AIAIO: Our Blog

AIAIO: Our Blog

The pulse and reviews of Alexander Interactive

Basecamp 3 is Coming

Basecamp 3 is coming and I’m exited. Below are excerpts from Basecamp’s preview post on what I’m looking forward to most

Basecamp won’€™t send you any emails, push notifications, or in-app notifications if it’s outside your specified work hours. Live a little! Work Can Wait until you’re back at work.

group chat room for quick discussions

This is cool but it came a little too late. We’ve been using slack for project based and individual chat. It has a dedicated app that is easy to cmd+tab to. I see campfire in the browser sitting in an unchecked tab and not being useful

Show someone you care by clicking the Applause button on any message, comment, document, or answer on any automatic question. They’ll get a discrete notification letting them know you appreciated what they said. This is a great way to show your support for someone’s suggestion, idea, or point of view without also sending a notification to everyone else on the project.

e.g. What did you work on today€ or Are you blocked on anything?)

Hmm, I wonder if this could be used for virtual scrum?

@mentions: Psst!


They’ll instantly get a notification letting them know they’ve been mentioned, along with a direct link right back to where you mentioned them

If you’re not in the desktop app

Buhhh wait what? Ok maybe what I said about the tabs and apps above might not apply

You can bookmark just about anything in Basecamp 3 so you can jump right back to it from anywhere else

This will be handy. Here are always a few key threads I end up digging for. Usually long running threads about key deliverables

At the bottom of every project is a timeline of all activity going back to the moment you started the project

I like this if search hadn’t been improved. This has a lot easier than scrolling through all the lists looking for something around a certain time

So you can make a folder and put a photoshop file, a Google doc


Now you can assign to-dos to multiple people. Now you can set date ranges, not just single due dates. Now you can bulk assign multiple to-dos with a single click. Now you can select multiple to-dos and move them as a group.


Now you can save any new message or document as a draft before you publish it

Basecamp 3 allows you to see all the work you’ve assigned to other people

You can sign up for an early invite here


Ninja Productivity Tricks: Lessons learned from 9 years in the Ai trenches

I recently held an AiU session for the company (deck below) focusing on my personal productivity hacks and habits that get me through my day. As a Project Manager, the only constant is change. Even the best-laid plans go awry and even the most proven processes go off-the-rails. The true test of your mettle as a PM is how you respond. In the transcript and deck below I share ways I’ve found to ensure success by turning to a repeatable system that gets better over time.


— (Transcript)
My Journey: Earning my black belt
I’m going to share a bit about my journey of improving how I manage my day and my life overall.

I played sports growing up and throughout college where time management and productivity was all about my tasks and me. I didn’t have to worry about tasks that others were doing. I didn’t have to set expectations with people about timing (I couldn’t tell a professor that I’d be two days late with an assignment)… It was, here’s your homework, here are your projects to get done, be at the gym for practice at 2pm, etc. The structure was set for me, and I just had to figure out how to balance keeping up with schoolwork, playing volleyball / traveling and having a life outside of both.

I went from a volleyball team in college to a team of less than a dozen here at Ai as an intern in college in our office on Park Ave South. I wore many hats, and the concept of managing time and tasks for others was something I struggled with. I didn’t know how to prioritize, because I didn’t have a full view of what was in the mix. I often stayed late at the office because I didn’t have a system to help me.

Enter the Treo. Alex (our CEO) and I had a system where he would get a new phone, and I would get his old phone. The concept of a digital calendar, tasks always in my hand, rather than a paper notebook entered my world.

Projects grew, teams grew, and responsibilities grew.

Here we are now. Projects grew, teams grew, and responsibilities grew. Over time I developed a system for me so that no matter the size of the team or the project, the principles of managing the associated tasks still applied.

For me, repeatability is key. We’re not trying to re-invent the wheel with every project. The process I use to manage work projects is the same process I use to manage trips I take, fundraisers I plan, my wedding, etc.

You need a system in place that allows you to make wiser choices and see the full picture.

So, when you ask me how I can get all of my work done but still make time to be with my friends, family, and workout – the process I follow is how I do it, and you can do it too. I have a system in place that allows me to get stuff done, make priority calls, and still be able to do things I want to do.

Maintaining Control

The second I feel like I don’t have control of what I need to accomplish or what my teams need to accomplish, I freak.

We all go through this; we have a plan for the day, things come up, our to-do list goes out the window, and we end up staying late or leaving early with anxiety.

Maintaining control means I hit deadlines, I can set appropriate expectations, and I can manage my personal time. Everything I’m about to cover allows me to maintain that control.

Meet the Playas

Over the past 9 years I’ve tried a ton of tools. I keep coming back to a core set that work for me so that sense of control and comfort and less stress are real. I’m not looking to have everyone adopt my entire way of working. It’s not the only way, and different personalities and brains think in different ways and need different views, but we all share common needs in terms of things we need to solve.

My GTD Army

I use every single one of these tools daily to Get Things Done:

  • Todoist: This is, by far, the most important tool in my toolbox. Without Todoist, my work would not get done.
  • Evernote: I use this for all sorts of data management. Tagging is key.
  • Dropbox: I use this for file management and to be able to access them on any computer / phone. Dropbox has become my new “local” and what I use to transfer files between my phone and computer.
  • Flickr: I’m the one who always can find that photo. Flickr is my tool for photo storage. It’s the forever home for my photos all placed in albums.
  • Alfred: I use Alfred to access things on my computer quickly.
  • Dashlane: I use Dashlane to save passwords, contact info and credit card info to make logging in and checking out on websites much quicker.
  • Text Expander: I setup snippets once and then type using abbreviations for words and phrases that I use all the time to save time and brain space.
  • IFTTT: I use IFTTT to create recipes for automation to connect systems that I already use to minimize the duplication of effort.
  • Feedly: Feedly aggregates all blogs and sites I want to read from grouped by topics I have created.
  • Pocket: This is where I save things to read for later. My Feedly feeds my Pocket.
  • Pinterest: This is where I save things to buy later or browse later as gifts or for myself.

This may seem like a lot, but most of them are doing the work for me. I set it and forget it.

One Home

There are things I need to manage, and each of these things needs a home – not multiple homes – that’s what gives me the sense of control and relieves stress.


Tactics my GTD army and I use to go to battle – i.e. manage my days here at Ai and really, my life.

1: Get on a cycle

I cycle through my Inbox and my Todoist task list multiple times throughout the day, but on my time, not when a notification is telling me to.

As a PM, if I assign a task it is really still on me to make sure it gets done. Trust the people, but trust your system.

Check your calendar before you leave for the day and your to-do list for the next day before you walk out the door. If your calendar “free time” does not line up with the time it will take to complete everything in your to-do list then you need to re-asses and reset expectations. You’re only setting yourself up for failure if those things don’t line up.

2: Set it and forget it

For me, things will happen and get done if I write it down, assign it, and give it a due date, and that’s what my Todoist workflow allows me to do. I have a project specifically for orders that I place online so I can check off that I received it once I do. It is the only project where tasks don’t have due dates because they aren’t tasks, it’s just a list, but a list I want to make sure I’m checking regularly.

For recurring activities, include notes that you need to reference every time when completing it. For example, when I create weekly status reports for clients I reference my calendar, project schedule, Todoist tasks, Basecamp tasks, etc.

3: Implement visual cues

These are equivalent to what we do for users on websites in our UX/Designs to make it easy for them to get done what they are looking to get done.

For example, color code items per project or per client to recognize colors associated with projects (e.g., calendar appointment categories, Todoist projects, physical folders to hold paper, etc.).

Add photos to your Outlook contacts. Make them funny photos if you want. It’s easy to recognize who messages are from at a glance, and it reminds you that there’s more to the message than just the text. There’s a human behind those words!

Visual cues can still be text. For example, I sort my iPhone folders by verb – “watch, listen, pay, eat” etc.

Other examples:

  • Create iPhone alarms based on what you are waking up for and when.
  • Add photos and emoticons to contacts so it is easy to associate messages and calls – e.g., my husband gets a heart and my friend with a star tattoo gets a star emoticon so it’s easy to find them when scanning a list.

Surround yourself with things you love. Visual cues help to get things done but also remind you of things that just make you happy. I surround myself with my favorite color, photos of my family, an image of a kettle bell to remind me to go workout and finish up work so I can – it’s a form of stress relief and constant reminder that things just aren’t that serious.

4: Keep things lean and clean

Anything on my computer desktop is something I’m currently working on. When finished working on it, I place it in the appropriate folder on my computer and on our shared work drive. And, an actual physically clean desk to work on helps too.

5: Take shortcuts

  • I use Dashlane to autofill forms within my browser
  • I use Jira tabs to open all Jira tickets listed on one page in new tabs all at once
  • I use the Google Chrome Bar to set search engines and trigger JS snippets for easy access to URLs I go to all the time
  • I use TextExpander snippets all day every day – e.g., By typing “meetingnotes” I get my template at the start of every meeting to take notes within.

6: Silence the unnecessary

This goes along with minimizing distraction to feel in control. Notifications and badges are only on for things that I want to react to immediately. Otherwise, I’m in control, and I decide when to look and when to respond.

Share the wealth

Productivity blogs to follow:

Have other tips to share? Questions? I’d love to hear them! Comment or holla’ anytime.


Please, Alexa, I want some more (or “How do I compete with Amazon?”)

Ecommerce Voice Ordering

And…boom. There it is.  About an hour ago Mothership Amazon sent me an email announcing they had activated voice ordering for my Amazon Echo. It’s here, and perhaps a bit faster than I even imagined in my blog post from 2012 on the future of ecommerce. Back then the story went:

Alex: Siri, my wife said we need diapers.
Siri: You probably mean the Size 3 Swaddlers for Nina. can have them to you tomorrow for $20.  Shall I order them?
Alex: Yes, and have them send a gift for my wife.
Siri: They recommend this bracelet to go along with the earrings you bought her last year for your anniversary.  Shall I add them to the order?
Alex: Yes, thanks.
Siri: Forever in your service, Alex.


It appears Amazon’s offering will be just that easy: “Alexa, re-order laundry detergent” and it shows up on your doorstep 2 days later.

Why does this matter to the rest of us in the ecommerce industry? Because hidden in this experience is the answer to the question, “How do I beat Amazon?” Your retail business only survives and only wins if you make the experience of ordering from you dead easy, dead simple, AND AN ABSOLUTE DELIGHT.  If you don’t, you won’t be here in 3 years.

I’m not saying you need the latest voice recognition technology (though it certainly couldn’t hurt).  But you do absolutely need an online ordering experience that is tailored specifically to your customers, that requires zero training, and is fun to use.

Amazon competes in a completely un-level playing field for most parts of its business. You’re probably not going to match their purchasing power, their distribution network, the number of Prime users, and a whole host of other things they do better than the rest. However, the user experience design of your retail website can be specially designed for your products and customers, and that’s how you can compete with one-size-fits-all Amazon.

For the moment, I’m going to ask Alexa for that present I promised my wife back in 2012.



Ai at Imagine 2015

 by Tim Angiolillo IMG_2942 (2)

 Wow, what a show! Ai descended upon The Wynn Resort this past week for the annual conference/seminar/massively-awesome-Magento-party that is Imagine to catch up on the latest and greatest with the platform and rub elbows with the ecommerce glitterati in Las Vegas. Highlights included an updated timeline for Magento 2’s release, new updates to Magento EE and CE, great talks on B2B ecommerce in the breakout sessions, and Steve Wynn’s engaging keynote discussion on the universal truth’s of a good customer experience.

Getting together with your clients, friends, and competition to talk shop for a few days in the desert reinforces the community element in the things we create and the experiences that inspire us. We’re as excited as ever with Magento’s momentum and look forward to another year of designing and and developing websites with the world’s most popular ecommerce platform. See you next time!



Facebook Responsive Photo Gallery Plugin

It’s been way too long, but I finally got around to updating the Facebook Photo Gallery plugin for the terrific image gallery framework, Galleria.  The library lets you put Facebook album photos on your website using the Graph API.  Galleria has great support for responsive photo gallery layouts.

Facebook loves to change their Graph API without warning (and sometimes defying logic), and we needed to make a small tweak to the syntax for changing the default limit of 25 photos on a album to:

var url = '' + params['album_id'] + '?callback=?' + '&fields=photos.limit(' + this.options.max + '){images,source,picture,link,name}';

Enjoy the plugin, and take part in the discussion on the aiaio github.

Put Facebook photos on my website


IRCE Focus: Digital Design

Righteous Recap for Rockstar Retailers

by Grace Paik


Alexander Interactive recently attended the IRCE Focus conference on Digital Design in sunny Los Angeles, California. We had a booth on the exhibition floor, as well as a separate booth in which our Experience Director and design-wizard, Ed Samour, was able to provide in-person design consultations for conference attendees. Co-founder and pixel-whisperer, Josh Levine, enjoyed the limelight as the conference’s concluding speaker, sharing thought-provoking insights on how to incorporate social sharing in a site design along with some pretty killer anthro-animals. Yes, that’s a thing.

As exhibitors, we found the conference a fantastic opportunity to connect with existing clients and meet some new ones. By attending some of the seminars, we were able to learn what’s really on the minds of retailers big and small. What are their burning questions? What are the specific challenges they’re facing? What are some digital concerns that they hadn’t considered but should be prioritizing?

Many retailers were visiting the conference to find solutions for a specific pain point. Others were more interested in learning where the industry is focusing its efforts, both on an enterprise and small business scale.

Here’s some stuff we learned while we were there.

  • Agency-recommended SEO best practices are great, but retailers should drill into the ones that translate to actual sales. Look holistically at your business and focus your energy on those strategies that will move the right needles.
  • We’ve known for a long time that video helps drive conversions in e-commerce. Did you know that YouTube is the second most popular search engine on the Internet? Combining video with your SEO strategy is more crucial now than ever.
  • Buying and sharing should not exist in silos. Learn from social sharing – implement seamless favoriting and hearting on your site.
  • Customers are researching products on social networks where you might not have much control over those conversations. Have no fear! This content is gold – aggregating and integrating it into your site not only helps with merchandising, but also provides customers with more confidence in your products.
  • Know your audience. If your site sells beautiful jewelry, privilege visual social platforms over others (i.e., do you really need that Twitter share button?).
  • Speakers who invested in responsive design found that it did not increase their mobile traffic very much. But it did increase their mobile conversions – and their bottom line – in dramatic ways.
  •  A full 30% (WHAT?) of the top 500 internet retailers aren’t set up to be mobile-friendly, either with responsive design or with an m-dot site.
  • Google is changing its algorithm on April 21, 2015 so that sites that are not mobile-friendly will drop in the rankings.

Ai Pedals for Puppies to Continue Giving Back

This past December, Ai created a holiday website where each employee committed to making or doing something to raise money for Bideawee, a leading animal welfare organization in New York.  If your commitment were purchased, the money would be donated to Bideawee.  My commitment was to host a charity ride at Swerve Fitness, a team-inspired cycling studio a few blocks south of Ai’s office, to raise even more money for Bideawee beyond the price of my commitment.  As of about a week ago, that commitment was fulfilled!

On Monday night, March 9, 2015, 47 of my closest friends, family, and co-workers joined me for the event I deemed “Pedal for Puppies”.

Pedal for Puppies Collage

We rode for 45 minutes and celebrated afterwards with a fun photo session and time set aside to play with five puppies, two of which were up for adoption.  Together we used our collective energy for some good and raised an additional $1500 for Bideawee.

Both of my dogs growing up at home were adopted from Bideawee, and I went to high school across the street from Bidewee’s Long Island location. That night I rode in their memory, for all the puppies looking for a home, and for the people who work so hard at Bideawee to find them one and keep them comfortable until they do.

Pedal for Puppies Group PhotoThank you to everyone who participated in Pedal for Puppies, to those who donated, to Swerve Fitness for hosting, to Bideawee for doing the great work they do each and every day, and to Ai for being the catalyst that fostered the creation of Pedal for Puppies.


PHP7 Vagrant Box

We’re keeping a close eye on PHP7 and what it means for the future of the language. We know it’s coming and will eventually effect the way we work and how we write PHP. The earlier we can get eyes on the new paradigm, the better.

Installing in your local dev machine is risky, especially if you have ongoing work. As usual, Vagrant comes to the rescue!

Rasmus Lerdorf has put together a Vagrant box to ease in the setup and isolate your testing. 

If you use Atlas, check out the box here. Otherwise, the readme is available on Github


Presentation Tips: 15 ways to calm your nerves before your next presentation


Our Creative Director, Julia Sosa, kicked off our AiU 2015 season with a fantastic session where she shared some pre-presentation coping strategies that she’s adopted over the years. It was too good not to share publicly. Deck and written version below. Enjoy!

— (Transcript)

I hate the word hamburger.
I spent 3 years in speech therapy because of this stupid word, and many other words I couldn’t pronounce. At 6 years old I already hated the sound of my own words.

I hate “R”s too.
I hated the letter “R” and many words with “R”s, and avoided them at all costs. Rrrrrrrrrr……

Fucking R’s.
The anxiety of getting this nasty letter out of my mouth — is still with me, buried deep in my psyche.

Enter Hell.
I started working in advertising — the industry that is the single largest employer of people who love to hear themselves talk. But I wasn’t one of them.

Hell x 2.
And to top that off my first job was at an agency where one of the premier clients was (god help me) BURGER KING . R’s and the word hamburger were proving unavoidable.

Time to buck up, Buttercup.
It was time to face my fears, and start building an arsenal of coping techniques.

Here are a few of the tips and tools I’ve been stockpiling along the way.

Before we start, remember…
“Ready” ain’t a thing. The first step in preparing for any presentation is realizing you will never be fully prepared. Get over it.

Okay, let’s really do this…

Tip 1: Study yourself.

Take notes of physical symptoms during your next meeting or presentation. Write down the dumbest thing you said.

Now go ask someone who was there if they noticed anything of those things.

Boo, you so crazy. Guess what? No one noticed that shit! And if they did, it wasn’t half as bad as you think…

Now let’s talk about preparing for your NEXT presentation…

Tip 2. Finish Early

24 hours before ideally. Know when to cut bait. At a certain point, getting the material you have in a good place is better than just creating more content.

Tweaking a deck at 4am won’t make it better. It will make you feel like shit the next day.

Tip 3. Get comfy.

Make sure you’re comfortable with what you are presenting, and if you aren’t change it or just say so.

Ask your tech bestie to cover the crazy technical questions. Ask your budget buddy to speak to the numbers and dollars slide.

Tip 4. Have props.

Give yourself visuals, quotes, cultural references on slides — they can be a crutch or safety blanket to make you more comfortable.

Tip 5. Educate yo’ self

Identify anything you think you will just be “reading” and try to learn it. Ask questions, get someone else to tell you what it means to them, how they’d say it.

Tip 6. Bite-size points.

Write as much as you need to think through but then capture in short bullets and sound bites so you can speak naturally to it. Turn them into your cheat.

Tip 7. Plan your “segways.”

Focus on your opening line and setting up the ‘theme”– that’s the toughest part and sets tone, cadence, comfort. Plan transitions to and from other presenters.

Okay, you are so ready for the big meeting! What now?

Tip 8. For f*cks sake, sleep!

Don’t be stupid. Ain’t no slide, fancy transition, pie chart that matters more than this.

No Ray Donovan marathons. No League of Legends midnight missions. No last minute, mad dash deck cray, you crazy buggers.

Tip 9. Three hours before…

Take a walk. Pin kittens. Call your mom. Do other work. Just forget about the presentation.

Avoid other stressors or intense meetings. Say no if you have to.

People get it, and they want you to do your best!

Tip 10. Fifteen minutes before…

Glance over bullets. Harness your inner spirit animal. Head in.
You got this. We love you.
Carpe f*ckin’ diem.

Tip 11. Settle in, say hi.

Say anything to anyone in the room about anything unrelated to the meeting. Fancy a carrot? Ye ol’ weather banter, whatevs’. A single interaction before a meeting will help you be less presentation-y and more real with peeps in the room.

Tip 12. Find Soul Mates

Don’t just feel compelled to speak “to” the person or client you think you should. Speak to everyone or anyone you can engage. Feed off the nods or smiles.

BONUS TIP! Screw the grumpy cats!

Positive energy in a room is contagious. You can always circle back to a furrowed brow when you have a comfortable stopping point, but don’t cater to the haters if it’s going to throw you off your game.

Tip 13. Stand up, paws out.

Speak with your hands. Get them moving. Imagine you are a kitten with a ball of string. Even on the phone! Stand if you can if it’s large conference room. It seems scarier but it will help get your energy up and out.

Tip 14. Be yo’ self.

You are not Joel Osteen or Don Draper. You are a normal person talking to normal people. Authenticity, sincerity and conviction IS compelling.

Tip 15. Now, stop! 

You’re done, don’t feel compelled to keep talking. And know your closer. Asking people “What are your thoughts on xyz” is a lot smoother than “The End” or “That’s all I got folks.”

Praise Yeezus, It’s Over.


“I’m like the vessel. And God has chosen me to be the voice and the connector.”

You’ll get better with each presentation, and each will be less painful. Find your swagger, your own style — and own it.

Have other tips to share? Questions?I’d love to hear them! Comment or holla’ anytime.