Archive for September, 2006


The Digg

September 29, 2006

Thanks to whoever posted a Digg for Bessed last night. I was thinking that might not come until next week when we make a more concentrated push for coverage, but I’m happy to see someone thought it was worth their time.

If you’re of a mind to, stop over at Digg and give us a vote.


Bessed is Not Scalable

September 29, 2006

One thing I’ve learned in the age of the Internet is that many people will talk to you, especially if it’s via e-mail on their own time versus you trying to force them to get on the phone with you. I’ve been surprised at the well-known people in a varety of industries I’ve managed to converse with simply by e-mailing them.

That said, as Bessed is launching, I told a few people about what we’re doing, and the opinion I heard most frequently is that the human-powered aspect makes it not scalable, meaning we’d need more and more people to run it as it gets bigger, which means more and more costs.

The ideal, especially from a venture capital perspective, and especially these days, is something that uses technology to do all the work and/or has a user-generated aspect to it, so that your company just supplies the tools and it grows by people providing content and then driving traffic to their content.

This is an understandable opinion, and the scalability question is one I’ve struggled with. On the other hand, when I read thing like this report on the DEMO show, which is supposed to showcase these hot Web 2.0 companies, but instead prompts the writer to exclaim “People, these are extensions, not companies!”, I can’t help but think that the race to be hands-off, let the user create the value, results in worthless ventures.

The strategy of “create something, anything, and let’s hope a bigger company buys us out so we don’t have to find a business model” is certainly one way to go about things. But doesn’t it make sense to build a company that has a larger value, even if that means it’s going to take a lot more work/time/money/people to get the product/service to a place where it’s at a high profitability?

From my understanding of the venture capital game, they’re looking for companies that they can throw a few million into with the hope of taking $30 million out down the road, but the things they invest in give you the impression that they just throw their money across 10 or 15 companies and hope one gets lucky. It’s sort of an insane diversification model.

So, when I hear the comment about Bessed’s scalability, it doesn’t discorage me as much as you’d think (or maybe as much as it should). There are very few successful companies that are spewing cash with small numbers of employees and a technology that does all the work. Even Google needs massive numbers of employees and facilities to run a technology that is insanely powerful but needs an insane amount of power.

If you’re going to be big and successful, scalability is an issue no matter what industry you’re in or what technology you’ve created. So Bessed will plunge forward, build, and see what happens. I feel good about our chances.


Why Bootstrapping Sucks

September 29, 2006

This story over at Tabblo illustrates why it sucks to be a startup, or, worse, to be a bootstrapping startup. (I don’t know if Tabblo bootstraps or not, just saying it’s worse if you do.)

A broken sprinkler head started shooting water into their offices and soon enough they has three inches of water on the floors, not to mention that everything got soaked since the water came from above.

Tabblo’s probably got some venture capital, everyone seems to these days, but if you’re a company trying to bootstrap, an incident like this can be a killer.  Not only do you have damages to deal with but you also have to deal with the fact of not being able to do anything for a few days while you get your office up and running again.  This is a huge money and time waster.

Insurance might cover your damages, but it won’t cover the value of things you may have created that are ruined, whether it’s important papers, drenched computers with lost data (yes you should back it up, but does everyone really back up?), or some other piece of work that took a long time and will have to be recreated from scratch.

And if you have clients who have deadlines that you’re now going to miss, that’s just one more thing that’s not going to win you any love.

That’s why bootstrapping sucks.  One false move and all your efforts are down the drain.


Bessed is Looking for Seeders

September 28, 2006

The pay’s not out of this world, but if you’d like to make a little money blogging to help Bessed expand its topic areas, go here for details.


Seth Godin Likes Bob Marley and Kalahari Red Tea. I’m Gettin’ Me Some of Them!

September 28, 2006

Seth Godin wrote a post yesterday about trust, and although it rambled a bit, or at least didn’t go where I thought it was going, this line is absolutely true:

We are almost always in search of recommendations, especially from people who don’t seem to have an ulterior motive.

He mentions that it doesn’t make much sense for us to take his recommendation on music or good tea just because we read his blog, but that we might take those recommendations anyway.

Why? Because Godin seems intelligent and probably doesn’t love crap. So, if I like tea and want to try something new, why not go for the Kalahari red tea that he suggests versus shooting in the dark? He may be wrong, or at least his preference may be wrong for me, but chances are better I’m going to be satisfied than if I pick completely randomly.

This is the very reason that smart marketers, especially those with little money but a good product/service/idea, work so hard to get journalists (or bloggers) to write about them. Who do you believe more–the journalist you’ve never met and know nothing about who says she’s happy with her new Mobi1Kenobi mobile phone, or the ad right next to that story that says “The C3PEOPod Mobile Phone Will Change Your Life”?

As Godin says, you assume the person writing without an ulterior motive is telling the truth, at least as he/she sees it, and it’s better to buy based on someone’s real truth than based on someone’s real lies (or, more graciously, their unconfirmed promises).


Can WordPress Handle a Highly-Trafficked, Highly-Searched, Highly-Commented Site?

September 27, 2006

The big idea behind Bessed is that it’s a search site which allows you to comment on search results and add new pages via the comments section of each search results page.

To accomplish this, we’re building the site on WordPress. We did this for a number of reasons:

1. WordPress is free software. We don’t have much money.

2. WordPress has a community that likes WordPress sites and are familiar with WordPress sites. That makes it more likely a core group will latch onto our site, like what we’re doing, and spread the word.

3. WordPress is a cinch to install, and at this point the tech end of things is not our greatest strength. This will have to change as our traffic grows, but for now it was nice to get up and running quick-like.

But I have reservations about WordPress, mostly centering around its speed and its ability to process lots of traffic, lots of comments and lots of searches.

We are using WordPress in an unconventional way, perhaps in a way that WordPress is not meant to be used, a way that just might be asking for trouble. WordPress is blog software, and the majority of most blogs’ traffic is on the first few pages, while older pages are more likely to collect dust, especially once you’re talking about content that’s a year old or more. I would also guess that the average blog has a fairly low number of searches conducted on it. So WordPress does the job for these blogs.

But Bessed is a different model. It’s going to be a huge site content-wise, more on the scale of a Wikipedia, and past posts aren’t just going to be old-news archives that are searched only occassionally. Instead, they are going to be the pages that are accessed repeatedly by site searchers looking for relevant sites that fit their needs. In addition, by asking our visitors to comment on results and add their own sites via comments, we’re setting ourselves up for high comment usage.

We’re not half-assing this. Even though our traffic is nothing right now, Bessed is sitting on a dedicated server and we are prepared to upgrade that when the situation becomes necessary. We’re not trying to cheap out here.

But I’m already seeing that while WordPress is posting, the site can become inaccessible for anywhere from a few seconds to a half-minute, although it’s usually the former. I suppose this is database stuff happening, but that lag isn’t very acceptable to me, especially if I’m thinking that this site is going to have thousands of visitors in the future. It has to be accessible and fast.

I mentioned this to a friend who knows a little about this stuff & he told me it’s not WordPress so much as the fact that a MySQL database isn’t really built to handle high numbers of queries and house a truly huge site. Since I’m no expert, I don’t know if he’s right or if he’s just one of those techies who thinks everything is done wrong unless the idea on how to do it came out of their very own heads.

For now, it’s WordPress. And I hope it’s WordPress for the long haul. But I’m going to be keeping a close eye on performance and be open to making a switch (which would be a royal pain in the ass) if necessary.


Google Loves You, Even When You’re in the Sandbox

September 27, 2006

For a long time people who spend time trying to get their sites ranked highly on Google would debate whether there was a “sandbox”, or a place that Google put your site for a while to see if you played nicely. If you played nicely (meaning that you created good content & got some links from “trusted” sites), then your site got to leave the sandbox and actually get ranked for something desirable, which maybe meant you would get money or happiness.

In my experience, getting out of the Google sandbox takes 10-12 months, which for most Webmasters is an eternity.

Via Search Engine Roundtable comes this list from Andy Hagans on how to “beat” the sandbox. It’s all good information and something that every Webmaster should be doing, but in my view Hagans isn’t offering ways to beat the sandbox as much as he’s offering ways to rank well when you are out of the sandbox. Doing these things may cut down your time in the box the tiniest bit, but unless you’re a major corporation or movie star putting up a new site, you’ll stay in the sandbox for a while and you need to prepare yourself for that up front.

In Hagans’ mind, you’re let out of the sandbox in stages, which means you start with Google acting like you smell bad and refusing to touch your site with a 39-and-a-half-foot pole. You then graduate up, meaning you start to see your site ranked #95 for a search term you’re targeting, and then if you’ve done your work well, you start to move up to the big leagues, meaning the first two pages of results, which is all most people ever look at.

I think he’s right about the stages, but for Webmasters the most pain comes in stage one, when you’re building your site out, writing original content, finding trusted, relevant sites to link to and hopefully be linked from–only to see that you’re still persona non grata in Google’s eyes.

This is when many people get discouraged, because you have absolutely no idea when you might actually snag a ranking, or whether you ever will. (Or, whether you’ll get any rankings before you run out of money, or starve.)

Hagans’ advice is good–do all the steps he advises, at least as many as you feel comfortable with. But maybe more important, stick with it. Google loves you, yes it does, and eventually it will show you the love that up ’til now has created an emptiness in your heart (and wallet).