Brad Feld

At dinner last night with Scott Moody (the founder of Throw – which was acquired by Excite in 1998), we began talking about the difference on the web between groups and individuals.  While we slurped down our intensely spicy Vietnamese soup, Scott suggested that much of the current generation of web software has a conceptual design flaw – namely that it has been created for individuals (one) rather than groups (many) even though it is used by many (and the great utility of most of the software is when it is used by many).

We batted the idea around for a while as the plates of food covered with fire came and went.  Amy and I have been struggling with this problem as we’ve tried to collaborate on a few things recently using new web-based software and haven’t been able to get everything “just right” (ask Amy about organizing “our” photos).  When I reflect on the challenges, it comes back to the notion that the software we are using is really designed to be used by a single user (vs. a group of users).  There is no concept of workflow, no shared storage, no intra-process communication, and no notion of shared conflicts that need to be resolved.

When I first started designing PC-based custom database applications in the 1980’s, we used to differentiate between “single-user” and “multi-user” mode, as data sharing issues were different (non-existent) in single-user mode and you could do performance optimization that you couldn’t do in multi-user mode.  As hardware became faster and the database software built in more levels of abstraction, this distinction disappeared.  However, we had long since shifted our designs to multi-user mode in almost all cases as it was the general case (where single-user mode was simply multi-user model with #users=1).

It seems like the same issue applies here.  There are some specific cases where multi-user design has been embedded in the app (wiki’s immediately come to mind), but many of the current web apps are decidedly single-user or – even if they support “multiple-users” – clearly have a single-user feel to them making their design suboptimal for a group of more than one users.

So – is many a special case for one or is one a special case for many?  All Lisp programmers know the answer – do you?

Parental Advisory

Oct 01, 2005
Category Random

Bob Gentry – the CFO at Finali (now Convergys) – suggested that this reminded him of me.

Thanks Bob – after Amy saw this she suggested that I start using this as my email footer.

Most of the customer support stories I read on the web are about lousy experiences.  Tonight – I had an awesome one.

After dinner, Amy treated me to 30 minutes at Best Buy in Soho to buy a Verizon Wireless EVDO Card for my October Life Dinner gift.  The folks at Best Buy did a good job even though they ended up setting me up for the wrong version of the service.  My laptop doesn’t have a CD-ROM drive, so I had to download the software from the Internet.

My first attempt failed as the Verizon web site didn’t recognize my cell phone number.  I called customer support, worked through the phone tree, and immediately got to a guy who seemed to know what he was talking about.  He gave me a special magic code to download the software and then asked if he could stay on the phone until everything was up and running.  I downloaded the software and then walked through the installation step by step.  When I got to the end, things worked, but they seemed very slow (much slower than my expectation).  It turns out that the Best Buy folks set me up with the wrong service plan.  Mr. Good Support told me he could transfer me to an account rep to get me on the right plan.

Two minutes later I was talking to Ms. Very Nice Southern Accent who looked up my account, made the change (while keeping me on the same payment plan), walked me through resetting my EVDO card, and confirmed that I was all set to go.

For once, an awesome experience.  Thanks Verizon people.

I spent some time at lunch recently with Chris Sacca – one of the business development guys at Google.  Chris just put a post up on his blog with hints about how to get his attention if you are a company that wants to do a deal with Google.  It’s instructive, useful, and full of Google style.

Apple Hell

Sep 28, 2005
Category Technology

Jeff Jarvis – who has written extensively on his terrible customer experience in Dell Hell – doesn’t have a monopoly (nor does Dell) on stupid customer experience moves.  Ryan McIntyre – who I work with closely and has been a huge Apple user (and fan) for as long as I can remember – has a delicious post on his absurd experience with Apple, at the Apple Store, and with the Apple Customer Support Immune System.  Painfully funny.

Toilet Paper

Sep 28, 2005
Category Random

I’ve had a life long fascination with toilets which I’ve blogged about several times in the past, including Toto’s awesome throne, a tricked out toilet, and my personal favorite toilet / bathroom in the world.

Today I learned something useful about toilet paper.  I’ve clogged more than my fair share of toilets (c’mon – admit it – so have you).  I now know that I need to check the brand of paper before I do my thing.  No more Charmin for me.  Thanks Joanne.

As Jason and I launch into our new series on the Letter of Intent (LOI), we thought we’d start out like most LOI’s do – with a little foreplay.  To keep it simple, assume there are two primary parties in an M&A transaction – the “buyer” and the “seller” (for the time being, let’s not worry about complex deals that have more than two parties – this is a family blog after all – well, not really.) 

By the time the buyer presents the seller with an LOI, there have been meetings, discussions, dinners, expensive bottles of wine, lots of conference calls, and an occasional argument.  However, the buyer and the seller are still courting so they tend to be on their best behavior.  The LOI is typically the first real negotiation and the true ice breaker for the relationship.

In ancient times, when the first LOI was presented, someone crafted an introductory paragraph that starts off with something like the following:

Dear CEO of Seller:

We have greatly enjoyed our conversations to date and are honored to present you with this letter of intent to acquire <Seller’s Company>.  We look forward to entering into serious discussions over the next several months and reaching an agreement to acquire your company.  We’d like to thank you for entertaining our proposal, which follows:

While every company has their own style, most LOIs start off with some variation of this boilerplate paragraph.  Of course, you’ll find – later in the LOI – a qualifier that states that most everything in the LOI is non-binding, including the appearance of civility as part of the negotiation.  What would you expect in a world where ABC can launch a series called “Commander in The West Wing Chief”?

Next up – some real stuff – namely a discussion about one of the keys terms in the LOI – price.

China in the summer (via Bokee), now Japan in the fall (via GMO Affiliate).  FeedBurner continues on its quest to deliver the world’s content everywhere it’s needed

My friends Ben Neumann and Chris Ueland have a clever idea for helping out Hurricane Katrina victims called MillionDollarHelpPage.  They’ve taken the idea that Alex Tew came up for MillionDollarHomePage and repurposed it to be a Katrina fundraiser with the goal of raising $1 million.