Long Time, No Blog

Yes I know, it’s a blogger’s cardinal sin to post about why he hasn’t posted in a while. But live with it.

The irony is I’ve had so much to blog about. The reason I haven’t is because a while back I finally gave up on dasBlog and decided I’d switch to WordPress before I blogged again. dasBlog makes so many things difficult that are either easy or trival on WordPress, such as commenting and monitoring spam. After years of putting up with dasBlog I just finally got fed up and decided I’d wait to switch to Wordpress. Sadly I’ve waited a long time, and it’s possible it may still be a while before I can move everything over.

Of course I could have tried upgrading dasBlog, but it’s so much harder to enhance dasBlog with it’s limited templating system that requires compiled .NET plugins vs. WordPress’ PHP scripting (reminiscient of classic ASP+VBScript, only better) that I was finally able to shed my programmer’s guilt for not learning how to write usable .NET plugins just as I was able to shed my guilt for never becoming proficient in x86 assembler back in the late 80’s.

I’ve got a huge backlog of posts that are anywhere from 10% to 99% complete, many of which will never see the light of day because they just won’t be appropriately timely enough by the time I’m ready to finish and post them. Ah well, story of my life; I can envision far more than I ever have time to complete.

Anyway, the reason for this post is to introduce the next post about a module I’m writing for Drupal. I’ve spend a lot of time recently with Drupal and am getting quite good at it, even if I do say so myself. I would have liked to have posted several Drupal related posts as a recursor but if I waited for that I doubt I’d ever manage to post about the module!

So without further adieu, on to the next post!

P.S. It may actually be a few days before I get that post finalized, but if it is not posted yes I am working diligently on it so just hold your breath… :-)

Mike Gunderloy gets fed up with Microsoft

A Fresh Cup

Ok, for those who have been keeping up with Mike Gunderloy this is old news but I just ran across it. Mike is one of the most prolific writer/developers I know and one of those rare breed that can evidently learn new technologies in no time flat.

Mike has been working with Microsoft technologies for about fifteen years, but it seems he’s gotten fed up with Microsoft. Even though he is continuing his blog of links to info and tools of interest to .NET developers at The Daily Grind, he has started a new blog named A Fresh Cup where he explores his search for an alternative development platform.

Here is an except of his initial post:

…I’ve spent the bulk of the last fifteen years developing some amount of reputation and expertise in the Microsoft universe…

Unfortunately, over that time I’ve also come to the conclusion that, even though it is staffed largely by smart and ethical people, Microsoft itself represents a grave threat to the future of software development through its increasing inclination to stifle competition through legal shenanigans….

…I can’t afford to just walk out on a career that brings in good money. But I rather desperately want to find an alternative. This blog will record some of my explorations as I hunt around in other corners of the software world, trying to decide if there’s a viable business plan for me that can include weaning myself off of Microsoft software.

So it seems like I’m not the only one who has gotten frustrated with Microsoft as of late.

Camtasia Studio’s Huge Missed Opportunity

Jon Udel is a big fan of using screencasts to instruct, and I’m a big fan of watching them when I want to learn something. I’d like to start doing some of my own. However, reading his post on screencasting tips today, I was reminded of how I can’t help but think that TechSmith is really missing out on a huge opportunity because of their pricing for Camtasia Studio.

I’ve followed them for a while, and I know that they are pretty much the gold standard for screen recording software. However, their price of $299 is in no-man’s land. It is too low for the market it currently targets, the corporate market, and too high for a much, much larger market; the amateur and semi-pro blogger.

For those company’s who need the software, TechSmith could easily double the price and would probably still sell 90% as many units. But of course, the lost 10% would be well more than made up for by the increased price per unit.  And frankly, a higher price would motive resellers more (which, as a former reseller, I always hated that my business did better financially when I raised prices on customers.)

On the other hand, $299 is way past the threshold where an amateur bloggers would buy a copy. Frankly, I think that is the reason why we see so few screencasts on the web. In my 12+ years experience in selling software tools to developers, I’d say that $69 is probably about the right price for an amatuer to semi-pro blogger to say "Sure, what the heck, I’ll buy a copy and try this screencast thing.

TechSmith could easily cut feature features from this blogger version to differentiate from their professional version. For example, the blogger version could be limited to outputting only to Macromedia Flash, i.e. no AVI, Microsoft Windows Media, RealNetworks RealMedia and QuickTime. The could cut the output-to-EXE feature and the Create a CD-ROM feature. And probably a few more things. 

But TechSmith would need to be extremely careful NOT to cut the features that bloggers would really need. I ran into this over and over with components vendors while running VBxtras/Xtras.Net. I’d suggest a lower-priced version so they could reach a slightly different market, and the vendor would want to cut so many features of the product that it would have been crippled. Instead what’s needed it to look at the features that are needed only by the high end customers and cut those while leaving feature every users could benefit from. For example, if TechSmith were to cut any of the recording, pre-production, or editing features they could very well end of with an expensive demo and lots of frustrated customers badmouthing them on the blogs.

But what they could do, given this market, is to have the screencast on the blogger edition end with a splash-screen/advertisement for Camtasia. Imagine that, having the ability to get advertisements on a larger percentage of the blogs on the web and the only thing requires would be to restructure an existing product! Can you say "No Brainer?"

So, what would this look like?  I think if TechSmith were to offer two editions with the following prices they’d see a surge of new customers, the web would see an explosion of screencasts, and that would be great for (practically) everybody:

  • $69 - Camtasia Studio, Express Edition
  • $599 - Camtasia Studio, Professional Edition

So, if you are a blogger who thinks is a great idea and you’d be anxious to buy a copy of Camtasia Studio for $69 but wouldn’t even consider paying $299, why not go over to TechSmith’s website and send them some feedback on the subject. And be sure to point them to this URL so they can read my justification. Together, we can make a difference. :-)

P.S. One thing the skeptics in the audience should know is that I have recently started playing with the free software called Wink from DebugMode (thanks to Ben Coffey for the recommendation.) While it is great, I’d prefer the polish of Camtasia Studio. However, at $299 they won’t be getting a dime from me. On the other hand, for $69 I’d happy spend the money for the time and frustration it could hopefully save me, and I bet lots of other bloggers feel the same.  So what will it be TechSmith: "$69 in revenue, or nothing?"

Clarifying my Microsoft Developer Division Rant, Redux

I made two posts recently discussing Microsoft’s Developer Division. Although I had strong feelings about the issues, my thoughts were still too unclear to be succinct. But writing clarifies thought and I had already waited too long to post so a-posting I went.

Reading the comments it became clear I had muddled several issues:

  1. How Open-Source competition for languages and web frameworks are exploiting Microsoft’s obsolete process and release cycle
  2. How Microsoft is not addressing the needs of the “Occupational Programmer
  3. My own personal frustrations as an occupational programmer with Microsoft’s obsolete process and release cycle

Since few if any likely to care about my personal frustrations if they are not framed in broader need, I won’t belabor point #3 but I will address points #1 and #2 as seperate issues in my next posts.

UPDATE - (2007-Jan-01): Both of those posts are now live:

THESE GUYS MUST DIE!!!

Blog Submitter Pro (THESE GUYS MUST DIE!)

I just noticed a Google ad out of the corner of my eye for Blog Submitter Pro (URL is http://www.marketersos.com/ but I will give them no Page Rank!) I googled it and found this review of Blog Submitter Pro by Vincent Rich! I was floored. Someone actually sells a product that is causing us bloggers so many problems with spam, and then somebody else writes a review promoting it!

THESE GUYS MUST DIE!!!

P.S. But one good thing about this is it should make it easier for services like Akismet to reverse-engineer the software to see how better to stop it.

P.P.S. Obviously, if anyone from the FBI is reading this, I’m speaking metaphorically when I say they must die. ;-) You must know that all legitimate bloggers want to see spammers rot in hell…

Finally: Community Server Hosted Edition!

It’s about time! Teligent Systems is finally offering Community Server on a hosted basis! In my experience, trying to install Community Server a total of four times over the past so many years, and .Text before that, I must say it is the most infuriating and difficult to install application I’ve ever come across! The only time I was able to get it installed was the most recent time for an as-yet-unannounced new website, and it wasn’t easy; believe me!

Telligent also appears to have followed Google’s lead and are calling it a Beta even though it is a live hosted account.
 

Personally I can’t believe it should have been that hard to install, I just think Teligent did not put enough effort into their installer. And I believe that fact alone cost Telignent a huge opportunity in the market and significantly less marketshare than was possible otherwise. Although there are many aspects about CommunityServer that I don’t like, there are many more that I do especially its blog and forum integration. There are better forums and there are better blogs, but nothing integrates like CommunityServer, at least not of which I am currently aware even on Linux.

Pricing for the service feels a little steep, but maybe not depending on the revenue generated by the forum. Clearly it’s harder to cost justify for someone putting up a new community site than it is for a company using it to support and promote their products.  Here’s the pricing at the time of this writing:
 

Standard Plan

  • Unlimited members
  • 5 Blogs
  • 10 Forums
  • 500Mb of Files/Photos
  • 200Mb of SQL Space
  • 15Gb of transfers/mo

Plus Plan

  • Unlimited members
  • 15 Blogs
  • 25 Forums
  • 2 GB of Files/Photos
  • 650 MB of SQL Space
  • 50 GB of transfers/mo

Platinum Plan

  • Unlimited members
  • 50 Blogs
  • 75 Forums
  • 5 Gb of Files/Photos
  • 1 GB of SQL Space
  • 100 GB of transfers/mo
$49/mo
 
$99/mo
 
$299/mo
 

So if you run a business and don’t have a blog/forum to promote and support your products, check it out. Teligent finally made it easy.

The White Man’s Web 2.0 Club

Badge for San Francisco Future of Web Apps September 2006After attending The Future Of Web Apps, I looked around for fellow attendee bloggers and while searching found Chris Messina’s post about the lack of diversity in the speaker lineup.  Several commenters then started getting riled up to the level of a virtual lynch mob with comments like:

Damned if I’m going to give hundreds of dollars to conference organizers who couldn’t get off their butt and mix things up a bit.

In interest of full disclosure, I do need to point out that I am a white male. OTOH, anyone who knows me well knows that I really seek out diversity, especially in my personal life, and that generally the type of people I least like spending time around are white males! But as I already posted, I loved this show. And I think the Carson did an excellent job with such a small staff, so I posted this comment:

I agree in principle with this post, but I have a different view of it (which is ironic, because I would normally be pushing hard for diversity.) I found this conference to be one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended, and I lost count at 50 conferences in my professional life.

It was also by far the best value at $147.50/day (and I even got a special offer for a 15% discount!) Lastly, his company is tiny (3 people?) and they are attempting to do a tremendous number of things for such a small company. I have seen many other conferences run by much larger companies do a much worse job in almost every area so I was AMAZED at how damn good this conference actually was, white man or not.

Could they have done a better job in diversity? Hell yeah. Did they do an incredible job in what they did? ABSOLUTELY! Did Ryan come across on stage as being sincere about wanting to address concerns and constantly do a better job? It appeared so to me. Were they probably overwhelmed by getting the conference implemented and possibly had the stress of organizing it cause them to accidently overlook some idealistic and feel good but hard to implement aspects? Probably. Do you think, now that it has been made a point that they will look to improve the situation in advance and do a better job of recruiting diversity for their next conference? Almost definitely.

So I would propose that before you collect up a lynch mob for this one oversight (”She turned me into a Newt!” “A Newt?!?” “Well…I got better.”), maybe you could consider this post and thread a suggestion for improvement that I’m sure Ryan & Co will see, and then give them the benefit of the doubt until and unless they fail next time. Fair?

A little while later I got an email from someone at Carson thanking me for my comments and saying:

You got it bang on the money, except that we are a 75% female company, soon to be an 80% female company ….

So I took the opportunity in reply to give my suggestions both to address this issue and also generally to improve the conference, as follows:

Thanks for writing. You are welcome.  You guys did an excellent job, as you know my opinion already.

Suggestions:

  1. Ask the community to nominate speakers via a forum, and then use some kind of poll software to let the community vote on who gets to speak with the caveat that not everyone voted for will accept or be able to so they should vote on a larger pool than you actually need.  That will also cause the community to notify the speakers and make your job of contacting them a lot easier.  If the community nominates 90% white male when you announce in advance you are looking for diversity, well then…
  2. Have a conference that ONLY has people other than White Males speak. Enage the community that is bitching about this to help you promote the conference.  Have this conference in Atlanta at The Fox Theatre: I can help; I live across the street. :)  This could offer a serious challenge to the community to put their money where their mouth is. Get them all to do referrals and then we can track who has the most referrals and shame the vocal ones who have few or no referrals.  If you don’t do this, I might. :)   BTW, here is a list of women speakers in tech.
  3. The worse part of your conference (for me) was lack of person-to-person networking opportunities.  It was totally hit & miss. Some thoughts (admittedly random):
    • Set up a tagging system in advance for attendees where they can tag both their involvments (what they work on), their experience, their attributes (who they work for, their title, etc.) and their interests for the conference.
    • Announce meeting locations (you could call them "A", "B", "C" or use some other naming system) so people could coordinate in advance to meet or coordinate during the event to meet. 
      Have the system make suggestions on who they should meet based on their tags in order to kick start the meeting process.
    • Set up "birds of a feather" sessions for 1/2 day based on the interest tags where people could gather to meet each other. Appoint moderaters who would announce ground rules, keep things going, get everyone to say who they are.
  4. Similar to #3, I wanted a chance to talk to some of the speakers offline but I could never find them afterwards. Schedule a time and place where the speakers would be available after their talk for people who want to meet them.
  5. I loved the laminated badges, EXCEPT!  It was almost impossible to figure out who was who.  Maybe use landscape format and for their name and company make the type
    REALLY BIG

    so that we don’t have to feel like we are staring a people or have them think we are staring at them to figure out who they are and what company they work for.

  6. Have an area where vendors can exhibit using tables only, and don’t charge them much to be there ($500?) Have rules that disallow everything but computers, handouts, and swag (i.e. no booths, even desktop ones.)  Get them a wired connection. :)
  7. Create a clear and obvious signal when the sessions will be restarting. I found myself many times in a break and not realizing that sessions had started again.

 

P.S. While writing the email I googled to find Chris’ post and instead came across Mike Monteiro’s rant entitled The Future of White Male Apps. I was going to leave a similar comment there as well, but stupid VOX evidently won’t let me leave a comment unless I have a membership, and when I "requested an invitation" it told me that I would get one "as soon as we have a spot available." Sheesh! And to think I previously got an invite, tried it, misunderstood how it was handling things, and then deleted the account!

UPDATEChris Messina saw this post and offered me an invite to VOX so I could comment on Mike Monteiro’s post. Thanks Chris!

A New Blog of Mine: Thoughts on Salesforce.com

Last week I mentioned I had several new projects on the burner, and one of them is my blog about Salesforce.com:

Thoughts on Salesforce.com