In January we helped Mark Levison's Agile Pain Relife consulting make a very successful Typepad to WordPress transition. Behind the scenes there is a very interesting design case study, we'd like to share.
The main aim was to move the content from Typepad webblog to his new business domain. Mark's company focuses on the business of "relieving software development pain". He came to us with a great domain and a catchy name for this business: Agile Pain Relief Consulting comes from.
Mark chose the WooTuits theme, which we thought was a great fit. He didn't ask any significant modifications. The challenge was to adapt it to Mark's consulting firm's business goals. At Foliovision, when we talk about customising a template it goes far beyond simple changes like background colour or the size of the font. We start with a template but seek to end with a unique site which look like a custom design.
We firmly believe that getting one's logo and branding right is the starting point for a successful design. Mark didn't have a budget for the logo work so we agreed to do a new logo ourselves which Mark would purchase if he liked it.
Whatever happened to the CDDB and to FreeDB?
CDDB evolved into Gracenote. It looked like they were losing their stranglehold when Roxio moved to FreeDB in 2000. A closed settlement resulted in Roxio moving to Gracenote full time. I hope they were clever enough to get free stock in Gracenote for the pleasure.
The next death knell (although no one knew how important it was at the time) for FreeDB was that Apple went with Gracenote and then disabled any ability for users to submit to FreeDB (for a couple of years it was possible to use the FreeDB servers instead by monkeying around in one's hosts file, but it was a pretty techy solution). Without
We use primarily use
I tell them there is just no other payment service which works well for small international payments.
Precautions we take:
- we don’t confirm our bank account numbers which technically means that Paypal can’t withdraw funds from our bank accounts.
- they do do it anyway, but in our case it would be illegal and there’s a very good chance that the bank would go after Paypal for the money themselves if Paypal did manage to snooker them into giving them cash.
- we run a balance under $2000. Over that and the money gets shunted off to one of our bank accounts.
- we are very good customers. We send lots of sales through and we buy lots of goods too. Occasionally we even have to switch currencies. Paypal makes a fortune off of Foliovision. We even introduce lots of new customers to them as well.
In general, limit liability and make yourself valuable. I recommend you do the same.
But then I go and read a post like this one about how Paypal single-handedly nearly ruined the Macgraphoto graphics bundle (sorry to have missed it Jacob: great idea for a themed bundle!). And I think we haven’t done nearly enough and that we are playing with fire.
One of our clients was recently lured into paying to pitch to a group of investors.
Their product is a good one. I can’t say much, but it’s in the financial servies industry. Instead of spending their time and money to get the product really into action, they decided to go the angel route.
Madness. The finished product langours instead of making them the money they should be paying. They asked me if they should pay to pitch. I said no, make your company pay each day.
It turns out that the venture capital shark pool is even worse than I expected. There are dozens of these organizations out there looking to suck the blood of the innocent or hapless entrepreneur. These bastards are out for as much US$25K of your money to pitch to disinterested middle-level brokers and junior bankers.
Today 37signals dropped our domain http://webwork.clientsection.com. Instead they have replaced it with http://webwork.basecamphq.com.
There is a thread on their forums covering the issue. As one customer writes:
BasecampHQ is a stupid domain for one. What is its relevance to my clients? I am paying for a professional service – not for branding that sounds like a paint ball website.
I totally agree. Apparently this change is coming with additional footer branding and additional branding in the emails.
This is a case of breaking the contract with the original customer: us. We are the ones who bought into their white label extranet solution with attractive anonymous core domains like:
We pay a handsome yearly fee for the use of the software and the domain. Until recently, it's been $600/year. Now, it's $1200/year. For that fee, we expected 37signals to honour their part of the deal which was to allow us to continue to use the software and environment which we helped them get off the ground.
Last Friday, Anil Dash and I had a delightful conversation. I mean that delightful. Anil and I share many of the same passions: the web, media, user interface, weblogs.
Anil is a very congenial sort and was a prominent early weblog writer. He is now both a Vice President at SixApart and head evangelist for Typepad.
I have a deep and intimate acquaintance with SixApart's Typepad service, as a founding user in 2003 and now as the founder of the premier Typepad to WordPress rescue service.
The starting point of our call was clear. Anil is annoyed about my regular unfavourable postings about Typepad. I don't know if SixApart is annoyed about our rescue service itself - we've moved some pretty high profile sites in the last few months, some of which I am not even at liberty to disclose their names.
I’ve been reading Jack Welch’s Winning.
Though Jack Welch is one mean and selfish man, Winning is a challenging and rewarding testament to Neutron Jack’s way of doing business. Welch’s philosophy of promoting the top 20% and firing the bottom 10% in a large company is unbelievably Darwinian, even cruel. Welch even runs his personal life the same way – at sixty years of age he writes about co-author and third Suzy "having taught me the meaning of love". Frankly, Welch has grown up children – it’s a bit late to be discovering love. Rediscovering would have been far more tactful.
But let’s leave the man behind and return to Welch’s Spartan philosophy of leaving the crippled employees on the mountaintop to perish in the night.
When you read his book, however, you can see how this would work in a company which hires just extremely competitive types. Such people enjoy seeing others thrown down the well. It’s a bit of the mob waiting for the witch to be drowned. Welch is appealing to primal nature here, the law of the jungle. The hunter who cannot run fast enough is culled from the tribe and the tribe is stronger as the weakest members can neither survive nor reproduce.
Sift CEO Ben Heald
So these guys over at Sift Media are heading for £3 million of advertising revenue this year. Probably worth hearing what their CEO has to say about online publishing. The first question is a bit silly:
What levels of participation inequality do you see from forum and community users? What can publishers do to tackle that more effectively?
Ben Heald takes a valiant stab at it:
You probably get about 10% of the audience that you are sending your emails to, contributing to the content in some way.
I don't think usage levels have changed that much. It matches the dynamics of a conference, where out of an audience of 100 people, you will get ten asking a questions and one or two people speaking to you after the presentation. I don't think that will change. We won't all become avid contributors to forums. Some people just want to take stuff.
His answer is basically right - participation will not be level - but at the end he goes seriously astray: "Some people just want to take stuff."
Have tech companies gone blue chip: no risk, little reward?
The good news: Tech stocks are the blue chips of today’s economy. The companies are bigger and better run than ever before.
Still not convinced this sector has matured? Today, there are eight U.S. tech companies with market caps greater than $100 billion. Only three U.S. financial institutions are worth that much. Three. Last week, technology surpassed financials as the biggest component of the S&P 500.
The bad news: Tech stocks are the blue chips. Lower risk means lower reward. Are tech investors mentally prepared for the 10% equity return including a 2% dividend
Those are amazing numbers. Tech companies are bigger than banks. Curiously tech - and entertainment and weapon systems - seem to be the only products in which the US is a world leader these days.
Despite the huge market cap of the top tech companies, I think Evan Newmark is off base on the future of tech.
Short essay about what an idea is worth. The right idea could be worth $361 million per person – or nothing.
Is it possible for the medium sized guys to make money?
Network Solutions, bought for $20 million in 2003, was just sold for $800 million three years later.
And amazingly enough, this deal was done by a Persian – Iranian American Jahm Najafi.
So do the Iranians know how to play a poker hand?
It certainly looks like yes. No wonder the Israelis want the Americans to bomb the Iranians to smithereens. Competition isn’t fun.
Anyway here’s Najafi’s story:
Philip Dow’s Journler
Philip Dow is the developer of the very well received Mac PIM (personal information manager) Journler about donationware. His application Journler had an open donation policy for personal use. Contribute whatever you like. A single commercial use license was/is $25.
Phil is going full-time as a developer now and is starting to feel the pain – lots of downloads and good press, but not a lot of revenue rolling in.
Out of 580 registered users, Phil had received an average donation of $17. That makes a total of about $9800. But in the end, Phil feels that some are abusing the donation system.
Some gentlemen search colleagues are thunderstruck by the acquisition of 24/7 Real Media by advertising holding company WPP for $649 million (a tidy sum it is – congratulations 24/7 – although I’ve always hated your technology). Raycam wonders why more ad agencies aren’t snapping up the smaller search houses.
It’s simple. All the assets go down the elevator every night (David Ogilvy is reputed the first to coin this phrase).
The web is undergoing another major shift right now.
The first shift was from direct navigation and directories to search.
SEO was all the rage and we are Foliovision were and are very good at it.
The next stage now is Online Communities or The Social Web.
Manifestations of online communities:
- social websites like MySpace and LiveJournal (perhaps the more exotic AdultFriendFinder could be included in this group)
- forums (countless, for every industry there are usually a few big ones: one of the originals was slashdot)
- social bookmarking sites (delicious and digg spring to mind)
- specialty topic sites like WikiPedia or Squidoo
What's bad about this is that all the black hat search guys are coming up with ways to pollute these communities. At one webmaster forum there are hundreds of paid forum posters available to go out and sign up accounts and start spewing out whatever you want in mainly broken English for literally pennies per post. These guys are harder to catch than the black hat forum and comment bots so the human version must be considered worse.
A very interesting discussion on Aaron Wall's SEOBook about whether Google is contributing to web spam. The best part is in the comments (sorry Aaron!) where two readers to the numbers on AdWords for relatively high priced PPC words.
Basically they just don't add up.
We've been contending with a pricing model for our clients at Foliovision. As Foliovision has grown outside its old bounds as a single person company doing relatively contained projects, our rates have had to rise.
It's not such a problem as we are a lot more productive.
There are two primary models: flat fee and pay-per-hour.
In principle, flat-fee is more profitable (if you charge $1000 but through automatisation can get your time to render the project down to 2 hours from 12 hours you've just made $500/hour instead of $80/hour.
On the other hand, we mainly do made-to-measure work. There is rarely the opportunity to automatise to that extent. We get exponentially better results in our markets than the competition so made-to-measure clearly works.
With made-to-measure work one can spend more time quoting and negotiating spec back and forth than working.
Gradually the client can grow to hate your emails demanding expansion of project scope and budget. Generally the (busy) client would prefer to pay more for something delivered with no hassle, complete and working. Then he or she only pays once for the project, instead of twice.
Twice is their time spent micromanaging what ends up costing more or less the same anyway.
Contrarian business advice from Trizle is always a thrill.
For a taste, Why You Need a Chaotic Business:
Order = Bad Advice
The dude’s well-intentioned “let’s-order-everything, cuz-we’re-like-the-world’s-nerdiest-businesspeople” mindset stands as one of the several “bad, bad, bad” advices we received when we started.
Why? The mindset drives you to do nothing. Nada. Standstill. Blah.
- Instead of moving forward, you’re documenting.
- Instead of increasing sales, you’re recording every little detail of your past order.
- Instead of improving employee morale, you’re entering data of past employee feedback.
- Instead of fattening your bottom line online, you’re trying to perfect every freakin’ detail of your freakin’ website that’s going to take a freakin’ looooong time.
I think the Trizle guy has the E-Myth myth guy clearly in his targets. Michael Gerber is obsessed with turning every company into McDonalds, turning every company into a turnkey franchise.