People ask me questions about this piece of technology and that piece of technology. What i am often asked, even by experts themselves, is whether this is the right term or not. This is for a technology discussion or a pitch. Either way, there is some confusion about the difference or use of the words. For instance Plugin vs. Add-on.
I am putting together a list of used and mis-used words that I am hearing a lot of in Internet ventures, from Angels, VCs and just kids playing with web sites. These words have become interchangeable within each group, mainly because the general population really does not see a difference, but tech people know there is a difference.
I know I will embarrass myself here because there are sticklers who are more specific about these words and their use. I am just pointing out the blurring of the lines and how the web has changed the language and meaning of these words for users, who find themselves having to explain things to people on calls to their technology companies whether its the phone company, cable or third party provider.
Words have a funny way of changing over the years. I am writing this blog entry as would William Safire in the New York Times Sunday addition I used to read as a kid. He would cover all the new words he has heard and give a history to where they came from in their origin often citing the Oxford Dictionary. I read it every week carefully.
Plugin, Add-on, Extension
All three words seem to convey the same existential meaning, a piece of a software that creates new value that can be added or not added to your existing piece of software. This is not the same as an App. These are extra stuff. I am sure they had historic meanings for each and when they first came into use. And of course WordPress uses Plugin and Joomla uses Add-ons. Quite honestly these 3 are becoming completely interchangeable.
Somewhere along the way, while programmers know technically what a function is, the actual user does not see the difference in these things that you get when you plugin or add-on stuff. They just see a new piece of working software that does something. For end users these words are synonymous, though programmers would beg to differ.
Once again thank WordPress for coming up with the word Widget, which is a little different than a feature. These are things that you put in your software yourself and they go to work. There are occasionally drop-in apps around that kind of work like a widget. The widget reference I think is different than other extension type applications, in that it is specific to a place on the page.
Pop-up, Pop-Under, Light-box, Hover
These are things that just annoy us that show up when we arrive or leave a website. I am including a Light-box here, because that is a thingy that shows functionality as well, but takes over your screen with a dark silhouette in the background. The Light-box is a pop-up of sorts, but it uses a local function, so it is technically not a pop-up. A hover, as you know comes up with a mouse on-over. These 4 words have kind of merged into one thing for users, extra things or functionality that occurs on an action. But users like everything don’t always get the difference.
Template, Theme, Skin, Brand
What has happened with these four words is they have come to virtually mean the same thing to people, whereby the look and feel or Brand of the software can change, yet the guts or application remains the same. Everybody talks about where to get their newest theme. Yet, we know as programmers that a template is more than just a visual But what has happened in WordPress is Themes have programming in them. So the lines are getting blurred.
Program, Application, Platform, System, App
Most of these are old technology words. That have various technical meaning to programmers, yet to the user, there is no difference. These words refer to the computer program. Even the word App has now on it’s own come out and stands for specifically a Mobile or Smartphone app. The word Platform for PHP and .Net programmers has come to mean which method they are using to program… Not important to end users though.
Smartphone, Tablet, Ipad, Iphone, Mobile, Cellular, Cell
Even I, having worked for a cellular phone company for 10 years at one point, I see the words merging here. We know there is a difference between Tablet and Smartphone, but have you see the Ipad Mini or the Galaxy S4. What is happening is all these words refer to some type of nice UI device you can carry around and get to your stuff, surf the web, make a call, etc. Does it really matter in the end what you call it all, as long as it provides what you are looking for.
I have myself been guilty of merging these 2 words of late. The word cloud has come to mean, in my eyes, now pretty much all hosting. I am completely technically wrong, but am I theoretically wrong? Not sure. I have put down cloud on a couple VC pitches recently and I am just waiting for somebody to challenge me. They haven’t. They get it. Cloud is inclusive of hosting (in my eyes). You can argue with me if you want here!
I probably missed a few item here or there. But hopefully you get the overall drift of these words. They have meaning for everybody in several ways, yet they are merging in meaning overall. Within the programming world, you have specific conventions, but in the outside world of everyday people, they are just terms we use to help us communicate, so what if accidentally call your Nexus an iPhone? You will just nod your head, and say “yes”, you meant my Iphone?
After 3 years we are still using our Phil & Ted Explorer stroller. It seems like eons ago, only because my sons went from ages 1 and 3 to 3 and 5. If you have not seen this stroller, here is a link to a picture of the stroller. What makes a Phil & Ted unique are a couple things such as the kids ride almost on top of each other. We still get some people who see it and are shocked there is a smaller one in the back. If you are researching and considering getting your hands on one, trust me it will be worth it, especially if you have 2, even 3 kids, since it has an adapter for babies.
The other unique aspects about the Phil & Ted are that it seems to have lasted for a long time for us and we were able to use it for many places, many purposes. So it can be used till your kids are as old as 6 or 7 or longer! The stroller has the ability to fold up so tightly it fits in most backseats and in the back of our SUV, and of course there is the signature capability of holding two relatively large kids without it being a side to side stroller, which we still see people using. Phil & Teds can through any door practically and are easy to use. We don’t live in NYC, but if we did, this stroller would be important. We have had to clean, wash, replace all the tires and tubes one time and have had to rebuild a few areas, which are relatively easy to do. No need to toss this stroller, it has a metal frame and will put up with tons of abuse.
When we first purchased the stroller, made in New Zealand, it was the a bit of an oddity. Now I see them out and about from other people who have purchased a Phil & Ted. I had posted a blog article about 2 years ago, which describes how to open and close the Phil & Ted, and I actually had some people email me (some Kiwis) and ask me to explain the open and close process again, because there is a technique where you have to pop it open and pop it closed with one quick motion.
Where have we gone with our Phil & Ted? We have actually taken it to most places in Florida, including Miami, Tampa, St. Augustine, Key West, Cocoa Beach, Orlando and The Villages. But we have also gone with it on cruises to Mexico, Puerta de Playa and Tulum, to Seattle, in Canada (Victoria, Vancouver) and Alaska (Ketchikan, Sitka and Juneau). We even took Phil & Ted inside a gold mine in Juneau. We have take it all over Georgia, all over North Carolina and we also took a cruise from New Jersey, New York City to Nova Scotia, with stops in Boston, Portland, Maine, Saint John and Halifax. So we have gone a long way with that one stroller.
Sadly enough we hit a point this past year where we had to take a break from the traveling. Some of this was financial, but some of it was the age of my sons. They are in a period where they just can’t get along on the road. Trips just turn ugly for us as the two of them scream and fight half the time. Hopefully this period will end soon.
But we are actually at a point where the need for a stroller will be ending. My older son still actually gets in the Phil & Ted and will take the ride, but he is coming up on 6 and is a big kid. The only reason I have him get in is to keep the weight level between the two. One of the best uses of this stroller is having the kids just sit in it in restaurants. I have had them stay in the stroller playing their electronic riddilen (ipads), while we wait for food.
On March 15, 2012 I wrote this article/blog post “Marketing Trend: Our Decreasing Need To Remember Anything“. This post is a follow up. You may want to read the original and then this post. Of all the things I have written about in the past couple years, the decreasing need to have to remember most anything, because of the efficiencies of technology, has been one of those things that I not only think about, but live everyday.
In fact we all do. When was the last time that you had to memorize a new phone number? How many email addresses do you know by heart? In fact do you find that you used to know them all by heart, but as time passes and technology changes we need to know less and less. How many times have you emailed or Text/SMS somebody asking for their mailing address and then fumbled around in Gmail looking for that email so you can buy them a gift! This trend and the ensuing impact on our lives is what I had touched on in my first article. And the reason I was saying that I am living it everyday is my involvement with Connect Address.
Around the time I wrote this first article I had just started to work as a consultant with a small group in Boca Raton, Florida that was trying to find a business model for a start-up. That start-up had already developed a Facebook store and a bunch of great technology. Their issue at the time was they did not have a serious direction. Their Facebook store really did not have a great brand, great products or even a reasonable profit margin. It was a dead-end. Over the next few months after meeting the owners, we changed the direction of that business from being an online retailer to being a technology company. The trend or piece I observed within their technology, or the turning point, was when I recognized something different in their process that would be of great value to other players in the market. They had put together a process to allow a buyer on Facebook to purchase, but that buyer did not have to know the shipping address of the recipient. The process would send a message off to the receiver and ask for it, providing a form to enter the address where they would like the product shipped.
Seeds of Not Having To Know Anything
Well, the ability to order without knowing where the order would be shipped intrigued me. A few months later I began writing my first blog post about what we can call “address-less” shipping. And when we went to the first fortune 500 company to pitch this concept, their answer was Wow, that is different, and yes we want it. So, within a few months there was a prototype app and Connect Address has been on their way since. That app has been improving and changing over the past year, but the concept is pretty much the same. You are buying a gift for somebody and you don’t know where they live, so you use this third party service to get it. So where does the not having to know anything come into play. Well, if you are using this new, disruptive service, you will notice that you simply login to Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Gmail, Yahoo, etc, and get access to your names and email address. Most of their technology requires you to click on a picture to choose who you are sending the gift. End result, address-less shipping, without the pain of having to send an email off to your gift recipient, waiting for the address, keeping two browser windows open and then copy and pasting 7 times…
When I wrote the original blog post, I realized that this is not just a one off event that turned into a product. Address-less, Phone-less, and not having to know things is a product of the evolution of technology. I was able to trace this decreasing need to know anything trend back to the original speed dial. It was innovative at the time. Store a phone number and then just click a button. Many old phones used to have that little piece of paper you would stick in the phone that would say the name. Then it got better and better until virtual phone systems appeared. The cell phone network introduced both on board address books and voice activated address book look-up and dialing. Then gmail (that is one I remember) introduced a bit of AI (Artificial Intelligence, which are often now just JQuery lookups), that figures out from the few letters you have typed in what the “email” possibilities are; basically what we are going to think of next… Gmail figured out who to send email without the email address. Once I get an email from you and send to you, next time I just type the name, not the email in and it goes to town popping in the email address. So, cool stuff. Life is better. Now, people don’t own address books anymore. Now people don’t need to know your phone number. Everything is becoming built-in.
So, just like your cabinets in your living room that are part of the walls, the information that connects us is built-in to the technology. Soon the next couple generations will not even know what a phone number is. Maybe they will just bump or square you and it will move from phone to phone, stored somewhere far off in a cloud server.
Google Glass And Beyond
I am not one of the 8,000 chosen to test Google Glass (Irreverently spelled, but obviously about eye glasses), but let’s just say it is the next step in this evolution. With everything not having to be remembered, improving upon how you can easily access that information is the next step of this evolution. Google Glass seem to work great and I saw a user who was very happy with them. As far as Connect Address, they are still just getting started in a brave new world of helping you to not having to know one more thing, the shipping address of who you are buying a gift. It’s Built In.
Interestingly enough, the one theme I can find that connects almost every aspect of our lives, childhood, school, work, personal, family is leadership. It may come in many forms with many titles, but it always comes down to responsibility, decision-making and accountability. And trust me, I am not going to give you a diatribe on how great a leader I am, because often I am not. Though I aspire to be one.
Success and leadership are often intermingled, but they are not the same thing. One can be the product of the other, but too often success may come at a cost, sometimes that cost can leadership-less. That is when success comes at the cost of somebody out there. Greed and avarice is not leadership. In fact financial success is not always leadership and neither is winning always leadership. Though financial success and winning require leadership, but its an ingredient not the final product. I would classify leadership in its own category. Other words come to mind like ethics and morality. I would not go that far, but these are the underpinnings of leadership.
So I have thrown a lot of words into that conversation. One place I can point to is our childhood. If you are influenced by somebody who embodies leadership it can impact your entire existence. If you were influenced by the opposite of leadership, you may have tendencies to run from taking a position, taking a role in leading or taking control of anything, including your own life.
Quite frankly my tendency is to run from leadership. I know deep inside how much a commitment takes. I finally got married at 42, late in life, because I did not want the commitments involved. But sometimes we are unlikely leaders. Being a parent puts you in a position where you have no choice. You can be a leader of your child and show them the way or you can run. A few people run, I did not. I guess this is a big test in life for all of us.
I have been in charge and will be in charge of all kinds of stuff in my life, including business, personal and sometimes community. And while I don’t want the responsibility, I aspire to be the person in charge. In several cases in high school and college I was either the president of an organization or ran my own youth group. I even was in charge of a chunk of a national organization in BBYO. I have owned my consulting company and software business over the years and have had to take responsibility for these companies, meaning paying the bills and making sure the work gets done.
There is one place we can all make an improvement in our day to day lives and that is being accountable. It is not always fun. It is not always something we want to do. It means answering a call and talking to a person we don’t want to. It may mean for me talking to a client and getting back and having a conversation with someone I quite frankly don’t want to talk with. It can mean living up to some level of responsibility in life.
I find the insidious lack of accountability has slowly reared its ugly head in almost every aspect of our lives mainly because of technology. We used to be able to receive a written or printed letter and write a letter back to respond. Back then we had the time to think and write carefully that letter. Today I get almost a hundred emails a day, and sometimes I have to log on in the middle of the night to respond to some one, some place who needs an answer to a question. It may be something minor. It may be a big issue, but I definitely aspire (once again) to get an answer to that person. Like everybody in some form of technology overload, we end up missing the responses here and there. It comes at no surprise to me, because there is no way a rational person can respond to everything going on. The tweeting and posting on Facebook walls has only increased this to a new level.
The best thing I can do, and you can as well, is to make an effort, figure out what needs to be responded to and what not to respond to.
I have been around real leaders, and trust me I see things in them I will never have the capability of doing. That’s ok. I am more of an observer and supporter than a traditional leader. My leadership skill is based on how I live and not on exactly what I have accomplished. I influence others by how I take actions. We all simply need to look in the mirror and measure ourselves, our capabilities and what we want to get out of life. If you want to succeed and win, especially in business, then learn from existing leadership (the past) and put yourself in situations where the leaders exist now and can influence you. This is so critical if you are young and just starting out. The ones who are able to learn from great leaders will go on to be great leaders themselves.
I’ve recently taken on a project which includes a complicated “Internal” site search. This website not only needs to be found on the web, but members can run specific searches against specific elements on the website, click on subcategories and then create filters. Sounds a bit like an eCommerce search, right? Well, it’s not, but eCommerce is a good starting point. This blog article is going to explore what I know about internal website search and places they have solved it well or not so well.
First off, there are two kinds of searches online as you should know by now. You got your World Wide Web search now referred to as a Google search, and an internal website search. It may not be so easy to figure out which kind you are doing these days, because an internal search quite often is using Google and/or the Google Appliance, a box Google sells you that manages a “Google like” private search engine for your website.
I first ran into a hybrid search, what I call “Directed Search” when I was hired for a consulting gig at The Limited, VictoriasSecret.com. They had no search box at the time. The year was 2005. I mention that, because that shows how large, successful brands, can get stuck in the past. They required the customers to click on the word search, then click on something like a bra. Then you would have to choose your size and finally choose a style and color. It was like 9 clicks to checkout. Well that was unacceptable. But it made sense from a technical standpoint. A lot of things make sense from a technical point of view. Having a system that holds people’s hands through a step by step search can make sense, but not with bras. At VictoriasSecret.com, later that year after I had left, the search became a search box, and finally you could put the word “Pink” in that box and get some results and then make adjustments on the left for price, color, size, etc. Point is, that not all searches are equal.
I have been studying two well used online internal search paradigms to solve my problem, Linkedin.com and Bankrate.com. Both websites have a complicated, MIT level issue with data, and getting customers to the right answer, without taking up too much time and without losing them in “advanced” areas. I think both sites live and die by helping the members find their way to a person/company or whatever int he case of Linkedin.com and to a mortgage company in the case of Bankrate.com.
Basic Versus Advanced
I think we can all agree that the best searches have a limited amount of functionality at first. If you read my article on “2 Online Marketing Segments: Insecure Focused, Secure Unfocused“, you will see that you need to accommodate the less sophisticated, yet ready to go, user like myself first and foremost. I admit I don’t read everything, and I would guess that 80% of the population is like me. But for that 20%, there are extreme details they want to know, and they WILL use the advanced search. So, you got to keep everybody happy. It is not easy for Linkedin.com for instance. You will notice they have it easy to find people, but if you start peeling back the layers, the advanced search is there.
One Click Versus Many
One UI goal and conversion goal for all searches is to reduce the clicks. This means if something can be done in one click that’s great and lets say no clicks, that’s even better. Remember with JQuery you can have a no click solution, where people type things in, look at Answers.com and others, and have it change as you enter your search terms. The way that Linkedin.com solves this is by having a little drop down for the search, which means you can choose what kind of search you are starting before you enter data, people, company, group, etc. This is really innovative and useful.
Complications & Third Parties
So sometimes a search can not be as straight forward. There could be third parties who have ad-space making it advantageous for search to take a little bit longer (a few clicks). Bankrate.com is a great example of searches where, in order to search customers correctly, they have to know where you are looking to get a mortgage and what type you are looking for to even start the search. For instance I would be looking for a 30 Year Fixed in Boca Raton, Florida. Then they can start the search… So for some searches it is more about getting the basics in place, and then start the filtering.
No matter what kind of search you set up. Trust me the Google Appliance is not for everybody and there are still about 15 companies out there which provide third party internal Saas search products like Omniture and Autonomy. If you are an eCommerce company you can’t live without them.
After many years of attending networking meetings and events, going off to places like CEO SPACE, Internet Retailer, iDate, this-con and that-con and local events, I finally have come up with a networking truism, related to the word Schtick.
This came about because I have recently been personally tasked with finding clients with web development projects that have Social Networking built in, a customized social network. I mean tasked because essentially I am part of a sales process. And quite honestly I was a proven loser when it comes to selling (I have tried in several businesses, but being a techie and a non-sales type, I sold nothing!). But networking to sell is not really selling, its about getting to know people and leading them to where they need to go (whether they know it or not). Very Zen.
Tell And Then Ask
So, the real question is how do you figure out at a networking meeting who to meet and who not to meet, essentially getting people to open up and tell you what they really want, what are they are looking for and why they are looking. That is the key to networking. Because, once you can figure this out, you can find out if your objective is aligned with their quest. Your quest starts by having an in, or something to chat about which is real, emotionally connectable, meaning they listen up and get it and want to know more about it as an Attention Getter to introduce yourself. It has to be personalized and it has to be something real about you, though a poor substitute would be the news or the weather… Once you share, people share themselves. People do not get excited about building social networking websites. They do get excited about a lot of cool and unusual things about ourselves. I call this Attention Getter your Schtick.
1. a show-business routine or piece of business inserted to gain a laugh or draw attention to oneself.
2. one’s special interest, talent, etc.
Ok, let’s clarify how I use my Schtick. It is used to get attention and tell a story about something people are interested in, generally. When I do this, well, the heads turn. If you have people smiling and listening, you are in the zone with your Schtick. Once they are listening, you can always ask them questions and then introduce yourself overall and that is when people not only have no problem being asked if they need insurance (which I would never sell), more importantly they remember you.
Another interesting aspect of Your Schtick is having key words in there, great words, great names, great brands that people can latch onto. I once did a small stint at VictoriaSecret.com. That gets a nod. I have mentioned some of the brands and names I have come up with to people and they, a year later, spit out, how is “X” doing… Like “Oops I’m Single”. Always surprises me. The mundane is never remembered, but the specific, unique thing is.
Here is what I say. “Hi, I am a partner in the largest speed dating company in the US.” Ok, right there, most people now say “Oh, I know what speed dating is” and some people say “Huh”. I explain, “You know 12 men and 12 women meet at a bar for 6 minute dates”, and then I back it up with “It’s in 75 US cities”. Most important to this, is they chuckle. But, it gets them in the conversation. That is a starter. And then if I am loosing them, I mention the brand name I have been trying to build in the dating business “Oops I’m Single”. That gets another laugh. Finally I get to the point. We are looking for companies and entrepreneurs who want to build a custom social network. “Do you or somebody you know want to build and own a highly customized social network and build it for a cost effective amount?”
A year ago, a guy who used to work for me way back when, started to go out and network and look for projects for me. He asked me, “ok, what do I say, how do I network”? I guess working for many years in a big company, we turn off our networking genes and just go to work. All of us have to learn how to re-purpose our minds in order to change careers, find work and generally get things done with others. So, I told this guy, hey you need your own Schtick. He told me he had none… Well, truthfully I am sure there is somebody out there, especially younger people who have not enough life experience with no Schtick at all. But trust me, everybody has some Schtick in them somewhere. I went though this guy’s background and it turns out he attended NYU in the late 1980s, for a special Electronics Media graduate degree program. This is pre-Internet, but what is interesting about this story, is the people he was in class with were saying that there will be electronic worlds in the future and cities will be connected, they just did not know the Internet was right around the corner. In fact some of these people ended up designing and guiding the early Internet. He actually worked for Prodigy right afterwords. So we all have a story in us, just have it ready when you network.
There are limitations to this, like my old buddy Scott, who passed away at a young age of 38 a few years ago, would go to a networking meeting or any meeting and blurt out some crazy thing. He was just crazy and that is not what I am talking about here. Rude, crude, sometimes is interesting if used in context. I know a guy who always does this and he is quite successful, so not my Schtick, but maybe yours. Bottom line, find your Schtick, get the story down and you will notice your networking meetings go a lot better. Find a way to work in what you really do. You share, they share. If they don’t want to, then move them along a bit. “Have you ever thought about building your own web business?”
So You Think You Need A Website
The first place you look, if you are just starting out with your website today and you are doing it yourself, is often an Open Source application like a WordPress, Joomla or Drupal or a “hosted” Site Generator, one of which I hear often about is Wix. Open source is a program you can download and load onto your hosting space that is freely distributed. Open Source code can be loaded already for you by your hosting company like a Godaddy. Or alternatively you can use a hybrid solution like WordPress.com (You get WordPress, but WordPress manages it for you). Either way, you are using a freely available system that you spend time learning and working on. Trust me the advocates for each of the top three will give me 10 reasons why theirs is better than the rest, but essentially each one is better at some doing certain things and others has some negative features (like the editor on WordPress is for the birds).
Why You Are Interested
Why would you be spending time reviewing and looking at these applications? Well, if you want to save some cash outlay, doing it yourself, creating a website with WordPress is like building your own Heath Kit (I am dating myself because I actually remember Heath Kits as a kid) or creating your own PC. Not sure how many reading this plugged boards in and made their own PC like I did several times in the late 80s and 90s. Basically sites like WordPress are easy to set up if you read the docs and watch all the YouTube videos and are pretty much free, at least to get started. What I want to discuss in this blog post is the concept that what you are getting or working with is conceptually free. But is it all really free? There are hidden costs and some direct costs. Also, Open Source has just been loaned to you temporarily under conditions that you must adhere to. So, theoretically with Open Source you don’t own any code unless you write your own plugin, and if you release that plugin under the rules, you may not own that plugin. So next time you tell people you own a website, and you are using Open Source, you may want to not use the word’s Own but really I have a website.
Free Is Not Really Free
So if you have set up your own WordPress site, let’s just say that the average time it takes me to set up one, like the one I am writing a blog article right now, takes me at least 2 hours to set up, at least 3 hours if there is a design template involved, but let’s add 40 hours it took me to really learn WordPress, and that’s being kind. So, let’s think about that. 45 hours goes into learning, configuring and setting this stuff up. And the learning never stops. Let’s say that I was a $100 an hour guy, and I am. So really what I did is spent $4,500 on my first website. We have to manage our time, because our time is not free. If you go out and ask a WordPress shop to set up a WordPress site for you, with a nice template from ThemeForest.net, they will quote you anywhere from $1,500 to $3,500 or higher. That’s because there are going to be graphics involved and fonts and decisions and knowledge of HTML. Anyway, it is still cheaper than $4500 to pay someone else who has the experience.
What Is A Custom Website And How Does That Compare?
Now let’s compare a WordPress, Joomla or Drupal site with a fully customized site. When I say customized, I mean a full web software application (like another WordPress) that you own and deploy. Why would you do this? Well, if you have a customized back-end for your business it is a smart move to build exactly what you need and leave the Open Source behind. With your own site, you and your programmer(s) know how it works, why it works and what is different about your system. But whether or not you need a custom site depends on what you want to do. For instance if you are a Painter, Pool Guy or Lawyer who wants to blog, and I know a few, you don’t need to own an application or customized solution, you are just needing brochure ware. That is perfect for WordPress. If you are creating a simple site for your friends to leave comments that may be great in Drupal or Joomla (but for those apps I do recommend a programmer most of the time). But let’s say you wanted to create an online business, a social network, a unique market place (like eBay) or something completely different and unique, then Open Source and other apps may seems like the a good way to go, but in the end, they can present a problem long term.
If you want to create an application that can one day be acquired by a big company then having Open Source can be a burden. You may need to own your own IP (Intellectual Property) or code. You need to own the code in order to have ownership of your application. So, if you are not a software developer and you want to create a serious and unique system online (those are the kinds of things that separate your app from the pack), you sometimes need to build a customized site.
How Can Custom Software Be Comparable In Price To Open Source?
Well, because software has become easier to develop and because of outsourcing to third parties, some of which are overseas, you can build solutions at comparable costs. You just need to put a value on your time and energy and a value to what you are building and not come in with the theory that Open Source is free. Trust me, each of those apps like WordPress have had 1,000 developers and possibly $100 million worth of code involved. What you will find if you use WordPress or Drupal or Joomla is the price of making code changes, adding plugins, rewriting and changing the core can be comparable to building applications from scratch. I have my recommended team of customized application developers you can contact me about. But what I am trying to say is the price in the end may actually be cheaper to customize, if you really compare apples to oranges, especially if you need to be unique and different in this world. Trust me I have pieced together both WordPress and Joomla plugins and add-ons trying to get these systems to do what I need them to do. But in the end, you can end up with a Frankenstein Monster and quite frankly after that, most entrepreneurs realize they need to start from scratch.
Outsource vs. Insource
Over the last few months and year I have learned quite a bit about Outsourcing programming overseas and the IT job market in the US. The two are totally connected and interdependent. And what I am finding is a conundrum. First, the cost of software development has and will continually be driven down by offshore development, some of which I promote. So, you would think there would be less programming jobs and therefor more technology management jobs like web web manager, product manager, producer, project manager, Director, VP and CTO, especially to work with these outsourced teams from the Ukraine and India, for example. Trust me these outsourced teams have moved up to the point where their skill levels are often superior to US based programmers, so we thought programming jobs would go away.
More Programming Jobs, Not Less
The truth is, there are even more programming jobs being offered all across the US and less and less management jobs, especially here in South Florida at a time when outsourcing is easy and cuts costs. So what happened? And just understand, this is my opinion. Well first off, even when applications are developed overseas and sit on remote websites there still needs to be an accountable local representative who can manage or oversee the deployment of the system. This is the operations person or manager. The biggest drawback to outsourcing is flexibility and communications. You are not in the same room obviously, but Skype makes it seem like we are next to each other. When you have a programmer working with you in the same room (if you were the guy or gal in charge), you are more agile and you are more likely to fix minor things quickly. This is always going to be an issue with outsourcing.
The Heavy Lifting
The biggest positive with outsourcing is the cost and the speed of the heavy lifting. Just think about how you paid a mover when you moved last time. If you moved yourself, it probably took a longer time to accomplish the task, but in my experience I hired a moving company that showed up with 3 big guys who moved it all without any problem. Same thing with outsourcing. So when there is some significant application with a lot of technology that needs to be built, sending it overseas totally makes sense.
Less Management And Not So Good For MBAs…
But more importantly I see a flattening of IT management across both large companies and SMB (Small and Medium Businesses), meaning the need and relevancy of levels of people between executives and programmers has declined. So if you are building a building (similar to a big software program), companies, especially smaller companies, don’t see the value in hiring an architect or engineer if you follow the analogy. Smaller business owners see the value in the construction worker and in this case the programmer, because programming value is more tangible than management value, especially during a recession.
Flying Low And Blind
Whether this is a recession issue or not, what this means is that 90% of software ventures and technology projects, especially outsourced ones, are often flying blind. You don’t always require a project manager, but if you are spending more than $50,000 on a software project, you should have one. If your software project has tons of features, unique pricing and other complicated parts then you probably should have a product manager. If you are creating a product for the consumer market, then often you need a quality assurance expert. It sounds logical, but actually only larger companies have these roles, and these roles are declining in the IT profession compared with programmer demand. It tells me that (and I will put on my programmer hat on) that application development has gotten so much better over the years that entrepreneurs and basic users think they can take on these roles and are in fact becoming IT management experts themselves. I have met many of them out there! You would be surprised how may talented individuals have picked up these IT management skills. And some people are great at this, but experience in this area can make all the difference in getting a website or product to market.
I heard a great quote from a client running events over the past 25 years which went like this:
“You tech guys come up with cool ideas and try to find a way to make it work for the market. [Putting his hands in the air and staring up at the ceiling] I start with who’s got the money and how can I take it from them!
When I first heard this from this person, I laughed because it is so true. And since I have heard this quote I have repeated this quote to clients, friends at Caffeine Spaces and at Gold Coast Capital Ventures and everywhere I network at least once a week for the past 6 months!
Finally, after six months, I am finally sitting down and writing about this quote in my blog, because it has so many implications for programmers and kid entrepreneurs I meet with who want to start a small tech internet company and want to succeed but just can’t seem to get a tech start-up right. And though it is not a hard and fast rule used in making decisions on what business to go in, determining the market potential is still the make or break point of deciding what business to go into. Most of us techies just have a cool idea, but have no clue of the potential value of the concept or project and really don’t know who is willing to pay for it or what they are willing to pay for it. Among the successful, there are those who figure this out right away and there are those are just get lucky being in the right place at the right time. The right timers are the ones to watch out for, since they think they know something and the second time around is not always the same.
A Miniscule Market Inside Of A Tiny Market
Getting together for lunch with one of the founders of JDate about 6 weeks ago, we found some common ground discussing the issue of being in a start-up with a small market, and how this just limits what you are doing and that can kill the potential for investors. It is important to choose your market wisely, and often techies don’t understand the market. They just want to start coding. For instance, the dating industry is generally speaking not the greatest sized market over all. I am referring to market size by measuring how much revenue a year markets can produce. I believe the dating industry is like a $2 billion dollar market a year globally (and though I use the word billion… it is not a good word when it comes to markets, because you never get 100% or even 10%, we are often lucky to get 2% market share). E-commerce sales is $4 trillion a year globally and that market is terrific! And if you were to create a Jewish dating site within the dating business, that will pretty much leave you with a $30 million dollar potential market size and basically 95% of that is already going to JDate, so what is your Total Addressable Market (the possible chances of a market)? It’s really crap for creating THE next Jewish dating site since you will not unseat the leader It could be a $5 million market, of which maybe you can capture 5%. That is looking like $250k a year in revenue as your max potential and with an employee and a 40% margin… Get a real job. It will pay more! Really not a place you want to go!
So, Why Do People Jump Into Crappy Markets?
This is where the tech mind overcomes the business mind! I know, I have done it several times. Techies and rational people get caught up in not the revenue size but the finesse of the project, how cool would it be to do x, y or z and either we have no marketing skills at all or we ignore the exit signs on the highway. I guess we like to hear ourselves talk in the mirror about a cool technology or like to tell people what cool problem we will solve. And yes tons of cool problems can be solved with tons of cool technical solutions, but the facts are the facts, market size is market size. I had an MBA finance professor at Farleigh Dickinson in Madison, NJ who looked around the room and asked us what industry we worked in. I was in Telco, and he said “maybe”. Some people were school teachers, he shook his head no. Stock broker, he shook his head no. As soon as somebody said they worked in the pharmaceutical business he simply said, “I don’t care if you are going to be the bottom secretary, stay in that industry and you will retire rich…” Point is, choose your market wisely. Yachts and golfing are terrific markets for instance!
A Product In Search Of A Market
This is where tech guys and gals like me start. We start with a cool thing and try to apply it to markets. Stop right there! Now, sometimes a cool invention or technology accidentally finds a market, but 90% of the time it does not. Me thinks I can take a piece of web code in this market and shove it into that market. I implore you to start over when it comes to your product, not just switch the website around or change the coding framework. I have done this as well. You have to start with the money each time you have a new product and figure out the market size, what they are willing to pay for it, what it is worth to the customer if at all, what the asset value you are creating is worth or what intangibles you are creating. You see there is also the consideration of what your asset you will be creating and what that will be worth to a buyer, but we are not talking about customers now, we are talking about competitors and buyers of software companies! Creating a tool that needs to be acquired by a Google or another company is another form of measuring the market before creating the technology. In fact asset selling, not revenue is the number one way techies make it big.
The Socratic Within ME
Now I am going to reverse directions a bit and give you the upside of being a techie and start with technology and how you can figure out a path to the market. Like a recent blog article I did on “Why I Don’t Really Know Anything” in the article How To Respond To New Ideas proves that there could be something within the techie cool thing you have been building that can be re-purposed for something real and marketable. But you have to start from scratch in terms of the final product. You simply have to match a problem you are solving with different markets, and switch the problem to a different market until you keep increasing the size of the market. Now you may have to stay in a niche. I recently met the founder of Veggidate (yes for vegetarians) and its small but that is a good niche to hide in. So, let’s start again with the dating site. So you still have not given up on the Jewish dating market. You are determined, you are a programmer and you don’t listen well. Well, let’s either introduce your product in a new and growing market (mobile) or a new avenue (events) or a new methodology (education) and re-enter the market. Because if you were able to conquer one of these three areas of markets that JDate site does not have ownership of, you would be able to get maybe a smidgen of a market, but more importantly, your company would be on the target list of successful businesses they are looking to buy along with a bunch of other people obsessed with serving a small market just because you like to… But leave your expectation for financial success at the door.
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Are you looking to set up a wildcard domain like x.example.com and y.example.com and have every other iteration land right at the same home directory in your web hosting account? Or let me be more specific, are you trying to set up a new sub domain that will appear no matter what you put in. For instance you have set up the whatever.example.com and now you want to always have any new “text” in front of the domain but have them all go to a single directory like test.example.com? And finally do you use WHM/Cpanel?
If you have landed on my blog to figure this mystery out, I am going to reference some other discussion boards and blogs that give you specific instructions, but I will take you step by step what I did to set this up for myself and clarify some of the smaller items.
As far as WHM Cpanel is concerned, I believe you need to manage WHM directly. So if you are using Cpanel, you are not going to be able to do this without the hosting company or administrator getting involved. And then you have to use either a unix command line or ftp to make the final changes typically as root access. That’s because there will be changes necessary to the apache configuration and the Cpanel user does not have this level of access. While I say that, there still may be some way of using .htaccess to do this as a hack, because .htaccess is an extension of apache httpd.conf. But, it would be a total hack, and I don’t believe it can be done because the wildcard implementation requires a Virtual Host entry change that you can’t do yourself.
Here are the steps:
1. Configuring Apache for the wildcard
This is the most difficult part of setting up a wildcard implementation on WHM/Panel. It took me a few attempts to get this right and figure out what appears to be some confusing and not so helpful information. Start by getting to the apache configuration and reviewing the current httpd.conf file. It will be located at /usr/local/apache/conf/ directory. I use the Linux command line or shell to move around, but you could ftp in as root and move over to this directory and view the httpd.conf file.
You may or may need to set up the basic domain name as full Cpanel account first. This will create the directory and account you want the visitors to see as your root directory, plus WHM Cpanel configures things nicely. So if your domain name was example.com you would create a new account for this domain with a new user. This will at least get you ready and get you a directory with files.
Specifically he mentioned that you can not edit the httpd.conf file directly. If you do, and rebuild the apache config file, you WILL LOSE your changes. Below is from the apache documentation on setting up virtual hosts. Notice this line:
<VirtualHost *:80> # This first-listed virtual host is also the default for *:80 ServerName example.com ServerAlias *.example.com DocumentRoot /www/domain </VirtualHost> # DO NOT EDIT. AUTOMATICALLY GENERATED. IF YOU NEED TO MAKE A CHANGE PLEASE USE THE INCLUDE FILES. I of course ignored the warning on writing to apache httpd.conf directly and did write it to test things out. So, if you are looking to add an additional alias like a *.example.com you can test things in the original file, but be aware you will lose your changes. There are 2 situations I ran into for wildcard domain setups. The first is setting up a wildcard for a domain that you have already configured. For the situation where the wildcard is for an existing domain you have to write to /usr/local/apache/conf/userdata/std/2/userexample/example.com/*.conf You can add ServerAlias *.example.com into a file. They recommended calling the file extra.conf, but basically all files in this ../user/example/example.com/ directory will get included when apache is restarted. For the user name or "userexample" that becomes the "Account" user name. example.com becomes the directory. Yes, you have to create this domain tree and directories. Use mkdir to do this. I believe only ../userdata/ existed. I had to create the rest of the directories manually.
The second situation is where you want to add a completely new wildcard domain and point it to
a specific directory.
Notice these lines at the bottom of the httpd.conf:
You can write lines in these files like (match the IP address of the hosting account you are point to):
<VirtualHost xx.yy.zz.aa:80> ServerName www.example.com ServerAlias example.com DocumentRoot /www/domain </VirtualHost> Either way, you have to think a little to do this type of wildcard implementation, especially on WHM/Cpanel. Restart apache on Whm once you have pointed the proper A record on DNS. 2. The DNS entry
So let's talk about the DSN record set up. Let's say you use Godaddy for your DNS. I don't, but that's not important. You go under the A record under DNS and make sure there is a wildcard or "*" placed as the domain name, instead of an example.com or www.example.com. In fact you can just remove thee www.example.com if you are going to use a star. If it is already set up, you are good. If you need to set it up, just drop in a star instead of the domain name. Restart apache under WHM and good luck.
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