January 05, 2006

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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December 09, 2005

Squidoo's Value to viewers

Over at Joel on Software’s the Business of Software forum*, Dan added a post to the long thread I started about Squidoo a couple of days ago that raised a really good question:

Now -- WHY would I, as a viewer, want to go to Squidoo to look for stuff?
And if there is no viewing audience, why bother to post there in the first place?

In a word, time. Like you, I get 1440 minutes a day and (probably) like you I have too many things to do, read, and think about to fit.

Anything that saves me time is worth my attention.

Case in point. I've been tossing around the concept "the Long Tail" lately. I dimly remember reading about it, thinking this was the other piece (besides the Internet) of why micro-ISV's are the Next Big Thing in the software industry and by extension the society I live in.

So, I go over to squidoo, and lo and behold, there's this lens: http://www.squidoo.com/longtail/

Written by Chris Anderson, the guy who wrote the original article (and Wired's Ed. in Chief), here are his 5 top picks of his posts on the subject, a feed of the latest posts on the subject, and 10 posts from other people Anderson thinks really expand on this idea.

This is really good quality knowledge. There has been a lot written and posted about the Long Tail, and from one single web page, I’ve got really good information.

By way of comparison, I'll go over to Google and search for "Long Tail":

-14.6 million hits.

-Anderson's article.

-Lots and Lots and Lots of relevant web site/blog hits. Google wins again. In fact, I could read the first 99 hits before I get to long-tail boats in Thailand, which isn't what I want.

99 hits? 99 web sites and blogs? By the time I'm done my brain, which I need for other things today like work, will be so crammed with long tail information I'll be lucky if I remember what I meant to do today, let alone have any time to do it!

And therein lies the value. I can get a really good start with one single squidoo lens or I can drown in relevant information. Which is an improvement over pre-Google Internet when I would drown in irrelevant information, but drowning is drowning.

-------

* I'm now co-Moderator of this major software business online community.

 

December 08, 2005

Why Squidoo matters to micro-ISVs

Yesterday I wrote I thought Squidoo.com was a hot opportunity for micro-ISVs.

Here's a for instance. Let’s say you are Andy Brice, whose U.K.-based micro-ISV sells PerfectTablePlan software. Good product, very narrow niche: its for doing seating plans at weddings, etc. Let's say Andy takes a shot at this Squidoo thing. He builds a lens about planning a wedding reception. He already has a bunch of links, knowledge and experience on this. He talks about his product too.

Now please resist the urge to snicker at table seating software: according to a quick Google I just did, "2.3 million couples wed every year in the US. That breaks down to nearly 6,200 weddings a day."

I wish I had that size market!

But, Andy has a problem - common to many micro-ISV's. They've solved one of those umpteen million problems the human race has come up with that make up the Long Tail, but no one knows that this solution exists.

By "buying" the problem at Squidoo through sharing his expertise, Andy would get a lot attention: much more than a micro-ISV usually gets. That attention would translate into increased sales, and the revenue generated by various links would not be bad either.

Knowing Andy a bit, he’s not going to do a half-assed job of it, or “reaggregate” a bunch of existing stuff in the hopes of making a quick spammy killing. He’ll do the right thing, and people planning weddings (or a couple dozen other things) will thank him for his efforts. They will like him, and on this topic, listen to him.

And that will be all he needs to move his micro-ISV up a big fat notch.

December 07, 2005

Squidoo's Value

An anonymous poster over at Joel on Software: the Business of Software, just ripped my heads up re squidoo into little squishy bits. They said:

Is it just me or do others "not get it"?

So this is a place to put yourself on a pedistle (sic) or stand on a soap box or something?  Here look at me and my ego, I'm just trying to sell product on my website, but I'll put up a few uninteresting, poorly thought-out tips so you find me!

Let me give you an example of what I see as the value in squidoo:

http://www.squidoo.com/sudoku/

Now, I've been hearing about this sudoku thing off and on for the last couple of months. I've noticed sudoku books at my local Borders too.

I wanted to know: how do you play this game? Is there a windows version of it I can try and see if I get anything from this?

Off to Google I go: a hour later, I still don't have a clue how to play this game. Way, way, way too much info. How do you play the damn game!

I go to the lens above a few minutes ago: oh, there's a flash tutorial that the lensmaker, who knows all about sudoku found for me.

I work through the that tutorial. OK, now I get it! sudoku is like a crossword puzzle (I had thought it was like go or chess), I can actually get into this now!

Squidoo lenses are distilled knowledge. The lensmaker, self-appointed, offers up their take on the subject. It might be moonshine, bathtub gin or wood alcohol, but the ratings there tell you what others think of it. If its really good stuff (Acorn Sangiovese comes to mind), then I've just gotten the knowledge I was looking for, and I'm a happy guy.

If I get into this sudoku thing, I'll click through to one of the books this lensmaker recommends because 1) he answered my question, reduced my stress and seems to know a thing or two and 2) It doesn't cost me anything, so why not?

For micro-ISV's the value proposition is a golden opportunity to establish credibility about the product you sell, not flog it.

Keep in mind, squidoo has been a public beta for about 18 hours now... both it and the quality of the lenses I expect will improve greatly from here on out.

Micro-ISV tip #18: Squidoo is live - grab a lense now.

Last night, Squidoo went from private to public beta. This means that if you are micro-ISV, you should right now go there, sign up (free) and claim lenses relevant to your business.

Why? 1) Lenses are a way to promote discussion about your product, direct people interested in that topic to online resources and promote your business. 2) Your competitors, large and small are doing this right now!

Link: Squidoo Homepage.

Watch this blog for much more about Squidoo and micro-ISVs and Getting Things Done in the near future.

October 21, 2005

"Can you see better with 1 or 2?"

Several people I've talked to or emailed about squidoo have basically said to me, "So what? What's the big deal? It's just another link aggregator wiki page thing." Nope.

Squidoo - if they can pull it off - is about the story, and experience, and judgment that goes into picking those links and other bits and putting it together in a way you get the knowledge you want, not just more data.

If you wear glasses or contacts, you've sat in the chair in the darkened room and with the big hunking metal thing pressed to your nose while your optometrist swaps lenses in and out. "Can you see better with number 1 or 2?"

What Squidoo is a web based big hunking metal thing to hold different lenses you can flip through in a blink of an eye until you find the one that suits your needs of the moment best. The lense with the sharpest focus, no scratches or pockmarks, no weird distortions.

What you are looking at, what you want to be able to see clearly, is the whole dang Internet and by extension the whole world.

Want more? See Seth Godin's latest squidoo blog post at: http://www.squidoo.com/blog/

October 18, 2005

Ben Scofield: Squidoo's lead developer

I just came across the blog of squidoo.com's lead developer, Ben Scofield. Considering the insane pressure to deliver a demo beta of squidoo.com by yesterday, Ben gets my vote for Developer/Blogger of the Week for meeting the deadline and living to blog about it.

Read Ben's Blog here: culann.com. And post a encouraging comment or two; this guy is going to make a lot of other developers money!

ToDoOrElse?


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