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January 31, 2006

@ VSLive! SF

If you happen to be attending the VSLive! Conference in San Francisco, I'll be at and about the Apress booth there Wednesday, Feb. 1. Stop by and say hello!

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GTD 2006.22: Getting Things done with voice mail

This may sound like an oxymoron, but you can Get Things Done with voice mail, if you set expectations correctly. The key here, whether it’s your voice mail greeting or messages you leave is to communicate what the listener’s next action should be and what they get out of the bargain.

Voice mail is a trade – you are either trading some of your valuable time in the hopes the person who left the voice mail has something to say, or you're spending some of your time leaving a voice mail that will hopefully not get deleted.

Now these tips don’t apply to your friends and family who are exempt and have your cell number, or the slimy cockroaches known as telemarketers: these are rules of the road for business voice mail.

Your voice mail greeting:

  • Redirect to email. The first thing a caller hears when they call me is if they want a response, they are better off emailing me. Then I give them my email address, slowly, in case they don’t get the hint. I can deal with 10 emails in the time it takes to deal with one meandering voice mail. This gets rid of most worthless calls.
  • Set expectations. I then point out that I check for messages at the beginning, middle and end of workdays. Period. During the 80’s and 90’s, I saw from the inside dozens of name brand corporations whose employees paid a “voice mail tax” on their productivity because everyone was in the habit and set the expectation that voice mails would be picked up and acted on immediately. Now, those same companies pay the “email tax”. You don’t have to.
  • Cover the basics. Finally, I ask the caller to please leave their number or better still their email slowly, and what they want, and whether this call needs to be returned.

This all may sound like a long VM greeting to get through: good. I don’t want voice mail. Did I mention that my business phone’s ringer is permanently off, and the little blinking light is covered by a USPS Ayn Rand stamp from some years back?

Of course, sometimes the show is on my foot, and I need to leave a voice mail. Again, I’m asking the person about to be subjected to Yet Another Voice mail to give up a measurable fraction of their remaining days alive: I’d better get to the point and make it worthwhile.

When leaving a voice mail:

  • Who am I and what is the (short) reason for my call. Not my life’s story, not everything about whatever, not even a whole lot. The point of the message is either to complete the communication loop, provide the Next Action or coordinate communication.
    • Closing the loop – Provide them with the information requested. Done.
    • Next Action – They need to do this, I’m going to do that, whatever moves the ball down the field.
    • Coordinate Communication – Presumably, if we are playing voice mail tag or it makes sense to talk, I’ll suggest how and when and for how long.
  • Desired Next Action. Does this voice mail need a voice reply, an action, an email or nothing.
  • Facilitate Next Action. If I do need, and want, their call, my telephone number or more usefully, my email, slowly, twice.

If I sound like I think voice mail is a crime against Getting Things Done in the age of email, I do. But as long as we’re stuck with it, set expectations whether getting or leaving voice mail that pre-process for your Getting Things Done process.


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January 30, 2006

Doing customer service right - Business Cards came today

If any micro-ISVs or prospective micro-ISVs wonder how important customer service is, wonder no more. Great customer service is absolutely critical to making – or breaking – a small company. Let me illustrate the point: I just got today my new business cards which I ordered from printingforless.com last week after getting a recommendation from someone on the Joel on Software – Business of Software forum.

The cards are great – the best I’ve ever created for myself. I’m sure a real graphic artist could have improved the images front and back, but they work, and the printing job/card stock are superior: a good heavy card stock, colors as spec’ed and consistent.

Wait a minute, you say, online card printers are a dime a dozen: don’t you have to cut costs to the bone, outsource whatever tech support you do and advertise the hell out of it to keep the pipeline of new suckers customers stocked? Nope: printingforless.com does exactly the opposite:

  • Preorder, I called and talked to a real live person, Hannah, in Livingston, Montana where printingforless.com has their business. I must have talked to her for 30 minutes on this tiny little business card order.
  • Having the customer in mind, they make it easy to switch to them by supporting all sorts of file formats, and letting you see proofs online of what you’re getting.
  • They said I’d have it today, and I did. That’s rare.
  • They work in small teams of three and their camaraderie and willingness to take responsibility come through.
  • As far as I can tell, their advertising is word of mouth plus Google AdWords (“Printing with us is easier than the search you just did to see this ad.”)
  • They fuel their WOM advertising by letting current customers pass along to new customers a Promotion Code (RP1684R98) that will save you $25 on your next order. (Note, I’ll get $25 too, but being able to save $25 on a small business card order is nice).

A good business card is a must, even for a micro-ISV. I’d highly recommend them.

(This .jpg doesn't do justice to the card, but when you see it as the .pdf proof online, it's easy to know what you are actually getting.)


GTD 2006.21: Rude is unproductive

In the rush to get ever more things done, it's very easy to jettison being polite. You know, sending someone a thank you card, or even saying thank you tends to drop to the bottom of the To Do list and off.

It's very easy, and it's very stupid.

The winner of the game in life is not who has the most toys, or who gets the most things done; it's the people who most make a positive difference in other people's lives. Part of that is being polite. (Note: I did not say soft, or being a pushover; I said being polite, like in fit for a civil society.)

So here's a way to save time, thank your friends and be polite: find a good web card service and use them. My personal top favorite is JacquieLawson.com. Her web cards are amazing pieces of art that I'm happy to take credit for sending, and at $8/yr., no less.

Also, for graphic artists and illustrators thinking about going the micro-ISV route, Jacquie's story makes for very interesting reading. The micro-ISV Way is by no means limited to programmers.

So, the next time someone does something nice for you, be nice - you'll get further in life that way and enjoy the trip more.


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January 27, 2006

Guy's 11 micro-ISV Commandments

(Posted first at http://mymicroisv.com)

Guy Kawasaki's latest post on the Art of Bootstrapping is such good advice, every micro-ISV should print it and read it until they know it by heart.

Here's the bullet point version, just to whet you appetite so you go read Guy's post: 

  1. Focus on cash flow,  not profitability.
  2. Forecast from the bottom up.
  3. Ship, then test.      
  4. Forget the proven team.
  5. Start as a service business.
  6. Focus on function, not form [in what you buy].
  7. Pick your battles.      
  8. Understaff.
  9. Go direct.
  10. Position against the leader.
  11. Take the “red pill.”

    I'd add a #12: Pick carefully your place on the Long Tail. That is, find, define and be relevant to an unmet need out there that can be Googled with a few keywords.

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GTD 2006.20: Your Weekly Review Checklist

The Weekly Review is a key part of making Getting Things Done work and it is a task that repeats, and can be incrementally improved over time with a checklist. Wrapping up your week by running down your Weekly Review Checklist is a great way to complete your week.

Do you have a checklist you follow when working through your Weekly Review? Make one today: here’s mine to get you started, please feel free to post your Weekly Review Checklist as a comment.

Weekly Review Checklist:



  • Review Act On folder and either delete, add as a task to MLP or process if it takes less than 5 minutes.
  • Review Waiting On folder – delete, send reminder.
  • Inbox – process to empty.

Joel On Software – Business of Software Forum:

  • Moderate if needed.
  • Note interesting posts for repurposing as MyMicroISV.com Answers.


  • Check comments and trackbacks.
  • Note ideas for blog story list.


  • Check for unresolved issues – send brief checkin email.
  • Check on Discussion boards reply/moderate.


  • Inbox: Dump and empty – trash, file add to correct project, start Small Project.
  • Phone: Clear Call Log.


Review PlanSheet on each Project:

  • Project still has value?
  • Project still on course?
  • All Project Tasks are in MLP?
  • Identify/schedule Next Action tasks for the next week.

Review Small Projects Folders

  • Small Project still has value?
  • Small Project due this next week? Set next Action and schedule.

Other Reviews as needed.


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January 26, 2006

Great Design: the ultimate GTD.

Joel Spolsky is at it again. Every so often, Joel decides the programming community needs a collective kick in the assumptions and we get, like today, something that will benefit just about everybody.

Six long years after writing a great user interface book, Joel has started a series of major posts at Joel on Software on design writ large. Think is is mundane stuff of interest to programmers with too much time on their hands? Think again. We live in a designed world, from the cell phones we can't figure out to health care systems that kill at least 50,000 people a year accidentally.

Design is the ultimate Getting Things Done hack. And good design, be it software, a micro-ISV or a traditional business (or a cell phone, a gadget or a country's health care system) is hard.

You see? There are two requirements: lots of features and few features. Ah! And that is where the zen-like mystery of design comes in.

Joel's first draft of the first installment is up - I'm eagerly looking forward to the next installment!

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GTD 2006.19: Listen to your (online) friends

As we spend more of our lives online, it's a very good idea to listen to what your online friends have to say about how you come across online. Your friends are the ones who will tell you when you've made something of a fool of yourself in public, so you know to correct it.

Whether it's the posts you blog, or your emails, or what you say in discussion forums, pay attention and give priority to the people you respect whom read your stuff.

After all, it's just about impossible to Get Things Done if your zipper is down!


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Why the same post 4 times last night

Thanks to my friend Thomas Rushton for pointing out that my last post made it's appearance not once but four times. TypePad has been working just fine until last night when I clicked the Save button and got an "We've encountered an error. You're post is toast. Have a nice day." message.


This was one of my better posts; to see it swallowed up whole by TypePad did not make me a happy camper. To TypePad's credit, the "go back to exactly where you were, no worries" button worked, and there was my post's content, ready to go.

But three more tries got me three more error messages. Finally, it took. Why I don't know.

About an hour later, I got this message:

    Thanks for the report and we apologize for the error.
    We experienced a brief issue where some people received
    errors when making a change within the TypePad application,
    but we have now resolved the issue.
    You should be able to use the application normally again,
    but if you do experience any other problems, please let us

2 points to TypePad for dealing with this so well. But -3 for having the error in the first place. It's enough to make me believe in desktop software again.

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January 25, 2006

6 metaways of Getting Things Done

(Posted first at http://mymicroisv.com)

Starting a micro-ISV and putting bread on the table and having a life of some sort is definitely a tall order.

Over on the Joel on Software Business of Software forum today, someone actually suggested doing “polyphasic sleep” where you go 24/7 everyday, keeping to a schedule of naps that net out to about 2.5 hours of sleep a day as a way to make it all work.

2.5 hours of sleep a day, every day? Sounds like something out of the movie A Clockwork Orange.

http://www.britmovie.co.uk/directors/s_kubrick/filmography/001.htmlI can just see the Execduhives running around the halls of certain companies excitedly gibbering to each other over this one, and I admit given my workload it sounds tempting as hell. But. Do. Not. Do. It. Seriously.

As an alternative, here’s my 6 metaways of Getting Things Done both for my clients, my editors and my micro-ISV. These are the biggies. Call them lifehacks if you prefer.

  • Like with Like. Clump the things you do. Errands with Errands, Marketing with Marketing, Tech Support with Tech Support and so on. It takes you a hell of a lot longer to switch types of tasks than you PC, so group what you can group and flow from discrete task to discrete task.
  • Time Shift. Be it shopping at the store or returning email or watching TV or just about anything else, you can pick up significant yardage by doing it on your schedule and not when everyone else is.
  • Move your body, focus your mind. Unless you happen to be an AI on the Internet, that means treating your body as something more than a pudgy container for your overworked brain. Moving your body – commonly called exercise – focuses your mind. The biggest timesaver in the world is thinking better. It is not coincidence that David Allen of Getting Things Done fame comes from a martial arts background. Twenty years ago for me it was taekwondo and aerobics; starting 6 weeks ago it's kickboxing and strength conditioning, and my productivity is twice that of two months ago.
  • Get your To Do List out of your head. Now, I use the software I wrote and sell (MasterList Professional) to do this, but there are plenty of other good desktop and web based and plain old paper-based ways of doing the same thing. Simply put, you have got to get your To Do List out of your mind and out of your way so you can think and work.
  • 1440 is the Law, get over it. You have 1,440 minutes a day and that’s it. What you get out of that time most depends on how you spend it, so start treating the commitments you make, the deadlines you agree to and the way you do things like you were paying cold hard cash for each and every thing, because you are. That means, you are not going to get everything done everyday, or perhaps most days. What matters is did you get the more valuable things done or not?
  • Persevere. I’m not the smartest guy in room, and I’m definitely not the best programmer in the world. But I’m the most persevering son of a bitch on this planet and I do not give in or give up. Nor should you. So don’t waste time trying to do everything all the time, every time, because there’s no way that is going to happen. On the other hand, if you preserve, if you keep coming at what you need to get done, there’s no way you can’t succeed.

Make no mistake: doing your day job, starting your micro-ISV and not ending up estranged or just plain strange makes the product development and marketing stuff look easy, but it is doable, I just know it is!

GTD 2006.18: Drawing a Blank

Getting Things Done emphases just that, but what if you're having one of those days when you're drawing a blank? You know what I mean - one of those days when you just don't feel motivated, don't feel engaged with any of the things you know you need to be doing, and taking the day off is not an option?

What to do?

Any action is better than no action, so here's a short list of ways to de-lethargize yourself, and get back in gear:

  • Clean a drawer. Seriously. Cleaning out a messy drawer is a good way to get the Getting Things Done part of you psyche going. Plus, you end up with a nicely organized drawer.
  • Go exercise. Do what you do to exercise, only do it now and let a little strenuous exertion clear the cobwebs. Not into exercise? You should be, but that's another post. For now, go take a 15 minute walk, get some fresh air. It may be cold, but its fresh.
  • Break off a piece. Take a task you know you should do today and just commit to doing 15 minutes of it. By the end of the 15 minutes, you'll have some momentum for the rest of it.

Getting Things Done is for people, not robots. Sometimes you have to turn the crank a little harder to get started.

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January 24, 2006

Writing for the Web well

Whether you're a micro-ISV or just trying to get the last blog post out for the day (ahem), here's a short and sweet article with good tips on how to write well for the web:

How to Write Successfully for the Web

It is part of the wikiHow project that Google promotes as one of the contents you can add to your personalize Home page. Well worth the read.


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FeedDemon 2.0b - digging deeper into the problem

Nick Bradbury is at it again, digging deeper into the problem to come up with really good software. Nick wrote in his micro-ISV days one of the best RSS readers out there: FeedDemon. Now Nick has started doing version 2.0 in a public beta you can download. And with one glance, I can see he's been doing that digging deeper thing:


With over 2,000 RSS readers "in the wild", does the world need another? Yes - if it can dig deeper into the problem domain of discovering, organizing and utilizing RSS feeds.

That's Nick's big competitive advantage, and one very much worth thinking about regarding your micro-ISV.

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GTD 2006.17: Unplanned Work is an oxymoron

Today's Getting Things Done Tip is simple: there is no such thing as unplanned work.

Now your first reaction might be, "My work life is fighting fires and alligators all day long, what do you mean there's no such thing as unplanned work!?"

Just that. There's unexpected work, there's unanticipated work, there's even emergency/crisis work. But "Work" is:

"sustained physical or mental effort to overcome obstacles and achieve an objective or result." (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Ed.)

That sustained effort to achieve an objective means you are doing more than simply yanking your hand away from a stove burner; you are thinking what steps are needed to achieve the desired result. In other words, planning.

The key question is do you have a GTD procedure for dealing with "unplanned work" or does it just barge into your life and knock over your carefully laid plans?

Here's a few basic ways of dealing with unplanned work and keeping your GTD focus:

  • Decide first: must I do this work this second above all else right now, or not?
  • If not, write down the pertinent information and drop it into your own In Box.
  • If so, take a moment and think through the tasks and steps necessary to do this bit of work.
    • What's the true Next Actionable Step? 
    • What is the objective of this work?
    • How will I reorganize my day?

That one minute of planning your "unplanned work" will save you time and may help you get your day back on course.

Need more convincing? have a look at this post over at Genuine Curiosity that sparked this post...


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January 23, 2006

Iterative Development Techniques

(first posted to http://mymicroisv.com)

Not sure how to structure your micro-ISV development efforts? There's an excellent article on one approach to structuring your development at Gamasutra by Julian Gold excerpted from his book,  Object-Oriented Game Development.

Although the book itself is only available from a secondary seller at Amazon, you can find the article at Gamasutra.

Gold's Approach in a nutshell:

  • Build your micro-ISV's code structure first at a set of Nulls classes/procedures. Doing so defines much of the scope and structure of the app, even though "real coding" has yet to start.
  • You are going to be adding/rewriting code and working up from Null to Base (placeholders) to Nominal (ready to release) to Optimal (last word on this feature).
  • Does this mean you are going to write the same class 4 times? yes - and you would have anyway as your understanding of your app evolves. But by explicitly recognizing the fact, you can gain considerable value by determining which features get done to what level when.

Good reading, even if you aren't (yet) a micro-ISV.

GTD 2006.16: 2 quick email tips

Here’s two very simple tips to smooth a couple of rough edges off your Outlook Getting Things Done process:

  • If you accidently file or delete an email, control Z will reverse your action.
  • You get an email that you both a) need to put in your Waiting On folder and b) Act On by the end of the day. Copy/Paste it to create a duplicate and move one copy to Waiting On, one to Act On.


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January 20, 2006

GTD 2006.15: Graphics and GTD

This tip goes out to all readers who (like I) are not graphic artists, but have found themselves saddled with a PowerPoint presentation, a cover for a report, or the need to design new business cards.

  • First off, it's going to take you at least 4 times longer than you thought to do it right. Visual "stuff" is hard to get right and easy to spot when it's wrong.
  • Second, you are going to need at least one other person to proofread you multimedia project: its way too easy to miss typos while trying to get graphics to behave and look good.
  • Third, that other person needs to be someone whom you're very comfortable with because they are going to need to tell your first four attempts are enough to induce vomiting. This is not what you are going to want to hear after working far longer and harder than you had planned, but it is what you need to hear.
  • Lastly, there is no such thing as perfect when it comes to this sort of business, so get over it and be prepared to settle for good.


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January 19, 2006

Tag, you're it!

You may have noticed that I've started adding Technorati tags to nearly every posting. I recently interviewed David Sifry, founder & CEO of Technorati for my next Apress book, Clear Blogging, and David was kind enough to explain to me just how valuable these tags are for boosting readership.

If you are a micro-ISV blogger, I strongly recommend tagging your posts in addition to whatever categories you are already doing.

Here's a little web tool at ICE - Improving Customer Experience that will generate html to create one or more Technorati, Flickr, Del.icio.us or Furl tags for you. Very nice!


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Jumping ship.

Well, that was a disappointing experience.

Last week I launched http://mymicroisv.com as a Movable Type Blog + web site, all hosted at Yahoo! Small Business. Today, I've started the process of moving the domain over to a WordPress + web site, hosted by the same company that hosts my micro-ISVs domain, Alentus.com.

Life is too short to spend your time waiting for pages to load on the order of 10-20 seconds a page when attempting to work through web hosting control panel; it's too  short to wait two days for a email tech support request promised in 5-6 hours; it's too short working with a blogging platform that I thought would be even better than TypePad, but isn't.

So, http://mymicroisv.com will be getting a new home in the next few days.

GTD 2006.14: Small Projects make life easier

Here's a simple GTD organizational tip if you find there's always a couple dozen things in your life that are too big to just get done, and too small to warrant being their own project: treat them as Small Projects. Here's how:

  1. Make 25 or so paper folders, Label them SP1 to SP25.
  2. In your My Documents, make a Small Projects Folder and in that, 25 folders (SP1 to SP25).
  3. In Outlook, do the same thing as you did in My Documents.
  4. In FireFox or Internet Explorer (or both), do the same thing.
  5. Start a single list of what each of these Small Projects is temporarily about.
  6. Start with the first piece of paper that's a Small Project, file it paper folder SP1. If there's email relevant to that, file that in your Outlook SP1. If there's one or more files, file those in your My Documents SP1 folder. If you can find the bookmarks that apply, file those in your IE/FF SP1 folder.
  7. Repeat this last step, adding to your master Small Projects List, until all these little projects have a (temporary) home or you've gotten to 25.

Now, as you complete each of these Small Projects, you empty the folders and reuse them. You know you're done with a Small Project when the last bit of it is deleted or filed in your reference folders and that "slot" is ready to reuse.

I use my own product, MasterList Professional, to track these Small Projects as a project onto itself so I can get the most value out of my time; but anything from paper and pencil up will work so long as you keep one master list and don't lose it.

With Small Projects:

  • You know where to find everything you need for a given Small Project offline and on.
  • You leverage the time you spent setting up Small Projects.
  • You clear you various in-boxes of things lodged in them.
  • You know when you've completed a Small Project, because that SP folder in all its forms is empty.

This is one of my best GTD tips: you will be amazed at how much easier it is to manage these small projects using this tip.


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January 18, 2006

Why you want to start a micro-ISV.

The people at DICE, the grandfather of all online IT boards, have come up with a complete waste of time online game that it just too funny and too painful for words!

see: http://www.dice.com/beingit/

At Dice, we understand your pain... your job sucks, you're undervalued and your co-workers are annoying. Fortunately, there's a cure — BEING IT — a role-playing experience where you can get back at all of them in ways you've only imagined.

While getting another job - via DICE - may make the pain go way, the real lesson of this entertaining game is the best revenge is going micro-ISV.


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Finding good stock images for your web site or blog.

Garr Reynold's Presentation Zen has up a good list of low or no cost stock images for use at your micro-ISV's web site or blog; my free favorite source is Yahoo Flickr Creative Commons Pool (869,989  images and counting).

There are several different levels of CC licensing. The right one for this kind of usage is the Attribution License. It lets you use specific images posted at Flickr in any way shape or form you want so long as you provide attribution (a link) as to where you got it.

Although I haven't used it myself, Garr recommends iStockPhoto.com, for low cost royalty free images, and I plan to tap this source extensively in an upcoming makeover of my micro-ISV's site. I especially like the use of AJAX to let you both see a page of images but be able to get a closer look at any one image instantly.


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GTD 2006.13: Focus your Time

Getting Things Done is about managing your focus. If you look at the phases of GTD, each element is designed to first clear your mind so you can then do one thing productively and without stress.

Without GTD, there's a few dozen things clamoring in the back of your mind wanting your attention; with GTD, those distractions get handled so you can focus your time, or as David Allen puts it, be in the moment.

But are you getting the one thing at a time part right?

If you're still trying to rival your PC and do many different things (apparently) at the same time, start thinking about ways to start, work on and end a single task at a time:

  • Write down the next few steps of what you are working on, and refuse to consider anything else until those steps are completed.
  • Use a timer to define periods when you are focusing on doing exactly one thing, whatever it may be.
  • When you work on something, take those papers, or web sites out and when you are done, put them away.

As tempting as it is, doing many things at once usually means you are not doing any one thing well. flickrAttributedPhoto

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January 17, 2006

Your 50 milliseconds of fame

(originally posted at http://mymicroisv.com)


As micro-ISVs, we are all aware that our web sites need to be attractive and professional if we expect to sell our software or convince customers to subscribe. Actually, the situation is far worse: we have about 50 milliseconds to make or lose each visiting prospective customer.

In a recent study at a Canadian university, the researchers, they asked their volunteers to twice rate a set of web site screen shots on a sliding scale. The volunteers had half a second (500 milliseconds) to make their judgment. Then the same volunteers were asked to study the same sites and more thoughtfully rate them. The two sets of ratings correlated highly.

Then, Dr. Gitte Lindgaard of Carleton University in Ottawa had a different group of volunteers rate the same sites, first seeing the sites for only 50 milliseconds, then repeating with a viewing time of 500 milliseconds and finally having the subjects more leisurely rate the sites. The three sets of ratings also correlated highly.


What Lindgaard found was that in the first run through, once the subjects had decided in 500 milliseconds yea or nay on a site, that judgment stuck when they were asked to review the site at normal speed. What’s more, on the second study, the opinion formed in just 50 milliseconds was just as fixed as the one formed in ten times that amount of exposure.


"Unless the first impression is favorable, visitors will be out of your site before they even know that you might be offering more than your competitors," Lindgaard wrote in the report.


"Visual appeal can be assessed within 50 milliseconds, suggesting that Web designers have about 50 milliseconds to make a good impression," said the report, published in the journal Behaviour & Information Technology.


Here’s the one-two punch of Lindgaard’s study as far as you’re concerned:

  • Your micro-ISV site has way less than a second to win or lose your customers.
  • Once they’ve decided, that’s that: If you win them, their future judgments will reinforce their initial opinion.

This last bit, that your prospective customers will continue to interact with you if you gave a good first impression so that they can “prove” to themselves that they made a good initial decision is called by psychologists the halo effect, and by us, what converts a prospective customer into a money-paying customer.


Right about now, two questions might just be on your mind:

  1. What’s this bloke’s site look like?
  2. What do I have to do re my site?

As of today, my micro-ISV’s web site is nowhere near what it needs to be to pass the 50 milliseconds of fame rule. It’s too wordy, too unprofessional, outdated and nerdy. So, before getting to your other question, I have some work and some research to do. Look for another post on this subject soon.


In the meantime here’s the takeaway: What does your micro-ISV site communicate in (much less) than a second? Do a little research of your own by asking anyone you know who has not seen your site to take a very quick look at it and email you the one or two words that come to mind; or, take a quick peek yourself.

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Stop wearing the "illiterate moron" sign online.

This morning, I got up, sat down at my PC and promptly put on my "illiterate moron" sign by getting a wee bit sloppy with my choice of words in the previous post.

Now, I'm a writer: sometimes I write code, sometimes I write words (all the time I write bills): I can usually navigate this messy grammar, punctuation, spelling (GPS?) stuff well enough to satisfy everyone but Kim, the copyeditor.

But today, I hung the stupid sign on my back and "Nix" promptly gave me a swift kick for using "you're" when I meant "your".

So what, you say? You are known by the words you use, especially online, and it pays to have a Getting Things Done process in place so you don't borrow my sign.

Here's my new Checklist for every post:

  • Write it.
  • Copy the text to Word and let it spell/grammar check it.
  • Correct the copy back in TypePad.
  • Read the post again.
  • Especially check for my two usage pains: its/it's and you're/your.

Yes, TypePad has a spellchecker, I think they must have bought it from WordStar or MultiMate or some defunct word processing company that died last century: it is worthless. So, for now, that's the plan.

What's yours?flickrAttributedPhoto

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GTD 2006.12: Do you value your time?

At the core of Getting Things Done is the painfully appreciation that time is the one thing we can't change. We can improve our workflow, build stalwart habits of productivity, streamline our processes but at the end of the day, the day ends.

I submit that every day you sell one of your days left for something. That something might be paying the bills, or doing a good job, or taking care of you loved ones or all of the above. All those are to the good, and whatever you do, I hope you're getting value from your time.

But are you communicating to others that your time is valuable?

Every successful person I've ever talked to makes absolutely clear, more or less politely, that their time is valuable. So should you.

  • Be clear what you want or expect or can do when talking to coworkers, clients or customers.
  • Discourage, as rudely as necessary, people who waste your time.
  • Don't be afraid to cut to the chase and ask people what they want of you.
  • Keep in the back of your mind the knowledge that your time is valuable and that will come through in your body language and tone.

If you value your time, others will too. And that's a good Getting Things Done tip.

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January 16, 2006

Matt's Excellent GTD/XP Blog

Matthew Cornell has had an epiphany worth reading about, especially if you're a developer: there are major parallels between Extreme Programming (XP)on one hand and Getting Things Done (GTD) on the other.

Well worth a visit to: Matt's Idea Blog.


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FYI for RSS readers.

If you've been reading ToDoOrElse for a while, please do me one small favor.

Please re-subscribe to the FeedBurner RSS feed for the blog on the intersection of Getting Things done and Micro-ISVs, and then unsubscribe to the old TypePad-produced feed. I'd appreciate it!

Or just click on the Subscribe Icon at the bottom of this post.


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GTD 2006.11: The Email Mastery test

Here's a very simple test that will tell you a lot about your relationship with email. Are you expecting an important email in the next few hours? No? Good - then there's absolutely no reason not to take the Email Mastery Test.

Here's the test:

1. Write down what time it is.
2. Turn off email for the next 120 minutes. That means Outlook, email notification applet in your system tray, the Google Desktop if feeds email to you. All off.
3. Do something productive. Maybe start a project you've been putting off, or read a book or think. Something that does not require opening Outlook.
4. At the end of 120 minutes, test is over.

Here's how to score the test.

Starting with 120 points:
- deduct 40 points for every time you ahead and checked email anyway.
- deduct 30 points for every time you almost checked email and caught yourself.
- deduct 10 points for every time you interrupted what you where doing with the thought, "Should I check my email?"

  • If you scored 120 points, congratulations, you're in charge of email and can live a healthy, productive long life.
  • If you scored bwetween 120 and 90, you have some issues to resolve.
  • If you scored only between 90 and 60, you have some serious issues to resolve.
  • If you scored below 60 points, you are in trouble. Serious trouble. You've become a slave to email, and it is your master. Immediate action - like buying a timer and giving yourself only 90 minutes of email a day - is urgently required. Consult your physician now.

Email makes a great servant but a crappy master. Who's in charge here?


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January 13, 2006

The High Road or the Low Road?

If you're wondering which career path to take after you've been a programmer for a few years - becoming a program manager or chuck it all and write software that will make you rich and improve the world as a micro-ISV - here's a great post to get a preview of the low road: "What to do when your screwed." at Rands in Repose. I'd laugh harder, but it is so true!

There, but by the grace of god!flickrAttributedPhoto

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The Long Tail and micro-ISVs

By Bob Walsh (First published at mymicroisv.com)

One of my favorite sayings is, "there's nothing more practical than a good theory". So what's the theory, the economic model, the historical imperative behind the rise of micro-ISVs as a successful way of doing business? The Long Tail.

Back in October 2004, Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine, wrote a article called "The Long Tail":

"Anderson argued that products that are in low demand or have low sales volume can collectively make up a market share that rivals or exceeds the relatively few current bestsellers and blockbusters, if the store or distribution channel is large enough." - Wikipedia.

Now I can hear you saying, "That's nice, but what has it got to do with my micro-ISV?" Simply put, the Long Tail is where micro-ISVs can thrive and prosper.

Once upon a time (the eighties), if you wanted to break into the software business, you needed to create a product with high demand, like an operating system, a word processor, a spreadsheet. You needed a product that everybody with personal computers (as they were called then) would buy, because there were only a few million people out there with personal computers. You had to sell to most of the market to make enough to pay the rent on you officebuilding, bribe your way onto the shelves of stores and spend 30% of your revenues looking for customers.

That was then; this is now.

Now, we have over one billion people who use the Internet today. Now, we can if we're relevant connect with customers anywhere in the world in four clicks. Now, everybody in the developed world has a PC. Now, If can find the one person out of every 100,000 people on the Net who has need of my software, I can make a great living; if I find 4 out of 100,000 online consumers or businesses, I can make real money.

Micro-ISVs are all about niches nearly all the time; but those niches add up quick. Large companies can't compete effectively out in the Long Tail; it costs too much for them to operate.

But you can.

If you'd like to read more on this subject, here are several good places for a micro-ISV to start:

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GTD 2006.10: Kickstarting

Cars have batteries. Jets have ground carts. Motorcycles have kickstarters.

What do you have to get you going? When it comes to Getting Things Done, there's an often neglected topic: how do you find the energy to start changing what you've been doing? Make no mistake - you need a burst of power to start doing things differently. But where is that energy going to come from?

Here's three different ways to kickstart GTD:

- Decurrent everything. Vote all the things you are shackled with to do off the island, at least for a day. It's your life, and you have the right to do so. Then, you can decide anew what exactly you want to pick up again, and what tasks and projects need to swim away.

- Make room. Clear your desk, your inbox, your voicemail by sticking everything in a boxes, an Outlook folder or deleting. Forward you phone and ignore your email for the day - don't even look at it. Spend some time admiring your clean desk. Now, take a brand new pad of paper, a pencil and at your cleared desk write a list of the handful (<6) things that mean something to you right now. That's where you need to put your time and energy; the rest can wait.

- Join the club. Sit in front of a computer all day? Me too. Know you should work out, but don't or do it half ass? Me too. That is until my partner Tina kickstarted my butt by marching me off to the local exercise club and I restarted exercising in earnest - 5 classes a week. Sheer hell at first, but as tired as my 48.53 year-old body was, my mind and spirit were energized. For me, my kickstart was kickboxing; for you it might be a running club. Whatever - so long as it gets you moving! flickrAttributedPhoto

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January 12, 2006

The sixfold path to email happiness

Julie Daniel, an accredited GTD coach in the U.K. has a great post out at Davidco.com regarding the six types of email likely to get to your inbox and some pointers on what to do about them.

And, there's a post at "What's the Next Action" with suggestions re what to do with each type, but with all due respect, I think there's a couple of points that blogger (can't find his name on his site, but he does have a good GTD blog) missed.

Let me take it from the top what I do at least three times a day:

1. Qurb catches all the spam, the emails I no longer read and anything from someone I don't know. Since these can be from potential customers and readers, I give it a very quick scan to approve, at least for now, any legitimate-looking email. Qurb's interface is great for this.
2. Next, anything from someone I'm answerable to, like my editor, my clients, or my customers. They come first.
3. After that, I select everything that needs my response, today, but not this cycle. That all gets moved to my Act On folder to be dealt with at the end of the workday or the first email thing in the a.m.
4. Want to read - but not now: the Slushpile folder it goes. I "aging" things I want to read, but don't need to read, winnows out about two-thirds of it.
5. Reference stuff - if its about a current project, that's the folder it goes into; otherwise it all goes to the Reference Folder and let Google Desktop sort it out if and when I need it.
6. What's left? Not much - emails that need action on a future date get converted to an Outlook Appointment and dragged off to sulk in the appropriate folder. Fun things - airfare deals to Australia/NZ for example, go into Someday/Maybe. And that's that.

The moral of the story? An empty Inbox is a happy Inbox!


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Announcing http://mymicroisv.com

Hi all,

I’m launching a new micro-ISV site today, http://mymicroisv.com. No forums, just a high quality blog backed with good resources for the micro-ISV community.

While there’s plenty of work still to be done, here’s what’s there for you right now:

* The first of many guest blogs by members of the micro-ISV community and others with something interesting and useful to say to anyone starting or building a self-funded startup.

* Answers – with Joel Spolsky’s approval, I’m starting to build a set of pages that have the best answers posted at the Joel on Software Business of Software forum to questions on the whole range of micro-ISV concerns. I’ll be working backwards from the end of 2005; then keeping it up to date each month.

* Files – starting with those from my book, Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality.

* Resources – a starter set of links to further micro-ISV resources.

* Interviews – starting with 19 from my book that over the past year I’ve posted here; and new interviews as I do them will be blogged first then end up on this page.

Like I said, there’s still work to be done, but I think you’ll find it worth the visit.

If you'd like to contribute a micro-ISV link I should have, or do a guest blog, or catch a typo or explain to me why the stylesheet for the index page is causing that 1 pixel jump in the nav. tabs, please email me at bobw@safarisoftware.com.Mmi

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GTD 2006.9: No rest will dumb you down

One of the best productivity tips I know is getting enough rest. Rest is not just sleep - although odds are good that its been way to long since you had a full night's sleep. Rest means spending time with friends, going to a ball game, taking a walk by the river: whatever you find relaxing and definitely Non-Work.

The really sneaky side of chronic rest-deprivation is you think you're as wildly productive as you've always been, but you're not. You make more mistakes, miss all the angles, stop thinking things through. You get dumbed down, and that's not smart.

Here's the one-question rest deprivation self-test: do you feel fatigued every day, even the first day of the week? If the answer is yes, it is time to start another productivity project: Getting More Rest.flickrAttributedPhoto

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January 11, 2006

A new micro-ISV site is coming.

Just a quick announcement to watch this space in the days ahead re a new micro-ISV site I will be launching. I think you'll find it useful and relevant if you're starting or building a self-funded 1-5 person Internet-centric software company!flickrAttributedPhoto

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GTD 2006.8: Getting the sand out of your gears

The more different things you do, the more opportunity to be brought to a ignoble halt by some bit of sand in your gears.

You know the feeling:

  • You need to get short report out, but Windows wants to restart after installing critical updates and nags you until you give in.
  • You're trying to keep your New Year's Resolution to start working out again, but you keep forgetting to pack everything you need at the gym.
  • You're off to the airport for a quick business trip, you're cutting it close, and then you realize you have no hope of getting there without stopping for gas.

The key isn't to cope with these when they arise, but to make it part of your Weekly Review to spend a couple minutes figuring out what sand got in your gears this past week and how design it out of existence. The fixes are usually simple with a bit of thought - change how Windows updates, prepack, a day-before you fly checklist.

The key action here is by regularly reviewing and designing out existance these things that are getting in your way, you're life, bit by bit, gets easier to run.

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January 10, 2006

Ebook version of MIVR now available.

Quick announcement: the ebook version of my book, Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality just went live at http://apress.com for those who want it.


Look for the "Purchase as ebook" tastefully lavender button.

Also, the Table of Contents is now available free there too.

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Why this Book?: the podcast and profile.

I'll be talking about this more at the new micro-ISV site tomorrow, but if you're interested in why I wrote Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality, why I think micro-ISVs are going to be remaking what people consider to be software and sundry matters, here's a profile Brian Plexico at microisv.com did via email with me yesterday and a podcast with Michael D. Pollock, who's on his second small business knowledge web site at SavvySoloCast.com. flickrAttributedPhoto

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GTD 2006.7: The first Appointment

Short, but useful Getting Things Done tip today:

Unless it's an emergency, schedule appointments with your doctor, dentist or cable guy for the first appointment they have in their workday. Simply put, that's the appointment most likely to be on time and not waste your time.

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January 09, 2006

Flying under the Radar

Jeff Clavier and Bill Burnham are two very smart guys in the Venture Capital world, scratching their heads over how on earth their software world (publicly trades software companies) managed to lose about 10% of it's value (market capitalization) last year while the NASDAQ overall gained 1.4%, computer sales are up and now there's one billion poeple using the Internet.

Jeff, Bill, it's the Long Tail micro-ISV effect. Over the last 18 months or so, the number of self funded 1-5 person software companies has exploded. All these tiny little companies are out there meeting the software needs of tiny little bits of that 1 billion person market, because their cost of doing business and of creating distribution channels is damn near zero.

These micro-Internet Software Vendors (because they live 100% here, on the Net.) are starting to fill up people's Start menus and finite attention spans with their software, and while they are all tiny little things, they do add up.

Some members of the VC community get it, and they are "moving downtown" closer to where the action is. See Don Dodge of the Microsoft Emerging Business Group. Us micro-ISV's will continue flying below the radar, in ever increasing numbers.

As for all the old mainline publicly trades software companies... well next time you're in L.A., pay a visit downtown there's something; the La Brea Tar Pits are very educational! LOL! flickrAttributedPhoto :)

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The book is Out!

My book - Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality - about defining, starting, marketing and building your micro-ISV is as of now actually selling at Amazon.com.

A couple of things to mention:

1. Wednesday (Jan. 11) will be the "official" day the book is released and publicized, the new web site supporting the book and micro-ISVs in general will be up, and Joel Spolsky has a few things to add about the book.

2. The ebook version will be available directly from Apress at http://apress.com very soon (the sun is just coming up here in Northern California.)
3. The book's files will be both at the new micro-ISV site and at apress.com.
4. If you buy the book, thanks in advance! If you buy the book, and post a review about it at Amazon, I will be your best friend forever! Seriously, if you find MIVR useful, please let others know at Amazon. Mivrcoverlg

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GTD 2006.6: The Weekly Trade

Every Monday, you get a brand spanking new Week. It comes guaranteed with 168 hours or if you prefer, 10,080 minutes. It's brand new, never used, still in the box. And it's all your's for the low, low price of just 7 of the remaining days of your life.

That's the deal - the universe sells you a brand new week (it has more of them than Google has pages indexed) in exchange for 7 of your remaining days alive (of which you probably have only about 10,000 or so of left, less if you live a stressed workstyle, and you wouldn't be reading this if you didn't.).

Hardly seems fair, does it?

The only way you can even up the terms of this exchange is to identify a few important things you can get done in this week and stick them into your nice empty week (the big rocks, to use Stephen Covey's terminology), then stick around them all the other mundane, routine, same old stuff you need/should/ought to do (the little rocks).

If you fill your week with routine and nothing but, the universe gets the better end of the deal. So take the time today, define three things you can get done this week that will make a difference, however small, in your life. The universe won't like the deal as much, but that's tough.

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January 06, 2006

Office 12 is not typical marketing hype.

By now, anyone who writes software for a living has heard that Microsoft Office 12 will be the 12th wonder of the world, a must upgrade, marketing blah blah blah blah blah (fading into the background noise of information we all dismiss).

Big mistake, especially if you are a Windows desktop-centric micro-ISV.

Here's why if you plan to have a thriving Windows software company in 18 months of any size, you had better start allocating time to get with the Microsoft interface program.

  • Microsoft is betting the future of its crown jewels - Word and Excel - on this new radical user interface. Does anyone here in their right mind think Microsoft would do this without knowing damn well users are going to clamor for upgrades once they get a taste of it?
  • The new interface is as different a way of working on a PC as having a mouse for most users. It's easier, less stressful and far more visual.
  • Microsoft is well aware of the threat to its major revenue stream posed by all of the web based software apps fueling Web 2.0. This, at least until it can actually deliver on software as a service to 99 percent of its users 100% of the time, is Microsoft key investment.

Right now, you're either a developer in the Office 12 Beta 1 program or you're not. If you are, and like me you're actually using Office 12 rough edges and all right now, you know this interface is going to set the standard by which all desktop programs will be measured against. Including your's.

If you blew off Office 12 as TMH (Typical Marketing Hype), you had better reset your expectations here and now and beg, borrow or whine your way in front of an Office 12 install pronto, or at least have a look at Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows: Inside Office 12, Part 1.

And, please, before commenting that "Microsoft is evil, Microsoft is bad", etc. etc. recognize the reality of software today: Microsoft is the sea, and the rest of us float on it. If you ignore which way the tide is turning, it's your boat that will get beached.


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It's about Time (management)

Any time you can read 17 successful people in diverse range of occupations who are willing to share their top time management advice in brief form for free, do it!

Fast Company has done just that at this post here: It's About Time. (No registration needed.)

GTD 2006.5: Outlook Favorites done right

Outlookfavorites_1 Outlook 2003's Favorite Folders done right can save most of the grief processing email entails. Here's how I have mine set:

- Delete all of the defaults except InBox.
- Segment this prime bit of screen real estate into an upper general email processing area with folders for:
- Emails re things/people you are Waiting On and are due this week.
- Emails re Action you must take - clear these emails daily, either by doing the action, or by defining the actionable task.
- A Slushpile folder for emails you'd like to read for knowledge or enjoyment, not action.
- A Reference folder for anything (notifications, receipts, signups, etc.) not tied to a current project. Use Google Desktop as your search engine for this info instead of filing.
- A Search Folder for longer term followup items. Just hit the Insert key to flag a selected email to qualify it for this folder.
- A Someday/Maybe folder for emails that may just point your life in a new direction.
Create "folder headers" for the major areas of your email life, such as current projects, your blog, etc. by creating empty subfolders. Align these with both your paper folders and your task management system.
- Minimize the All Mail Folders pane so your Inbox is collapsed.

The results:

  1. One step filing of any email.
  2. A visual map of my email world.
  3. A way to effectively manage small email tasks and who owes me what.
  4. A clean Inbox at the end of each workday.

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January 05, 2006

The Evil Phone Setting.

Yesterday, my partner in life, Tina, just about threw her cell phone at me.

"Is anything wrong dear?"

"This X#$%#$ thing! My mom can't leave a message for me because it just rings and rings and it's driving her nuts and it's driving me nuts and you. Had. Better. Fix. It."

I thought about it for about a nanosecond: descend into cell phone settings hell, or endure the Wrath of Tina. Easy choice: "I'm sure its just some setting, let me have it."

So I take the phone, press the menu button and down I go.
-Settings>Tools>Dialing Services... nope.
-Settings>Personalize>Greeting... nah.
-Settings>Connection...not that.
and on and on and on...

Okay, it must not be the phone, it must be the carrier, Cingular. Go to web site, jump through three flaming hoops and find my last paper bill to get to "My" account. Go here, go there, and then over there.

Nothing about how to set the number of rings before this paragon of technology rolls over to voicemail.

Admitting defeat (but keeping the Wrath of Tina in mind), I give in and dial help (611) on my phone, which by the way, rolls over to voicemail in like 3 rings, often leaving me frantically knocking things over trying to reach it.

Did you know that cingular and AT&T mobile are just one big happy family? Did you know this 48 times? For 25 minutes? While listening to music left over from "A Clockwork Orange" where they have the narrator strapped to a chair with his eyes forced open?

Finally, a human. "Oh, you can't change that. I have to change it for you."

Thus ends this tale of woe. The moral of this story for micro-ISVs is simple: don't hide your settings. Better still, have as few settings as possible. Or face the wrath of your customers.


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Old Dog, New Tricks.

The past month or so I've been gearing up for a major online makeover to coincide with the release of my book, and a new version of MasterList Professional, and the start of a new micro-ISV site.

This will be the third or forth time I've gone in for the total online makeover; each time, I find that the art of building a good web site has changed fundamentally since the last time. First there were frames, then their were tables and JavaScript and now CSS and XHTML is the way to go.

So, off to the Web I went to learn the new tricks web page design.

My poor weary head! It's bad enough trying to keep track of all the changes going on in Windows programming, now I've got to load my aching head with divs, and floats and absolutes and ems and more, and then all sorts of hacks and kludges to workaround all the weird bugs in all the various versions of IE, Netscape, and yes, even FireFox.

The problem with trying to learn a new technical topic via the Web is that you get dumped into this bubbling pot of everything anyone ever said about that subject. There's no continuity, no progression: there's lumps of what look like good info that have gone bad as time and the Web move on.

What I should have done, and didn't, was go over to squidoo.com and use that as my starting point: I just visited http://www.squidoo.com/cssdesign/ and saw 80% of the info I finally figured out I should know about after a good 8 hours of surfing. On. One. Page. Even though I've raved here and elsewhere about squidoo.com's value in exactly this situation, this old dog had forgotten that new trick. Groan.

Fortuantely, in my pecking and poking around the Web I did finally find A List Apart, Douglas Bowman's Stopdesign, and then Dan Cederholm's SimpleBits, and there's is a ton of great design professionals out there making this stuff interesting.

And I did get lucky by buying Dan Cederholm's Bulletproof Web Design. This is one of the best technical books I've read in years. In a light readable way, Dan goes through exactly how to solve with CSS the common things that make building a web site such a pain: What size should text be, how to make great menus, getting the elements of the page to appear where you want them to, organizing the page and more.

The moral of this story? (Besides buy Dan's book; it's a gem.) The next time your the old dog needing to learn a new trick, see what you can learn via squidoo.com first.


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GTD 2006.4: Using Google to tame Outlook

Today's Getting Things Done Tip is for anyone who needs a big stick to whack their Outlook into shape for the start of the new year: Use Google to tame Outlook.

Here's how:

1. Create a new folder in Outlook called Reference.
2. Dump all your existing folders in Outlook about everything except currently active projects into Reference.
3. Get the current Google Desktop, Version 2, free from Google at http://desktop.google.com/ and install it. Let it index Outlook for you.
4. Stop filing emails except if they go into a currently active project; just dump them in Reference and let Google sort them out.
4. If and when you need something that's not part of a currently active project, use the Google Desktop Search to find it.

It takes about 25% of the net time filing everything in a multitude of folders and then manually searching those folders for one item takes.

This is part 1 of my taming Outlook approach: part 2 tomorrow.

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January 04, 2006

Update on release of Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality.

Just in case you're wondering, my Apress book on starting/running/growing a micro-ISV ships tomorrow from the printer to Amazon etc., so it should be actually for sale somewhere between 1/9 and 1/16, depending on how those physical bits get moved around.

- I'll also be launching a new site 1/16. More details then, but it will not just be another author site.
- Apress assures me the downloadable .pdf version will be for sale from their site the same day it goes on sale at Amazon, if you'd prefer that format.
- Thanks again everyone for your support!

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Brand your Blog.

A little branding tip from Laura at Six Apart: instead of the generic TypePad logo, extend your micro-ISV's brand by creating and using a favicon.ico.

A favicon.ico is a 16 by 16 pixel .gif formatted image, easily created on Windows in a graphics program, or with IrfanView or created online with FavIcon from Pics.

Once you've created your micro-ISV's favicon.ico, upload it to your Home directory at TypePad and people will see it in their browsers from then on, both in the address bar and in the tab (FireFox).


Three quick other things to mention about this: they make your site stand out in bookmarks, a variation of this trick might work with other blogging engines, and you should use the same favicon.ico for your micro-ISV's main web site.

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GTD 2006.3: Reply in subject line

How many of your email replies look like this?

to:          somebody
from:     Bob
subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Processing of 3rdQtr Revenue numbers?
Will do.-Bob

>Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah
>Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah
>>Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah
(this back and forth, back and forth goes on, pointlessly, for another 256 lines)

An enormous black hole is growing out in space, being fed by this complete waste of time and electrons. Don't contribute! Instead,

to:          you
from:     me
subject: Processing... OK.-Bob.

GTD Tip for today - Save everyone time including when you can communicate your message in the subject line. Don't feed the black hole!


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January 03, 2006

Dan on Everything Else!


Hat's off to Dan Howard at Dan on Everything Else! Just when it started to rain here in Sonoma CA (drenched Northern California), and my spirits were mud sliding down the hill, I see Dan's hand up at the Business of Software forum and click through to read his blog.

I'm still laughing out loud at the fun he pokes at Big Lumbering Companies, and marveling at how much fun it is to read humorous posts which actually do a great job of explaining some of the facts of life and struggle between Us (the micro-ISVs) and Them (the big companies), aka "The biology, ecology and paleontology of big software companies"

Great job Dan, your on my list to read!

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The tyranny of small undone things.

A week ago, I accidently broke Tina’s favorite antique planter. It was an accident, truly, but it’s about 80 years old and belonged to Tina’s favorite grandmother before she passed on. I felt terrible about it. I promised to find the right glue and make it whole again, right away.


But I, like you, have way too much to do, and have this important project, and that important milestone and it’s just a little planter, right?


When something matters to you, and you don’t get it done by when you said, it becomes a little black hole of recrimination sitting on your counter in life. Every day, dozens of times a day, I look at that planter and the nagging little voice in the back of my head reminds me that it matters a lot to someone who matters a hell of a lot to me, and It. Is. Not. Done.

My Getting Things Done point here is simple: is there a little broken promise to someone in your life? It might be a good thing to start this brand new year with that particular To Do cleaned up.

A word to the wise!

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GTD 2006.2: Pocket Power

Do you find yourself waiting? Maybe it's for other people, for the subway, for the conference call or for a plane. Improve the value of that time by carrying along a small paperback pocket guide you can start and stop reading as needed.

Pocket guides are a great way to improve your skills without reading 20 pages to get to the point. Being a programmer, I'm partial to O'Reilly's over 70 Pocket Guides, but there are hundreds and hundreds of pocket guides on everything.

My next pocket guide to read?

Podcasting Pocket Guide

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January 02, 2006

Watching the Long Tail.

If you want to start your own micro-ISV, but haven't a clue as to what your first product should be, you're not alone. One of the hardest things about starting your startup is finding something 1) You're interested in, 2) Other people are interested in and 3) Those other people have money, online access and unmet needs.

There's a nice little tool, IceSpy, at Icerocket.com, a blog search engine. You can just sit there, watching people's search terms scroll by. Think of it as a free-association test for micro-ISVer's.


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GTD 2006.1: Stop what you're doing

For 2006, I'm kicking off a new theme at To Do Or Else: Small bite-size, actionable Getting Things Done tips, tricks and shortcuts. Actionable is the important word here: as the saying goes, a few minutes here, a few there, and soon you have a real life!

Today's tip: Stop what you're doing. Not right now, but 15 minutes before you are going to end your online work day. Then, clear your inbox, your desktop, your physical desk and decide what the three things you want to accomplish tomorrow that will make you happy about what you "purchase" with your day.

(Don't have a hope in hell of clearing your inbox and desktop in 15 minutes? Stay tuned!)

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What's the Next Big Thing?

Last night, I bumped into Michael Tchong (founder of MacWeek way back when and 4 other cutting edge companies since). Readers of this blog know I'm a big believer in the proposition that there's nothing more practical than a good theory; its always cool to bump into somebody taking a hard look at the big picture.

Michael's forte is spotting and understanding trends; he's a real live version of Cayce Pollard, the heroine of William Gibson's great sci-fi read, Pattern Recognition.

Michael's latest project is UberCool.com; a site dedicated to identifying the latest products and services that are the signposts of underlying trends. It's those trends that make this site a must read for micro-ISVs trying to discern what the next hot thing is going to be so they can write software or a web site to intersect with that trend.

There is plenty of good thought-provoking material in Michael's Ubertrends:

If the names Alvin Toffler or Faith Popcorn ring a bell, add one more to your list:
Link: Ubercool - Trend Analysis by Michael Tchong.

Micro-ISV Idea #2: Flickring Memory Tool.

Here's an idea I'd like to see: If it strikes you like lightning, please go right ahead and build a micro-ISV around it. I'll be your first customer.

I, like a lot of people, have a terrible memory when it comes to remembering names of new people. What if there was a site where instead of buying yet another "super Duper Memory Book" I could sign up for a course to improve putting names to faces.

Every day for a month I go spend 10 minutes training that flabby part of my brain that is supposed to handle this. Stats - like all the good fitness sites - shows my progress over the month.

I'd pay 20 buck for this; so would a lot of people in my, ahem, age group.

The faces? Flickr shots (Creative Commons Attribution Only license).

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  • Who?
    Bob Walsh, (Author, managing partner of Safari Software, Inc. a micro-ISV)
    Exploring the intersection between Getting Things Done and building a micro-ISV.
    Live from Sonoma, California USA.
    Once or so a workday.
    Because there's a way to get everything done, I just know there is!
    Micro Internet Software Vendor, a self-funded startup company: See mymicroisv.com for information and resources.


  • Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality
    At Amazon.
    Buy as an ebook.
  • (begun Jan. 3, 2006)
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