Belkin just released a clever in-desk iPod dock that fits in the 3-inch cable management holes drilled into many desks nowadays. Very cool. And hey, if you don’t have such a hole now, you could always drill one, right?
Monthly Archives: March 2007
“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” -Woody Allen
Woody Allen’s venerable quote is quite fitting in this modern, Web 2.0 era. It has been my experience that a company like Needmore, with no outside funding or help to speak of, must grow by moxie and sheer willpower. It has taken us years to get to where we are now!
Allen’s is also a good mantra for a small business looking to create web-based applications, like so many around today. Particularly if you substitute “launching your product” for “showing up.” We have one or two great ideas, one of which we even started to build, but at some point we realized that we just didn’t have the time to write the software. Client work is still the mainstay of our business, and we still enjoy it very much.
At the same time, there’s more than a few web applications out there which are not remarkable, yet have achieved some level of success, I believe, simply by “showing up.” There’s nothing wrong with that. In such a fast-paced industry, getting something out the door six months before everyone else is a huge competitive advantage. But it’s not the only one, and it’s a very large playing field.
By the way, we are hiring.
Needmore Designs is growing, and we want to hire a great Rails programmer!
We are completely self-funded, so we set our own direction, and we have a very laid-back and creative environment to work in. Right now, we have a number of projects, both for clients and for ourselves, in need of a good coder. We need someone who has experience with Ruby and Rails, databases, and web design. Some system administration skills would be nice. The ideal person is also smart, productive, a good communicator, loves writing good code, cares about best practices, and has the ability to set and complete goals. We’d love to find someone full-time in the Portland, Oregon area, but we are open to working remotely.
If interested, please send your info and a work sample or two to ray at needmoredesigns dot com. If not interested… please, pass it on!
One often talks about the “elevator pitch,” the incredibly brief period of time you have with someone in an elevator (or any like situation) to explain your big idea. It’s handy to have just such a pitch, if you have just such an idea.
I met yesterday with a friend who had a bright idea. After listening for fifteen minutes to long descriptions about how it might work, I distilled it down to three words: “YouTube for X.” Now, I’m not going to say what industry X represents, because frankly that would be giving away pretty much the whole idea. But once it was out there, he agreed that it made a lot of sense.
Metaphors are very helpful. They give you handles around your idea, make it portable, help you to think about it in a way that lets you compare it to other ideas out there. It’s much easier to frame it in terms of X meets Y, because then you can explore the space between those two things. In this case, I then suggested my friend get a YouTube account and upload and watch some videos. Then he’ll have a far better idea of what he’s up against. And it saves a lot of time explaining, because I’ve used YouTube too.
As Mark McCormack wrote in What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School: “Creativity in business is often nothing more than making connections that everyone else has almost thought of. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just attach it to a new wagon.”
I’ve been reading the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, and let me tell you, it’s as if the book was written to accompany the launch of Highrise, a remarkable shared online contact manager, released last week.
Keith is a world-class networker, and he’s written this book all about it. The more I read this book, the more I think of inspiring uses for Highrise.
Before I meet with any new people I’ve been thinking of introducing myself to, I research who they are and what their business is. I find out what’s important to them: their hobbies, challenges, goals—inside their business and out. Before the meeting, I generally prepare … a one-page synopsis on the person I’m about to meet. The only criterion for what should be included is that I want to know what this person is like as a human being, what he or she feels strongly about, and what his or her proudest achievements are.
Great use for the bio or notes you can add to your contacts in Highrise. Later, regarding meeting folks at conventions:
I generally knew who was coming… My office compiled simple bios of the VIPs who were coming in case I ended up meeting them or sitting next to them. My assistant prepared a few one-pages on the one or two individuals I especially wanted to meet. … This is all part of what I call just doing your homework.
Again, fits in perfectly with the Highrise philosophy. Mr. Ferrazzi goes on to talk about deciding upon a goal, and then making “lists” of the people you need to talk to to help you accomplish that goal. It makes a lot of sense, and would probably be a good fit for Cases in Highrise, since you can also add a “bio” and notes to the case itself. He goes on to talk about putting these to use to help with a product launch:
To create excitement around our product, I wrote down a list of people I called “influentials” – the early adopters, journalists, and industry analysts that help spread the initial buzz about a product or service. Next, I made a list of potential customers, potential acquirers, and people who might be interested in funding us down the road. … When you make such lists, it’s important you name the actual decision makers, and not just an organization. The point here is to have a readily accessible and specific list of names.
Finally, he actually talks about printing up some of these lists, and making sure he has them with him at all times. He’ll pull out the list in a cab, between meetings, and review details about the folks he’ll be talking to, or even just bumping into.
All in all, this is a great book, especially if you’re not quite an expert networker yet – which I’m not. I used to think of networking as a dirty word, but I’m feeling a lot better about it, reading this book.
The latest Business 2.0 has an article on Chip Conley’s Joie de Vivre Hospitality, the largest boutique hotelier in California. What makes him unique is that he thinks about the properties he develops as if he were a magazine editor. “Each of the 35 hotels we’ve done was based on one or two magazines and the five words that define their personality.”
Conley was 26 when he bought his first hotel. It was 1987, and the place was a pay-by-the-hour motel—talk about transactional!—in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. As Conley contemplated its renovation, it dawned on him that magazine publishing was “a great role model for boutique hotels. It’s niche-oriented, lifestyle-oriented, and the ideal for a magazine is to create a deep emotional connection with its subscribers.”
Conley decided that his new hotel, the Phoenix, would have a persona modeled on Rolling Stone and the phrases he thought defined it. “It was helpful in describing for our investors and designers’ contractors what we were trying to do,” he says. It also helped to define the target market. “Not just in terms of a demographic—the 26-year-old tattooed musician from L.A.—but a psychographic,” Conley says. “People who fell in love with the Phoenix would use those five words to describe themselves. Instead of ‘you are what you eat,’ it’s ‘you are where you sleep.’”
For the curious, the five words that describe the Phoenix are funky, hip, young at heart, irreverent, and adventurous. And it is.
Over the past few years, I’ve made a number of abortive attempts to get my head around the Getting Things Done methodology, largely because it’s chock full of great ideas, and I’m a known procrastinator. It’s always seemed to me that being able to have a more productive day was the thing I needed to get to that “next level.”
Yet over time, I’ve found that I’ve gotten busier and busier, to the point where I just don’t need it anymore! It seems that when you’re busy enough, and if you keep sensible track of the things you have to take care of, the process itself just falls into place. It’s when you don’t have stuff to keep you busy that you really need something like GTD. When you’ve got a full plate, you’re forced to deal with things out of necessity.
Sure, it might not be the most scientific explanation, but it’s working for me. Unimportant tasks just get set aside, as more and more important tasks come to the fore. They get taken care of, I become more productive, and the tools I need are all there for me already.
For the record, here’s what’s getting me organized these days:
- Apple Mail – Simple, fast, intuitive, and with SpamSieve, it’s a no-spam environment.
- Highrise – We’ll write more about this one soon.
- Basecamp – Priceless.
- Plain Text Files – TextMate makes plain text feasible!
- iCal – It gets an honorable mention, I use it a lot.
That’s it. No big-picture plans here, just using what works best and stays flexible enough to adapt itself to whatever I need to get done. Who needs GTD?
One of the most difficult aspects of discussing a website, for us, is talking about the “source code” of the pages. The problem is that if you’re not a web designer, you’re probably not even going to know what we’re talking about! You can’t see the source code – where is it? I could tell you that your website’s source code looks terrible, or I could tell you that it’s wonderful and was clearly written lovingly, by hand, and was the work of a consummate professional. But you’re not going to see a difference, and it’s quite possible that a well-written website can cost you more – in the short term.
So if you can’t see any difference, how do you know one is there? How do you, a potential Needmore Designs client and generally savvy individual, tell the difference? Does it even matter?
Last year we bought a new house. We found one we really liked, but you’d have to be a crazy person to just buy it based on what you observe about the house. What you do is get a home inspector to come by and go over the house with a fine-tooth comb. They check your water, your wiring, your roof, the siding of your house, and so on. And as anyone who has bought a home knows, these things can often need repair.
It is much the same with a website. While negligence in this department may not cause a fire, it can have lots of unintended consequences. We sometimes see these when we take over a website project from another designer. The site may have been written long ago, or the designer might have used software such as Dreamweaver or GoLive. Working on a site like this is like looking at wiring on a 100 year old house that has never been upgraded. It’s terrible, it looks dangerous, and unless you’re willing to overhaul the wiring, working on it takes far more effort than it should.
Being conscientious about the code that makes up a website isn’t easy. But it adds a lot of value to your website. It makes updates easier, it makes handing it off to other designers easier, search engines like it better, the pages load faster, folks with disabilities have an easier time using it… the list goes on. We consider it good business sense, plain and simple.
So next time you’re evaluating designers for your website, do take this into account. Even if you don’t hire Needmore Designs, you’ll be making the world a better place if you understand the hidden value of your site’s HTML.