Sep 20th, 2008 | Atlanta, Marketing, Web
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
Aug 15th, 2008 | Atlanta, Marketing, Software, Technology, Web
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.
Jul 17th, 2008 | Atlanta, Marketing, Web
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 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!
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!
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!
Jul 17th, 2008 | Marketing, Opinion, Web
I 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.
Mar 17th, 2007 | Atlanta, Marketing, Web
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:
Mar 15th, 2007 | Atlanta, Marketing, Web
Well, yes as I’ve already said, I’m not a super-timely blogger. I should have blogged this long ago, but ah well. Anyway, Amber Rhea of The Georgia Podcast Network organized a Podcamp here in Atlanta for this weekend March 16-18 2007 at Emory University. An as of yesterday when I asked, Amber said that she had 185 people registered! Wow. Another event like SoCon07; I can’t wait!
But this one is going to be special for me as I get to hold my first discussion on Saturday about User-Centered URL Design. What’s that got to do with Podcasting, you ask? I’m not sure either, but Amber assurred me that attendees would be interested. :-) But seriously, podcasters has many of the same issues to address that everyone publishing on the web should consider including usable URLs for their audio files as well as the website that hosts them.
I look forward to some likely discussions!
Mar 10th, 2007 | Marketing, Web
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.
Dec 31st, 2006 | Opinion, Programming
I Ranted and Eric Rebutted
The day before yesterday I wrote a long winded and rambling rant about how Microsoft’s release cycle and process for creating developer tools. I commented on how I believe it is making them fall behind and causing many formerly loyal Microsoft developers to look at open source solutions on non-Windows platforms. I referenced a post that Microsoft’s Eric Lippert wrote over 2.5 years ago titled Top Minds Are Working On It. In retrospect it might have appeared I was being critical of Eric but that wasn’t my intention, and if that’s how I came across I apologize. Instead I was referencing Eric’s comments as symptomatic of the Microsoft culture at large. And yesterday I awoke to find that Eric had issued a rebuttal.
While I Respect the People at Microsoft…
But before I address his comments let me talk about Eric and all the others I’ve met from Microsoft. Eric is actually a brilliant guy, and very likeable. I’ve met Eric face-to-face and it’s obvious he’s much smarter than me. But then I could say that about most of those I’ve met from Microsoft; they don’t hire dummies. As a rule I’ve been impressed with every Microsoft employee I’ve met. They are super bright and AFAICT they do really want to do "Good Things(tm)".
…They Become Detached
But group dynamics being what they are, when you get a group of super-bright people together they become competitive, hone their debate skills, and learn to be strong advocates for whatever their own positions. And they can become detached from the outside world, much like politicians in high office. Politicians are also typically super bright, and most enter office wanting to do Good Things(tm), but once "on the inside" they loose touch with the concerns of their constituents. So I am not condemning Eric and his Microsoft colleagues, I am merely commenting on the culture that results and collectively channels them.
Eric Unconsciously Supports my Thesis!
So I started yesterday’s post saying I’d been planning to blog on the topic for a while but the reality was I still didn’t know how best to explain my concerns. But for better or for worse I did write a rambling essay yesterday, but ironically Eric’s comments made my points far better than I! My central thesis was that Microsoft isn’t meeting developer’s needs because of their processes and infrequent releases and consequently open-source alternatives are meeting developer’s needs instead. Eric’s both debated my examples and pointed out they now plan to address some issues I referenced. But not only did Eric not address my central thesis, he ironically supported it given his rebuttal’s choice of focus! In my post I wrote the following:
"Microsoft’s culture is to argue semantics when reality doesn’t match their world view"
And Eric’s comments proceeded to do exactly that! In my post from 2.5 years ago I called for Microsoft to address things that PHP, Ruby, and Python are addressing today, which Eric rebutted at the time. In yesterday’s rebuttal Eric referenced his earlier comments stating (emphasis mine):
"Second, my ‘esoteric’ reasons for not implementing a scripty version of VB on the .NET platform were hardly esoteric then and are hardly esoteric now. They are (1) fracturing the language further causes confusion amongst customers and is massively expensive for little gain, …"
Dismissing the Proposal, Not Solving the Problem
Now I’ll freely admit Eric is far more qualified to evaluate my suggestion on technical merit, but that wasn’t the point of my 2.5 year old post. Customers with needs a company’s not addressing will often propose solutions they believe will address their needs, yet often their suggestions aren’t workable for whatever reason. People who specialize in addressing customer needs know that rather than dismiss suggestions as unworkable it’s far better to determine the customer’s actual needs and implement a workable solution instead. And often, many other customers have those same needs. So Eric dismissed my proposed solution but didn’t address my unresolved needs that prompted the proposal. I don’t attribute this failing to Eric, I attribute it to Microsoft’s current culture.
Not More Power; Transitionality!
Eric then went on to say:
"(2) we can do things to make VB.NET more powerful without fracturing the language,…"
Ironically, I didn’t ask for a more powerful VB.NET; I asked for one that was easier to start using and one that developers could then easily transition to more powerful usage. Though they believed they were providing an easier to use Visual Basic 2005, they addressed the language but not how people develop applications. Though they made strides with the Express Edition, my biggest concern was with the complexity of the development environment and the language. I suggested an interpretive environment with a transitional language design that allowed new developers to start easily yet be able to effortlessly grow their expertise with use. What I envisioned was something like Boo, but I wanted it 2.5 years ago with a simple interpretive environment, and I wanted it from Microsoft so that it could possibly generate a large and immediate and user base with a thriving community and significant peer support.
Today’s Potential Didn’t Address Yesterday’s Deficiency
Eric continued with the following…:
"(3) Microsoft makes scripting languages like Iron Python"
…but omitted the fact that a robust Iron Python was just a gleam in Jim Hugunin’s eye 2.5 years ago and is still not ready for prime time. Further, Microsoft’s approach is to host IronPython in Visual Studio which does nothing to bypass the complexity of Visual Studio!
Nor Does an Orphan Address Yesterday’s Deficiency
Eric then said:
"…and JScript .NET, use the right tool for the right job."
To which I did a double take wondering if he were really serious! JScript .NET is such the orphan that I can’t even believe he suggested it! The JScript .NET newsgroup has less than a screen full of messages, JScript .NET hasn’t been updated since 2003, and nobody’s even written about JScript .NET in years! So could Eric really have been serious when he suggested JScript .NET? Well, assuming he was, then:
- JScript .NET does NOT have an easy-to-use interpretive environment, and
- JScript .NET is a complex language; NOT simple-to-use, and
- Again, JScript .NET has NO user-base!
And a Potential isn’t a Solution
Moving on Eric said:
"The .NET framework is already amenable to the development of scripting languages."
So why do we still not have a viable scripting solution for .NET supported from Microsoft more than half a decade after the .NET Framework’s first release?
Yes, there’s Powershell, but…
Okay, that’s not quite true. Eric didn’t mention it but in the spirit of honest debate, there is Microsoft’s PowerShell. But while I will freely admit PowerShell is really nice, PowerShell:
- Was only just released so doesn’t address the past 2.5 years,
- Doesn’t have a development environment,
- Can’t be used for web development,
- Doesn’t have a compiler for creating components for use in other .NET languages.
- Doesn’t have transitionality allowing it to scale up for much more complex projects as the developer’s experience grows.
A Correct yet Irrelevant Point
Eric then makes a point about "scripting languages" vs. "dynamic languages" (emphasis mine):
"Third, I want to make a distinction between scripting languages (languages intended to script things) and dynamic languages (languages which admit a type system which cannot be deeply analyzed at compile time.) Scripting languages are often dynamic languages, however it is entirely possible to use dynamic languages for tasks other than scripting. "
Okay… So Eric’s points are very technically valid, but they are totally irrelevant! Frankly I wasn’t asking for a language that was "intended to script things," I was proposing a language (and IDE) that would be:
- Easy to start using, and
- Scalable as one’s skills evolve.
Call it "scripting", call it a "dynamic language", call it whatever; it’s irrelevant. What is relevant is for it to be productive, easy, and scalable. Microsoft could choose to get there however they will, bit like arguing the semantics of "Car" vs. "SUV" with someone who just needs transportation, Eric’s distinctions were simply irrelevant to the needs. Totally unrelated, I ran across this joke yesterday. What could be more ironic?
Interest Doesn’t Necessarily Change Process
Eric finishes his prior point with:
"The VS team is VERY interested in understanding how to make the platform more amenable to dynamic languages."
Great! But are they going to actually engage people who are not .NET developers in the design of said dynamic languages and their respective development environments and then incorporate their feedback? Or is the VS Team just going to plug another dynamic language into Visual Studio? If the latter they will do so ignoring that Visual Studio users already have the language(s) they need and that there are at least an order of magnitude more people for whom Visual Studio is too overwhelming.
A Solution Offered; Wrong Product, Years from Now
A couple other comments Eric made were:
"C# 3.0 will have the "one line auto-implemented properties" feature you requested for VB. Enough people asked for it, we put it in. I do not know if VB will be doing the same. You’re welcome. "
"Current C# 3.0 features move in the direction of dynamic languages without actually making the language dynamic (lambdas, improved generic method type inference, extension methods, implicitly typed locals, anonymous tuple types). All of these however are implemented so as to keep the language statically analyzable. We are considering features for C# 4.0 which would make the language more dynamic without losing that important statically analyzable core."
That’s well and good, but it doesn’t address VB.NET, and it also makes my own point that Microsoft’s release cycles are too far apart! There are badly needed enhancements and they need to get them to developers more often than once every three years. C# 3.0 is still a way’s out, people need something today, and I personally wonder if I’ll even care about programming by the time C# 4.0 is released. Hell, I hope to have made my fortune and be retired by then! :-) But seriously, C# is a professional developer’s language and adding features to a professional developer’s language wasn’t even close to what I was proposing.
Too Little, Too Late: Acknowledged
In the last paragraph, Eric finally gives tacit acknowledgement of the concerns I raised in yesterdays post:
"Now, maybe these features aren’t what you want, or are too little too late, or the release schedule is too long for your liking, or whatever. That’s unfortunate."
Exactly. The release cycle needs to be compressed by an order of magnitude as it has been at the competition. More on this in a bit.
Studying Users Isn’t Feeling their Pain
Eric then signs off with:
"However I take exception to the claim that we do not study what real users are doing and try to provide tools that do what they want. We do that every day."
With this Eric either misunderstood my point, or more likely I didn’t state my point in a manner that was understandable. Whichever the case, let me clarify. I know the VS Team works hard to study real user’s needs every day. But what I also know is that the people who make the decisions about what gets released and when have considerations that are far different from the needs of developers. And it is human nature for one to place solving one’s own pains ahead of solving the pains of others as people simple can’t fully comprehend pains they don’t experience.
Trade-offs that Shortchange Developers
Eric let’s be concrete; if solving a customer problem today will cause the VS team a problem tomorrow they won’t do it. For example if the VS Team plans to rearchitect something next version they won’t provide an interface that developers need in this version if doing so will make that rearchitecture difficult. Some would say this is good product engineering to which I would actually agree, but it is nonetheless a trade-off that keeps developers from getting what they need today.
Experiencing Pain Empowers Real Solutions
So, if you’ll reread my post from yesterday you’ll see that I didn’t say "Microsoft doesn’t listen to customers"; I know damn well they do. On the contrary, I said that Microsoft’s Developer Division "Don’t solve real world problems." And the reason you don’t is because you don’t experience the pain that those real world problems cause. By comparison most developers contributing to open-source projects are doing so to solve pains which they themselves have, and that is why they are addressing developer needs much faster than Microsoft’s Developer Division.
Yes it is a Paradox…
An observant person would say that I’ve present a rather intractible dichotomy for Microsoft’s Developer Division; i.e. they need to use the developer tools they build to solve real world problems yet they also need to to develop those tools ten times faster! Now I’m sure these comment will cause the blood of those in Microsoft’s Developer Division to boil thinking I believe it’s possible they do their work ten times faster and do real world projects. But I was not advocating that; I’m fully aware of the myth of the "man-month" in software development projects.
…But Solve it You Must, Or Else
What I was pointing out, however, is if Microsoft’s Developer Division maintains its status quo they will slip farther behind and the loss of developers to other platforms will accelerate. And since developers, developers, developers have always been Microsoft’s life blood it is critical they address this issue. Every developer they loose to Linux or the Mac doubly weakens Windows. Microsoft must address this issue if they are to maintain the same level of relevancy during the next twenty years that they’ve had for the past twenty years. And most of what I’m suggesting isn’t complex, and it isn’t new. They probably have most of what they need already written and used internally. They just need to rethink what they are offering.
Change, or Be Changed
So to wrap up this second long-winded essay:
Microsoft’s Developer Division needs to implement drastic changes sooner than later. If they do not, outside forces will soon impose drastic changes upon them and it’s certain they will find those imposed changes to be far more painful. Or as the mechanic on the old Fram Oil Filter commercial used to say "Pay me now, or pay me later."
What if I’m Not Wrong?
P.S. If you’re from Microsoft’s Developer Division and choose to dismiss my concerns, just ask yourself this: What’s the downside for you if I’m right?
Dec 28th, 2006 | Opinion, Programming
The open source ethos is growing fast, and it has finally made its way to website template designs: www.oswd.org. No longer does one have to go to Template Monster or the likes and pay $40-$100 for a cool web design!.
This guy ROCKS! His name is Francis J. Skettino and he’s from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Do him and the rest of the web developer world a favor and blog about him to give him lots of Google-juice (be sure to put a title in your links, something like “title=’Open Source (Free) Website Design Templates’.”)
Dec 19th, 2006 | Web
Just who are the “Weborati“ you ask? And where does the term come from? Well, to answer the latter question, It’s a neologism that just made up; please don’t shoot me for it. :)
As for the former, they are people who either created – starting with Tim Berners-Lee – who have passionately shepherded the web technologies over the many years since Tim first created ENQUIRE as a side project while at CERN.
In this group I would include the original and even the active members of the W3C Technical Architecture Group (TAG) as well as the active and passionate RESTafarians which of course includes Roy T Fielding, the father of REST.
I coined the term so I could refer to them collectively. But I want to make it clear I mean no condescension; I have great respect and appreciate for these people. I just thought a catchy name would make them more memorable and easier for me to refer to them. :-)
- …as an obvious pun on the various “-oratis” Technorati, Glitterati, Cognoscenti… (are there more?)