Jun 13

Full Stack Development Tools

One of the most common conversations I have with other developers centers around what tools we like the most for building a killer website.  It is always a great conversation with no RIGHT answer, and I have been introduced to fantastic, time saving, tools via these conversations.  I thought I would take a few minutes and give a quick recap of the key elements that I personally use, along with a short discussion of the pros and cons from where I sit.

Note: This is for local tools only, not SaaS providers.  That will come in another post.

Aptana Studio – IDE

Aptana Studio

Aptana Studio

Cost: Free

Apatana is an Eclipse based IDE that I use for all my coding.  I started using it just for PHP and did my front end (html/css) work in Dreamweaver, but I have since switched to using Aptana for everything HTML/PHP/JS/CSS/FTL (FreeMarker Template Language is slightly obscure but growing layer that sits on top of Java environments).  Like Eclipse you can fine tune it with many different plugins, I recommend JSLint and the jQuery library support.  One of my favorite features is the built in Git support (which works perfectly with Github, but that’s for another day) also has nice built in FTP/SFTP support with the option of having multiple remote endpoints for projects.  A very powerful all around IDE.

Aptana Studio – http://www.aptana.com/

MySql Workbench – Database Management

MySQL Workbench

MySQL Workbench

Cost: Free

If you use MySql for your web based databases (and lets face it, who isn’t?) then MySQL Workbench is an absolute must.  I used to use it only for visually mapping out a database, but have begun using it for management as well and I absolutely love it.  phpMyAdmin is no longer even installed on any of my new systems.

MySQL Workbench – http://www.mysql.com/products/workbench/

FileZilla – FTP Client

FileZilla Client

FileZilla Client

Cost: Free

I mostly use the FTP support in Aptana, but periodically you need to use a standalone FTP client.  I have experimented with some paid apps (Forklift caught my interest, but it was slow/heavy) and still keep coming back to this old standby.

FileZilla – https://filezilla-project.org/download.php?type=client


Photoshop – Graphic Editing Software



Cost: Varies $$$

Of course we come to photoshop, no matter if you’re a designer or not, if you’re working on the web, you really need to have a copy of photoshop on your machine (I have been forced to use Fireworks for some clients, and yes, it works, but I still prefer photoshop).  It has been around forever, and is a great tool.  I currently have CS4 on my machine, they are up to CS6, I know people still using CS, you probably don’t need all the bells and whistles that come in the newer versions. You just need something.

Adobe Photoshop – http://www.photoshop.com/

I think that is a good start to the list.  There are other more niche tools that I use from time to time, and I might mention those a little later, and of course the many browser based tools and extensions.  Let me know if you use these tools or if you would suggest something else.

Jan 12

Quit whining and…beGrateful

Ok, so that’s a little harsh, but sometimes we all need a little perspective.  Life is hard, but most of us are so incredibly lucky in the grand scheme of things that we really don’t have any excuse to go around feeling unhappy (read: feeling sorry for ourselves).  In today’s consumerist society, there are so many messages that tell us that we need more and that if we don’t have something that we should feel unsatisfied. Since that’s not likely to change anytime soon, we thought we’d use one of the consumer mindset’s best weapons against itself, the iPhone.

beGratefulWell, not the iPhone itself, but an iPhone app (droid comes later). An iPhone app designed to make you more grateful.  Like a dieting app for your thinking.  You list the things you are grateful for.  Not just the big things like family and friends, but some of the simple things, like the water coming out of the faucet, or the fact you don’t have to walk 10 miles to work.  You then can setup alerts to remind you to ‘beGrateful’ for that thing/person/item/whatever, and you also can log your gratitude, so you can go back and check to see how grateful you are (we even provide a little scoring system for you).

Sharing to Facebook and Twitter is available too in case you want to let everyone know that at 2:17am saturday morning you were grateful for the 24hr sandwich shop across the street from the…social club (I recommend the `Gargantuan` btw).

The best part?  It’s a free app! Because, you know, the best things in life are free…get it? Links below, hope you check it out, and can leave a review, or send us feedback at ideas at challengemediagroup.com.


Duncan Mapes
Challenge Media Group

App Website: http://www.begratefulapp.com/

Itunes Link : http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/begrateful/id494664707?ls=1&mt=8


Dec 11

QuotationsProject.com … because ideas matter

I cannot think of anything that  gives up more excitement at Challenge than the launch of a new project.  With that in mind, I am very pleased to announce the public ‘beta’ release of our latest brainchild Quotations Project found at http://www.quotationsproject.com/.

I know what you’re thinking.  “What?  Why another quote site?”

And you’re right, there are many quotation websites out there already, and some are quite good, but as ardent quotation readers ourselves we were looking for more updated features. We were energized by the thought of a rich database of quotations ranging from the lofty to the ridiculous with cross referencing not only based on topic and author like most sites, but by location, event, work, and anything else we can think of to relate them by.  We also plan to open the data up for personal quotations, the one liner, that only means something to your own personal subculture of friends, deserves a home on the internet, and we plan to provide it.

We love ideas, we want to give people a place to save, view, and share the best ideas from the past and from their own lives.  It is a work in progress, and we are always open to feedback on how it can be better.

Thanks for checking us out,

Duncan Mapes

Challenge Media Group

Sep 11

Challenge Ideas – Start with why

Challenge Media Group in classic terms is a digital media agency based in Charlotte, North Carolina that specializes in mobile and web application development, with a focus on social interaction.

That description, while accurate, only tells part of the story, the WHAT we do, a little bit of the HOW we do it, but nothing about our WHY. WHAT, HOW, and WHY are the three ingredients of an idea called ‘The Golden Circle’. At the center of the ‘circle’ is WHY, the idea that your core emotional reason for existing is really what drives motivated action inside the company (officers and employees) and outside the company (customers and investors).

This idea had a profound impact on our company during it’s initial stages, and really helped us shape the conversation about what kind of company we want to be, our name. It has even inspired the theme of our new website, everything on there is in terms of WHAT, HOW, and WHY.

So what is our WHY? What is the reason we’ve launched down this digital path? The first answer is encapsulated somewhat in our name, Challenge! Challenge everything is a slogan from the video games of our youth, and if it weren’t trademarked, would be our official motto. We believe in challenging the assumptions so many of us make when planning, building, or promoting a product. Funnily enough, simply asking WHY can be all it takes to grind a process to a halt, or to launch it in a totally new and radical direction. Beyond this (hopefully) productive contentiousness, we love dreaming up new ideas and ways for people to connect, and then building them. The satisfaction of a newly launched website or app for us is, professionally speaking, second to none.

So there you have it, with any project, we believe in first asking the question, Why? We do it because it brings clarity to the purpose of the project. We do it because it can help remove bad thinking from the process. Most of all, we do it because it helps us connect the project with that place inside us all that needs to be inspired.

Thanks for reading and we’ll see you on the journey,

Duncan Mapes
Principal, Challenge Media Group

For more on the ‘Golden Circle’, read ‘Start With Why’ by Simon Sinek.


Click Here to watch Simon Sinek’s TED talk.