Annoucements and Discussions now supported in HomeOwners’ Association Management Software

December 9, 2008

Another upgrade, and now, we have added support for making announcements and collaborating on topics of interest, using discussions. The announcement and discussions will be private to the HOA’s residential community.

Online Demo : HOA Announcements

Online Demo : HOA Discussions

Announcements can be made only by moderator level user, while commenting on the announcement thread can be by any registered member of the HomeOwners’ Association.

Initiating and commenting on discussion threads can be by any registered user of the HOA.

BBCode, which was supported in the Documents feature, is also supported in Announcement and Discussion posts.

Check out the features and let me know if you have any inputs on improving things.

If you want to start using this software for your residential community, let me know ( r.rajkumar [at] gmail [dot] com), so that I will create an account, accessible via an URL like http://www.residentialcommunity.in/YourApartmentName and make you the moderator.

By the way, I forgot to tell you : I plan to offer a free version !!

Yes, there will always be a “fairly generous free edition“, which will be ad-supported.

Note : Since I have planned to attend a training program for the next 22 working days (details later), instantaneous fixes/improvements will have to wait until late evenings. Of course, features will keep rolling in at the same rate.

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Online HOA now supports Documents, Office Bearer Posts and Office Bearers directory

November 28, 2008

Our Online Software for Home Owners’ Associations, http://www.ResidentialCommunity.in, has now added support for Documents, Office Bearer Posts and Office Bearers. More details..

HOA Documents :

Now any moderator user, usually an Office Bearer, can add or edit documents of the HOA. This may include By-Laws, Covenants, Architectural Guidelines, Fire safety guidelines, Budget and Financial details, FAQ or any other document with information that might be useful for the community.

The By-Law documents can then be associated to either the whole Community or to the Blocks functioning as Branch Units. And these documents can be interlinked too. The document editor uses BBCode to avoid Javascript based vulnerabilities.

Demo : Documents of HOA

For more details on using BBCode, kindly refer to this sample document generated using BBCode and the BBCode source for that document.

HOA Office Bearers :

Now, one can specify the HOA Office Bearer Posts, like President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, etc.,. at the Community level (All Blocks) and at each Block level. For each of these posts, one can define Office Bearers, usually existing Community users. Past records of the Office Bearers can also be maintained for the posts.

Demo : Office Bearer Posts of HOA
Demo : Current Office Bearers of HOA
Demo : All Office Bearers of HOA

For making someone a moderator of the community, one can use the edit option for that user from the “All Users” list view.

Do check out the Online Demo of the ResidentialCommunity.in, the Home Owners’ Association Software offered as a hosted, ondemand service (SaaS), which has now been updated with these new features. and feel free to send us your feedback either as comments here or using the feedback form in the site or as email to r.rajkumar [at] gmail [dot] com.

FYI : We are happy that our sister site dealing with Hostels and Paying Guest accommodation (currently focussed on Chennai, India), http://www.PlaceToStay.in, has earned one more Best Answer (after Best Answer for Hostels in Mylapore) in Yahoo Answers. This time, we are glad to have helped out Pramod on his Query for Hostels in Sholinganallur.

Note : We/Our/Us etc., in the blog post denotes *all* the employees at Sahasvat 😉


First cut of the Home Owners Association (HOA) Software

November 11, 2008

It has been a month since I had posted, so just an update..

Was working on a few enhancements in PlaceToStay.in (including support for a secure code based authorization for editing individual entries) and also in populating more data. Now the number of entries has increased from just 10 entries (all in Velachery) to reach the 50 entries mark.

The Map of Hostels, PG, Serviced Apartments in Chennai looks better now. Probably, I will make the map view as default, so as to avoid the need for sorting and the resultant indexing problems.

By increasing the entries, I was able to answer a few questions, like..

Hi can you please suggest some descent boys hostel for it employee in mylapore ,chennai?

(Chosen as Best Answer)

Can anyone suggest some good hostels in chennai for working women?
areas near to adyar, thiruvanmiyoor preferred
(In Voting)

Where can i find the best ladies hostels in chennai?
(In Voting)

http://www.PlaceToStay.in does get a decent number of hits every day. Need to put in some effort to add even more entries into PlaceToStay.in, so as to improve it even better.

Data-collection and data-entry is a monotonous and boring work, atleast for me. My wife feels she is more suited for such work and has better eye for details. She has about 7 years experience in trade-document checking (banking sector ; same type of work and in high volumes) and is now a manager – so I will have to accept that as a fact. Need someone like her to take over such stuff.

All that was until about 2 to 3 weeks ago.

After that, it was www.ResidentialCommunity.in. [Edit : Try out the “Online Demo” link in the site]

Learnt a lot of new stuff in Python/GoogleAppEngine in the last 2 weeks.

The initial implementation is for a directory of Blocks in the Association, Residential Units (Independent Houses / Condominiums / Apartments) in those Blocks, Owners and Residents of those residential units – both previous and current.

Have a look at the early Beta version and if you have any feedback, feel free to mail me at r.rajkumar [at] gmail [dot] com

[Edit : Added note to try out the “Online Demo” in www.ResidentialCommunity.in – seems it is not very obvious that it is enabled]


“So, how are things going ?”

October 9, 2008

So, how are things going ?

Fine. Started working on a simple, single-entity application over Google App Engine; single entity = “PlaceToStay”.

For this app, Create, Retrieve and Update operations have been completed. Delete is pending and for now is possible from admin console of App Engine.

In parallel, did some hostel-to-hostel data collection in Velachery, so as to seed the application with some data. Almost all hostels I had visited provided the requested details on the facilities they provide and the rates they charge, with just a couple of them not wanting to share details – one for seemingly genuine reason (“no vacancy”) and the other, because they felt it was a “business secret” (really funny to hear that reason; their classified ads give nothing more than telephone numbers). But, I am sure I will win them over too at a later date.

Latest work was integrating with Google Maps for hostel location – worked out well.

Check it out : http://www.placetostay.in/

Wait, are you not getting distracted from your main goal – association software ?

When I started work, I realized that were too many unknowns to conquer in Google App Engine, if I were to start coding for the association software. It will involve multiple related entities and views and with customized user management (instead of the default one provided by Google) and I will need more utilities to develop it.

So this app was to just train myself in developing and deploying on App Engine and I am just giving it a life of its own, instead of throwing it away.

I plan to enable rating and review comments, in a couple of days and also do some marketing within Chennai and later outside Chennai.

Later, I also plan to add some management functions, so that owners/admins can then maintain a database of the tenants (along with history) and employees, track rental receipts and expenses, send out notifications (email initially, SMS later) and more such stuff for a small monthly subscription fee. OK, maybe I am getting distracted from association software – but I enjoy the process – and I am still within Yardi domain !!.

Glad that I am free to choose my own path. And I believe that a little revenue (advertising and subscription) from this project, would surely help.

Other updates :

On Oct 2, in the Annual General Body Meeting of our apartment block’s association, the long standing secretary of our apartment block, who did an excellent job for 6 years, wanted to get relieved and suggested me to take over.

Under normal circumstances, I might have resisted such a responsibility (citing reasons like work pressure – they did not know I had quit my job until the end of the meeting). But, may be, this is chance coming into my hands at the right time – to have better domain expertise for the association software. So I agreed. Will be assuming responsibilities from today (Oct 9) evening. A new president and treasurer were also elected on Oct 2.

This block contains 17 apartments and collects a monthly maintenance fee of Rs.500. There are totally 10 such blocks in our complex (each having a secretary to manage that block) and these blocks are governed by a registered federated association. And I am sure I will make things easy for such secretaries of associations, because I get benefited doubly – as a secretary and as a software vendor.

So that is news for now. Will keep you updated.

Do not forget to post your feedback on PlaceToStay.in


“Why not just work on your startup, while still being employed ?”

September 25, 2008

I have had more friends / colleagues asking me this question recently..

“Why not just work on your startup while still in AdventNet and once it start making some decent money you can then quit ?”

That is not the right approach for a few reasons..

#1 : You cannot focus well on your job.
#2 : You cannot focus well on your startup.
#3 : The work which you did during your employment, might belong to your employer and not you.

Read this thread in Hacker News for details on how one employee was ignorant of such issues and now his over Rs.4.5 crores / month earnings from his startup might actually belong to his employer.

Quotes from the thread…

9 points by samson 29 days ago | link
“The tragic part for Maestri, at least is that if he’d just waited until he’d left Freewebs to begin development, his former employer would have a far harder time making the charges stick.”

So legally, the advice that I’ve heard (even here at hacker news) of keeping your day job, and work on your project on the side is usually wrong. And even more so if you work at a tech company already

3 points by nickb 29 days ago | link

That’s a great question!It depends on your employment contract and the law in your state/country. It also depends greatly on the area your startup’s in and whether your startup is even remotely similar to what your employer is doing and whether you might become their competition down the line.

A chance of getting entangled in a lawsuit increases exponentially if you’re going to take on your employer. Also, most emp contracts usually also state that you cannot contact your employer’s customers or people you met through the company’s business engagements for at least a year and usually more. Also, don’t try to poach current employees or you’ll get sued. Never use employer’s computers or any other equipment that belongs to them for working on your startup (that includes take-home laptop that they might have given you). Don’t even use their Word or Outlook for your own stuff. Delineate your startup as much as possible and don’t share your ideas/prototypes with anyone at work since they might testify against you when called in front of a judge.

I know of one entrepreneur who got sued by a former employer and the argument they used was that even though he quit before he started the company, the IDEA was conceived while he was working for them and that he could not have come up with the idea had he not worked for them. Needless to say, the charge was ludicrous but it diverted his focus off startup and it also scared some investors and the startup was stillborn.

PS: IANAL but I know a lot about law and have been advised by many lawyers so take my advice with a grain of salt.

Also, in my personal opinion, the below point is important…

1 point by startingup 29 days ago | link
Let’s also consider an employer’s perspective here. OK, you are a Y Combinator start-up, and you have hired your 18th employee (there are at least 10 that have 20+ employees, I think). If that employee were doing something like this on the side, would that sit well with you? How would you draw the line?

Forget the ownership aspects of whatever the employee is creating on the side. Would you be happy as his/her manager to realize his/her mental efforts are going somewhere else?

Think hard before you answer

My advice to you :

Don’t do something stupid. Don’t say something like “I will make sure it is not known”.

If something is worth doing, it is worth doing well; with all your effort and focus.

Plan and execute it well. All the best !!


What, Why, Where, How and more on the proposed startup

September 23, 2008

Less than 10 days to get relieved from AdventNet and to start working on my new venture.

OpManager OnDemand is almost ready for release. Initial testing and bug-fixing is complete and the team is now into upgrade testing in the local grid setup and if there are no unforeseen issues, there should be an upgrade happening in the IDC grid this weekend ; before I get relieved.

I have started getting questions from friends / colleagues on my proposed startup. I have put them here for the sake of those I did not bump into, in the past couple of weeks.

Decided on what to do (or) what problem to solve ?

The first one I am going to work on will be a SaaS based solution to manage residents welfare association.

Solutions for schools and for clinics will follow later.

Film production management software, may not be taken up in the near term.

Why association software ?

I know of the pain points in managing such an entity and felt that I can easily sell early versions of the software to local apartment associations in Velachery and surrounding suburbs. This is the region which had witnessed major growth during the previous real estate boom and which has a high density of IT professionals, so easy to target them.

Also the essential components and the experience gained in building this software will equip me in targeting other segments (schools and clinics) and by that time, “netbooks” (affordable net enabled notebook computers) would be available in the market from multiple players, at competitive rates, so as to enable adoption of SaaS based solutions.

Are there existing solutions addressing this market ?

When I first searched for existing solutions with the keywords “Apartments Association Software”, I was surprised to not find relevant, useful results. Then, after hopping through multiple keywords, found such software. The problem was with the keywords : I should have used the keyword sets “Condominium Association Software” or “Home Owners Association Software” or “HOA Software”.

Yardi seems to be the big guy with a much broader portfolio and revenue of over $50M, while there are several other medium/small players too; like Buildium, CondoConduit, AssociationVoice, CondoManager, Advantos and more.

Happy, because existing players validate the market and present themselves as targets to beat. This is far easier than a new market and an unclear feature set.

How are you planning to sell ?

My initial market is going to be Velachery (Chennai, India).

Here in Chennai, even with the out-sourcing/off-shoring opportunities, people still earn in Rupees. The benefit of the cost advantages mostly goes to the companies which undercut US rates, while still paying Indian salaries. Such companies usually have very weak presence in Indian market. So, to sell to Indian customers, I need to come up with some “real” Indian rates. My bicycle should come in handy, for my sales visits. Once I have my solution working fine for a decent number of associations, I would then target a bigger market.

Where are you going to have your office ?

I will be working from home, at least for a couple of months.

Are you going to employ someone ?

No, not at once. May be, a little later.

Platform, Language ?

Google AppEngine, Python.

Started coding ?

No, only from Oct 1, 2008.

( Your feedback and suggestions are welcome : Either as comments to this post or to r.rajkumar [at] gmail [dot] com)


Talent

September 8, 2008

Felix Dennis on talent..

Anybody wishing to become rich cannot do so without talent. Either their own, or far more likely, on the back of the talent of others. Talent is indispensable, although it is *always* replaceable.

If the talent is trying to make itself irreplaceable – like say, only one person knows how something works and they do not like documenting it or training others. It shows insecurity of the person who does not want to lose the job, which is bad for the organization as well as for the person.

Bad for the organization because, if the person either wants to quit or cannot turn up for work, a crucial piece of work cannot be completed.

Bad for the person because, though the person might think he/she is crucial for something work and cannot be fired, they are making themselves tied up to the work and hence cannot be promoted to better opportunities.

A talent should learn and grow. And then to teach others and make them grow. And keep repeating the process. If there is not much you can learn to grow, then quit and join some place where you can.

Just remember the simple rules concerning talent: identify it, hire it, nurture it, reward it, protect it. And, when the time comes, fire it.
….
Youth is a factor. By the time talent is in its mid-to-late forties or early fifties, it will have become very, very expensive. Young talent can be found and underpaid for a short while, providing the work is challenging enough. Then it will be paid at the market rate. Finally, it will reach a stage where it is being paid based on past reputation alone. That is when you must part company with it.

Some companies find even more innovative ways to tap the energy of youth. If you can find younger talent (like, just out of high school) who cannot afford college education and spend money to train them in essential theory and practical work requirements (like it is done in vocational schools), you have a lot more time to extract labor out of the youth. Of course, such a talent will initially be paid slightly less (since the company has to spend money to train them), but they would be happy anyway, because they would not have got the opportunity to earn even this much, had they followed their own paths. It is a win-win situation, at least in the short term. Longer term, the talent needs to keep acquiring relevant skills and if required, some certifications, to improve their careers.

The French impressionist Degas once said: “Everybody has talent at twenty-five. The difficult thing is to have it at fifty”. True enough. Most talent does not survive undiminished through its middle forties, although there are some stunning exceptions to this rule of thumb.

Actually talent does not diminish as much as Felix/Degas portrays. Experience counts. But in the IT field, fresher talent is relatively a lot cheaper and one does not need to retain many costly, experienced people. Just a few would suffice to guide fresher, cheaper talent which has better stamina, an urge to learn new stuff, working like crazy to move up in career.

Most older talent prefer to stay in the comfortable zone, to lead a contented life. To keep earning the same salary with small raises every now and then (mostly the salary is just adjusted for inflation – it is not actually a raise). These kind of people are more likely to be less innovative.

As organizations grow very large and at some point stabilizes the employee count at some level, there is a high possibility that most of their employees get into this mode. My guess is that the average age of IBM employees > average age of Microsoft employees > average age of Google employees.

Not all talent enters the comfort zone as it ages, but most do.

Talent is usually conscious of its own value. But the currency of that value is not necessarily a million-dollar salary. The opportunity to prove themselves, and sometimes the chance to run the show on a day-to-day basis, will often do the trick just as well.

Yes, until a point. After which the talent either..

* falls into the comfort mode (very bad) or
* jumps ship for a better salary (and of course with better opportunities to prove themselves and to run the show) (very good) or
* dares to build a ship on its own. (crazy !!)

Just in case you do not already know: I am crazy. 🙂

Ship building commences on Oct 1, 2008.

(The quotes are from Felix Dennis’ book How to Get Rich: One of the World’s Greatest Entrepreneurs Shares His Secrets)