Saturday, May 28, 2005

Drag and Drop Web Publishing

During our public beta period we learned a lot, mostly from our customers. Overwhelmingly they told us: you are a site-building tool, and blogging is just a small part of it.

This is fascinating to me, because we launched the beta as a blogging tool. I now believe that a lot of the people who are investigating the blogging phenomenon don't really want blogs, they want web sites, but they want them to be dramatically easier to build and maintain.

So we added more templates that have horizontal menu bars and enhanced the multiple page and multiple site support. And what we ended up with is truly drag and drop web publishing.

It simply does not get any easier to get content onto a web site. Drop photos (or audio, or video) onto Bubbler, and your files are instantly live on the internet. Nothing else to do. Not even an OK button, much less a "publish and wait a few minutes" button.

We think that all web sites should be built this way: just take a handful of content and throw it, and it will stick to the web. Simple. Powerful.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Fixing problems

We are a real-time company. If you have problems with our software, tell us about it. We are responsive and will help you quickly and even fix problems as quickly as we can.

In the traditional software world, you had to wait six months for a bug fix or a new release of your favorite productivity tool. We've learned to "live with" bugs in software because the hopes of getting them fixed seem very dim. Can you imagine writing to a big software company's support address and either (a) getting an actual response from a human, or (b) seeing your problem addressed?

We've fixed a good number of problems within a few hours of hearing about it from our users. Horst-Dieter Schipporeit is one of our customers, in Germany. He writes to our support hotline and points out things, and we fix them. I think he would describe us as a responsive company, even if our response is "that's a great idea but it's a few months down the road"

Try us.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Life's Persistent Questions

I'm staying at the Marriott Marquis hotel on Times Square on the 26th floor for the Syndicate conference that starts tomorrow.

I was talking to my almost-9-year-old daughter at home on the phone, telling her about the hotel, and she came out with this perfect radio voice...

"On the 26th floor of the Acme building, one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions--Guy Noir, private eye...."

I had to laugh. That's me, I guess :)

Friday, May 13, 2005

Launching 1.0 in New York...

We're heading to Syndicate to officially take the wraps off our 1.0 product, and we'll have even more great business templates that can make some amazing sites with just a few clicks. I'm excited by this technology, and I'm not an easy guy to get excited about technology!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Sled dogs

A metaphor took shape for me today as I was composing email to an old friend...

First, a caveat: this isn't a reference to anybody I work with today, who are awesome -- just an overall reflection over almost 20 years of working in various places with different sets of people, often watching from the sidelines as things didn't get done, sometimes being one of the various kinds of sled dogs myself....

A work force is like a team of sled dogs, harnessed together, pulling something that's behind them, so most lose sight of exactly what the objective is -- it's just about running and pulling.

One thing I've seen very clearly, as a guy who's stood on quite a few sleds over the years, is that in any team of 12 sled dogs, only about 2 or 3 of them really do any work. The rest are just running along, or sometimes being pulled along.

It's like when you "help" carrying a couch and you're the third person: you realize you're not really bearing any weight, especially when the couch is headed up- or down-stairs and you're not on the bottom end. You realize, as you call out cautions about the "corner on your right!", that you are basically contributing nothing, and just perhaps, you're actually in the way.

I used to think that every dog knew who was doing the pulling, and that the rest were consciously along for the ride, kind of working the system. I don't believe that any more.

What I think now is that most people really think they are working hard, when in fact they're just barely keeping up with the harness, and are definitely not pulling the sled even a little bit. They just don't realize that some other dog is really straining against the harness, doing their work for them.

So if you're the guy on the sled, what exactly do you do? Do you shoot the dogs who aren't pulling, or just pull them out of the harness, leaving an empty slot? Then you have a harness for 12 but only 3 dogs. That probably is slower than having all 12 dogs. Do you stop, go out and buy a harness for 4, keep 3 good dogs and one marginal dog, and get rid of the other 8? By then, the race is over. And what happens when your 3 star dogs get tired? Is it possible, just possible, that one of the other dogs will one day get it, and become a ferocious puller? These are difficult questions indeed.

So most mushers just leave the status quo, and the hard-working sled dogs pull, and the others run, and the camera crews (on the off chance that there actually are camera crews filming the Iditarod) can't really tell the difference, and most of the dogs can't tell either.

At the end of the race, or at the end of several races, the musher may put the better pieces of food in the right 3 dishes, but the 3 dogs and the musher all know that it's not enough. The 3 dogs run and pull because that's what they do, that's what they're good at, and they don't know any other way. The musher knows that he can change nothing, and it's not worth the risk or controversy to be the only guy out there with a harness for 4 dogs.

And so the world continues. Instead of sled dogs we have people, and instead of harnesses we have phone lines and computers and keyboards, but the game is basically the same.