dont forget about ms sql server

This is just a quick note to all of you out there developing B2B apps in PHP (or other languages). Don’t forget to give your apps support for SQL Server. If you’re all ready doing support for MySQL then having support for MS SQL Server adds almost no extra work. The basic SQL is almost exactly the same.

If you need some motivation here’s some. It’s now been 1 week since HelpSpot went live and free trials were available. In that time, 45% of all downloads have been for use with MS SQL Server. I’d also note that in talking with these potential customers, most would not be able to use HelpSpot if it did not have SQL Server support because they are MS shops and that is the database they support and use. Throwing PHP on a box someplace is one thing, but adding support/backup for a new database platform is entirely different and in general would preclude them from trying HelpSpot.

make your app pretty

Dave said something interesting at the end of his

latest Podcast. It’s a political podcast, but at the end he talks for a minute about his Apple computer and he really phrased the process of developing software on a Mac perfectly. He said “It makes you want to make your software pretty” (13:30). I totally agree.

php wins out over rails oh my

OK in this previous post (Ecommerce, Rails, Merchant Accounts Oh My!) I detailed how I was going to use Rails for the store of the UserScape website.

Well I’m here to tell you that this may be the first post in history to detail why PHP won out over Rails. Now let me say up front that it’s not really Rails fault at all, but mostly my own. I did indeed start it will Rails, but after about a day of working on it I realized something very important. This was the app that every dollar my business made would pass through. Duh! Should I be writing this in a language I don’t know? NO! NO! NO! I can hear you yelling at the screen right now.

So I feel back to PHP and it was the best decision I made, because once I really got in there things were a bit more complicated than I had anticipated and if I had been needing to lookup code while I was trying to do the logic it would have been a big mess. I was also able to share templates and other code I already had in the UserScape site rather than duplicating them in the Rails version of the store.

In the end everything turned out fine. The system has successfully processed both credit card and invoice transactions and I was still able to use the merchant account/gateway I signed up for previously. I was also able to sneak in some new technology by using the EZPDO O/R mapper which is very cool.

fiber to your house

Wow, Verizon has a new service which will run fiber optic cable right to your house. This fellow just got it and it took his speed from 2.7 mb/s to 27 mb/s!!!!! Man, I hope they get that around here soon.

marketing what next

So sales over the first 2 days have been very good. We’re getting alot of conversions from the beta group as well as a surprising number of downloads from new visitors for the 45 day free trial. So how do we keep the marketing rolling, or more accurately how to start? I have some ideas for long term marketing efforts, but what about short term?

I found myself in the final screen of building an Adwords campaign this morning, but I just couldn’t pull the trigger. The keywords that relate to help desk software are very expensive. Even a tiny campaign would blow through several thousands dollars in a month, easy. It is something I’m sure I’ll try at some point, but for right now I just think there’s got to be a better way to spend $1,000. I love how everything so far has been grassroots word-of-blog driven.

So I’m opening this up to everyone out there. I’m looking for ideas on how to spend $500-$1000 in the blog world. Maybe it’s sponsoring something, buying something, flying somebody someplace, I have no idea. I don’t want to pay people to blog about my product, that’s just sleazy. Instead, I want ideas on how to facilitate the grassroots growth. Perhaps I’d be better off saving it for a vacation? Let me know what you think.

spiffy feature 1 opml

Every now and again I’m going to post about a HelpSpot feature, why it’s cool and how it came about. For at least a little while I’m going to avoid the obvious ones found in most help desk software and stick with the unique stuff. So here we go……

Feature: OPML
HelpSpot features support for exporting all your RSS feeds as OPML. In HelpSpot your personal Queue as well as every custom filter and forum in the system comes with an RSS feed so you can track the progress of requests and discussions. In even a moderate size installation you’ll certainly end up with a dozen or more RSS feeds to manage. Of course you have the option of selecting individual feeds to track but more often than not you’ll want to track them all, especially once you get used to checking your requests in your RSS reader.

Hence, a simple and standard OPML exporter exists. Simply click the link (pictured) and you get a nice OPML file for importing into your favorite feed reader.


helpspot 10 released

Whew, it’s been a long 2 months or so. When you’re building a company from nothing there’s so much to do. So many things seem far off when you start, but let me tell you they show up fast. Things like running your beta, working with your beta users, building your ecommerce system, buying your SSL certs, setting up backend systems to process customers, payments, invoices ……………

Well after all the hard work the moment is finally here where I can say I have shipped HelpSpot! Man it feels good. I know there’s so much still to do, but I’m trying to just enjoy this one moment.

Hopefully I’ll now have a little more time to write up what I’ve learned and get back to blogging at a better pace then I have been. We’ll see 🙂

If you haven’t stopped by the UserScape site in a while you might want to check it out. There’s been some changes to the


The tour:

Free 45 day trials:

and a few other things.

exit interviews done right

“First words spoken at an exit interview. Thank you for working here and contributing, all of us appreciate it. And mean it. Say thank you.”

Good article about how to treat employees who are leaving your firm and why it makes good business sense to be nice to them: Exit Stage Left – Your last chance