Magento Zero Inventory: Not A Bug, It’s a Feature

Let’s call it questionable user experience.

In honor of the frenzy in the States over the last few days regarding commerce – or in spite of it – I took the plunge into the initial setup of my online store. I have amassed dozens on hand drawn sketch cards to test the waters. These are usually sold for cash when I table at small, regional cons and art fairs.

I initially aspired to release this for Black Friday. Then, Small Business Saturday. Okay, at least Cyber Monday would be a great time to launch. None of these self-imposed deadlines are workable. It will go live when it is ready. When it comes to selling online, it has to be ready.

After a quick round-up of hosted solutions I knew that I wanted to spend a budget of zero (that’s in US Dollars) because I am willing to put my sweat equity into it for the sake of learning. This led me to Magento’s Community Edition which is open source and had a first-time setup that evoked my experience with installing a handful of WordPress sites. It was a breeze to install.

The lag and slow performance continues to be a deterrent. It simply is not snappy enough to let me fly-through various experiments without frustration. It is very hard to complain about a free, open source solution that empowers small business owners to sell their goods online as easily as Magento’s Community Edition.

You know where this is going, right? I have a complaint that affects every New Product added to my catalog.

It only reared its head when I couldn’t add a second product to my catalog despite being absolutely sure I had done everything right. The item refused to appear. A quick search turned up this four year old blog post by Ashley Schroder titled “Why are my Magento products not showing up?!” with 120+ comments, which he finally disabled from new comments. Here is mine.

There are a couple of solutions for workarounds – and they are just that – workarounds. How is this logic considered… logical(?):zero-inventory

Apparently when adding a new product, the inventory defaults to “0”. Magento Zero Inventory; therefore the product doesn’t show. This makes no sense to me – if you are adding a product, you must have inventory. Even if the developers of Magento could explain their logic on this, it should be presented in a bold, colorful modal alert. “You are adding a new product with zero inventory. Is this what you want to do?” If you read the comments on Ashley’s post, a lot of bright people were stumped, and stumped hard.

Counter-intuitive, and a likely reason a small Mom-and-Pop shop with casual computer skills could not implement without enlisting a Magento developer. I’ll still continue to build my online store, but at a slower rate, and I haven’t scratched the surface of themes yet.

Stay tuned.


You’re a Perfectionist? Here’s Why We Aren’t a Good Fit

I was grappling for a couple of days about whether this was a topic I ought to blog about. It was a new favorite podcast called “Hack The Entrepreneur” that helped sway me. In particular, a recent episode called Done Is Better Than Perfect w/ Farideh Ceaser helped remove my reservations.

My reluctance stems from being recently “passed on” by an agency’s in-house team to help build the New York office’s capabilities. Typically, I would refrain from blogging about a failure.

Except this wasn’t my failure. It was theirs. It’s not me, it’s you. You’re a perfectionist? Here’s why we aren’t a good fit.

The team, evidently tasked with looking at my code to “find something wrong”, seized on my use in my portfolio site of an HTML technique called image maps. My portfolio site is my testbed, and has been for nearly twenty years. If you don’t know what image maps are and why you should avoid them, visit this blog. It was cited as an example of employing a “not modern” web technique. This is the part where it becomes laughable: one of the developers on the phone screen has an online portfolio built in Flash, which you probably know is not supported on iOS devices.  A developer tasked with checking that I dotted my “i’s” and crossed my “t’s” was hired last month, yet for me to see his work I needed to put down my tablet and get to a desktop PC with Flash installed. I could not consume his content anywhere I liked – I had to go to the device that supported Flash.

And this is where two weeks of phone screens fell apart and I started engaging other prospects after “placing all bets off”. Perfectionism is a crutch, and an impractical one. The guest on Hack The Entrepreneur states it best: “Done is better than perfect“. One of the highlights of the podcast episode is when Farideh says she leaves typographical errors on her public-facing website on purpose, to weed out the prospects who might call it out – thus being a poor fit. For the record I don’t really agree with this at the start of on-boarding clients, but it seems very attractive at the point when you can afford to be selective.

To be clear this isn’t so much about doing good work, being thorough, etc. They comprise the work ethic I pride myself on, but a background in design teaches risk-taking, creative options, and sometimes blue-sky approaches. These pursuits and perfectionism are mutually exclusive.

AAA video games with huge budgets  always land on day-and-date of release with an update from the publisher. Hundreds of people work on these games and the publishers ship them without all the bugs squashed. They have a deadline to get the content on store shelves, you see.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. If you are of the mindset of finding the perfect candidate (or partner, or deliverable) then we probably should not work together. There needs to be a focus on the big picture, the whole package and the deadline. One of my favorite quotes that I either made up or tweaked from an existing quote I heard around the time of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil  is:

“Don’t fixate too much on the graphics on the ball, or the texture of the vinyl cover of the ball. Concentrate instead on the goal way down the field.”

Uncubed NYC: A Review

On Friday Nov. 14 I attended the Uncubed NYC event in Chelsea. I heard about this event from the NYC UX Acrobatics Meetup (a sponsor of the event) group which led me to believe it was something entirely different. The onus is on me entirely for not doing my homework. I’ve had lots of balls in the air lately, but I’m glad I went.

What I Liked About It

  • LearnVest presentation – also a sponsor of the event. The firm’s founder Alexa Von Tobel gave an energetic and compelling presentation on her financial planning startup.
  • David Rose, who wrote the book on angel investing, introduced the audience to what looks to become my favorite new site: Digital.NYC
  • Chef Watson/IBM . The brains that beat Ken Jennings on my must-see Jeopardy has taken up cooking, my new diversion. IBM’s Steve Abrams dispersed a link if you want to get in on the beta: 
  • A speaker from Behance put up a slide about how he had Uncubed to thank for his job with the portfolio platform, now owned by Adobe. Here’s mine, although admittedly I haven’t done much with it. My favorite part of the event was when the organizer of the event rushed the stage and asked him to keep the slide up so he could take a smartphone pic. I found myself agreeing; there’s no better testimonial.

What I Didn’t Like About It

The app for the event arrived on the same day, and this didn’t allow me enough time to evaluate the openings and the firms who were onsite recruiting. Again, my fault… I could have looked at the participating firms in advance and prepared accordingly. I have simply been too busy. To get heard above the din of the crowd on the floor of the Main Event would require me to be prepared with laser-precise advance work on resumes and my own pitch tailored for the firm.

Also, I never really knew if lunch was included in the price of the ticket. Since the event space was a few blocks from my first NYC apartment, I had lunch near there.

To wrap up, it was a great, fun recruiting event for talent interested in the opportunities in NYC’s booming tech field. “We’re hiring like crazy, that’s why we’re here!” was a popular closing to the presentations.

Buying iPhone 6 The Day After Launch and Why I Feel So Dirty

I had no pressing desire to stand in epic lines on launch day but there was a need to visit my local AT&T store the next day to upgrade my daughter’s phone for her birthday.

I’ll clear up one thing first: this really was a dire need and not simply the case of a spoiled teen. Her iPhone 4S screen was cracked and the housing was breaking away. The camera flash is stuck perpetually “on”. A needy case, and at our house we wait for a new release. She valiantly soldiered on.

I didn’t really expect to leave the store with one, but they had only “Gold” left as a color choice, coincidentally her preference and I had to get a large capacity 64. To complicate  the matter, as a quasi-surprise I didn’t have her phone  with me so that the new one can be activated. In the past when I upgraded a phone as a surprise gift in an Apple store I was issued a  claim check for my significant other to retrieve her phone herself.

None of this is the part that makes me feel dirty. That happened when it’s was my turn after waiting – only nine people before me. Happily two of them were very good looking women, both worthy of sneaking a sketch. This becomes relevant later.

Rather than get right to the details of my device upgrade need, the rep wanted to” save me money” on my account. I am grandfathered into an unlimited data plan and AT&T tries to convert to a fixed data plan. I never use a lot of mobile data and it would save me $25 bucks a month.

I knew I didn’t want to change the plan on principle; when I have unlimited anything it is hard to talk me out of it. As I was considering going this route based on the sales pitch, the prettier of the two women I was resting my eyes on during the wait abruptly interjected and said “Sir, remember that thing you were asking me about?”. I played along and acted non-chalant and on her phone she had typed “If you give up your unlimited data, you can never get it back”. I knew this, and this girl was acting as my siginificant other by proxy. So I re-canted. Let’s leave the plan alone.

Tim Dempsey Sketch Artist Sample from Dempseystudio
It’s true. I can draw.

“What did she showed [sic] you?” asked the rep. “Nothing”. We moved to another section of the store. He brings in the manager. This is obviously the plan when you can’t get a grandfathered-in, unlimited data account to convert. I stood firm. The manager shook hands and stood down. Once it was the two of us the rep asked again, incorrectly using past tense grammar “Really, what did she showed you?” because it was apparent that I reversed myself.

Here is the dirty part: I lied. I told him that I’m an artist (that part is true). I asked her if I could paint her portrait and she was letting me know her feelings without her husband knowing about it. I quickly turned to the second good-looking woman and tried to explain to him how pretty the lines of her face were. He asked about freelance, do you own your own business, the usual chit-chat. I don’t know if he really believed me but it was necessary to end this sickening interaction. I had to lie, but he didn’t deserve the truth.

I  left the store with the phone in the box, ready to “surprise” my daughter.




BeatleFest in July ’14

Not the “big” BeatleFest, but I have committed to a table at a BeatleFest at Palaia Vineyards in New York on July 12th.

I’ll be marketing my freelance design and illustration work primarily, the webcomic will not be in the forefront – at least that’s the plan for now.

It would be great to meet you and sample some wine!

Best regards,

Microsoft Caves, We Win

I posted to my LinkedIn the blog from ComputerWorld that alerted me to this new development. You can read the original here by Preston Galla.

When I initially saw the Metro style in new machines in the brick-and-mortar world and sauntered over with my years of Window’s experience I was struck at how I had no idea how to run it through its paces in the Staples store. This was unacceptable, since I need to stay on top of Windows innovations in my field. I have been known to buy a new PC for the latest “important rev” of the GUI; but not for each and every Windows – I skipped over Vista entirely. Once I finally landed a great deal on Windows 8, I found myself stumped and came up with this comic, which I count as one of my favorites.

2013-02-06Upgrade-150x150As my crushing workload has been compounded as the go-to, in-house tech support at my employer I recall vividly our head of Operations (a bright guy and one of my favorite people) opening new laptop rentals with Windows 8. He called me over and said “Tim, how the hell do you work this?”. My advice was to allow yourself 90 minutes to read the tutorials, and know that without a touch screen (these were not) you are a second-class citizen in the eyes of Microsoft development.

Of course the blogosphere is blowing up over Microsoft “back-peddling”, but I see it another, more positive way. Users spoke, and Microsoft listened. Give us a choice which startup environment to set as default.

In related matters I picked up a great book at Barnes and Noble store called “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” by David Meerman Scott. Even early into the first few chapters, it seems Microsoft is embracing feedback from customers and reacting nimbly. Microsoft caves, we win. Bravo to Microsoft PR, and for eliminating one or two keystrokes from my Windows 8 experience – thank you.



I was ready to jump on Facebook to complain about a hard week capped of with a hard day – a Friday.

I am going through the experience called “frozen pipes”, because of the polar vortex and I was all ready with a witty status update: “Frozen pipes. Or as I call it: come over and shoot me please.” I was pretty sure i would get Likes and comments from my dependable posse.

Then something unexpected happened. A friend and former colleague posted that his cousin, his best man at his wedding. died of a brain tumor at age 38.

My complaints about a tough week ending with the struggles of 1/3 of a cold house melted away. I lost my resolve to publish it instantaneously. My perspective was adjusted in the blink of an eye. I have my health, my family and my job. Who am I to complain?

ABTAlogoHere is a link if you are inclined to donate to the American Brain Tumor Association in memory of Rich Ocello.

Carpe diem, gang. Seize the day, because life is precious and life is good.

New Facebook Page

I took the plunge and started a Facebook page for my freelance work.

LOGO-for-facebookI resisted making one of these Pages since I have had a portfolio website at for almost twenty years, but the social media aspects and knowledge sharing options are simply easier. If you would care to give the page a “Like” I would be most obliged, but only if the graphics design content is something you are interested in.

InterventionCon 2013 Wrap-Up

“Had a great time meeting online friends in real life. Some of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet.”

From InterventionCon 2013, posted by My Life In The Trenches Webcomic on 8/26/2013 (6 items)

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2

Farewell and Follow

Farewell and Follow, Hurricane Sandy Be Damned

The power is back on which is good news. The bad news is that cable/internet is down at home. Toss it all into a stew with a simultaneous fixation with Pinterest, and you get the latest slice of “My Life”.

In case you hadn’t heard, are in a cave, or are in denial like me – The Obscure Gentlemen is ending; at least in webcomic form. You can’t do anything about it, but if you want to follow each other on Pinterest that would be the latest coolest thing since sliced bread. My tribute to my favorite NSFW destination is embedded, click-through to kill time (power source permitting).