Older blog entries for davidw (starting at number 415)

Welton's Law of Trite Business Advice


“For each and every bit of trite business advice, there is an equal and opposite bit of trite business advice”

"Fail fast" vs "be persistent"

"The first person to mention a number in a negotiation loses" vs "by saying a number, you frame the negotiations"

"Ideas don't matter" vs "the Number One startup killer ... making a product for which there is no interesting market"

"Do something you're passionate about" vs "where there's muck, there's brass"

"Business plans are a waste of time" vs "failure to plan is planning to fail"

There's some valuable lesson behind all of these; I'm not saying these are bad advice.  What I'm saying is that if it were so easy, more people would be doing it successfully.  In reality, it's very difficult.

What are some of your favorite equal and opposite bits of business advice?

Syndicated 2011-04-30 11:44:58 (Updated 2011-05-10 09:42:18) from David's Computer Stuff Journal

13 Apr 2011 (updated 13 Apr 2011 at 18:06 UTC) »

For sale: LangPop.com

I've been running at capacity for a while now, and something went "snap" recently, so I decided to take a few days off to clear my head a bit.  One of the things that came to mind is that I have too many 'side project' things.

I have had lots of fun (and a few flame wars) over the years with LangPop.com but I decided that it's another thing that should probably go, in order to simplify my life some.

It's a fairly popular site amongst programmers, as I think it's the best of the bunch in terms of guaging an admittedly tricky subject like language popularity, but there's lots of room to add to it.  I've got various ideas for whoever ends up buying it!

About money: it doesn't earn a lot.  Programmers, I think, are fairly blind to advertisements.  In the right hands I think it could do better, but most likely, it would work best as a bit of branding/advertising for your own business, much as TIOBE's index has spread their name far and wide.

For the time being, I'll accept private bids, and depending on how well that does or doesn't go, may consider using something like Flippa.com later.  Write me at davidw@dedasys.com if you're interested.  I'd be happy to share some numbers and information with you.  Perhaps I'll update this posting with them too.

What you get: everything!  Historicaly data, code, scripts to manage it, the domain.  It could use some cleaning up and love, but it does get the job done.

Running it just takes a few minutes a month, so I could hold on to it with no trouble, but I've decided that I want one less thing to think about.

Update: Some Numbers

In the last year, according to Google Analytics, the site had: 174,645 visits.

In the last month, it had 17,047 visits.

Revenue? Think of it as zero and you won't be too far off.  You would have to rework things significantly to make money from ads on it, I think.  

Hosting costs?  Not sure, particularly, it's on my Linode.  It utilizes Ruby on Rails, but creates static HTML pages, so it's fairly cheap.


Syndicated 2011-04-13 12:40:03 (Updated 2011-04-13 17:10:01) from David's Computer Stuff Journal

You win some, you lose some

A bit more than a month ago, I had the random idea to try building and selling a web site, at the same time.  The idea was that the more people bid, and requested features, the more I'd work on it.

It didn't work out.  I got a bit of money out of it, but  certainly not enough to cover my time at an hourly rate.

I suppose the lesson is that a month simply isn't a lot of time for something to mature: it'd probably be best to work on something on and off for a year, give it some time for traffic to build up, and so on, if the goal is to sell it.

However, in any case, I think I'm pretty convinced that my next projects, like LiberWriter, will involve for-pay products.  At heart, I'm not really a business guy, so picking the simplest possible business model probably makes sense: you pay me, I give you something.

Hopefully, I'll be able to write about those in the "you win some column", but I thought I'd let people know how the experiment went.

Syndicated 2011-03-19 10:01:29 (Updated 2011-03-19 10:16:37) from David's Computer Stuff Journal

Coming Soon: Easy Kindle Publishing with LiberWriter.com

The Kindle isn't the most beautiful device out there - it's not "beautiful", the keyboard takes away some elegance, but I'm absolutely smitten with mine.  I like to read, a lot, and being able to instantly beam books to my house is just fantastic.

Kindles and other devices like them are also changing the world of publishing, going from the known world of physical books that can't be easily copied to another information good like movies or songs with something of an uncertain future.

Yet they're also opening up many possibilities: thanks to Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing program, it just got very easy to publish books to a platform that a lot of people regularly search for good things to read.  Once upon a time, "vanity publishing" was something done by those who simply wanted to see their names in print, but couldn't actually find a publisher, and thus carried some stigma.

Now, though, why not publish something you've always wanted to?  Granted, without an editor, and publisher to promote your work, you probably won't become rich or famous, but many people write for the enjoyment of doing so.  And who knows... there are already several cases of people publishing directly to the Kindle and making a decent income at it.

Indeed, I have several things I'm thinking of writing about that clicked when I found the Kindle publishing program.  Maybe now it's time to dust off some ideas I've had and start working on them a little bit at a time.

Then, of course, my geeky side took over and I started wondering how the mechanics of it actually work.

Messily, it turns out: the preferred format for Kindle authoring is variant of HTML that's not at all what we're used to in these days of ever more potent CSS.  The good side of it is that books mostly come out looking the same on the Kindle, and the end user can control how they want to visualize them.  The bad side of the system utilized is that there are a lot of tips and tricks and little things to know about the whole process that can be annoying even for someone who knows HTML pretty well.  For someone who just wants to write stuff and not worry about it, and who perhaps is not very familiar with HTML, the whole thing can be a huge mess and very frustrating.

Which of course looks like an interesting challenge.  I set out to work on LiberWriter.com several weeks ago, and it should be ready within the next week or two.  In short, it's a system that lets you concentrate on writing and, as much as possible, tries to get out of your way in order to let you concentrate on your content.  It is also targeted very specifically at the Kindle (for the time being at least), so as to really focus on making things work on that platform.  For instance, it can automatically generate a table of contents, a noted pain point in writing for the Kindle.  I have a number of other ideas up my sleeve too, that I'm excited to work on.

I'm also definitely abandoning the "let's release it for free, for fun, and see if I can find a way to make money later" model of many past projects, and treating it like a business.  I think the price I have in mind is very competitive, if you look at, for instance, conversion services that take word and spit out Kindle-specific HTML.

Anyway, have a look at the site and sign up if you're interested: as soon as it's ready, I'll email and let you know.  There'll be a somewhat limited trial version so that you can play around with it and see if you like it before buying the full version.

Syndicated 2011-03-15 20:30:04 (Updated 2011-03-15 20:59:08) from David's Computer Stuff Journal

Manipulating ckeditor data with jQuery

I'm working on a project that utilizes CKeditor and need to manipulate the data it contains.  Since I'm familiar with jQuery and it's fairly efficient at doing that sort of thing, rather than figuring out how CKeditor manipulates things internally, I wanted to, at least to get started, access things in jQuery.  There isn't a lot of information out there on the best way to do that.  Here's what I figured out - it seems to work pretty well:

    var editor = theeditor();
    var contents = $("<div id='specialwrapperthing'>" + editor.getData() + "</div>");

    .... hack away with jQuery ....

Basically, you just wrap up what the editor hands you in terms of the data, hack away on it, and then put the HTML back into the editor.

Syndicated 2011-03-05 14:22:21 (Updated 2011-03-05 14:37:51) from David's Computer Stuff Journal

Random github idea: show pull requests on the network

Another day, another "which ^(&^%*&*^&()* version should I use?!" with github:


Github is nice, but very, very often all the forks are the very model of a modern major paradox of choice.

Which one should I use?   Which one is best?  Do the forks exist because 1) the original author stopped bothering? 2) because the forkers just wanted to be 'cool' and have their own fork? 3) because the forkers don't have a clue about open source and don't attempt to submit their patches back?  Who the hell knows, in most cases.   This is frustrating.

I had a random idea that might help some: if the 'network' view were able to show you, at a glance, the amount of interaction between different forks: pull requests accepted and rejected.

At least we'd get an idea of what sort of community is forming around the project, and also have an idea whether the forkers and/or the authors are good open source citizens or not.

Of course, as my friend Salvatore says, "pull requests are not conversations", but it's better than nothing.

Syndicated 2011-02-17 08:55:54 (Updated 2011-02-17 09:14:50) from David's Computer Stuff Journal

Rails Application Templates

Thanks to some friends on twitter, I recently discovered RailsWizard which is a very handy way of generating new Rails applications with the "right" things included.

I liked what it did a lot, so I took the generated file and saved it as a github gist:


Which provides me with a very handy starting place for new Rails projects.  This is a great way to get some of the housekeeping out of the way before we start: ensure we're using jQuery, add some gems that I always use like exception_notifier and will_paginate, and so on.

Syndicated 2011-02-16 21:00:39 (Updated 2011-02-16 21:54:48) from David's Computer Stuff Journal

The UnderPerformingStocks.com sale - halfway in

A few weeks ago, I had an "out-there" idea to try creating and selling a site at the same time.   So far, it's not exactly raking in a major amount of cash:

www.underperformingstocks.com is For Sale on Flippa!

At $100 with a couple of bids, it doesn't look like I'll be able to retire on it!  That said, I haven't spent a great deal of time on it, and part of the idea of the experiment was to limit the amount of time the 'new idea' would distract me from other things.  I did hope to receive a few more "audience requests" in terms of what to build on Flippa.com, though.  Hopefully, things will heat up a bit during the final two weeks of the auction, but I don't think "flipping" web sites is really a business I want to be in.  It's been fun to see how much you can build with how little, though, what with all the widgets and API's out there these days.

Since I'm a coder at heart, I also released some Ruby code that utlizes Google's stock screener API: https://github.com/davidw/google-screener - it's under the Apache license, and is kind of neat to play around with, I think, and is what I use to fetch information for the site.

Syndicated 2011-02-16 13:50:19 (Updated 2011-02-16 14:04:49) from David's Computer Stuff Journal

12 Feb 2011 (updated 13 Feb 2011 at 21:07 UTC) »

Book Review: Start Small, Stay Small, A Developer's Guide to Launching a Startup