Technology Tips for Freelancers

I gave a short presentation to a group of clinical researchers back in November 2012 on technologies and tools that might suit freelancers. I've updated it and have included it here (download PDF, 9.7 MB).

The PDF includes hyperlinks to most of the resources and software mentioned (just click the product name).

If anyone is curious, I used a new application called Deckset when doing the update to the presentation. It was originally written in Keynote, Apple's version of PowerPoint.

It converts plain text, styled in Markdown, and your selected images into nice looking slides. There are no fancy animations or transitions, just neat typography and a simple style. It's forcing me to keep my messaging as clean as possible.

Writing Software

Keynote speech by David Heinemeier Hansson at RailsConf 2014.

He argues for system testing over unit testing and test driven development (TDD)

He proposes an alternative to the engineering driven holy grail of Coverage, Ratio and Speed metrics for testing and believes the objective should be clarity of the codebase.

DHH is a partner at Basecamp and creator of Ruby on Rails - the open source web framework that (amongst others) Twitter is built on.

Warning: some 'plain language' in this presentation.

David's presentation was written in Markdown and displayed using Deckset.

Clarity of writing is not hard science

My spring newsletter

Daffodil, taken by the author, March 2008.

Daffodil, taken by the author, March 2008.

For those of you not on distribution and wanting to take a peek - click here.

I cover the following topics

  1. My current availability
  2. PRINCE2® Project Management
  3. Institute of Clinical Research Spring edition of CRfocus
  4. Docebo - Learning Management System
  5. My updated Web site
  6. iPhone and iPad compatible ECG device

You can subsribe on my Contact page.

iOS and Mac compatible wireless ECG

Very nice looking wireless ECG transmitter about the size of a box of matches.

According to the manufacturer (SR-Medizinelektronik), the CardioScout Multi-ECG is capable of 12-lead resting ECG, stress ECG and Holter monitoring.

Good to see this sort of technology with viewing and analysis options now available on iOS (iPhones and iPads) and OSX (Macs) as well as Android and Windows.

Would love to hear from experts whether it would be suitable for use in clinical trials and submissions to regulatory authorities. Seems it might be a low cost option for Thorough QT/QTc Studies (link to FDA guidance PDF) amongst other more conventional ECG applications.

Spring Issue of CRfocus

I had the privilege of working on this latest issue of CRfocus as one of two guest editors. We burnt a fair bit of midnight oil.

For myself, this is my first effort at putting together a magazine, so don't be too hard on us!

We built this release using Word - not my favourite software package - and might take a look at Scribus, a cross platform open source desktop publishing package, for later issues.

Click on the image to take you through to the Institute of clinical Research Web site so you can download it.

ICR is aiming to get these out on a quarterly basis for the forseeable future.

Would love to have your feedback on layout, content etc.

Thanks to my co-Guest Editor, Edgar Smeets - an unstoppable machine with drive and determination, the ICR Editorial Board for letting me loose on their magazine and all the contributors.


I recently heard from somebody that I worked with when I was at PAREXEL - I felt rather flattered as this is what they had to say:

I keep referencing the work we did together between our organizations as a foundation of how a collaboration and working relationship can be put in place and mature to be [a] very productive and functional process.
— JH, cardiac core lab, 2014

Tegenero TGN1412

There was a piece on Radio 4's 'Thinking Allowed' yesterday in an interview with Professor Adam Hedgecoe about 'normalisation' of practice. He describes how it had become normal to dose subjects in clinical trials of new medicines at fairly short intervals. After the extremely serious adverse events experienced by the volunteers that participated in the trial there was a lot of hoopla by 'experts' stating that short dosing intervals were wrong and inappropriate. The fact is, that everybody did it this way. It goes without saying that the more cautious approach that we take today is better.

It was good to hear an interview that didn't seek to sensationalise the story.

iPad to access EDC and EHR systems reports that Nextrials showed off their new iPad app to access their data management technology - Prism™ - a fully integrated clinical trial management and EDC product - at the recent DIA meeting in Washington. Reportedly the app will also be available for the iPhone when it is made available this year.

Good work from a company that seems to be striving to get its arms around extracting data from EHR and EMR systems used by healthcare providers (Mar 2009) and making their product compatible with both the iPad's Safari (April 2010) and Google's Chrome (May 2010) browsers.

Software development tools and drive

Now I am not a developer, but I have worked closely enough with Business Analysts, Project Managers and Developers to be intrigued by an Australian company called Atlassian. They provide

issue tracking, collaboration and software development tools

that support Agile development, integrate with Google Apps + Studio and Sharepoint and have a wide range of customers from Adobe, BMW, and Boeing to Johns Hopkins University and Yahoo!

I like the look of their issue tracking and project management tools in their JIRA product.

In yesterday's post I reported what Dan Pink believes drives people. In his video he cited Atlassian's novel approach to providing autonomy and engagement. Once a quarter the firm gives it's employees beer and cakes and 24 hours to work on any of the products they have in the software portfolio so long as they show the output of their work at the end.

This 'let me get out of your way approach' by management results in significant bug fixes and innovations to their product line.

No connection.

Take money off the table....

....and what motivates us is autonomy, mastery and purpose. According to a talk given by Dan Pink at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures [ sic ] and Commerce (RSA).

Paraphrasing Pink, employees want to have an overall purpose and when the profit motive is unhitched from the purpose motive 'bad' things can happen. I had most experience and understanding of this point. He states that people want to feel that they are making a contribution.

I was quite enthralled with his thoughts on autonomy and mastery. He states you can expect better engagement with more autonomy. Makes sense. Employers should get out of the way of their employees. I have been conscious of this but in a different way - maybe we used to call this 'empowerment'?

And mastery - it's obvious really. He cites the case of people spending hours of their free time learning the guitar. You do it, because it's fun, because it's a challenge and because you get better at it.

Apple bigger than Microsoft

Sorry if I am late to the party here, I was on vacation and went 'off the grid'. So what did I miss? AFP reports that

Microsoft ........................ had been overtaken by rival Apple as the world's biggest technology firm in terms of market value

and goes on to to explain

Microsoft shares shed 4.07 percent on Wednesday to close at 25.01 dollars, dropping its market capitalisation -- the number of shares outstanding multiplied by the stock price -- to 219.18 billion dollars. Apple shares lost 0.45 percent meanwhile to close at 244.05 dollars, giving the company a market value of 222.07 billion dollars.

Makes me happy.

Bar-code system lowers medication errors

Well that's good to hear and vindicates a decision to use barcoding made long ago by companies like PAREXEL with it's ClinBase® bedside data capture and trial management system designed for early phase trials. There's always a lot of talk about reducing costs and saving time to database lock with these kinds of true EDC systems, but compliance management in the clinic is just as important to consider if you step back and take the helicopter view.

Thanks to Wm. J. Martin over at LinkedIn's EDC-Clinical Trials group for posting the link.