"Business" Posts

Where are the Rails infrastructure support firms?

By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Development, Business Bullet_white Comments Comments

There are no formal documents to sign if you and your spouse decide to have children. You don’t have to sit through an accreditation class. There is no credit check. You don’t need a high school diploma. Procreation can even happen accidentally.

A baby is a lot like a Rails application: the problem is caring for it, not creating it.

Five years ago, the typical Rails stack was just a couple of pieces: Apache/Mongrel, Rails, and MySQL. While Rails is remarkably similar to its original form even today, the stack around it is dramatically more diverse. We’re deploying to automated infrastructures, using NoSQL databases, messaging systems, queuing systems, and more. With the increased complexity of web applications, I’m surprised we’re not seeing companies dedicated to 24/7 infrastructure support: it doesn’t matter where your app is hosted, they manage it.

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Our failed experiment: great on the rack, bad in the mirror

By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Business Bullet_white Comments Comments

My left arm is one inch longer than my right. My right foot is a half inch longer than the left. For me, trying on clothes is an adventure: what looks good on the rack often doesn’t on me. I thought of this recently when we decided to end development of a new product.

There wasn’t anything wrong with this product. It worked, looked good for a BETA release, and wasn’t a support burden. The problem? We didn’t use it. The magnitude of not using our product became clear when we compared it to Scout, our product that we use daily.

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So, what do you do?

By Andre Bullet_white Posted in Business Bullet_white Comments Comments

I was back in Michigan a few weeks ago visiting family. These trips always involve a “what do you do?” question at some point. I’m never sure how to answer.

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Small Teams Need Redundant Skills

By Andre Bullet_white Posted in Business Bullet_white Comments Comments

If you’re running a small company, it’s absolutely key that you have redundant skills on your team.

Does that seem counter-intuitive? Isn’t the typical pairing a business guy and a technical guy? In our experience, you’re far better off with two technical guys.

The redundancy is key if you want to stay lean and also stay sane. You need at least two highly technical guys (or girls). There are two reasons for this:

1. Support

All support issues are technical. We pride ourselves in giving great and prompt support when issues come up, and the best way to do this is to get you connected with the person who wrote the code. That’s us—if you email us with a problem, you’ll get a response directly from one of the people who coded Scout. We believe you shouldn’t have to wade through “Tier 3” support to get to someone who can solve your problem.

2. Vacations

We’re running Scout as a sustainable business for the long haul. In the real world, you take days off, go camping for a long weekend, or take a week off to relax on the beach.

When I’m away, I have 100% confidence that Derek can handle anything that comes up while I’m offline. That wouldn’t be the case if Derek were a business or design guy—I would be on the beach worrying about support issues or checking on our server performance metrics.

Our Takeaway

Our takeaway here at Scout: if you want to run a small business (and enjoy it!), get a partner with redundant skills.

Photo credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/horiavarlan, http://www.impawards.com


Why web developers have more to learn from Wall Street than Steve Jobs

By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Business Bullet_white Comments Comments

In 2006, the biggest risk-taker on Wall Street looked like John Paulson. This certainly wasn’t based on Paulson’s past behavior. Paulson managed a middle-of-the pack hedge fund. He made careful, boring deals. He rode the bus and liked to ride his bicycle. In other words, he was the anti-Gordon Gekko.

The risk Paulson was taking? He was betting against the mortgage market using credit default swaps. Insuring $1 million in high-risk mortgages was dirt cheap – around $10,000. If all of the homeowners made their payments, Paulson would be out $10,000. If all of the homeowners defaulted, he would make the entire value of the bundle – $1 million.

For Paulson to make money, these high-risk borrowers needed to default. At the time, most analysts thought that a perfect storm of rising unemployment rates, higher interest rates, and poor local economic health was needed to trigger widespread defaults. However, Paulson’s extensive modeling showed widespread defaults required just one trigger: flatlining home prices. With home appreciation rising at 5 times the rate seen from 1975-2000, there was plenty of room to fall back.

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When tech startups == closed restaurants

By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Business Bullet_white Comments Comments

Bootstrapped tech startups are a lot like restaurants started by quality chefs. It’s easy to find restaurants serving award-winning food that fail. There are lots of self-funded startups started by smart developers that either never launch or die a painful death. Writing quality software – just like serving good food – is the foundation, but it’s not going to make you profitable.

Like chefs who take pride in their food and constantly strive to improve it, developers like us are never done making our software better. There is an unlimited list of things we’d like to improve. Better scheduling and planning won’t shrink the todo list – it’s a leaking todo list that spawns another todo when one is completed.

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