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.
Jun 1st, 2007 | Software, Technology, Web
You gotta love that some at Microsoft actually have a sense of humor! From the PopFly FAQ (emphasis mine):
Why did you call it Popfly?
Well, left to our own devices we would have called it "Microsoft Visual Mashup Creator Express, May 2007 Community Tech Preview Internet Edition," but instead we asked some folks for help and they suggested some cool names and we all liked Popfly.
Mar 20th, 2007 | Marketing, Web
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:
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:
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.
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 16th, 2007 | Atlanta, Marketing, Web
Last night was the third meeting of the Atlanta Web Entrepreneurs, a Meetup group that I started this past December. Although the first two meetings in January and February were "just getting started" outings, this was the first event that made me think "Hey, we can really pull off something great here!" And that is why I finally decide to go ahead and blog about it .
I’ve been in Atlanta for most of my life and the positive, community-oriented, grassroots entrepreneurial tech culture thriving in San Francisco and Boston and has been all but none-existent in the modern era. Atlanta has been a Fortune 1000 town ; its high tech community has either chased big business dollars or been of the "get rich quick" dotbomb variety , or both. And those who prostrate to major corporations or indenture to venture capitalists are rarely of the "rising tide float all boats" ethos interested in the types of business communities I’ve yearned to be involved in.
Most readers of this blog know that web technologies have evolved to the point anyone with reasonable intelligence and enough passion can create a successful online business; no deep technical knowledge and only a tiny amount of startup capital required. That level of empowerment has unleashed latent entrepreneurial aspirations worldwide. The new-style online businesses people are creating may or may not be a jackpot like YouTube has been for its founders, but they can provide a great living for those involved.
And that excites me. But what really excites me more is, with events like SoCon07, Podcamp Atlanta, and others it’s evident the community-oriented entrepreneurial web ethos that I’ve so longed has finally arrived in Atlanta!
I won’t take any credit for Atlantans new interest in building agile online businesses as none would be deserved. But I will say I’m now doing what I can to help catalyze this transformation of Atlanta’s entrepreneurial web landscape in hopes to see as supportive an ecosystem emerge as those found in the aforementioned Boston and San Francisco.
Wish us luck!
- For a rundown of our third meeting, see my next post at PaperbackSwap founder speaks to Atlanta Web Entrepreneurs.
- Atlanta’s Fortune 1000 include Home Depot, UPS, Coca Cola, BellSouth (now of AT&T), Delta Airlines, Southern Company, SunTrust, Genuine Parts, and Cox Communications to name a few.
- Atlanta’s notable exceptions to the dotbomb moniker have been Mindspring/Earthlink, JBoss, and Internet Security Systems.
Mar 13th, 2007 | Atlanta, Marketing, Web
I’ve never really blogged before about Atlanta because (except for this) I’ve never felt there was much interesting happening here, at least not from the perspective of things that interest me to blog about. But that’s finally changing!
I’ve been in Atlanta for most of my life, and my professional career has spanned exactly 20 years next month. I’ve also been in the entrepreneurial high-tech side of things but for the most part have always felt on the outside looking in. Sure there has been a lot of high-tech companies focused on serving our fortune 500 crowd, and there are tons of real estate entrepreneurs. However, I’ve never felt like there have been others interested in developer and web-related startups like I have always been. That is until now!
Several weeks ago (okay, I’ve never been a timely blogger…) I attended an unconference called SoCon07 put on by Sherry Heyl, Leonard Witt, Jeff Haynie, Josh Hallett, James Harris, and Jonas Luster (if I missed or overcredited anyone, I apologize in advance.)
The event was actually incredible. Held in the nether regions of Atlanta (okay, that’s OTP a few miles) at Kennesaw State University. There were somewhere over 200 people in attendance, and the Friday night before there was a dinner held for any interested attendees. It was incredibly rewarding to get to meet so many other bright and passionate people interested in web-oriented startups and/or social media here in my good ole’ hometown of Atlanta, GA!
I’m going to shout out for a handful of other people I’ve met recently who were at SoCon07. Someone I had met socially last year, Grayson Daughters of The Spacey Gracy Review/blog and Producer and one of the Personalities for the TrueGritz satire site was busy doin her thang.
And then there was Amber Rhea and Rusty Tanton of the Georgia Podcast Network as well as the organizers of PodCamp Atlanta. And of course my good friend Eric Winter of Webicus. As well as many others I just met and whom I hope to soon get to know better.
Nov 16th, 2006 | Web
I’m excited as I just got my express delivery of Wrox’s Professional Web 2.0 Programming by Eric van der Vlist, Danny Ayers, Erik Bruchez, Joe Fawcett, and Alessandro Vernet. I’m anxious to read it to learn their take on programming for Web 2.0. I first learned of the book when I noticed in my logs that their website http://web2.0thebook.org/ was linking to my Well Designed Urls are Beautiful blog post from last year. I then noticed they had a link to an excerpt from their book with the excerpt being titled: Future-Proofing Your URIs; clearly a topic that I am interested in. What’s more, cracking the book I find they additionally have an entire chapter on HTTP and URIs; excellent! I look forward to reading this and letting you know my impressions.
- I finally learned a clear distinction between URIs ("identifiers") and URLs ("locators"). Whereas a URI uniquely identifies a "resource", a URL not only identifies it but also lets you "de-reference" it (i.e. access it and/or download it.)
Nov 6th, 2006 | Marketing, Software
I came across an interesting piece of software called InstallPad via SDTimes "News on Monday" email newsletter. InstallPad is designed to download and automatically install applications on Windows machines. Relatedly, ever since I first installed FireFox I was very impressed with what a great design they had implemented in their add-on updater. I believer that InstallPad works in a similar fashion.
InstallPad might become really big…
InstallPad was developed by a recent University of Maryland graduate Phil Crosby who evidently interned for both Microsoft and IBM.
Although InstallPad is actually a pretty-simple idea I could see InstallPad become very popular very quickly. It has a viral quality to is that makes me wish I had developed it. As InstallPad can solve a problem for software developers by distributing software updates to their customers, I could see software developers motivated to distribute InstallPad for Phil. All that software developers would need to do is either include InstallPad with their software and/or point their customers to the InstallPad download page. Finding a motivated group of people who can help you succeed is the mark of a true viral strategy.
InstallPad has got all the right attributes. Phil even opened his source code on a subversion server and is asking people to contribute.
And I think he’s got that potential…
Except for one problem. For some unknown reason (I haven’t contacted him to ask, I decided to blog it instead), Phil decided to license InstallPad for Personal Use Only! Instead of using an existing open-source license approved by the Open Source Initiative Phil decided to roll his own and disallow business use. Even though he was quite excited to be frontpaged by Digg his choice of license is going to all but neuter any chance of InstallPad becoming significant.
Phil probably wants to reserve the right to sell InstallPad to companies as he claims he is working to form a startup. But that is exactly the wrong strategy. In order for InstallPad to be really successful it will need to have a significant percentage of the Windows user base in a given market segment, and I’d estimate that "significant" would need to be at least 30% if not more like 60% or 70% (with a caveat, in a moment.)
Why is having a large percentage of user in a segment so important? Phil needs vendors and software developers to see InstallPad as worthy of support. Because InstallPad could solve a problem for software vendors without them requiring to do much work, it could be a win-win. But only if it gains a significant user base first OR if the software vendors can distribute it for free. (that’s the caveat.) But requiring InstallPad to be purchased for commerical use eliminates the second option and creates friction that minimizes growth of the user base. Alternately, if software vendors are free to distribute Installpad, they could start making their updates available in a InstallPad-friendly format, at an InstallPad-friendly URL, and with InstallPad-friendly configuration files. That would drive InstallPad adoption and increase the number of software applications with which InstallPad would work seamlessly.
Now you could counter with "Phil doesn’t have to do anything special as it can work with existing software as-is," but the reality is there are hundreds of little gremlins that will cause InstallPad to fail and/or require an end-user of InstallPad to have to fiddle to get his app to upgrade. And each time a users has to figure out why InstallPad is not working is one more chance for them to decide InstallPad’s is not worth the trouble.
Or you could say "People can just use it to download open-source apps from SourceForge which already has a compatible Url structure." But don’t you think it’s rather ironic to have a product downloading and installing open-source that itself is not open source? I think users will view it the same and shy away from it. And it’s not the type of software that is likely to get a lot of contributers if it is not truly open-source.
The other issue Phil has to concern himself with is that the idea is not very hard to duplicate, especially since Phil offers the source code for public viewing. How long would it take an unethical person to building his own from scratch after viewing the source? On the other hand, nobody needs to be unethical; they could just reverse engineer it. From what I saw it wouldn’t take long for a pair of professional programmers to duplicate it. And as soon as someone creates an alternative and licenses it via an approved open-source license their new software gain a large user base much more rapidly. And Phil will be left with having had the great idea first but ultimately InstallPad will become insignificant.
So InstallPad’s greatest potential hedge against competitoon is an installed user base, and Phil should do everything possible to minimize friction to growing that installed user base. Which means licensing freely for commercial use.
Show me the money!
But you are probably now thinking "How will Phil make money if he gives away his software for commercial use?" Several ways:
- Consulting - Offer himself and/or his team up to work for corporations that want to use InstallPad but that have needs the software doesn’t currently address. Have his software and website proactively solicit for that business. If he doesn’t like the idea of doing consulting he should think about it like this: he is going to be adding features anyway, why not get someone to pay for it upfront? Most companies will be glad to pay a nice consulting fee if you solve a problem for them, especially if what they pay for gets contributed to an open-source project that they won’t have to maintain moving forward and that hopefully others will be paying to improve too.
- Dual-License - Just like MySQL, Phil could offer a dual license that offers "Enterprise" features for a fee. His consulting engagements in larger companies to help implement InstallPad would allow his to see the need for features that the general population does not need but that enterprises will pay handsomely to license. And by handsomely, offering at a price that would save large companies a lot on software licensing fees when compared to the offerings of companies like Altiris yet still make his company highly profitable if he keeps his costs under control. Basically he would become the classic upstart as described by The Innovator’s Dilemma.
- Other - Thirdly, there are the opportunities Phil won’t even know exist until after he has the asset of a large user base to leverage. It really is true; build it and they will come.
But three things above will not happen until he generates significant growth in his user base and also significant buzz. And I’m here to tell you based on my experience in dealing with thousands of software vendors over the 12 years I ran Xtras, chances of his software growing a significant user base with the current licensing model are slim to none. So he’s absolutely got to open-source it. IMHO anyway. :-)
So Phil; here’s the strategy I think you should use:
Give InstallPad a real open-source license like BSD (but ideally not GPL as it’s requirement for code contribution can cause other problems) and then focus on getting as many people to use InstallPad as possible. Further, create a set of guidelines and/or best practices that a software vendor would use to make their software optimized for InstallPad. You could even create a little graphic they can use, like the "Optimized for Windows XP" logo.
Then start with some mid-size software vendors and call on them to ask them to support InstallPad. You can find these vendors by asking everyone you know which software products are a pain to get updated. I say mid-size because you won’t get the time of day at a large computer, at least not until you have a sizable user base. And a small company’s user base is too small to really give you any leverage in exchange for your effort. What you want to do is get companies with, say, 10,000 users or more sending out their software with InstallPad and/or sending out emails to their customers with links to download InstallPad.
You need to make it easy for software vendors to contribute "InstallPad Profiles" for their software (you may not have the concept of a InstallPad software profile yet, but you will.) You could use InstallPad to download these profiles from the vendor’s website at a location they give you and then maintain. You can then incorporate all vendor’s profiles into one configuration file which InstallPad users can download from your website or a mirror every time InstallPad runs.
And add a feature that asks your users to let you know about software they want InstallPad to upgrade but that doesn’t work, for whatever reason (i.e. files not available online, crashes during install, no hands-free install, etc.) You could even suggest they ask their vendors to support InstallPad on your behalf. There’s nothing like having a bunch of users begging for something to motivate a software vendors to do something!
If you do all this and you are diligent about "selling" the InstallPad concept to software vendors, you will soon have more users than you can handle and it will be time to find some angel funding!
Concerns about your use of Urls
Regarding the technical side of InstallPad, there are two things you should be aware of. One is a potential concern about how you are groking version numbers from Urls, and the second is an opportunity given your use of Urls:
Contact me if you’d like to know more about these issues. As an aside, I believe Url design is critically important for an optimized Web 2.0 strategy, hence my reason for launching the Well Designed Urls Initiative.
About these Strategies…
One of my specialties as a consultant is software and partner marketing strategies. I learned by studying and doing over the last twelve years founding and running Xtras which I have since moved on from. And I’m sorry to toot my own horn but the best evidence that I’m good was the five year period from 1994 to 1998 when I grew Xtras by over 1700% and was recognized by Inc Magazine on their Inc 500 list of fastest growing private companies in 1999 as #123 on the list. In addition, as I have immersed myself in recent trends, I’ve come to believe that some of these most effective strategies, at least within the foreseeable future, will be to leverage open-source (as if you couldn’t tell), the effects brought on by "Web 2.0," and of course, as always, partnering. Leveraging them, if done correctly, can provide hugh benefits to both customers and the companies that employ them; truly a win-win scenario.
If you are currently unsure how best to leverage open-source, Web 2.0 effects, and partnering strategies for your software and/or website, I can help you devise your marketing strategy on a short-term consulting basis. Alternately, if there is a strong enough fit for my interests, I might even consider helping on a longer term basis is there is equity involved. So if you want to create or improve your strategy, let’s talk.
Oct 5th, 2006 | Web
Those of you who read my blog know that I strongly believe in the importance of URL design. For years it bothered me that we’ve see so many URLs on the web that look like the following example of poor URL design from Jeffrey Veen’s 2001 book The Art & Science of Web Design:
Back in Aug of 2005 I finally got my thoughts together and wrote the post Well Designed Urls are Beautiful. Well, from anecdotal evidence (I don’t track stats on my blog stats very closely) it appears that post has become my blogs my popular post!The popularity of that post combine with the several others facts inspired me to go ahead and launch a website with the following mission:
"Providing best practices for URL design, and to raise awareness of the importance of URL design especially among providers of server software and web application development tools."
The "facts" I referenced above are:
- I continue to feel strongly about URL design yet many are still oblivious to the benefits,
- I still have a lot more to say on the topic, and
- It appears that good URL design is one of the many tenants of Web 2.0 partly because of AJAX, Mashups, and REST-based APIs meaning that it won’t be such an uphill battle!
The name of the website/wiki is WellDesignedUrls.org and for it I have the following goals:
- To create a list of "Principles" as best practices for good URL design,
- To cultivate how-to articles about implementing good URL designs on the various platforms like ASP.NET, LAMP and Ruby on Rails, servers like IIS and Apache, and web development tools like Visual Web Developer and Dreamweaver,
- To cultivate general how-to articles and resources for tools such as mod_rewrite and ISAPI Rewrite and others,
- To cultivate "solutions sets" for mod_rewrite and ISAPI Rewrite and others that can clean up the URLs on well known open-source and commericial web applications,
- To grade web applications, websites, and web development tools by giving them a "report card" on how well or how poorly they follow best URL design practices,
- To document URL structure of major web applications and major websites,
- To recognize people who are "Champions for the URL Design cause" (those who’ve written articles and essays promoting good URL design), and
- To providing resources for further reading about good URL design.
The wiki is clearly new and thus a work in progress, so it will probably be a while before it realizes all these things I mention. However, as I have time and am able to recruite others to help, I think it will become an important advocate for good url design and a great central resource for best practices. And if you’ve read this far, I’m hoping that you’ll consider either contributing when you feel you have something relevent, or at least use start considering the value of URL design in your own web application development and also point people in the wiki’s direction when applicable.Thanks in advance for the help!P.S. I also plan to launch a WellDesignedUrl blog in the near future.
Subscribe to my RSS feed it you want to be notified of when the blog goes live.
Sep 16th, 2006 | Opinion
After 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.
- 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…
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
- 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. :)
- 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!
UPDATE: Chris Messina saw this post and offered me an invite to VOX so I could comment on Mike Monteiro’s post. Thanks Chris!