Goodbye Foursquare and Swarm

It is the end of an era for me, and for once it’s me ending it and not yet another web service or social network disappearing.  Today I’m saying goodbye to Foursquare and Swarm.

I have been one of the early adopters of Foursquare and an active user for a few long years.  I loved it from the moment I heard about it.  The idea was brilliant and the implementation was good too.

For me, Foursquare was a very elegant idea of a social network.  The combination of the city guide with crowd sourcing and a gaming component was cool.   It provided an easy way to find new places, get recommendations, reviews, and tips, and wrapped it all in a points system that made sense.

I thought that it was also useful for the business owners – knowing who checks in at your bar or restaurant, where else they go, how often they come, and what they think is great.  Being able to offer promotions and special offers based on the check-in history of a user, I thought, was genius as well.

But for some reason, Foursquare never really took off.  Sure, I loved it and recommended it to every person with the mobile phone.  But it never quite got as mainstream as, say, Facebook.  Pity.

But then things got worse.  Foursquare has split the mobile app into two – Foursquare as a city guide, and Swarm as a game.   Swarm is still feeding Foursquare with content, but now there is no particular reason to install Swarm and use it.  I don’t think there was a single new user or anyone who just uses Swarm, without Foursquare.  I might be wrong, of course.  But from what I’ve seen, even fewer people were now checking in and contributing.  Those who did were mostly doing so out of habit from the good old days.  As did I.

A few days ago, something else happened, which, for me, was the last drop.  My Swarm app kicked me out and asked to re-authenticate.  This was weird.  But I did it anyway.  And then, for some reason, all my history was gone.  I still had those few friends in, and my settings were all good.  But the history began anew.  What?  No!  Sure, I can dig into it and figure out if I did something wrong.  Or I can contact support and let them fix it.  But what’s the point anyway?

There is no benefit to using Swarm anymore.  It’s points for the sake of points.  So I’m over and out.

Goodbye Foursquare and Swarm.  It was fun while it lasted.

Phonephobia (vol. 1)

My good friend Slava Dyrdine has finally published his first book of drawings.  You can buy a paperback edition from Amazon for only $15.  If you are into art and moody things, you’ll love having a copy of this at home or in the office.  It also goes well as a present.

Three years at Qobo

Today is my third birthday as the Qobo CTO.  Here are the summary posts for the first and second years, if you are interested.

I haven’t had a boring year at Qobo yet.  And this last one was the most eventful and interesting, both business and technology wise.  Let’s have a quick look at the business side of things first.

Since last August, here are some of the things that happened:

  • In October 2016 we opened the Limassol office.  It’s mostly used by developers and for developers.  But we had a few client meetings in there too.  If things go as fast an good as they are going, we’ll need to either expand it soon, or move to the new premises.
  • In December 2016 we closed the deal with our first angel investors.  That was quite a lengthy and tedious process, during which we spoke to a lot of organizations and individuals, went through a variety of checks and audits, and figured out answers to many questions that we’ve never asked ourselves.  As a result, we found partners who not only brought the money in for the company growth, but a wide range of business expertise.  Personally, I’ve learned a lot during and after this process, and hopefully will boost my understanding of the business world.
  • In March 2017 we received the confirmation that our application for the Research and Development grant from the Cyprus government and European Union was approved.  This process also took quite a bit of effort and time and is far from over.  This money will help Qobo to grow even further and once the tender is complete we’ll have quit a thing to show for it.  That’s about as much as I can say now.
  • In May 2017 we opened the London office.  This one is mostly for our sales force and the expansion of business into the UK market.
  • Over the course of the whole year, we have grown our team quite a bit as well.  We are now about 15 people, but it’s not the quantity that matters, but eh quality.   We manage to bring in some people that I worked with in many previous jobs (Easy Forex, FXCC, Tototheo Group, FxPro, and even as far back as PrimeTel).  And by the looks of it, the team will continue to grow.
  • And much like in previous years, we have signed more clients, did more projects, and delivered more solutions, both locally, here in Cyprus and abroad (primarily United Kingdom).

Now let’s have a look at technology a bit more.  Last year I mentioned Qobrix, but I could give you any more details.  Today, Qobrix is a real thing.  It’s our own platform for building business applications rapidly.  We developed it to a very usable state, and built quite a few applications with it, anything from custom processes, Intranets, and all the way up to the CRMs.  The platform is being actively developed and is maturing every day.  We have also started building a new website that provides plenty of information for it.

Big chunks of our development effort are being released as Open Source software – have a look at our ever-growing GitHub profile.  We have also contributed to a number of Open Source projects in both CakePHP and WordPress ecosystems.

We are also getting much better at this whole cloud computing thing.  Our knowledge of Amazon Web Services (AWS) is growing and improving.  We have more servers now, use more services, and planning to expand even further.

Overall, as you can see, this was quite an intensive year, and it doesn’t look like things are slowing down.  Quite the opposite.  After three years at Qobo, I have to say that this is hands down the best job I ever had (and I had some pretty amazing jobs in the last couple of decades).  I’m learning a lot every single day.  I see the impact of my effort on the company as a whole, on the team, and on our clients.  And I am still humbled by the expertise and virtues of people around me.

I’d like to thank everybody around me for all the wisdom, tips, hard work, and joyful moments during the last year.  I’ll be raising my glass tonight for many more years like this one.  Cheers!

London Trip

Swan Pub, London, UK

As some of you already know, I’ve spent most of this week in London, UK.  My first and only time in London was back in 2009, when I went there for a PHP conference (see this post, and this post).

This trip was very different.  I stayed longer than the last time.  I was mostly for business.  I had much less time to explore the city as a tourist.  So I thought I’d write it up, in case I case I need to remember some of it later.

Continue reading “London Trip”

Togliatti, Russia – home sweet home

I came across this awesome collection of photographs of my home town – Togliatti, Russia (June 2017).  By a lucky coincidence, even the house that I grew up until I moved to Cyprus got into one of the pictures.  It’s the building to the right of the tall building in the center-right of the above image.  Second floor, left window is the kitchen of the apartment where I spent almost 18 years.

The building in the center-bottom is the kindergarden, which I went to.  And the large building on the left is the school, where I studied for the first three years.

Things look quite different from how I remember them, cause it’s been years since I’ve been there (last time in 2006).  The neighborhood changed, memories faded, and the high altitude perspective is not how I’ve used to look at it.