Skip to content

the cliche apple tablet post: three contrarian predictions about the apple tablet

January 25, 2010

This post (and many other much better posts) is now at

Go read it at, and remember to update your bookmarks!


how uses customer development

January 24, 2010 is one of the great enterprise software companies of our time. It’s one of my favorite companies – I love the product, the philosophy, and the philanthropy model.

Because I was so impressed with the company, I ordered Behind the Cloud as soon as I could.

I eagerly tore the book out of the Amazon box and devoured it, reading all of Marc Benioff‘s 111 business plays.  It’s consistently great advice from one of great Founder/CEOs of our time.

As with most start-ups, started with a vision – a web-based CRM application, available inexpensively.

As with most successful start-ups, also modified their vision according to customer feedback – both qualitative – gathered by talking to their customers, and quantitative – from web analytics on all accounts.

How Iterates on Customer Feedback

-Get a product out there and get people using it.

-Gather qualitative feedback from individual customers and quantitative feedback from the wisdom of crowds

-If you’re trying to move up/down market, spend time with the customers you want to understand your needs.

-Iterate on your service, being careful to add the minimal amount of features possible.

Marc Benioff on Customer Development

From ‘Behind the Cloud’

From the very beginning, we initiated a dialogue with these users about what was missing in the Sales Force Automation (SFA) application.  Salespeople routinely asked prospects about features they wanted and relayed their feedback to the product managers.  We queried prospects on why they decided not to go with us, and we spent time with large enterprises – customers that we weren’t initially able to serve – to learn what additionally functionality was required to make them consider our service.  We heard about missing features, such as the ability to track multiple products or a way to manage price lists.  We might have thought of these on our own, or we might not have, but we certainly wouldn’t have known which were in the greatest demand.

Thanks to our “no software” model, we have another way to listen to customer response.  The on-demand architecture offers us the opportunity to “watch” how users use the application.  We don’t do this in a Big Brother way, where we can see data or information about a company.  Rather, the system simply counts broad patterns anonymously and notifies us if there are issues.  These insights into how users are using our service allow us to learn about what they use and what they don’t.

As we evolved our service in response to customer’s needs, we faced the risk of changing our service too much – and making it so specific that it couldn’t commonly serve all customers.  If we wanted to continue to have mass appeal, we needed to apply changes with a broad brush.


Do you use the wisdom of crowds or interviews for customer development?  Which one works better?  Leave a comment…

grattisfaction now uses amazon associates

January 24, 2010

I need better analytics on this blog, so I can make it better for readers. “Time on Site” and “Bounce Rate” would really help.

Grattisfaction also needs a custom template. Maybe even a color or two. How about some stock photography?

And it needs, maybe most importantly, a custom domain. Because “” or “” is so much easier than

Unfortunately, all of those things cost money.

This is why Grattisfaction will be using Amazon Associates affiliate links to the books and technology products I recommend. The effect will be minimal – you may not even notice it – but it will enable Grattisfaction to become a better website.

I will only affiliate link products I use and recommend to others. And I will share my Amazon Affiliate results with everyone that reads this blog.

big trend for the next 5 years: using game mechanics to teach users your product

January 23, 2010

I wrote about game mechanics previously, but this idea is beginning to pop up in a lot of different places.

Robert Scoble wrote a great post about leveraging user narcissism to drive adoption.

Today, @daveconcannon pointed me at this excellent interview with Amy Jo Kim on Mixergy. She discusses meta-game design and how game mechanics are creeping into applications like eBay, programmer discussion boards, and Yelp.

Just now, I saw this where I never thought I’d see it – a music site.

On, you complete challenges (like listening to three songs in a row or friending three people) to receive “hearts”, which you can use to vote songs up to the front page.  (foursquare meets digg for indie music.)

The UI is exceptionally beautiful and well done, too.  And their challenges did engage me fully and get me to register.

Techcrunch says they’re experiencing some sort of user rebellion.  That does happen – just look at the various facebook redesigns.  Personally, if I’d seen their old UI, I wouldn’t have used the service at all.

I predict we will see game mechanics and elements become more and more common across web products in the next 3-5 years. This creates some interesting opportunities from entrepreneurs – third-party game mechanics engines, ways for game APIs to talk to one another, and the like.

Next time you sign up for a new social web product, be prepared to play a game.


What role do you think game mechanics will play in the future?  Please leave a comment…

aarrr-iterations v1

January 22, 2010

Because this is the minimum viable blog, I look at my traffic and make changes to further provide value to my readers.

To do this, I use Dave McClure’s AARRR framework.  This is an easy-to-deal-with set of metrics, and it helps me understand what to do next.  It is also quite fun to say.


Acquisition – I’ve gotten traffic from social media like twitter and social aggregators like ycombinator news.  I will get more Google traffic when there’s more content here, so I’m not worried about that yet.  Everything is going swimmingly on the acquisition side, so let’s work on some of the other areas this week.

Metric: 1,513 views since launch – will ultimately look at numbers for the week

I would love to look at “doesn’t abandon” and time on site from various channels, but I can’t get those with the analytics.

Activation – Because I don’t have ‘time on site’ from Google Analytics, this is hard.

I do, however, have views by page.  And very few people who visited Grattisfaction looked at more than one page.

I’m told a ‘splash pattern’ of these ratios around landing pages are fairly common.  The ratio stayed roughly N hits – .1N hits – .05N – .025N hits the whole time over all of the days.  This makes sense.

I attribute this to how difficult it is to find other pages on Grattisfaction from looking at a post view.  (This is the downside of a minimalist layout.)  I saw several click-thrus to the links on my Twitter feed, which suggests that readers will click on links in that area if presented.

Comments are my other metric here.  I’ve seen 3 comments over 1315 views on the Zynga post.  For every 438 views, I’m getting one comment, which seems a little high.

Metric: 438.333 Guests per Comment

(This may be a terrible metric, leading me away from the path of leanstartup righteousness – let me know in the comments.)


RSS Subscribers are the most obvious metric here.  Only one (yes, count ’em, one) person has subscribed so far.  But I’m optimistic.

Let’s not worry about retention/subscription percentage – at this point, I wouldn’t subscribe to this blog either.  When I subscriber to a blog, I look for a lot of good content, suggesting that the writer will continue to write really good content in the future.  Grattisfaction just isn’t there yet.  No worries – from small, iterative acorns large, awesome trees grow.

Metric – RSS Subscribers/Visitors – 1 subscriber / 1516 vistors


While I got more than 50 shares on Twitter and 5 on facebook, I have no idea how many are from this website.

That’s because there’s not (which is a nicer way of saying I haven’t given) a way for users to share.  This obviously needs to change.

Metric: Referrals from Blog – None (no way to.)


As this blog is about meeting people and becoming a bigger part of the start-up community, ‘revenue’ is not just revenue (although none will be turned down.)  Revenue for me is meeting new people and building good relationships in the community.

So far, I haven’t met any new people because of Grattisfaction, but I’m optimistic.

Metric: Emails Received – None


Every cycle, I’ll make three or four iterations on the blog.

This Cycle:

Referral – Install Share button on every post.  This will allow readers to share, which will enable me to start understanding what makes people share.  I’m very optimistic about this.

Because doesn’t allow you to use plug-ins, my Share button is not the one I want (ShareThis).  We’ll fix this when we go to  This Share Button will work well enough for now.

Activation – Add a ‘Top Posts’ where my Twitter feed is, pushing the Twitter feed down.  This should help readers find other posts they like.

Comments – Italicized call-out asking for comments after every Share button.  Let’s see if this helps.

Better Analytics – I really need to switch to the to do this right.  I’ll work understanding that.  This is longer term – maybe 4-6 weeks.

Please comment – feedback is the only way Grattisfaction will be a better blog.  (I might become a better writer, but that will take longer.  And that requires your feedback too.)


Are you a metrics expert?  Is there a better way to use AARRR on a blog?  Let me know and leave a comment

launching the minimum viable blog – the numbers

January 22, 2010

Yesterday, I finally put Grattisfaction live on the internet.

I’d been working on it for a while, trying to get it perfect. Shortly after spending way too many late nights tweaking link lists to attain blog perfection, I thought of the “minimum viable blog” concept (it is exactly what you think it is).  I realized that I needed to get something out there so I could iterate.

I unchecked the “make private” box, and tweeted a link out.  And I waited.

I didn’t have to wait long.

I was overwhelmed by the positive response.  And I learned a huge amount about social media, blog strategy, and virality.

What I Thought Would Happen

With great trepidation and only slightly less excitement, I made Grattisfaction public.

Everything on the internet I’d ever done before had gone like this:

Press “public” or “upload” or any other button of power… and then visit site.  Victory!  Now we wait.

Then some search bots come through, so I’d get maybe, 30 hits the first day.  (Actually, this depends on what sort of web analytics you’re using.  Javascript is better than server logs.  But I digress…)

And then I’d get between one and ten hits a week, that would generally bounce.

Because people only found me because they got lost.

What Actually Happened

Shortly after I pressed ‘Public’, I tweeted three posts:

From such small acorns do tall trees grow

~30 hours later, this is what happened:

from small acorns large trees do grow

Things like this make me think the metrics on aren’t accurate.  (I’m told they use urchin and give you a subset of that data.  Wish there was more, but I’ll get to that in the AAARR post next.)

This is really awesome, I think.

I just had one question –

How could such a thing possibly happen?

Moreover, why was one post so incredibly popular, drawing ten times the amount of traffic of the second most popular post?

Let’s start by looking at how traffic arrived at Grattisfaction.

referrers to on 1/20-1/21

(As we enter the metrics section here, I caution you, some of these may not add up perfectly.  I don’t have good metrics tools – just and, so a lot of these are screenshots.)

As you can see from the data, the vast majority of the traffic came from, twitter derivatives (twirivatives?), and various flavors of

Let’s also look at the numbers – click-through on are often misreported as direct traffic by Google Analytics, so might mis-report them:

The post was re-tweeted 48 times and shared on facebook 5 times (I didn’t share on facebook).

Just for fun, here is what the breakdown looks like.  (If anyone knows how to extract insight from referrals, please leave some thoughts in the comments.)

Twitter drove almost all of the traffic. Clicks came either directly from twitter or from, at lack of a better term, “social media crossover,” where content crosses from one social media platform to another.  (If anyone knows a real term for this, please let me know.)

Looking for comparisons, I found Fred Wilson’s blog numbers, and tell a similiar tale of twitter traffic (except the numbers are  much larger.  This makes sense because his blog is much better than mine.)    Of course, he has the high pagerank and deep content reserves that search engines penetrate – I don’t have those (yet), so he gets a lot of Google traffic too.  Right now, I have basically no search traffic (maybe 10-12 hits over the last two days.)  I’d love to see Fred’s ratio of Twitter traffic to a post v. Google traffic to a post over the life of the post.

Unlike Fred Wilson, I am not important or famous on Twitter.  I have about a hundred followers, and a slightly greater number of followees.

But how did that one tweet end up getting retweeted and put on, while the other posts did not?

The answer is simple: that tweet had the #leanstartup hashtag affixed to it.

Because it had #leanstartup, it was received by Eric Ries.

And Eric retweeted it to his  7,475 followers.  (Eric is what we call a thought leader.  Thanks Eric.)

After it appeared on @ericries (he was the first person to pick it up), it propagated wildly.  Hiten Shah was kind enough to submit it to Y-Combinator news.

Lessons Learned

– Twitter is an awesome way to promote your web content.

– Use relevant hashtags.  These don’t need to be popular or trending hashtags, just hashtags people check.  (Thought leaders are checking them constantly – these high-follower, high-influence individuals are key to spreading your ideas on twitter.)

– Social Aggregators (like are like firehoses of traffic onto your site.

– I was more than a little scared to launch my own blog about start-ups and agile biz/tech. I’m awed by how positive, open, and supportive this community isI’m incredibly grateful to have such a great community of others who are trying to make great things and start great companies.

Tomorrow’s Post: AARRR! 3 Days Metrics from the Minimum Viable Blog, and the Iterations I Made As a Result


Thoughts?  Comments?  Numbers from your own blog launch?  Please leave a comment below!

how to give a better software demo

January 20, 2010

This post has moved to .  You can read it there.