I've Joined Automattic

This is big news, and words can’t explain my feelings. Today’s my first day at Automattic, the company behing WordPress.com, Akismet, Gravatar, Polldaddy, VaultPress, and a whole lot more. As you know, Automattic also contributes to a number of Open Source projects, including BuddyPress, bbPress, Browse Happy, WordCamp.org and of course WordPress itself.

So… Starting today, I’ll be working on some really cool stuff with some of the most talented minds on earth. I’ve already met with some of the folks online and the energy is incredible, they got me even more excited, and now I can’t wait for my first meetup and of course WordCamp to meet everybody in real life.

This is a dream come true for me, thank you so much Automattic! Looking forward to “make the web a better place.” :)

Quitting Applications with Dvorak

I wrote earlier that I’ve been training myself on the Dvorak keyboard layout lately, so the fun part is that the Dvorak Q is right where the Qwerty X is and I’m a crazy user of shortcut keys, so there you have it! Can’t wait to make the full switch. By the way, I’m using this plugin to embed tweets.

Learning Dvorak

As some of you might have noticed on Twitter and Facebook, I recently started learning a new keyboard layout called Dvorak Simplified Keyboard Layout, so I decided to share a couple of links that inspired me. The Dvorak Zine uses comics to explain the history and promote the layout. They also have a Dvorak typing course.

Matt Mullenweg’s On the Dvorak Keyboard Layout (written back in 2003) explains the advantages, why and how he switched to the Dvorak layout. Matt also quoted:

I knew that however long it took me to learn it would be incrementally paid for by the increased productivity and comfort in the future.

Quite inspired by all this, I made a 2012 resolution to learn touch typing on Dvorak at least as fast as I can touch type on Qwerty (around 100 words per minute.) I can also touch type the Cyrillic keyboard layout at around 80 words per minute but that won’t change with Dvorak ;)

Interview at WordCast Conversations

After quite a long delay we’ve finally got to launch the interview together with @kymhuynh at WordCast Conversations. Listened to it a couple of times, seems like I said the words “complex” and “complicated” three thousand times, but Kym said it was okay ;)

Kym Huynh talks with Konstantin Kovshenin about his work with robotics and his passion for WordPress, WordPress Plugins, APIs, and the WordPress Community he hopes to ignite in Russia.

We spoke with Kym last year when WordPress 3.0 was sexy with all it’s new features and stuff, so you might feel it a little bit updated. Perhaps I should ask Kym to record a follow-up ;) Anyways, the rest of the interview is all about me, my story, hobbies, what I do and how I write code. Mentioned are Visual Basic, C++ and ASP (who would have thought?). I still have those blog posts on my first .NET MVC project, I would have spoken about it and about Python too. But anyhow, was great being on the show!

So head over here to listen to the episode, then head back and let me know what you think about it. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to retweet this post. Cheers!

Amazon Web Services: Cloud Computing Free of Charge

Howly shmoly, just read the announcement of Amazon’s Free Usage Tier offering an EC2 micro instance free of charge for a whole year! Sounds cool, doesn’t it? Well let’s go back a few months and analyze the reason why I left Amazon in favor of Media Temple’s (ve) service: Amazon is way too expensive for a young geek like me, barely having the money to pay rent for my lousy apartment in Moscow ;)

Well that’s not the only reason, but I’m now quite comfortable with (mt)’s services, except their tech support, but that’s not what this post is about. I must have flooded my Twitter with messages about Django and Python. Honestly, I fell in love with Python a few months ago (in theory) then started scratching code in the beginning of October, but then again, this is not what the post is about (can somebody tell me why I’m going off-topic today?)

Back to AWS. The news is good, but the fact that they mention “new customers” frightens me:

These free tiers are only available to new AWS customers and are available for 12 months following your AWS sign-up date. When your free usage expires or if your application use exceeds the free usage tiers, you simply pay standard, pay-as-you-go service rates (see each service page for full pricing details).

I’ve been with them for over a year, paying a bunch of money every month, so I’m not a new customer for them anymore, unfortunately. So they’re not really targeting old customers which were unsatisfied with something, but new ones which have never tried EC2 (S3 and all the rest). Again, this is only a trial, unlike Google AppEngine, which happens to love Python code.

So my thinking is – is this all a coincidence, or is it a light for me towards AppEngine, Python and Google? Stay tuned: @kovshenin :)

October Quickie: A Little Bit of Everything

Well yeah, it started snowing today here in Moscow, but this post is not about snow. I remember I’ve done some quickie before, but couldn’t find it. Perhaps it was something I mentioned inside the blog post with a different title. But anyways, this is a short roundup of what I’ve been up to lately.

Let’s start with Python.. After reading a very popular book called Programming Collective Intelligence by Toby Segaran (review coming later), I had no choice but to peek at how Python is doing. I didn’t carry out much of the excercizes in the book while reading it, but I did run a few experiments afterwards. Some of the code examples were translated into PHP to immediately implement into my Twibots project, the juice was left for later.

This weekend I decided to gather some data from the Twitter Streaming API for some experimental purposes, and I decided to do this in Python. Of course I hadn’t had much time to read good books (still waiting from Amazon), but the plenty online tutorials, guides and articles out there are quite okay. So with a little trial and error I managed to write a script which gathers a little over 10,000 tweets in 30 minutes and dumps them into a database. That’s 20,000 tweets an hour, ~ half a million tweets a day. What am I going to do with those? I’ll give you an insight on this project a little bit later ;)

Twitter. I finally got #newtwitter. I thought it was a joke. It’s not a secret that I have multiple Twitter accounts, but I use them for development purposes, and guess what, those accounts were switched to the new Twitter three weeks before my account was. So yeah, I’m a little mad at Twitter, but their new look really rocks. They also need some updates to their mobile version.

.NET MVC. Some of you might be wondering (or not) what happened to that .NET MVC project of mine. Well it’s 99% finished, but we’re constantly coming up with changes to the content part, switching images around and other dirty work. Latest comment from the client was – okay so I open up Safari, click View and check the Zoom Text Only option. Then I zoom in and the whole design breaks! You guys promised me nice-looking XHTML in Opera, Safari, Chrome, IE and Firefox, what the heck?

PHP. I wrote an app in PHP that allows me to turn off my PC from my iPhone. I extended it to include volume up/down features a few days later. These are the kind of apps you write when you’re lazy ;)

And finally some goodies from all around the web for web designers and developers:

That’s it for today. Cheers!

WordPress 3.0, Social Media in Russia, Hiring & Coffee

So, there’s quite some interesting stuff going on around here and let’s of course begin with WordPress. Yes, WordPress 3.0 has been released, some blog posts of mine got even more visibility and I’ve been interviewed on the WordCast Conversations show – thank you so much @kymhuynh and @lorelleonwp.

I don’t know when the show will air, but Kym promised to let me know the scheduled date as soon as they set one, so stay tuned for an update – I’ll write a separate post for that one.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is in the US, visiting Apple, Twitter & others from the Silicon Valley. He finally got his Twitter accounts: @KremlinRussia and @KremlinRussia_E (for the English speaking ones). Both accounts are verified and following @BarackObama ;) He gained over 30k followers within two days and is now using his own URL trimming service – krln.ru! He also has some quite cool photos of the Twitter office, the Apple office and Steve Jobs ;)

Speaking about photos, a few days ago I came across a real New York City Taxi here in Moscow. It was parked in Lyublino (South-East), had no number plates, and disappeared after a couple of days. I guess it was some Russian oligarch living in NYC who got drunk on Friday and decided to visit his relatives in Moscow during the weekend :D Oh well ..

NYC Cab in Moscow

My apologies, this was shot from my iPhone, not the best size and quality. View the full photo here. So, as promised by the title, a short list of facts I found interesting this week, mainly about hiring:

  • MoiKrug (Russian Linked in clone) is not that bad.
  • HeadHunter.ru & SuperJob.ru ARE that bad.
  • Luxoft know who I am and have my contact details.
  • It’s a good idea to speak to candidates over the phone for 15-20 minutes before inviting them over for a job interview. 60% are usually dropped out.
  • SugarCRM is boring, BaseCamp too. Microsoft Project rocks.
  • Russian Assist.ru e-payment system does not work.
  • Russian 1C is not the only ERP platform used in Russia. Some prefer Microsoft Dynamics NAV (formerly called Navision).
  • MVC and Zend Framework should be mastered immediately.
  • There are problems accessing Gmail from certain regions in Turkey.
  • Coffee without milk is okay, until you start drinking it everyday.

That’s about it for this week and yes, we’re still looking for young and talented PHP developers and web designers willing to work in Moscow startup. Feel free to contact me for more information about the job offers. Cheers, and have a great weekend!

Renting an Office in Moscow: A Case Study

It’s been a few months now since we started looking for an office here in Moscow. We didn’t ask for much as we’re a startup. All we were looking for is some lousy 50 sq meter office not too far away from the center.

The story dates back to February when we decided to move out of our expensive 13 sq meter office in South Moscow. We were quite sure that we’ll be able to find a suitable place so we signed off the rental contract for two last months. What I had in mind was to walk around Moscow for a day or two and write down the numbers from the red adverts on buildings. This should have helped us avoid agents, thus saving us some money on commission fees. Unfortunately it was not as simple as I thought it would be.

Nearly half of those phone numbers belonged to real estate agencies, who just rented the spots on or next to office buildings. The other half offered offices staring at 200 sq m. After a few more unsuccessful phone calls, we finally decided to contact an agency and ask them to look for something that meets our requirements. The agency replied within, err. Actually they didn’t reply at all. We were confused and quite disappointed, as their website had some quite interesting offers. Perhaps they weren’t pleased with our size, maybe they’re used to work with larger clients?

Right. After contacting a few more agencies we found out that they’re not too keen on working with such tiny offices, even for quite a good commission. But can you imagine how many small companies are looking fur such deals? I spoke to a friend of mine who got a place in the Moscow City complex, which is sort of class A+ and consists of a few very good looking towers. He said that it took them over four months to stay in line until somebody moved out. Later on I found out that it wasn’t a place in the towers that he got, but one nearby. Okay, nice area and infrastructure, but is it worth the money? $ 1000 per sq m per year! Wha?

So the contract we signed with our previous office owners finally came to an end and they kicked us out. No place to work, no office, no metro. Freelance. “Hurray!” thought my employees. “What a nightmare!” thought I, hoping it wouln’t last for more than a couple of weeks. I was wrong.

During those two weeks I managed to come across quite a good real estate agency. I was surprised when I saw their website. It’s quite modern, and yes, they used Google Maps to point out their offers on a map. They didn’t miss out traditional features though, such as area and price filters. I was also surprised that they showed the exact locations on the map. Agencies don’t usually do that, and soon I figured out that all their offers were commission-free! After speaking to an employee from the agency I found out that they signed agreements with office bulding owners, and commission was payed by them, very smart!

Renting an Office in Moscow

I took a ride with the agent the next day. Been to a couple of buildings that I was interested in, but unfortunately none of them suited our budget. Unlucky! So we asked them to look for something else within our price range. The offers were not too good, and quite soon they figured out that they were spending too much time with us, and stopped answering my phone calls. Duh! I was almost ready to make my choice.

Next was an agency who are quite well known in Russia, Europe and the United States. They had around 5 class A buildings in Moscow and very flexible solutions, such as shared offices and certain cards that would let you into an office a limited number of days per month, providing you with one working space. Quite interesting, but then again, not within our budget.

We were quite disappointed with all the time that we have spent on such an easy task (we thought). So we decided to take one last shot at plan A – find a phone number and try to arrange a meeting. And guess what, it turned out a success! We managed to find one C class building, very close to the metro in South-Central Moscow. It was the best choice for a 50 sq m office meeting our budget, and we got a balcony too! ;)

That’s about it. Next steps are to get all our stuff in there, get some good furniture from Ikea and, well.. Convince our employees that working freelance is bad, especially since we’re a team.

Did you have such experience in other cities and countries? Did you come across any innovative ways of building real estate websites? Except for craigslist and housingmaps.com of course ;) Feel free to share your thoughts and experience in the comments. Cheers!