Erik Sink and the micro-ISV

Erik Sink coined the term “micro-ISV” back in September of 2004 when he decided to write about “Exploring Micro-ISVs” and his experiment with a shareware game called “Winnable Solitaire”.

Erik inspired tons of entrepreneurs to launch small businesses to pursue their dreams of success as micro-ISVs (including me). His article was so popular that the term micro-ISV can be found everywhere.

Well, Erik Sink has finally retired his micro-ISV project and sold his game.

While this is interesting, it’s not why I’m posting this. This announcement provided me a reminder and a pointer to the great information Erik Sink has shared and linked to during his experiment:

All these links are well worth reading. If you already have, they are probably worth reading again.

Gus On Indie Success in 1068 Days

Gus Mueller, owner of Flying Meat and maker of Vodoo Pad and FlySketch fame has taken the time to share his story of becoming a successful indie shareware developer in this article:

How to become an independent programmer in just 1068 days

He’s included a terrific list of seven and a half lessons learned, a sales graph, and a goals reached graph. All this information and it’s even entertaining!

Thanks Gus!

Update: Druken Batman has just posted a related article referencing Gus’s. He also refers us to his list of “Grasshoppers” who also “get it”.

Objective-C and Cocoa Articles

Just sharing some great essays on the nitty gritty of Cocoa and Objective-C that have all popped up in the last few days.

A new episode in Wil Shipley’s Pimp My Code series where he refactors a reader’s class in his own special style.

Ridiculous Fish takes a look into the underpinnings and efficiencies of the Array data structure implementation in Apple’s CoreFoundation framework.

Scott Stevenson asks (and answers) the question Which Frameworks Are Part of Cocoa?

Xcode Secrets Uncovered?

One of the most confusing things I’ve experienced in my short time developing software for the Mac is managing projects and their build and compile settings in Apple’s free development IDE, Xcode.

Xcode is built on top of the cross-platform, open- source compiler gcc. Since gcc is a command-line tool, Xcode needs to handle all the available command-line switches and options in a flexible manner.

Whether or not Xcode delivers in this respect, I have not decided. But I am certain they didn’t make it easy to understand and use.

I’m currently working on the follow-up to Bullfrog and the initial version of LicenseKeeper and one of the things I’ve been exploring is supporting the upcoming Intel cpu switch. In order to do this I need to figure out how to change the compiler settings to produce “universal binaries” that support both ppc and x86 architectures.

This search recently revealed two nice documents on Apple’s Developer Connection that finally explain some of the great mysteries of Xcode in a clear fashion:

As much as I’ve enjoyed developing in Cocoa and Objective-C so far, I’m still a bit baffled by Xcode. I don’t understand how the same company that creates easy to use tools such as iPhoto and iTunes relies on the crufty and adhoc-styled UI of Xcode for their sole and flagship development product. At least the documentation for Xcode is slowly beginning to improve with time.

Startup School and Wiki

These resources made the blog rounds a while back, but I just now got the chance to really look into it.

Startup School has a bunch of great presentations on starting a business in both pdf and audio formats. There is everything from general advice through finance advice.

The related website, Startup Wiki is just what it sounds like. A wiki outlining a nice set of business startup resources.

This is the Startup Wiki for discussing and collaborating on all aspects of startups.

Corporate Army Or One-Person Business

Do you use “we” or “me” when speaking for your MicroISV or one-person small business? Is it better to act as if you are bigger than just one person? Or, is the fact that you are one person actually a distinct business advantage?

Yaro Starak discusses his thoughts on which way to go on his Small Business Branding site.

I agree with Yaro completely. For years my company’s website advertised the services I provide as though Outer Level comprised of more than just me.

Over the past year or so I’ve slowly changed my ways — especially once I started keeping my blogs: Make Mac Games and this company blog you’re reading.

One of the biggest problems facing workers and small businesses today is the risk of being outsourced or replaced by cheaper off-shore labor. My search for a way around this dilemma lead me to the conclusion that it’s not my skill set or my price that is going to help keep my job and clients, it’s my reputation, experience, and results.

So why hide these things behind a corporate facade? Revel in the fact that you are a one person show and that when someone hires your company, they are hiring you. Not only is it okay to be a one-person company, it’s an advantage.

Customer Support Woes

Why is it that some companies just don’t get it?

Twice in the past couple of months I’ve experienced absolutely terrible service from large companies in completely different industries.

My wife and I recently cashed in a few whole life insurance plans. The company my wife’s plan was with simply required one phone call and a signature on a form. Aside from time in the mail, the process was quick and painless. Our money was in our bank account in days.

I had two whole life accounts with a different company that also holds several term life and disability insurance plans for me. When I called them, I immediately received the run-around.

“Sorry sir, you can’t have your money until we process the account cancelation through our customer rentention department.”

What?

Keep in mind, they weren’t losing me as a customer (yet). I was just cashing out two of my insurance plans. I asked them how long this would take and if they could cancel the automatic payments coming out of my checking account before the next payment, two weeks away.

“Sorry sir, but those payments have already been sent to our super-duper fully autmatic and modern money transfering system. You can cancel the payment through your bank after it has gone through.”

Well, as I found out through several very time consuming trips to my local bank (that’s another rant for later) , you can’t reverse this charge through the bank. Only the insurance company can issue a refund for the payment amount.

I can’t cancel an automated payment. I can’t reverse it. Why don’t I have any control over my own money and what happens to it?

Eventually, after several more calls to the insurance company and weeks of waiting, I received my refund. As to the cash value of my life insurance. I had to sit through a long boring lecture as to why I shouldn’t close my account from the insurance salesman that originally sold me the plans. Then, I could close the accounts.

Recently, I upgraded my phone. This upgrade required a new two year contract and an account change (again, another rant). Because of this account change, I received two bills in the mail. One to pay off the remaining amount in the old account and a second for the new account. We promptly paid the bills.

Yesterday, we recieved two more bills. One with a credit of $26 on the old account and one with a past due amount of $15. So today, I had to deal with my mobile phone provider’s customer support. Apparently the checks were crossed during data entry. No big deal, it happens. I’ll just call and have the credit on the old account applied to the new account.

Wrong! After an hour long phone call which included 55 minutes on hold time, the support rep informed me that they can’t directly transfer the credit from one account to the other. I have to wait 60 days for the credit on the old account to “expire” and they will cut a check. Meanwhile, I need to write another check to pay for the past due amount.

Oh, and the irony of it all is that the signal continuosly broke up so that I could hardly hear her throughout the conversation.

“Can you hear me now?”

Generating Forum Noise

Gianfranco Berardi brings up some interesting thoughts on posting in forums.

At one point I realized that I really shouldn’t talk like I knew what I was saying when I didn’t really know about the topic…

Which was good because I didn’t spend so much time on the forums and was able to direct my energies to more productive matters. I can’t get paid for being one of the top five posters on the board, and I definitely don’t have as much advice on the business-end of things as other people might to justify that many posts

Coincidentally, I’ve been struggling with this very topic.

Forums and blogs are interesting resources for both sharing information and marketing.

To participate, you need to strike a very careful balance. It’s easy to get sucked into these sites and simply waste time. It’s almost like watching television. Sometimes there is something interesting to learn, but most of the time its just noise.

It seems the forums and blogs I read are usually frequented by three types of people:

1. Experts sharing their knowlege (for various reasons)
2. People who are looking for a community to fit into
3. Beginners trying to find their way

Sometimes, people fit into more than one of these categories other times they progress up the ladder.

How do you benefit the most from participating in the community?

It’s easy to be in the #3 category, everybody has to start some place. The Beginners actually provide a great service, they usually initiate the conversation by asking a question. Then the experts usually provide the answers. This is where the greatest value is created.

This is also when the experts get to advertise or market their services and products. By displaying their knowledge and sharing their experience; this attracts visitors to their home pages were they can sell their products and services.

The danger is falling into the trap of Category #2. This happens when I comment on things to either get exposure or because I feel the need to participate or belong. Usually, this is a waste of time.

With this type of participation, I’m only wasting time and space since I’m not really adding anything new to the conversation.

These comments usually don’t produce any sales or leads, because I haven’t offered any incentive for anyone to click on my “post signature” that leads back to my web site.

Worst of all, these types of posts only serve to seduce me into wasting time following noise filled forum discussions while adding little value and keeping me away from getting any work done.

So, the question is how do I participate in forum or blog discussions, add real value, generate sales leads, and not waste time?

I guess I have to become an expert.