August 10, 2012No Comments

Your Friendly Neighborhood Intern

Peter Park learned a lot interning for us this summer, but maybe the most important lesson was never to bet against the House. And in our case, the “House” is Josh Golden, Matt Lineen, and Mark Rickmeier. Peter lost a golf course bet but was totally game in accepting the consequences: Last week he wore a full Spiderman bodysuit all day at work, including transit on the L and an afternoon run to Starbucks. Thanks, Peter, for being a great addition to our team for the last few months and for keeping the neighborhood safe.


August 7, 2012No Comments

Tech Tip: Pagemodo

Need a cool, custom Facebook tab that integrates your Twitter feed, displays your YouTube videos, and offers other advanced design options to target your audience? Check out Pagemodo, a plug-in that lets users make professional looking Facebook business pages.

Pagemodo’s Pagebuilder gives you a collection of pretty, customizable templates; features including slideshows, videos, contact forms, and maps; and an array of social media tools to help engage customers. Look for the “Who We Are” section on our own Facebook page for an example (and like us on Facebook if you haven’t yet!).

A free model with a limited template library and Pagemodo-branded footer is available, but we think it’s worth the money to get their ad-free version. Plans start at $6.25/month.

July 25, 20122 Comments

Visualize Your Schema with the Erd Gem

Before stepping into the Railsconf 2012 lightning talks, the last time I saw a database schema visualizer was when Microsoft Access 97 was cool. Okay, that time may never have existed, but I can verify that I personally haven't run into too many visualizers since those days. Enter the fine cookpad engineers who came all the way from the Land of the Rising Sun for Railsconf festivities, including the lighting presentation of a fun gem called erd. It gives you a graphic birds-eye-view of your schema and it's pretty easy to use:

[powershell gutter="false"]
gem install erd

Then start rails server and look for the magic at localhost:3000/erd

If you get the following error:

[powershell gutter="false"]
Saving diagram failed!
Verify that Graphviz is installed and in your path, or use filetype=dot.
You'll want to download and install Graphviz
(hombrew users can 'brew install graphviz')

I find erd handy when trying to understand a new project quickly. Let's say I want to see how a simple blog application, enki, thinks about its data.

After following the install instructions and installing the erd gem*, we see the fruits of our labors:

Not bad. Gives a nice overview of the schema and jumping off point for understanding a new project. It even has (fledgling) support for editing the schema and generating rails migrations.

Which Access 97 feature shall we port to rails next?

* I also needed to comment out a clashing route:

scope :to => 'posts#index' do
get 'posts.:format', :as => :formatted_posts
#get '(:tag)', :as => :posts

Photo Credit: John Parker

July 23, 2012No Comments

Better, Stronger, Faster: The New

It’s here! We’ve unveiled our new website, and the result is a friendlier, prettier face for Table XI (that also stays true to our nerd roots).

One of the things we’re most excited about is our new Testimonials page, which features videos from some of our clients. We know that we’d be nothing without our clients, and we’re thrilled that so many of them were ready to talk about their TXI experiences on film. Additionally, since we’re problem solvers at heart with a mission to use technology to make people’s lives easier, we introduced a Problems We Solve section. This page outlines some common issues our clients have faced and links to case studies that illustrate how we dealt with them.

A brand new Who We Are section shows off our talented crew, photo galleries of our amazing retreats, lunches, and toys, and important company facts like our standing count of office helicopters. We also revamped our newsletter to be more integrated with our blog, which got quite the facelift itself. Now readers can skim through article previews and easily access the content that interests them most. (If you’re not getting our newsletters yet, be sure to sign up!)

Special thanks to senior designer Daniel Strabley and everyone else who spent long hours bringing this together. We’re always looking for feedback or new testimonials, so leave a comment and let us know what you think!

July 18, 2012No Comments

Tech Tip: FlightCaster

Ben Franklin famously said, “Nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes,” but were he alive today he might have added, “And being delayed out of O’Hare.” Fortunately, just in time for summer travel, FlightCaster wants to get you off the ground.

This free, user-friendly app for iPhone and Blackberry predicts flight delays and helps you adjust your travels accordingly. Rather than just republishing information from airlines or the FAA, FlightCaster lets you know the likelihood of delay using data like the actual status of incoming aircraft, official airline reports, and weather conditions. Being armed with this info can help save you time and headaches, especially if you have to rethink your travel plans.

July 16, 2012No Comments

Going Mobile

At Table XI, we’re thinking more and more about mobile everyday—after all, by 2014 mobile Internet usage will overtake that of desktops. At last month’s Chicago Counts conference, Kate Garmey and I talked about what makes an effective mobile strategy for small businesses and nonprofits.

While mobile apps can offer a snazzy user experience, for small businesses that may have tight budgets, a mobile website is likely the way to go. Mobile sites typically require less investment, are easier to build and deploy, and are relatively simple for employees to maintain without special development training. Moreover, mobile sites are searchable, and Google AdWords can help drive traffic to your site.

We recently launched a mobile site for Kids In Danger and just hired our first full-time mobile developer, Ed Lafoy. If you’re ready to talk about the right mobile strategy for your business, so are we.

Image source: Salty Waffle

July 16, 2012No Comments

Keep It Spicy with the Spice Boss

Attention chefs: Check out the Spice Boss, a new web video series from our friends at The Spice House. In these irreverent but informative (and SEO-friendly) videos, charismatic co-owner Tom Erd gives a behind-the-scenes look at the popular gourmet spice shop, dishing on his favorite recipes and spice rack must-haves.

We helped The Spice House create this series along with the talented folks at Fresh Giants. The first video, “Grilling with the Spice Boss,” has 2,300 views and counting, and revenue from another featured product, the Back of the Yards blend, has increased 82% over the same time period last year. The Spice House is receiving referral traffic from YouTube for the first time ever, more fans are engaging with the store’s Facebook page and mentioning the branded #keepitspicy hashtag, and Vienna Beef’s official Twitter account shared the Spice Boss’s grilling recipe (which didn’t even use Vienna Beef!).

Videos could be an opportunity for you, too. Creative content and social media can boost brand awareness and drive traffic, so get in touch with us if you’d like to talk strategy and search engine optimization. In the meantime, give Spice Boss a look and enjoy your sizzling summer recipes.

June 20, 2012No Comments

We’re Talking at Techweek!

Our own Greg Baugues and Mark Rickmeier will be among the presenters at this weekend's Techweek, June 22-26 at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, where they’ll be giving a session for developers on “How To Be The Most Interesting Man In The World,” a presentation aimed at “networking for nerds.” (And as two guys who both went to Space Camp, they have lots to say on the subject.)

Greg and Mark will be speaking at 1pm on Saturday, June 23, at the conference’s Expo. Grab your tickets now!

June 18, 2012No Comments

Facing Disability Already Making Its Mark

The Chicago Tribune recently featured our nonprofit partner Facing Disability in an excellent article, “Website Gives Disabled Needed Info,” which outlines the organization’s purpose and inception.

Last year we worked with Facing Disability to develop their website, an online resource serving paraplegics, quadriplegics, and their families. The site features video interviews with people living with spinal cord injuries, information from the medical community, a community-driven forum, and access to support groups and a peer counseling program. According to film critic Rober Ebert, "This website idea is so simple and so brilliant. It's intended for newly disabled people and their families and loved ones. What you don't want is thousands of words of advice. What you can benefit from are the words of disabled people."

We’d also like to congratulate founder Thea Flaum on being chosen to serve on the National Advisory Committee for the Model Systems Translation Center (MSKTC). The Center, which is funded by the National Institutes on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), seeks to communicate and promote the latest research and news about diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and long-term quality of life for those with traumatic brain, spinal cord, and burn injuries.

As a member of the MSKTC Advisory Committee, Thea will be advising on strategies and public relations outreach. This is a huge recognition for her work and Facing Disability’s presence in the disability and rehabilitation communities.

June 13, 2012No Comments

Sublime Text 2 Shortcuts (OS X)

We've been using Sublime Text 2 quite a bit lately, but I've found that there's not a pretty, printable cheat sheet out there for shortcuts......until now.

I started a cheat sheet over at Cheatography for some of the tricks we've found most useful. Let us know what you think and add any we may have missed.

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