"Business" Posts


Behind our financial dashboard

By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Business Bullet_white Comments Comments

We started Scout to make monitoring server infrastructure easier. With our heads deep in code, it took us a while to realize that monitoring our business was just as important. Here’s a look at the financial dashboard we created (as you’ll guess, the data isn’t real):

Financial Dashboard

Key Components

  • Activity by Day – This shows signups, cancellations, and subscription changes for the past two weeks.
  • Activity by Week – This is similar to the daily activity table but provides a weekly rollup of the data. It adds the projected monthly revenue and revenue change.
  • Paying Activity by Month – This rolls up data by month, adding in churn, average revenue per-account, and lifetime value. It also forecasts the next month’s activity.

Read More →

 

When you are not the smartest programmer in the room

By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Development, Business Bullet_white Comments Comments

Most of the freshman engineering students at my college took two computer science courses together. These were the hardest classes I would take during college (my colleague was a TA for these courses so he deserves partial blame).

The experience for Sam Epstein, a friend of mine, was decidedly different. A project that might take me a week to finish (poorly) would take Sam a couple of hours. This was a seminal moment in my life: while I knew there were smarter people than myself, I thought I could out-work my way to the top. In programming this wasn’t the case. I’d never be Sam Epstein. Not only would I not be Sam, I was pretty average compared to my peers.

Read More →

 

Sleep Better with a Proper Staging Environment

By Andre Bullet_white Posted in Business, Development Bullet_white Comments Comments

Nothing helps you sleep better at night like a staging environment that’s faithful to your production setup. That means your staging environment has the same Linux distro, same version of Ruby and gems, the same Apache and Passenger configuration, etc.

VPS not cloud

We’ve found that an inexpensive “always-on” VPS instance is better as a staging environment than a cloud instance we have to spin up and down. Why? Spinning up a cloud instance takes time. We’re more likely to actually use our staging environment if it’s as low-friction as possible to do so.

A staging environment isn’t free—you’ll spend money on the VPS, and you’ll spend time configuring and maintaining it. However, the peace of mind you’ll get is a great return on investment.

Setting up your staging environment

If setting up your staging environment is difficult, you have something to work on: a repeatable process for configuring production-like boxes. Remember, your staging environment should mimic your production environment as closely as possible. If you have a scripted process for setting up production boxes, then setting up your staging environment will be trivial.

If you’re like many organizations, however, there is no authoritative definition for production. Instead, it has evolved over time with manual tweaks and optimizations. In that case, the staging environment is a perfect opportunity to pull together a repeatable script. It doesn’t have to be automated (ours is not)—but it does need to be written down.

Staging deployments with Capistrano

We Rubyists are lucky—there are tools for just about everything. We use capistrano multistage for staging deployments. It’s straightforward to set up, and makes staging deployments completely frictionless.

You should end up with a “staging” file In your config/deploy directory, but not in your config/environments directory. You’ll use the your production environment for staging.

The unsolved staging problem: production-like load

The harder part is simulating production-like traffic on your staging server. In a perfect world, you would have holodeck for deployments. We don’t have a solution for this yet—ideas are welcome!

Previously in Developer Happiness

This is Part 4 in our Developer Happiness series. See previous articles:

Read More →

 

Forget The Technology - Just Do The Business

By Andre Bullet_white Posted in Business Bullet_white Comments Comments

A friend of mine is brainstorming a business in the dating space. It’s an interesting idea—a spin on the traditional dating service in potentially lucrative niche. My friend asked me about technology—which technology, who to partner with, etc.

My advice for the dating idea was this: forget the technology. Just do the business.

Read More →

 

Don't build to get acquired. Build to say "No".

By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Business Bullet_white Comments Comments

Groupon rejected a $6 billion acquisition offer from Google. They don’t need to cash out.

Our goal isn’t to get acquired. It’s to say “No” as often as possible:

  • No, we’re not going to support Windows.
  • No, that partnership doesn’t feel right.
  • No, we’re not working late.

Saying “No” means your business is healthy. You can focus on the things you really enjoy working on. Why would you sell?

Read More →

 

A lesson from my favorite TV movie

By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Business Bullet_white Comments Comments

Duel, Steven Spielberg first film, had an estimated budget of $450K. For comparison, the opening scene in Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan had a budget of $12 million. However, I’m just as happy watching Duel. It’s the only television movie I’m proud to talk about in public.

Spielberg on his early work[1]:

I could never go back and make those early films as well as I made them, when I was of the appropriate age and naivety to be working on subjects like that. But also, l couldn’t have made Schindler’s List or Private Ryan. It’s a fair trade-off.

There’s a lot to learn from Spielberg. Instead of trying to imitate the engineering feats of giants like Google, Apple, and Facebook, smaller companies like us are better off looking for inspiration in things that do a lot with a little.

We can deliver as good of an experience as the blockbuster apps – but it’s going to be in a different way.

[1] – From an interview on the Duel (Collector’s Edition) DVD

 

Older posts: 1 2 3 4 5