Jan Kubr

Archive for December, 2007|Monthly archive page

A link visited: Jason Calacanis as a great marketer

In Uncategorized on December 28, 2007 at 12:04

I’m going to link to Jason Calacanis’ talk on Le Web 3 not because I’d agree with everything he says or does, but because I think it shows how great job he is doing in promoting his product.

He could say “we have this human-powered search engine, go check it, thanks.” Done, finito. Or he can talk about the tremendous amount of spam on the web there is nowadays and how polluted results you get sometimes if you try to find some useful information. And he can be absolutely right and he would make people go “OK, so what is it YOU do to improve this mess?” And he would go “Let me show you.” And that’s what he does. Smart.

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A book read: How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

In Uncategorized on December 28, 2007 at 11:22

OK last book about personal development. Seriously. For some time at least..

If you know me, you might find me quite a social person, but you know that deep inside I’m still rather a geek. Also I tend to be arrogant; especially against people who “don’t get it” (whatever that it is in the moment). I hoped this book could’ve shown me a way out of it a bit. And it did, actually. It is a good book. A bit too wordy, so you might read some paragraphs very quickly or even skip them, but still. This book was written in 1936 and it is the first book on human relations, by the way. The book has four parts with clearly stated tips in each. Here they are with my comments in italics:

Part One: Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

  1. Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.
    People are often different from what you want them to be. However, instead of forcing them to change and criticizing them, try to understand them.
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
    At many places in the book, Dale mentions that none of the techniques presented works unless you really mean it. Shallow flattery is not what will work.
  3. Arouse in the other people an eager want.
    Always talk about the benefits there are for the other person, not for you.

Part Two: Six Ways to Make People Like You

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
    The word genuinely is very important. If you just pretend to be interested, you fail. There is something interesting about everyone and everything; you just need to have an open mind.
  2. Smile.
    It’s not that it will make you look better, it’ll help you feel better.
  3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
    I’ve been careful about this since one of my ex-girlfriends broke up with me because I wasn’t mentioning her name enough. So no big lesson for me here this time..
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage other to talk about themselves.
    I’m pretty good at this. Although you might learn a bit by talking yourself (or writting a blog after all), listening (reading) is far more important. Then instead of talking, just act.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
    What does the other person want? What can I do to help make it happen?
  6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.
    Everyone wants to feel important. And, in a way, everyone is important from one reason or another.

Part Three: How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

  1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
    If you argue and you prove you are right, you lost anyway. The other person is not going to like you and they will seek the first opportunity to “beat you” the next time.
    You might know you’re right. But you don’t need to argue. As Dale says, “any fool can do that.” Be smarter. What are the benefits of having the argument?
    I tend to do this mistake quite a bit. I win – and then what? It does not make me feel much better, but it does make the other person feel bad.
  2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.”
    See above, to win an argument should be rarely your goal.
  3. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
    It is unbelievable how many people can’t admit their mistakes. And saying “it’s my fault” works like magic! Also see step 4 in Joel’s Seven Steps to Remarkable Customer Service.
  4. Begin in a friendly way.
    Be friendly from the very beginning. Care about the other person even if you don’t know them well yet.
  5. Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately.
    Hmm, not sure about this one. Dale wants us to ask questions where the other person obviously will say yes (like “Do you want to save money?”) and get to the point where they will answer yes to whatever you want them to do, too. That sounds like a rather cheap (sales) trick to me, but it might work. I’d more concentrate on tip 8 from this section, though.
  6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
    Especially good with complaining customers. Let them talk. And (important!) don’t think “lalala, are you going to stop yet?” Listen, appreciate that this person is sharing her thoughts with you, and learn from them.
  7. Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
    I think this is a very powerful one. It is certainly difficult because everyone is proud of their own ideas. But it might not be all that important who came up with the idea first, right? If anything you want to happen happens, who cares whose idea it was?
    Sometimes you do need to take credit for your achievements because people might think you are useless otherwise. But don’t do it just to feel smarter and better than others. It won’t help anyone.
  8. Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
    Crucial. Where does the other person come from, what is her background, what are his goals? Why is she doing what is she doing and how do you fit into the picture?
  9. Be sympathetic with other person’s ideas and desires.
    Don’t be like “who are you to tell me what is better for me?” Don’t make fun of people’s desires because if you were the other person, you might want the same. Again, try to think as the other person.
  10. Appeal to the nobler motives.
    If someone insults you, don’t answer in the same tone. “Any fool can do that.” Be nice instead. Turn your enemies into friends easily.
  11. Dramatize your ideas.
    Don’t just plain tell your ideas; come up with a way to demonstrate them.
  12. Throw down a challenge.
    If you want someone to do something difficult, try to call it “the most important task of this project” for example.
    Also, if you are able to stimulate competition, in the positive “desire to excel” way within your team, you’re on your way to success.

Part Four: Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

  1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
    Even if it’s sometimes too obvious, it never hurts you stress something positive before you get to the not-so-nice things you want to say.
  2. Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
    This is hard to do I think, but very powerful. Dale says for example: Suggest you give people more time for the job if they need it to make things better. They might say to themselves: “I’m not that slow, I’m can do better!”
    Dale also suggests you avoid the word “but” and you use “and” instead. Compare “you do well, but you can do better” with “you do well and I know you can do even better.”
  3. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
    Again, admit your mistakes. Sounds easy, ha?
  4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
    Wouldn’t be better to do this instead? Why do you take this approach here? Many people will find themselves wrong without you telling them directly.
    One thing comes to my mind here: Note that you might be wrong and the other person might be right. Now you think something is wrong, but it might not be the case. If you ask “why do you this?” first, you’ll never look like a fool.
  5. Let the other person save face.
    ..you’ll never look like a fool = you save your face. Which is what everyone wants. The best way to make an enemy is to point to their mistakes in front of other people. The best way to make a friend is to sort the person’s mistake out without talking too much about it.
  6. Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in you approbation and lavish in your praise.”
    Everyone likes compliments. Don’t forget to be sincere though. Praise what you really like.
  7. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
    Again, people want to feel important. Give an important name to what people do and they feel better about it. Don’t be shallow though.
    I got an e-mail from Killer Startups saying that they’ve published a review of Flempo. The e-mail starts with “Dear CEO, we wanted to let you know..” Did someone from them read this book?
  8. Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
    I’d say: instead of talking about what all has the mistake caused, start working on the correction.
  9. Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.
    Don’t say “do this because it’s your job,” try to think what good can the person gain by doing it.

Dale has many examples for each of the tips. Some are very useful, some less, some seem to belong to another part of the book. But all are worth reading, that’s for sure.

All of the tips are very important of course. The main thing I’m taking from this book though is:

If you want to make a person your friend or influence them, try to think as they do. What are their motives, desires, goals? What would I want if I were in their position with their background? What would make me feel important and appreciated and what would make me feel lousy? What is it the other person needs to do to make me feel happy?

On Amazon S3 and competitive advantage

In Uncategorized on December 23, 2007 at 11:15

As I already reported, Flempo is using Amazon S3 to store task and document attachments. Yesterday I also set up regular database backups using s3sync. That means the database is backed up twice a day using an encrypted channel to a highly reliable storage.

Make the attachments be stored on S3 was very easy. All I needed to do was to change my usage of the file_column plugin to the (newer) attachment_fu one. That took me a couple of hours, but then all you need to do is change the :storage option from :file_system to :s3. So basically if you use attachment_fu already, it would take you 30 minutes to make the switch to S3, 10 of which you would need to sign up for the service..

Attachment_fu does not allow you to easily create attachments from a file you already have opened. But thanks to Craig Ambrose who wrote an article on migrating from file_column to attachment_fu, this wasn’t a big hassle either. Thanks to his code I was able to migrate the old attachments as well as make e-mails with attachments working. (If you send an e-mail with attachments to Flempo, it will not only create/comment a task, but also automatically add any attachments you sent with the e-mail.)

You can find many tutorials on how to use s3sync to do the backups as well. All that is very easy. Too easy actually. Now note that S3 is cheap. Very cheap. This all got me thinking again about competitive advantage and the difficulties to be in the web applications business. Recently I’ve read an article by Joel Spolsky called When there’s muck, there’s brass where he says:

“The trouble is, the market pays for solutions to gnarly problems, not solutions to easy problems.”

Now let’s see what the situation with web applications is: hardware (including highly reliable storage) is cheap, infrastructure software is free and so powerful that you can do very complicated things amazingly quickly. You can outsource so much you need just a few people to serve millions of customers.

That’s great you say. And it is. The “problem” is that it is very easy for anyone. These tools are available to anyone with an Internet connection. I need to ask myself the obvious question: If it’s so easy for anyone to make a webapp, why would people pay for mine? And how long does it take before the competition (meaning one guy anywhere in the world) develops something better than I have?

Somewhere else I read you need to increase the gap between you and your competition. You need to make steps that are hard for your competition, but bring value to the customers.

The thing is the technical stuff is not of one the big steps anymore. It used to be hard to distribute your software. Not anymore. It used to be hard to implement a web application (not to design it though!). Although there is a big difference between some messy PHP code and a clean tested code within a web framework, it is not that hard to do it right anymore. It used to be very difficult (read: expensive) for small Internet businesses to provide their customers with highly reliable architecture. With Amazon’s web services (don’t forget EC2 and the new baby SimpleDB!) this is not the case anymore, either.

I mean there are still only few people who can code and set this all up and make it work. Especially outside the US I’d say. But I do think it is not where the hard part is (or will be soon) anymore. It is in “what is my app about,” “what features shall I put in and what to leave out,” in the user interface design, community management and so on. In short, in the non-geeky stuff.

A link visited: How to trick Google

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2007 at 19:31

Seth Godin wrote a book on how to trick Google. It is actually very easy:

‘There are plenty of tactics about how to get more traffic to your pages online. Dozens of blog posts and great advice,  easy to find. WARNING: None of these tactics work without the three U’s that are covered in this book.

The three U’s? Yes, it’s simple:
Useful
Updated
Unique

(…)

“Oh, boy,” you think, “this is a lot of work.” It is, and that’s great news.
It’s great news because it means that for the foreseeable future, the secret of getting tons of organic web traffic has NOTHING TO DO with who you know or how much money you have. It revolves around a simple truth: great pages get more traffic.’

A book read: Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

In Uncategorized on December 20, 2007 at 22:32

Think and Grow Rich might be a book you might be ashamed to tell other people you’re reading. They might think you’re greedy or just weird. If you’re like me (and I certainly am), you won’t care. But if you care even a bit, I might say this book is not worth it.

A while ago I said that The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is the single book about personal development you need to read and that I won’t read any anymore either. Well I lied and during this book I kind of regretted it. If you have read The Seven Habits, then you only need to quickly skim through Think and Grow Rich. Or you can read my summary that follows right now.

The book talks about how to gain wealth, but I think it can be generalized to “how to achieve your goal.” It is expressed in it that simply by changing your thoughts you can achieve anything you want. If you think in a certain way, you’ll begin to act accordingly and you’ll be getting closer to achieving your goal. The following thirteen steps are recommended:

  1. Desire.
    You need to truly want to achieve what you set out to do.
  2. Faith.
    You need to believe you can do it.
  3. Autosuggestion.
    You repeat your objectives to yourself so much you get crazy. I mean they become a part of you. Or something
  4. Specialized knowledge.
    Knowing something unique is key. Note that it doesn’t have to be you knowing it, it can be people in your “Master Mind” (see below).
  5. Imagination.
    You need to be able to imagine that what you set out to do is possible. You need to be able to imagine yourself in the future in the role you dream of.
  6. Organized planning.
    You need to have a clear and detailed plan of how you want to achieve your goal.
  7. Decision.
    You need to be able to make decisions and act on them rather than procrastinate. Reaching decisions promptly and changing them slowly is encouraged.
  8. Persistence.
    “You should carry on despite all opposition until you attain your goal.”
  9. Power of the Master Mind.
    You need to form a group of people that will help you reach your goal from one reason or another.
  10. The mystery of sex transmutation.
    You should transmute your sexual energy to power that will support your goal.
  11. The subconcious mind.
    You should train your mind to be positive and focused on your goal.
  12. The Brain.
    Your should stimulate your brain to reach a high rate of vibration because this way it will become “highly receptive to ideas it picks up from the ether.”
  13. The Sixth Sense.
    You don’t want to know about this one.

Let me tell you how this translates to me:

  1. Desire.
    You need to be motivated. The best strategy here is to do something you’d enjoy even if it didn’t help you reaching your goal.
  2. Faith.
    You need to be self-confident. You don’t set out to do impossible, so you are able to do it. Don’t lose hope.
  3. Autosuggestion.
    Well I dunno. You need to be focused, sure. I’d stay there though.
  4. Specialized knowledge.
    Yep, pretty clear I’d say.
  5. Imagination.
    This might be actually more important that I’d thought. Brave ambitions must be outside of your “comfort zone;” it must be something that is not immediately natural to you. But you need to believe it can be done and for that you indeed need a lot of imagination.
  6. Organized planning.
    This is crucial and I’m actually glad this book reminded me of this. It seems to me now that it has to make things so much easier if you not only set the goals, but also clearly define the steps how you want to get there. Napoleon Hill suggests in the book the plan to be very detailed. If you try to write such a plan, you’ll see that seeing the “intermediate steps” on paper make your goals much more probable and real in your mind.
  7. Decision.
    Don’t procrastinate. Act. I’m not sure about the “changing decisions slowly” part, but I understand it in the way that if you have a clear goal in mind, you don’t change your decisions every day.
  8. Persistence.
    Haha. The famous quote “Winners never quit and quitters never win” Seth Godin picks on in his book I read recently comes from this chapter. And what Seth says is “depends.” But he also admits that if you are sure that what you’re doing is working, you need to persist and get through hard times because if it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth it.
  9. Power of the Master Mind.
    Very important. You need to have people around that help you and benefit from helping you because that keeps them motivated.
  10. The mystery of sex transmutation.
    This is the first time I’ve heard about this and found it quite interesting. The chapter doesn’t give anything specific on this topic though. How can you use your sexual energy to come up with revolutionary ideas thus remains unknown. I think I’ll keep using my sexuality in the traditional way…some people will appreciate it that’s for sure..
  11. The subconcious mind.
    OK next.
  12. The Brain.
    This might not be that silly as it sounds, but is probably quite hard. I’ll keep it in mind though.
  13. The Sixth Sense.
    This was the weirdest thing ever.

It wasn’t that bad after all. I ended up having two clear goals for the next two years on paper. And it really feels they are closer to me now. Having the end of the year around the corner, I suggest you to do the same.

A link visited: You’d be crazy to buy packaged software

In Uncategorized on December 19, 2007 at 17:16

CEO of Google Eric Schmidt in Google Gets Ready to Rumble With Microsoft:

“It makes no sense to run your own computers if you are a small business starting up,” he says. “You’d be crazy to buy packaged software.”

In the same article:

“It’s like the virtue of banks over mattresses,” explains Adrian Sannier, the university’s chief technology officer. “You feel like keeping the money in your mattress and defending it with your own gun is the right thing to do.”

Found via Signal vs. Noise

Flempo downtime today

In Uncategorized on December 15, 2007 at 16:43

Flempo was unavailable today between 2:30 and 5 PM. The reason was a problem at its hosting provider cause of which is unknown at the moment. I’ll try to find out what exactly happened there to avoid situations like this in the future. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Flempo is backed by Amazon S3 now

In Uncategorized on December 11, 2007 at 2:14

OK all the attachments in Flempo are served from the Amazon S3 web service now. The migration of the old attachments took a bit longer than expected and thus no polishing I was promising in the post about Open Web Awards, but the contest doesn’t bring any traffic to the application anyway, so no big deal I guess; AS3 was far more important. More information about AS3 coming.

Flempo nominated for Open Web Awards!

In Uncategorized on December 10, 2007 at 12:04

Yeah. As I have been notified today, Flempo has been nominated for the Open Web Awards Category Applications and Widgets. Now this feels kind of weird. Apparently someone had to choose Flempo for this list, because there are only ten applications in there. So it is not that one friend of mine posted them a link to the app.

Uh, so why is this weird you ask? Well not that I don’t think Flempo isn’t useful; I actually find it very useful already. There are even people who use it every day for real life stuff, not just playing around. People apart from myself, that is.

But it just doesn’t feel that polished to me yet to make it to any list. 30 minutes ago I didn’t even have the short help in the sidebar in the English version. Flempo is supposed to be (read: will be) a social collaboration application, but now it appears just as a decent collaboration tool with community tasks. It is not very friendly to first time visitors, it is not clear what the restrictions of the free version are and what the prices for the other plans are (pricing is not up at the homepage yet). The design is not what it could be. Etc. So my reaction to the nomination is: “Too early.”

But this actually is a very good thing. This will make me improve these kludges not this weekend, but tonight. I expect a long one though..

Yeah so this was my post promoting Flempo as the best tool ever you should not wait a minute to vote for.. You can vote for Flempo here. I might put the badge on its homepage, too:

Vote for Flempo

Just to not be the last one..

You can achieve anything you want

In Uncategorized on December 3, 2007 at 20:23