windows php installer yippee

Just the other day I was thinking about hiring a Windows programmer type to make a decent PHP installer for me, because the current one is unusable. It doesn’t install any of the modules so it’s totally worthless. My customers are then forced to do a manual installation, which is tricky to say the least.

Well it seems that those fine devs who work on PHP have beat me to the punch and are working on one for PHP 5.2. A few details are here. There’s a more in depth discussion here.

Just taking a quick look at my last 10 trials, 9 of 10 were Windows and I’m 100% sure my conversions would go up significantly if PHP was easier to install on Windows.

Happy days are here again!

web 20 fantasy

Interesting post by HelpSpot customer Anthony Dunleavy.

I sort of agree, but I think he’s a little too broad that desktop applications will always be better. There are some types of applications which simply cannot be done from a desktop app and hence they cannot be better and others where the benefit of being online outweighs the supperior desktop UI.

One thing I think fosters this type of reaction is how the web 2.0 zealots insist that ajax will replace the desktop and how they try and make all their applications replicate the functionality of desktop apps. To me ajax should be used to smooth out the rough spots in the normal web UI, not replace it with a poor desktop replica. HelpSpot now has dozens of places where ajax is used, but there’s very few of them where you’d really notice unless you were looking for it. It’s just used to make the UI a bit smoother in spots not to completely prevent page refreshes or other silly goals.

jeremy on jotspot 20

Jeremy thinks if JotSpot stopped calling themselves a wiki they’d do better. I think if they offered a hosted version they’d do better. It’s far too powerful a system at this point to only be sold to organizations that have no IT departments and have no data security concerns.

I’d also note that I used to hate the JotSpot idea, but they’ve really developed it nicely and I think it could be even bigger if they provided a self hosted “enterprise” solution.

Also see Webjillion for more inside scoop.

helpspot in the wild odeo

The nice folks over at Odeo have done a great job customizing their HelpSpot portal. I never thought it would look that nice in pink 🙂


Also if you’re into text messaging you should checkout their new venture, Twttr which will also be using HelpSpot.


open source reality check

“If you think open source is the end-all of software development, show me the open source equivalents of Photoshop, ProTools, DreamWeaver, MS Office, PageMaker, BBEdit, World of Warcraft, QuickBooks, FinalCutPro, Performer, and thousands of other successful applications. For every product I listed there are many viable commercial alternatives, but only a few open source ones. The few that exists can not match the capability or raw development speed of their commercial counterparts.”

Great post by Rick. Says what I always try to say but does it much more eloquently. Please leave your flaming replies on his blog 😉

Update: I recommend reading the comments, some good stuff in there. Matt Mullenweg (guy who started WordPress) chimes in and Rick does a most excellent job of responding.

planet microisv ad

I’m helping support Baruch’s efforts with Planet MicroISV by putting up a HelpSpot ad for the next three months. That’s not the final ad, but a placeholder until I get the properly sized one created.

If you haven’t seen Planet MicroISV you should check it out. It’s a nice aggregator of small ISV blogs all in one place. If your blog should be there, but isn’t make sure to let him know.

top 5 al pacino movies

Pacino is the best. Here’s my picks in order:

  1. The Godfather 1 & 2

  2. Scarface

  3. Carlito’s Way

  4. Heat

  5. Serpico

Honorable mentions: Donnie Brasco, Scent of a Woman

do quit your day job

Phil has an interesting post about why MicroISV’s shouldn’t quite their day jobs as they’re starting up their businesses. I disagree with Phil, but before I get into the specifics I think it’s important to cover the MicroISV “camps”. Most people seem to view MicroISV’s as one group, however, I have always viewed them as two distinct groups. Group A (for lack of a better term) is the side money group. They have a decent idea, they’ve started working on it, it may or may not be viable enough to become a full time business. If sales are good enough to do it full time they would love to do that.

Group B are people seriously dedicated to starting a company as a full time endeavor and (this is important) financially able to do so. Anyone who in a reasonable time frame can’t save enough money to realistically quite their jobs is automatically in group A.

I don’t think one group is better than the other, just that they exist. If you read most articles by MicroISV’s it’s easy to see which group they’re in. Are their ideas small in scope, in non-competitive markets, in niche markets? Those are group A. Group B tends to attack markets with higher price points, require lots of customer contact, require at least some startup money.

So given the two groups I think Phil’s article applies nicely to group A, but is poor advice for group B. Here’s why:

You should quit your day job if you’ve properly planned for your business and have a reasonable chance at success. Success meaning you would be covering your lost wages plus some. You know if you have a good chance by doing your homework. That doesn’t mean having an idea and starting to code. That means having an idea and spending months researching the market, is it big enough, can you charge enough, what’s your value proposition versus competitors, etc etc.

Let’s take a close look at Phils downsides and I’ll add my thoughts along the way:

“1) The cost to launch is now the money you make from your mISV minus the amount of money you would have made at your job. So even if your mISV is a huge success, if it takes 3 months to develop, and you make $80k a year, you’ve lost $30k in salary to start your business. Just to get dollar one. You may also need to eat into savings to pay the bills, add that to the startup costs.”

True, but this is not necessarily a negative thing. It’s a misconception that you can start your MicroISV for nothing. In this case you’ll be trading time for money. 3 months salary is a pittance compared to what it costs to start most businesses. Again if you’ve planned properly this is not a surprise and you’ll have funds to cover or have made expense cuts to cover or most likely both.

“2) and 3) don’t really change”

These referred to not needing a physical location which I agree with

“4) You now need to pay your OWN salary before you pocket a single dime. Even if your significant other/parents support you, you’re still $80k in the hole from where you started.”

True, but again not necessarily a negative. First you’re working for yourself not someone else. What’s that worth? More than 80K to me. Second, what’s your upside at your current job? So in year one you’re 80K down. How about in year 3? More than likely your business has a much higher upside 3 years out than your day job.

“5) Risk is now extremely high. 90%+ of businesses fail. Your idea for a Web based stop watch may not look like such a good business plan when your out of savings. You are now in a sink or swim situation, if your business isn’t profitable in say 3 months, you may have to shut down. What if month 4 was where your business would have taken off? I can tell you that the 10% that do succeed usually don’t do it by their 3rd month.”

Man I hate the 90% of all businesses fail argument. That stat has been around forever and covers ALL businesses. You’re not starting a deli. You’re starting a software business for next to nothing (even if it’s 80K) where you margins will be somewhere between 80->99%. A guy who starts a deli is trying to live on 5% margins and he needed a 400K bank loan to get started.

Again the rest of his point is error due to poor planning. Of course if your planning is poor and you try and do a web stopwatch you’ll fail. There’s no market there. If you’ve only given yourself 3 months to succeed then again you’ll fail.

Here’s the big secret on how to do this and fail for the right reasons. Your pre-planning needs to be 100% focused on making your success or failure about the execution. So you need to plan away those things that are not execution related. It’s really not that hard to do. Make sure you can survive for enough time to see if it works out. Make sure you’re going after a market with enough money in it to support a new option and where a small fraction of it will make you a success. Make sure you start marketing your product “before” it’s ready so you have a few customers when it is.

If you plan away those risks then your main risk will be execution. That’s a risk you’ll have to live with and if you fail you fail, but it will be because you didn’t build a great product not because you ran out of time or ran out of money and your chances of failure will certainly be below 90%.

Phil did have one more quote that had me yelling at my screen

Given the above scenario, it could take basically $50k to make your first dollar. If you invested that in stocks, you have a much higher probability of making a profit then with your business. You could take a $50k loan to startup a traditional retail business and probably still have better odds of making a few bucks or breaking even.

This one is just way way off. If you’ve ever invested in the stock market then you know it’s a lot tougher than outlining a software business and takes just as much time and effort. The second line is just not even in the ball park of correct. 50K isn’t enough for a down payment on the loan you’ll need from the bank to start a brick and mortar retail business. I worked in retail for almost 10 years before getting into software. Let me tell you it’s low profit, high overhead. If you think you can get your software company up and running for 50K that’s a deal and it should be viewed as such.


I think that’s it 🙂

Phil much love! Not knocking on you, just sharing my take on the idea 🙂


Since my last question received so many wonderful responses I thought I’d try another!

I want to do a small advertising campaign across a mix of blogs so I’m looking for ideas of blogs you know that may fit the bill. Obviously the blog must have advertising slots already. It should be IT or business related. It should have decent traffic, but it doesn’t have to be huge. I think a good qualifier for this is that most of the posts have at least a few comments. I am not interested in using adsense to do this via the ‘place an ad on this site’ link. I tried a few of those and they just don’t work. Ideally I’d like to have the ad directly placed or via a better network than adsense. Image and/or text ads are fine.

So if you know of any blogs where you think a HelpSpot ad would make sense and the owner would be interested post a link. Thanks!