Double Cross

Something was not right at my house this afternoon. The house kept getting colder and colder. Doh! The heat was not working. And the temperature was dropping. Initially I thought we might need to bunker down and get help tomorrow. However I later rethought this because it is supposed to get very cold tonight.

I tried calling my HVAC company. They did not pick up the phone. It was the evening. They must have went home. Looked up a new company. They came over within 2 hours. They figured out the problem pretty quickly. They quoted me a large fee to fix the problem. I confirmed that the cost would cover everything, and there would not be "other problems" that would cost me extra. The guys assured me there would be no more cost to get the heat working.

It took only 30 minutes for them to replace the parts and get the heat cooking again. I was taken aback by the final bill. It was almost 20% higher. I said this was not the quote I was given. Well they said there was a big service charge added. Then there was tax to deal with. The time to be clear about all these extra charges was when they gave me the quote, not when they were looking to get paid. In the end we split the difference. However the damage was already done. Poor communications make these guys look like crooks to me.

Now if I am in a bind again, I would use these guys. Two things are clear. They charge a lot. And the try to add on all kinds of garbage fees at the end. Too bad. They could have obtained a customer with their expertise.

eBook Sales Scam

Some dude had a great eBook headline. He made $40k in sales from one eBook this past year. That got my attention. He wrote about a hot new technology just as it was gaining traction. It was a very specific subject with a lot of interest.

This guy had me up until the point where he tried to sell another eBook on making money wit eBooks. Doh. Initially I had no reason to doubt this guy made $40k large. Now that he is trying to sell me something, the scam detector went off in my head.

Now I am not saying that this guy did not make any money on eBooks this past year. It is just that there is a conflict of interest here. Of course he is going to claim to have made a ton of money if he wants me to believe him and buy his scheme.

Heck. In this light, $40k don't look like much. You got plenty of other people claiming to have the eBooks to teach you how to make millions. Why stop at 40k? I wish this guy had just stated the facts and documented his win. I can't blame him for trying to make a buck. But that puts him in the company of a lot of other salesmen. So much for eBook sales excitement.

Ebay Tactics

You must read this Reddit poster's story about tricking an Ebay scammer. Here is the basic story. He put up some sports tickets on Ebay. Someone won the bid for $600 each but backed out in the end. It was took late to find another buyer. What this guy did was precious.

So he gets a throwaway phone number. He calls the bidder up, telling some sad story about how he wants to go to the game with his son, and would offer a ton of cash for the tickets. The bidder then contacts the guy and tells him the deal is still on. Guy collects cash.

The big time win was when the bidder then tries to pawn the tickets off for more money. The guy reveals himself and tells the bidder to get bent. Bamm. This is actually an age old scam technique. In this situation, I believe the ends justified the means. Check out the full story using the link above.

Short Shelf Life

Yesterday I picked up a bunch of computer games for $5 each. It amazed me how cheap these things were. They were titles I recognized. I have seen commercials for some of these games on TV. How can they make any money off these cheap sales?

I think this is an indicator of the shelf life of the PC game market. You got to make your profits when the game first comes out and goes for full price. After that, it is all down hill.

This makes it a discouraging market to get into. After all, I am sure there are publishers taking their cut of the profits. Then the stores that do distribution must make some money. What is left over for the guy that writes the computer programs. Probably not much at all.

Customer Service

I have been dealing with this mail order company for some time. They prices are reasonable. And they normally stand behind all their products. So I decided to take the relationship a bit further and buy something big from them. Hey. I felt like it was time to give them the big change. They blew it.

Instead of getting the product I ordered, they drop shipped some other junk. I sent the wrong merchandise back. And I requested they send the right order to me. What happened? Nothing. I get no reply from them. Damn. No trouble. I stopped payment on my credit card charge. That got their attention. They credited back the amount I spent minus shipping. WTF? They are making matters worse. My credit card company ended up eating the charges.

Now I figured I would give this company one last chance to redeem themselves. I placed another moderate order with them. They did not execute correctly. Turns our they missed part of my order. I called up their customer service. Got disconnected after waiting for a few minutes. I called back. Wanted to make sure I did everything I could to salvage this relationship. Luckily I got through and the rep on the line apologized and said they would eat the costs to make the order right. Now that's what I am talking about. In the end, I did not take them up on their offer. Just them willing to put things right was all I needed to hear.

Let's hope this company keeps treating me right. I am fighting to remain a loyal customer. How many other customers are willing to go this far for any company? This company does have the right mix. They got low prices and good customer service when you get through to them.


Snap. Forbes magazine put out an issue featuring Y-Combinator. The cover has a picture of cofounder Paul Graham. I am wondering why there is so much buzz about this company.

Yes. I get it. Paul and his company backed some winners like Reddit, Loopt, and What I am trying to figure out is why having Graham's backing is so important?

Initially you got a $5k investment from Graham. That's not much money at all. Now the initial investment has risen to $11k plus a little more depending on how many people are in your start-up. That is still not a lot of cash.

Maybe this is all a big marketing thing. If you are in with Y-Combinator, you are going to have the clout and access to a lot of rich angel investors and venture capitalists. But isn't it best to bootstrap yourself and keep all of your company for yourself?

There is only one way to find out. Either try to join Y Combinator, or strike out on your own and see what happens. Let's do just that.

Angelgate Scandal

Mike Arrington of TechCrunch goes to some joint called Bin 38. He sees a number of super angel investors meeting there. They disinvite him from their get together. Mike suspects the worst. He thinks there is some type of collusion between these people. It must be so. Why else would they not want him there?

Hello. The dude writes stuff in TechCrunch. You don't want your private business being the next blog story. Too late. Mike has been making insinuations and posting secret emails and such. LOL. Don't we have something better to do then to follow the hype about unsubstantiated rumors?

Look. Product good stuff. Get customers. Be excellent. Then with a little luck, success is going to come your way. People are going to want to back you. Who knows? You might be the next Google or FaceBook. Probably not. But you might be. And if you show some promise, the angels are going to find you and invest. Turn the tables around and have them fighting for you. Then it won't matter what these angels discuss in their private dinners. They will all want you taking their money and returning a huge ROI. But hey. I guess the Angelgate diaries make for some good page hits. Whatever.

Solve Your Own Problem

Some time back I had a good idea for a simulation. It was going to be more like a game. The problem is that it is going to take a lot of time to develop the darn thing. I tried getting started a time or two. But it was tough to follow through. I left the thing alone for a long time.

Recently I read a post from the 21st Century Programmers blog, or something like that. It said to be successful you need to write an app that solves a problem you have. Ok. I am game. No pun intended. You got to forget about producing a commercial winner. Or at least you should not concentrate on commercial quality at first.

Develop a small thing that solves a problem of yours. Do it quickly with the minimal set of features. Actually do it with less than the minimal set of features. Then keep iterating by adding features and fixing bugs. This will get you the traction you need to produce something good. Hey. I will give it a try. You never know. I might just succeed. Now I just need to find an interesting enough problem I am encountering to solve with some code. I will let you know once I get the minimal thing coded up.


Oh you got to hear about this Craigslist ad. A startup needed a web site developed. They wanted login capability. There has to be a bunch of databases involved. The site must be dynamic and professional looking. Those seem like reasonable requirements. Here is the stickler. They cannot pay any money.

Ha ha. This must be a joke. Good one. They promise 10% of the profits from the first 3 months of the web site being up. In the mean time they offer a bunch of troll dolls as down payment. LMAO. I got to contact these people to see if they are pulling a prank or something. I will let you know what I find out.


People that work for the man dream about working for themselves all the time. You can just work from home and chill right? Well I read an article and a ton of comments contradicting that theory.

Although you work at home when you freelance, you are always at work. Some work 80 hours a week freelancing to make ends meet. The pay is often sub par. You also will encounter a bunch of non-paying clients.

On a different note, it is hard to get a loan if you are self employed. You do get to be your own boss. But there is a heavy price to pay. You also spend a lot of time getting gigs. These costs may very well be just too high for me to go at it alone 100%. I am not willing to jump into a severe test of character if the rewards are not high enough.

Surplus Store

I keep getting this circular in the paper for a local surplus store. They seem to have great deals. I figured I should give the place a try. They had some grass seed which was 45% off the price I normally pay. They also had some beef jerky that was a whopping 66% off the price I paid last. How could I lose?

When I got to the store, I noticed a lack of shopping carts. Some lady even tried to steal the one I was using. The items from the circular were nowhere to be found. They had some other grass seed which was more expensive. I bought a bag because it was still below the cost I normally pay. However the damage was done. I felt like I visited a gas station with low 87 octane gas, only to find they ran out of 87 octane.

The other disturbia was that they did not have the flavor of beef jerky I liked. They had advertised that they did. No dice. They had a whole lot of other flavors at a very low price. I decided to pass on them. The store was a bit dilapidated. Shelves were propped up with cinder blocks. The aisles were too narrow. The only interesting thing about this place was the stories they told in their newspaper ad. They tell you how they came to buy the closeout items they offer. I am not sure whether that will have me coming back for a second visit. Sure the value is high. But I could not help but feel disappointed with my first trip. I doubt this will affect their stores. The store was very crowded. In this economy, people are scrappy and need surplus stores like this.

Success of Lew Cirne

I heard an interesting interview with Lew Cirne, CEO of New Relic. He previously founded Wily Technology and sold it for $375M to CA. I like his story because the guy loves to write software. He worked in private industry before starting up a company. That is where he got the idea for his first product. He confesses that he had a lot of other dumb ideas for products. Then the right one hit him light a lightning bolt.

Lew recommends that you do not force your idea to come to fruition. Just solve a problem that you are very passionate about. For Lew and his first startup, the problem was making Java programs self diagnostic. Lew first built a prototype. Then he gave presentations with a few PowerPoint slides and a lot of demo time.

Unfortunately applets and Java running on client machines did not take off. So Lew repurposed his product for servers and pivoted his company. He hired a lot of expensive sales people, and was never able to break even on financials. But they were growing by hiring and making more sales.

Lew says you must hire awesome people. They also need to be both gifted and decent. He found most hires through his extended network. Lew boasts that Wily is still one of the top products at CA, the company that bought him out. I find it interesting that out of the 260 employees of his company, only 15 were engineers developing the product. Most everyone else was in sales. His next product focuses on Ruby rather than Java. He is positioning the product to sell itself via software as a service. If the past is any indicator, Lew will be successful and selling once again for the big win.

Epic Advertising

I received a thick Microsoft programming magazine this month. After reading the first couple articles, I realized why the magazine had so many pages. Every other page was an advertisement. It was a bit distracting. I would try to read the articles. But I also wanted to check out the ads.

One ad really stood out. The graphics were nothing special. Only black, white, and a little bit of red color were used. However the ad copy was outrageous. This ad was for a tool from Winward Reports. It used a lot of outlandish analogies. The message was that this tool was nothing short of epic.

Although I checked out almost all the ads from the magazine, Windward Reports was the only site I visited based on the ads. I tossed the magazine after perusing it. But I saved the ad. Who does the marketing for this company? I love them.

Long Term Startup Capital

Startups are being created at a hectic pace. Things are easier if they get bought out quickly. Otherwise there will be the risk of money running out. To prevent such a scenario, they must be backed by venture capitalists with a lot of money. Another technique is to quickly turn a profit to sustain operations.

Some liken this to the boom and bust of the dot coms years ago. A smart founder must consider funding for the whole lifecyle of the startup. Perhaps this is causing a need for a different type of venture capitalist that funds a company after it becomes less risky, but needs funds to continue.

One good factor is that the cost of startups seems to be on the decline. Lean and mean boostrapped startups are best to run longer. There is something that probably does not change over time. Startups fail at a certain clip. Something that accelerates the failing is the shrinking nature of the VC market.

How can you prevent your startup from failing due to cash problems? Launch fast, iterate fast, and spend very little money. It is funny. Some people say the formula for the new startup seems simple enough. Get a catchy tech name. Create a fancy logo. Put up a Web 2.0 site. Then release a mobile application. Got it?

Don't Do Free

Early on I had a plan that I would developer applications and give them out for free. The idea was to get people to my web site that had ads. That model did not seem to pan out.

Now I read that the free model is a bad one. People don't want to pay once they get a chance to sample your goods for free. Great.

So perhaps it is time to switch up the business model. End the free apps. Charge a minimal amount for them. I will need to step up my game. The app has to be awesome to convince somebody to shell out real cash for it. Reset.

Success Rates

I read a 2008 paper that researched startup success rates. There is an 18% chance for success on your first venture. If that first one is a success, you have a 30% chance of success in your second venture. Otherwise you only have a 20% chance on your second venture.

The source of the success/failure statistics was Venture Source from 1975 to 2003. The findings show that success affects future results. They also found that you were more likely to success if you were backed by top venture capitalists.

Skills do influence your success rate. Management skills are important. Skills to decide time to market are also key. However past success, or the perception of such success can also propel you to a win.

Microsoft Versus Apple

Microsoft's stock price has been stagnant for years. This is a bummer, especially for employees of Microsoft. Back in the old days, employees would eventually gain wealth by obtaining stock options coupled with a rising stock price. Stock splits would go hand in hand with a continually rising Microsoft stock price. This is no more.

Apple is the hot company in town. Their stock price is on the rise. Their market capitalization has surpassed Microsoft. This is most surprising as they were in trouble financially in the past. The market cap is not to say that Apple makes money more than Microsoft. This also does not mean that they do more sales than Microsoft. It just means that investors predict that Apple is going to be worth more in the future. Why is this so?

In the past, Apple was a computer system company. They still sell Mac computers. However their rising stock comes from profits in a number of non-computer electronics such as music players and selling the music that goes with them. Then there is the iPhone phenomenon. I keep hearing that cell phones are the future. But are Apple iPhones a future cash cow? I am not sure. Steve Jobs is on a roll. Can Microsoft turn the tide and innovate on their own? It might be that copying other peoples' ideas is no longer favored in the investor community.

Poor User Interface

I found this site that posts good deals. Right now I am trying it out. One deal was that you could get a free MP3 player by submitting a comment on FaceBook. That sounded good to me.

Now I actually have a FaceBook account for these rare circumstances where I need to log into it. Here is the problem with this contest. It was mind boggling on how to actually post the comment.

There was a link to comment. But when I clicked It, I had to log in. After logging in, the comment link disappeared. Not sure if this was a problem with the sponsor, or with FaceBook itself.

Eventually I clear all my browser cookies, kept clicking all over randomly, and entered a comment. If they did not have a carrot (the free MP3 player), this would have been an absolute fail. It still is a failure in my book. How can this user interface suck so bad?

Eye Candy

I read a blog post about this great hack to make walkie talkies be texting devices. The dude had a bunch of AdSense ads up on his sites. I scrolled through to see if there was any ads that might be interesting. Only one had that ad copy that made me click. It asked if I wanted to be ripped. You bet I do.

At first I was disappointed with the landing page the ad took me to. I was expecting to see some dudes with exposed six packs. Nope. I found some non-famous guy posing as a basketball player. Weak. I could not tell if he was ripped or not.

Luckily a video of a hot blond chick appeared in the margin. She had a squeaky but sexy voice too. This helped me stay long enough on the page to scroll down. That's where I found pictures of ripped guys. But come on. These images should have been places above the fold.

Let's cut to the chase. Here was the proposition. I could get a free sample. However I would have to pay five bucks for shipping. I have heard about free sample scams before where you get placed on a subscription of non-free product. There are worse free sample scams out there as well. I did not want to deal with such a potential scam. So sorry blondie. I am going to have to pass.

Scrappy Sales

I found myself reading a blog entry about survival. The guy was detailing his military training. They drove him out to the woods and told him to live off the land, then make it back to camp in 48 hours. It sounded like a believable story due to the details. The funny thing about this was the atrocious spelling and grammar of the piece.

This same author was trying to sell his ebooks. I almost went ahead and purchased one. The thing had a free preview, providing you with a PDF of 10% of the book. I downloaded the preview and printed it out to read. I love reading on paper. The first thing that surprised me was the harsh copyright notice. There were all kinds of restrictions on what you could not do with the book. Perhaps this was just for the preview.

I read through the preview. A lot of it was fluff. There were a few memorable quotes. But here in the funny thing. This prose was written in perfect English. There was not a spelling or grammatical error in all the pages. Then I figured it out. This book was not written by the scrappy blogger. He was just selling the thing. That was the end of the sale for me. I liked the gritty blogger. The misspellings and grammar errors actually made him seem more real. If he does publish something he actually wrote, I might buy a copy even if it is in electronic format.

Internet Leeches

I was at work and needed to speak with my mortgage company. Luckily I had my loan account number with me. However I did not have my mortgage company's phone number. That should be an easy problem to solve. I googled them.

The search results were interesting. The first page was a secure log in for the mortgage company. The second result turned out to be the link I needed to get the phone number. However another search result in the top 10 caught my eye. They were a company that was not my mortgage company. However the had a page that was obviously trying to profit off my mortgage company.

Here is the scam. Their first technique was to put some Google AdSense on their home page. That in and of itself is not evil. However their also tried to sell my the phone number for my mortgage company. Can you believe that? Their pitch was that they get a lot of calls from people looking for my mortgage company. And they had researched what the company phone number was. For just $9.95 they would share the number with me. What kind of low life business is this? It was almost embarrassing to read.

Too Many Hoops

I read an interesting blog post on language translation. The author had ads enabled on their page. I decided to click on one of them. First I surveyed all the ads. One in particular stood out. It was a free reading on the numerology of your name. Good stuff. I clicked through.

The landing page asked me to enter my name. That sounded appropriate. Then it wanted my email address. Normally I guard my email carefully. So I put in one of my alternate email addresses. Then it asked for the name on my birth certificate. That seemed strange. So I put in a fake name to test it out. I pressed the submit button. Then I was told to check my email.

I hurried over to my email. It took a while to get the expected email. The contents of the email were disappointing. It told me to click a link to confirm. Ok. I already gave you my name, the name on my birth certificate, my birth date, and my email address. And you are still asking me to fart around and click some links? I don't think so. Don't make it hard for me to become a consumer of your product. You are going to lose me all too soon.

Commercial Product Development

There are many pitfalls to commercial software development. But that's not a reason to go for it anyway. I have read a number of tips from people who created failures in the commercial software world. I am one of them. Let's see what they have to say.

Launch early. Be warned that some software has a long sales cycle. Make sure your product has killer features that the competition does not have. Make sure you need the product yourself. Temper that with the fact that just because you need something, everyone else will not necessarily need it too.

Make sure you learn during the development process. That way even if you fail, you come out smarter and it is not a total waste. Conduct your marketing research up front before you sink unrecoverable costs in development. Be careful of sharing equity with other partners who may not put in as much into the start up. Also beware of potentially high software support costs.

You should try to save up money then go full time into product development. Make sure your market is not too small. A niche is ok, but too small of a niche is death. Talk with actual people during your research. Get feedback from your users early on. Make sure you have enough domain knowledge for the market you are selling to. Consider integration with other software to expand usefulness of your product. Good luck to all.

Marketing to Big Business

There are many pros and cons to selling your software to big business. One benefit is that your price can be higher. The volume might also be higher, making the final price even better. However this comes with some trouble as well.

Companies have lawyers. Legal needs to sign off before some big purchases can be made. You will need a software license agreement. Purchase one of these for a few grand. Best to do it upfront.

Give quotes that last for 60 days. Companies will cut you a purchase order and expect you to ship the software. The game is not over yet. You still need to collect. Luckily the purchase order is legally binding. It will just take a while for you to get your money.

Get to know the payment procedure for each of your big company customers. It will make your payments come quicker. Know this. Companies don't like to pay via PayPal. Make it easy for them to pay you by whatever means necessary, except for Monopoly money.

Snapfish Sucks

Some time ago I signed up for an account with Snapfish. They are a web site which does photo prints for you. I think somebody referred me there and I got free prints and shipping. I tried the thing out and it actually worked.

Later I returned to the site to do some more free prints. Turns out my free prints disappeared. That sucked. But I needed some prints so I paid for them anyway. It was still convenient. However I was a bit disappointed that my free prints went away without warning.

It has been some time since I used the service. I played some online game and got to choose a reward. One of the prizes was free prints from Snapfish. Great. I already have an account with them. I spend a bunch of time uploading my prints to them. I go to check out and use my free prints. Bam. My code does not work. All I get is an "oops" error message. WTF? The web site continues to find new ways of disappointing me.

Top Students

What predicts whether somebody will become a top student or not? You might think it is how smart they are. But researchers from the University of Pennsylvania discovered otherwise. It is not a person's IQ that accurately predicts how well a student they will become. It is their self discipline.

That sounds like a nice discovery. You want to believe that with a lot of hard work, anybody can rise to the top. It is not fair that some people are smarter than others. This is not something you can control. But you can have grit and will yourself into a better student.

Here is what strong self discipline will improve: standard test scores, quality of schools accepted into, number of school absences, amount of time spent on homework, and amount of time spent watching TV. Not only will self discipline improve these things, it will itself gauge how well you will improve in each of these areas.

Not many of the tired old excuses apply to success in school. Don't blame large class sizes. Don't blame books that are not interesting. And don't blame the teacher. You have the ability to improve your self discipline with some hard work. It will pay off in the end. Academic research backs this up.

Fast Turn Around

We live in a three story house. Now that summertime is approaching, the top level is starting to get really hot. The real shame is that my central air conditioning runs all the time running up the electric bill. However that just makes the basement cold. Time to buy a solution to this problem.

I tried going to the local Home Depot to pick up some window air conditioning units. Their stock was pathetic. Well at least I tried to buy from the local guy. Next I went online to shop at Amazon. They had every window air conditioning unit ever made ready to ship. There were even tons of user reviews that helped me stay away from the duds.

Amazon got me to buy a bunch of them. It helped that shipping was free. Later that night I got messages from Amazon stating that the units had shipped already. The next day, the first unit had arrived at my house. You can't beat this service. Free shipping that is very speedy. They exceed their estimated delivery time by a week or two. You can bet that I am going back to Amazon for all my big dollar hardware needs. Epic win Amazon.

Sex Sale

I got an email pitch the other day. "Stacy" wanted me to write about a software product on my blog. She also wanted a link to the product web site. In exchange, I would receive a free license to the software.

LOL. This is weak on so many levels. First off, the software looks more like some spyware. And I think my integrity is worth a little more than a free license. The part I love is that "Stacy" was trying to get the referral.

I don't think there is any such Stacy. It was a nice try though. At least the email pitch did not have any spelling errors. Still I was a little taken aback by the request.

I sometimes write about software. But that only happens when I am really interested in buying some software. And I don't take kindly to bribes to write about software. Yeah I might write about this particular software. However it won't be a positive review.

Price Escalation

I have heard an outcry from Zendesk customers. This is an online Help Desk software offering. It is released in a software as a service arrangement. Recently they have decided to redo their pricing plans.

Personally I have never heard of Zendesk before. Now I hear about them from customers that are complaining loudly. From what I gather, the average cost for each customer is either going to double or triple.

This company needs to do some PR damage control. If they do not think they can afford to not gouge their customers, they at least need to come up with a better explanation for the raping. The real kicker is that some people chose Zendesk based on their price advantage. Ooops. Bad show Zendesk.

Sense of Community

I read a chapter in a book about creating a successful startup. The book was published last year so I hope the info is relevant. Your company needs to belong to the community for it to thrive. To manage this you need a dedicated community manager.

The community manager will essentially keep tabs on what people are saying about your company and/or your product.

Blogging is key to a startup. It works. You must provide value in your blog. It cannot be blatant marketing. You also need to be on Twitter. These things might sounds fundamental. However I am guilty of not using Twitter to socialize my business.

Finally you need to do some PR. This can be done through bloggers and reporters. Get to know these people. Get to the point with your PR releases. And if you have the cash, hire a PR agency. That's all for now.

Anonymous Accusation

I read a rant from the makers of the Friendly Rank web site. They have a function where you can upload your pictures to the site. Then it asks people to rank which picture looks best. The site then let's you know what your best picture is. The idea is that you can use your best picture as your profile picture.

Friendly Rank allegedly tried to license the technology to the OkCupid dating site. However they were turned down. Now OkCupid has released their MyBestFace function. Guess what that does? It let's you upload pictures, has people vote on the best ones, and let's you know the results.

Now this may in fact be a case of OkCupied ripping off somebody else's ideas. If so, Friendly Rank should take them to court. Hopefully they have a patent on the technology. However the thing that seemed suspicious to me was that the Friendly Rank web page that complains about OkCupid ripping then off is signed "Shannon B".

LOL. Who is Shannon B? And why is she not posting her last name, company title, and contact information. It is almost like she is hiding behind the omitted last name. If you have a valid complaint, let people know who you are, and stand behind it. Your complaint loses all its power when you try to lodge it anonymously.

Software Mentality

I just read a rant about the right way to think of software. You got to make your customer king. Your software has no value other than making the customer happy.

Help your customer get a job done. Software should assist in getting the job done fast. Or it should make them happy. Users do not care about your software. Optimally it should be invisible to them.

Don't make your users learn how to use your software. Make the use transparent. Then you will get happy customers. Happy customers means you make money. Win win.

Great Deals

I saw an unusual offer for a bundle of older computer games this week. They were offering 6 games. You were allowed to pay anything you want for the games. You could further decide where you payment gets applied (e..g. to charity, to the original developers, etc). This seemed like a great deal.

Then I thought about this for a while. Would I actually play these old games? Probably not. So even for a low cost, they would not be a great deal. I was in the minority. A lot of people decided to buy the game pack. They mostly paid between $5 and $10 for the pack. The total revenue from this promotion was over a million dollars.

The deal was only valid for one week. The week is up. Now I am glad I did not buy the game pack. Turns out they are open sourcing the code for all the games. Now I can get them for free. I even get the source code. Nothing beats free. Free is much different than low cost. I bet this was the plan all along. I would have felt ripped off if I bought the games and they became open source the next day.

Nothing is Free

I was reading this blog today. The author had a technical argument with another guy. He really worked hard to defend his position in his post. What caught my eye was an advertisement on the side of his blog. The ad said that I could get technical books for free.

This is when I clicked the ad. At the very least, the blog author was going to make some cash from my click. The landing page for the ad emphasized that I could win free books, and that shipping was free too. For a second I contemplated signing up to be able to claim my chance at free books. Then I came to my senses.

Why would somebody be giving away books for free? Technical books are expensive. There has to be a catch. I don't need to even look further to find out what the catch is. There is always a catch. These guys are not in the business of losing money by purchasing free books for me. I will give them credit. They had me going for a second. However they could not close the deal.

Apps That Matter

How do you create an app that people like? It is all too tempting to create an app that is just a big ad. Customers will see right through that. You need to be more subtle. Functionality is king here. Make something useful.

You got to give in order to get. And in this case, the community wants you to do a lot of giving before they trust you. This is a difficult line to walk. Here is an idea. Put a video up on YouTube showing how to use your app. Personally I think it would be good to hire a booth babe to star in the video. But that's just me.

Before you run out and code your app, make sure you have a purpose. Write it down. That way you have a concrete goal. And it will show in the app you churn out. Good stuff. Now go and write that useful app. If you build it, they will come.

Become an iPhone Developer

The iPhone is hot. You should be able to bang out an app and make some bucks right? Not so fast. This is no easy feat. There is a lot of info to learn before you write your first app. And it does not always help if you already know how to program for the Mac.

The iPhone has its own operating system. It is a type of Mac OS. The APIs to code to are based on Cocoa, which is an OO framework for apps. You actually use a scaled down version of Cocoa called Cocoa Touch.

You code your apps in Objective C. This language is C with some extra stuff. It is not C++. What are you waiting for? Time to learn iPhone app development skills.

Success Criteria

I read something on the net recently about what makes a person good to be successful at running a Micro ISV. There were many insightful comments to that post that I want to cover today. There were some common themes in the comments. You just need to stick to it. This requires passion, persistence, and dedication.

Here is something that is disappointing. Your success rate does not have much to do with your technical abilities. Development is only about 10% of the work involved. The other 90% of the work involves things such as advertising, marketing, and selling. You also need to work on processing payments and finding suppliers.

You got to be willing to put on a suit to sell your software. To be successful you need to have a positive outlook. You need to be in a good mood to be able to run your own software business. A common catch phrase is that you need to be smart and be able to just get things done.

Stay focused. You might be able to be successful and get rich.

Gimmicks That Work

I got a big envelope from a mail order company I use a lot. The envelope contained a poster sized certificate. It was given to me because I was a good customer. The certificate allowed me to get some free stuff if I placed an order. Normally I would laugh at such crazy tactics. But in this case, it actually worked.

No. I did not run out and place an order with this company. But I did keep the certificate. And I plan to paste the thing up on my wall. I have already received some compliments from the certificate. It looks very authentic. There is a seal on it. And it is printed on paper that looks official.

Here is the thing. The certificate by itself did not create any company loyalty for me. It is the reasonably priced goods they offer. During these hard economic times, I love to get a good deal. The quality of the merchandise is not all that high. I have returned a bunch of stuff because it has fallen apart. However they have a 100% money back or replacement guarantee.

This is funny. The company is not that prompt with their shipment of my orders. However I always keep coming back for more with this company. Sometimes they offer free shipping. Other times they offer free gifts. They are always sending me offers in the mail. I am finding that I buy most of my clothes from this company. That’s some successful marketing, even if they resort to gimmicks every once in a while.

Too Good To Be True

I saw a video on a web page that was pitching a service. You never saw the narrator. However you saw a picture of his family. They looked quite normal. The guy said it costs $97 to join his club. He claims to make thousands of dollars a day. He showed a picture of an account which made him $2.6M this year. The last month he claimed to have made $117k.

It was clear that this guy was a good talker. He sounded young. This guy’s business is promoting other people’s products. He is trying to sell people his coaching services in the form of a club. He guarantees results or you get your money back. He pokes fun at infomercials. Why is he charging money to join? That is to limit the number of people involved. You get email access to him if you pay to join.

Why would somebody give away the keys to the kingdom of $117k per month? The guy says it is charity work for him. He likes to help other people. He considers the $97 price too low, and admits the price may rise a bit.

This is the gist of his technique. He promotes products using Google AdWords. He will show you what he does. Then you can copy it. The products he promotes give you a lot of money for each lead you generate. He claims you can get 100 times your initial investment. He advises against using ads targeted to Google search. Instead you should use AdWords on specific sites. His focus is the USA and UK markets.

There are some tricks he shares for free. Capitalize words in ads. Have a copyright sign in there too. He recommends that you have your own domain. He says that the money you make with his system can buy you happiness. His club let’s you get into his site, where he has 60 instructional videos.

I am usually very leery of such pitches. Why would anybody want to share the secrets of success? If somebody was really into charity work, they would just give away their money. I would be willing to take $97 or $970 or $9700 cash from this guy. I will thank him profusely.

Randall Kennedy is a Devil

Randall C. Kennedy used to be a columnist for InfoWorld. The key word is used to. IDG fired him recently due to controversy over his claims about Windows 7 memory issues. He is a devil. More specifically Randall Kennedy is actually Craig Barth, CTO of Devil Mountain Software.
Craig, or Randall as he was known to InfoWorld readers, claimed that 86% of Windows 7 computers have memory problem. He based this on data collected from Devil Mountain’s XPNet. This is a collection of computers using Devil Mountain software and reporting the results back to the company. The memory problem claim has been hotly contested in the blogosphere.

The real story seems to have been Barth”s column under the pseudonym. The guy was hyping products from his own company. He was able to keep this a secret from the public for a while. When the Windows 7 memory issues became front lines, Kennedy’s identity cover was blown.

Hey. I am all about writing under a pseudonym. But you got to make sure you don’t have conflicting interests when you write. Otherwise it is going to look bad. I am talking real bad here. Everyone seems to be distancing themselves from Barth. His company is probably going to suffer. And I doubt anybody will be letting him write columns for their magazine. Ownage.

The Cost of One Mistake

My mom does not like the gifts I get her. She says I get stuff that just clutters her house. Not wanting to be a poor gift giver, I asked my mom what she actually wanted. She said she loves flowers. Great.

I have a local florist who delivers. For a while I have been calling them up, and having them send my mom flowers for her birthday and mother's day and Christmas.

This works out for all involved. My mom gets what she wants. I don't have to do much. And the florist makes some decent cash. Everything was going well until their last delivery.

My mom called me up last Christmas and said the florist delivered some dead flowers to her house. She called the florist up to complain. They sent a replacement set the next day.

However the damage had already been done. I was pissed off that I was paying $50 or $60 for some dead flowers. At that moment I decided to stop using this florist. They had to deliver top quality flowers for the high price they were charging. One screw up cost them me as a customer. That's a lot of lost revenue. I was paying upwards of $150 a year for a few flower deliveries. It is a tough business.

Research and Development Tax Credit

The US government has a tax credit on the books that companies can take if they invest in research and development. If you use a development process to create new functionality, then you qualify for this credit. Good stuff.

There are some legal stipulations you must meet to claim the credit. But most software development activities qualify. The work must be technical in nature. There must be a probability of failure. And you need to be doing some experimental research.

Your business should file Form 6765 with your taxes to claim the credit. This is something your CPA should know about. The R&D credit is an old one dating back to the early eighties. Cash in now.


It can take a long time working on your Micro ISV before you turn a profit. During that time you need to eat and pay bills. One way to deal with this is to save up some up money beforehand. Or you could just work your Micro ISV on the side while you have a day job. A final technique is to freelance while you develop your product.

I read a book on becoming a great freelancer. There are many issues involved. The term freelancer comes from a being soldier for hire. A freelancer is free to choose the work they do. They are their own bosses. However they have clients that they work for, even though legally they are their own bosses.

Another name for a freelancer is a contractor. Freelancers frequently have more than one client. They run their own business. To be a good freelancer, you must be good at what you do. It is hard to get started in freelancing. But after a while you will have repeat clients and a solid code base to draw upon.

If you decide to freelance on the side while working a normal job, don’t do freelance work while on the clock for your employer. This might sound like a good way to double dip. But it will hurt you in the end. Good luck freelancers of the world.