Archive for 2010

The past 30 days

In-estimable opinion

There comes a day in every non-technical entrepreneurs life when they ask their technical co-founder (or any software developer) for a time estimate.

The technical co-founder (or software developer) will ruminate for a few seconds, and then give an estimate that is more than a few hours.

The technical co-founder won’t go away and spent an half-hour thinking through all of the ramifications and how complex the yak will be to shave.

And it is at this point that you can safely ignore the estimate.

There’s no point pressing for a better estimate, or asking them to go away and think about the problem.

Your technical co-founder or software developer believes they are correct.

And that’s okay, because you need to learn to read estimates as much as your developer needs to learn how to give them.

Tabled questions

You should always approach your discount policies in a systematic and data-driven way.

Anything less means you are just leaving money on the table.


Talk sexy to me

Chat interfaces combined with IoT will bring a whole new level of anthropomorphization to objects and items in our lives that we have never seen before.

This isn’t just another talking teddy bear that keeps your kids company.

It’s not a simple, brain dead thermostat that can adjust the temperature when you ask it to.

It is a real conversation that lets you ask deep, meaningful questions about the environment that the IoT device is aware of.

Improper handling

Your technical co-founder will take time to implement that seemingly simple feature because they insist on handling all of the error cases as they proceed.

And that’s okay, because you need to understand that within even a simple feature there is nuance and error conditions that must be handled.

Making believe

I’m not really an entrepreneur, I just play one on the internet.

Like burlesque, but sexier

You know what Enterprise software needs?

The iPhone experience.

Enterprise software needs an Apple-esque user experience.

Honourable mention

Mobile apps have become an international phenomenon and localization doesn’t just mean localizing text into whatever language is used in a particular geographic region.

If your app, or the back-end service that powers the app, needs to address the customer in any way, you need to diligently localize that too.

This is especially true for non-English speaking countries where it is reasonable to assume they have different naming conventions and styles of address, e.g. Japan or Germany.

You also need to ensure you don’t run afoul of courtesy titles or honourifics, e.g. “Mr” in a country where only credentialed professionals may use such a prefix.


Digital content bondage

If your intent is to lock up your users’ content by demanding that someone else download your smartphone app after the creator of the content shares a link to their creation, then you are intentionally fragmenting the open web, and that is not the web that we all have come to know and love.

I’ve met bigger!

At some point your technical co-founder will think you’re the biggest asshole on this planet.

All strong relationships are built on disagreements and compromises.

Product triage

How can you differentiate between unconstrained, destructive trolling and insightful, constructive criticism?

If you pay attention to all feedback, nothing happens because you’re too busy responding or pulled in too many directions at once until you please nobody.

If you ignore all feedback you create in a vacuum, and learn nothing at all from how to improve your product or what your audience wants.

The valuable skill we have to learn, if we build products for anybody but ourselves, is filtering – figuring out what voices and opinions to listen to, and which to ignore.

It’s okay to gather all opinions and feedback, but like medical patients in an emergency room; triaging the important stuff from the not so important stuff.

Due South of The Market

In the world of apps, our smartphone’s home screen is the new San Francisco – space is at a premium.

Oh, and just like San Francisco you cannot hire a developer to build it for you because they are busy working on their own start-up.

Incongruent message

What happens when your message isn’t congruent with your actions?

I just got around to installing Windows 7 (an absolutely terrible operating system if you do anything more than email and web browsing) on one of the workstations at the office and I needed to read through a PDF document but didn’t yet have Adobe Reader installed.

I know Adobe Reader is a slow piece of bloated, bug-ridden nonsense and thought it might be time to look for alternatives.

Googling around I find out about Foxit and have heard good things from a few people so thought I would give it a quick whirl.

And I got slimed.

Installing the software just feels like a nasty, slimy experience as you click through all of the “No, I don’t want a new toolbar. No, I don’t need you to re-write my homepage bookmark. No, I don’t need eBay stuck on my browser either.”

By the time I hit the “would you like us to stick bookmarks to trusted websites you already have in your browser?” I was done and it was time to stop the install process.

The wording of each option is very forked tongue.

I had flashbacks to the 1990’s with the beginnings of the Internet and my first encounters with “behind your back, let me fuck your machine up” software installations.

AOL strangely comes to mind.

The phrasing of each option is done in such a way that you either aren’t sure if you need the toolbar for the software to work, whether you’re turning it off, turning it on, or are just asking to be bent over and taken without any kind of lube.

Okay, let’s stop this installation.

But there’s no “Cancel” button.

And No “Back” button.

Another incongruity.

”We’re so convinced you’ll love our software and all of the bloat that we bundle with it that we don’t need to provide you with the option to cancel.”

I quickly decide to bring up Task Manager and just kill the install process before this goes any further.

Here’s someone else who had the same issues with the software installer I did.

The marketing message states one thing, the actions of the software, and the company behind the software, are clearly something else.

So what other products does the company behind Foxit produce and sell?

I don’t know.

I don’t care.

I will never find out because through a single experience of dealing with a slimy piece of software that left a bad taste.

I won’t ever consider using any of their software in the future.

This is what happens when you have an incongruent message, you switch off your potential customers.

You destroy a future relationship.

How much money are you making by bundling distasteful practices in to your free software, to make a quick buck?

You louse up potential future sales because the user is no longer interested enough to look at what other products you create.

At least with Adobe Reader I know how to turn off what I don’t want and the registry patches you need to apply are clearly documented on various websites.

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