March 2007

Over at the Tucows Blog, I’m writing a series of follow-up articles that expands or explains some of the things covered in the article by our CEO Elliot Noss, Questions to Ask Before You Pick Your Domain Name Registrar.

The first article in the series, titled Domains Explained, Part 1: Registrants, Registries, Registrars and Resellers, explains some the confusingly similar terms registrant, registry and registrar as well as the often-misunderstood term reseller. It starts with the handy diagram below and then explains each term in detail.

Diagram explaining domain name registrants, registrars, registries and resellers.

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Kathy Sierra, Meet Chris Locke. This is CNN.

by Joey deVilla on March 31, 2007

Kathy Sierra, Chris Locke and a dove carrying an olive branch.Hey, something to watch while on the elliptical machine on Monday morning: Chris Locke writes that he met Kathy Sierra on Thursday night — on camera, by way of a CNN interview. According to the email sent to Locke by CNN, unless some “breaking news of a serious status” occurs, the interview will be broadcast on CNN American Morning (which airs from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Eastern).

Don’t worry if you’re too busy in the morning to catch the segment. Someone will upload the Sierra/Locke summit segment to YouTube within an hour of its initial broadcast, and the analyses should appear online shortly afterwards.

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Paul Graham: “Why to Not Not Start a Startup”

by Joey deVilla on March 29, 2007

Box for a computer game called “Start-Up”.

Paul Graham’s latest essay, Why to Not Not Start a Startup has an unwieldy title and is a little bit of a mess. It would seem that Paul can’t make up his mind between making a list of reasons why you shouldn’t start a startup, a list of reasons you really should start a startup and a list of excuses as to why you haven’t started your own startup yet.

However, that’s a minor quibble. If you’re thinking about starting your own startup, forget the thematic mess and just read it. It’s a good list of points to keep in mind.

  1. You’re not an “adult” yet. “There are a lot of adults who still react childishly to challenges, of course. What you don’t often find are kids who react to challenges like adults. When you do, you’ve found an adult, whatever their age.”
  2. You’re too inexperienced. “What really convinced me of this was the Kikos. They started a startup right out of college. Their inexperience caused them to make a lot of mistakes. But by the time we funded their second startup, a year later, they had become extremely formidable. They were certainly not tame animals. And there is no way they’d have grown so much if they’d spent that year working at Microsoft, or even Google. They’d still have been diffident junior programmers.”
  3. You’re not determined enough. “You need a lot of determination to succeed as a startup founder. It’s probably the single best predictor of success.”
  4. You’re not smart enough. “You may need to be moderately smart to succeed as a startup founder. But if you’re worried about this, you’re probably mistaken. If you’re smart enough to worry that you might not be smart enough to start a startup, you probably are…If you don’t think you’re smart enough to start a startup doing something technically difficult, just write enterprise software. Enterprise software companies aren’t technology companies, they’re sales companies, and sales depends mostly on effort.”
  5. You know nothing about business. Not actually a sign that you shouldn’t start a startup, but advice for someone starting one. “This is another variable whose coefficient should be zero. You don’t need to know anything about business to start a startup. The initial focus should be the product. All you need to know in this phase is how to build things people want. If you succeed, you’ll have to think about how to make money from it. But this is so easy you can pick it up on the fly.”
  6. You don’t have a cofounder. “Not having a cofounder is a real problem. A startup is too much for one person to bear. And though we differ from other investors on a lot of questions, we all agree on this. All investors, without exception, are more likely to fund you with a cofounder than without.”
  7. You don’t have an idea. This might not be an obstacle if you’re looking for funding from Y Combinator: “In a sense, it’s not a problem if you don’t have a good idea, because most startups change their idea anyway…In fact, we’re so sure the founders are more important than the initial idea that we’re going to try something new this funding cycle. We’re going to let people apply with no idea at all.”
  8. There’s no more room for more startups. This is also not a sign that you shouldn’t start a startup; this is Paul’s dismissal of the statement that there isn’t room for more startups. “A lot of people look at the ever-increasing number of startups and think ‘this can’t continue.’ Implicit in their thinking is a fallacy: that there is some limit on the number of startups there could be. But this is false. No one claims there’s any limit on the number of people who can work for salary at 1000-person companies. Why should there be any limit on the number who can work for equity at 5-person companies?”
  9. You have a fmaily to support. “This one is real. I wouldn’t advise anyone with a family to start a startup. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, just that I don’t want to take responsibility for advising it…What you can do, if you have a family and want to start a startup, is start a consulting business you can then gradually turn into a product business…Another way to decrease the risk is to join an existing startup instead of starting your own. Being one of the first employees of a startup is a lot like being a founder, in both the good ways and the bad.”
  10. You’re independently wealthy. “Startups are stressful. Why do it if you don’t need the money? For every ‘serial entrepreneur,’ there are probably twenty sane ones who think ‘Start another company? Are you crazy?'”
  11. You’re not ready for commitment. “If you start a startup that succeeds, it’s going to consume at least three or four years. (If it fails, you’ll be done a lot quicker.) So you shouldn’t do it if you’re not ready for commitments on that scale. Be aware, though, that if you get a regular job, you’ll probably end up working there for as long as a startup would take, and you’ll find you have much less spare time than you might expect. So if you’re ready to clip on that ID badge and go to that orientation session, you may also be ready to start that startup.”
  12. You need structure. “I’m told there are people who need structure in their lives. This seems to be a nice way of saying they need someone to tell them what to do. I believe such people exist. There’s plenty of empirical evidence: armies, religious cults, and so on. They may even be the majority…If you’re one of these people, you probably shouldn’t start a startup. In fact, you probably shouldn’t even go to work for one.”
  13. You’re uncomfortable with uncertainty. “Perhaps some people are deterred from starting startups because they don’t like the uncertainty. If you go to work for Microsoft, you can predict fairly accurately what the next few years will be like—all too accurately, in fact. If you start a startup, anything might happen.”
  14. You don’t realize what you’re avoiding. “One reason people who’ve been out in the world for a year or two make better founders than people straight from college is that they know what they’re avoiding. If their startup fails, they’ll have to get a job, and they know how much jobs suck.”
  15. Your parents want you to be a doctor. “When I was a kid in the seventies, a doctor was the thing to be. There was a sort of golden triangle involving doctors, Mercedes 450SLs, and tennis. All three vertices now seem pretty dated. The parents who want you to be a doctor may simply not realize how much things have changed. Would they be that unhappy if you were Steve Jobs instead? So I think the way to deal with your parents’ opinions about what you should do is to treat them like feature requests. Even if your only goal is to please them, the way to do that is not simply to give them what they ask for. Instead think about why they’re asking for something, and see if there’s a better way to give them what they need.”
  16. You believe that having a job is the default. “This leads us to the last and probably most powerful reason people get regular jobs: it’s the default thing to do. Defaults are enormously powerful, precisely because they operate without any conscious choice…To almost everyone except criminals, it seems an axiom that if you need money, you should get a job. Actually this tradition is not much more than a hundred years old. Before that, the default way to make a living was by farming. It’s a bad plan to treat something only a hundred years old as an axiom. By historical standards, that’s something that’s changing pretty rapidly.

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If the few hours I have spent playing Japanese dating simulation games have taught me anything, it’s that knowing a little something about the people you’re trying to impress goes a long way.

That’s why it shouldn’t be surprising that Microsoft’s PR company Waggener Edstrom had a dossier on journalist Fred Vogelstein, and it should be even less surprising that this dossier was being circulated when Vogelstein was conducting interviews for his article on blogging at Microsoft (a story that’s part of this month’s theme in Wired magazine — “Radical Transparency”).

What is surprising is that someone emailed Vogelstein’s dossierto Vogelstein. Vogelstein posted the entire document online…

Comments from PR dossier on Vogelstein, done up as an imaginary PowerPoint slide
An imaginary briefing slide, based on actual content in Waggener Edstrom’s dossier on Fred Vogelstein.

I’ve got to hand it to Waggener Edstrom president Frank Shaw: he did a pretty good job spinning this accidental leak:

Now, let’s talk about the briefing mail now online and the mention in the article of a “confidential dossier of 5,500 words.” Not true – someone is confusing a briefing with a dossier and “confidential” with “not sent to me”.

Seriously, in this case, the interests of a journalist and PR are totally aligned – a great interview is always the best possible outcome. And that doesn’t mean an interview where a spokesperson endlessly repeats key messages – that’s a loss. It’s an interview where the person is prepared to talk, has the relevant data at hand, understands the story premise and his/her role, and doesn’t waste time going over the same territory as a previous interview.

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The Wall Street Journal has Microsoft buying out Silicon Alley digital advertising stalwart DoubleClick:

dc_home.gifThe New York-based company is using investment bank Morgan Stanley to help sound out its options, these people said, including a possible stock-market listing. The company is majority-owned by San Francisco private-equity firm Hellman & Friedman, which since purchasing DoubleClick in 2005 for approximately $1.1 billion, has sold off a number of divisions and reshaped the business. Hellman is seeking at least $2 billion for DoubleClick, said one person briefed on the situation, and it remains an open question whether the firm will choose to complete a deal.

Acquiring DoubleClick could give a shot in the arm to Microsoft’s online advertising business. The company has been investing heavily in its own ad-delivery system, which it opened last year. People familiar with the matter say Google is preparing a service it could announce within the next few months that could serve ads on sites for Web publishers or for advertisers even when Google itself hasn’t sold the ads.

This is a predictable endgame, IMHO, and we should see other companies like aQuantive, ValueClick, and 24/7 Real Media (where I did some time in the past, but got out for good behavior) start becoming the focus of attention.

Microsoft is late to the digital ad game, and, like all of the latecomers to the business, is having a difficult time making up ground with a direct assault on Google’s search lead. A deal for DoubleClick, however, would buy them significant distribution of more traditional digital ad formats, while they build the portal/destination business at Yahoo!’s and AOL’s expense.

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Developer Links

by Joey deVilla on March 27, 2007

For you developers out there: some of the most interesting application development links I found today…

  • Security and Obscurity [DMiessler.com]: Many of us are familiar with a concept know as Security by Obscurity. The term has quite negative connotations within the security community — often for the wrong reasons. There’s little debate about whether security by obscurity is bad; this is true because it means the secret being hidden is the key to the entire system’s security. Obscurity itself, however, when added to a system that already has decent controls in place, is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, when done right, obscurity can be a strong addition to an overall approach.
  • Ruining the User Experience [A List Apart]: AJAX can be used to make wonderful web applications, but for people without JavaScript (especially those using mobile phones), AJAX means unusable sites. Aaron Gustafson suggests that site designers should consider these levels of user need:
    1. No frills.
    2. Make it pretty.
    3. Make it sing.
  • Applied Web Heresies [Phil Windley's Technometria]: Phil Windley’s notes from the ETech 2007 tutorial by Avi Bryant, Applied Web Heresies, in which Avi invites the audience to join in an exercise in coding a Seaside-like web app framework. I met Avi at DemoCamp 5, where he demoed DabbleDB, a nifty little app that takes spreadsheets misused as databases and converts them into proper database-driven applications.
  • How to Beat Google, Part 1 [Skrentablog]: “Grow a spine people! You have a giant growing market with just one dominant competitor, not even any real #2. You’re going to do clean-tech energy saving software to shut off lightbulbs in high-rises instead? Pfft. Get a stick and try to knock G’s crown off.”
  • 7 Signs Your Project Will Never Make it to Production [Rail Spikes]: An article from a Ruby on Rails group blog where my friend Luke Francl is a contributor. The seven signs, according to Ben Moore, are:
    1. The client doesn’t have any wireframes or UI mockups.
    2. The client would rather describe the app over the phone than with a document.
    3. Creating the app fulfills a personal mission for the client.
    4. The client asks: “Are you interested in working for equity?”
    5. After a payment or two, the client asks you to reduce your rate.
    6. The client says “I’m going to lean on you heavily to tell me what this application should do.”
    7. The client doesn’t have a customer who wants to use the app before it’s built.

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Samsung Introduces 64GB Flash Drive

by Joey deVilla on March 27, 2007

Samsing’s new 64gig solid state drive

Back in October, when I last wrote about flash drives — storage that your computer “thinks” is a hard drive but uses persistent RAM circuitry instead of spinning magnetic platters — the largest available one was 32GB, a little more than half the capacity of the hard drive on my main computer, a 12″ 1.33GHz G4 Aluminum PowerBook. Samsung have doubled the size of their previous offering and now have a model that packs 64GB in the same 1.8″ enclosure.

At 64GB, Samsung’s flash drive is now at the “minimum reasonable size” for a hard drive in a new machine (for “minimum reasonable size”, I use the smallest hard drive included with a current-model Apple laptop as my guide; Apple’s always been stingy with the hard drive capacity).

The advantages of Samsung’s 64GB solid-state drive over an 80GB traditional platters-and-heads drive are:

  • 4 times the read speed
  • More than 6 times the write speed
  • 75% less weight
  • 1/3 to 1/15th the power consumption
  • More resistant to impact

For more details, see the specs at the bottom of their press release.

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