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Archive for July, 2007

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Derren Brown – Subliminal Advertising
If you don’t believe in the power of subliminal advertising, just take a look at this six and a half minute video as it’s successfully applied on two marketing advertisers.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex
In software development, too often a very complex and over the top solution is devised when something very simple would have solved the issue.

Why You Should Polish Your Code
Having read and refactored a lot of other people’s code, I can’t express how important it is to clean up your code afterwards. Would you want your painter to leave his mess after he finishes painting your house?

10 Developers For The Price Of One
I’ve just talked about this in my last entry. This article goes into a lot more depth as to why this is often true.

A game of inches
Joel is a great writer, and in this article he really brings about the point that great software is achieved through continual improvements over time.

Compensation
This is a good explanation of why sometimes it can be more expensive to try and be cheap.

10 Steps to Improving Your Email Customer Service
I’ve been reading Ian’s blog for as long as I can remember, and here at LandlordMax we use his product HelpSpot to manage our technical support. And this is why I personally value, and so should you, his suggestions on how to improve email customer service.

23.4375 terabytes in a box (Sun Fire X4500)
On the lighter side of things, have you ever wondered what a large data server looks like? Take a look.

Free Blogging Tips Podcast with Darren and Yaro
I listened to the podcast in my car and found some very good nuggets of information. For example, you’ll now see at the bottom of every one of my entries a “Like this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed.” link.

Two Techniques That Help You Embrace Brevity
If you ever wanted to read a great blog on how to write, this is it. In this entry he offers two great tips to reduce your word count while increasing the quality of your copy.

The 4 Pillars of Writing Exceptional Blogs
Darren’s blog ProBlogger.net is always filled with great information for anyone interested in blogging. In this entry he provides you with a quick yet precise definition of what it takes to blog successfully.

9 Reasons Why I AM An Amazon Affiliate
Darren gets the honor of three full links this week (you can see now why I say he’s always got some great information to share). In this particular example he shows why the Amazon affiliate program can be very profitable if you don’t just look at the short term but also the long term.

The importance of targeted website traffic
Andy is another ISV’er who’s Successful Software blog I follow. In this article he clearly articulates why not all traffic is not equal. And once you understand this, it can really make a difference in where your ad dollars are spent.

Code Critique as an Interview Tool
Sometimes showing what’s wrong can be a better indication of your understanding than trying to solve an issue. Here Adam nicely argues an interview method where you hand the candidate a small snippet of code and discuss with them what’s wrong with it. From simple and obvious issues to subtle and complex ones. All within a page of code.






Nine Woman Can't Have a Baby in One Month

Why is it that so many people continue to believe that software developers can do the impossible? In life there is always a critical path to everything, a path that you just can’t skip ahead. Yes sometimes work can be divided and thereby accelerated such as painting a room. You can get one person to paint four walls or you can get four people to pain one wall each speeding up the by four times. But if you want to apply two separate coats of paint you absolutely can’t get eight people to paint at the same time both coats. It just doesn’t work. The first coat of paint needs to dry before the second coat of paint can be applied. That’s a critical path you just can’t skip, no matter how much you wish it away.

However in software development a lot of people tend to forget this notion. There is a tendency to think that if we add extra developers to any effort we can shorten it by the amount of people we add. The thinking is if we add 20% more developers the time to implement the project should therefore decrease by 20%. The reality is that it doesn’t work this way. It’s not like painting a room. You can’t just grab a brush and start painting. It’s not that simple. Even if you’re the best developer in the world someone from the project still has to show you how to setup your environment. You have to learn how the software is implemented. You have to “get up to speed” which can take some time. This can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months depending on the project because of the inherent complexity of software development.

The Mythical Man Month

In some cases adding extra resources can even slow down your effort. For every person you add someone from your existing team needs to “bring them up to speed”, which means their not producing during this time. The closer you are to the deadline the more likely you are to slow the effort by adding new people to the team because of this training cost. They just won’t be productive quick enough to be worth it. They’ll probably only really start to get “up to speed” after the deadline.

My favorite analogy by far is the title of this entry, you can’t put nine woman together and expect them make a baby in one month. The critical path is nine months, no matter what you do. Some work just can’t be divided. Ever try to learn a language by dividing it up with several people while simultaneously skipping ahead some steps? And that’s what you have to anticipate with any software project. There will always be several critical paths.

Not only that, but sometimes one developer can implement a solution an order of magnitude faster and especially better than another developer . This is true in almost any profession. Just look at professional sports athletes, there is an amazing difference in quality. Can anyone beat Michael Jordan at basketball? Anyone want to play hockey against Wayne Gretzky? Every profession has it’s stars and its obvious that there is a difference among them, even among the elite of the elite.

Michael Jordan

The same is true with software and developers. I’ve heard sayings that an elite software developer can easily be worth ten junior developers. I completely agree. One Michael Jordan is worth several average players. Sometimes it’s worth waiting for a more qualified, or even just a specialized developer, to implement a solution. They might be able to do it in a way that will simplify the life of every other developer on the team and thereby reduce the total cost of the project today and tomorow rather than add to everyone’s effort. We’ve all seen patch jobs that take much longer to do anything with because of a bad implementation. That are buggy and needs to be continually fixed. That are just a complete mess. This is often the result of trying to push the critical path, of trying to apply two coats of paint at the same time.

Not only will you be ahead if you understand the critical path, it will also reduce your total software development costs. It will give you higher quality code which will lead to less bugs, less fixes, less workarounds, less hacks. It will lead to a better solution. Happier customers. Better maintainability. It will make improving and adding new features easier in the future. It will lead to higher employee morale. A better team. Lower turnover within the company. It’s just worth it. If you don’t believe me, just look at the statistics from this article on what happens if you push the critical path too much. Critical paths exist for a reason and it’s absolutely worth your time to acknowledge them rather than trying to wish them away.






LandlordMax Customer Testimonial

As many of you know, several months ago we released a free online Real Estate Analyzer as a promotion tool to generate traffic to LandlordMax. It’s been a great success and we’ve received many positive emails about it. This week, we received one in particular that I just had to share:

I am a property owner as well as a Investment RE agent, I am looking to purchase your product as a management tool but your analyzer “I must admit” Rocks the pants off anything I can currently give my clients as a pro-forma. My question is does the actual program have this analyzer built in? And if it does can I input the Info on a property we are looking at print it out and give it to my client, with my Information and maybe Logo/picture on It?

Al Romero
Property Owner and RE Agent
YorkHomeGuide.com

What a great comment!

For those of you who are curious about the answer, the current version of LandlordMax doesn’t have this built into it however we’ve been planning on adding this in a future version. Although I can’t guarantee if it will make it into the next major version, it will definitely be in a future release.






Book Recommendation: On Writing Well

Since I started FollowSteph.com about two years I’ve been reading a lot on how to improve the quality of my writing. So far the best resource I’ve ever come across is the book On Writing Well – The Classic Guide to Writing Non-Fiction by William Zinsser. If you haven’t already read a copy, you absolutely should! This book is amazing and filled with great advice that will improve your writing skills.

On Writing Well

I’ve only read it a month ago and already I’ve applied many of the suggestions he offers. This is not saying that I’m a great writer, only that I can always improve myself and this book has clearly shown me some great ways to achieve this. Sometimes his advice is subtle and other times it can be so obvious that you can’t understand why you never saw it.

On my last blog entry How to Write Out Your Domain Name, I made several edits directly attributable to this book. For example the beginning of the last paragraph of the blog entry starts with: “It’s only a matter of time before uppercasing each word in a domain becomes the standard…”. In my first draft I had started it with “I’m willing to bet that it’s only a matter…”. I changed it because in On Writing Well the author suggests:

“Don’t say you were a bit confused and sort of tired and a little depressed and somewhat annoyed. Be confused. Be tired. Be depressed. Be annoyed. Don’t hedge your prose with little timidities. Good writing is lean and confident”.

I couldn’t agree more. If you look at the last draft it’s much more powerful without the “I’m willing to bet that” beginning. It’s obvious when you read it, but I doubt I would have noticed it if it wasn’t for the book. After all, we all do it, it’s just that the book brings it to your attention. It’s part of evolving your writing and making it better. Learning something each day.

As another example, in the second paragraph I state “Back in the old day, which in internet time is less than a decade ago, everyone wrote out their domain names in all lowercase.” Before having read the book On Writing Well I would have finished this sentence with an exclamation mark, mostly to get across the light humor I embedded in the sentence. However after reading this suggestion from William I decided not to:

“Also resist using an exclamation point to notify the reader that you are making a joke or being ironic. … Readers are annoyed by your reminder that this was a comical moment. They are also robbed of the pleasure of finding it funny on their own. Humor is best achieved by understatement, and there’s nothing subtle about an exclamation point.”

Although not everything he says should be taken as a rule, which even William himself states, I really respect his advice. He offers examples for each of his suggestions to show the difference. More importantly though, is that when I now read other authors I really enjoy, I notice some of these suggestions in their writing. A great example of how to properly embed humor in your content is just about anything written by Joel Spolsky from Joel On Software. He does exactly what William suggests, he doesn’t force out the comedy, it lets the reader pick it up on their own.

These aren’t the only tips the book offers, it’s loaded with great advice on how to improve your writing skills, be it for blogging, business, etc. What I’ve described above is just two small examples of many that I learned from reading On Writing Well. If you haven’t already read it, I strongly suggest you do.






How to Write Out Your Domain Name

Writting PenIt seems like such a simple and trivial thing that it’s not even worth writing about. But the truth is that how your write out your domain is very important. It can have a very large impact on the traffic your business or website gets as we’ll soon see. And the worse part is that it’s so easy to do. So many people do it wrongly that it’s amazing, or maybe it’s a good thing for you if your competitors are still doing it the old (wrong) way.

What am I talking about? It’s how you write out your domain. Back in the old day, which in internet time is less than a decade ago, everyone wrote out their domain names in all lowercase. At first this wasn’t a big issue because almost all the domains were one word domains, with the few odd domain names having two words.

Today a lot of domains are multi-word domains. Look at this domain, it’s two words “Follow” and “Steph” (FollowSteph.com). My company, two words again “Landlord” and “Max” (LandlordMax.com). It’s now pretty common to see two word domains. Many domains today even have more than two words. Look at my latest project “Find” “Your” “Wedding” “Dress” dot com (FindYourWeddingDress.com). This is a four word domain. And this is where the issues come in.

Which is easier to read?

findyourweddingdress.com

or

FindYourWeddingDress.com

Even knowing ahead of time what the domain name is it still takes you more time to read the lowercase one than the uppercase one. What about these less obvious and made up domain names?

whatarethewordsinthisdomain.com

versus

HowMuchEasierIsThisDomainToRead.com

I bet it took you a few glances to figure the first domain. You had to pay attention. Your probably read it more than once. Now when the first letter of each word in the domain is uppercased like the second domain, I bet you didn’t have to think about it. You just read it as fast as you can read a normal sentence. You didn’t have to re-read any part of it. That makes it easier to recognize, easier to remember. Overall it makes it that much easier to brand the domain!

Pushing this further, what about if you have ethnic terms in your domain. For example in the city where I’m located one car dealership is always playing their ads on the radio. They’re very big and everyone in the city has at least heard their name once. Probably much more than that because they have a jingle that stays in your head. Whether or not you like it, it creates very good brand name recognition. However, because it’s an ethnical name it’s a little harder to spell out for anyone that’s not of that ethnicity. Not a major issue but as far as marketing goes you should try to minimize any possible confusion to maximize your ROI.

Where am I going with this? The other day I saw one of their courtesy vans driving their customers around which had their domains written on the back it. Even having heard the name of their company many many times it still took me several attempts to correctly decipher what the domain was on the back of their van. How easy is it for you:

dilawrichrysler.com

What if it was re-written as:

DilawriChrysler.com

How much easier is that? I personally kept reading the “rich” in the middle of the text as a separate word when in fact the “ri” was part of the first word and the “ch” the beginning of the second word. By just uppercasing the first letter of each word in the domain it quickly removes any and all confusion. The domain is clear. I’ll remember it. Had I not been stopped and little bit bored at a red light I would never have taken the time to decipher the domain. If I had been driving behind the van, I for sure would’ve never known it was from DilawriChrysler.com. Even now when I just copy and pasted the domain I still again caught myself reading the word “rich” in the middle of the domain.

It’s only a matter of time before uppercasing each word in a domain becomes the standard way of writing out domains. It only makes sense. Right now we’re still stuck in the “old” way, but this will change. Mark my word, it’s only a matter of time before you see everyone write out their domain names this way.






Interest Rate Poll

{democracy:2}






Almost Another Record Sales Month…

About two weeks ago in my article Why I love Being an Entrepreneur I predicted we’d have another record month of sales here at LandlordMax. Unfortunately I was wrong. Not by much though. We missed breaking our record sales for one month by 3.8%!!! A very close race!

Hopefully this month it won’t be nearly as close and we’ll break our sales record by a large margin.






 
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