Micro ISV Spotlight #1

This is my first attempt at what I hope will be a new series here on Codesnipers. The format might vary slightly, but essentially I'd to make a regular place to highlight two or three interesting Micro ISV articles, products, or resources.

Entrepreneurship (Part II) - Please help!

Last month in my post titled MicroIVs - Making Dreams Come True, I described trying to instill the entrepreneurial spirit in my two eldest children. In what can only be described as yet another manifestation of my insanity, I'm considering teaching an "Entrepreneurship 101" class at the Grace Prep School, where my son will be attending 10th grade. Two factors make me think this would work; First, I'm on the advisory board for the local public high school's Technology education programs, where I've seen this work. As part of the marketing curriculum, the students have managed all facets of a successful store, located right in the high school building. Second, Grace Prep is a pretty progressive school ... it has already embraced many non-traditional learning techniques and values education with experience over rote learning. There may be a third alterior motive, since I'm concerned that I'm not boring enough people through this blog (although, based on the lack of comments I've received, I suspect that you are indeed snoring before you reach the "add new comment" link). I suspect there would be some real satisfaction in lulling a student to sleep and then calling on them. In any case, I'd like your opinion on both the concept and the implementation.

Here's the elevator pitch: Have the students in the class create a real MicroISV. The students could be divided into groups (Sales/Marketing, Customer Support, Management, Product Research and Development) based on their interests and/or aptitudes, with each group responsible for a portion of the business. I would provide the domain name, web site and software development (a program I wrote in less than a week last year). I believe that this software is saleable and have considered creating a MicroISV for it, so I don't feel bad using it as the company's product. The students would have to start the business, market and sell the software, handle customer interaction and direct product development.

Requires Willpower

In previous posts on Codesnipers, I’ve talked about a few anti-burnout productivity tips, and about my own attempts to implement them. Over the last few weeks, I’ve discovered an effect similar to the yo-yo weight loss/gain that dieters often experience, and learned that, like Nicotine patches, staying sharp and getting things done requires willpower.

No Such Luck

Reading Steve’s last post was a frustrating experience. Not only did he miss fewer slots than me, he had a good excuse for it. The reasons for my relative lack of posting lately are far from interesting, convincing, or enjoyable.

European Shareware Conference

This year's European Shareware Conference will be held in Cambridge, UK, on the 4th and 5th of November.

It has already been discussed on the BoS forum here, but I thought I’d extend the conversation to Codesnipers. I’m hoping to go, and based on the forum thread it looks like I’ll get to put faces to a few familiar names.

Are you planning to go? Do you have feedback from previous conferences? Is it worth trying to stick around for the Sunday evening sessions/event?

Why Open Source <> Micro-ISV.

Every so often since my Micro-ISV book came out, I get an email like this:

I'm currently reading your book "Micro-ISV" and am learning a lot from it. However, I have one question about something you said. On page 23 you said, "Open Source may just be the greatest way to create anything, but it's a lousy way to start a small profit-making business..." Could you explain what you meant by this?

I've tried to explain why I believe this to be true, but there's a better real-life example: the Death of NDoc. Kevin Downs, head of the Open Source project is pulling the plug on going to 2.0 and killing it off in a couple of weeks at SourceForge after freeloaders bitched he wasn't working on it enough.

How to develop Micro-ISV software.

If you’re going to successfully fire up your micro-ISV, you need to fire your old ideas about software development, be they UML, RUP, agile, SCRUM, extreme or none: they fit like shoes on fish.

Every single methodology for developing software I’ve heard of in over 20 years in this business assumes you’re part of some vast team of programmers, never a programmer working alone. What’s more, each and every existing software development process assumes someone is going to hand you a nice gift-wrapped definition of the problem you’re going to solve via code. That is exactly what won’t happen when it comes to developing a micro-ISV app or web site.

Today’s software design theories are like using a power drill as an ear cleaner - they can be used, but it’s not a good idea. We need a better approach, one based in the reality of one or maybe two programmers who must also define the problem and its solution and who want to do so before their savings run out.

Don’t underestimate just how hard defining the problem domain is, or just how difficult it is to nail down in the absence of actual customers who will tell you what they want. Unless you plan to take a few years unpaid leave from your life to do intensive market research, endless focus groups and surveys, at best you are only going to have a very approximate idea of who is going to be using your software how to solve exactly which problem in what precise way at least all the way through to your public beta.

Planning your virtual future

If you've not been bitten by the Virtual Machine bug yet, it's time to give virtualization, and especially VMware your attention. VMware is out to change a few things in this world, one being how servers serve and the other how developers develop.

Show Me the Money

... so went the famous line from the movie "Jerry McGuire".  And while it may be appropriate for a sports agent, it really doesn't sound as good when I hear the salepeople in our company say it (fortunately, never directly to the customer).  As a large company (C-COR has over a thousand employees), we are multi-faceted ... we have a hardware division, a software division and several mechanisms for making money via services.  In all these cases, what the sales group really means is "give me some money", with the often unspoken corollary of "and I'll give you something of equal value".  The rest of this article focuses on software businesses and what happens when a customer offers money for something you don't have.

Open Source Beer and more

It seems this summer the whole world is moving towards Open Source: from the Our Beer gang to Microsoft providing a tool to easily embed CC licenses in Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents, opening Codeplex and giving in to OpenDocument, to the whole Web 2.0 use our API’s movement. What’s going on here? More importantly, what opportunities might there be for micro-ISVs?

If you missed that first reference, a group of students at IT-University in Copenhagen have created Our Beer, the world’s first beer brand with a Creative Commons recipe. Geeks being a thirsty lot, this Open Source beer has generated a nice buzz above and beyond the alcohol. And a lot of intriguing ideas: will open source shake up the tangible world as it has the intangible world of software and micro-ISVs? Is Open Source the antidote to brain-dead call centers, crappy products that fall apart in a couple years and advertising on every flat surface your eyeballs happen to rest on? Maybe.