Another guy who says there’s lots of bad business books

Bob Pritchet, founder of Logos Research Systems, wrote me tonight and said he agrees with me that there are lots of bad business books. Proceeded to tell me about his new book: Fire Someone Today.

I was being inspired by his blog and found this entry that talked about a store that closed early, pissing off customers. Oh, that brought be back to the 1980s. My boss would usually open the store back up if there was a customer in the parking lot (we delivered refrigerators together after the store closed in evenings). He told me “someday you might wish you had that customer back.”

Do you fight for every customer? It’s hard to do.

I’m looking forward to reading Bob’s book. Oh, and Bob’s company? Has $9 million in sales, hundreds of employees, and hundreds of thousands of customers. Well done!

New shopping site opens: Longtail

Francis Shanahan just wrote me and announced Longtail.

Here’s what he told me — I checked it out and it’s pretty impressive:

Longtail is a sort of Web2.0 shopping site comprising of many features:

Through Longtail you can browse, search and purchase products from Amazon’s entire product catalog. When you search Amazon, Longtail will load eBay results in the background. When you view an Amazon item, Longtail will load Similar products in the background! You can create Product feeds through RSS for Amazon Product data. This allows you to stay up to date on any set of products and their prices so you never miss a deal. Longtail has a WML interface; when you’re on the move you can search Amazon’s product database using your Blackberry! You can comparison shop with eBay and Yahoo Products to find the absolute best price. As you’re shopping you can search Google for websites referencing the products you’re interested in, or ANY web result for that matter. You can query Flickr for photos of a specific product, or Technorati for people blogging about a product realtime! Longtail will also let you find Top Selling products and New Releases in a given category. Longtail supports Amazon’s Remote Shopping Cart so you can add and purchase items on Longtail, through Amazon without affecting your existing shopping cart at Amazon.

Longtail is built with Visual Studio Web Developer Express Edition 2005, ASP.NET 2.0, the .NET 2.0 framework and a bunch of other stuff like SOAP, RSS, WML, XML, XSL, C# and so on.

Francis is the author of the cool and popular LiveSearch for Amazon dubbed “Zuggest.”

Nice Web 2.0 start to 2006.

30 boxes to beat the big guys with Web calendar?

Everyone expects Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google to come out with new calendar initiatives in 2006, but I sat with Narendra Rocherolle who told me about his company’s new product that’s coming out (named 30 Boxes). You can sign up to get on a beta. Should start hitting the Web in the next month or so. I’ve signed up. The way he described it it’ll be a lot more useful for family-style calendars than anything out there. We’ll see. Don’t know who Narendra is? He was CEO of Webshots that got sold to CNET.

Joel says teaching Java is bad for CS students

Joel Spolsky writes a very interesting essay about why teaching Java in colleges is actually bad for the computer industry (and for the students themselves). I’ve heard the same kind of thing repeated around halls at Microsoft. Almost every team I interview with my camcorder says they can’t find enough C or C++ programmers to get their stuff done. Some on very exciting teams with hundreds of millions of users. Some that, gasp, actually have budget to hire real programmers. And, this isn’t just a US problem. The problem exists at our offices around the world. Every team I talk with says they wish they could hire more hard-core programmers.

Grouper relaunches its video network

John Felser, CEO of Grouper Networks recently wrote me and told me about a major new relaunch it just completed. I told him I’d check it out. This morning I was playing around and, damn, this is cool!

They have a video service where you can capture, edit, share, and watch video. No limits on sharing size. You can take the videos with you on your iPod or Portable Media Center.

What do you think? How does this compare to the big guys’ video portals?

I’m a Six Apart customer and I think they are getting a raw deal

You know, I’m a Six Apart customer (Shel and I host our book blog over at and I join Brent Simmons in offering some moral support.

I, too, worked at UserLand and have seen the inards of a business that worked to host lots of people’s blogs. It’s not easy work. I watch the teams inside Microsoft work to keep things up. Hotmail, for instance, gets more than a billion spam messages a day (and those are the ones that it blocks from getting to users).

I’ve talked with Matt Mullenweg (the guy who runs WordPress)¬†about this, and I’ve gotten to know the folks at F5 that make data center infrastructure equipment (we recently got a tour of F5 that’s pretty interesting). This stuff is not easy to keep up — even when you have the money.

I’ve been watching the commentary on how bad TypePad is. I know many of the folks there. They are working around the clock to get our sites back up and are doing the best they can.

Sorry, sometimes technology goes south even in the best-planned out systems.

How many of you have built systems that get hit with millions of visits per day? There aren’t many people who’ve done that in the world.

Yes, it’s frustrating when your business is down. I am feeling that frustration too (our book is launching in a few weeks and our traffic has been going up lately) but it doesn’t help to make ad hominem attacks that I’ve seen on some sites.

Plus, saying “I’m going somewhere else” isn’t real rational either. Why? Because who else has a professionally-run data center? Oh, you gonna host on your own servers? Yeah, let me know how that works when San Francisco is hit by the next big earthquake and you need your site to be up or let me know what happens when your server’s drive or networking card fails. Oh, you gonna put it on a cluster so that point of failure isn’t possible? Right. Got it. And when the box that your cluster is connected to goes down? Or when a crew digs up the fiber optic cables that go to your datacenter by accident (I’ve seen that happen, believe it or not).

Anyway, what we need is more transparency from the companies we’re betting our businesses and lives on. We need to know how many places our data is copied to. We need to know how redundant their systems are. And, in times of failures, we need more communication (especially with video and audio that’ll help let us know what’s going on). Although even here I loved getting TypePad’s updates. Made me feel better, even as I was nervous about our blog’s data.

This is one reason, though, that I’m happy having blogs on multiple services (my son’s is on Google’s Blogger, my wife’s is on MSN Spaces, mine here is on WordPress and I keep my Radio Userland blog around, and our book blog is on Six Apart’s TypePad).

None of these services is perfect, by the way. They all have their pros and cons. I’m still recommending TypePad to most businesses, though. I bet that they’ll get through this rough patch and go onto build a great business.

Oh, and to any of the technical folks, if you ever need help during such situations, don’t hesitate to contact me. We work with a ton of huge businesses (one of the largest Web sites in the world¬†will annouce at that they are switching to Windows, by the way). I know a few folks who keep running and can martial technical help that can prove valuable in these situations.