Wednesday, August 30, 2006


I've recently started taking the Dale Carnegie Course. If you have not read "How to Win Friends and Influence People", basically the point of the course is to reiterate certain simple things you can do to make yourself more likable, confident, and persuasive. All of which are extremely important traits to have when running a business. I highly recommend it to anyone, at the very least you should read Carnegie's three books. I will try to make a post or two on the really important points.

Also, on the fitness end of things I've gotten myself signed up for an Adult soccer league. Scary, since I have not touched a ball since high school.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Studying Google Analytics this morning for my used cars classified site, it appears in the last month, no less then 1376 different combinations of searches brought people to the site. The most bizarre ones are searches for completely different domains, like "". I'm not sure which search engine would return my site as a valid result for that. Also completely unanticipated are the number of slang words people use to search, like "looking for dirt cheap cars", and perhaps as a factor of the large amount of hits I get from, "what web page can i find cars for sale only by owner". When I first started the site back in 1995, before anything about SEO was known, the only thing I thought to search for was "used cars". That is still the most popular way to get to us, but it only makes up 17% of the total.

I was able to get in on the first round of Google Analytics last November, but I would have killed for something like this ten years ago, when everything with search engines was superstition, and a change in meta tags could result in a huge drop or gain on search (before Google came around).

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Back from Chicago, which will probably be my last vacation for a while based on the amount of backlog I have... amazing how much piles up over four days now.

Just wanted to chime in on the whole Kiko thing. I won't even bother linking to the auction and the various points and counterpoints because there has been so much written about it at this point. Kiko made the mistake that most "failed" businesses make. No, it wasn't lack of revenue that killed Kiko. It wasn't a bad product that killed Kiko. And it certainly wasn't Google that killed Kiko. It was impatience.

In this 24-hour news cycle, buy-now, pay-later world, people expect results immediately. Throw a product or business out there, and if it doesn't succeed immediately, throw the idea out and start over. I'll clue all the potential entrepenuers reading this blog into a little business insight.... most businesses are not sucessful immediately. Get rid of the idea in your head that your business will get Dugg, and you'll be going public by December. It's very very unlikely to happen.

I havn't really gone into my background of how I know anything about business, but I come from a family of entrepeneurs. My grandpa started a printing business back in the 50s with a friend. They barely scraped by, just paying the bills for years, until the 70s when the business took off and they were rich (The business then failed in the late 80s, more on that some other time). My dad had a sign business in the 80s, which my step-mom then took over. They did vinyl for vans out of a barn for years before they landed a few medium contracts, and then huge contracts like the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, the National Aquarium, and almost every public school in Maryland.

Google took at least 4 years before it gained momentum. FogCreek had to do consulting for years, 37signals did web work for years until they found their niche. Microsoft made software for a hobbiest computer for years before they moved the Redmond. My own used car site took 3 years to get popular, and 6 years to turn a serious profit. Show me a sucessful business, and nine times out of ten, there is a momentum curve to it.

If you are not ready invest several YEARS in your business idea, don't bother. If you are just waiting for the one get rich quick idea, you're better off playing the lottery or putting some money on red. Why is this? Well, some people don't trust new businesses, they want to see you around for a few years. But mainly, there is this mysterious momentum with a company, where at some point you'll reach a critical mass and orders will come flooding in. Usually this is because you have a REPUTATION, not because 1000 anonymous people "dugg" you because you have some cool AJAX effects.

Anyways, what could Kiko have done? Well, I seriously almost considered putting in a bid for them, except that A) I don't want to mess with rails, it doesn't work with anything I have going on B) I don't have time to mess with making the money back, even though I'm convinced one could.

The bottom line is that Kiko was too lazy to turn a profit. They clearly hoped to get bought out, which is again much less likely then hitting red in roulette (or even hitting a number exactly). But they had lots of users, lots of hype and lots of traffic. They themselves admitted they were distracted. But they were one of the first on the block, and the presumably still have decent traffic. They could have at least broken even by offering a premium service, or even better an API. What about a Kiko component, so other web based software companies can include a cool web calendar easily? Advertising? Sure. But it would have to be from a channel that pays up front, instead of the new fangled cost-per-click model. Or even just use to plug some new product idea that actually has a revenue model.

The bottom line is, if your product is not making millions in the first month, that DOES NOT MEAN IT IS A FAILURE. I believe almost any product can make money somehow, it just takes hard work. If you thought your idea was great originally, what has changed that? Don't give up on your business until you have tried everything (no matter how tedious, expensive, humiliating, annoying, etc...) to get it to succeed. Give it at least three years, not three months.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Homeless Again

Well, yet another Colocation company goes under. This is the third colo I've used that's gone out of business. I'd like to think they can't make their profit margins with the huge amount of bandwidth used by my sites....

If anyone can recommend a Colocation facility in the Baltimore/DC area let me know. Preferably under $200 per U of rack space, with unlimited or reasonably priced bandwidth.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Ok, so I said I wouldn't do any work last weekend, but I guess I'm not doing any work this weekend either, since I'm going on a last vacation for the summer, a quick 4 day trip to Chicago. It's the only major US city I haven't been to yet. It's a weird city because it was in every movie of the 80s, but seems to have disappeared off the map since. Everything is about NYC these days. This trip also makes this my most traveled year (if you don't include my cross country drive after college). Between day job, SearTech conventions and vacation, this year I've been to Mystic CT, New York City, Louisville, Burlington, Lansing, Pittsburgh, The Adirondacks, Reykjavik, London, Oxford, and Paris...and it's only August.


I still haven't gotten around to doing any marketing for BudgetSimple, yet it started getting a bunch of traffic this week as links spread from the tech community, to the freebie community, then to the mommy community... It's an interesting study and I may do a more detailed display of how it's making its way around the internet. Hope anyone who signed up is enjoying it. I'll be adding a few more needed categories and taking the beta label off. I think it's irresponsible to leave a beta label on things forever, I don't mind taking responsibility for my bugs.

All the talk lately from Andrey and Benji of making games got me vaguely interested in finishing the game I started two years ago, but its doubtful I'll have time to finish this year. I guess I could open source it as one random person wanted, but that kind of takes all the fun out of it, doesn't it? The Xbox 360 dev kit is also of great interest to me, and perhaps to MicroISVs.

ChimSoft is still chugging along, version 1.6 is under development, hopefully in time for the busy season for Chimney Sweeps in the fall. I am off pace for my ambitious sales goal for the year (goals that are easy to meet are called tasks in my book), but hopefully the fall will make up for it.

My experiment with AdSense is past the experimentation phase and is just plain old income at this point. Day to day earnings are extremely inconsistent, but the monthly earnings have been about the same.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


It's important for MicroISV'ers to get away from the computer every now and then to rest the ol' retinas. With absolutely beautiful weather in Maryland this weekend, there won't be much programming done since I'll be on this:

If you're stuck or just getting burnt out, get away from the computer for a little bit, it helps!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Google blames click fraud consultants for click fraud

Interesting article on the AdWords blog: Troubling findings on how some third parties detect click fraud.

With the somewhat exaggerated title of "troubling" findings, it seems to argue that the way click fraud consultants are estimating clicks is a large part of the problem, and that click fraud numbers are highly over counted, because of the methods they use. After reading this, and the third party paper that was written in response to the lawsuit Google recently settled, it seems both sides are to blame here. I don't think click fraud is as wide spread as some say, but it is definitely more of an issue then Google indicates, and I believe there is still more they can do. The easiest way for us to know the real numbers is for Google to release more of their data, which of course they will not do.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

C Dull

Way back in December I wrote this post about why I chose to use .NET for ChimSoft, and how I am using Visual Basic .NET. I didn't really compare and contrast C# vs Visual Basic except to say that it seemed most people were picking C# because it's "more manly".

When I first started transitioning to .NET, I learned most of the ins and outs in C#, but because of our architecture at work, we used Visual Basic .NET. VB.NET kind of became habit, so I used it at home, but I took it for granted that C# was pretty much just like VB.NET, except slightly different syntax.

Well, I hadn't really touched C# in detail for a while, so I felt I was getting a little rusty with it. Plus everyone and there mother was using it, so I wondered if maybe I was missing out on something. I WAS missing out on something it turns out, a world full of headaches.

I should mention first that I was raised learning C. It was the first language I learned in high school (we didn't have programming classes, so I took an independant study where I just bought a C book). From there I moved on to C++ in college, with a touch of Java there at the end. So I'm more then versed in the "tough" languages, and Joel's pointer arithmetic test doesn't seem like a big deal. But I must say, I have been extremely spoiled with VB .NET.

Switching back to C#, suddenly I have to worry about case sensitivity again, int's not implicitly casting to strings, and arrays that have to be explicitly sized! Classes that don't allow optional parameters, properties that don't allow a parameter to "get" besides an index... it turns out C# is dramatically more different then Visual Basic .NET then I remembered.

So, I was originally going to develop the next SearTech app entirely in C# (despite already having a ton of code to draw on in VB... i know), but now I'm reconsidering. It's taking me 4 times as long to develop anything, and I can probably cut that down to two once I remember to use all the C# particulars, but there is still extra code involved in casting, and different properties from library functions etc... C# makes me happier from a nerd point of view with it's strictness and curly braces, but from a practical point of view I gotta ask why it seems most people are using C# when there seems to be a "shortcut" done for you in VB.NET. Is using a non-embarassing language that important, or am I missing some great thing about C#?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Spam from the future?

So I've been getting an awful lot of bizarre spam lately on my Yahoo account (the one I use for any public asking sites). It looks like this:

Note two things:

1) It's completely unreadable, meaning it's either there just to fill my inbox, or it's in another character set... my email address does sound vaguely japanese?
2) All of them are dated January 18, 2038. Maybe this is just so they float to the top of the box?

Alternate Theory:
Perhaps future Phil, in a post-apocolyptic war that sees China winning, and a banishment of the english language, is urgently trying to warn me about something.

Alternate Theory 2:
Spammers in the future, thanks to a ban on net neutrality, purchase the highest speed connections, which send spam faster then the speed of light, resulting in spam accidentily being sent to the past.

I'm pretty sure it's one of the alternate theories. Luckily Yahoo catches 100% of this. Let's see GOOGLE filter spam from the future.

Microsoft, why must you suck?

So it appears Microsoft decided to roll out tonight to MSN Spaces. Maybe the damage goes further then that, but it's the first thing I've noticed., for those who are not familiar is Microsoft's answer to Web 2.0. It's super super Ajaxified(TM) but provides little more power and much worse speed. I'm on a cable modem with a 3 ghz computer, and everything that has anything to do with has ran slow for me. I thought maybe just because it was under development, but no. Microsoft's new Live maps are a pretty good answer to Google Maps, except that most of the Satellite data is out of date, and it's much slower then Google maps. the search engine has some neat new tricks, but since it doesn't bring up Used Cars On-Line anywhere near the top of the search results for "used cars", unlike every other search engine, it must suck.

Well, I could pretty much avoid those things in the past. But now they've gone and applied to MSN Spaces. There are not MANY great blogs on MSN spaces, but there are a few I read, the best being The Fat Cyclist. When I launched the blog for BudgetSimple, I decided to try MSN Spaces, it was clean, it was easy, it was fast and it just worked, which is much more then I can say for Blogger. It had a major drawback in that only people with Microsoft Passport accounts could comment, but whatever.

So now they've everything. Let me whip out a screenshot of the beauty of it:

I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe they are still rolling this thing out. But it is slow as hell, and looks terrible in Firefox.

Edit: They evidently still were rolling out. In my day that's not an appropriate rollout window, but maybe they are following the Google model all the way ;). It looks better now, but still a little unecessary.