of the application as they were watching us use the system and we gave formal feedback at the end of the session.

Mossy brought his camera in (again!) today, and took some shots while we "worked".

UML Activity Diagram

Trevor was focusing on a UML activity diagram for most of today, but took breaks from one problem solving activity with another problem solving activity.

Juggling in dovetail

Mossy and Greg tested out the shutter speed of Mossy's new camera with some light juggling. Please note that Mossy is juggling three balls and Greg only 2 (just saying).


Certified Microsoft Partners, IKEA Events go live and Sushi!

It has been another productive week here at Dovetail. We were helped, no doubt, by the addition of the new Aeron chairs, which were discussed extensively last week. They're still comfortable! 

As a result of Mossy and Tomás excelling in their Microsoft Certified Professional exams a couple of weeks ago, Dovetail has been upgraded to being Microsoft Silver Partners.

Microsoft Partner

To celebrate, we had a nice sushi lunch in the office from Michie Sushi in Ranelagh. (Martin's sister-in-law is from Japan and she says this is the best sushi around. And although the gyoza was good, Martin says it's not as good as Emi's!) 

Sushi for lunch

The IKEA project that we discussed in vague terms last week has gone live. IKEA Store Events allows stores to take bookings online for their free instore events. There aren't any events in Dublin this time around, unfortunately, but we'll let you know when they happen!

Martin, Garrett and Trevor spent a lot of the week architecting a tender proposal.  Drawings, sketches, whiteboarding - and lots of animated debate!

Martin and Tomás delivered the last set of requirements on the CIE (Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann) Leap Card Integrated Ticketing interface.  This system takes subscription data from CIE's bespoke Taxsaver System, transforms it into Leap Card ticket requests, interfaces with HP's Leap Card Access Point, then processes all responses in the other direction.  Built upon Garrett's LUAS library, testing has been successful and Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann will go live very soon...

Meanwhile, Trevor was in Wembley on Wednesday visiting IKEA. They were discussing the future of the Athena Kiosks project, and it all looks very exciting. I was hoping he'd bring back some oranges, but alas not this time.

OK, Mossy and Trevor have cracked open the Friday beer, it's time to sign off. Enjoy the weekend!


Dublinked RTPI conference, new office chairs and more IKEA work

Apologies to our regular readers for the absence of a blog post last week. I imagine it left a big hole in your week! The good thing about missing a week is that there's plenty of news this week.

Trevor has been busy as usual. He attended a talk on Horizon 2020. He also attended the Dublinked Real Time Passenger Information (RTPI) meetup in The Digital Depot last Thursday. Dovetail has plenty of experience in Real Time Passenger Information, we built the software that converts live tram information from LUAS into the industry-standard SIRI protocol.  Our SIRI server then produces information for the National Transport Authority's RTPI site and for the Transport for Ireland Real Time apps and website. And of course we have developed the live LUAS iPhone and LUAS Android apps.

RTPI Dublin

Work has started on another IKEA project which will be going live very soon. Mossy has been working on a small-ish pilot (a Minimum Viable Product if you will) that will involve a number of IKEA UK stores. All going well, we will extend the prototype over the next few weeks and it will become a valuable part of the IKEA FAMILY ecosystem.

A short iterative process really helps validate ideas with real customer feedback. IKEA have been doing this for a long time, and we have been finding it very useful with some of our other clients too. FSAI and CIS have both benefited from this recently. If you are interested in these techniques, Mossy recommends Lean UX, which he has found excellent to kick-start the thought process.

Tomás has been very busy over the past few weeks building a shiny new system for Acquirer Systems. Once complete this will be an extension of their existing product offering. We're using our latest technologies including ASP.NET MVC 4, LLBLGEN and this project is test driven. Test Driven development is being heavily promoted by Tomás internally and he is ensuring that the rest of the team are up to speed by the end of 2014.

There have also been a couple of changes here in the office since the last post. Martin managed to get rid of a large server and as a result increased the usable floor space in the office by about 100%.

And we got new Herman Miller Aeron office chairs yesterday. I'm sitting on one now and they're very comfortable. I think that initally they resulted in a slight decrease in productivity, with everyone trying to discover what each of the many levers do, but looking around the office now, everyone looks like a poster child for good posture. I think they've ruined normal chairs for me.

Finally, Dovetail are looking to hire another developer. I'll have to tell Martin to update the perks on that page to include the Aeron chairs!


The Bird's Eye View: Issue #22

Martin here at the end of a busy week. Mossy is off skiing in Morzine so Tomás and Greg picked up on some Food Safety work this week, while Trev and I seemed to have been in meetings for most of the week.

Speaking of which, Garret and I had one fun meeting, where we got to talk on one of our favourite subjects, GIS.  Here's a Speaker Deck from one of Garrett's presentations on the topic last year:

 Garrett on PostGIS

Tomás and I are interviewing at the moment, while Trevor has made further progress on our goal of achieving ISO9001 certification this year.

And while Trevor Jobling was working on ISO this week, he was flattered to see that he's melded with the company.  His new name was on a multiplicity of forms:

Mr. Jobtail

Have a good weekend!


IKEA Holiday Winner, Exams and ITS

It's been another busy week at Dovetail HQ. I'm learning lots and becoming slightly less of a burden. I still ask questions, but the most common response I get now from Mossy is 'Google It!' I think he actually likes the opportunity to show-off his knowledge and occassionally I'll throw him an unanswered stackoverflow question from 6 months ago, just to keep him on his toes!

On Tuesday, Trevor attended the first ITS Ireland seminar of 2014. Tim Mullen of ARUP presented an update on the National Roads Authority's new Design Manual for Roads and Bridges which is currently in development. It wasn't very directly relevant to our software development work, but is very good background information for us in our work in Intelligent Transport Systems in general.

Yesterday, Mossy and Tomás sat, and passed, the 'Programming in HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3' Microsoft Certification exam. About time, considering they've both been professional web developers for over 10 years!

In other good news, the IKEA 'Swipe a Surprise' holiday to Sweden has been won. The lucky winner's prize includes 4 nights' accommodation and flights to and from Stockholm for up to 4 people, and £500 spending money.

 Ikea Sweden Prize Winner With TeamThe Lucky Winners of the holiday to Sweden, with the IKEA Southampton co-workers

 

 


The Bird's Eye View: Issue #21

Hey, I'm Greg. I'm in Dovetail as an intern. I'm required to perform a 6 month work placement as part of my Computer Science degree and Dovetail were nice enough to take me on. I've enjoyed my first few weeks here, everyone has been very patient and helpful as I learn the ropes. Anyhow, that's the awkward introduction over!

Late last year, Dovetail worked on integrating Aramark's EDI interfacing system, called eCPL, with their new Oracle Financials system. Last month, Aramark went live with Oracle Financials, and the eCPL integration was very successful!

This week, Trevor worked on an internal audit for ISO 9001 certification, and is looking forward to the upcoming external audit. Tomás worked on integrated ticketing for Dublin Bus. They hope to be able to release the new cards and renewals in 2 weeks. Meanwhile, Mossy, Martin and John worked on one of the final iterations of the FSAI calorie counter, and are looking forward to it going live.

I worked on an internal project to automate SMS alerts. We're using Clockwork as our SMS provider. A project's success seems to be almost entirely determined by the greatness of its name, and I deliberated on what this project should be called. I chose what I thought to be a good name only to be informed that company policy is that projects be named after birds. I think I'll give it 24 hours before renaming and see if ornithologists discover any new species of bird and name one after my project.

Dovetail are thinking about expanding into the crayfish business. Pinchy of issue 13 and issue 15 fame isn't looking too healthy. So get in touch if you fancy some relatively fresh crayfish. This recipe looks nice.

Finally, and sadly, we're saying goodbye to John this week, as he is finishing in Dovetail and preparing to move to Australia. He will be missed by everyone.

Garrett, John, Ollie and Martin playing Pool in the PalaceLeaving drinks for John. We started in Yamamori noodles for food, and finished in The Palace (as usual) for some "friendly" pool.