Is it the end already?

By on August 24th, 2012

It’s been a long time coming, but we celebrated the last day of internship with drinks and food at One Mile House two weeks ago. To commemorate the occasion, we filled out a reverse interview, where we asked Barrel team members submit questions for us to answer. Here it is! Be prepared, it’s long. (Hopefully a photo gallery will come to accompany it soon when our nas gets back up!)

Marianne: Do you have a list of places where you’d reeeeally like to live (or visit) sometime in the future?

Katie: Yes! I would love to visit so many places! I want to backpack all around Europe, and I definitely want to go to Japan, Hong Kong, and Australia. New York will always be home for me, but if I had the money and time, I’d go all around the world.

Diane: Right now, Macchu Picchu is all I’m thinking about. I really want to hike those Incan trails.

Taylor: I’d love to be in Rio de Janeiro for the World Cup. I also want to go stay on a ranch in Montana which is really random, but I love to travel so I’d take any opportunity I can get to go anywhere.

Peter/Jan: What was your favorite project of the internship?

K: I’m really proud of Brink. I had the most creative freedom with this project, and I enjoyed re-branding and re-thinking the website. It’s also great that it was an intern project; Diane, Taylor and I had pretty much full control over the whole thing.

D: Brink, for sure, because we really owned that project ourselves.

T: Brink- seeing the whole process was awesome!

Peter, Betty & Angel: What was the best meal of the internship?

K: Pho! I get really excited every time I see the a of pho containers on the kitchen island. Plus, we get to make all the corny pho puns :].

D: I really loved Boram’s cooking. It makes me feel all warm and squishy inside when she cooks!

T: This is tough- my favorite snack was the Parmesan Garlic Pita Chips. I’m actually addicted to them now. But my favorite meal was probably Mexican because it reminds me of home.

For Katie: Do you remember a particularly inspirational website or work of art that made you want to go into design, or at least one that you saw a long time ago that’s stuck with you today?

K: I have horrible long-term memory so I couldn’t tell you which websites inspired me when I first started tinkering with code (which was when I was like about 10 years old). However, I was completely blown away by the first “parallax-y” website I saw: Atlantis Lost World’s Fair. That was a point where I realized that websites don’t have to be a variation of the same layout grids with headers and footers; they can tell stories and brings users on adventures (without flash)!

For Taylor: Do you feel like you’re a “programming” type? Why or why not? Also, what was the first thing you programmed?

T: In a way yes–I really like problem solving, puzzles and logic and programming consists of a lot of that, but in a way no because for me programming is not about the technology as much as the figuring out how to do things.

For Diane: What was the hardest thing that you had to learn about project management for this internship?

D: The hardest thing was learning how to interact with clients right away, it’s always a bit difficult to get a handle on when to push back, and handle unexpected questions that you haven’t encountered before.

Angel: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

D: To freeze time, so that I could get all the sleep I wanted. Also, so I could really really people watch closely. Did that make any sense, or did it sound creepy?

K: Teleportation! I’m so lazy; the time it takes to get to places is one reason I don’t get stuff done sometimes.

T: Telekineses- I’m thinking its a two in one because not only could i move things with my mind, but I probably could fly too if I moved myself with my mind.

Betty: When was your breakthrough moment? (aka When did you know you were getting comfy among us barrelheads?)

D: Hmm, I can’t really pinpoint anything. Maybe one of many 5-6 o’clock snack sessions, lovely wine and dines?

Peter: Where do you see Barrel going in the next 6 months? In 1 year?

D: This is a tough question. We’ve luckily been able to watch Barrel change while at the internship, moving upstairs, and also new hires coming aboard. I feel like I might not recognize it in a year! I suspect that the way we approach projects, and what Barrel will offer its clients will change and expand. The digital landscape itself is changing a lot.

T: I feel like Barrel has grown so much since we started in June, especially with the launch of ProjectFlow, all the new people and the move. It will be interesting to see if Barrel Spends more time on new apps like Project Flow or continuing expanding their web development, but I suspect Barrel will go far. I just hope I can recognize it when I come visit the new office!

Jan: When and how did you come to be interested in ____________. (i.e web design, coding, etc).

K: I actually thought I was going to be a developer until about three years ago; I started learning HTML/CSS in the fifth grade, on Neopets, and got pretty good at front-end development. I’ve always loved looking at beautiful web design, but I didn’t consider myself “artsy” and I thought I would suck at designing.

It wasn’t until college that I took my first design class and fell in love with it. I realized that I didn’t need to know how to draw to be good at design, and that I wasn’t as bad at the craft as I thought I would be. I’m glad I switched; design makes me happier than coding ever has.

D: Complicated.. I started out as a pre-med major in college until I realized I missed the arts, so then I double majored in Visual Arts/Art History and English Literature. After doing stints all over – in publishing, galleries, and more – I decided that what I wanted to do most was engage with the current world, aka in digital.

T: Well junior year Cornell kept angrily emailing me to pick a major, so that’s when I started coding. I just thought it sounded like an interesting subject to complete a major in since I had already dabbled in so much other stuff.

Betty: What name do you call the glass conference room by? (This one’s for Wook!)

T: Hands down its the baby conf.

K: Baby conf. What else would you call it?

D: Ditto

Jan: What’s the best highlight of your experience at Barrel? (A Barrel moment)

D: Taylor and I getting mauled by ping pong balls daily just sitting at our desks.

Angel: If you could give one piece of advice to another Intern starting out at Barrel or elsewhere, what would you say?

D: Stay interested, and always be curious. Don’t be afraid to express your interests. I’ve always been more of an introvert at heart, so stepping out is always difficult. But it usually pays off, and you could be surprised by some of the responses you get.

K: Don’t be afraid to ask questions! You’re meant to learn during internships, and you’ll do more learning asking for help than trying to seem knowledgeable and amazing at what you do (even though I’m sure you are knowledgeable and amazing at what yo do).

T: Yeah definitely don’t be shy about questions. I always  feel guilty interrupting other peoples work but everyone is happy to help.

Do you have any plans for what’s next?

K: More interning at Barrel! And finishing school as soon as possible. I can’t wait to be done with it.

Cosiety: A Review

By on June 26th, 2012

Barrel’s no stranger to start-ups and web-apps. This morning we got to hear a pitch from Cosiety, a new website designed to help cut down the cost of buying textbooks as well as facilitate note sharing. It is being developed by CUNY Baruch students and is currently targeting the CUNY school system. Since we are all students, we thought we’d share some of our opinions.

Their Concept: 

Cosiety gives us a brief on what problems their concept solves.

Students are spending too much money on textbooks every semester; over half their academic expenses outside of tuition is spent on books.

Enter Cosiety. Cosiety promises to be a solution: providing convenient and affordable options for students within each campus to exchange and buy used textbooks from each other.

We think their premise is entirely valid. We’ve all emptied our pockets over textbooks before, spending more money at the campus bookstore rather than searching for cheaper ones online, or among friends. But, each campus often has their own solution for this. Discount bookstores, platforms such as Columbia’s Dormslist and Books on Campus are some of the many alternatives. Cosiety promises to differentiate from these with the addition of notes buying and courseboard forums.

While these are great ideas, they lack accountability. There’s no guarantee that you’re going to get good notes or good answers on the forums without achieving a critical mass of students on the site. For example at Cornell, many classes use Piazza as a discussion platform, where TAs and professors can both validate student answers as well as answer questions themselves. Cosiety founders want to exclude administration because they feel professors would frown upon the sharing of notes. They acknowledge that they’re going to have their fair share of backlash from the academic community most likely with claims of cheating, plagiarism, and possibly even intellectual copyright violations of professors’ lectures because of the intent to sell.

One step in the right direction is Cosiety’s refund policy, for notes that are simply not up to standard. They are also instituting a ratings system, where buyers can rate notes that they have purchased. However, a possible problem that might arise is the buying and subsequent sharing of documents without further purchasing. Furthermore, a ratings system requires a large body of users in order to generate useful information.

Their Business Model:

Cosiety had a few graphs centered around projected sales, but it was hard to follow.

Cosiety’s revenue projection is very optimistic, and capitalizes solely on the notes buying portion of the application. The math was… interesting, and pretty difficult to follow. They estimate 20,000 people — 4% CUNY market share — to be downloading 12 sets of notes each (we may be blatantly making this stuff up from memory). At an average of $1/set, that is $240,000 per semester.  But their total sales prediction amounts to a whopping $600,000. We might have gotten lost in the numbers, but that figure is surprisingly high.

They are also expecting to profit from both ad revenue and partnerships with companies such as Amazon and Apple. This is not likely to happen until they are firmly established, which will probably not be in the near future.

Cosiety didn’t seem to have a strong marketing campaign, relying mostly on word of mouth and hard sells. We think that this strategy will be relatively effective in a student population, because we tend to trust and explore information from peers and users. Word of mouth is a powerful tool amongst our generation, but we question whether the word will spread fast enough or whether they will generate enough early adopters to start a useful community on Cosiety.

Their Design:

But the primary reason that Cosiety stepped into Barrel office this morning was to get UI, UX, and design feedback from us. There were two primary layouts in their presentation: it was pretty unanimous that we liked the second, however it is the first that is being launched. We thought the organization in the second was easier to understand; the first lacked a clear hierarchical structure. There was also a distracting, long, neon green sidebar navigation.

User experience could in Cosiety could be enhanced by social media integration, but currently the site exists outside of Facebook and Twitter. A profile with ratings from past transactions would also help users buy notes and make products more trustworthy. Great experience leads to further use!

To Conclude: 

As students that have been exposed to many similar applications, we have some reservations about Cosiety’s structure and business model. Especially since many of these systems are university-endorsed and not for-profit, we foresee many barriers for Cosiety to become a universally accepted platform. Nevertheless we wish them all the best, and think that campuses without any similar websites will adopt the app readily.



By on June 15th, 2012

We are officially unveiling Keg! Welcome, welcome!!

Although there are still some tweaks to be done, it’s a lovely change from our slightly flat twenty-ten WordPress theme. Still, we’re excited to share with you our fast progress since our first week at Barrel. Stay tuned for our next posts, we’ll be filling up those categories on the side pretty quickly!

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Meet the Kegs

By on June 5th, 2012

Hello there! We’re the kegs, or Barrel’s three summer interns. Barrel’s internship program has officially kicked off, and we thought we’d introduce ourselves through a group Q&A.

1. Three sentences about yourself. Go.

Katie Chin (Design Intern): I’ve lived in the same apartment all my life in Chinatown, New York, which is just 10 minutes away from the Barrel office. I’m really goal-oriented; I knew that I wanted to be a web designer since I started poking around the HTML tutorial on Neopets in the fifth grade. I’m going to pack as much as I can in my last sentence: I reread all seven Harry Potter books every summer and I gave all 50 of my stuffed animals names and birthdays as a kid and I can’t whistle and I like milk tea and I’m a grammar nazi even though I’ve just written the worst run-on sentence.

Taylor Udell (Development Intern): Katie, you name all your stuffed animals, but don’t even name your first pet?

KC: I never noticed that! My fish did have a name – it was Fish.

Diane Wang (Content Strategy Intern) : I don’t know what to say to that…

TU: So original? Anyway,  I grew up in a small beach town near San Diego, CA and have a younger sister and two dogs, and have never lived in a city before in my life. I’m a senior in college majoring in Information Science (communications mixed with computer science mixed with a little design) and Psychology. And I am one of the klutziest people you’ll ever meet (I can trip over anything…even air).

DW: Unlike Taylor, I grew up in three big cities: New York (where I am now), Tokyo, and Hong Kong, where my family currently lives. The twelve-hour time difference and sixteen-hour flight to go home makes things just a tad difficult on my end but I could never choose between the two cities. There’s just something about the hustle and bustle; it allows me to always be on the lookout for new things to learn and experience whether it be finally mastering the art of juggling or scoping out a new brunch place.

2. Why “Keg”?

TU: Well we started out with Bucket…

KC: But Peter jokingly told us a bucket is a cheaper version of a barrel. We didn’t want that to stick!

DW: A Keg is also a kind of Barrel, isn’t it? And we do have two kegs in the office.

3. What do you hope to learn from Barrel?

KC: The designers here are so good! It’s kind of intimidating, but I’m excited about picking up some of their skills during my 10 weeks. On the first day, Andrea gave us a mini Illustrator tutorial on gradient meshes during the design meeting. I’m glad that I learned something new on the first day.

TU: I feel like everyone here is so knowledgeable across multiple areas of web development and design. I’m hoping their skills will help me evolve into a more well rounded web developer. I am looking forward to improving my web development skills, and excited to learn new design techniques and tools.

DW: Anything and everything? The digital world is such an exciting place to be, in terms of design, development and strategy.

4. What’s your favorite office perk so far?

KC: We got an adorable welcome package full of goodies (and food!) before the internship started. I love that Barrel cares about us and treats their interns like valuable members of the team.

TU: Food, dogs, wine, ping pong? What more could we ask for? But since I have to pick one thing, I think I’m going to say the office environment. Not only is everyone friendly, helpful and funny, but I’m pretty sure office environment can include all of the above?

DW: Yes to dogs; Chocolate just licked my leg. But I’m gonna call my fav our extensive book library. Thanks for the Kindles, Barrel!

KC: Nice job limiting yourself to one favorite Taylor! Since you’ve already cheated, I’m going to add a second favorite: free lunches. It saves so much money, and the food is delicious; we’re having pho today!

DW: How do you know we’re having pho!? Nobody told me!

TU: Pho sure (props to Andrea for that one)! But you were in a meeting. As you can tell we work in a very high class establishment.

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