Announcing the Launch of Programming Classroom


So, I finally did it. My company Twin Roots has launched an actual product. Well, not a product exactly; more like a service. Along with my outside partner in crime, Rex Jaeschke, we planned a website where we are providing a service geared towards programmers.

Programming Classroom is the result of this effort.

Rex is well known throughout the programming community, especially in the standards world. He is also highly regarded for his live programming seminars where he teaches classes in C, C++, C# and more.

We thought it would be a great service to offer the seminars that Rex uses in his live classroom teachings to the general public in electronic format. These are the exact same materials from documentation to example source code. It is just that it is at a much lower cost than a classroom setting because it is self-paced learning. You will find seminars on C#, C++, Java, Visual Basic, and C. You will also find some freebies like sample chapters and tips.

So check out ProgrammingClassroom.com and let us know what you think. Needless to say, I am very excited while very nervous at the same time.


Help - I Want To Redesign My Company Website, But Where Do I Start

Update: I added what I think might be my favorite site -- Slicehost (and, yes, they are my current hosting provider).

I am in the market to redesign my company website.

A few months ago, I put version 1.0 of the Twin Roots website out to the public. It is based on a free template that I thought was interesting and relatively unique (for something that is free). But I knew all along that it was only a temporary stopgap until I decided I wanted to get serious and get a more permanent design for Twin Roots established.

Well that time has come, and you know what, I am as confused and perplexed as ever on where to begin. Here are some things I know:

  • I am not a good front end or graphic designer. I have no shame in admitting that. Thus, that's why I am looking around for a "3rd party" alternative.
  • I am open to free templates, free templates that can be modified, paid templates, or a real life person doing the web design
  • I am willing to pay money for the website design (whether template or web designer), but I am not willing to break the bank. For what I currently want, I have a top threshold price that I know I shouldn't go over.
  • I want a clean, crisp look (see below for examples of sites that I really like)
  • I have no e-commerce need yet; this is currently a purely informational site
  • I like my logo; simple, clean, yet unique. So I want that incorporated into the site.

But, where to start is actually quite mind boggling. There are an infinite number of template websites, tons of "Bid For Design" sites, many individual website designers offering their services (but whom I don't know personally), etc. Do I use a Wordpress CMS theme or something else? Many questions are running through my mind.

Here is what I found in my research:

And I have just hit the tip of the iceberg.

Any advice on a sane, coherent process to get a new website for my company would be MUCH appreciated.

Thanks.


Mac Personal Finance Software: iBank Wins, Moneywell Has Promise, Who Knows About Quicken Financial Life

iBank will be my Mac financial application, as imperfect as it may be. But it is by far the best and most complete financial software package out there for my needs (and if you include iBiz, it would match Microsoft Money in most, if not all, facets). I will wait and see what happens with Moneywell, and I am intrigued by the upcoming release Quicken Financial Life (although I am disappointed I cannot be a part of the beta).

Read More

Publicly Announcing the Website To My Software and Consulting Company, Twin Roots

twin-roots-logo-notext  

My company website is now publicly online.

Twin Roots, a software and technical consulting, contracting and development company has been active for about a year now. And while I have had an initial website up for the last month or so (basically so that I didn’t have to have the GoDaddy start page as the website), I have never really publicized it.

However, I have found what I consider a pretty good theme for my website and am happy enough with it publicly announce it here. I am using a *free* theme from Six Shooter Media (credits maintained on the web site, of course). I just liked the theme. It is simple yet different enough to where I think it can stand out quite nicely. I see an easy maintenance path for the site, being able to highlight current developments, work or products very easily.

I know a free theme is sometimes frowned upon for a business website. And it could be down the line that I have an original site created. But for my first go around, I feel this will do quite nicely.

I invite you to visit the site and comment on it, either through my email address provided there or right here on my personal blog.

Some items I am looking at adding in the near future are:

  • A company blog
  • Maybe a quick comment section to talk about items such as the site or its content

I am happy that I can get a presence for Twin Roots finally out there.

My Web Host Is ...... Slicehost

Amazingly, I have finally settled on a web host. For all intents and purposes, this is the first time I have ever personally signed up for a web host. To choose one was a long and arduous task of research, research and more research. I really hit a paralysis analysis wall. Choosing one finally is a relief. I am signing up with a web host because I plan to first host some blogs. Then, down the line, I plan to host some other web sites.

I knew I was either going to go with Shared Hosting or VPS Hosting -- I don't need dedicated yet. Shared Hosting would have been easiest for me because I could get blogging software up and running very quickly, it would have been cheap, and I wouldn't need to know much Linux (or Windows) if I went that route. VPS Hosting is more expensive and requires command line knowledge of Linux (oooohhhh, command line), but you are guaranteed a set of memory, CPU and resources (albeit not as much as some of the shared hosts *claim* to give you). Plus, you are in control of everything from the OS perspective -- you get root access.

I decided to go with a VPS solution (to tell you how close this decision was -- this morning when I woke up, I was *sure* I was going with shared hosting). At the very worst, I learn a little bit of Linux and understand how to run my own LAMP server (LAMP = Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP). At the very best, I am able to successfully host everything and anything I ever need to host, all under my control. In the end it will cost me $10 a month more than shared hosting would have. But that is OK. I am excited about the process.

So, the host I decided to go with after much deliberation is Slicehost. I had two VPS providers in mind, and I chose Slicehost because of what I considered its great website, excellent tutorials, community support options (chat being one of them), and the recommendations from many at the Business of Software forum. The last one was the tipping point.

So I am excited to try this out. I have already signed up for a new account and got the LAMP server up and running. Their tutorials helped out a lot here. It is important to note that this is an unmanaged hosting environment, which means, other than hardware failures, I am responsible for everything. There are no traditional support mechanisms other than the community.

In case you are interested, I signed up for the smallest package of $20/mo which gives me 256 MB of deddicated RAM, 10 GB disk space and 100 GB bandwidth/mo. You can upgrade/downgrade at anytime and I have 30 days to try this out to get some of my money back (You have to pay for at least 3 months of service initially - this was the only "downside" I saw about this)

My first major project is to move this particular blog over to the new host. I figure that should inundate me in the whole hosting process, real quick. That will be the topic of a future post.

I had 5 web hosts in mind; if you are interested in the other 4 that were on my short list, let me know.

That's all for now.

State of the Me - Quick Hits

It has been a while since I have given a progress report of where things stand for me professionally. Back when I worked for Intel, I was mandated to give monthly status report. I am feeling nostalgic today.

Here is  quick bulleted list.

  • I am still consulting, but, unless I am told otherwise, my current work is ending fairly soon here (maybe in the next couple of weeks).
  • I told you about a month ago that I figured out the product I was going to develop to start my micro-isv. My progress on that front has been limited. However, I am fleshing out a new idea that would make that product a subset of this new, what becomes an overarching, idea. I won't say much now other than say I am looking for a couple of partners and it includes, but goes beyond, software development into the world of internet media and other information dissemination mediums.
  • I am exploring the options for a webhost. I believe I have narrowed my choice down to 1, but I have an outstanding question to their sales department before I can say for sure. The hard part was to choose to go with a Linux based host over Windows because Windows is what I know.
  • When I choose my new webhost, I believe I am going to move this blog from its current home (Wordpress.com) to the new webhost via Wordpress.org. The reason for this is two fold - (1) Consolidation of all blogs and websites at one place (2) A learning experience about Wordpress.org and the migration process. I have never self-hosted a blog before.
  • I have gone totally Mac. Well, that is a little disingenuous, I suppose. I am running Mac OS X Leopard as my primarily operating system and running Windows Vista via VMWare Fusion (primarily because my current consulting gig requires it). This configuration is just awesome!! I love it!!! I am beginning to love Mac OS X as much as Windows. Also, I just bought a 20" Apple Cinema Display on Ebay that I expect to get today or tomorrow.
I will provide more detailed posts on any of these bullet items as warranted.

If You Are A Yahoo! Stockholder, Are You Mad This Evening?

After seeing the news that Microsoft has abandoned its bid for Yahoo!, do you think the average Yahoo! shareholder is angry that they are unable to now get $33/share for Yahoo! stock, and instead is going to have to watch it (most likely) plummet down to around $20/share again -- the price it was at before Microsoft made its initial offer? I sure hope Jerry Yang and the Yahoo! Board of Directors know what they are doing. These are rich folks on the board and may not be able to see things through the eyes of the everyday shareholder.

Personally, I think they made the wrong decision to not accept Microsoft's $33/share offer this weekend. I honestly think it is a case of "I would rather have the ship sink than be with the "Evil Empire"....well, that wish might just come true. I hope not.

Steve Ballmer's letter to Jerry Yang is very interesting...and the response.

And how does Google feel??????

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

It has been a while since I have written a post. So as to not disappoint my one reader out there ;-), I am making time to do so today.

I have been really busy actually - to a point where creating blog entries has fallen below the ZBB line. (Now, I am pretty sure ZBB is a foreign term to many -- it is an acronym used at my old company that stands for Zero Baseline Budget. Actually I don't know what that means, per se, but the gist is if something falls below the ZBB line, it doesn't get done for that quarter).

So what has kept me so busy. Let me give you an idea of my daily schedule.

  • 6:30 AM Wake-Up
  • 6:30-8:00 A little email, eat breakfast, get the boys ready for daycare
  • 8:00-12:00 After seeing the kids off to daycare, I work. I have the fortunate opportunity of having another consulting effort, this time where I am the lead editor on creating a technical specification.
  • 12:00-12:30 Take a walk around the block
  • 12:30 PM -1:30 Pick up the kids from daycare, put them down for their nap
  • 1:30-2:00 Eat lunch
  • 2:00-6:00 More work after spouse comes home and watches kids
  • 6:00-8:00 COMPUTER OFF LIMITS, spend time with the family
  • 8:00 Put the kids down for bed
  • 8:00-10:00 Eat dinner, down time, relax
  • 10:00 PM Bed time

So between my consulting job and my family, I am kept super busy. The weekends are generally kept for family time and some outdoor adventures.

The bigger question for me is how the work I am currently doing affects my overall sole proprietor / Micro-ISV plan. I am using this technical editor opportunity to decide if this is something I would like to do long term. What this has going for it is:

  1. Flexible hours
  2. Good pay
  3. Interesting (at least for now) work
  4. Oh, and did I say good pay (i.e. a real paycheck)

If I decide I do want to continue down this career path, my plan for starting my Micro-ISV may indeed change. I know I will have some downtime where I will need to be doing something. The well will run dry for short or long periods of time. In fact, I do have an idea that I have been throwing around in my head (I have the domain name reserved and the software idea floating around). But being a "full-time" Micro-ISV has now not a certainty.

We'll see. Stay tuned. I will keep you updated.

Until then, best wishes!

Reconsidering My Micro-ISV Ideas

image It has been a 1.5 months since I posted my ideas to start my Micro-ISV. After moving across the country, continuing on my consulting efforts, and some personal research and reflection, I am reconsidering whether I should move forward with any of these ideas.

With respect to the RSS Reader, I do believe I have an interesting idea that would "uniquify" the product; but, I also am beginning to believe it might be better to just contribute that idea to something like Dare and company's RSS Bandit rather than go with a full-fledged development project.

I was most jazzed about the Fantasy Football web site, but that excitement has fizzled lately -- maybe because the football season is almost over; maybe because of the reality of differentiation; I am not 100% sure, but my initial glee about the prospect is not there anymore.

The "Bag-O-Tools" idea is still on the table.

I am now doing a re-analysis of the direction I want to go with my company (i.e. do I need a "born-again" moment?) To give you a glimpse into my mind, here is my current thinking:

My Company = Consulting Company?

My consulting effort has been going really well, with real money and possible future prospects. I have been complemented for my good work. So, do I become a consultant/contractor instead of a Micro-ISV? But, the phrase "possible future prospects" can be a bit unnerving -- the well can dry up at anytime and without notice. So a backup plan is a must. Also, the possibility of constant travel may prove a bit prohibitive depending on how things go with my family.

Do I Want a Partner(s)?

I waiver on this quite a bit. On the one hand, it is very intriguing to know that I could control *all* aspects of my business. On the other hand, I know what a lonely road that could be. I don't necessarily mind giving up some control for the chance to share in the production of something successful -- in fact, running the business aspect of the business (vs. the technical aspect) intrigues me quite a bit. Also, I am still 100% convinced that the right partner, in general, is better than going solo -- if, for nothing else, to keep motivation high and have a listening ear for the business.

What Is My Niche?

This is the hardest hurdle to get over, obviously, for any successful Micro-ISV. But, this is arguably the most important hurdle. My initial ideas do not carve a specific niche, per se. I knew that going in, but now I am thinking that maybe I should try to carve a niche to complement my initial business goals. What product(s) could I develop that uniquely solves a problem for a certain group of people. On the other hand, it could very well be my niche is in the consulting business. It could very well be my niche is in technical editing, or managing a project or an effort. I am not ready to say what it is yet.

So as my current consulting effort ends (sometime before April 1st), I really need to do a lot of soul searching to figure out what comes next for me. I do hope I at least have the opportunity to make a decision to make about another enjoyable consulting or contracting after this one ends.

Choosing a Web Collaboration or Conferencing Solution

I wanted to show my brother a skeleton of a website that we are developing. He lives about 30 miles away from me right now, but soon he will be living across the country from me. So this type of functionality will be crucial.

I could have emailed the skeleton. That would have been simple, I suppose. But it is not real-time collaboration. We can't make changes on the fly. Those sort of things.

We both have Windows Vista. I have Ultimate. He has Home Premium. We are on different networks -- basically our home networks via our Internet Service Provider (ISP).

So what to do? What can we use to collaborate real-time when we are basically just two people on the Internet somewhere.

 

Windows Meeting Space  image

Vista has this new "feature" called Windows Meeting Space. I thought that would help, but no such luck. It only supports collaboration on the same wired network, WLAN or ad-hoc, PC-to-PC network. Basically, you have to be close to each other. That really doesn't help me in this situation.

NetMeeting  image

So I looked for NetMeeting. That would work, of course, right? I have used it before. Wrong! NetMeeting exists no more in Windows Vista. Apparently Windows Meeting Space is supposed to take the place of it. You can download NetMeeting for Vista, but it only works on Enterprise, Business or Ultimate. Again, can't be used in my situation.

Remote Desktop Connection  image

I thought about Remote Desktop Connection. But then I realized Remote Desktop Connection is not really for web collaboration. It is more of a 1-way communication system with another desktop. Only one person can see the desktop. So that was out.

Windows Live Messenger  image

I have the latest Windows Live Messenger. My brother could have easily downloaded it. I know I remember in the past being able to use Windows Messenger to share my desktop. There was a button or menu item to do this. It is not there anymore on the latest version. But then I realized that it used NetMeeting on the back-end -- so see my comments above about NetMeeting ;-)

Microsoft Office Live Meeting  image

OK. So Microsoft Office Live Meeting is now Microsoft's recommended way of web collaboration. It could work, sure. But the pricing is prohibitive. For now, I am trying to be a bit frugal (i.e. free). So I looked for other less pricey alternatives.

GoToMeeting, WebEx, etc.  image

For comments about GoToMeeting, WebEx, etc., see comments for Microsoft Office Live Meeting.

 

Yugma image 

So I found this thread on the Business of Software forum where someone recommended Yugma. I never heard of it. But the poster used his real name and had a link to his website, so I figured chances were that it wasn't spam or anything evil. I went to the Yugma site. Seemed easy enough. Sign up for a free account. Install some software. And go.

Both my brother and I went through the sign up and install process. I started a meeting. I gave my brother the session id. He joined the meeting. And off we went. It would pretty flawlessly, actually.

And, it is free for up to 10 meeting participants. This more than meets our needs.

And, it is Java based so I can host a meeting using Mac OS X if I wanted to and my brother can still remain on Windows.

I was very impressed for our first collaboration. It was quite cool.

Yugma will be my collaboration tool of choice until something better comes along.

 

Any comments?

Anyone have any experience with Yugma? Any better collaboration tools out there? Am I mistaken on my thoughts about the other collaboration tools I mentioned here?

My First Micro-ISV Product Ideas

[Note: I have a phone meeting on Wednesday with an old colleague where the result could change my plans. I will keep you posted]

OK, here it goes....for better, worse or the other, I am letting the world know my first product ideas. We'll see if announcing these now was a good idea or not. ;-)

Before reading my specific ideas, make sure you obtain some context by reading my previous post about goals.

As you will notice below, I am entering into pretty saturated markets (i.e much competition exists). However, I have subscribed to the theory that while a totally unique idea that is a hit may provide the best overall outcome, those come very far and few between. Instead, it is much more normal to add value to existing ideas, and let the execution and marketing of the added value bring success. Looking at it from the glass half full perspective, having competition means that people want the product or service (i.e. there is a market).

Also, I have a motto that I want to develop products that *I* will use on a daily basis. That is important to me because it makes me my own customer -- and I don't want to use crappy products either.

So without further ado, here are my product ideas for the next year or so. Again, these products align with my goals.

 

RSS Reader (Desktop)

Yes, there are many RSS readers out there, both web (e.g. Google Reader) and desktop (e.g. FeedDemon) based. I am going to enter my hat into the desktop ring. I will offer the basics, of course. But, I do have some ideas that I hope, in conglomeration, will differentiate mine from others. One is having both a Mac and Windows reader, with the same user experience. The second is being able to sync your feeds (e.g. read/unread) so you can be up-to-date no matter which computer you use the reader on (this requires some sort of web-based storage solution, probably). The third is being able to....well, I don't want to give this one away yet :-)

Business Model: Free basic version; Fixed-price premium version [Note: I am still working out if the free/premium model is the best way to go.]

 

Fantasy Football Information Web Site

Two of my many passions are sports and technology. I figured, hey, why not merge the two. I love playing fantasy football (NFL). There are many fantasy football websites that offer information about who are the best players to play during a given week, game previews, answers to emails, draft software, etc. Some of these sites are from the big boys (e.g. ESPN) and some smaller, yet popular, folks (e.g. Fantasy Football Today). I figured I would offer the same sort of valuable information and tools, but try to do it better and/or differently. In the end, when it comes to sites like these it is all about providing good, relevant and as accurate as possible information.

Business Model: Advertising

 

Package of Tools and Utilities for Windows

I have always like building small tools and utilities. Most of the tools I have built, either for my own uses or for work, I was doing back in my corporation days. I have had folks appreciate the tool work I have done. So I figured why not come up with a list of (hopefully) useful tools and utilities and offer them up free for people. I don't consider any of my ideas here earth shattering, nor unique, but just things I have found a need for. I don't plan for these tools to make money, nor get bought out by Microsoft like SysInternals. I just want to provide them for fun and test an open source business model -- where my goal wouldn't be to make money, but more just get my name out there. Here are a few examples I am thinking of implementing (and, yes, initially these will be Microsoft centric because that is what I know)

  1. An Outlook mail component that makes sure you actually have an attachment in an email that is supposed to have an attachment.
  2. A component for IE7 that automatically puts widely used links in the Links portion of the IE7 browser and makes sure they are bubbled to the "top" of the Links portion (e.g. they are visible in the max screen browser window)
  3. A small utility that allows a user to increase/decrease the number of simultaneous downloads allowed from IE7
  4. A tool that finds all the files where there are multiple instances on your computer (this could be Mac and Windows)

Business Model: Free, Open Source

 

I will provide specific details on each of these efforts as I move along the development path. Right now, I think I am going to work on the Fantasy Football website first so I can have it ready in time for the next NFL Fantasy season, which begins in full force around August.

So there you go. The cat is out of the bag. :-) Now it comes down to execution. Also, I am not adverse to discussing/collaborating/partnering on these ideas or any other ideas. So if you have any thoughts you want to share with me personally, feel free to contact me by email or leave a comment.

Goals For My First Year In Business

I have been convinced, after a blog comment conversation with another fellow Micro-ISVer, to let the cat (or cats in this case) out of the bag with the ideas that I am targeting as I get my Micro-ISV business off the ground.

The specifics of those ideas will be my the focus of my next post. There will be a couple of teasers in this post ;-)

But before I reveal the ideas that I have been keen on, I wanted to set some context about my goals that I want to accomplish as a result of developing these ideas.

I have 3 ideas that I would like to flesh out and develop by the end of 2008 / beginning of 2009, if not sooner. One is, for the most part, an informational website idea. Another is a desktop application. The third is still a bit fuzzy, but the idea lies around downloadable tools/utilities.

Of course, as with any commercial business, a main goal is to actually make some money. However, for my first foray into this "run my own business" process, it is not my only goal. In fact, I would even go as far as to say that making money isn't my only top-tier goal.

My goals as I get my business off the ground are the following:

Tier-1 Goals

  1. Develop products that I myself am excited about and would use
  2. Determine the best business model(s) for me
  3. Learn how to run a virtual business
  4. Answering the "Is being a Micro-ISV right for me?" question
  5. Make money

Tier-2 Goals

  1. Ensure I remain technologically relevant
  2. Get my name out there (not just through the products, but by participating in forums, etc.)
  3. Balance contracting/consulting, other business opportunities with a Micro-ISV business
  4. Determine if I need/want/can support a partner(s) or employees 
  5. Answering the "Can a Micro-ISV succeed in markets that already exist?" question
  6. Find the right Micro-ISV resources to utilize (e.g. is Microsoft's Empower program worth it?)
  7. Help other Micro-ISVs as appropriate and as best I can

There may be a few other goals that I am missing, but I think I have covered the major ones.

Let discuss some of the Tier-1 goals just a little bit.

Develop products that I myself am excited about and would use

I think this might be the most important goal. I believe if you don't like the work you are doing, the product quality suffers. And when that suffers, it is like a domino effect to all other goals, including making money. Also, I believe if you develop a product that you will personally use, you tend to put more of your heart and soul in the product because, hey, you want to use good products too, don't you?

Determine the best business model for me

Web-based applications with advertising and/or paid subscriptions? Desktop applications for sale? Open source / shareware applications? Donationware? Freeware? Which is the best route to go? Do I develop for both Windows and Mac? The three ideas that I am considering will each showcase a different business model.

Learn how to run a virtual business

Right now I am a one-man show (although I may have a partner for one of my ideas). I have to not only develop the products, but also market them, support them, maintain a good website, keep the financial books in order (assuming I make any money ;-)), etc. Do I need to hire a website designer? An accountant? An attorney? This is my first time doing this and this first year or so will be a learning experience more than anything.

Answering the "Is Being A Micro-ISV Right For Me?" Question

I am going to use this opportunity to decide whether I am cut out to be a Micro-ISV; or whether I am better served to be a contractor/consultant -- or -- a corporate employee full time. Many factors go into answering this question, not just the product development work. For example, how does the Micro-ISV lifestyle affect my family relationship?

Make money

All three of my ideas have been implemented before in one form or another. So I will not be making any money because I am inventing a totally unique product. However, I want to see if I can make money by adding interesting, unique features to the products, along with providing ancillary value through pricing, support, etc. So, I am hoping that it is not just the product that people look at, but also the total business package.

I may go into some descriptions about my other goals (e.g. Tier-2) in a later post. Let me know if you are interested.

To summarize, I want to use this first year as learning experience, first and foremost, so that I can better prepare for my business future.

I am hoping this a worthwhile strategy for me. I guess we will see, huh? :-)

Using A Website Template For Your Business

I have a need for 2 websites:

  • One of my business ideas has as its foundation an informational website. In other words, the information on the website is how I would make money, either through ads or subscriptions.
  • The other website would be my company website.

I am not a web designer, by any means. My artistic ability is near nil. So starting a website from scratch seems counterproductive.

However, I am technically savvy and, maybe to my detriment sometimes, like to try technical projects myself before going off and hiring someone to do it for me.

I am considering choosing and using website templates from Open Source Web Design for both of my website ventures.

My reasoning is that there are many free, artistically viable templates that I can start with such that some of that legwork has been started for me. I can then take the source code and modify it to match my needs. Also, did I say they are free!

I have heard mixed thoughts around using canned website templates for business ventures.

Some of those against citing that you don't want your website to look like any possible shady (e.g. porn) websites. Others against the idea say if you don't know what you are doing enough that you need to use a template, then you should just hire a professional to do the work correctly.

However, people for the idea say if you use modifiable templates (e.g. open source), you can customize the site enough to make it look original and provide a unique look and feel value proposition for your business.

I am hoping to hear from people for and against the "use a template for your website" idea. Specific case examples would be great.

Let the comments roll.....

Micro-ISV: Working on Multiple Projects at the Same Time?

I believe I have decided on my first Micro-ISV projects; three to be exact. One is a primarily web-based effort. Another is a primarily desktop application. And one is just a fairly simple tool.

My contracting work supposedly ends in January, at which time I can start to focus fully on developing these products. (Of course, other contracting/consulting work could come my way after January, and I have to do the normal cost/benefit analysis -- but let's just assume for the time being that I have full time devotion to Micro-ISV products after January).

The tool I think I can get out relatively quickly. But the web-based application and the desktop application are quite a bit more complicated. I would like to get both out as soon as possible, but as a one person shop, new to this whole Micro-ISV thing, I am wondering about serial vs. parallel work styles when it comes to developing products.

In other words, is development "multi-tasking" a good idea?

clip_image002

Back in the "corporate world" working on more than 1 distinct project at the same time was fairly common. However, at least in my case, you worked in a team setting; so you didn't own the whole project/product on your own. Plus, you didn't necessarily have to worry about the non-development aspects of the company (marketing, finances, etc.)

With a Micro-ISV I can see it both ways. On one hand, working on two or more projects at once can remove focus from one project and you might miss something. On the other hand, if you get stuck or just burnt out on one project, you can always move to another project for a while.

So I am hoping I can hear about some experiences from folks that have attempted and either failed or succeeded in managing to work on two development projects at one time.

Input appreciated. Thanks.

This Is What An Exit Interview Should Be

http://channel9.msdn.com/showpost.aspx?postid=213207 A little long, and not orthodox, but if you watch it, notice the questions asked. The interviewer (Charles Torre) did not berate the reasons as to why Robert Scoble left. It was professional and the questions were very good: 'What do you see as successful for you in 5 years?', 'Would you work for Microsoft again?'

I think certain people could learn from this (and I know I said I wasn't going to harp on this anymore, but I felt this was worth it)

The Essentials For Starting A Business

I am trying to come up with a list of essentials that I need in order to officially start my business. I need to keep in mind that I will be doing "as-desired" consulting in addition to producing my own ideas; thus I will (hopefully) be bringing in some money even if my own ideas do not become fruitful. In fact, I am doing some consulting work right now. Below is my list thus far. A couple of caveats: (1) The categories here are relatively generic that can be applied to most any business. I did not include specific software development essentials (that is for a future blog post) (2) It reflects, for the time being, a one person business that will either be a sole-proprietor or LLC:

  • A good business idea: :-) 
  • Accounting Software: QuickBooks Simple Start 2008 (FREE) -  I will at least need to create invoices for my consulting jobs and hopefully have other uses for when my own ideas come to fruition
  • Tax Software: Turbo Tax Home and Business - Right now, I don't have an accountant, and I plan to do my own taxes (as I have always done). I figured as a sole proprietor or an LLC, the taxes won't be overly more complicated than they are for me without the business.
  • Task Management Software: Master List Professional - Just to keep your business life in order
  • Company and Tax Information Resources: Surprisingly Simple: Independent Contractor, Sole Proprietor, and LLC Taxes Explained in 100 Pages or Less (and for me specifically as well, Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality)
  • Health Insurance:I will probably go with a high deductible insurance plan (with HSA) for me an my family. Maybe from Blue Cross Blue Shield.
  • Legal Help and Advice: LegalZoom.com - This can help me create my LLC, get my trademark, etc. The question is, do I really need an attorney?
  • Computer Backup Software: Right now, I backup my laptop up to an external hard drive. I think I will also start creating a regular DVD backup that I place outside my home (maybe in a P.O. box or something). Does anyone recommend online backup services? The thing that concerns me there is privacy.
  • Domain name: Nowadays, this is a given and a must for any successful business, even for brick and mortar type businesses.
  • Web site: I am going to have a web site. I may develop it myself, but I also may hire someone to do it for me. If you have any recommendations of a good site developer and/or you are one yourself, let me know in the comments or at constantflux(at)joelmarcey.com
  • Web host: I have tried HostGator. It is OK. But after trying it, I think I want a Windows-based host, since I am quite familiar with the Windows platform. Or at least a host that offers both Linux and Windows hosting. Any recommendations?
  • Business Credit Card: Can anyone tell me what the best one is?
  • Business Bank Account

What else needs to be added to, deleted from, or changed in this list? For example, are business, disability, life insurances essentials? What about belonging to a self-employed organization like an the NASE (National Association for the Self-Employed)?

 Also, in the list, are there better products to use for each category than I came up with?

My Manifesto

While I am not religiously following StartupNation's 10 Steps to Open For Business anymore, one thing I did take away from it was coming up with a Life Plan. And one part of the Life Plan was to come up with a manifesto as it relates to life and career. This is my current manifesto: Don’t regret because of fear. To work on something I enjoy, being responsible for my successes and failures as a result. Not having to work in an old, outdated corporate environment. Having work structured around my personal life and wants. Ensure work is a close second to family, but still second, never first. All is equal in the work environment. Living somewhere I am proud to call home.

May be kind of lame, but I think it encompasses a lot.

I think the first sentence is very telling. For example, it is scary quitting your "secure" corporate job and going out on your own. But, if you have a plan in place, the proper resources, and the desire, you shouldn't fear it. Now, I am not telling everyone to quit their job (and quitting a job is not for everyone). Money and feeding yourself and family are still a big time necessity in this world. So you need a plan of attack and resources (e.g. savings, a working spouse, etc.). But if you have these things, and you have the right mentality, go for it. You would hate to regret it later on.

And "All is equal in the work environment" really means that there is no in-your-face notion of a hierarchy at work. For example, offices for the higher ups, 3x3 cubicles for the grunts. I understand that decision makers must exist, and in the end it is up to them to make the final call on things, but you don't have to be so blunt about it.

I think the rest is pretty self-explanatory.

It won't hurt me to revisit this from time to time to make sure I am still living by the messages contained in the manifesto.

What do you think?

Changing Tactics On My Approach To Starting My Business

I wrote this post yesterday. I then posted this question on the Business of Software Forum soon after.

I am now changing my business planning a little bit.

Initially, I was very surprised at the responses about how one should go about planning to start a Micro-ISV business. I don't believe anyone said using the 10 Steps To Open For Business was *the way* to go. I heard everything from the list was a "load of rubbish" to it not being a bad list, but you need to be careful of over-analysis.

The overriding theme was that, in this business, you need to find a pain point and bring a product to market as quickly as possible. None of the other stuff matters if you don't do this.

I now understand the responses, and now tend to agree with them. And, after re-opening my Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality book by Bob Walsh, I am going to deviate from my plan to use the 10 steps and basically use the book as my guide, but start working on product as quickly as possible. The software business moves so quickly that I believe the person who mentioned over-analysis is right on. I already have a product idea (or two), I know where I want to be with my life, I am bootstrapping the business myself -- it is time to "Just Do It!" (sorry again Nike), and I have joined that line of thinking.