24 Jul

App Cubby Blog – The Sparrow Problem

Given the incredible progress and innovation we’ve seen in mobile apps over the past few years, I’m not sure we’re any worse off at a macro-economic level, but things have definitely changed and Sparrow is the proverbial canary in the coal mine. The age of selling software to users at a fixed, one-time price is coming to an end. It’s just not sustainable at the absurdly low price points users have come to expect. Sure, independent developers may scrap it out one app at a time, and some may even do quite well and be the exception to the rule, but I don’t think Sparrow would have sold-out if the team — and their investors — believed they could build a substantially profitable company on their own. The gold rush is well and truly over.

via App Cubby Blog – The Sparrow Problem. There is a real problem going to occur with regards to the App Store and desktop/mobile software in general if pure software businesses aren’t able to sustain themselves in the long-term. Apple can get away selling software for cheap thanks to hardware profits, what is the option for software only firms?

22 Jul

The Word of Notch – On Patents

But there is no way in hell you can convince me that it’s beneficial for society to not share ideas. Ideas are free. They improve on old things, make them better, and this results in all of society being better. Sharing ideas is how we improve.

via The Word of Notch – On Patents. Notch (the guy who started Minecraft) has a really good piece on why patents are a bad idea. My opinion on patents has slowly changed from thinking that just software and business process patents to getting more convinced that patents in general are a bad idea.

26 Jan

Apple Outsider – Hollywood Still Hates You

Hollywood continues to completely ignore that lesson. It continues to punish the people who play by the rules with an insufferable customer experience. This is the sole reason piracy is up and profits are down: because doing it right totally sucks. And that’s apparently how the studios want it.

via Apple Outsider – Hollywood Still Hates You. It bears repeating, the vast majority of piracy is people just trying to get content the easiest way.

16 Jan

O’Reilly Radar – The President’s challenge

All I can think is: we gave you the Internet. We gave you the Web. We gave you MP3 and MP4. We gave you e-commerce, micropayments, PayPal, Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, the iPad, the iPhone, the laptop, 3G, wifi–hell, you can even get online while you’re on an AIRPLANE. What the hell more do you want from us?

Take the truck, the boat, the helicopter, that we’ve sent you. Don’t wait for the time machine, because we’re never going to invent something that returns you to 1965 when copying was hard and you could treat the customer’s convenience with contempt.

via O’Reilly Radar – The President’s challenge. Cory Doctorow has a wonderful saying “Copying is never going to get harder than it is now.” The idea that we’ll be able to go back in time and make it harder for people to get digital information/media/anything is just wrong. Businesses (hello entertainment industry) seems to ignore that fact time and time again. Businesses can either accept that getting media via the internet is getting easier and easier and try to make it simpler for consumers to get it legally or they will fail.

11 Jan

Gigantt Blog – The GitHub Job Interview

That’s why I’m advocating the GitHub job interview. Open-Source projects are a fantastic way to collaborate with people you don’t know too well. And GitHub in particular, with its ease of forking and pull-requests is just the best (and biggest) platform for open-source collaboration.

Here’s what you do. You come up with a cool idea of an open-source project. This becomes your company’s development sandbox. Candidates are asked to then contribute to the project in some way. You want to see them code? Ask them to develop a module. You want to see them tackle a bug? Ask them to choose one from the bug-list. This works for every aspect of development work. You can design features together. You can gauge their communication skills. You can see how well they handle reviews. You can ask them to document their work and see how well they can write. But above all, you’re not taking advantage of anyone, and true developers probably won’t mind investing time into an open-source effort. 

Choose your GitHub project wisely. It should be something relatively fun. It ought to use the same technology stack your company uses. And it should be relatively simple to grasp, because the point is not to be investing too much time training people you’re not yet hiring.

via Gigantt Blog – The GitHub Job Interview. This sounds like a really solid way to do a job interview.

05 Jan

The Contactually Blog – E-mail is the Universal Platform

We believe that e-mail is the universal communication medium. It is the best way to reach anyone, anywhere, for whatever reason. Your e-mail account stores the greatest knowledge repository outside of your brain – who you’re talking to, about what, when. Regardless of the communication medium you may use primarily in an individual relationship, any meaningful communication touches your inbox at some point.

via The Contactually Blog – E-mail is the Universal Platform. I don’t put much stock in stories that say e-mail is dead for precisely this reason. It’s hard to replace e-mail with another tool that has so many advantages.

01 Jan

Subtraction.com – Subscribing to The New York Times

The total customer experience here is haphazard at best, and, at worst — I hate to say this because I am still friendly with many people at the company, but in truth there’s no way around it — it’s insulting. It shows a certain amount of disrespect to customers for a company to choose not to present a full accounting of available offers, displayed plainly and in an easy-to-compare chart, so that anyone can fully understand all of the options and decide quickly.

Why would it be so hard to be as explicit that? I ask that rhetorically, but from my experience as an employee I remember exactly why: The Times as a business remains both in thrall of and a prisoner of its old print mathematics, wherein pricing for delivery of the physical newspaper was complicated and subject to frequent and fleeting special promotions. By design, print subscribers were never sure if they were getting the best deal on their subscriptions, and that mentality has transferred over to its digital business. The result is sadly hostile to those looking to subscribe digitally, and gives the unmistakable impression that the company is gaming its customers.

Just for comparison, here’s how some other digital businesses price their products: Netflix is US$8 a month. Spotify is between US$5 and US$10 per month. Evernote is US$5 per month or US$45 per year. Birchbox is US$10 per month. Hulu Plus is US$8 per month. Flickr is US$25 per year. MLB.tv is US$25 per year. And so on. There is really no good reason that pricing for The New York Times couldn’t be as simple as that.

via Subtraction.com – Subscribing to The New York Times. Media companies respect their customers or maybe not.

16 Dec

The Year of C.E.O. Failures Explained – NYTimes.com

Last spring, I taught a class at the Columbia Business School called “What Makes a Hit a Hit—and a Flop a Flop.” I focused on consumer-tech success stories and disasters.

I distinctly remember the day I focused on products that were rushed to market when they were full of bugs — and the company knew it (can you say “BlackBerry Storm?”). I sagely told my class full of twentysomethings that I was proud to talk to them now, when they were young and impressionable — that I hoped I could instill some sense of Doing What’s Right before they became corrupted by the corporate world.

But it was too late.

To my astonishment, hands shot up all over the room. These budding chief executives wound up telling me, politely, that I was wrong. That there’s a solid business case for shipping half-finished software. “You get the revenue flowing,” one young lady told me. “You don’t want to let your investors down, right? You can always fix the software later.”

You can always fix the software later. Wow.

That’s right. Use your customers as beta testers. Don’t worry about burning them. Don’t worry about souring them on your company name forever. There will always be more customers where those came from, right?

That “ignore the customer” approach hasn’t worked out so well for Hewlett-Packard, Netflix and Cisco. All three suffered enormous public black eyes. All three looked like they had no idea what they were doing.

Maybe all of those M.B.A.’s pouring into the workplace know something we don’t. Maybe there’s actually a shrewd master plan that the common folk can’t even fathom.

But maybe, too, there’s a solid business case to be made for factoring public reaction and the customer’s interest into big business decisions. And maybe, just maybe, that idea will become other C.E.O.s’ 2011 New Year’s resolution.

via NYTimes.com – The Year of C.E.O. Failures Explained. I’m not certain if business school teach that only thing matters is the profit you can make or if it is the result of something else. However, business schools seem to create an environment that rewards not making happy customers, not doing the ethical thing, not doing the thing that protects the environment down the road. One of the ways in which Apple succeeds is by releasing products when they are fully finished and not half-baked.

12 Dec

Adblock Plus – Allowing acceptable ads in Adblock Plus

Starting with Adblock Plus 2.0 you can allow some of the advertising that is considered not annoying. By doing this you support websites that rely on advertising but choose to do it in a non-intrusive way. And you give these websites an advantage over their competition which encourages other websites to use non-intrusive advertising as well. In the long term the web will become a better place for everybody, not only Adblock Plus users. Without this feature we run the danger that increasing Adblock Plus usage will make small websites unsustainable.

via Adblock Plus – Allowing acceptable ads in Adblock Plus. I’m all onboard with this, in fact I’ve even written my own Adblock Plus filters to enable ads that are both interesting and un-intrusive.

26 Nov

FarukAt.eş – Micro-payments And The Web

In 2003, Apple’s iTunes Store proved an important point about online/digital economies: people are perfectly willing to pay for content they consume, as long as you maximize return value and minimize all required effort and friction in paying. Online publishing has, thus far, done a poor job at mimicking this concept.

The two types of content aren’t parallels, however; news content on the web is typically consumed for free (thanks to everyone offering content for free on the web for the first ten years), whereas iTunes content is typically paid for up front, and consumed only thereafter. The failure of paywalls shows that when it comes to news on the web, people are ill-inclined to pay up front before they can read an article. That same truth makes it hard to convince people to sign up for subscriptions unless you offer additional value, but with news it’s hard to come up with valuable offerings that don’t involve withholding some news from non-subscribers.

I’ve only very superficially described this problem so far, but already you can see the complexities and challenges publishers face. So what’s the solution?

via FarukAt.eş – Micro-payments And The Web. One of the great big problems on the web today is how to make money from publishing content (if your end goal is making money from content). I think the solution isn’t as simple as merely paying for every dip into the stream you get from a publisher as Faruk proposes but half the solution is making the payment process minimal.