Ikigai

A shot in the dark is definitely better than walking away from the chance altogether. Trying can create a percentage chance above zero, whereas walking away guarantees that it is zero.

I always enjoy reading Sebastian Marshall’s blog. Primarily because I feel like I can relate to a lot of the things he talks about and his general attitude towards life and business. His book is a great culmination of those things. I thoroughly recommended checking out his book and blog.

SEO from the start

My generic SEO strategy for a startup is a) be the best on the Internet for b) as many topics as you possibly can be that c) matter to your paying customers – Strategic SEO for Startups

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been spending an increasing amount of time learning about SEO and how to go about applying it to our day to day business. There’s a lot of stigma attached to doing “SEO” and while a lot of it is very shady, once you learn how to do things properly, it’s not as dirty a subject as people would have you think. Personally I’ve found the whole learning experience absolutely fascinating.

It’s very easy to think that SEO is something you do to your site. Adding keywords, making sure things are tagged correctly etc, but the real meat of SEO comes before all that. Researching competitors, finding keywords to compete on and own, building trustworthy and relevant linkbacks, etc. The SEOMoz Beginners Guide is an excellent resource for learning the basics while the link at the top is a a great way of learning how to apply the concepts to your startup/site.

For anyone thinking of hiring an “SEO Expert”. Be extremely cautious. There are a lot of people out there dying to sell you their black hat techniques to drive your search engine performance up, there are also a lot of people out there who really don’t know what they’re talking about. If someone offering to give you advice doesn’t first ask to see your analytics and your content, but rather focuses on technical changes (especially things like LOC and embedded Javascript), I’d personally look elsewhere for help.

There’s no point having the best content in the world if people can’t discover it, and really SEO is all about making that content discoverable.

User’s wont do what you want them to

I spent the day at Infusionsoft’s Customer Tour Conference. It was interesting to see some of the more advanced things that are possible using their product as well as listening to how some people are using it to market and sell their products. One of the things said during the day was in regards to  sequences and moving user’s through a series of steps and goals, but which applies quite heavily to programming, which was:

“Build your process assuming the user won’t do what you want them to do.”

I found this quite a succinct quote and an excellent rule of thumb for when designing pages. Once you reach a certain size, your clout allows you the freedom to get away with less than stellar design choices. For instance, personally I think the Amazon site is a mess, and this was re-affirmed to me recently while trying to show someone how to go about ordering things from it.

When it comes to Amazon their reputation means a user is more likely to jump through hoops to complete their order, but for a never heard of site, any signs of hassle and they’ll be out the window and onto the next (Unless your offering is just so amazing they can’t resist). News and unheard of sites that are successful, “reduced friction” for their users. They seamless move users from one stage of a process to the next without having to make them think or accidentally moving them onto the wrong path. A good site needs to be more than a set of CRUD pages. It needs to be an experience that helps the user achieve what they want, in the clearest way possible.

If it’s hot, it’s probably too late

Hot is the new hotness! Every month or so there’s a new hot topic in startup land. There was social, mobile, local, game mechanics blah blah. And with every wave of new hotness, comes a fresh wave of startups trying to get in on the deal. If it’s hot right now, and you’re thinking of getting in, don’t, it’s too late. Don’t even think of entering a space where others have a six month or more lead on you. Yeah, they’re grabbing all the attention right now, but in six months when they’re no longer flavour of the month, you’ll be the one left holding the bag.

They always says don’t trade stocks off the recommendations in the newspapers, because by then you’ve already missed out. This is exactly the same. If you want to swing for the fences, create something visionary that no-one else has thought of yet, or better yet, something so boring in an arena where competition will be sparse now and the foreseeable future. Yes, perhaps there’s someone else secretly working on the same thing as you right now, but if either of you turn out to be right, the other could be in a prime position to ride the other’s coat-tail to success.

The Internet is a Shit Hole

Recently I’ve been teaching a person older than me (60+) how to use a computer for the first time as well as how to get to grips with using the internet and email. While it’s been a test of all my patience, one thing is for sure, that trying to show someone how to search for something is a nightmare because every result is filled with ads and filler, and more than half the time the actual content doesn’t start until way below the fold. Just imagine how crazy that is for someone who is still struggling to use the scrollbar!

After so many years of using the internet, you learn to just filter out all the noise and just quickly scann each page to see if it’s relevant or not, but sitting with someone new to all of this is staggering. They just don’t know what they’re looking at or where to even go for what they really want. Search results are down the pan and content providers are just optimising for revenue. Content sites are 90% filler and nothing but subtle attempts to direct you to other pages.

The internet is just a ghetto full of shit.

spotify

I admit. When I was first told about Spotify, I dismissed it as my experience with most web based players had been pretty poor. Most of the time I couldn’t find what I really wanted to listen to and when I finally did the quality was too poor to be enjoyable.

Now I’ve been using Spotify now for a few days and I’m tempted to actually go as far as to say I’m impressed. The only thing stopping me from giving it a full 10 out of 10 is the fact that it doesn’t have anything by two of my favourite bands Tool and A Perfect Circle. I already have those albums as mp3s, so no big loss. The big plus is I’ve already listened to a number of tracks and albums legally that I would have otherwise pirated. I’ve paid the £9.99 for premium access, which gives me ad-free listening (they are annoying) and a higher bit-rate music. To be able to listen to that much music for that much a month, is extremely worth it. For the price of a single album, I can now browse and try out as many different artists and albums as I like.

Another nice feature is the radio. I’ve spent some time just listening to random music and come across some really good stuff I would have otherwise never heard. My only gripe though is the lack of a “World Music” or “Classical” option. Sometimes when working I find that foreign music is pleasant to listen to while not being distracting. I raised an issue in Spotify’s GetSatisfaction page, so who knows, perhaps the feature will turn up someday soon. If you haven’t checked out Spotify already, I highly recommend you do so. Oh, but if you’re not in Sweden, Norway, Finland, the UK, France or Spain, sorry, you’ll just have to find another service. For you Americans, consider this minor payback for not giving us Hulu.

Coming back to WordPress

As you may (or may not) have noticed. I’m back to the old WordPress version of my blog. I spent a lot of time moving over everything to Jekyll. Mainly for the “performance” increase of having to just serve static files generated by the Jekyll engine, but it ended up being at the cost of me never posting anything. After migrating I soon felt like small random snippets where beneath the category of “articles” that I had created and not being able to see and view posts instantly made me completely shy away from bothering to write anything.

So WordPress is back and maybe I’ll post more from time to time. Even though things here are mostly quiet, my tumblr and twitter see a lot of daily action.

LittleSnapper

Normally when I come across something “beautiful” on the interwebs, I’d bookmark it in Delicious. The only problem is doing so isn’t entirely practical when looking for ideas or inspiration. Opening each site in a new tab and then browsing through them. No thanks. An alternative is to take screenshots of everything, but it’s just hassle keeping them organised and available somewhere. Problems be gone! LittleSnapper handles all your snapshots and makes it extremely easy to browse through past snapshots. It even knows what site each snapshot is from, so you can choose to visit if you wish to explore some more. It makes all your snapshots uniform and allows you to snap a whole page (even when it scrolls off the bottom), just a portion of a page and also the regular full screen and window variants. This is just another one example of an application that I wish existed on Windows.