Falling Leaves: the Ardes blog

Archives filed under "business"

Moving again

Ray Drainville

After a lot of work the old ArDes server has been shut down & the blog has been put on a new platform. It’s a truism about blogging that most posts are apologising for not updating & then explaining the shift to a new platform. This post is no different in that regard. But this is really good news.

I did not relish managing a server myself; and with the recent revelations about security holes in SSH and so many platforms, it sapped a lot of mental energy just trying (trying, trying) to keep up-to-date with server gubbins that you don’t know you have and don’t know are out of date. Plus, running a server is expensive for what you get out of it; and chasing clients for hosting invoices is not my idea of fun. I got into this to make pretty things. Chasing up invoices is not pretty. So I’m happy to have that out of my thinning hair.

Another reason to not write on the blog was to evaluate what I wanted to do with it. We used the Rails-based Mephisto for quite a while, but that has become abandonware. Like managing a server with ageing gubbins, managing an ageing blog is no fun—it presents you with a lot of potential security dangers as well as the worry that it’ll fall over at any point due to a minor update. I’m happy with the change & very pleased with the notion of writing again.

Name Change

Ray Drainville

As of today, we’re changing the name of our company from Argument from Design to Ardes.

Why are we doing this?

There are many reasons for the change. Let’s go through them:

  • The URL for the company’s website has been ardes.com for virtually its entire history;
  • Ardes has always been our shorthand name for the company;
  • You’d be surprised how few people know how to spell “argument”;
  • The connection between the philosophical concept of the “argument from design” & religious people has only grown stronger over the years, and I didn’t want to be associated with that.

That last point deserves a little more explanation. My rather wilful interpretation of the argument from design was that it needn’t be a religious argument, but rather merely evidence of a conscious decision process: that something clearly & beautifully presented was evidence of a conscious hand & not the product of chance. Many people use it in an attempt to prove the existence of god, and that’s become something of an issue for me, because I’m not religious.

Anyway, I’m getting over my head, and the point is that that isn’t what we’re about. We’re all about making beautiful & easily-usable things.

Soon the blog will reflect not only the Ardes.com redesign, but its name change as well.

Client Feedback Advice

Ray Drainville

The good people at Mule Design have presented a very good run-down of how clients can make great design feedback. It’s really worthwhile because, in part, it explains that the client is not supposed to decide whether she likes any given design but, rather, is supposed to decide whether it helps her sell her widgets. The full thing is worth a careful read.

It also begs us to stop thinking of designers as “creatives”—something I must admit I’ve (inchoately) thought for some time. “Creatives” don’t want, and don’t like, feedback: they’re prima donnas. Design is a business, and it must meet business needs: otherwise it’s a pointless exercise in spending money.

In any event, we tend to be a bit more informal about presentations & feedback at ArDes: we help our clients develop a visual vocabulary, but haven’t yet needed much formal “training”. If we do, we know where to send them for it!

Edit: Changed name from “Argument from Design” to “ArDes”

Time-Tracking Software: Lapsus

Ray Drainville

First of all, happy new year! Let’s hope that 2011 will be better than 2010.

Longtime visitors to the blog may possibly remember that Ian released a freeware time-tracker called MateWatch—software that helped track your time when using the text editor TextMate. As you might have guessed, it’s now pretty much abandonware, although with Nick’s advice you may well be able to get it up and running again. But you should question whether the effort is worth it: it really is dead, unless someone is interested in picking it up & maintaining it.

I’m mentioning this because I noted in the web stats a few days ago a visitor from a website that’s selling a new time-tracking app for the Mac. Lapsus takes a very novel approach, and from a user’s perspective, it’s a model of orderliness: it polls the currently-opened window every 3 seconds & logs it. You can “train” it to recognise open windows in a given directory as associated with a given project. This is a really nice take on the idea, since set-up/maintenance is usually one of the most frustrating aspects of time-tracking packages. And Lapsus’ programmer, John Gallagher, claims that people have a tendency to a) forget to turn on the time-tracking software; and b) forget to turn it off. I’m certainly guilty of this & I’m certainly not alone.

Being shiny new software, it’s got its share of bugs. At first I couldn’t create a project for love or money, as Lapsus kept crashing. However, today it has magically allowed me to create some projects, so I’m off on my evaluation. Also, it appears that an open document in Photoshop CS5 wasn’t being recognised as being, well, open. And it could do with the ability to sort one’s projects in alphabetical order, rather than in the order by which one arbitrarily created them.

But, as I said, it’s new. What’s important here is that Lapsus is a very refreshing take on a perpetual problem & may well help you be more careful with your time-tracking. I’ll be curious to see how it polls when I’m just playing about on the computer—perhaps I should have a project called “Faffing”. Well done, John!

Update (24 January 2011): I’ve just received a message from John that version 1.0 of Lapsus is out & it addresses all the bugs I mentioned here. It’s now time to evaluate it in earnest :)