E03: Chatbots

Hi there! Today we are going to talk about chatbots, and how it can help you to engage customers and do better business.  A chatbot basically is a program with capability to understand natural language (English, Spanish…) and trigger orders.

Some of the most popular companies providing chatbots platform are Google (DialogFlow), Facebook (Wit.ai), Amazon (Amazon Lex) and IBM (IBM Watson).

You can subscribe to this podcast on your favorite platform; iTunes, TuneIn, iVoox and YouTube included. Rate us and share with your community. You can always send us your questions by voice 🙂

Wait the next episode on next week.

Meet Alí Guillén

Welcome to another interview of the series Meet our Geek Team. On this occasion we talk to Alí Guillén, which is an software engineer here at 4Geeks. Alí has shown a desire to growth and gain more knowledge. He has deliver more than one product for different clients, which is a clear example of his work approach.

Alí is always happy to help and give his opinion on different topics. He likes to keep learning every day. He is another 4Geeks entrepreneur by creating his own system to connect with Ministerio de Hacienda de Costa Rica (similar to Department of Treasury). Alí answered some questions about him:

How will you describe yourself?

A person who loves to learn for improve myself and help others for improve themselves.

What do you do in your free time?

 I really like to listen music, go to movies, eat a hamburger or going out for a coffee. Meet new people, make new friends, all the social interaction stuff.

Best series you have ever watched?

  1. Death Note
  2. WestWorld
  3. Neon Genesis Evangelion
  4. The Big Bang Theory

Mountain or Beach ?

Beach. The view of sea is awesome, and the people always seems to be relax.

Do you do sports (adventure, extreme, endurance) ?

No at all, only the 4Geeks challenge workout!

Which type of music do you like?

All good sounds of rock, reggae, tropical rhythms, classical, instrumental music, jazz, blues.

What are your top 5 books of all the time ?

  1. El Origen perdido
  2. The picture of Dorian Grey
  3. Needful Things
  4. Los árboles mueren de pie
  5. The Double

What are your top 5 movies of all the time ?

  1. Inception
  2. Iron Man
  3. The Mask
  4. Powder
  5. Point Break

What is the most excited part of being Software Engineer ?

It’s to do what I like the most: to be a programmer, and find new ways to give solutions for issues.

What is the most challenging situation you had faced in your current position ?

The management of new required technologies for a big project.

Which is the best part of being part of 4Geeks team ?

Work with a professional high level team, learn every day a new topic and a new solution for the work I’m doing.

What are your goals for this year?

A new programmer level, and see one of my personal projects online.

Whenever you need help on how to start making ideas into reality though technology, 4Geeks team is up and ready, just reach out to us at hello@4geeks.io.

E02: Product Development Cycle, with Ivan Arroyo

Welcome back to The 4Geeks Podcast! In this new episode Ivan Arroyo, a software engineer here at 4Geeks, joined us for discuss about the 4Geeks Product Development Cycle.

This cycle includes Brainstorming, UX, MVP, UI, Coding, Testing and Product Release, and Ivan, Sergio and Allan discussed deeply about it on this episode. Hope you can enjoy!

Remember subscribe on your favorite platform, rate us and share with your team. If you have any suggestion to keep in mind, please write us. You can always send us your questions by voice 🙂

We also published a version to YouTube, check it out.

Wait the next episode on next week.

4Geeks Product Development Cycle

One of the most important challenges when you are building a digital product (software product) is to figure out the right balance, because maybe there will be many different team working on that product, and then you want to get small releases in a short-time.

We have got a huge increment in our product development experience by participating in past projects/products, dealing with very huge issues, in different industries. We never will forget every single solution we applied in the past to make real a product.

Do you know Uber, right? We create the same platform with the same technology, 4 years before Uber launched in the US. I will talk a bit more about this in another time. In this post I would like to present you how we solve the old product cycle by applying the 4Geeks Product Development Cycle. It includes business and technical skills.

Here the secret:

#1. Brainstorming:

This first step is very very important, because it’s the base of your product success… or fail.

If you need help to get ideas, I suggest you to read and fill out your own Business Model Canvas. It will help you to focus on some important ares like partners, competitors, value proposition. So, print a copy and take your time.

I fill out my first Business Model Canvas in 2012, in a Start Weekend  Costa Rica 2012, to figure out the Mall4G business model 🙂 . So quickly: Mall4G is the e-commerce platform we built… if you are curiosity you can browse the website.

When you have the right features ideas to focus on this first stage, the next step is shape the idea. The make up. You need to put it a face.

#2. UX:

The User Experience is about customers happiness and customer engagement, with no code. UX it’s not about a final product, like a mobile app or website.

#3. MVP:

If you don’t know what’s MVP (Minimum Viable Product), please read this blog post I wrote.  As company founder, a MVP can help you a huge, to delimitate and focus on the way to get done the first product version.

MVP is not about getting profit… it’s about getting feedback from users.

I wrote a post about what MVP really is, and what is not. So, overview: MVP is built to learn and apply customer feedback. Since it refers to a new idea, the startup owner should acknowledge and accept the fact that a possible user reaction is unknown and probably negative. So, It’s essential to get user feedback and see if the startup has a potential.

#4. UI:

People sometimes confuse the UI (User Interface) and UX (User Experience). Let me explain you: the UI is related with the look & feel of the product. At this stage, the designers comes to the escenario to prototyping, by wireframing.

#5. Coding:

Geeks loves this step, because exactly at this point, the 4Geeks engineers build the functionalities and all the business logic. Here comes the happy and the hell.

Most cases, our engineers have been discussed the future product with all the team members, in order to find the better technology, servers and so.

#6. Testing:

If you plan to be a strong player, “testing” will be your friend for a long time. Today there are a lot of companies creating high-level products.

Basically, at this stage the testing team will ensure the product will does exactly

#7. Product Release:

This is the most exciting step in the entire development cycle. Here the product with all the developed features will be published to users.

Normally this task will be made by a DevOps engineer,

 

I will (or some other geek here at the office) describe a bit more every single stage in 4Geeks Product Development Cycle. So, subscribe our newsletter to get it in your inbox as soon we release it. How are you dealing with issues in the software development cycle? I would like to read your comments, and get know what are you building.

If you plan to build a software product or if you are already working on a software product but you need help to solve common issues, my team can guide you. Have any questions? Leave comments at the below section.

E01: Google Cloud vs AWS

Hi listeners! Welcome back to a new episode of The 4Geeks Podcast. In this occasion we face Google Cloud and Amazon AWS, its services, security, easy-to-learn, costs, and much more.

Both platforms are doing a great job to power up business around the world. So, Google Cloud or Amazon AWS? What’s the best to host and run my product? Hope you can enjoy this conversation and share with us your thoughts.

You can subscribe to this podcast on your favorite platform; iTunes, TuneIn, iVoox and YouTube included. Rate us and share with your community. You can always send us your questions by voice 🙂

Next episode will be published on next week. Wait for it.

Meet Ivan Arroyo

Welcome to another interview of the series Meet our Geek Team. On this occasion we talk to Ivan Arroyo, which is an software engineer here at 4Geeks. Ivan is a proactive and always willing to help guy. He is someone you can turn to if you need help.

He is from the capital of Costa Rica. Ivan likes to dance, actually He is teaching to the rest of the team how to dance, or at least try!

Ivan is leading a project here at the office based on a technology He really loves. He also likes to deal with servers and play around with them. Talking about his proactiveness, Ivan started a project at the office recycling waste. It’s a project We all enjoy and appreciate, We are doing a better world with small actions.

Here is a little interview of Ivan’s tastes:

How will you describe yourself?

I’m a simple person who don’t stop talking. I love to help others and be happy (for me, the most important thing).

What do you do in your free time?

 Almost most of time I like to dance, cook, play videogames and play and listen to music.

Best series you have ever watched?

  1. Merlí
  2. How I met you mother
  3. Breaking Bad

Mountain or Beach ?

Mountain. Cold weather is better.

Do you do sports (adventure, extreme, endurance) ?

Nope. Well, I like to walk (does it count as sport?)

Which type of music do you like?

Everything, it depends of the song. Each son has an essence so I will hear everything before judge it.

What are your top 5 books of all the time ?

  1. Mamita Yunai.
  2. The Name of the Wind.
  3. The Wise Man’s Fear.
  4. The Happy Prince and The Shadow of the Wind.

What are your top 5 movies of all the time ?

  1. The Shawshank Redemption
  2. Schindler’s List 
  3. The Help
  4. The Lion King
  5. About Time

What is the most excited part of being Software Engineer ?

The different things that we have to create, there are always something new. Also the fact that we have to maintain conversations with clients and partners is very excited and keeps an excellent environment.

What is the most challenging situation you had faced in your current position ?

Once a deployment went horribly bad. The changes were on production and the servers were on fire. It was a mess! Gratefully, we solved everything, but no one was happy during that day.

Which is the best part of being part of 4Geeks team ?

The people and the environment. Also the way that the things are doing are one of the best that I had found.

What are your goals for this year?

For this year I only want to don’t have stress. As my previous goal is too short – in words terms- I’m going to tell you some of my long term goals (they don’t have a specific order): I want to start to study about how to be an excellent project manager. Also I want to climb a mountain, improve my english and get married..

Ivan is always willing to help not only to his partners but everyone, do not hesitate to contact him if you need guidance on technology.

Whenever you need help on how to start making ideas into reality though technology, 4Geeks team is up and ready, just reach out to us at hello@4geeks.io.

Best way to get your first product customers

I have seen tons of digital products die, because of many kind of reasons, but the main reason is because they can’t get enough customer who pays for their product. So, you know… that product will die very very soon.

My role in 4Geeks is helping companies or individuals to build profitable digital products. My own experience in past projects (includes wins and a lot of mistakes) is letting me to advice another companies in the right way. Ohh!! It’s important to say that my team in 4Geeks is so talent.

I will provide you some espectacular techniques that helped me to get our first customers. Hope it can help you too:

#1. They need trust in you:

No body will give money if they don’t trust in you. It’s so basic to understand that people out there will not give you money if they can’t trust in you, as a honest and valuable person. So, the first step to be trusted by other people is helping.

Helping? That’s correct. You need to provide the larger quantity of value to your community. The sells will happen later.

So, if you are distributing a digital product, focus on create a community and feed them with good content every single week. Here you can get support in Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and so.

Remember: value, value, value…then sell.

In another posts I will guide you with some tips to build a strong community on social media.

#2. Expose your customers reviews:

Social selling is so powerful and maybe did not know it. People are taking important decision based on other people’s decision. If you understand this, your business can grow

If you manage a software product, the easiest way to get customers feedback is on your Facebook Page. So, users can write a review right there, 100% public. Take a look at the following screenshot:

If you need help to setup reviews and rating on your Facebook Page, please consult this support page and expose your customer reviews. Easy peasy.

#3. Have a plan:

After start getting paid customers on your company, you need a plan. This plan needs to be so congruent with your goals and budget, and it can help you. It’s not necessary this be the perfect plan. Use your family and friends feedback to tuneup your plan.

A robust plan will help you on a second or third stage, when you need to create auto process and speed up operations.

Internet is a powerful gun to let you reach millions of people in one minute. What’s your plan?

I would like to suggest you to read Crush It!, by Gary Vaynerchuck. Here a preview:

#4. Focus on customers:

Your product or your company maybe is so brilliant, but your product is nothing without paid customers. That means you need paid customer to have a real business. So, please please please focus on building a strong customer engagement.

In this point, the customer service is so crucial.

You can use some auto marketing tools like chat on your webpage, newsletter, exclusive content, forums, Facebook Groups. In 4Geeks Payments, for example we run a chat room for developers, API documentation, guides and so.

In other posts I will guide you to how to use a email marketing and chatbot tool to drive your attention into your customers, automatically.

#5. Don’t be afraid to request payments:

 

Do you know what’s the main reason that companies are not charging users? It’s because they are not requesting payments. Why? Because they don’t trust in their solution or service. It sounds so weird, but it’s true. Don’t panic. It’s a common mistake when you are a early entrepreneur.

To fix this, you have to learn how to close a deal, but before you need to trust in your team, in your product or service… and you need to build empathy with your customers.  You company goals depends on you.

 

If you already have a plan and if you need help to building your digital product, with no matter your industry, maybe my team here in 4Geeks can support you. Just fill out this contact form  and an expert will guide you to the next step.

Meet Allan Porras

Allan is the CEO of 4Geeks, which is a really challenging but exciting role in the company. He is always looking forward to create new cool stuff, to improve their skills and share with the team the vision and empowered all people involved in 4Geeks, this is not me saying this, all the team thinks the same way.

He is from Paso Canoas, Puntarenas, Costa Rica, in a town near to the border with Panama, which is from more than 400km from San Jose, capital of Costa Rica.

Allan has lots of experiance leading companies, in different industries, that’s what He is a key part of the 4geeks team, Allan is the one that leads the company to the success. He writes all of this on his blog so, you can check it out.

In 4Geeks we love to meet the person, their likes and their ambitions, that’s why we asked some question to Allan to share with the world his thoughts.

How will you describe yourself?

I describe myself as a dreamer entrepreneur, with a huge passion to helping people and impact some others around de world. I really love helping people with their stronger problems.

What do you do in your free time?

I love reading, go to cinema, watching movies and traveling.

Best series you have ever watched?

Prison Break and Breaking Bad.

Mountain or Beach ?

Both. I hate routine, and I would like to have good options to choose. Mountain or beach are perfect to me.

Do you do sports (adventure, extreme, endurance) ?

I’m not a good athlete, but I like soccer and boxing. Actually these are two sports that I play regularly. At the adventure/extreme side, I like rafting.

Which type of music do you like?

I don’t have any issue to listen any type of music, but I prefer trova, rock and roll, folk, gospel, jazz and blues.

What are your top 5 books of all the time ?

  1. The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
  2. Rich dad, poor dad, by Robert Kiyosaki.
  3. Unfair advantage, by Robert Kiyosaki.
  4. Guide to investing, by Robert Kiyosaki.
  5. Sell or be sold, by Grant Cardone.

Which type of music do you like?

I don’t have any issue to listen any type of music, but I prefer trova, rock and roll, folk, gospel, jazz and blues.

What are your top 5 movies of all the time ?

  1. Titanic

PD: Seems like Allan is not a good cinephile. 

What is the most excited part of being CEO ?

All the company’s errors are mine. All the company’s wins are theirs. 

My job here is get little wins, to make the team much more trusted in their skills. If they trust themselves, they will happy; if they are happy, they can achieve anything… and then the company grow. Period.

What is the most challenging situation you had faced as CEO of 4Geeks ?

The most challenge for me has been to merge all the company parts and make it one single thing. Distribute the company vision.

Which is the best part of being part of 4Geeks team ?

I have seen grow to 4Geeks from zero to the today stage, and every single guy here insert their own mark. All of them are different, but if you group them by getting the most brilliant skills, then you get a strong company with strong culture, ready to eat the world.

What are your goals for this year?

I have too many personal goals for this years. Some of them:

  1. Starting my own real estates portfolio.
  2. Teaching people in Latin America the honest way to handle money.
  3. Impact millions people with technology products built in 4Geeks.

If you run into Allan some day ask him about his goals, you know, some pressure.

Do you want to know Allan a little bit deeper?  So, you can follow him in the different social networks TwitterLinkedIn and Facebook.

We are doing the same exercise with all the 4Geeks team, so, if you want to know more about the geeks we have at the office subscribe to our newsletter and find out more other content like our #4GeeksStyle, entrepreneurship, life style, technology and business.

E00: Intro to The 4Geeks Podcast

Hey guys! We are really excited to introduce you The 4Geeks Podcast, our new initiative to share knowledge with everybody out there.

Sergio Monge, CTO at 4Geeks and Allan Porras, CEO at 4Geeks, will host weekly conversations about technology, business, startups and disruptive products. So, join us on this journey!

You can subscribe to this podcast on your favorite platform; iTunes, TuneIn, iVoox and YouTube included. Rate us and Share with your community.

E01 episode will be published on first week July, 2018. 🙂 Every Wednesday.

(more…)

DevOps on business

In 4Geeks we always want to deliver successful products, using the right technology for each project. Since some years ago DevOps culture has been increasing exponentially and We agreed to take and start using it internally and with our clients as well. The result of this approach was very significant, We started to deliver faster and in a better way, products like 4Geeks Payments are using different automation tools that allow us to keep our systems always up and deploy more than once per day, really incredible.

DevOps is about to reduce gaps between development and operations. Where development is all about code management and creation, which its finality is to be sent to operations, where we ensure the code is stable and running into our infrastructure.  It’s to align every department into business idea, get real outcomes. Which goes trough planning, releasing, creating and monitoring process, having an endless loop of automated process which We will cover later in this blog.

DevOps build a bridge where development and operations can work together and communicate, breaking down silos. Not everything is about write great code and test over and over again, we should focus on delivery, that’s where DevOps rocks. A few days ago I was watching a Gitlab webinar, Victor Hernandez, Solution Architect at Gitlab mentioned a good example of why we should Deliver to the market correctly. It was 2012 and Knight Capital Group created a new functionality to replace some legacy and unused code, the old code used to use a flag to turn the feature on or off, so it was always off.  The updated code reused the flag functionality (that’s where all the bad things begins). Turns out an engineer forgot to deploy to a server, so basically when the new code was deployed to the the other servers enabling the famous flag, it also enabled old code funcionality from the server not updated. This little action cost to the company more than $400 million , but also they went bankrupt, all of this in 45 minutes in hell.

There are thousand of ways to fail when deliver code and Marvin Li knows it when He wrote this interesting article about 9 things we are doing wrong when deploy. According to the author there are 9, but I will show and describe the top three for me:

  1.  Bad Communication: This applies for every aspect of our life. We really push our teams to communicate efficiently. Every engineer makes changes, but what if we don’t notice to our team, that an script has to be run after deployment ? Maybe the script affects in some way other team member work. Communication is always the first key to success.
  2. No infrastructure automation: It’s normal that engineers or developers have to built servers from scratch, dealing with libraries, updates, network, and all server stuff you can imagine, this represents a difficulty to have stable products, if we have 10 servers, we can forget to have them exactly the same way, there is always different and there is aways system updates that can compromise our application. Using Google, Amazon or any other PaaS provider we can avoid those things I mentioned and focusing on deploy the code and have our infrastructure scalable without pain.
  3. Waiting too long to integrate: It seems like It’s not important to deploy frequently, but It’s. If we tend to do deployments every two weeks (for example) we may accumulate more code that It’s impacting our current system. At 4Geeks Payments we keep our master branch always within the latest changes and more important we deploy almost every day.

As Marvin Lin listed on his articule, there are other possible bad things we are doing to fail in our product delivery process, We may no accomplish goals due those points. My task today is to find a way to solve those gaps, bringing real value to our product.

Before I continue here are some important terms we will cover:

  1. Continuos Integration (CI): Developers and testers validates new code, making sure nothing old breaks.
  2. Continuos Delivery (CD): This is where we deploy and deliver the code. The goal here is to get faster time-to-market.
  3. DevSecOps: Creation of security scripts where we validate all possible gaps.
  4. Monitoring: Using different tools to constantly check system health.
  5. Microservices: Application Structure where we divide application into small pieces like, backend (API), frontend and security layer.
  6. Container: Those ones are like a VM where we have all system requirements in it, making it sharable and easy to deploy. Docker is one of the most known container.

Business Benefits

Faster time-to-market

As I mentioned above at 4Geeks we deploy more than once per day in our internal and client project, this is real because our DevOps culture is strong and totally automated. The ROI of releasing first can be millions of dollars in earns. As You more deliver your clients will be happier, They will have features and improvements more frequently, giving marketing the ability to announce more and more cool stuff to you platform that improves the ROI.

Communication and Collaboration

Personally I argue our teams to improve communication every day, this is an important key for every project. If everyone is on the same page the product will contain exactly what It’s required. The goal for us is to break down IT silos, where teams are self-organized and each team working in a collaborative way. We don’t want to have a nightmare story.

Hasta la vista… bugs

Your bugs reports will considerably decrease as more time you have had implemented DevOps culture. Having automation tests within a good Continuos Integration process will prevent to send new bugs to production environment. What happened with old bugs? A good DevOps culture provides monitoring tools to search and attack bugs quickly, faster response, this plus a good delivery structure can help us to attack bugs really quickly.

Smarter infrastructure

We can reduce costs by choosing the right platform for our project, but also If we have the best infrastructure structure we can save thousands of dollars. We can automagically add more horsepower to our application when needed, during peak season for example, but also decrease it when we are not using any extra power. All of this is possible if we have the correct setup. Infrastructure at scale.

Higher productivity

We always want to have our teams doing things that impact our system bringing real value at the time, so all the team can focus on innovate and delivery new cool features. We can make our team smarter too, We will probably won’t need to add more people for only fixing bugs due they are unsustainable. The same team with the same people can manage 1 server or 100 the real difference resides on automated process being really productive.

Improved quality and performance of products

Since We will reduce bugs our clients won’t face too many issues in production having them happy. With some monitors tools we can check application performance and fix if necessary. Having a good server structure can make each request faster and customers will be please to use your product for sure.

“DevOps is not a goal, but a never-ending process of continual improvement”

– Jez Humble

DevOps Continuous Lifecycle

We are not going to detail each step of the endless DevOps lifecycle, but it’s highly important to know the process and the importance of it. Your projects probably get bigger every day, and It’s extremely important to know which process We have to approach in our team to have the amazing product we want.

Communication on planning is key to a successful project or not. There are many communication and planning tools out there that can help us to achieve that.

Every team needs to document their progress on their code, It’s important for the record, teams must also do code reviews to check other teammates way to code, the team gets better.

After each code is done there is always an stage of continuos testing and verification of stability, where the idea is to keep our system bug free, by checking new and old code.

All code must be truly tested to be deployed into production, having all code and necessary stuff to start seeing our new approach.

Having the right structure is vital, we don’t want to waste money on a bad structure, We definitely want that our system runs with the necessary to be 100% on performance and availability. There are options our there, we can choose the best fit for us.

Finally, we should monitor our output, there is always point of improvement, If we can measure our opportunities of growth We can improve business.

Key elements for successful

People/Culture

All of this is about people, to put them into same umbrella, improve communication and destroy barriers. DevOps is not a position but a culture, a culture where organization gets improved and teams align with business. DevOps tries to understand people and improve  collaboration through process, everyone gets visibility and a role on it. Break down silos.DevOps is a journey, where the path is to start building an automated ecosystem.

Process

As I showed on the lifecycle image It’s highly important to have a continuous and endless process. All the team must be aware of it and make sure each step gets done.

Automation Tools

The set of tools we may use is total apt to you, there are thousand of them out there. What is important It’s to understand our business and our product to choose the right technology and platform  to deliver and automate our process. If you need help to choose the right technology for your DevOps journey do not hesitate to reach out  to me at sergio@4geeks.io I can always help to improve products.

Summary

DevOps culture is vital at 4Geeks and we know it’s vital for different products out there (ex: Netflix). It’s important to focus on people and how to improve communication between teams, if we achieve this, our business will go faster and the growth will be exponential.

Whenever you need some guidance to make your DevOps culture real we are happy to join with you in this amazing journey, just leaves us a message and we will get back to you for sure.

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