Archive for January, 2008

Is today the day? Why not?
January 22, 2008

Every morning, before I put my feet on the floor, before I even open my eyes, I ask myself the same two questions:

“Is today the day you give up?” And I always answer “no.” Today is not the day I give up on trying to do better and achieve more through my work, my projects, my family, my future. I make a conscious decision every morning that, no, today is not the day I quit and fall in to the pattern.

Then I ask myself, “Why not?” Why isn’t today the day you quit? Why not back off a bit and take the pedal off the floor. There is nothing wrong with settling in to the comfort and normalcy that is available. Millions upon millions of people have wonderful, fulfilling lives by waking up every morning, doing their best, going through their routine, and then repeating the episode the next day. “Why not?” is me asking myself what it is that makes me feel like I’m different and what it is that I’m prepared to do that day to further the cause.

You see, everyone has a dream or two along the way. An idea or invention or belief that they can be a movie star or walk on the moon or cure a disease or teach English in China. And most people set those dreams aside at some juncture, at first because life seems too complicated to pursue those dreams (“Let me get my college loans paid off with a regular job and I’ll come back to it”) and then life becomes too comfortable to pursue those dreams (“I have it great, and I have too many responsibilities that I’m committed to right now to go after my dream”). Fair enough, no harm in that.

But I’m not one of those people, and I suspect if you’re reading this neither are you. At present, (among other things) I have one full-time job, two other jobs that require around 20 hours a week to fulfill, two web projects I’m trying to develop, and this here lonely blog that I’m trying to update regularly.   There never seem to be enough hours in the day.  But I wouldn’t have it any other way because this is how I keep pushing forward to get to the elusive “something more” that everyone chases, at least for a while. The easy argumet to make would be that I’m missing so much around me by trying so hard. That’s a fair criticism indeed. But some people are hard-wired to go after something and stay the course as long as it takes. As my father in law says, “You will likely find that the key to success in life comes down to one thing: persistence.”

Tomorrow morning, my alarm will go off and I’ll yawn and ask myself, “Is today the day? Why not?” And when I’ve provided myself a satisfactory answer, I’ll roll out of bed and keep pushing. Try it, you may find it helps you remember each and every day not to give up, to keep trying, to put your nose to the stone and push yourself to be everything you were meant to be. Because if you aren’t constantly reaffirming to yourself that no, today is not that day, you might eventually wake up and realize that you quit a long time ago and never even noticed.


Is it “software” or a “web based business?”
January 17, 2008

Serious question. Are you building software or a web-based business? The differences are clear, but many entrepreneurs view themselves as the next Digg or the next YouTube or the next Facebook that they fail to realize what they are actually building.

The big difference, broadly speaking, is that when you build software, it can scale (more users, more page views, more subscribers) proportionally to the work required to keep it running. For example, a web service with proper architecture can go from 1,000 users to 10,000 users pretty easily. Maybe a few more servers, a bit more bandwidth, presto.

A web-based business, however, scales in reverse. For example, an online news site that caters to Texas sports fans could be started by a couple folks with a few extra minutes a day to submit stories and moderate some forums. But then some Oklahoma fans want in, and the original folks have to add someone to handle the extra work. So on and so forth until they’re running around looking for VC funding to pay the 75 people that are posting stories all day on 100 different things. And it will never end. The more viewers their site gets, the more people it’s going to require on the back-end to keep it up and running.

So, what’s the point? There are a few, but two that I’d like to mention specifically:

  • If you are building a web-based business that scales linearly like the second example, get a rock solid monetization plan in place early on. I can say with absolute certainty that Google Ads aren’t going to keep an office of 15 eating steak for long. And if you get some VC money, great. But you’re only putting off the inevitable. Businesses that scale linearly end up with one of three possible endings: they run out of money, they have to decide not to grow anymore, or they work round the clock and never seem to get anywhere. Who wants to do that?

I moderate and write for n extremely popular Fantasy Football site.  We have a staff of about 30 and someone has to be involved 24/7 to keep it afloat.  But the core product is a subscription service for high-quality football information.  A way to make money was laid out early so that when it came time to add staff or add servers or create high-traffic features, the site’s owners were able to do so in a way that scaled the system proportionally to the money invested.

  • Although you’d never admit it, part of you is building your business with the hope that some big company is going to acquire you for an absurd amount of money. I think you’d have better luck sailing a rubber-dingy across the Atlantic, but whatever. With that being the case, you need to know this: NO ONE IS GOING TO PAY FOR AN APPLICATION THAT SCALES LINEARLY. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. If the only way you can grow is to expand headcount, you won’t sell. If your system lacks the technology to have a proportional return on investment for whoever is sniffing around for acquisition, then they won’t be sniffing around for long.

    Not every application is ready for a million users right out of the gate. Frankly, very few are. Furthermore, it’s a waste of time to worry about supporting the millionth user when you don’t even have the first user. But you absolutely have to know that your technology – the code, the framework – can scale effectively if needed. Otherwise, your business may grow but you’ll never feel like you’re getting ahead.

    Another great post by 37Signals
    January 16, 2008

    As I’ve trumpeted before, the 37Signals blog “Signal vs. Noise” is one to read. There are equal parts design, strategy, development, and business all rolled in to an easy to read form. Even better, the guys writing it have some real experience and real success. Anyway, they had a great post (linked Here ) that is well worth reading.   Some of the highlights…

    •  The longer a product takes to develop, the less likely it will launch. Long projects zap morale. Things get in the way. Life changes. Your time demands shift. Opportunity costs mount.
    • Your initial assumptions about how critical a specific feature is often wrong. You don’t want to spend all the extra time up front on something that may or may not be the deciding factor. You’re better off executing the basics at a very high level and then adding on from there. What you thought was essential may surprise you.

    Hello? Is there anybody home…?
    January 16, 2008

    It seems to have been a while since I last wrote anything. Apologies for that, sort of. I have realized that a lot of the lessons I’ve learned seem small in comparison to the lessons I am currently learning, so I’ve been less then enthusiastic on writing them. However, that isn’t really the point of the blog; I’m supposed to be sharing the lessons that might seem simple in hindsight so that you don’t run in to them yourself. I’ll get back fighting the good fight soon.

    In the meantime, I recommend reading (or re-reading) the following posts.

    Your little startup adventure is probably going to ruin your life.

    There are 4 species of computer programers.

    These are two of my favorites, and they seem more topical now then ever before. I promise to be back relatively soon with some fresh new posts.