Archive for the_time('F Y')

Online and Offline convergence
31 May 2007 in Apple & Code & Google & Microsoft | Comments (2)

Rather than echoing the “oooh -Google gears” and “oooh – Microsoft surface” stories I thought I’d put a bit more thought into these recent announcements and why I see them as important. Earlier this week Andrew and I were discussing the web and how we both agreed that the humble browser is not the ideal application platform. There are many advantages of web applications (instant updates, great metrics on use, much more) but we’re yet to see the richness and flexibility of what can be done in the offline world. Of course the positives of one platform are effectively the negatives of the other and vice versa. People still make a conscious decision about the type of application they’re building and this got me thinking.

Offline Applications

As I commented on Rod’s blog, I agree with DHH on his views about offline applications. Retrofitting existing applications doesn’t strike me as being a huge win, I’m virtually always connected with a pretty fat pipe. I don’t believe the advantages of offline applications are really obvious yet because we are all still thinking how it affects the current web model. We need to pull our view back another 20,000 feet and start thinking outside the box. I’m not claiming I have the answers on this one but I’m sure we can do better than an RSS reader that has an offline mode!

Breaking out of the browser

With Microsoft Silverlight we have the opportunity to break applications outside of the browser (To see an example check out our Silverlight Video player on the Mindscape blog, just click the video when it is playing). I firmly believe this is a significant step forward again that didn’t really get noticed all that much. Suddenly the browser isn’t all that important other than to host these applications. I joked with Andrew that I look forward to the day when the web browser is a non-visual host and the applications are the only visual part (no jokes about visibility inheritance please ;)

Microsoft Surface

First off, this is pretty damn cool. Personally I think it knocks the socks off the iPhone in terms of cool – Microsoft are helping to usher in a new paradigm here but that’s not why I’m bringing it up. Taking into account what we are discussing here you can quickly start to see the benefits of dropping the web browser. I really don’t want to see Internet Explorer or FireFox as a Window on a device like Microsoft Surface – it would just break the model of how the device is meant to be used. If web applications are no longer looking like web applications and are becoming super rich with cloud and offline storage we’re actually seeing a a convergence of the desktop and web worlds.

Challenges

Having said all this there is a HEAP of work still left to do. We don’t really want every application to look different, uniqueness isn’t actually a benefit in terms of usability, there needs to be standards. We need to consider accessibility for less able users or how this content can be moved between the various devices (PC, tablet, phone…coffee table). I really look forward to some of these problems getting solved though, the future looks bright.

I suspect that in the next 10 years we’re going to stop being able to define an application as being a web application or a desktop application. Rather than consciously trying to build Smart Clients, it will just be the way applications are built and we’ll all laugh at why we ever struggled to build them well in the past :)

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Want to hire me for tarot card reading?

- JD

Bootstrapping your business
30 May 2007 in Business | Comments (1)

Another topic I hear about a fair bit is regarding bootstrapping – how do you get started when you don’t already have millions? I refer to this situation as bootstrapping and it’s not as hard as it sometimes can look from the outside. Bootstrapping is far more important when you’re launching a products company, as opposed to a services company, as there will be a sizable time frame between launching the company and launching your first product.

What we do at Mindscape

When we founded Mindscape we did so because we wanted to create an awesome software products company. The challenge was that we all need to eat and live so we decided that doing some consulting work would allow us to pay the bills while still enabling us to spend the majority of our time developing products. So far this strategy has worked very well however there is a need to be careful.

Beware the “easy” dollars

I fully believe that services companies simply don’t scale in a manner that provides the right level of return on your investment. Margins are thinner, managing people is very hard and you get that all as baggage in exchange for being able to make easier money at the start. Those dollars can look attractive but if you’re not careful you’ll find yourself a few years down the track owning a services company with no products. Be vigilant and ensure you’re only providing services that you require to deliver on your product vision.

Developing a product “on the side”

Personally, I wouldn’t waste my time trying to build more than a wobbly prototype on the side of your day job. Simply put, you tend to exchange your best hours of the day for money already so you’re already giving your product a weak start on life. I’m not saying it’s impossible to do this, it’s just much harder. You also need to be careful about intellectual property with your current employer if you want to juggle your product development on the side.

What about investors?

You could certainly go and find people to invest money in your company in exchange for equity at the very beginning and many people do launch in this fashion. It is always taught that if you want to become wealthy you need to learn to utilise OPM (Other Peoples Money) however this can often be a sign that you’re obsessed with your idea more than the business itself – if you really want to see your product make it to market you’ll have no concern doing a day a week consulting to help see that vision through. There are additional intangible benefits to gain from this:

  • You build your network by engaging new clients
  • You can bounce ideas about your product off people you’re working with
  • You start building your company name and brand
  • You get paid money so you can afford to live :)

I think all too often people have a view that somebody should pay for their idea and be lucky to get a small cut of the equity. Prove that you’re really committed and willing to make sacrifices before looking for investment. Ideas are a dime a dozen, it’s the execution, the team and the business that delivers success and ensuring you don’t go out of business in the early days for lack of cash is all about executing well.

- JD

How old should you be to start a business?
29 May 2007 in Business | Comments (6)

This is a question that sometimes gets brought up while I’m within earshot – how old should you be to start a business?

I like to look at a question from another perspective and ask why it is being asked. For example, do they feel they don’t have the skills to start a business? Do they just want to feel comfortable with their choice in not starting by giving themselves what they see as valid excuses? Has somebody made them feel there is a specific age when success is more likely?

More often than not it’s a mix of all of these sorts of points. Simply put, it is never too early to start a business. A business doesn’t need to be a hulking great multinational (great work if you can get it…) so don’t feel you’re taking on too much too early – take your time and learn. There are many lessons you need to learn when going through the process of setting up and despite having setup a few businesses I still learn a considerable amount each time. I’d strongly suggest that if you’re a young person who wants to dig deep into business then start a business just for the opportunity to learn – I did and it was one of the best things I ever did.

The benefit for being young is there is a healthy level of risk – you don’t have a family to support, you probably don’t have house payments to make and you can simply afford to live on less. This gives you both flexibility while maintaining a hunger to make some money to be able to enjoy the finer things. If you’re looking to start a tech business then all the better – young people tend to just “get it”. I’m not saying it’s impossible if you’re older but often I’ve seen older people trying to develop tech businesses that don’t realise that they’re potentially half a decade behind on what they think is new and upcoming. Embrace the fact you’re young – use it to your advantage and learn like crazy while you’re still not putting everything on the line.

Now I’ve co-foundered a company with much more vigor and certainty than before. It just feels right and I’m more confident for having experimented with smaller businesses before.

- JD

P.S. I’ve not defined “young” as everyone has a different opinion. Young to some is 30, to others it’s 15 – it really doesn’t matter what you consider “young” to be, I still believe this all applies.

Angels & Demons
16 May 2007 in Business & Events | Comments (2)

This evening I went along to the Unlimited Potential (UP) event entitiled “Angels & Demons” which informed people about various financing options that are available for new (and not so new) businesses. I’ve been to several UP events before this one but I can say with certainty this was one of my favourites. The format was great, I always enjoy it when there are several speakers talking for a short period of time, perhaps I’m too easily distracted but it just keeps me interested.

By far a huge value of these types of events is the networking afterwards. It’s very enjoyable chatting with people about what they’re up to as well as catching up with old contacts and seeing how their businesses are growing. I always leave inspired and amping to take things up a level.

At one part of the evening I was somewhat shocked in myself when I found myself talking with Andrew Mayfield (from Spikefin). How is it that it took an event like this for me to actually engage with somebody that has his office about 15 paces from mine? It was a bit of an eye opener to needing to add an extra element of networking to my day to day business activities.

The presentations were also useful – informative, amusing in parts and genuinely interesting content. All the presenters delivered well and I’d strongly encourage any other ITC professionals out there to come along to the next event. It is an asset to Wellington having such a vibrant group of people who have shared interests getting together to meet.

http://www.up.org.nz/

- JD

Mindscape becomes Castle Stronghold Partner
15 May 2007 in Business & Mindscape | Comments (0)

I’ve just finished posting about how Mindscape has become the exclusive New Zealand partner for CastleStronghold. For more information about the arrangement then check out our formal announcement at our blog.

I welcome any questions regarding this.

- JD

Mindscape LightSpeed Beta
11 May 2007 in Mindscape | Comments (2)

Phew! We got our first Beta release pushed out to our beta testers today and what can I say – it’s a real buzz to be pushing products out to people even at this stage of the development cycle! It got me thinking about the school of thought that shipping early and often is important for ensuring a great product in the long term. There are additional benefits than just a great product, it gets the team buzzing that their hard work is being put to use.

What is LightSpeed?

LightSpeed is a domain modelling framework that is built on best practices and aims to enable users to get up and running with their domain models fast and easily. Our primary goal was to reduce the effort required to develop solutions that require a domain model. I’ll be posting more about this product in the next few weeks. I know I’m bias but this is one framework that I know I would personally use even if I wasn’t involved in the development, it really saves time and is easy to get working with.

LightSpeed’s design philosophy is centred on:

  • Convention over configuration.
  • Support idiomatic .NET domain models: (Data binding etc.)
  • Highly usable API and low barrier to entry.
  • Internalizes best practice patterns: Session per request, Unit of Work etc.
  • Testability built in.
  • Small, lightweight and performant.
  • Solve the 95% case – i.e. more like Rails than NHibernate.

Can I be a beta tester?

If you are interested in joining our Beta it’s not too late, email me and I’ll arrange for you to be added to the list.

I’m off to my brothers engagement party this weekend for a bit of a break. We have a whole pile of announcements to make next week, keep an eye on the Mindscape Blog to see them :)

- JD

I’m speaking at Remix Australia
10 May 2007 in Events & Microsoft & Mindscape | Comments (0)

Remix 07

I’m really pleased to have been given the opportunity speak at Remix in Melbourne in late June. Clearly Mix07 in the US was pretty huge this year (so huge I’ve not added to the echo chamber about the cool announcements, everyone knows already :) and it’s great to see Microsoft creating an event down under to bring some of that vibe closer to home.

The event has two tracks, a developer and a designer track. It seems this year is all about focusing on bringing those two camps closer (about time I say!) so if you’re a developer you should bring your designer friends along with you. I’m delivering a presentation to each track, one on standards and the other on pushing your applications further.

Seats are limited so I’d strongly urge anybody who is interested to go and sign up. It’s inexpensive for a two day conference and you get a free copy of Expression Web for attending.

Click here to visit the Remix 07 website.

I look forward to seeing you there,

- JD

Mindscape wants Beta Testers
1 May 2007 in .Net & Mindscape | Comments (0)

This is a bit of cross pollination but we are currently looking for beta testers for our first product. If you’re keen then head over to my post about becoming a beta tester on the Mindscape blog.

http://www.mindscape.co.nz/blog/?p=20

Thanks,

- JD