The Secret Life of an Entrepreneur

Cross-posted from the Particls blog.

Life is hard enough for an entrepreneur, let alone a Internet Start-up Founder. I am incredibly fortunate in that I am surrounded by a loving wife, very passionate and focused (and supportive) partner(s) and surrounded by developers who are far more gifted programmers then even I could ever hope to be. Sometimes, these people are the only reason I can go on.

The Touchstone Team has a huge level of faith and determination and a growing level of enthusiasm from the community (even some of our very own "fanbois and girls") which only catalyses our efforts. All-in-all, Touchstone (even right from the beginning) seemes to be slightly blessed.

It is however, not all rosy. It strikes me today as I sit here programming and blogging between episodes of Mythbusters and Grey's Anatomy on my wedding anniversary pondering how I am going to push a few lines out tonight between courses at my step-father's 50th birthday party.

Families (esp extended ones), girlfriends, in-laws and the Tax Department for some reason just dont seem to be very supportive when I whip out my tablet shouting "Eureka! I just solved how to factor views over time over importance!". They also don't seem to appreciate how satisfying it can be solving memory leaks, or understand why slowly transforming into an albino Hunchback of Notre Dame with sever allergy to sunlight and fresh (non recycled) air is an acceptable means to an end!

I guess they just don't understand the 'space', which is weird considering they all happily use MySpace! Im not sure what it is that can make these people so counter-supportive. Maybe they think they're helping or that they are trying to help us see reason, and it's their attempt to protect us from failure.

but it doesnt work that way. As an Internet Start-up Entrepreneur, our brains seem wired differently to other people. Success is not permanent and failure is not fatal, we all understand that. Small sucesses are like a drug, and miss-steps only drive us to go harder still.

Through sheer determination and willpower we will topple mountains! And so it continues....

The Bigger the Company, The More We Expect

Cross-posted from the Particls blog.

3 severe security vulnerabilities in 3 weeks, is not good for any software company these days. But when you're a company held with much higher standards and expectations (at your own request), its far far worse.

Haochi uncovered another XSS vulnerability that easily and without the victims consent can steal cookies and hijack your Google account. Just like the others, victim's need only visit a hosted site by a malicious attacker. I can only imagine the panic at Google as they try to put out these spot fires.

Blogger Garett Rogers, highly recommends "making sure you are completely logged out of your Google account while browsing the internet, until we have an official statement from Google stating their security team has thoroughly reviewed every Google property for these types of vulnerabilities". This seems a bit alarming, but maybe it's better to be safe then sorry.

That being said, no-one suggests staying logged out of Windows until Microsoft fixes the bugs.

Well, maybe if they were black, white and feathered they might.
... or if they often felt compelled to put an "i" at the start of their surname.

Did I Miss a Memo? I Thought the Browser Wars Were Over?

Cross-posted from the Particls blog.

According to Mary Jo Foley, the Safari Web Browser may be coming soon to Windows' users. I can't even begin to understand if this bothers me more from a CSS designer perspective (anyone who's tried making a complex CSS design for Firefox, IE AND Safari knows what I mean), or more from a Business perspective.

The browser wars are over. We've all moved along (or so I thought). Since RSS our focus has shifted from the medium (the site) onto the content (through our feed readers).

Why would anyone bother to compete with Mozilla/IE on any platform? Seriously, Apple - Mozilla and Microsoft have got it covered.

Happy Birthday Wikipedia

Cross-posted from the Particls blog.

In case you've been living your life under a rather large rock, there is this site called Wikipedia, and it one of my personal inspirations. You see, I consider myself somewhat of a sociologist and I am fascinated by any group of people collaborating and focussing on a single goal. To me, Wikipedia is the ultimate embodiment of on-line collaboration and cooperation.

Touchstone has just informed me that Wikipedia has just turned six, which makes it more or less one of the few remaining "old school" start-ups still around from the *ahem*, the 'you know what'!

I wanted to take the opportunity to extend a warm "Happy Birthday" to the crew over at Wikipedia, and wish them the best of ongoing luck with what I believe, to be one of the best examples of world cooperation ever conceived. Thank-you for showing us a glimmer of what we can become if we work together.

You Can't Stop The Signal

Cross-posted from the Particls blog.

A recent Techcrunch article struck me today. Someone created a Windows Mobile iPhone skin:

Today Apple is engaging in similar [legal] tactics against a number of bloggers who simply reported on the fact that someone created a skin for Windows Mobile phones that looks exactly like the new iPhone user interface [...] If Apple wants to go after the guy that made the Windows Mobile skin that looks like the iPhone, fine. But to bully bloggers who are simply reporting on this is another matter.Now, at the risk of dragging Touchstone into a cease and desist land mine, obvious bullying tactics like this are simply ridiculous. It's not the first time Apple has been so aggresive with the community. There was the Apple Rumor mill Wars, the more recent demanding that YouTube videos be removed from sites and various issues with the use of the iPod brand. Can I even say Podcast now?

This is the latest in a long line of over-the-top legal war-mongering. Apple has earned a lot of respect and loyalty from it's fan and not only does this irritate me, it may well kill one of their key stratigic advantages by acting this way.

Which is why I posting it here.

My theory is that if a company is going to actively and aggressively try to stop the blogosphere (which is largely only opinion anyway) then I will add to the news. What are they going to do if several million people post about it? Sue everyone? I don't think so.

So here it is!

You can't stop the signal.

Well done Microsoft; Another 1 Step Forward, 5 Steps Back

Cross-posted from the Particls blog.

For those of you like me who are too stubborn too busy to move to Gmail; our worse nightmares have been realised. Microsoft Outlook (whom consumes approximately ¾ of the corporate world’s email client market) will no longer render HTML emails with Internet Explorer, but instead with the crippled Microsoft Word HTML Engine.

I read David Greiner’s post on the Campaign Monitor Blog, and I agree with his sentiment totally.

After picking up the contents of my desk off the floor and taking a few deep breaths, I tried to come up with a few decent reasons why Microsoft would go in this direction. Here's what I came up with.

Security - But wait! Microsoft have touted Internet Explorer as "a major step forward in security". Surely they'd just replace the IE6 rendering engine with IE7 and be done with it. I'd also love to know how float and position impacts the security of an email in any way.

Consistent rendering - By default Outlook uses the Word engine to create HTML emails, which it's done for years now. Perhaps Microsoft figured that in order to keep the look and feel of emails consistent between Outlook users they'd display emails using the same engine that created them. But what about the millions of other email newsletters out there that aren't created with Outlook or Word? If an email is created with Outlook, then surely it should display perfectly in a modern browser like IE7.

They hate us - OK, this one might be pushing it, but I'm running out of explanations here. Don't get me wrong, we're not Microsoft bashers here. Both our products are developed on Microsoft's .NET platform and we've been a fan of their development environment for the better part of a decade. But seriously, they've taken 5 important years off the email design community in one fell swoop.Without entering the Plain Text/HTML debate, there is simply no sense to Microsoft’s Product design decisions lately. I think we’re starting to see what happens in the IT marketplace when it takes a company too many years to release new versions of their software.

They claim that they are going to start itterating faster yet we have not seen any evidence of this so far.I personally needed Outlook to load faster, use less CPU/Memory and respond far, far faster than it does. I didn’t need its HTML rendering handicapped. Like I said, Microsoft seems to be failing me in areas it used to excel.

Oh, To Have a Feed

Cross-posted from the Particls blog.

As many of you are probably aware, the Touchstone Team are avid Firefly fans. I was recently reading my feeds (from gateworld.net incidentally) and noticed that Jewel Staite has a blog! Yay I thought, now THATS something I have to read.

Alas, look, no feed!

It took several minutes for Chris to calm me down, obviously, this was very uncool. Even now, I am still confused as to how and why an excellent actor like Jewel could have a website which a) looks worse then a teenage girls MySpace page and b) doesn't have an RSS feed. 5 minutes and I would have a blogger blog publishing to her website looking smick, easy to update and feeds for all to burn.

Bah. I almost wished I'd never found the site in the first place.

Congrats Edgewall Software

Cross-posted from the Particls blog.

On behalf of the entire Touchstone Team, I would like to extend a sincere congratulations to the Team over at Edgewall Software, for one of their products "Trac" recently winning the UK Linux & Open Source Awards for Best Linux/OSS Developer Tool.

This award is truely deserved, and as manager of the Touchstone Development Team and a big fan of Trac, i am very happy that they have received the credit they deserve for producing, in my opinion, the best value Project Management Tool on the market.

Trac, for the uninitiated is:

"...an enhanced wiki and issue tracking system for software development projects. Trac uses a minimalistic approach to web-based software project management. Our mission is to help developers write great software while staying out of the way. Trac should impose as little as possible on a team's established development process and policies. "It provides an interface to Subversion, an integrated Wiki and convenient reporting facilities. "Trac allows wiki markup in issue descriptions and commit messages, creating links and seamless references between bugs, tasks, changesets, files and wiki pages. A timeline shows all project events in order, making the acquisition of an overview of the project and tracking progress very easy. Trac really does speak for itself, and for anyone who might be considering an IT start-up, you simply cannot beat it. It's built-in support for subversion repositories, code/file browser, ticketing, wiki and plug-in systems make it simply one of the best Project Development Tools available.

Again, congrats Edgewall Software, and keep up the good work. You can learn more about Trac at the Trac Website.

Do We Owe YouTube Our Precious Bandwidth?

Cross-posted from the Particls blog.

I just read an interesting blog from Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0, about the recent YouTube polls, partially regarding potential cost to users should YouTube introduce ads at the start of each video.

Needless to say that it doesnt bode well for YouTube if they did this. I too wouldn't be too happy about it and am a self-confessed media junkie. But is this just the cost of doing business? Can we not come up with more creative ways of monetizing video?

What about this; Incremental random ads where volume of advertising is tied to popularity of a piece of content. So, the less popular videos will have no ads and then randomly show ads with increasingly frequency as the views/popularity increases.

This is on the assumption that people might be more inclined to accept ads for the more popular (and thus theoretically more interesting) videos.

Just my thoughts. I wonder if there is any other compromise?