“If a hunted cat, surrounded and hard pressed, turns into a lion, God knows what I, who am a man, may turn into.”
- Sancho Panza, Don Quixote, Book 2, Miguel de Cervantes.
Bootstrapped, episode 5, is now available.
Last night, the drive holding all of our source code for the last 8 years died a pitiful death.
Luckily, we had all of our data backed up to S3. Arq saved our asses with a complete, flawless restore.
During the process, I had a chance to look over the complete source code repo, taking the opportunity to prune some things and clean things up a bit.
Just for fun, here’s a listing of all of our products, give or take a few, since the company was founded in 2005.
Once in a while, the CEO of a large organization, let’s call her “Leslie”, purchases one of our apps.
When she has a problem, the support ticket we get is never from “Leslie”. It’s usually from “Steve”, the assistant to the executive assistant of the person in charge of the IT department. By the time we get the email, it has made its way through 6 people in the organization, 2 separate internal help-desk systems, and is already 4 days removed from the time “Leslie” sent the original email.
We received one such email from “Steve” recently. “Leslie” noticed that our spam filter app wasn’t filtering spam as well as it should. She wanted to know why.
I requested that someone click the “send debug” button inside the app, so that I can take a look at the debug log and find out what’s going on.
Two days later, a response arrived from one of their internal help-desk systems. A ticket has been opened requesting that someone click the “send debug” button.
Five days later, the second response was an update from another internal help-desk system, notifying us that several members of the IT department, and at least two executive assistants were added to the ticket requesting that someone click the “send debug” button.
The debug log arrived 2 weeks later.
The first line in the debug log revealed that the application was turned off.
Thirty seconds after receiving the debug log, I sent a response explaining that the application was turned off, and providing instructions for how to flip the ON/OFF control in the app settings to ON.
Two days later, a response arrived from one of their internal help-desk systems. A ticket has been opened requesting that someone “flip the ON/OFF control in the app settings to ON.”
- “Leslie, do you like that spam filter app?”
- “You know, the app is great, but you have one problem, and it takes a month to get a response from those people!”
“At one point, somebody kind of looked at the process to see, well, what it’s doing, and what’s the overhead built into it. What they found is that, [at IBM], it would take at least nine months to ship an empty box.” ~ Rich Seidner, former IBM programmer. Triumph of the Nerds.
Starting a new software company?
Burn this into your mind –
This is how I know I’ve been in the software business for far too long.
A box of lollipop sticks arrived this morning. 100 count. We bought them for my son’s birthday. They cost $3.06.
I’ve been thinking about these lollipop sticks the whole day. Actually, I’ve been thinking about the business of lollipop sticks, the company that makes them, and the people who own the company that makes them.
There’s no point to it, really. It’s just that after running a software company for almost a decade, the daily mechanics of other types of businesses fascinate me. The more unlike a software company a business is, the more it intrigues me.
What goes on through the mind of a lollipop stick maker?
How many lollipop sticks does she have to sell to stop worrying for the month?
Is she concerned with innovation? How do you make a better lollipop stick? Would making them better affect their price?
Why $3.06? How much does it cost her to make 100 lollipop sticks? What if the answer is $3.00, and her entire profit margin is comprised of the remaining 6 pennies?
It’s intriguing. But it wouldn’t be funny. Not for a person who spends the better part of a year making a piece of software before offering it for sale at under a dollar, taking home $0.70 cents per sale after costs. I would imagine it doesn’t take the lollipop stick maker the better part of the year to make 100 lollipop sticks.
Would she laugh at me and the way I run my business?
Does she put any thought into marketing? What kind of ideas are tossed around to get more people to buy more lollipop sticks?
Is she from a long line of lollipop stick makers, or did she just stumble into the business?
Is she passionate about making lollipop sticks? Does she need to be? Is this kind of sentiment about products an absurd notion in her business?
… and when she pulls out her mobile phone, and uses my software, does she wonder about who is behind those bits?