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"Business" Posts


The reward of redundancy: time

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It’s been a month since I started attaching torture devices disguised as boots to my feet, long wooden sticks to each torture device, and tumbling down mountains. Skiing has changed my outlook on winter. It’s a season to enjoy, not a time where I gaze wistfully out the window, hoping the short, cold days pass by as quickly as possible.

However, there’s a problem when skiing becomes a favorite hobby: not everyday is a great day on the mountain. If it hasn’t snowed in a while, the surface is hard. The temperature might be in the single digits and the wind may be gusting 50 MPH+. It might dump snow in the backcountry, but the avalanche conditions may make it unsafe.

There’s something special about being able to sneak away when the conditions are the best, even if it’s during the work week. It feels a bit like being a kid again (correction: a kid with a receding hairline). It’s a fun reminder that it’s not always bad to feel redundant.

 
 

Self-funded = no compromises

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Naomi Pomeroy, a Food & Wine Best New Chef, on starting an underground, self-funded restaurant:

When major chefs hear about the way I run Beast, they say, ‘You’ve created a chef’s dream restaurant, because you don’t have to compromise,’ ” she told me. “What happens when you do a million-dollar build-out is that you have to be open seven days a week, be really high end, and have a million choices, and that may not work in today’s economy.

Read more in the New Yorker.

 
 

Heading to Rocky Mountain Ruby?

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The Scout gang (including founders and co-dictators-for-life Derek and Andre) will be at Rocky Mountain Ruby Conference in beautiful Boulder, Colorado next week.

If you’re going to be there, let us know. We’d love to take our relationship beyond our support email address (if you’re ready for that).

 
 

Giving into reasonableness (acqui-hires)

Posted in Development, Business | Comments Comments

Last week, Sparrow became the latest poster boy for talent acquisitions (Google gets the team, kills the product). Paying customers complain (I supported it!). Indie devs get depressed as one of their rank sells out.

I disagree with Matt Gemmell that these are a good thing – this is not a feel-good rags-to-riches story. It’s about brilliant developers giving into reasonableness because they didn’t have the runway to be foolish.

 

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Tomorrow at Fort Collins New Tech: the story I wish I heard before we started Scout

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There was a clear turning point for Andre and I with Scout – it happened in October 2009. It led to one of our most popular blog articles, “We Just Undid Three Months of Dev work. Here’s What We Learned.”

I’ll be telling that story at the Fort Collins New Tech Meetup tomorrow evening. If you’re a developer starting a business (or struggling turning a side project into one) drop by. If you’re interested in heckling me, stop by too!

 
 

Why doesn't anyone want to build companies anymore?

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It seems that today, the light at the end of the startup tunnel is either (1) being acquired or (2) a billion-dollar IPO. Let’s just throw out the IPO - it’s incredibly rare.

This means that many startups are created with an explicit goal to not exist in five-or-so years. Does anyone see something wrong with this?

No one talks about starting a company that becomes an extension of yourself. Warren Buffet and Berkshire Hathaway. Apple and Steve Jobs. Starbucks and Howard Schultz. Amazon and Jeff Bezos.

Why?

 
 

One Hundred Dollars

Posted in Development, Business | Comments Comments

Recently I’ve been calling a couple of customers per-week to chat about their Scout experience. One of the questions I’ve been asking comes out of left field: ”What would you pay another $100/mo for?” I’ll ask the question first to see if they have any suggestions, then run a small selection of ideas by them.

Besides asking my future wife to marry me, it’s the best question I’ve asked in years.

 

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Do we really need a phone number?

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Like a bug zapper on a Midwestern summer evening, our company phone number attracted lots of annoying visitors: partnership offers from the Middle East, RFP requests for the wrong product, support inquires for a dating service, etc. In fact, I can only recall a handful of calls from real-life customers.

Did we have a phone number because it solved a problem or because we thought businesses – serious ones – are supposed to have one?

For now, we’ve stopped displaying the phone number on our website. While I don’t think this makes sense for every business, for a developer-focused business like Scout I’m betting it won’t be an issue.

 
 

How Pixar and Toy Story almost didn't happen

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When Pixar was working on their first film, Toy Story, the original draft closely followed a checklist of required elements provided by Disney. Disney has been producing animated films since 1923. Lion King, released a year before Toy Story, won two Academy Awards and grossed $783 million.

Then, why was the checklist-driven draft of Toy Story so terrible that Disney shut down production?

Pixar was writing a story they didn’t own. One of the checklist items: edgy characters. Applying that edge to Woody, the main character, resulted in an unwatchable jerk.

Pixar’s crew, led by John Lasseter, rewrote the film in their own voice:

We went back to what we wanted, and that was: the characters liked each other. Because we like each other.

Focusing on telling a great story instead of a checklist worked: in the eight years since the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature was created, a Pixar film has won it six times.

Each of their 11 films are among the 50 highest grossing films of all time.

 
 

Behind the scenes of a self-funded business: a week on RescueTime

Posted in Development, Business | Comments Comments

One of the things I was most curious about before starting Scout was what my day-to-day life would look like as a business owner versus life as a developer. How much time would I spend writing code? Answering emails? Handling the business bits? Would I work more?

Three years after launching Scout, I’d like to help answer that question. I used RescueTime to track activity on my computer. Since almost all of my work is from my laptop, it’s an easy way to get a breakdown.

 

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