Wednesday, 26 May 2010

World Cup

We'll be helping foreign nationals find fellow nationals by creating a group for each of the 32 World Cup teams.

This means that you can head out and, for example, if you want to go celebrate with any of the 300,000 French people in the UK when France plays someone then you can use to find them! As works internationally, this can be used anywhere and everywhere :)

Don't go to a bar/pub with 1 fellow national cheering the team. Go to a bar FULL of them for a great atmosphere.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

alpha version and alpha testing to begin

The initial desktop version of the site has been uploaded to the primary domain and we are now ready to smooth out the last of the minor bugs and go to alpha testing. yay!

This now goes from being a blog about the daily/weekly life of a startup to an actual company blog. This is the last post I'll write in a 'first person' perspective. I initally wrote this without being sure what it would become. I figured that if we do well then it would be useful for other startups to read the trials and tribulations and random ramblings of one laptop glued muppet. It has been a personal perspective rather than a team perspective but that is largely because the team has completely changed over the last 6 months with different levels of involvement at different stages. However, now we really do have a fully functioning and co-ordinated team and its time to talk as a company.

WE don't actually know what a company blog is supposed to include yet. How about sounding professional? You know.... professional... like a Mortgage Backed Security ratings agency giving triple A ratings to junk? Maybe we'll work out what professional is ourselves.

WE will work it out.


Thursday, 20 May 2010

"A few good Admins" Starring Jack Networkson

Here is a quote which featured in the movie "A few good admins"

"Son, we live in a world that has firewalls, and those firewalls have to be guarded by men with admin rights. Whose gonna do it? You? You, Marketing Director Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Windows NT, and you curse the admins. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That changing to Linux, while tragic, probably saved data. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves data. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me to close that port, you need me to close that port. We use words like ping, code, proxy. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending networks. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the user rights that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just emailed me thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a packet filter, and examine a header. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to. "


Full movie, coming out soon

Sunday, 16 May 2010

minimal product

i agree with the lean startup gang of a minimal viable product. I think I understand it the same way as they explain it. The most important thing is the speed of learning.

have an idea? qualify it. Get feedback. Adjust. Build a prototype. Get feedback. Adjust. After this build a first version and do a 'soft launch' i.e. you actually have a working site... and you get real user feedback but you are not yet spending money on scaling up.

This makes sense to me. You've done everything possible to build the right thing but you don't truly know until its out there being used whether its correct or not yet. Then you adjust again and when you get that important survey feedback of 'I'd be disappointed without this product' and other solid reassurances of your products value, then you push hard with marketing and scaling up.

The alternative sounds like a nightmare in comparison. Have an idea... go into stealth mode for years while secretly building a monster and then when you are ready to reveal it to the world it turns out that no-one wants it. That's scary. So far we've spent 6 months on this project and it has gone from research, qualifying, specification to near completion. We can still be wrong... but it won't be as bad as having spent years on it!

I would like to see some better techniques for how you qualify something e.g. what really is a scientific method to qualifying an idea?

The first step can be just opinion. Ask lots of people in open discussion. When we started this project we tried brainstorming and it worked well. However, there is a technique to it. Get people together but don't tell them the solution and ask for an opinion on it. Give them the problem and ask them what their own solution would be. Run through multiple scenarios and only then introduce your technology in its simplest form and get opinions on how it solves that problem. Don't lead them to the answer which conveniently happens to be your technology.

At this point, I remember that the reason my co-founder and I are working on this project together is because he is the guy who will brashly go out and talk to pretty much everyone. Random people in the street, the guy on the table next to us, the girl at the bar, the guy on the train. He'll take over a dinner table to talk about the idea. That is why we work together and why I've also kept faith with him during the parts of the project where he could not contribute or was otherwise tied up.

In a normal startup, I think the developers rule. They will be doing the coding, they will produce the software and so what does someone from a Sales background do, during this time? Personally, I think there is always work to do in terms of marketing, which should be 50% or more of the project. Developers and Sales are opposite extremes of the personality scale in some ways however, if you can make it work then it will help you qualify your product much faster.

Its after this initial brainstorming that I'm wondering whether there is a more structured method of qualifying the idea. Maybe if you take a sample of people and almost all of them say 'That is brilliant' then you can do a calculation for the rest of the population. However, what if you work in silicon valley? Isn't your sample then flawed because even the guys working at starbucks will be saturated with dotcom news and ideas. So will that lead to your idea being slightly curved by the geek factor and then not hitting on what the mainstream want? It is well worth spending months qualifying something before any coding in my mind. Until you are sure.

Another step can be to do an interactive wireframe and by that I mean something that actually has some surface level functionality but takes a week to build at most. Wireframing tools need to up their game a bit more. They've got a lot better but they need an easy way of building in front end interaction.

Also, the wireframe gives you a first go at laying out the flow of the site. The user experience part is essential. I remember carefully thinking through parts of the user experience and changing the wireframes again and again and I still did not get it all right. Yet the wireframe I started with and what I ended up with were entirely different. Its shocking how much it changed the specification. I can't say it enough... use interactive wireframes to design the site.

So then you use those wireframes with users and see how they react. Layout the home page on the wireframe and see if they get what it is. Funnily enough, the wireframes really helped communicate among the team. I also realised that team members had a different perception on how this would work from my own ideas. Glad I did those damn wireframes, we could have been building a porn site by now otherwise.

Then what? I don't know. It would be nice if there was more material on how to keep the feedback/qualifying side of things running smoothly. I guess we keep talking to people. Everytime I head out with co-founder to talk to people, I learn something new. The other night I went to the toilet in this pub, came out and he's chatting to a Danish girl about the idea. Her experiences of making friends was different but it was definitely good feedback. She makes friends through other friends. Her interest was piqued when I explained how it could bring a group of Danish people in London together . Recently, having refined the pitch, people have been saying 'wow, that is amazing, when is it going to be finished?' Its when they ask that question that I stop feeling amazing.


Monday, 10 May 2010

the spinning mind

minds been spinning.

Quite a few things are setup. Salesforce is being populated but plenty more to do there. Been thinking and bashing brain with marketing stuff.

When I think of a plan and instinctively believe it will work, I write it down and then do something about it. Then, after its done and settled and ready to go, if the rest of the project is not in line with that plan then it sits there waiting. Given a month, when I come back to it, suddenly its lost some of that 'loving feeling' it had before. I then start to question it and re-think it. Sometimes rethinking is correct, sometimes its not. I'm not sure if time is bringing me greater sense or if its just screwing me up. What to do? Just do it anyway I guess... or jfdi.

Read great article from life hacker which resonates well (go to point 1. Understand and Overcome Your Fear of Failure)

i think it goes with the 'fight the good fight' type message. Some people are already lining up their excuses before or while they are working towards an objective because if they do fail then it softens the blow to their ego if they have that excuse ready. This can then actually lead to failure itself. Makes sense right? Others don't use the excuses and go for it and are willing to take the hit. This is similar to the message from 'The Alchemist' to fight the good fight. Far better to be involved than watching from a distance. Far better to feel the emotions of being involved than to have sat and done nothing.

I think that the alchemist got it right but maybe sometimes should make the point about the painful side of this a bit more clearly. The pain really is the pain sometimes and pain hurts.

The other day while taking part in this british military fitness 1 hour training session, I really really do wish I had more to prove to other people than myself. I was so wishing I had more to prove so that I could run faster and harder because otherwise the pain of it was really making me just want to stop and say 'screw it, i'm an adult, I'll stop if I want to' but instead I had to rely on internal drive to keep up and keep going. The teamwork exercises did help because I had to participate to make sure the other person could participate when we paired up. However, during the parts where I was running on my own, it was all internal drive.
With this project, a lot has been about internal drive up to now but when we launch, it will be about participating because others are participating. I don't fear failure but I do fear disappointing users. That said, I'm also a considerate user of startup software :) so I'm hoping someone will cut us a break occasionally, especially when we launch pre-perfection.

minds been spinning

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

team expanded

our core full time team is now 5 people... shocking change in some ways but it gives new energy and hope. There is also an intern working at least half the week and the co-founder is now firing along also with his speciality :)

Now the work will double for me as with a larger team, rather than there being less work to do, there is more energy and so more work to focus with. I like it.

The only thing at the moment is that favourite subject of all people in England... "The Weather". I'm sitting here and its cold! not just slightly cool... its damn well cold! Its 5th May ffs. Its also cloudy/rainy. I think I'll crack up if we have another bad summer. I need sunshine. Vitamin D. Our website needs good weather so people go outside too (actually it will work either way but in summer more people will be outside)

Anyway, its sleep time. I'm hurting all over from yesterday after doing British Military Fitness 1 hour session that ex/current army guys run in parks in London and round the country. 1 hour of hard training without a break. Clears the mind. The gym did not really help prepare me much for that... gym does not come close.