Category Archives: Business

Downsides of SaaS

Software-as-a-Service has its downsides, as one commenter notes:

We’re beginning to see the pitfalls of software-as-a-service in general: loss of control for for the user, increased security risks, and being entirely at the mercy of the providers’ future business strategies.

The context is Google discontinuing its RSS Reader.

A small outfit has motivation that a big one doesn’t. It matters not just to the provider, but the user. Opportunity abounds.


Software Runs the World: How Scared Should We Be That So Much of It Is So Bad?

From The Atlantic:

The underlying problem here is that most software is not very good. Writing good software is hard. There are thousands of opportunities to make mistakes. More importantly, it’s difficult if not impossible to anticipate all the situations that a software program will be faced with, especially when–as was the case for both UBS and Knight–it is interacting with other software programs that are not under your control. It’s difficult to test software properly if you don’t know all the use cases that it’s going to have to support.

Though there are a number of angles to this piece (and you should read it all), here’s another nugget:

This is one problem that regulation probably can’t solve directly. How can you write a rule saying that companies have to write good software?

Insidious Ad Award

Here’s a screen-shot of’s main page, as of today.

Watch that download!

Notice the giant Download button on the right. That’s really an ad for who-knows-what. To download ClamWin, you want the much-smaller download menu item on the left.

Caveat emptor.

LinkedIn broken?

As of right now, a couple LinkedIn connection requests I made, that were accepted, still aren’t showing up in my connections list. I received the e-mail that we’re connected. So it’s half-working, half-broken, even after 30 hours or so. (Surely the electrons can travel from one end of LinkedIn to the other in that time.)

The mind boggles at the mess this could potentially be if they’re dealing with a breakage of something that fundamental. My heart goes out to them. I hope they have (or can create) the right view of their system to make it all good. I haven’t seen any announcement to that effect.

XMarks: fare thee well

Received XMarks’ notice that they’re folding, and their story is excellent reading. Here are a few of my observations.

First, it’s very well-written and has an excellent tone. I hope never to fold a business, but if I had to, I hope I’d bow out as gracefully as they are.

Hats off to them for knowing when to quit, and letting us all know with this much advance notice.

We’re not in another dot-com bubble. Without a convincing plan to turn a profit, investors won’t bite. Two million users (astonishingly!) seems not to be good enough.

Technically, it’s an excellent product. I’ve used it for some time and it works great. Shouldn’t that be enough?

Entrepreneurial authors like Guy Kawasaki say that a product based on something you’d want yourself is a better way to go than an anticipated audience. And that’s exactly what they had.

Your competition isn’t far behind. If they’d started a “freemium” service early on, would they have built a loyal customer base that despite the free competition?

I don’t mean this harshly: the CEO couldn’t conjure magic. The engineers couldn’t find a working business model, but neither could he. I suppose I’m biased toward engineers, and CEOs exist because the engineers too often can’t do it without them. But it’s not a slam dunk for anyone.

I’d love to hear their experiences after some time has passed. Would it have been a viable business for a leaner team? What if they’d geared toward a smaller long-term revenue stream from the start?

Of course, if this farewell is really XMarks’ maneuver to get their customers’ attention (and it turns the business around), the CEO has earned his keep right there.

Fare thee well XMarks. You have an excellent product.

Update, 12/18/2010: Xmarks gets acquired by LastPass. Ok, so was the good-bye post a ploy? (And if it was, did I call it or what?!) Either way, I’m glad they’re still around, for everyone’s sake.

Save Windows XP

It seems Windows XP is being phased out:

Fans of the six-year-old operating system set to be pulled off store shelves in June have papered the Internet with blog posts, cartoons and petitions recently. They trumpet its superiority to Windows Vista, Microsoft’s latest PC operating system, whose consumer launch last January was greeted with lukewarm reviews.

No matter how hard Microsoft works to persuade people to embrace Vista, some just can’t be wowed. They complain about Vista’s hefty hardware requirements, its less-than-peppy performance, occasional incompatibility with other programs and devices and frequent, irritating security pop-up windows.
“You really can’t make 69 percent of your installed base unhappy with you,” he said.

This troubles me, too. My wife has Vista on her laptop, and I’m amazed at how it makes a brand new processor feel slow. And how often Internet Explorer 7 has problems.

I don’t feel like I missed a thing when I skipped over Windows ME and 2000. I kind of have that same feeling towards Vista.

Maybe I should be happy. After all, it creates more work for us software folks. More work, but less real progress.

Many Windows apps run under Linux via Wine, or ported to Linux via a variety of tools. Is it time to (re)evaluate?

It’s a good time to think about your criteria: What do you need? What would tempt you to switch?

Stepping into Linux can’t be done casually. You may be trading one set of unknowns for another. Steep new learning curves. You can buy support, but how much will you need? How much will you spend in the end?

I’m amazed at how far Linux has come, but I still don’t think it has caught up as a full-featured desktop. And what flavor? Ubuntu? OpenSUSE? Xandros? Red Hat? CentOS?

NY Subway Office

Despite our best efforts, we can’t always reproduce phenomena we see in the field. So to the field we go.

Here are a few shots of my makeshift office in the New York Subway system. Not the most productive or ergonomically correct environment.
NY Subway Office
The chair is a life-saver. Under $6 from Target, it collapses into a bag slung across the shoulder.

Here’s a view from the seat. Fifteen feet from the track.
NY Subway Office

Yes, a very active track…
NY Subway Office

NY Subway Office

Lunch 2.0 @ Google Chicago

Hats off to Google Chicago for hosting today’s Lunch 2.0.

Having no idea what to expect (except, um, food), I had to check it out.

Free lunch and “no time-share pitch to sit through!”

I learned (among other things) that Google has a decent-sized presence in Chicago, a lot of it engineering. If I understand it correctly, Google’s summer of code comes out of Chicago. (I also took away a nice Google lunch cooler. Thanks!)

It’s always nice rubbing shoulders with the tech community, too: learning what’s going on, talking shop. (I’m guessing 100 people were there.)

Lunch 2.0 @ Google