Have me at Hello – Site Home Page Comparison

Derek Perez posted a great site comparison comparing Earth Class Mail vs Zumbox. Unfortunately ECM comes off second best. But I have to say I absolutely love Zumbox’s home page. I’m sure the video actor and production cost a fortune, but I’m guessing they’re getting some serious ROI from it. The first time I saw this integrated video pitch was on brand guru Martin Lindstrom’s website, the author of Buyology. He’s changed the site around a little but he’s still pitching you in person when you arrive. Here’s Derek’s comparison.

Invictus – Poem

For the warriors out there who are still awake and working at 1:45am on Monday morning, here’s some inspiration to keep you going. This is a spectacular poem by William Ernest Henley written in 1875. The title means “Unconquered” in Latin. When I read this poem I get chills, the hair on my arms stands up and I feel the need to either kill something or create something.

OUT of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Costs and Startups – Advice for your CFO

In any company if you save $1 it goes straight to your bottom line. Meaning it’s as if you just earned another $1. The company that my wife and I have been running for about 2 years now serves over 30 Million page requests per day. We’ve invested a lot of time in getting more performance out of our hardware but about 6 months ago we started hitting pesky issues like limits on the speed of light and electrons.

So we’ve had to keep growing without going out and buying a Google-size web cluster. A lot of the wins we’ve had have been simply using every spare drop of capacity we can find. I’ve noticed a pattern during the last 6 months. It goes something like this:

Kerry (My wife, our CFO, and keeper of the graphs): Server 12 is hitting 10. [Meaning it has a load average of 10 on an 8 CPU machine which is 125% load]

Me: OK Dell has this great special on these new R410 servers that are about twice as fast as the previous generation.

Kerry: What about the other machines in the cluster?

Me: They’re already at 80%.

Kerry: OK what else do we have?

Me: Well the crawlers are maxed, the mail server’s maxed, the proxy’s maxed out, the load balancer is maxed….

Kerry: What about 25 and 26? They’re sitting at 2.

Me: Well we’d have to [technical and managerial speak explaining how complicated it’s going to be to implement]

Kerry: OK so lets do that.

Me: [More bullcrap this time rolling out the big guns desperately trying to get money for new toys]

Kerry: …[waits it out]

Me: OK so lets do that.

If you’re a CFO approving purchase decisions in your company, take it from me: Geeks and CEO’s alike love buying new stuff. I assure you there isn’t a web cluster or database cluster on this planet that you can’t squeeze a little more capacity out of without breaking things. So before you take the [technical and managerial bullcrap from your geeks and CEO] at face value, sit down with your team and have them explain all the data to you and go through all your resources with a fine tooth comb. Then, if you absolutely have to, spend some money.

And if you don’t have a CFO, nominate someone immediately!! It doesn’t matter how small you are, someone had better be the keeper of the cash-flow plan or you’re going to run out of money and wonder why.

Incidentally, this is the load decrease on one of the busiest servers in our cluster when we brought online some ‘found’ capacity earlier today.

Screen shot 2009-11-01 at 2.29.56 PM

Posted on Hacker News.

Monetization or Cannibalization – The State of Social Gaming Marketing

Mike Arrington is a genius. Main-stream journalists sit up, knees together, back straight and start taking notes because this is a master at work. His recent blog entry titled Scamville calls out the most focused on and buzz-worthy companies in the valley for making money from advertising scams and accuses Facebook of encouraging a vile cycle of revenue and crappy marketing. The effect for Techcrunch is that it forces a number of high profile companies to respond and creates a giant political suck-hole that draws you in and spits you out on techcrunch.com. Cha-ching! [It’s cynical Sunday – didn’t you know?]

There’s a great show-down video at the Virtual Goods Summit where Mike confronts Offerpal CEO Anu Shukla about this and she delivers a rather colorful response. Video below.

Buried in the comments on TC are a few experienced words from HotOrNot founder James Hong. Love the hotel pay-per-view analogy:

We ran offers like this back in 2005 for a very short period of time at HOTorNOT, that is until we realized what was going on. In a nutshell, the offers that monetize the best are the ones that scam/trick users. Sure we had netflix ads show up, and clearly those do convert to some degree, but i’m pretty sure most of the money ended up getting our users hooked into auto-recurring SMS subscriptions for horoscopes and stuff. When I hear people defending their directory of deals by saying Netflix is in there, i am reminded of how hotel pay-per-view has non-pornographic movies. Sure it gives them good cover, but we all know where the money is made.

In the end, we decided to turn the offers off. Quite frankly, the offers made us feel dirty, and pretty much on the same level as spammers. For us, the money just wasn’t worth it. On top of that, we relied on our goodwill with users and focused on growing by having a product and company that our users liked. Our sense was that using scammy offers would make good money in the short run, but would destroy our userbase in the end. Perhaps apps on facebook don’t feel this pressure because facebook is so huge, and there are always new people to burn.

I’d like to point out that there are some game companies out there who are holding out on using offers to monetize their users. Personally, that makes me 10 times more likely to pull my credit card out for them.

PS. I don’t think the concept of letting people fulfill offers to get credits is structurally a bad one. I for one would like to see the offer networks work together to create some set of public agreement on what types of practices are banned from their network, and perhaps they can evan have some sort of certification logo. These practices will only stop when companies are not competitively crippled by NOT doing them. In effect, we need a nuclear non-proliferation treaty among the offer networks.

For soap opera fans here’s the war of words at the Virtual Goods Summit between Mike and Anu. [YouTube is currently down – so check back in a few if it doesn’t show up.]