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Portland software company rigs up a way to publish its blog posts by bike

Portland software company rigs up a way to publish its blog posts by bike

velopsipede-ashton

The team put “30 to 40 person-hours” into creating the
admittedly ridiculous device.
(Photo courtesy Cozy)

So many people at a local startup are into bikes that they’ve rigged up a stationary bike in their office as the way to publish content to their website.

The “Velopsipede,” as they dubbed the project, was the result of a holiday-season “hack day” that invited engineers to unwind by stretching their creative muscles.

“There’s no business justification for doing this,” Matt Greensmith, operations engineering manager for the company, Cozy, said of hack days. “But it enables you to do things you couldn’t otherwise do.”

bike room

Cozy’s Matt Greensmith in the company’s entrance lobby.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Cozy, which makes free-to-use residential property management software, is the sort of company that the economically depressed Portland of 2004 dreamed would one day come to town in search of quality of life. It did. After being founded in 2012 in San Francisco, the venture-backed firm opened a Portland office in late 2013 and by mid-2014 had relocated its entire workforce to Portland.

“100 percent of the people we had wanted to come to our Portland office instead of San Francisco. The bike commute people are the people we’re attracting.”
— Matt Greensmith, Cozy

“100 percent of the people we had wanted to come to our Portland office instead of San Francisco,” Greensmith said. “The bike commute people are the people we’re attracting.”

Cozy has no on-site auto parking at its office near SE Grand and Burnside, but does have a bike parking area in its lobby. Greensmith, who has a 5.5-mile bike commute, said a quarter of the company’s 20-odd employees bike commute in winter and more than half do in summer.

The Velopsipede concept came from Cozy CEO Gino Zahnd, who also happens to be a bike lover and amateur racer. He was noodling one of the few recurring tasks in Cozy’s workflow that hadn’t been automated: hitting “publish” on the company’s website.

“Everyone in the company right up to the CEO writes content,” said Greensmith. But not everybody had the ability to move posts to the public website. “People were asking members of our engineering team to make posts public. That’s not efficient.”

Somehow that led to a conversation about other sorts of efficient machines.

“It started as a joke: You should be able to publish the site by bicycle,” Greensmith said.


After the December hack day, that joke turned into “the most Rube Goldberg thing you’ve ever seen” for pushing a digital button, Greensmith said. He said about 30 to 40 person-hours have gone into the code and hardware.

To publish a blog post or other public content, you first queue it up on Cozy’s internal site. Then you get on the bike and select the distance you want to aim for. (The options are in kilometers, naturally.)

velopsipede menu

The 10K distance is named “Gino” after Cozy’s CEO. The 100K distance is named “Starla” after his wife, a professional racer.

Then you pedal. A sensor on the back wheel tracks each rotation and multiplies by 189 centimeters to measure distance traveled.

sensor

(Photo: Ted Timmons)

That information is sent into a simple $30 hobbyist’s computer called a Raspberry Pi…

raspberry pi

…which lets you know when you’ve pedaled far enough, and takes a picture at the finish line.

That triggers an automatic report to the company’s internal chat channel…

slack screen

(Yep, that’s me.)

…and the post goes public on the Web.

blog published

Greensmith is happy to admit that it’s a pretty silly project. But once in a while, his thinking goes, it’s useful to be silly.

“We’ve had a chance to unwind after a long year of working on business code,” he said.

If you’re interested in learning more about the project, you can read all about it on a blog post the company published Tuesday: “This Post was Published via Bicycle.”

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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The post Portland software company rigs up a way to publish its blog posts by bike appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Bike-friendly business sense from a mattress store

Bike-friendly business sense from a mattress store

Still from Path Less Pedaled video showing
Mattress Lot owner Michael Hanna.

A mattress store is the last place you’d expect to cater to bicycle riding customers. But that’s the case at the Mattress Lot on NE Sandy.

We mentioned this place back in 2010 when they started delivering mattresses by bike and they’re still going strong.

Now, in a new video just released by Path Less Pedaled, Mattress Lot owner Michael Hanna speaks some important truths about doing business in a way that respects more than just one transportation mode. In the excellent short video below, Hanna spells out why his approach works and why it makes sense.

My favorite takeaway from his comments are how he realizes — and so eloquently explains — that people who ride bikes aren’t some strange group that needs to be specially catered to. “These are not fringe people,” Hanna says in the video, “the cyclists we see day in day out are the same people who send their kids to our local schools, the same people who have jobs all over this area. It’s very, very mainstream.”

— Check out more great videos about how bicycles are having a positive impact on Oregon’s economy at PathLessPedaled.com

The post Bike-friendly business sense from a mattress store appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Bicycle ‘Aid Stations’ coming to Plaid Pantry stores

Bicycle ‘Aid Stations’ coming to Plaid Pantry stores

New window decal coming to Plaid Pantry stores.

Convenience store chain Plaid Pantry has announced their latest effort to become more appealing to customers who arrive by bike: Bicycle aid stations.

According to Administrative Manager Laura Sadowski, the new aid stations will be available at all 104 Oregon stores and will consist of a flat repair kit, basic bike tools, and a floor pump. The aid kit will be kept behind the counter, so you’ll have to ask a store employee to use it. “As the weather is improving, I am seeing more bikes on the road,” said Sadowski via email. “Not everyone is prepared for a flat or adequate nutrition and fluids, so we want to be there on (mostly) every corner to ‘aid’ them!”

In addition to the aid kit, all stores will soon display a bright yellow “Aid Station” graphic at the main entrance.

Sadowski adds that this idea comes from Plaid Pantry Executive Vice President Jonathan Polonksy who’s “an avid biker himself”.

You might recall that in November 2012 we reported that new bike racks had been installed at 12 Plaid Pantry stores in the Portland area. Sadowski says that program is alive and well and they’ve continued to add more bike parking at stores throughout the state.

She also has a tip for bike riders in need: you can download the Plaid Pantry smartphone app (links here) to quickly find the location nearest you.

Secure gear storage: The next step for bike-friendly businesses?

Secure gear storage: The next step for bike-friendly businesses?

Bike gear lockers at New Seasons-2

New Seasons on Williams Ave has gear
lockers for bike riding customers.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

One of the advantages cars have over (most) bicycles is a secure, dry, roomy place to easily stash stuff. Take a look at the inside of most people’s cars and you’ll see all sorts of essential and random things in the center console, the glove box, and scattered on the seats and floor. Bikes on the other hand, are usually stripped clean when parked. This is for a variety of reasons including: the threat of thieves who will take anything that’s not bolted down; the threat of rain getting your stuff wet, and so on. For people who bike, there simply aren’t many panniers or similar products readily available that allow you to secure your stuff to your vehicle while keeping it protected from the elements (and yes, I have seen the Buca Boot on Kickstarter).

The thoughts above are why I’ve been thinking for the past few years that shops, cafes and markets might want to consider providing storage areas for cycling customers. I’ve pitched the idea of gear storage lockers to a few businesses and I’m thrilled that someone finally took me up on it.

The just-opened New Seasons Market on North Williams Avenue has 10 such lockers. If you haven’t noticed them yet it’s because they’re near the rear entrance (on NE Fremont). Here’s how they look:

Bike gear lockers at New Seasons-1

Bike gear lockers at New Seasons-4

Bike gear lockers at New Seasons-3

Now, instead of schlepping around panniers and all the other stuff you didn’t want to leave on your bike (wet rain coat, helmet, removable lights, and so on), you can just pop them in the locker, set the security code, and do your shopping.

The few times I’ve stopped in to the market recently, I’ve noticed more than half of the lockers in use. I still haven’t talked to New Seasons staff about any feedback they’ve received, so I’m curious how customers are using them and whether or not they find them useful.

If you’ve used the biking customer lockers at New Seasons on Williams, or if you have feedback on the idea in general, we’d love to hear it. If it turns out to be a worthy idea, perhaps other businesses will give it a try. (And for what it’s worth, I also think PBOT might want to consider installing gear storage lockers near on-street bike corrals for similar reasons.)

And one last thing, I’ll just add that it’s been great working with New Seasons on bike-related stuff because — as they’ve demonstrated in the past — they’re open and willing to try new things and they’re committed to making their store as bike-friendly as possible.