Troubadour’s new home: The TechArb

Tech Arb Alley DoorwayTroubadour is proud to be working this summer at the TechArb (alley entrance depicted at right)- a student-run incubator for UM student tech startups.  Other cool companies working in this “subterranean” (article at the Ann Arbor Chronicle) co-working space include:

  • Backyard Brains, which enables high school teachers to incorporate neurophysiology into their lessons.
  • Carrier Mobile, which aims to replace hand-written logs for truck drivers with cell phone software.
  • CrowdClarity, which uses the wisdom of crowds—often called crowdsourcing—to assist in product development.
  • Mobil33t, a mobile development company primarily focused on smartphone application development.
  • My BandStock, which allows bands to raise money from their fan base to make records.
  • Phonagle, which focuses on team-based multiplayer games incorporating social networking.
  • Quazie.net, which focuses on iPhone applications and other ventures.
  • Shepherd Intelligent Systems, which tracks public buses and posts their locations online through Google Maps.
  • WOMP Software, which creates and distributes lightweight, easy-to-use software.

The TechArb is a temporary home to these startups, but with the support of the university and local venture firm, RPM Ventures, it may be a more permanent space to foster entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan.  Full article from the University of Michigan News Service.

Back in action!

Troubadour is back in action this summer after a brief hiatus finishing up graduate school.  We’re now what are known as masters and working away on awesome new apps.  Look for them in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, please enjoy this fine (and pleasantly-surprisingly long!) Wikipedia article on troubadours.

Troubadour Mobile Party at SXSW!

Hey everyone.

It’s been a long time since Troubadour Mobile posted anything. We wanted to let you, our faithful readers, know about our future plans. Troubadour Mobile will be at South By Southwest Interactive, the premier conference for musicians, filmmakers and location-based mobile software developers (that’s us)!

If you are going to SXSW, you should meet up with us and we can party! Oh, did you think the title of this blog post meant we were sponsoring some kind of party? No, we’re just going to other peoples’ parties.

Here are our profiles via my.sxsw.com. Follow us and let’s chill:

Hope to see you at South By!

Company culture

As an exercise for our master’s program, we were asked to write about our company culture. Below is a little bit of what we came up with.

Since it’s just us three, we do what we want. If we have engagements during work time, no problem. We have a very cheap and flexible work environment – maybe not always so comfortable for visitors (or ourselves at times), but, it’s what we’ve created and it keeps our space fresh and highly usable for a variety of activities.

Flexibility and not having unnecessary expectations for others is key. For instance, we try to start each day (although it’s more like every other day) with a 20 minute episode from one our favorite TV shows. We all understand just how invested in the company we are. We know that if we take it easy one afternoon, we’ll be back in action the next morning, full force. One thing that enables this is that we all work very closely. We have an open space, no private rooms or cubes. We share and communicate constantly, solving technical challenges, planning our work, reflecting on our work habits, throwing out interesting experiences and ideas, making jokes and everything else. We’ve developed a rapport and camaraderie that allows us to be open, not afraid of taking risks or proposing out-of-the-ordinary ideas.

We enjoy working hard as well as taking time to relax. We do it all together and are able to solve problems (technical or not) together faster and better than if we were working on them alone.

This culture is tough to scale as new people join the organization bringing with them diverse experiences, interests and ideas but I think we’re keen on coming up with ways to make people feel included and valued members of the team.

Menlo Innovations Agile Workshop

Menlo Innovations LogoA few weeks ago, we visited a local software company called, Menlo Innovations, through a meeting arranged by our mentor.  We presented our ideas to them and they provided us with some great feedback in a very short amount of time.  Coincidentally, they had a workshop the following week on their Agile process, which is really quite impressive.  Thought I might briefly share how we changed based on what we learned.

Menlo’s advice and workshop really helped us to imagine new and effective ways to handle the development process.  We took what they shared and made it work for us with the resources at our disposal.  The greatest thing about their approach is that it is simple, “for humans,” and values a very high number of product iterations focusing on involving the client/user as much as possible (“guerilla” user testing, usability studies, product reviews, etc.).  We were able to come up with a plan for having user tests on prototypes every couple of days which has made designing our applications better and tougher at the same time.  Better because we have far more real user data to work with.  Tougher because sometimes that data is conflicting – some users want one thing, others want the complete opposite.  Balancing these needs with technical limitations adds an additional layer of challenges.  In the end, the greater the challenges, the greater our product will be when we meet them.

Troubadour Mobile In The Ann Arbor News!

A few weeks ago, an Ann Arbor News reporter came into the office to talk with us about our company and the RPM10 program. And just last week, the news story came out. We didn’t see it at first since we don’t subscribe to these so called “newspapers” (we don’t really know what this “paper” stuff is all about) but the story is also available on their blog. So check it out to find out more about our company!

iPhone Camping Experience

(This post is cross-posted from an entry in Hung’s blog)

So after a few false starts, I have an iPhone 3G that works.

The journey was a long one; at the end I grew weary and lost faith. But finally, I have a neat iPhone 3G that does cool stuff.

It started this morning at around 5:30. I woke up (though I only got like, 3 hours of sleep since I had taken a nap earlier and messed up my sleep cycle) and took a quick shower. No breakfast. Just took a vitamin water (these things are kinda good!) and a coffee granola bar for energy.

Gaurav (from Troubadour Mobile) picked Adam (also from Troubadour Mobile) and I up. We drove to the mall and saw a bunch of peeps. We also saw some officemates from CampusRoost (yes, that’s a slick mention!). They told us that the AT&T store on Liberty had like, zero people and we should go there.

When we actually got to the AT&T store, it was around 6:30ish. There were actually about 30 people in line. Apparently everyone showed up around 6:15 or so. There was a really cool line wrangler named Steve that kept everyone reasonably informed. We found out there were like, 40 phones. So we should be able to get one. Adam and Brent didn’t want to settle for white ones. Or 8GB ones. But I think eventually Adam got a black 8GB and I dunno what Brent did.

At 8am, the line started moving, and it was moving well. But then disaster struck! It seems either Apple or AT&T didn’t have the resources to take a billion people in the US all wanting iPhones at the same time (and having to activate them in the store). The activations were apparently taking around 45-50 minutes each when they should’ve taken 15 or so.

Eventually, the AT&T people let us just do most of the steps in store and then activate at home. By the time we were done, it was about 11am. I went home and tried to activate the thing for about 15 minutes. iTunes was just being bad. So I went to sleep. I woke up at around 2pm and tried to activate again. This time it worked after about 30 minutes of trying.

I’ve been loading up apps and trying them out. It’s pretty cool. My favorite so far is the PhoneSaber.

Assembla for software projects!

I’ve been looking for a solid (and free) project management and software development platform for some time now.  We started out with the free trial of Basecamp and quickly ran out of writeboards (basically wiki pages – you are only allowed two) and the site overall was a little clunky and did not have support for uploading any files and no software development support at all (such as bug-tracking tools).  As it turns out, Basecamp no longer offers a free package – only a free 30-day trial.

We tried installing Trac with Subversion on Hung’s Dreamhost hosting plan, but ran into troubles.  Subversion is a one-click install on Dreamhost and there is a user-contributed script to “easy-install” Trac, but they didn’t seem to work as well with each other as we had hoped.  After toying around with it for some time to no avail, I hit up Google for “free trac subversion hosting” and found Assembla.

Assembla is great.  500 MB of space for Trac integrated with Subversion for free at the click of a button.  There are additional tools for persistent chat, milestone management (although Trac also does this), uploading and viewing large format images, time tracking and more.  The site seems a little buggy here and there (i.e. it is still asking me to verify my email address even though I have already done so; initially tickets in Trac did not work because a separate Tickets manager was enabled in Assembla – not sure why they are duplicating tools), but we resolved that and Trac is working just fine.

We just started using Assembla today, so we’ll see how things go.  I’ll be sure to post any major updates on how using Assembla works out over the course of the summer.