Entries Tagged 'Marketing' ↓

The Decline of Drupal, or How to Fix Drupal 8

Prologue

Almost 4 years ago I wrote a controversial post entitled "17 Reasons WordPress is a Better CMS than Drupal" that caused me to be persona non grata among some of my prior Drupal friends.

But while some of the issues I mentioned have been addressed by the Drupal community most of the issues remain in Drupal 7, and WordPress has continued to gain strength as a CMS.

Unlike almost 4 years ago, I’m now seeing many people replacing Drupal solutions with WordPress and the end users becoming happier. My team is even bidding on replacing a website so we can build a member’s-only private site to go with it after the Drupal developers have not been able to deliver on the private site for over 2 years.

The Impetus

What triggered me to write this post was I was composing a long reply to a comment on the other post and it became clear it would be better as a new post.

In the comment the commenter asserted:

With Drupal 8 coming up, I am sure the difference in number of users between Drupal and WordPress will come down.

However, I think that the commenter will find that the exact opposite happens. Why do I think this? I started college shortly before the IBM PC was released so I’ve seen enough computer industry history firsthand to know a bit about the patterns that repeat related to software platforms.

Will Drupal 8 grow Drupal’s User Base?

I highly doubt it, and I think there is strong evidence in the history of software platforms that would support my view. Those patterns I mentioned above indicate to me that the strategy of changing Drupal’s architecture in Drupal 8 will be a failing strategy.

Let me explain.

Fans Like Things As They Are

As with all software products and platforms that gain a notable level of success, Drupal 7 and earlier appealed to people who valued what Drupal had to offer. Some of those things include ease of end-user configuration and other things include hierarchical software architecture and the hook-based extensions mechanisms. Or at least those are what originally appealed to me in Drupal before I discovered all the downsides I explained in the prior post.

Now Drupal 8 promises to be a lot more "modern frameworks and platforms," adopting "modern PHP concepts and standards, object-oriented programming, and the Symfony framework." Now that sounds awesome, and on the surface should cause almost any Drupal fan to cheer.

But those stated aspects require a lot more programmer skill to work with yet one of the things that appealed to a lot of Drupal users-cum-developers is that they did not have to understand object-oriented programming, nor modern frameworks and techniques. To quote Jennifer Lea Lampton:

Back in the day, Drupal used to be hackable. And by "hackable" I mean that any semi-technical yahoo (that’s me, btw) who needed a website could get it up and running, and then poke around in the code to see how it all worked. he code was fairly uncomplicated, though often somewhat messy, and that was fine. At the end of the day, it did what you needed.

Given the fact far fewer people have a high-level of programming skill many of those who do NOT see themselves as professional programmers do not want to improve their coding ability, they would rather just focus on their chosen career where Drupal is only a tool to help them.

So Drupal 8 will be will be alienating all those users and they will feel abandoned. Or as Ms. Lampton says:

Today, the majority of the people in our Drupal Community aren’t CS engineers. They are self-taught Drupal experts, people less technical than myself, and people who can get by using this awesome software we’ve developed to help make their lives easier. What is the transition to Drupal 8 going to be like to them? Well, I asked some non-core developers, and I didn’t like what I heard.

A lot of professional Drupal developers already have exit strategies.

And my guess is that most of those alienated users and new users who would have otherwise chosen old Drupal will move to WordPress.

But Pros Want to be Pros

And on the other end of the spectrum are those who DO see themselves as professional programmers and those people (almost) always want to increase their coding skills. They will start asking themselves why they are working on a platform (Drupal) that still has lots of "impurities" when the could just more over to a "real" framework such as Symfony or even Rails or Node.js, and not have to deal with all the legacy issues of Drupal?

Or as Ms. Lampton continues (emphasis on WordPress mine):

They may even have a day job building or maintaining Drupal 6 and/or Drupal 7 sites, but they go home at night and study Ruby, Node.js, Angular.js, even some are looking into WordPress. They want to be "out" before they have to learn Drupal 8. These are smart, capable people, who I’m sure - if they wanted to - would be able to pick up Drupal 8. So, why are they leaving? Because Drupal 8 has become different enough that learning it feels like learning something new. If they are going to invest in learning something new, why not Ruby, or Node.js, or something else?

What Visual Basic’s History Can Teach Us

What makes me think the above scenario is likely? Because I saw it happen with Visual Basic and C#. Visual Basic pre .NET was easy to use and became arguably the world’s most widely used programming language for a time. But it was a ugly language with many inconsistencies and was very limited in what it could do compared to C++ so it was always looked down on by "real" programmers ignoring how Visual Basic empowered so many people who never would or could develop using C++.

So Microsoft envisioned a "better" way; a .NET platform on which both Visual Basic and a new language called C# would live making Visual Basic a "proper" programming language, almost on par with C+.

Fast forward to today and what happened was that those who valued Visual Basic’s simplicity continued to use the old Visual Basic (for a while), abandoned it for other tools that were easier, or just quit developing and focused on other parts of their career.

Those who wanted to become better professional programmers asked themselves "why stay with VB?" so most everyone just moved up and over to C#. This migration effectively killed off what 10 years ago was once the most popular programming language in was the world.

And I believe a pattern similar to the Visual Basic decline will occur with Drupal starting at version 8.

When Upgrades are Challenging People Evaluate Options

And then there are those who will stick with their current version of Drupal until they can no longer maintain the solution and still get the evolving solutions they need for web and mobile.

At which point these people will be forced with a choice; migrate to the newer Drupal, or migrate to a different platform? And given how little interest the Drupal core team places in 1.) "Being backward compatible" and 2.) "Creating an interface that is usable for end-users" the choice will often not be "Move to newer Drupal."

True Believers will be True Believers

Of course there will still be people who love Drupal 8. And unlike proprietary software like from Microsoft, Drupal 8+ will continue to exist as long as a group exists who are passionate enough to maintain it. But I am almost certain Drupal’s market share will drop significantly and lose most of it to WordPress (which BTW won’t make that much different to WordPress’ marketshare, by comparison.)

Don’t Mess With My Status Quo!

And this being the open-source world, Drupal has already been forked and the fork is called Backdrop from the same Ms. Lampton quoted above as well as Nate Haug. Assuming Ms. Lampton and Mr. Haug and team executes at least reasonably well then some of the more fervent believers in "Drupal Classic" will move over to Backdrop, and Drupal 8 will loose more marketshare from yet another source.

But Backdrop will almost assuredly never be more than a footnote because it won’t have the marketing muscle in IT shops that Acquia has, and IT shops have been the primary drivers of Drupal adoption from best I can tell looking in from the other side. And Backdrop being a fork won’t have the 10+ years of supporting organization that Drupal now has. Plus, Backdrop has an unknown brand at this time and building up that brand will take time.

Old Doesn’t Inspire, It Just Fades Away

Given that Backdrop is basically a stake in the ground to avoid evolving Backdrop is highly unlikely to become "the hot new thing" but will instead be like FoxPro that for years after Microsoft acquired it was "a user base Microsoft could not grow and Microsoft could not kill"; that’s a direct quote from a former marketing manager at Microsoft.

The Shrinking Girth: Traveling Up the Pyramid

So Drupal 8 will be pushed by Acquia into IT shops, but it will be used by an increasingly narrow user base until the user base becomes so small that Acquia can no longer survive.

This long tail may take a really long time, but I am certain it is inevitable, unless of course Drupal/Acquia/Dries change strategy.

What SHOULD Acquia/Drupal Do Instead?

So here’s where I’ll divert from my criticism of Drupal and advocacy of WordPress; I’ll actually recommend what I think Drupal/Acquia/Dries should do and how they could potentially grow their business even if they do not catch WordPress in marketshare.

Announce the Drupal 8 Will Be "Drupal 7 Enhanced"

Dries Buytaert should do an about-face and announce that Drupal 8 will NOT be based on a new architecture but will instead simply be an enhanced Drupal 7, much like the about-face Tim Berners-Lee famously did when he announced XHTML was no longer the future of the web.

Adopt the Backdrop Team for Drupal 8 and Beyond

Dries should then work the Backdrop team and any of the Drupal 8 team who want to continue the status quo albeit with evolutionary improvements, much like how Merb broke off from and was later merged back into Ruby on Rails.

Further, adopt a no-breakage policy for future Drupal releases and work to ensure backward compatibility so that people are not forced into painful upgrades if they do not want to invest a significant amount into redevelopment. Learn from WordPress how to evolve without introducing breaking changes.

Announce a New CMS Called "Acquia"

Then, take all the ideas and lessons learned with Drupal that were destined for Drupal 8 and create a clean from-the-ground-up implementation of a next generation CMS targeting those who work rather program at the level of a framework but prefer to have more of the features needs for content management ready-built and available so as not to require people to reinvent the wheel.

Launching an Acquia CMS would have the benefit of being new in a way that could appeal to more than just the existing Drupal user base that does want to level up but not abandon Drupal. And Acquia is already a very strong company that has a stellar enterprise sales and support team so they would be in a great position to market a new CMS, and launching it would give them a stronger offer to sell to and support for their customers.

Acquia CMS could become the better alternative to Symfony that offers more functionality without all the legacy cruft of Drupal instead of Symfony being viewed as the better alternative to the Drupal CMS that carries so much baggage which is where I think things are headed.

Give Developers Something NEW To Adopt

And this branding is not just for technical improvements, it’s more important for positioning reasons.

Acquia CMS could have none of the negative associations developed by prior users of Drupal. Acquia CMS would be free to address all the problems I outlined in my prior blog post. And Acquia could once again become the CMS mindshare leader, a position that Drupal previously held IMO.

But Wait, Don’t Listen to Me!

If Drupal/Acquia/Dries does follow my advice, it would probably mean that I’d loose opportunities to work on certain future projects. The type of work I do with WordPress is most often competitive with Drupal in the minds the stakeholders deciding the platform the project will use. So I really hope they do not listen. :)

But hell, if they do follow this advice I would evaluate Acquia CMS and might even consider using it instead of WordPress in the future.

But really Dries if you are listening, please don’t! I’m currently really happy with the progression of WordPress and doing this would just throw a monkey wrench into my future works.

So nothing to see here; just carry on as planned. Nothing to see. :)

UPDATE

In the first version of this post I incorrectly referred to the fork as "Backstory", not "Backdrop" and I did not include a link to the Backdrop website nor mentioned Nate Haug. I have corrected the post.

Thanks to commenters Doug Vann, Brian and Jen Lampton for pointing out my error.

25 Best Practices for Meetup Organizers

Meetup.com LogoI’ve been organzing meetups in the Atlanta area since January 2007.  Over that time I’ve organized over 50 meetup events, they’ve typically achieved average ratings of 4.5 of 5 or better, they’ve typically had 50 or more people attend, I’ve helped at least five (5) other people launch their meetup groups, and the member list for my original meetup group has grown to having more members than all but one other business-focused meetup group in the Atlanta area. During that time I’ve learned a bit about what it takes to be a good meetup organizer.

Recently someone asked me yet again for advice on how to grow their meetup so I decided this time to blog about it. Let me give the caveat that this is what has worked for me and for my type of meetup but it might not be perfect for yours. My groups have been focused on web/startup/marketing/tech and so I don’t know what works best for a mom’s meetup, for a hiking group or a singles club. Still, people are people and I’m sure anyone organizing a meetup can find something of value here. Here they are, in no particular order (some I fail to do consistently though I know I should; sometimes life just gets in the way):

  1. New organizers always try "to get input from everyone." From experience I’ve found that to be a waste of time. Find two (2) other people and form a planning team. Map out 5-6 topics, possibly starting with a "101" meetup and build from there.
  2. Meet quarterly with your planning team to plan so you always have 3 events on the calendar, more if possible.
  3. Do listen to feedback, but don’t wait for feedback before moving forward. Most people just want to attend meetings, few actually are willing to contribute a significant effort on a consistent basis even if they say or think they will. If people promise to contribute expect they will not follow through until they have proven otherwise.
  4. As much as possible be the catalyst and facilitator, not the featured speaker at every meeting (people will get tired of you if you do.)
  5. Schedule 3 to 6 presenters for a monthly meetup (more than 6 works if it’s a workshop and they are there to provide expertise.) It gives multiple perspectives and it keeps you from having failed meetings from building anticipation for a meeting, having lots of people show up and then only to learn that your featured presenter’s "kid got sick" so they decided to cancel.
  6. Do your best to get people from outside the people who usually attend your meetings to present. There’s the old saw "Familiarity breeds Contempt" (i.e. "I don’t need to attend to hear them talk; I know them already and can talk to them whenever I want.") Bringing in outsiders also makes people aware of your group that might not normally seek it out or attend. If they have an influence base such as on Twitter they will promote your group because it promotes them.
  7. Only ever schedule a person to present to the group once per year. If you frequently schedule the same people to present your members will think "I’ve already seen them, I don’t need to see them again." That means be sure to get them to talk on the topic where they are the best sui have the most bang for the buck since a lot of people will jump at any chance to present and you really want to get them where they will shine.
  8. Post a meetup page for each meetup event that includes links about the people who will be presenting including their Twitter account and a short bio. I like to link to their LinkedIn page for consistency, and also link to their company. Be sure to include an evening agenda so people can see when it starts and when it ends. Here’s an example meetup page that has all these things.
  9. Set up a Twitter account and a Facebook fan page. Always tweet and post about your events in advance and to thank your presenters/participants afterwards. 
  10. Set up a Twitter hashtag for your meetup group (i.e. @StartupAtlanta and #OnStage.)  Give people a handout at each meetup with the account, the hashtag and all the presenter’s/participants Twitter accounts and ask your members to tweet about the event.
  11. Send out emails in advance of your meetups that are hand formatted to look different from the one’s send out automatically by meetup as people tend not to read those. Here’s an example notification email.
  12. Send an email out about the most recently meeting and reminding them about the next meeting and thank the people who participated/presented.
  13. For my groups I have focus mostly on featuring local people for our regular meetings but when nationally known people are presented I make them special events. Some organizers always try to get one national calibre "rock star" for their events, and that works for them. Pick what works for your group.
  14. Keep vendor influence to a minimum; keep it about the people attending.
  15. Run a meetup only if you really want to help people and/or build a solid community and not if you’ve just got the idea "Hey I can sell my services to this group." The latter can be a serendipitous result but it’s painfully clear to practically everyone who might attend that if your motivations are to sell them (almost) nobody will want to attend.
  16. Pay it forward, focus on what’s good for the group and the community you envision building, not what’s you are hoping to get out of organizing
  17. Shake up the format. Have presentations, panel discussions, roundtables, workshops, etc. The topic should make the format obvious. For workshops, recruit lots of helpers. Don’t over worry about format, try a bunch of them, communication will happen ad-hoc (suggest Twitter or make a Google group), and let the topics you pick determine the level of competency. The more detailed your topic announcement the more likely you’ll get the right people.
  18. Don’t be afraid to ask anybody to present. I’ve never once been turned down except for people simply not being available at the given time.
  19. Look for ways to hold joint meetups with other groups that have cross-over. (Beg meetup on their forums to more easily enable shared meetups.) If possible take the lead in these joint meetups and get people to RSVP at your meetup group’s page (if possible, and at least until meetup enables shared events.) If you do these frequently you’ll all get lots of benefit and you’ll grow your group.
  20. Charge for meetings, $5 to $10, starting with your 3rd meeting (assuming you are gaining momentum.) If you don’t charge more than half of your RSVPs will be no-shows. If you charge, only between 10-30% will be no-shows.
  21. Be aware that many of the people who attend your meeting early on will start attending only sporatically as their lives evolve. That’s normal and don’t take it personally.
  22. Don’t try to do too many different groups. Unless you are able to make a living from organizing meetups, which is a potential but a really hard way to make a living, it’s really hard to do more than one well, two at the max. I’ve made that mistake and I’ve recently pared back to two with a potential to phase out of one of them in the near future assuming I can find the right people to take over.
  23. Find a good place to have meetings, not a restaurant unless its set up for meetings in a special room. This is the hardest part. Look for a local coworking space like Ignition Alley. A college or university may also be very open to hosting community meetings as Georgia Tech has been for some of my meetups. 
  24. As for location, you’ll need to decide what works here. In Atlanta you’ll find a bulk of in-town people and a bulk of "up 400" people, and then everyone else is scattered. Pick one and let someone else do the other (you can’t please everyone, so don’t try.)
  25. Finally, set a consistent date, time, and location. Always have it there so people can get used to it, and if at all possible, never cancel a planned meetup or many people will loose faith in your ability and stop RSVPing for your events.

Well that’s about it for today. I’m sure I missed a few of my own "best practices" and I’m sure there are a ton of other’s I have yet to uncovered but these should get you started.

If anybody has other suggestions please give your best practices in the comments. Be sure to mention your group(s) and how long you’ve been organizing,  and include links to their pages on Meetup.com.

Atlanta Web Entrepreneurs learn about Twitter

Lots of Atlanta Web Entrepreneurs

Last month on the 21st we had a blowout meeting about Twitter for the Atlanta Web Entrepreneurs meetup group I organize; over 100 people attended!

We started out with an Intro to Twitter which I prepared and delivered. It reminded me of delivering training long ago during my DSW Group, Financial Dynamics, and Expert Education days.

Loren Norman setting up videocast for AWE

Triangle Tweetup and Robert Scoble on AWE Videocast about Twitter

Normally we find others to give all the presentations but given how confused some people where at our Facebook meeting when we started with the assumption they knew about it, I decided it was best for me the Twitter newbie to give the other newbies the introduction and then let the "rock stars" in our lineup really get into the meat of things.

We then launched into a video conference with both Wayne Sutton (@waynesutton on Twitter) and the Triangle Tweetup (@triangletweetup on Twitter) as well as Robert Scoble a.k.a. "Scobelizer" (@Scobelizer on Twitter).  Loren Norman (@lorennorman on Twitter) of Snowcap Labs did the honors of organizing the video conference and for that we were very grateful. Knowing what a web celeb that Robert is and the subsequent constant demand on his time, we scheduled Robert to speak for only 5-10 minute but instead he spent over 30 minutes answering audience questions. Kudos! Sanjay Parekh (@sanjay on Twitter) Tessa Horehlad (@tessa on Twitter)

After the video conference we have the took a break and then moved into a Q&A session with Sanjay Parekh (@sanjay on Twitter), Tessa Horehled (@tessa on Twitter), and Paul Stamatiou (@stammy on Twitter) each gave us their perspectives on why Twitter is so invaluable.

Paul Stamatiou at (@stammy on Twitter)

As many people said after the event this was one of their very favorite AWE events yet, and I certainly agree; it was right up there. Thanks to all involved including Wayne and the Triangle Tweetup, Robert, Loren, Sanjay, Tessa, and Paul for making this such a great event.

 It really is great to have such nice people who are willing to help their peers all here in our hometown of Atlanta GA.

Go Atlanta!

Visit Flickr to see all photos I took for this event.

P.S. Oh, and I almost forgot!  Atlanta Web Entrepreneurs is @atlantaweb on Twitter, and I’m @MikeSchinkel on Twitter.  See ya in the Twittersphere!

Event: Why you MUST have a Twitter Strategy

Just an announcement that we are going to be discussing Why you MUST have a Twitter Strategy at Atlanta Web Entrepreneurs on August 21, 2008.

I’m going to present a short intro/overview to Twitter and then, god willing and the creek don’t rise, we plan to have two (2) video conferences, one from Triangle Tweetup and the other from a soon-to-be-announced Industry luminary with over 25,000 Twitter followers!

After the 8pm break we’ll have a roundtable-less discussion and Q&A led by our featured participants:

Anyone that wants to attend should first be sure to have a Twitter account and to follow atlantaweb. We’ll use that list as a roll call for the meeting and we’ll announce our special guest on the atlantaweb Twitter account by 6pm Wednsday August 20th.

For more details and to RSVP see go here.

 

Is .COM Still Required for Mainstream Success?

delicious .US domain is now the Dunce

It’s been almost fifteen years now since the web first hit it’s tipping point and transitioned from an academic’s playground and a mere curiosity for the average person to the decidedly mainstream global change agent that now drives trillions of dollars in global value creation annually. During that time we’ve gone from asking "What’s this ‘World Wide Web’ thingy the geeks keep talking about?" to rapidly seeing Web-based services dominant the activities of practically every business person alive. In the days of the first Internet "gold rush" a.k.a. the "dotcom bubble" it seems that everyone and their brother grabbed a .COM domain, or ten, and set out to strike it rich.  Back then you really didn’t even consider getting anything besides a .COM for your website business but that was okay because many good brand names could be created from still available .COM domains.

Fast forward a decade and great .COM domain names have became scare and even good .COM domain names are hard to come by especially with all the domain squatters.  In addition a lot more top-level domains have opened up, and many small countries such as Tuvalu (.tv) have decided to cash in on their (un)natural resources. And just as fashions change, some creative types who needed a good domain name chose to forgo the .COM status quo and the "www." sub-domain convention and instead compose domain names from words by ignoring the domain level separators (i.e the periods ".") From this trend popular websites with domain names like http://del.icio.us (aka "delicious") were born.

If you are not familiar with delicious it is essentially a website to store your web bookmarks, but storing them "in the cloud" as opposed to in your browser. And one of it’s best innovations, since mimicked by thousands of other sites, it the ability to allow users to categorize with freeform "tags" and later recall their bookmarks by the tags they assigned. These tags are just words, any words your chose, such as "marketing", "video", "php", "bestpractices" or even "shoes."  What words you use to tag with is totally up to you. 

I’ve been using delicious for several years now and at this point not a day goes while surfing the web that I don’t tag at least one website for future reference.  You can even use it to create lists of sites groups by a tag and then send those links to others so they too can see your list of links. But I digress; there is a lot more to delicious but the subject of this post is the .COM domain so we’ll my detailed description of del.icio.us for another day.

As delicious got more popular with the many influencers on the web, Yahoo stepped in and bought them.  Since then delicious has languished for years, still there but never updated. Probably the best thing that has happened to delicious during that period was Firefox built delicious tagging into their browser as their favorites list — if you choose to let Firefox use delicious for you — and the fact that since it hasn’t changed it’s been a pretty stable target for people who wanted to use to delicious API to create add-on functionality and integrations.

delicious .COM domain is the new King

So, after years of languishing it turns out Yahoo has been paying attention to delicious behind the scenes, and behold; there is a new delicious! [1]  What’s more, Yahoo has redirected all attempts to access delicious at http://del.icio.us to instead find delicious at http://delicious.com/ and thus, in one fell swoop, have extinguished the quirky domain name that was in part why the web’s tastemakers first took note of delicious. The powers that be at Yahoo probably choose to do this because of usability data I expect they’ve collected that probably told them that the "in crowd" got the funny spelling but that the vast majority of users were simply confused.

Which brings me to the crux of my post where I posit the following:

Are .COM domains still required for commercial success in a mainstream website? Or or those rushing to get domain names with all the new top level domains simply exercising futility?  Were all these idiosyncratic domain names merely a fad and now we’re back to business with .COM, or did Yahoo jumped the shark on this one?[2] 

So what do you think? 

Footnotes

  1. Frankly I’ve long thought delicious to be Yahoo’s secret weapon with Yahoo just not yet realizing it. And it’s no wonder they haven’t realized it as anyone who’s paid attention what the critics have been saying about Yahoo being spread too thin. But that is all an entirely different topic and way beyond the scope of this post, yet again.
  2. While part of me feels the pang of loss from this change and what it may imply about the use of other non-.COM domains, I find that I quite prefer using http://delicious.com when compared to the original http://del.icio.us domain.

 

Atlanta Web Entrepreneurs learn Email Marketing

Ben Chestnut of MailChimp taking Q&A

This month at the Atlanta Web Entrepreneurs meetup group I organize we hosted two sharp email marketing professionals: Sandi Karchmer Solow of I Send Your Email and Ben Chestnut, co-founder of Mail Chimp, a successful Atlanta-based Email Service Provider. Sandi presented Email Marketing 101 to the group, and Ben regaled us with his story of how MailChimp came to be.

Sandi Solow on Email Marketing

Sandi gave us a really great base level of overview of the email marketing landscape and explained how its critical to correctly opt-in your subscribers and to give them exactly what they asked for, and only what they asked for. Otherwise you loose trust and the fallout is worse than anything you could gain. Oh, and Sandi was a real trooper to speak this month because she’s about seven months pregnant. So good luck to her and her soon-to-be-newborn.

As for MailChimp, evidently it was a side project that Ben and his partner’s web consulting company implemented to keep a client who wanted them to manage his email broadcast from hassling them, but they didn’t fully embrace it as their primary offering until many years later. And the month after they fully embraced it their revenue exceeded every prior month’s revenue they’d seen life-to-date for their business! Ben told us how MailChimp has a focus on simplicity and when we reviewing his prices we found MailChimp to be very price competitive, especially for email lists of less than 100 which they send for free!

Details count!

Now most marketers have heard of ExactTarget before but many may not have heard of MailChimp, and based on MailChimp’s low pricing, it simple-to-use interface and its fun and irrerevent name, many people might think that MailChimp is only for businesses with tiny email lists. But most in the audience including myself were shocked to learn that they have successfully delivered some of the largest email broadcasts in the industry!  Ben told us about a major software launch announcements where they sent out millions of of emails in just about 30 minutes! (Ben said the client asked never to be named but believe me, it was major!)

What was especially interesting was when member/attendee Jason Prance mentioned during Q&A that he’d been using both MailChimp, for personal projects, and ExactTarget for a 100,000 name work mailing list, and that he loved the former and really disliked the latter. He then said if he had his druthers he’d be using MailChimp for work but couldn’t switch without re-opting in and loosing probably half his subscribers. To this Ben replied that all he’d need to do is provided his ExactTarget reports showing them being a responsible emailer and then he could easily move his 100k list to MailChimp. Sold!

Email Marketing for Atlanta Web Entrepreneurs

Anyhoo we had a great time, enjoyed learning about email marketing, and look forward to future Atlanta Web Entrepreneur meetups. Oh, and I want to thank both Sandi and Ben for taking the time to make such a memorable evening for us.  It really is great to have such nice people who are willing to help their peers and who are offering such worldclass services so reasonably priced, all here in our hometown of Atlanta GA. Go Atlanta!

Visit Flickr to see all photos I took for this event.

P.S.: This was NOT a paid endorsement for MailChimp. We invited Ben to speak about MailChimp because one of our members that we really respect recommended him very highly. Plus Ben turned out to be a really great guy and there were actually several members in attendance who already use his service and love it. Evidently, MailChimp really kicks ass!

Will the Future bring Bluetooth Proximity Marketing?

Just Say NO to Bluetooth Proximity Marketing

Photo by Nemo’s great uncle

Several months back we had a meeting on Leveraging Mobile Apps for your Web-based Business at Atlanta Web Entrepreneurs and on the topic of mobile push marketing the consensus of the attendees was overwhelmingly “Don’t you even think about it, or I’ll end up ramming my mobile device far, far up someplace you’d really it rather not be.” Or something like that. Soon after I made a comment on Douglas Karr’s blog  on his post about bluetooth proximity marketing saying exactly that.

Well I just noticed that Michael Katz of AdMarkTech.Com posted a response entitled Do We Really Know What We Want? where he takes the position that bluetooth proximity marketing is less intrusive that television advertising because when watching TV you are not "in the shopping zone."  He then posits that:

"Maybe Bluetooth proximity marketing seems more intrusive than other forms of mainstream advertising because we’re just not conditioned to be approached while we shop."

He then claims that (with emphasis mine):

 "bona fide Bluetooth proximity marketing campaigns, similar to contextual vertical advertising platforms, are no different to television commercials"

And he summarizes with:

"The capabilities of two way push, receiving surroundings based information, on-the-spot offers and the ability to instantly reject or to receive based on Bluetooth activation preference, Bluetooth proximity marketing is actually less intrusive and potentially more helpful than television advertising."

Maybe.  But television advertising is not a fair comparison to bluetooth proximity advertising. First the TV viewer (or radio listener or magazine/newspaper reader or website viewer) makes a proactive choice to engage in a medium that they know is supported by advertising and that is part of an implicit pact where people gain content in exchange for attention. In the case of walking by a store, a person may or may not be in the frame of mind where they am ready to perform an attention exchange for an advertisement, and if they are not it is highly intrusive. Sure people could potentially be "conditioned" to accept it (shades of Apple’s 1984 campaign?) and he may be right, but I doubt it for the next reason.

There is a natural limit to advertising that can be inserted into content before people will no longer accept the exchange; only so much ad time on a TV or radio show, only so many square inches in a magazine or newspaper, and only so many square pixels close to valuable content available on a web page.  In the case of bluetooth proximity marketing it’s likely a person walking down a mall will be inundated with ads; literally tens if not hundreds in a short period, and that is far more than anyone can process.

In my opinion that’s a major reason why people hate email spam; that it overwhelms them. If we could somehow configure the number of commercial emails we’d get per day, and we could have them filtered by our preferences I think we’d be happy to get "unsolicited" commercial email. But there is no moderation on on spam, and without moderation on bluetooth proximity marketing it will just be another form of spam, only even more offensive because the devices are smaller.

Can there be moderation on bluetooth proximity marketing?  Ads on TV and radio, for example, come in series. Bluetooth proximity marketing would comes in parallel as does spam, and with nothing to moderate it. One possible way to moderate would be for governments to set up regulatory agencies to manage and meter access to said marketing but that sounds like a cure worse than the disease. Another potential way would be gatekeeping companies to control who can broadcast bluetooth proximity marketing messages to their subscribers and who cannot, and people would subscribe based on who does the best job of filtering. But I think a lot of visionary people in very powerful and competing positions would have to come together to make such a network of gatekeeper possible, and I just don’t see it happening.

Bluetooth proximity marketing is a typical example of how most people spend too much time on what they want and too little time creating value. Michael’s post title (Do We Really Know What We Want?) is a great example of that.  It sounds to me that Michael is asking "How can we convince people to want what we want?" That is wrong-headed, we should instead be thinking "What do they want, and how can we make a business to give it to them?"

Here’s a product I know people will really want instead; something that blocks all bluetooth proximity ads from ever reaching their mobile device.  Now that is a product of tomorrow that will be in VERY HIGH demand!

 

Twitter URL = Universal Person Locator (UPL)?

Universal Person LocatorI tried Twitter a year ago and either couldn’t "get it" back then, or I was just mentally, philisophically or logicistically in the wrong place to appreciate it. But I recently started Tweeting and all of a sudden I am seeing real value in it and am also seeing how so many others who still are not using it could see value in it too!. And to slightly paraphrase an old saw, "There are none so evangelical as the recently converted…"   ;-)

But rather than blog my full thoughts on Twitter right now I just want to ponder the following; if a web page can have a URL a.k.a. Universal Resource Locator (or for w3c purists, a URI), shouldn’t we establish a Universal Person Locators, for people, or "UPLs" for short? 

I’ve actually pondered this question numerous times in the past as I contemplated one of my many web entrepreneurial ideas.  In one context I’m lucky; there are very, very few people in this world whose name is "Mike Schinkel", and the few I’m aware of are not at all active on the web so I pretty much "own" the "MikeSchinkel" as my universal person identifier.  I’ve so blanked the use of "MikeSchinkel" on the web that there is little change of anyone else actually wanting to use it lest they be confused with me (that is, unless they wanted to create that confusion. But that is another subject.)

But what about my friend David Cohen?  From him I understand that he has the opposite situation.  For him there are hundreds if not thousands of other David Cohens (to link but a few.) Poor guy; how does he get his name known for being him? But I digress.

Yes we can all have our own domain names, like I have http://mikeschinkel.com and my friend has http://davidcohen.com (can you believe he got that domain, with all that competition?!?), but so many people don’t have their own domain and for some people it takes more knowledge or effort then they are willing or able to invest. On the other hand getting a Twitter account is free to create and free to maintain and only requires 5 minutes and then occasional access to an Internet-connected computer which in the USA and most non-3rd world countries can be had at the library or an Internet cafe. Once a twitter account is created, that’s it; no one else can stake that claim. 

Now, thanks to some rather saavy engineers at Twitter and the brilliance of the underlying technology of the web (i.e. the URL) we now have what could potentially become the Universal Person Locator, at least within the subset of people are active on the web.  With someone’s Twitter URL you have a direct way to "locate" them. Minimally you can follow their updates, but for most Twitter users you can relatively easily contact them; just tweet them and most will reply. Just as importantly you can use someone’s Twitter user name and unambiguously refer to them by that unique identifier which behaves for people just like URLs behave for "resources" (i.e. web pages, PDF files, graphic files, .ZIP files, etc.)

Will Twitter ever make it’s way to effectively being the "Universal Person Locator."  Probably not for all people, but at least for the subset of people on Twitter, it is a really interesting piece of infrastructure to consider.  And if you don’t yet have a Twitter account, now’s the time to get one.

P.S. So can you guess my Twitter user name?  "MikeSchinkel", of course.   David Cohen’s Twitter user name?  "davidscohen"; Unlike with his domain name, "davidcohen" had already been taken on Twitter (by a duffus that’s not even using it!) before my friend David Cohen could grab it. Ah, such is life when resources are scarce.

Business Cards, Photos, and Personal URLs

Wow! It’s taken me a day to get over the exhaustion of Podcamp Atlanta 2007. Kudos to Amber, Rusty, and Penny and everyone else involved for pulling off such a great event.

So I sit down and sort through all the new business cards I collected, and it occurs to me that I can’t remember half the people I spoke to by business card (the good news is I did remember the other half!) Which is when it hit me; why don’t people start putting a photo URL on their business card? For example, here’s mine (notice the Well Designed URL :-), but of course it’s not yet on my business card:

Photo: /photo/

Of course, that begs the question of a Personal URL on a business card. A person’s personal URL is a URL that points to their personal "About" page, and I think everyone should get one. Of course that URL should also have a photo:

About: /about/

Note My "about" page points to the "About Me" category on my blog, but I plan to write a good concise "about" page in the near future. And my next business cards will have my photo and my about URLs listed. 

Live Pictures from Podcamp Atlanta 2007

Amber Rhea at Podcamp Atlanta 2007 I’m definitely not a real-time blogger, but I can take pictures. It’s actually very cool as people are taking pictures and uploading them as the conference is running and they are showing them on the overhead from time to time. Here you can see my Podcamp Atlanta 2007 pictures on Flickr. And you can see other people’s Podcamp Atlanta pictures: