Support Plan Management Application

The support plan structure that we subscribe to at MindTouch includes 2 tiers of tickets.  The first tier is a System Maintenance ticket which are basic questions about how to use/install/configure MindTouch.  Then we have advanced tickets called METs (MindTouch Expert Tickets).  These allow for support for advanced functionality within MindTouch.

METs are a cornerstone to the support plans as far as one of the main differentiators.  With this in mind we needed an effective way to track and communicate to the customer their usage of these tickets.  This motivated me to create a PHP/AJAX application that surfaces the number of tickets used and how many are left.

The key functionality of this application relies on effectively categorizing tickets in a way that can be surfaced and counted.  We use ZenDesk for our helpdesk which has a pretty robust RESTful API.  I setup a workflow in ZenDesk that would automatically tag the ticket with an MET tag based upon the categorization of the ticket itself. Once this is done then the ticket will go through its normal cycle of resolution.  In the background nightly I have a PHP script that hits the ZenDesk API and queries based upon values from our database and the categorization in ZenDesk.  It then loops through all of the organizations and parses the total number of METs have been used during their support plan timeframe.

Once it receives this information it updates the database.  The information is then surfaced through a javascript widget that receives information from ZenDesk as to the user’s organization.

This helps the agents have a better idea of the customer’s support level along with providing useful information to the customer as to the status of their account.

Come work with me at MindTouch

I’m looking for an outstanding customer support agent to come work with me at MindTouch.  Read the job description and see if you have what it takes.

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Working Out my Digital Strategy

The past couple of months I’ve been working on what I’ve corporately dubbed “My Digital Strategy”.  What this is in reference to is managing all aspects of my life digitally in a way that is easy to scale, easy to manage, and secure from hardware failures.  I’ve put a lot of thought into this and the best solution is to use MindTouch for this.

Let me itemize some of the concerns I have and how they will be resolved with MindTouch.

The First Concern is that I want to ensure that I have portability with my information.  This concern is based on the fear of my laptop dying (had it for about 2 1/2 years so anything is possible) and the ability to access information from another hardware source(like a smart phone).  MindTouch obviously is a benefit as it sits in the cloud(or in layman’s terms on my server) so if my laptop crashes I can easily jump to a different computer and have access to all of the information.  MindTouch also has a smart phone friendly skin which allows for navigation of the site in read only mode.  With the new browsers coming out on smart phones I’m sure it will be easy to edit in them too when not using the optimized smart phone skin.

The second concern is ensuring that I don’t become scattered across the internet as far as my data goes.  It is so easy to be roped into all of the new startups that offer free memberships, unlimited storage, and shiny features.  What ends up happening is that you have 50 logins to 50 sites and in turn 50 copies of the same information.  MindTouch comes in handy here because if you want to maintain your membership with some of these sites you can easily pull the information together on MindTouch and expose it in a way that is useful but also allows you to do a little housecleaning on the unnecessary accounts out there.   With MindTouch’s Web Oriented Architecture it is easy to tie together your relevant information from across the web, whether it be videos, pictures, online office docs, or any other digital media.

The third concern I have is being able to have a location that I can easily add information to.  This is a really critical concern for me as I have a lot of side projects outside of work along with organizing papers and information at home.  MindTouch shines really well with this because of the ease of use, accessibility of the API, and available tools.  You may not know this but MindTouch has a Desktop Connector that allows you to drag and drop a folder structure from Windows which will in turn create the folders and attach the files within those folders to their respective pages.  There are also tools to post content to MindTouch from any application that you can print from using the Aurelia Reporter tool.  This helps a lot for publishing from email clients, other word processing like open office, and even from financial software.  Also with the new addition of the MindTouch MailBox Service, you can have any e-mail post to MindTouch so that you capture the information in a centralized location that is indexed and easy to reference and draw from.  This is beneficial because of my side projects and all of the resources tied to them.

The fourth concern is being able to have information in a centralized location so that I can easily secure the information through routine backups.  This is easily done through an automated Script within MindTouch that you can setup as a cron job to export the db and attachments and then with the cron job, export it to an external server.  Now as my install grows I will probably switch to a solution like rsync as the attachments will grow fast.

The fifth concern is that I wanted to aggregate all of this information in a location that I can restrict information in a way to keep certain data private but share other data with friends and family.  With MindTouch’s Granular permissions it is easy to do this to ensure that private information is kept private.

Now some of you reading this may chalk all of this functionality up to any wiki software.  But you would be sorely mistaken.  Of the information I’ve mentioned above you may be able to find some wikis that have APIs, and you might find some that have tools that make it possible to post to, but you won’t find any with the Web Oriented Architecture which allows you to tie your information together and you also will not find a wiki that takes the ease of use to the next level to allow users like me (not programmer by trade) to be able to create scripts and dynamic calls to sources within and outside of MindTouch.  This in turn puts MindTouch in a class of its own as a Collaborative Network which Aaron talks in greater depth here.  The biggest differentiating factor that MindTouch brings to the table for my digital strategy is that it doesn’t become another countless login/decentralized resource like other wikis are.  It brings all of the information together in a way that makes it easy to contribute, consume, and use.

Mind you that this is just my personal digital strategy for keeping my life in order.  Imagine what it can do for a company, no matter what size you are.  I hope this is beneficial for people out there that are struggling with the same issue of what to do with all of their digital stuff and where to put it so that it is useful.

Note that I encourage you to download and try MindTouch out locally using our trial download.

Note that although this seems like a marketing post it was more me putting my thoughts in writing for how I was going to implement my Digital Strategy.  I’ll let you know how it goes along with details of the setup that I used.

Shoutout on the MindTouch Developer blog

We have a new promotion at MindTouch just in time for summer.  It is the Summer of Support special where if you have a MindTouch Core install you can receive support for it through MindTouch commercial support.  Which means you will be able to interface directly with me.  I encourage you to check it out and take advantage of this good deal.  You can read more about it on the MindTouch Developer Blog.

Why everyone should be strategically planning right now

With the economy in the toliet and businesses cutting left and right, now is a perfect time to engage in strategic planning.  For those of you out there that aren’t familiar with strategic planning here is a quick overview:

Strategic planning allows your business to evaluate the current market, resources, goals, business model, along with other aspects of the business and pull them together in to a cohesive plan to cut costs, increase revenue, maximize the utilization of resources and even start new product lines.

This is why now is a great time to do strategic planning.  While the information above seems like it is easy to layout and is something you think you are doing right now, strategic planning can’t effectively be done without the help of someone knowledgeable in the area.  Now you are asking, “Where is Corey going with this post”.  Well here is my mercenary intent.  Strategic Planning first is best organized using a wiki.  What wiki software should you use you ask, well MindTouch of course silly 🙂   MindTouch is a perfect software to utilize for strategic planning as it will allow you to collaborate around the different areas of the process while incorporating input from key individuals within your company, regardless of locale/schedule.

Now that you have the software to start the process of strategic planning, you need a person that can facilitate the planning process and structure it so that you get the most out of it.  Of course you want a person that is knowledgeable in the use of strategic planning on wikis.  Enter TKG Strategic.  TKG Strategic is familiar with the use of wikis in Strategic Planning along with the planning process as a whole.  The proprietor of TKG Strategic is my Mom, so I am biased, but she specializes in SMB and Tech companies and would be a great person to contact to learn more about Strategic planning.  She offers a free evaluation of your current strategic plan along with flexible avenues for the planning process, i.e. online or in person.

If you are struggling right now, need a business model, want to increase revenue, reduce expenses, etc… contact TKG Strategic and they will be able to help you.

Update

These past couple of weeks I was able to put more focus on the documentation for Deki and was able to launch the following space: http://www.mindtouch.com/Documentation  I’m very pleased with how it turned out and and continuing to polish off the user manual so that our documentation will have a solid structure that will make it easier to expand.  I really like doing documentation as the ultimate goal is to help people better understand the product, which helps with adoption and decreases case load as things are explained better.  

Last weekend Pam’s friends were out here visiting and it was a lot of fun.  Pam and I hadn’t had a weekend like it in a while as she has been busy with school.  I’m looking forward to winter break and ultimately her graduation so that we can have more time to explore and go to the beach.  

We officially started the home purchasing adventure, we put a bid down on a place, we shall see if the sellers accept it.  It is exciting as both Pam and I are ready to have our own place.  Our landlords have been awesome, but we want to be able to change the house as we see fit, along with not worrying about moving.  

Other than that I’ve been keeping up with my RSS feeds and working on backing up my computer as it seems like it is starting to go out.  I installed Ubuntu on it as dual boot, so that I can configure it and see if it will work out for what I need.

Otherwise things have been going well.

Feeling good about progress

Today was a productive day on many fronts.  Today we brought on a new Support Engineer at MindTouch who is going to help with cases and documentation.  This is going to be great as I’ve been working on increasing the documentation for Deki so that it is easier to get started.  Keep an eye on the MindTouch blog as I will announce it once it is launched.  

I’m also feeling good about playing catchup for my personal todo.  Even though I’d enjoy documenting more.  Believe it or not, I am one of the few out there that actually enjoy documenting my work.  Note: I like to document my work, not others 😉  

I’m going to be working more on www.coreyganser.com to add more notes about Linux tips and tricks.  I’m trying to make it a good resource not only for me, but for anyone else that is trying to get into Linux.  Also I will be working on putting together a Mythbox over the next couple of months.  I say a couple of months because I know how easily I can get wrapped up into things.  I’ll do a blog post and wiki write up on my exact steps in case anyone else wants to try it.  I’ll be starting with a VMware image, so it should be interesting.  

Otherwise it feels good to get a blog post in here and there.  I need to write more often as I’ve been slacking in that arena.

Growth of a company

With the growth of MindTouch it is interesting to look back on the past 2 1/2 years and see all of the progress we have made along with the lessons that can be learned.  Some of these lessons include:

  1. Build the community first, they are the most important part of the product
  2. Have a SaaS offering, it is a easy and low barrier way to get people to use the software
  3. Blog, Tweet, and do anything that can increase awareness of the software
  4. Reduce the steps that it takes for a user to trial/use your product
  5. Spend time on documentation in the beginning, this will always move you ahead a couple of steps down the road
  6. Find people that love what they do, and make sure they do just that in the company
  7. Build networks that will benefit both parties
  8. Don’t restrict the software so that people are locked in
  9. Strive for excellence on every release and make sure that wherever you failed doesn’t occur again
I hope any other startups out there can take some of this advice and apply it to their businesses.  I’m sure you’ll find that these are some of the foundations to a good company.

Backing out of BlogWorld

I decided not to Go to BlogWorldExpo in Vegas.  This past weekend I was so busy that I didn’t have a chance to chill.  This week is just as crazy so I’m shooting to hang out at the beach this weekend and do nothing.  (crossing fingers)

On a side note, we just launched our new website at MindTouch.com and it looks awesome!  Our website is running on MindTouch Deki, which makes it even cooler.