Random Thought #1

So, to encourage myself to blog more often I decided to create this new sub-category called “Random Thought” this is the place where I will just throw something out there. It could be something meaningful or something that’s total WTF! Let’s see how it goes . . .  

It’s still baffles me sometimes how people value their time as free and would rather save a few coins and waste hours of their life. I think we have the balance completely wrong and we value money in a really insane way. Below are some questions I ask myself before deciding to subscribe to a specific service or a large purchase:

  

- What additional value with this give me? (Will it increase my productivity or learn something new) 

- Is there something better I could be doing with my time? - Focused on a service (automation - Zapier) 

 —— to break the above down - How much time will this save me in 6 months to a year?

 

 

Bye Microsoft Office 365, Hello Google G Suite

I’ve been an Office 365 user for a number of years now. My main usage was to manage my personal email account/s as I wanted a bit more freedom than what the free providers offer and much more professional looking. I got the Office 365 account without the actual software subscription to Microsoft Office as my girlfriend has that already, so I was paying around let’s say 13 EURs per month for the that package.

A couple of things annoyed me with the Office 365 experience, the main one was how hidden away a lot of the admin elements are. For example I used shared mailboxes to set-up “fake” email addresses that are under my main account to be able to better manage various things such as travel, finance, paypal and newsletters for example. Not only is the option hidden away, but this specific feature is not really supported in many third party email clients (especially on iOS). The second thing that annoyed me was the clunky Outlook.com interface, being big and bold left me wanting more and it reminds me of the UI style introduced with Windows Phone OS. . . . it was hard to manage the multiple accounts and I was put off from day one utilising the web interface.

 

Quick Rant: I think Microsoft really need to overhaul their interface design to be much more minimalistic and pleasing to the eye, without hindering the user. It seems like the current UI was designed by people who don’t actually use the software.

 

So, as of today, I switched to G Suite by Google. This already will save me around 9 EURs per month straight out of the box and the tools on offer are way up my street than what Office 365 offers. The way Google handles “aliases” (Shared Mailbox in Office 365 World) is much friendlier as well and is supported by a nearly all third party email clients (*cough* Airmail) and the interface for the tools are way better! I can also look at how I adapt my workflow now to utilise tools such as Hangouts for consulting sessions as well as tools like Forms. I will for sure look at the Slides application to be able to move my presentation design workflow their as well (my thoughts on the tools coming soon)

The Croatia, UK and Cyprus Trips

This is another short travel blog post to go over the travel I undertook recently.

Firstly, I was in Dubrovnik, Croatia to attend the Reboot Developer Conference which was taking place. Myself and about 7 other colleagues rented a villa by the sea with 2 outside BBQs and as well as our own private pool. I must admit I really enjoyed the team building aspect of bunking with the other colleagues, having BBQs and doing a spot of hiking.

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In terms of sightseeing the first day we went into the old town of Dubrovnik and we walked the entire wall (stopping for a beer on the way off our course) We then found a nice little restaurant aptly called Taj Mahal, but it wasn’t Indian food but Bosnian, which was really delicious.

The next day we all got up early and started a somewhat of a trip ritual of having breakfast outside at 8:30 as a group. The first day of the conference was ok, the opening ceremony had a live instrumental of some Star Wars music (which was a little odd) but apparently some scenes of Star Wars was filmed in the area and last year they opened with Game of Thrones so kinda made sense.

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We decided during lunch that before our dinner date at a rooftop restaurant in Old Dubrovnik, we would hike up to the top of the hill overlooking the old town and then catch the cable car down. Seven of us decided to do this and we really had an amazing time [include directions and path] we stopped just over 3/4 of the way up and relaxed with a beer overlooking the old town, it was truly spectacular.

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We then defended to the Old Town to head to [inset restaurant name here] which was recommend by colleagues who attended the conference last year. It was a fancy looking place and we totally didn’t look the part, but it was an experience (slightly turning the bottle so the label faces you.

That pretty much laid the foundation for how the rest of the trip would happen.....

On the Sunday while the others were flying back to Hamburg, Germany I was on a different flight heading to London, UK to have a rendezvous with my girlfriend (Marijke) where we were meeting her former host mom from California who was in London for some casual sightseeing. I joined Marijke and Co at [Insert Name Here] to have some afternoon tea, from here we took an Uber across town to the Oxo Tower, where I had made a booking for us to enjoy some really tasty food while watching the sun go down over London.

The restaurant’s food was really amazing and I would argue that its also a fair price and the staff were really hilarious and made the evening even better.

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The next day we did a spot of shopping at Harrods and at Tiffany & Co on Old Bond Street, from here we headed to the Kensington

Palace to go and see the Princess Diana memorial. This is where me and Marijke departed from her host mom and headed to London Stansted to get our flight back to Hamburg,

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One day later, I was on a plane again. This time I was heading to Cyprus to attend the inaugural White Night’s CEO Summit which was taking place over the next few days. My first impressions of Cyprus is that it reminded me a lot of my time in Malta when I was living there, but Cyprus has some more “modern” amenities like a Starbucks to make it much more me friendly.

The weather was truly kind to me, the high was 29 degrees C in the day and around 22 in the evening, so was really great as it was cloudy as well so it didn’t feel too hot. In terms of the actual Summit (the reason why I was there) it was general ok, I’ve been to a couple of conferences from day 0 and know the first iteration is the most cringe worthy. I got to meet some incredible people who are building the next generation of products and got some basic advice and tips for starting a business.

So that pretty much briefly wraps up my past few weeks, I am currently writing this on my flight back to Hamburg and I’m truly looking forward to a few days of relaxation . . . But next weekend I will be in the sky again, heading to the UK via Manchester to enjoy a long weekend there.

Aegean Airlines - Rapid Process Review

This is a new segment which I’m dubbing the not so sexy name of “Rapid Process Review” this is me just highlighting some minor improvements to general processes to make things more efficient and stress free for all involved.

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I recently took 4 flights with Aegean to go from Hamburg to Cyprus and back. Below are my general observations and some recommendations for minor tweaks to make the whole process much more efficient.

 

Boarding Process

It’s nice to see an airline looking at how to streamline the boarding process. Aegean’s approach seems to be in a way in which Business Class and Families go first and then rows 15 to 30 followed by the rest. I think the idea is good but the execution could be improved.


Here are my recommendations:

General you seem to have a two lane set-up, one for Business Class and one for Economy. How about getting rid of the lane for Business Class and have one lane for rows 15 and above and one for 15 and below. Business Class flyers generally will remain seated and only stand once boarding starts, so why have a dedicated lane for them. You could have them cut the line directly at the front mitigating having a separate lane.

 Current Approach 

Current Approach 

 Proposed System

Proposed System

In regards to the economy boarding process, I really like the seating split but no one enforces this and so generally everyone just rushes on and its generally a mess gate side. If you utilized the above mentioned 2 lanes for this, people will already be in these lanes and you can just open one up to board 15 and above first, followed by 15 and below. With the two lane approach I would also still make sure people have the right lane for their seat, if not they should be told to join the back of the other lane, it may annoy some people but that’s what they get for trying to cut the line.


I would also recommend having the gate staff be earlier there, this is a common problem that I see across multiple airlines. The gate staff arrive with only a small windows before boarding starts and they get stressed out due to the time pressure, add the passengers are impatient and annoyed with the boarding process, this can initiate some fiery moments which makes all uncomfortable. Just have them come in good time to the gate to get everything prepared and they can already get the lanes organized and it communicated.


Also you should view this integrating VOX video on plane boarding procedures: 

 

Apple Passbook Ticket

I’m really impressed, Aegean really updates the tickets with the actual gate numbers and any changes that are happening in regards to your flight. The back of there ticket also contains all the information from baggage allowance to take off and landing times. I’ve never had this experience with any other airline (even Lufthansa for example) and I can commend Aegean for being modern and saving me time looking at itinerary boards at the airport. Note: This is based only of 4 separate flights and other flights may vary

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In general I’m really happy with my experience with flying with Aegean and would look forward to doing it again

Amsterdam, Netherlands - April 2018

This is a short post about a trip I recently took to Amsterdam, Netherlands for the Easter weekend this year. My girlfriend and I decided we would do a little road trip there (because its about 4 hrs drive away) and below is a snippet of what we got up to and what I recommend you see the next time you’re there.

First of we stayed slightly out of the Centre at the NH Amsterdam Zuid Hotel which is reasonable in cost and only about a 30 minute tram ride into the city center.

We didn’t want to do all of the traditional sightseeing in Amsterdam stops as it was Easter weekend and packed. We opted for a Moreno laid back and relaxing trip.


Day 01

Lunch - Foodware

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This is a really cool and relaxed space. It’s setup like a deli and you design your own meal based on what high quality ingredients are currently on offer. Not only is the food really high quality the price is so reasonable.

pictured: Chicken, green beans and roast potatoes in a creamy truffle sauce.


Afternoon Snack - De Koffie Salon at Hay

As we were at the Hay House we decided to sit down and have a relaxing coffee and a cheeky little snack. The quality of the coffee was really great and having the atmosphere of being apart of a design store made it a unique experience on our trip.


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Dinner - De Hallen

I was informed by a colleague who was in Amsterdam last year that a visit to De Hallen was a must. The atmosphere here was amazing, sooo many people enjoying their evening and really an amazing assortment of culinary delights. We ended up going for tacos and they were really tasty (and a little spicy). Afterwards we went to the cinema also located in this space to watch “Ready Player One”.


Design Stores We Visited:

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- X Bank

- Hay House

- Sukha

- Nordic New

- Hutspot

- The Frozen Fountain


 

 

 

 

 

 Day 02

Breakfast - Locals

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As usual we didn’t opt to have breakfast at the hotel, but we ventured into the city looking for a nice spot for a coffee and some light good to start the day. A quick search on fourquare x Google and TripAdvisor alerted us to a small spot that had exactly what we wanted. We weren’t disappointed, the coffee, service and food were really great and our sitting location enabled us to watch the world go by through the large windows.



 


Lunch - Pluk

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While Crisscrossing the channels the previous day we went by a cool looking spot which we added to our places for a stop. This was called “Pluk” and it was a nice break from the showers outside. The food was pretty good but I have to admit my smooth bowl still had some solid lumps of frozen herbs which weren’t so great but it was tasty overall. I could recommend this spot for a short coffee stop / to-go

 

Afternoon Snack - Vinnes

After a bit of walking we decided we needed a little break and a coffee to wake up a little. We stumbled across this corner retreat by accident but it was a happy accidentally!

Dinner - Cafe Amoi

One thing that we heard a lot was that the Asian food in the Dam was some of the best around! Because of this we booked a table at Cafe Amoi and we truly were happy! The food quality was exquisite


Other Stores & Activites We Did:

- Moco Museum - Banksy

- Hema

- Canel Tour (Lovers) // Cannot recommend

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Realtime Board Experiment

I've been testing out various platforms for collaborating with remote teams for various projects I'm working on in my spare time. I really found it hard to get something simple that also provides depth at the same time as giving some ability to have a high-level overview of whats going on. 

Roll onto last week and I was browsing Product Hunt, I found a platform called Realtime Board which on paper seemed to address all of the points I was talking about above:

I've started to get deeper into this tool and will provide some rough overview in the coming months . . .

Games Quality Forum Europe 2018

This year I am happy to be on the board for the yearly Game Quality Forum Europe (http://bit.ly/2FHtvAr). I’ve been attending this event since its inception many moons ago and every year not only does it change location but its quality gets better and better and this year is shaping up to be the best yet with not only the speakers but the community around the event.

You can get the agenda for the event here: http://bit.ly/2FRJdw5

With Video Games becoming ever more complex, the stakeholders involved with ensuring quality grows with it. We started with the event primarily being from a QA perspective to it growing over the years to include Localisation and this year we’re happy to include Customer Service into the fold. This will help all parties involved gain vital insights and to see what kind of synergies can be created with working closer with the different departments.

Last year, I also had the pleasure to present the Quality Assistance approach which we at InnoGames are currently focusing on, as well as our general approach to Test Automation. This was also my first public speaking event and I have to admit I really enjoyed it. The event also enabled me to start a series of Knowledge Sharing events with Rovio and Nordeus that really helped all companies learn and expand their knowledge and see what areas we can grow together in this ever complicated world. 

I’m really looking forward to this year’s event and I cannot wait to exchange knowledge during the events breaks and evening events as well as to see what the wonderful speakers bring to the table.  

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Malta

I lived on the sunny rock called Malta for around 1.5 years and I regularly get asked for tips and recommendations when it comes to people visiting the island. So below is my short guide to the island and what I recommend.

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Food

If you go to the Island you must try the below, there are really great places and they are all completely different. This helps you get a sense of the culture of the island (sorry no Maltese restaurants)

 

Best Cannoli - Busy Bee Cafe

https://goo.gl/maps/cTjzacYDi6H2 

 

Amazing Mezza - Ali Baba

https://goo.gl/maps/G18uD3c1EnD2

 

Really Great Homemade Mozzarella - HiMù
https://goo.gl/maps/aFz1pTPDTxt

 

Tasty Meat and an Experience - Sciacca Grill

https://goo.gl/maps/jgMQNcyJ8F92 

 

Really Great Quality Food - Wigi's Kitchen

https://goo.gl/maps/woso89eJi4u

 

Great Plastizzi - Crystal Palace

https://goo.gl/maps/kL7Qyf5LXoL2

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Places to Visit

I can highly recommend the following places to visit to get a sense of the island 

 

Walk around the Capital City - Valletta

https://goo.gl/maps/2XbDwXs9rFU2 

 

Watch the Mid-day Gun (everyday at 12:00) - The Saluting Battery

https://goo.gl/maps/vhqc39VYryx 

 

Visit the Island’s first capitol and a firmiliar TV set - Mdina

https://goo.gl/maps/GZNqoExiEzm

 

Walk Around the Citadel in the Capital of Gozo - Victoria

https://goo.gl/maps/cDodMQj7Azx 

 

Wander the Beautiful Streets of the Three Cities -

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Cities

 

Other Recommendations

- Avoid using the White Taxi’s where possible, use ecabs as they charge fair prices and usually have good service -  http://ecabs.com.mt/

- Get a bus card for the duraction of your visit. When I lived in Malta all buses go to and from Valletta and this usually serves as a good base - https://www.publictransport.com.mt/en/bus-card-and-ticketing

Desktop

I often find it interesting what people have on their computers and how they lay out their desktop. As I use my iPad Pro as my main computing devie I live by the apps I have installed. Below is the latest screen grab of my current iPad screen. I only have 1 screen as I like to organise apps into folders. 

 

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My main apps are:

Evernote for document scanning, note taking and article reading

OmniFocus which is my second brain

Calendar which helps me focus my time effectively  

YouTube is my main consumption tool

Great Music to Work To

Book Recommendations - How I Developed

I get asked quite a lot about what books I recommend for productivity and what books helped me get the current mindfulness I have currently. Below are the books in the order I read them, that led me on a journey to where I am now:

1 - The Beginning

To start with I read the following 3 Books from 99u, they are relatively small reads and are quite easy to consume. These books helped me get into the mindset of a freelancer, treating everyone as a customer and how I should act with that.

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Links:

- Make Your Mark - https://www.amazon.de/Make-Your-Mark-Creatives-Building/dp/1477801235/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1517246947&sr=8-3&keywords=99u

- Maximize Your Potential - https://www.amazon.de/Maximize-Your-Potential-Expertise-Incredible/dp/1477800891/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1517247029&sr=8-2&keywords=99u

- Manage Your Day-To-Day - https://www.amazon.de/Manage-Your-Day-Day-Creative/dp/1477800670/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1517247044&sr=8-1&keywords=99u

2. The Method

The following books helped me then start work on my second Brian (my system) for being able to tackle the tasks that my clients / customers through at me.

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Links:

- GTD - https://www.amazon.de/Getting-Things-Done-Stress-Free-Productivity/dp/0143126563/ref=sr_1_1?s=books-intl-de&ie=UTF8&qid=1517250082&sr=1-1&keywords=GTD

- Making Ideas Happen - https://www.amazon.de/Making-Ideas-Happen-Overcoming-Obstacles/dp/1591844118/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1517250048&sr=8-1&keywords=Making+ideas+happen

 

3. The Mindset

Next came a long these 3 books. Each one targets a specific growth area and enabled me to grow as an individual. They really open your eyes to a new way of thinking and allow you to gain a different perspective.  

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Conference Calendar Website

Over the weekend I came across this really cool website that lists different conferences throughout the year, which then can be filtered by such things as discipline as well as location. Since its the start of the year and most of us will be planning our training requirements it seems like a good place to start. 

http://www.confercal.com/ 

Better Effective Time for Book Reading

I ofhen get asked “how do you manage to read so much?” And people seem to be expecting some kind of magic formula for this. But actually it’s even simpler than that. What I did for a few months is track how long I was doing pretty much everything, and what this showed is that my walk to and from work wasn’t being utilised effectively. I was just listening to some music on the walk, and I also noticed that this ended up just amplifying whatever mood I was in (good if I was feeling awesome! Head if I wasn’t) I firstly decided to listen to some podcasts instead, this solved the mood amplification topic but still wasn’t a truly effective use of my time.

Many people I follow and respect always talk about how they manage to read more by utilising audio books, so this was something I was actually wanting to play around with. But one of the main sticking points was “when?” Could I listen during the day and this is something that always put me off, and then a light bulb clicked! I can utilise the 40 minute commute block a day for listening to audio books and what did you know, in a 3 week period I complete an audio book quite easily, this means with reading one book the old fashioned way and utilising audio books I was averaging reading 2 books a month. This entail made 2017 the year I read so much and I really enjoyed it and learnt a lot.  

So, to summarize! Look at your day, and see what activities you do which aren’t requiring your full attention (like walking to work) and utilise that time much better!

Chocolate Microwave Cake

If you ever have the urge for chocolate or something a little sweet, use the recipe below to make a quick and simple chocolate cake in less than 5 minutes. 

 

1. Get a small bowl

2. Put 1/4 Cup of Flour into the bowl

3. Put 1/4 Cup of sugar into the bowl

4. Put 2tbsp of cocoa into the bowl

5. Put a pinch of salt into the bowl

6. Stir the dry ingredients together

7. Add 2tbsp of vegetable oil to the bowl

8. Add 3tbsp of water to the bowl

9. Mix all together until its a chocolate goo (add extra water if its looking dry) 

10. EXTRA - Place a handful of frozen raspberries ontop of the chocolate goo

11. Place in the microwave on full power for 2 - 3 minutes

12. EXTRA - Sprinkle some powdered sugar on top 

 

There you go a very simple recipe for a delicious quick chocolate cake for 1