Secrets Of Freemium Pricing: Make The Cheapskates Pay

An excellent article from Andy Singleton of Assembla. A must read for anyone considering (or already running) a software-as-service business. Secrets Of Freemium Pricing: Make The Cheapskates Pay.

Throwing away working code

It’s a tough call to make, but sometimes the best thing for a business to do is to throw away working code if it’s not what the business needs to be successful right now.

Eric Ries wrote an insightful post back in February 2009.

Lessons Learned: Throwing away working code.

A business which is not making money is dying, however good the code, but changing the business into one which does make money may mean ditching lots of things which have cost a lot, and even seem to have intrinsic value.

Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule

It’s an article from July 2009, but I just saw it. A pretty lucid description of the problems faced when mixing a “manager” view of time and a “maker” view of time.

Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule.

I face this every time I step away from single-client work to develop other business projects. The business side of my responsibilities wants a day split into little chunks in order to make progress on a wide range of tasks, most of which involve meeting or co-ordinating with other people. The software development side of my responsibilities wants a working period with the longest contiguous periods I can manage. Concentrating on either way of working always seems to be at the expense of the other.

The road to riches begins at the water cooler

Recently I have found myself getting quite cross with articles published by the British Computer Society (BCS), but at least they can provide interesting and useful stuff sometimes.

Here are some transcripts of presentations about starting companies and venture capital in the UK, together with a summary of some discussions.

The road to riches begins at the water cooler : Articles : Business IT Interface : BCS

Just a shame that this was not an open conference, though.

Recasting Ed Zwick’s moviemaking rules for a startup software business

1. Remember to breathe. You’ve probably worked for two years to get to this moment, and there’s no guarantee you’ll ever get to do it again. You might as well enjoy it.

2. The computer is a Buddha. It sees the world as it is and does exactly what you tell it. It doesn’t implement your expectations or your fantasies. Try to see as the computer sees.

3. No design survives contact with the users. Research, analyse, test and prepare. Then be ready to throw it all away when real users don’t do it like that.

4. A good idea can come from anywhere. You might as well listen to what others have to say because you’re going to get the credit (and blame) anyway. Your programmers, salesmen, accountants, admin folks, project managers, cleaners and so on have probably used a wider range of software than you have even heard of. Joel Spolsky calls this “hallway usability testing”

5. Life is messy. It doesn’t stop while you’re talking on the telephone. If it feels too comfortable, it’s probably wrong; if it feels right it’s probably too slow.

6. No software can ever be simple enough. Surgeons, cops and priests have a lot on their minds, but they still need your software to work right.

7. A user’s attention span is even shorter than yours. Give them something useful, valuable, compelling and obvious everywhere, all the time. As Steve Krug puts it, “Don’t make me think”!

8. The users define the software, the software doesn’t define the users. Unless you have a style, don’t act as if you do.

9. Make your software for one person at a time. Imagine your fourth grade teacher sitting alone in the dark.

10. Where there is no solution there is no problem. At some point in every project, the company management loses faith in the product and the employees loses faith in the company management. Somehow it all works out.

If you are more interested in making movies, see the original at: Ed Zwick’s Golden Moviemaking Rules | MovieMaker Magazine.

How Difficult Is Securing Cloud Platforms?

In my dark moments I worry about the security of cloud computing. I used to be pretty upbeat about security, until some servers I was using to run a small specialist java hosting business were hacked. This resulted in the collapse of that business and the loss of several customer sites. Since then I have been painfully aware of the need to keep any public system scrupulously up-to-date with security patches and suchlike.

My security worries give me concerns about launching a business based on Amazon’s EC2, as I cannot see at the moment how the fiddly details of keeping the virtual system images patched an up to date will happen. Please feel free to reassure me!

When I read the title of this article from the Java Developer’s Journal, this was my immediate thought. The article does not address this particular issue, but instead covers some of the problems of protecting data in transit between distributed systems.

Paranoid Engineering: How to be a good specialist and still have a life

Nice article on some ways to help achieve an effective llife/work balance

Paranoid Engineering: How to be a good specialist and still have a life

Doing the wrong thing right is better than doing the right thing wrong

A very interesting post from Gojko Adzic, which seems to indicate that running a quality IT department is more important than aligning the goals of the IT work with other business objectives.

Gojko Adzic » Doing the wrong thing right is better than doing the right thing wrong

Some links about commercialising video content

My link queue is filling up again. Here’s two links on commercialising video content.

Hey, Grandma, Let’s Put Up a Video Portal! – Bits Blog – NYTimes.com

How Google Plans to Take Over TV

Strategy is Something You Can Learn

This is an inspiring article about ways to determine and implement business strategy. Best of all it’s in the context of starting and running a software business – in this case Mike Cannon-Brookes’ Atlassian.

This is going in to my “don’t forget” collection, with
6 reasons why a VC funded startup failed

rebelutionary: Strategy is Something You Can Learn

Performance Reviews Banished

InfoQ have published an article which offers a compelling argument that common corporate performance reviews are fundamentally broken, and should be abandoned. While I largely agree with this premise, I don’t see a great deal of improvement in the proposed solutions.

Perhaps it reflects differences in the kinds of places we have worked, but for me an effective performance review should concentrate on a holistic view of how the individual has contributed to the success of the organization. I am worried that neither of the two proposals encourages “thinking outside the box” and doing whatever is most effective for the business. Instead, they concentrate on reinforcing existing decisions such as pigeon-holing staff into “team members” and “managers”.

InfoQ: Performance Reviews Banished

The Seven Things That Surprise New CEOs

Looks like an interesting list, especially if you know a company which is looking for a new CEO right now.

The Seven Things That Surprise New CEOs — HBS Working Knowledge

Calculating your cloud storage costs

Cloud computing is taking up more and more space on my virtual radar at the moment. Implementing an actual project on a commercial distributed virtualised platform is becoming a high priority for my scant spare time. It’s nice to see that the cloud market is beginning to mature, with increasingly diverse offerings and even price reductions.

Alan Williamson provides a handy calculator for calculating your cloud storage costs.

Business, venture capital, Ruby and the Fringe

A thoroughly enjoyable presentation from RubyFringe, one of the best I have ever watched.

It starts with a few minutes of demonstration of a reasonably cool music tool, but the real meat is in the presentation which follows – a fast paced, insightful and downright humorous rant about a wide range of topics from Leonardo daVinci to mountain lions, web applications and venture capital.

InfoQ: Archaeopteryx: A Ruby MIDI Generator

Early Amazon

I’m going to have to read these articles. Jason Yip recommends Geeking with Greg: Early Amazon as a fascinating insight into the inception and growth of Amazon.

Throughput Accounting

This is something I’m sure I need to read up on. Cost/earnings models in small businesses, particularly in venture-capital-funded startups, can be complex and easy to lose sight of the real issues. Does “Throughput Accounting” provide a different view on all this – one which might make any decisions clearer?

Exposing the Inner Dialogue: Throughput Accounting

Thoughts On Software Architecture and Corporate Structure

An article drawing an analogy between the architecture of software systems and the structure of businesses. Might be useful, but the commenters hanve a lot of reservations.

InfoQ: Thoughts On Software Architecture and Corporate Structure