What is testing?

In software development this is a simple question. What is [the purpose of] testing? If asked to give a one sentence answer what would you say? I have asked this simple question of attendees at many presentations, and also to software developers I have worked with or consulted to.

The most common answer is. “Testing is about making sure the software works, the function your testing does what it should, for example saves the information you entered”.

Unfortunately this is not the purpose of testing, and this attitude leads to what I generally term as poor quality software. “Testing is about trying to break your product any way possible, all the time.”

With this clarification in understanding of a basic and necessary software engineering principle, the attitude towards software development and the entire focus and mindset of engineering and quality assurance can change for the better.

Another very simple example which I often ask when consulting. What does your website look like when it’s down? Again, the general answer is often vague and/or incomplete. How do you know when your website is down? I have heard the response “The users will let you know”. You may laugh, but it is certainly not funny. Show me your website in a down state? Show me your website in a degraded state? When the answer is either unclear, or with a recent employment the same response, there has simply been little thought into producing a quality product by a testing process that is intent on breaking your software.

What procedures do you follow when receiving alerts about errors? What procedures do you put in place to ensure they do not happen again? Again, one has to be disappointed when the response is, “I will set up an email alert to the team for this type of error?” This reactive response is not addressing the problem, only acknowledging the existence of a problem. What is needed is being proactive. Was a bug raised? Can the problem be easily reproduced? How was the problem fixed the first time? Can this be corrected in the code? Can the interim resolution be automated?

When there is a negative user experience from any type of failure or error another important feedback loop is the post-mortem to review the when, why, how and who of the situation and to create a plan to ensure this does not happen again.

Testing needs to baked in to everything that is done, and practice makes for a more perfect outcome. In a high volume environment it is critical to have a simulated environment where you can benchmark performance of any new release for any regressions. A well defined load testing environment can be used to review experimental branches of possible performance improvements. It is also where you can determine the bottleneck and breaking point as you increase load 2X, 5X, 10X. It is impossible to be proactive when your system can fail at 2X load, and the engineering resources needed to implement a solution will not happen in time.

Disaster is inevitable. It will happen, whether small or large. Hardware and software inherently fails. How it fails and what is done to mitigate this to ensure the best possible consistent and rewarding consumer experience is only possible by consistently practicing to break your software at all stages in the development and deployment lifecycle.

Improving performance – A full stack problem

Improving the performance of a web system involves knowledge of how the entire technology stack operates and interacts. There are many simple and common tips that can provide immediate improvements for a website. Some examples include:

  • Using a CDN for assets
  • Compressing content
  • Making fewer requests (web, cache, database)
  • Asynchronous management
  • Optimizing your SQL statements
  • Have more memory
  • Using SSD’s for database servers
  • Updating your software versions
  • Adding more servers
  • Configuring your software correctly
  • … And the general checklist goes on

Understanding were to invest your energy first, knowing what the return on investment can be, and most importantly the measurement and verification of every change made is the difference between blind trial and error and a solid plan and process. Here is a great example for the varied range of outcome to the point about “Updating your software versions”.

On one project the MySQL database was reaching saturation, both the maximum number of database connections and maximum number of concurrent InnoDB transactions. The first is a configurable limit, the second was a hard limit of the very old version of the software. Changing the first configurable limit can have dire consequences, there is a tipping point, however that is a different discussion. A simple software upgrade of MySQL which had many possible improvement benefits, combined with corrected configuration specific for this new version made an immediate improvement. The result moved a production system from crashing consistently under load, to at least barely surviving under load. This is an important first step in improving the customer experience.

In the PHP application stack for the same project the upgrading of several commonly used frameworks including Slim and Twig by the engineering department seemed like a good idea. However applicable load testing and profiling (after it was deployed, yet another discussion point) found the impact was a 30-40% increase in response time for the application layer. This made the system worse, and cancelled out prior work to improve the system.

How to tune a system to support 100x load increase with no impact in performance takes knowledge, experience, planning, testing and verification.

The following summarized graphs; using New Relic monitoring as a means of representative comparison; shows three snapshots of the average response time during various stages of full stack tuning and optimization. This is a very simplified graphical view that is supported by more detailed instrumentation using different products, specifically with much finer granularity of hundreds of metrics.

These graphs represent the work undertaken for a system under peak load showing an average 2,000ms response time, to the same workload under 50ms average response time. That is a 40x improvement!

If your organization can benefit from these types of improvements feel free to Contact Me.

There are numerous steps to achieving this. A few highlights to show the scope of work you need to consider includes:

  • Knowing server CPU saturation verses single core CPU saturation.
  • Network latency detection and mitigation.
  • What are the virtualization mode options of virtual cloud instances?
  • Knowing the network stack benefits of different host operating systems.
  • Simulating production load is much harder than it sounds.
  • Profiling, Profiling, Profiling.
  • Instrumentation can be misleading. Knowing how different monitoring works with sampling and averaging.
  • Tuning the stack is an iterative process.
  • The simple greatest knowledge is to know your code, your libraries, your dependencies and how to optimize each specific area of your technology stack.
  • Not everything works, some expected wins provided no overall or observed benefits.
  • There is always more that can be done. Knowing when to pause and prioritize process optimizations over system optimizations.

These graphs show the improvement work in the application tier (1500ms to 35ms to 25ms) and the database tier (500ms to 125ms to 10ms) at various stages. These graphs do not show for example improvements made in DNS resolution, different CDNs, managing static content, different types and ways of compression, remove unwanted software components and configuration, standardized and consistent stack deployments using chef, and even a reduction in overall servers. All of these successes contributed to a better and more consistent user experience.

40x performance improvements in LAMP stack

Monitoring MySQL options

My recent poll What alert monitoring do you use? showed 25% of the 58 respondents to bravely state they had no MySQL monitoring. I see 1 in 3, ~33% in my consulting so this is consistent.


There is no excuse to not have some MySQL Monitoring on your production system. At the worse case, you should be logging important MySQL information for later analysis. I use my own Logging and Analyzing scripts on every client for an immediate assessment regardless of what’s available. I combine that with my modified statpack to give me immediate text based analysis, broken down by hour chunks for quick reference. These help me in troubleshooting, but they are not a complete solution.

The most popular options I see and are also reflected in the results are:

There is a good list, including some products I did not know. My goal is to get this information included in the Monitoring-MySQL information site.

I have some additional information on Cacti and MONyog, and I’ll be sharing this information in upcoming posts.

HiTCHO Top tech tips

I recent visit with old Brisbane friend HiTCHO which I met at the Brisbane MySQL Users Group in 2005, has lead to this cool list of some hardware and software technologies he used that I am now considering or have already implemented or purchased.

Software

  1. xmarks.com – Bookmark-Powered Web Discovery
  2. Pulse – Smart Pen
  3. Quicksilver Mac windows manager
  4. MailPlane – Brings Gmail to your Mac desktop
  5. Evernote – Remember Everything, with Firefox plugin and iPhone App
  6. Textmate – The missing editor for Mac OS/X
  7. Screen flow Professional screencasting Studio
  8. Snoop – A GNU/Linux file descriptor monitoring tool inspired by FreeBSD’s ‘watch’.

Hardware

  1. Drobo – Storage that manages itself
  2. Canon PowerShot SX1. True HD in a Canon compact digital camera.
  3. LiveScribe – Never miss a word

Twitter Tips

I have in the past questioned the value of Twitter as an effective business tool, but it continues to defy the trend of inability to bridge the business gap with social media.

Even with still continual growth problems (at least it’s not down as much) Twitter is everywhere I go, see or do. You see it at business events, business cards, meetups even on CNN Headline News. There are so many various differ twitter sites, applications, widgets etc, I’m surprised there isn’t a twitter index just of the twitter related sites.

I have now incorporated Twitter into my professional site and I’m using this micro-blogging approach more to share my professional skills and interests to my growing band of followers. I don’t expect to make the Twitter top list which is headed by CNN Breaking News with 667,353 followers.

Even Lance Armstrong (who rates 9th) used Twitter for press releases this week of his injuries.

For more reading check out How Twitter Makes You A Better Writer and 27 Twitter Applications Your Small Business Can Use Today.

I was surprised to see How to get a job by blogging: Tips for a setting up the kind of professional blog that will get you hired, barely mention Twitter.

Now be sure to add a background appropriate to your Twitter. This one is wicked.

Where is the innovation?

The 2009 MySQL Conference has closed it’s submissions for papers. This year the motto is “Innovation Everywhere”.

Last weekend’s Open SQL Camp in Charlottesville, Virginia, we had the chance to talk about the movements in the MySQL ecosystem. I was impressed to get the details of the Percona MySQL Patches, but focus is still in 5.0. (Welcome to the Percona team Tom Basil) Our Delta is attempting now to integrate patches into various MySQL branches. There was an opening keynote by Brian Aker from Drizzle, and Drizzle team Jay Pipes and Stewart Smith on hand. It was also announced that MySQL 5.1.30 will be GA, available in early December.

But these are not innovations that are ground breaking. Last year, it was the announcement of KickFire that I found most intriguing regarding innovation.

What is there this year?. The most interesting thing I read last week was Memcached as a L2 Cache for Innodb – The Waffle Grid Project. This is my kind of innovation. It’s sufficiently MySQL, but just adds another dimension with another companion technology. The patch seems relatively simple in concept and code size, and I’m almost prepared to fire up a few EC2’s to take this one for a spin. I’m doubly impressed because the creators are two friends and colleagues that are not hard core kernel hackers, but professionals on the front line dealing with clients daily. Will it be successful, or viable? That is the question about innovation.

Unfortunately I spend more time these days not seeing innovation in MySQL, but in other alternative database solutions in general. Projects like Clustrix, Inc., LucidDB, and Mongo in the 10gen stack.

Brand identity with undesirable domain names

Choosing a domain name for your brand identity is the start. Protecting your domain name by registering for example .net, .org, and the many more extensions is one step in brand identity.

However a recent very unpleasant experience in New York, resulted in realizing some companies also register undesirable domain names. I was one of many unhappy people, mainly tourists as I was showing an Australian friend the sights of New York. We had chosen to use the City Sights NY bus line, but we caught with some 100+ people in a clear “screw the paying customers” experience.

I was really annoyed that my friend, only in New York for 2 days both had to experience this, and missed out on a night tour. I commented, I’m going to register citysightsnysucks.com, and share the full story of our experience, directing people to use Gray Line New York, which clearly by observation were providing the service we clearly did not get.

To my surprise, the domain name was already taken. To my utter surprise, the owner of the domain is the same as citysightsny.com. Did they do this by choice, or did another unhappy person (at least in 2006) register this, only to be perhaps threatened legally to give up the domain.

I would generally recommend in brand identity this approach, especially when select common misspellings and hyphenated versions if applicable can easily lead to a lot of domain names for your brand identity.

$ whois citysightsny.com

Whois Server Version 2.0

Domain names in the .com and .net domains can now be registered
with many different competing registrars. Go to http://www.internic.net
for detailed information.

   Domain Name: CITYSIGHTSNY.COM
   Registrar: INTERCOSMOS MEDIA GROUP, INC. D/B/A DIRECTNIC.COM
   Whois Server: whois.directnic.com
   Referral URL: http://www.directnic.com
   Name Server: NS0.DIRECTNIC.COM
   Name Server: NS1.DIRECTNIC.COM
   Status: clientDeleteProhibited
   Status: clientTransferProhibited
   Status: clientUpdateProhibited
   Updated Date: 31-dec-2006
   Creation Date: 28-nov-2004
   Expiration Date: 28-nov-2011

Registrant:
 CitySights New York LLC
 15 Second Ave
 Brooklyn, NY 11215
 US
 718-875-8200x103
Fax:718-875-7056


Domain Name: CITYSIGHTSNY.COM


$ whois citysightsnysucks.com

Whois Server Version 2.0

Domain names in the .com and .net domains can now be registered
with many different competing registrars. Go to http://www.internic.net
for detailed information.

   Domain Name: CITYSIGHTSNYSUCKS.COM
   Registrar: INTERCOSMOS MEDIA GROUP, INC. D/B/A DIRECTNIC.COM
   Whois Server: whois.directnic.com
   Referral URL: http://www.directnic.com
   Name Server: NS.PUSHONLINE.NET
   Name Server: NS2.PUSHONLINE.NET
   Status: clientDeleteProhibited
   Status: clientTransferProhibited
   Status: clientUpdateProhibited
   Updated Date: 26-jun-2007
   Creation Date: 11-aug-2006
   Expiration Date: 11-aug-

Registrant:
 CitySights New York LLC
 15 Second Ave
 Brooklyn, NY 11215
 US
 718-875-8200x103
Fax:718-875-7056


Domain Name: CITYSIGHTSNYSUCKS.COM

To www or not www

Domain names historically have been www.example.com, written also with the protocol prefix http://www.example.com, but in reality www. is optional, only example.com is actually needed.

www. is technically a sub-domain and sub-domains incur a small penalty in search engine optimization.

There is no right or wrong. What is important is that you choose one, and the other needs to be a 301 Permanent Redirect to the one you have chosen.

You also need to know that creating a server alias in your web server configuration, for example Apache or Tomcat is not a permanent redirect, in-fact it is technically duplicate content, with two web sites the same also incurring a penalty for search engine rating.

So what do the big players do. Here are a few.

Use www

  • www.google.com
  • www.facebook.com
  • www.cnn.com
  • www.yahoo.com
  • www.myspace.com
  • www.ebay.com
  • www.plurk.com
  • www.amazon.com
  • www.fotolog.com
  • www.linkedin.com

Do not use www

  • digg.com
  • wordpress.com
  • identi.ca

Show duplicate content

  • flickr.com
  • chi.mp
  • corkd.com
  • vimeo.com
  • garysguide.org
  • engineyard.com

Curiously youtube.com uses a 303 redirect, microsoft.com, stumbleupon.com and craigslist.org a 302 redirect.

How do you check? Use a CLI tool such as wget.

$ wget www.google.com
--2008-09-22 19:56:48--  http://www.google.com/
Resolving www.google.com... 72.14.205.99, 72.14.205.103, 72.14.205.104, ...
Connecting to www.google.com|72.14.205.99|:80... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 200 OK

$ wget google.com
--2008-09-22 19:57:56--  http://google.com/
Resolving google.com... 64.233.167.99, 64.233.187.99, 72.14.207.99
Connecting to google.com|64.233.167.99|:80... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 301 Moved Permanently
Location: http://www.google.com/ [following]

$ wget www.facebook.com
--2008-09-22 20:07:59--  http://www.facebook.com/
Resolving www.facebook.com... 69.63.178.12
Connecting to www.facebook.com|69.63.178.12|:80... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 200 OK
Length: unspecified [text/html]

$ wget facebook.com
--2008-09-22 19:59:43--  http://facebook.com/
Resolving facebook.com... 69.63.176.140, 69.63.178.11
Connecting to facebook.com|69.63.176.140|:80... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 301 Moved Permanently
Location: http://www.facebook.com/ [following]


$ wget digg.com
--2008-09-22 20:10:47--  http://digg.com/
Resolving digg.com... 64.191.203.30
Connecting to digg.com|64.191.203.30|:80... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 200 OK
Length: 15322 (15K) [text/html]


$ wget www.digg.com
--2008-09-22 20:14:06--  http://www.digg.com/
Resolving www.digg.com... 64.191.203.30
Connecting to www.digg.com|64.191.203.30|:80... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 301 Moved Permanently
Location: http://digg.com/ [following]


$ wget twitter.com
--2008-09-22 20:26:18--  http://twitter.com/
Resolving twitter.com... 128.121.146.100
Connecting to twitter.com|128.121.146.100|:80... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 200 OK
Length: 2655 (2.6K) [text/html]

$ wget www.twitter.com
--2008-09-22 20:26:41--  http://www.twitter.com/
Resolving www.twitter.com... 128.121.146.100
Connecting to www.twitter.com|128.121.146.100|:80... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 301 Moved Permanently
Location: http://twitter.com/ [following]

Professionally, I prefer shorter and simpler without www.

References:

Domain name trends

It started with del.icio.us/ (which now ironically redirects to http://delicious.com), and now it’s becoming more the trend to create a domain name with the extension included for effect.

With unique .com domains harder to come by, and dropping vowels like flickr.com so last generation, some countries must be trying to cash in on the success such as Tuvalu which has something like 10% of GDP from domain name sales of .tv.

Some recent names I’ve noticed are http://identi.ca, http://chi.mp and http://cyclo.ps.

I have even considered some recent projects using this new trend, but the combination of either the 2 letter extension not existing (For example .ld) or it’s not possible to get domains from a registrar (For example .er) it will take some time.

Websites in review – Week 1

I often come across new websites, quite often by accident, or by indirection in links from looking at other details. The Internet is an amazing place, and one could spend all day reading such a variety information and only touch on just a few specific topics.

I think it’s important to share interesting and new sites, often it’s a referral from others that provide for enjoyable and useful reading. Here are mine in return. Sites which I bookmarked and intended to review again.

99 Designs — www.99designs.com

Need something designed? 99designs connects clients needing design work such as logo designs, business cards or web sites to a thriving community of 17,781 talented designers.

Wufoo — www.wufoo.com

Wufoo strives to be the easiest way to collect information over the Internet.

Our HTML form builder helps you create contact forms, online surveys, and invitations so you can collect the data, registrations and online payments you need without writing a single line of code.

Mako Templates — www.makotemplates.org

Mako is a template library written in Python. It provides a familiar, non-XML syntax which compiles into Python modules for maximum performance. Mako’s syntax and API borrows from the best ideas of many others, including Django templates, Cheetah, Myghty, and Genshi. Conceptually, Mako is an embedded Python (i.e. Python Server Page) language, which refines the familiar ideas of componentized layout and inheritance to produce one of the most straightforward and flexible models available, while also maintaining close ties to Python calling and scoping semantics.

Venture Beat — www.venturebeat.com

I came across this site when reading Developer Analytics: Facebook game Mob Wars making $22,000 a day.

VentureBeat’s mission is to provide news and information about private companies and the venture capital that fuels them. Founder Matt Marshall covered venture capital for the San Jose Mercury News until he left in Sept. 2006 to launch VentureBeat as an independent company. VentureBeat will focus initially on Silicon Valley, and gradually expand to cover innovation hubs around the globe. Its mission in each region will be the same: to provide insider news and data about the entrepreneurial and venture community that is useful to decision makers.

Developer Analytics — www.developeranalytics.com

The previous article referenced this site, with the tagline “the world’s first social media ratings and reporting services.” I like the categories used in reports.

  • Reach – Unique traffic.
  • Audience Profile – Demographics and sociographics breakdown. Interest clouds.
  • Engagement -Impressions. Average page views per user. Return users.
  • Growth -New Users. Churn Rates. Viral Factors.
  • Monetization – CPM and CPA revenue potential.

SXSW Interactive — www.sxsw.com/interactive

I’ve heard of South By South West Conference before, and this is it. SXSW Interactive: March 13-17, 2009 -The Brightest Minds in Emerging Technology

SXSW Interactive The SXSW Interactive Festival features five days of exciting panel content and amazing parties. Attracting digital creatives as well as visionary technology entrepreneurs, the event celebrates the best minds and the brightest personalities of emerging technology. Whether you are a hard-core geek, a dedicated content creator, a new media entrepreneur, or just someone who likes being around an extremely creative community, SXSW Interactive is for you!

Actually sounds rather interesting, and different.

Pulse 2.0 — www.pulse2.com

Pulse 2.0 is a company that is driven by our passion of technology and entrepreneurship. We use Pulse 2.0 to share our thoughts on Web 2.0.

Finding, exposing and referencing good material

I came across www.problogger.net by accident. Like many sites and information these days, you simply don’t find via search engines because your normally searching for something specific. I did find it via several levels of hyperlinks. I really wish there was firefox plugin that would track every site you visited, often I’d like to plot how I got to where I am, but that’s another story.

Considering the author is Australian, a top Plurker and Photographer got me intrigued enough to delve for a few moments. What I found is some good information, such as 10 Ways to Optimize a Popular Post on Your Blog and Is Your Blog a Networking Tool?.

Some more reading, Five Ways That Strategic Bullet Points Make You a Stronger Blogger, which leads to a site that includes articles such as Seal the Deal: 10 Tips for Writing the Ultimate Landing Page, which is exactly what I’m looking for with an upcoming Ad Words campaign, but wasn’t searching at the time.

You never know sometimes where good information comes from.

Extending application data to the cloud

I was one of the invited panel speakers to A panel on Cloud Computing this week in New York. As one of 2 non vendor presenters, it was a great experience to be invited and be involved with vendors.

While I never got to use my slides available here, I did get to both present certain content, and indeed questions and discussions on the night were on other points of my content.

Cloud computing is here, it’s early days and new players will continue to emerge. For example, from the panel there was AppNexus, reviewed favorably at Info World in comparison with EC2 and Google App Engine, 10gen, an open source stack solution and Kaavo which from an initial 60 seconds of playing provide a management service on top of AWS similar to what ElasticFox provides. I need to investigate further how much the feature set extends and would compete with others like RightScale for example.

The greatest mystery came from Hank Williams and his stealth Kloudshare. He did elaborate more on where they aim to provide services. A new term discussed was “Tools as a service”, akin to moving use metaphorically from writing in Assembly language to the advanced frameworks of today’s generation of languages such as Java and Ruby.

Thanks to Murat Aktihanoglu of Unype who chaired the event.

Facebook performance woes today

It seems that of late a number of successful community web sites have been experiencing problems in scalability and performance. Today it’s Facebook.

Initially I got a “Problem loading page” browser message. No big deal, you get those. A few refreshes and I’m in. I was trying to send a message, I got the following popup error message.

No Network
Transport error (#1001) while retrieving data from endpoint `/inbox/ajax/ajax.php': A network error occurred. Check that you are connected to the internet.

Well yes, I’m connected to the Internet, every other site is fine. A more technical look gives the lovely connection aborted message.

lynx http://facebook.com

Looking up facebook.com
Making HTTP connection to facebook.com
Sending HTTP request.
HTTP request sent; waiting for response.
HTTP/1.1 302 Found
Data transfer complete
HTTP/1.1 302 Found
Using http://www.facebook.com/common/browser.php
Looking up www.facebook.com
Making HTTP connection to www.facebook.com
Sending HTTP request.
HTTP request sent; waiting for response.
Retrying as HTTP0 request.
Looking up www.facebook.com
Making HTTP connection to www.facebook.com
Sending HTTP request.
HTTP request sent; waiting for response.
Alert!: Unexpected network read error; connection aborted.
Can't Access `http://www.facebook.com/common/browser.php'
Alert!: Unable to access document.

lynx: Can't access startfile

Check your spelling

I’ve been Plurking more lately rather then Twittering. I’d like to offer to help out at Twitter if I could find the right person to talk to.

I’m no English major, but I do like to ensure my spelling is correct (at least for the bulk of the audience). You see grammar problems on sites, due to the nature of English not being the first language of many people, but one should always check your spelling as per this popup message I got today.

Your site unavailable page

When your site is down what do people see? If overloaded to you respond well or not?

For much larger organizations with the infrastructure and DNS management this should be part of your DR strategy. Yesterday was FireFox Download Day. Mozilla I don’t think coped as well as they could have and were not prepared. Looking at the two screens below you can see examples of error pages I got.

In this case it was a planned event, the increase in traffic was predicable ahead of time. Surely they could have had a static pages with something about the event, the high load and even then a static page of links if your goal was to download FireFox 3.

My site certainly doesn’t support the automated failover, I have to make a DNS change at my domain register Go Daddy to a different host that is already ready and wait for delegation, but I’m prepared for a significant outage like previously.

Screen recorder software for Mac

I’ve been researching what software exists for a Mac to produce video like screen recording and audio. Multiple people have recommended Camtasia however this is Windows only.

I today with some research came across Jing Project which at first test seems perfect, easy to install, use and even deploy to an integrated Screencast. And it’s free.

What’s perplexing is it’s a product from the same company, techsmith yet it’s not listed as a product?

Beyond Blogs

I was reading today in a printed magazine Business Week the article Beyond Blogs. It’s unusual these days to actually read on paper what we can find on our online world.

What’s interesting is the printed article did actually contain content I didn’t find online. There was a section called “We Didn’t See ‘em coming”, and it’s finally important site mentioned was iTunes. I found the following comment extremely relevant. “…. But we didn’t guess it would become the leading destination for podcast downloads. Contrary to our expectations, podcasts have evolved into a feature of traditional radio, not a rival to it.”

It’s important that with any business model you know, understand and review consistently your competitors. I find many organizations that don’t do this. You need to know your competitor. But as mentioned with iTunes, the designers of podcasts could have easily considered radio to be a competitor initially. One must always evaluate the changing times regularly.

The following are three more quotes of interest.

But in the helter-skelter of the blogosphere, we wrote, something important was taking place: In the 10 minutes it took to set up a blogging account, anyone with an Internet connection could become a global publisher. Some could become stars and gain power.

Like the LAMP stack has done for websites, the cost to entry now to get exposure is very low. The problem is now too much content exists to review, compare and evaluate effectively.

Turned out it wasn’t quite that simple. The magazine article, archived on our Web site, kept attracting readers and blog links. A few professors worked it into their curricula, sending class after class of students to the story. With all this activity, the piece gained high-octane Google juice.“.

I’d not heard of Google juice before.

In relation to Linked In, FaceBook and MySpace, “While only a small slice of the population wants to blog, a far larger swath of humanity is eager to make friends and contacts, to exchange pictures and music, to share activities and ideas. These social connectors are changing the dynamics of companies around the world. Millions of us are now hanging out on the Internet with customers, befriending rivals,…“.

Share/Add This Buttons on sites

I’ve noticed a change of buttons lately on sites where you can bookmark/share the relevant information. So I’ve done a cross sample of A Computer Site – www.dell.com, The MySQL Acquirer – www.sun.com, A News site – www.cnn.com and a technology information site – www.techcrunch.com

What got me to go back and research is I’d never seen a FaceBook icon before, or perhaps I’d never paid enough attention.

At the end most sites now wash out to a site called Add This.










Hey Jake, what's your problem

So, I’m checking out the upcoming weather for the MySQL Conference for next week, and Yahoo Weather throws me a 404 Not Found error from their own site. Interesting, what I did particularly like was the URL, it had jake/404.html. What’s the problem Jake?

When is a website useless?

Well this is one way. Time Magazine has so much advertising garbage, the page on my Macbook shows only 16 words of meaningful article text on the page. Those being almost rather useless as well:

“Wired News Senior Editor Kevin Poulsen and a small team of editors do a great job”

When technology just works

Today I needed to visit a medical specialist for collection of something. I had to pay $250 as my insurance did not cover. I sent a check as requested however today they had not record of receipt. Not wanting to write a second check and then find they cash both, I logged onto my online banking right there with my iPhone (miracle I could remember my login and password as all important logins like this are different and normally I need my notes) and I’m able to confirm deposit and even view a scanned copy of the check. Confirming the date they are still unable to find. I’m able to use an office computer and print out this confirmation to show them proof of payment.

The technology of the iPhone and the thoroughness of my bank online check verification solved the hassle, simplified the confirmation and greatly reduced the stress of the situation. At T-2 days the technology worked and I was most grateful.

The Hatchery July Event


Wednesday night I attended my second Hatchery event. The Hatchery is an opportunity for organizations and clever individuals seeking venture capital to make a proposal in a formal panel process with venture capitalists. This month’s event included 3 presenters, all 3 different from last month, each presenting in a better style (thanks to being prepped) in a revised format that included a longer presentation time, and an opportunity of questions from the floor. So the presenters.

safeTspace.com


On the Internet there is “no way to prove who people say they are”. safeTspace.com is an attempt to address this problem starting with the vertical of creating a safer Internet for children. This is a noble pursuit, it’s clearly needed, I applaud the attempt but it’s a battle that I believe can’t be solved via traditional means. I compared this pursuit with a two very common problems. 1: SPAM. This can’t be solved without eliminating the underlying email protocol that is flawed. 2: VIRUSES. This can’t be solved without the underlying Microsoft Operating System that is a virus incubator.

With these two examples there will always be spam filters and spam programs competing to eliminate spam, and the issue for example of false positives. There will be always be anti-virus software attempting to fix as quickly as possible problems or identification *after* a new virus is found and released to the world. Until Microsoft re-defines the way it secures it’s underlying operating system, and application suit from the ground up, those users that use this OS will continue to live with daily concern of viruses. Enough ranting.

It would appear from the presentation there are two steps of the process, authentication and verification. The authentication process involves a physical person verifying the child in question is a physical real person. The verification process is either a fingerprint scanner, or a camera. Fingerprint scanners for example are not secure, and there are plenty of non-standard entry level models already available, so a fingerprint could be faked. Photo recognition, what’s stopping somebody putting a photo of the child in front of the camera.

The problem is the system is only half of two necessary parts. Authenticating a real person to access the Internet doesn’t stop this person from then doing anything like pretending to be somebody else. While the purpose of the pursuit is to ensure the reverse, this first point can also occur. The co-operation of all websites is needed but how can you get a buy in from sites such as MySpace, FaceBook, YouTube etc. I work in this industry, I know people that work for these organizations, I work with large organizations such as these, I know this type of implementation will not happen easily without significant incentive, and there are millions of community web sites, millions.

It was interesting that this project started “from something that came out of an argument”. A comment that was re-iterated by one of the panel saying this was a good thing. I can’t say I agree here, active discussion promotes collaboration, and opinionated views. Arguments rarely achieve anything other then resulting in personal attacks and usually is over something less then very important.

While all three key people were all from the Department of Homeland Security (good to see them all there for the presentation), the comments regarding the proposal included the lack of a technology security expert, and resources with significant Sales & Marketing background. This re-iterates what I have learned from my experiences in working with startup companies and venture capital using the Bell Mason Diagnostic (BMD). This approach tackles 4 different stages of development, 4 quadrants with 12 axis of analysis that covers Technology, CEO, Product, Team, Software Development, Board, Business Plan , Cash, Marketing, Financeability, Sales and Controls. What I know and don’t have in any of my own ventures is contacts and involvement of people covering these areas of required expertise. It’s an important checklist with anybody that has an idea.

ParkWhiz.com


The second presenter was for ParkEhiz.com, a quick and easy way to search for and pay in advance for parking. With one click access to your city, Google Maps mashup integration, slider refresh of distance and price (but not rating) the website provides quick access to information and quick filtering, something necessary for a website success, and something that can kill you in performance with a successful site. Still, good points scored from me here for the practical site.

The presenter did a good job. While clearly a technical person, his enthusiasm towards the idea was evident and this is one side to promoting you idea. There were clearly areas of greater analysis in the business plan necessary such as securing major clients, and considering ideal marketing and pricing plans. Panel Investor Hugh Cullman post presentations comments stated in his discussion that the zeal of the presenter and not just the business of the presentation contributed to evaluating proposals early in the funding process. At the ring of the 7 minute timer, when asked to complete the sentence the reply was “it’s going to be a 7 slide sentence”. The presenters know the terms before the presentation, they were also prepared prior. It’s very important that your professionalism includes following the rules.

The ParkWhiz Guarantee is an interesting offer. A 100% guarantee is parking is not honored. This will become an issue if the “phone for an alternative” floods the most likely single phone operator for now. With a dependency on more traditional communication means additional resourcing will always be necessary.

Convenience is a strong selling point. However, having worked for a failed Internet startup from 1999-2002 that had 3 rounds of funding and one significant project that worked with bringing *buyers* and *sellers* together I had a number of points of input. The most significant is meeting the technology capabilities of the “buyer” and “seller”. I saw huge problems here, and this was clearly raised by one of the panel members saying “I know my parking garage just got an answering machine”. In this instance, the reliance on Parking Garages to have Internet access, and to use this in a timely manner will simply never work. Likewise for those looking for last minute parking, people may not both have readily available Internet access not the desire to pay in advance. Combine the management fee for this service of 25%, and I’m sure the desire of less reputable garages for a cash business, as well as the handling of money twice is also and overhead. That is taking money from the buyers, and then passing onto the sellers.

To overcome this I would suggest two things. First, for this to work you need to meet the sellers with the technology they can support, and the most I could see here is cell phone text messaging. No more. The second is providing a monthly fee service for buyers, that again via Cell phone, Text Message, email or PDA version provide a buyer with a list of parking garages with prices and times in the area provided. Would a service of $5-$10 a month work here. Well I guess only trial and error can tell. I did find out that a PDA version of the website existed, however on my iPhone (which is a full web browser), I was stuck with the PDA version.

Newstin


The final presentation was Newstin, a Global News Aggregator. On first inspection this site showed nothing more then what I get with Google News. The presenter who didn’t stand still (making it interesting for the videographer) was quick to indicate the key differences, the first was the number of feeds being significantly more, and the second being translation capabilities via a machine translation technologies.

This presentation described the direct competition with Googke, Topix.net and Factiva, and similar services as Bloomberg. This information is always necessary, you have to set your apart from your competitors. You have make yourself unique. That uniqueness was the schematic keyword search and integrated translation. This analysis included a patent. The presentation included description of technology partners and it seemed while not clear to indicate that translation was performed by a third party.

The service however is a niche product at $2500 per year. It was also immediately clear that Americans and America can never be considered a primary source for this service. I’ve spoken previously regarding my opinions on the clear lack of World News by the US media, and a clear false view presented to the viewing public in this country. My thoughts on CNN International was also echoed by one of the panel. The key target market is clearly Europe, a point raised many times by the panel. What was not mentioned and I consider an emerging market is Asia. Korea, Japan are powerhouse large Internet communities and I’m sure China and other Asian countries will become likewise.

And to include a quote from the presenter, when asked how much money do you have left from initial funding the response was “Just about enough to get me here to ask for more”. They were clearly asking for a lot and with 30 staff in Prague, Czech Republic resources were also working for peanuts.

Post Presentation


One great thing about this meetup is the opportunity to talk more with the presenters afterwards, to also network and this time (as well as before) and the opportunity for a drink with some people following completion. I had a chance when discussing an idea to mention The Purple Cow by Seth Godin. A quick and easy read, but an inspiration in thinking outside the square. I had an opportunity to show my Moo Cards which last month were on order, but used by one of the presenters. What was surreal was as a showed my cards, one was randomly selected just as the NewsTin presenter approached. The card selected was of the Praque Castle (the only Praque photo of the collection) and Praque being the home city of operations for NewsTin. Coincidence!

The fobar of a Web 2.0 website

Web 2.0 is all about community driven content. Recently eBay purchased Stumble Upon for $75 million. There is a problem here. When I first heard of the site, I looked at. I remember going back the next few days, and I was sure it hadn’t changed. Then I started taking screen shots. Having forgotten about it now for over a month under a discussion today, I took another screenshot. In over a month, from June 3rd to July 15th there has been no content change to the website. There has been a change to the counter of number of stumblers, and a change of image for a Recent Stumblers, but the “content”, the recent popular web site on the first page of the website remains unchanged. Check out my screenshots.

-rw-r--r-- 1 rbradford rbradford 568715 2007-07-15 19:13 stumbleapon.15072007.png
-rw-r--r-- 1 rbradford rbradford 570622 2007-06-03 21:32 stumbleupon.03062007.png
-rw-r--r-- 1 rbradford rbradford 580385 2007-06-04 18:25 stumbleupon.04062007.png
-rw-r--r-- 1 rbradford rbradford 586082 2007-06-07 00:22 stumbleupon.07062007.png
-rw-r--r-- 1 rbradford rbradford 570792 2007-06-15 02:03 stumbleupon.15062007.png