Episode 61 | Listener Questions December

Show Notes


[00:00] Mike: This is Startups for the Rest of Us, Episode 61.

[00:02] music

[00:11] Mike: Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers, and entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Mike.

[00:20] Rob: And I’m Rob.

[00:21] Mike: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s going on this week, Rob?

[00:26] Rob: I am within days of getting this new design launched on HitTail, man. I used so many bad words last week. I think I — not on the podcast but right before it and after it. Just burned in time but eventually I got through that within a day or two and feeling really good so I’m trying to — basically I’m gonna take at least two weeks off and basically trying to get this thing done and out before Christmas, trying to get it done.

[00:50] Mike: So it’ll be 8 to 12 days?

[00:52] Rob: 8 to 12 days, exactly, sir. It’s cool. I’m excited to take some time off but I’m not excited to take it off if this isn’t ready. You know what I’m saying? Like, it’s gonna be on my mind. So I’m hoping to take like I said two weeks off and then my wife today is actually on like, she took of yesterday, went to the coast. It’s about two and a half hours away and got a hotel room and so it’s — I’m watching the kids. And she’s basically thinking and mapping out like the next couple of years of her like personal goals and what she wants to do in her career. She’s a college professor and a therapist. She’s a psychologist. And so she’s looking at all this stuff and I’m gonna be doing the same thing hopefully the first week of January.

[01:31] So I’m gonna take off for just one overnight. I’ll have about 36 hours to myself and I will almost certainly have some updates on my plans for 2012 once I get back from that. So I really wanna leave and do that with a kind of a fresh mind, having HitTail pretty much ready to launch the new design when I get back. My goal is to get it launched before but there’s no chance I’m gonna finish this thing and push it live and then go on two weeks’ vacation because I know that there’ll be bugs and there’ll be little crashes and such and I don’t wanna be dealing with them over the holidays.

[02:00] Mike: Cool.

[02:01] Rob: Yeah. How about you?

[02:03] Mike: Well, as of last week, AuditShark has finally hit what I would consider to be MVP status so it’s minimally viable at this point. I could sell it and not feel terribly ashamed about anything that people see inside of it. I was working today to get — basically just walk through the installation process because I put together an installation guide or installation document to, you know, complete the screen shots and everything else to basically walk somebody through. Right after they’ve set up an account, it will walk them through install in the Windows server that sits on their machines.

[02:37] And I actually ran into a few issues in trying to do a clean slate deployment. So I have to figure out what those things are. I think it’s more in my build process than anything else. Everything works on my development machine; everything works on my other development machine. The only place that doesn’t actually work is on a clean slate.

[02:54] So I have to figure out exactly what’s going on there but I’m fairly certain that it’s just a configuration problem and once I get that straightened out then it’ll be all set and I’ve got somebody who has kind of volunteered to go ahead and install it in a lab environment and start running it and see how things go.

[03:14] Rob: Nice. And have you — you know, after our conversation last week that was Episode 60. We’re already getting some comments, some good in-depth comments. So if you haven’t heard Episode 60 already, I definitely recommend going back. Since then, have you talked to anyone? Have you kind of — what kind of progress or thoughts had you made on the marketing front?

[03:33] Mike: Not really much. I was just kind of finishing off the bells and whistles to get AuditShark to what I considered to be that MVP status. I did notice that there is a comment of there from Ted — I think it was more addressing my point about using resellers and stuff and how that was a giant, red flag. And I might have misused the term or misrepresented the term “resellers” a bit. What I really had in mind was people who essentially had customers where they already had an established relationship with them who would be willing to essentially walk me into their accounts and the purpose of that would be to essentially have them identify potential opportunities and then essentially put me in touch with those people.

[04:16] So it’s not really them necessarily acting as a reseller. I mean, maybe they’ll be there side by side or, you know, with me while I’m doing like a sales presentation or anything like that. But it’s not like I would be just be turning it over to them and saying, oh, here you go. Here’s something that you can resell. And there’s three main targets for that. One is for auditors who go into costumers and they have to go out into the customer environment and get the information and those people would be willing to identify their customers because then they wouldn’t have to actually go into the customer’s environment and do it themselves.

[04:47] The other two are very similar. One is service providers, manage service providers and one of them is consulting companies. Manage service providers essentially completely manage your environment. It’s almost like going with manage hosting environment versus unmanaged hosting environment where — I guess the primary difference is people are more hands-on with the manage hosting environment while with the manage service provider, you essentially outsourcing part of your IT operations to them.

[05:12] So they’re already billing people on a monthly basis and those people are already used to being billed on a monthly basis for various services. And in each of those cases, the idea would be that, you know, obviously I’m gonna be selling to the customer and they’re going to be working with me and what I was trying to get across in the podcast was how to compensate them but I’ve forgotten that one of the ideas that I had for essentially compensation for those manage service providers and those consulting companies was that once I’ve identified the problems in the customer’s environment, they’re gonna need to somehow fix them. And who’s going to be able to fix them? Well, that manage service provider or that consulting company that they’ve already got an established relationship with.

[05:55] The purpose of those — I don’t wanna call them reseller arrangements really. I guess the more appropriate term would be service providers but the purpose of those is really just to cut down on the number of false leads that I’m following up on because it’s very random to be able to just walk into a bank and say, hey, can I talk to somebody in the IT department. And you do, you get in or you don’t. I mean, it’s very time-consuming and the idea of using those leverage in those people, it’s to try and cut down on the number of places that I’m going into where I’m just — I’m not gonna get anywhere.

[06:26] Rob: So I think there’s a lot of — I mean, like I said, last time I think there’s a lot of complexity with that model and it’ll take a lot of time to get a reseller up to speed. I want to hear — I wanna see you try it and see it work for me to kind of understand more of what it’s gonna look like. I saw a lot of questions about how you’re gonna convince a company to spend the time to learn your software. I guess you’re going to have to offer him a nice chunk of commission and that kind of stuff.

[06:51] Mike: Well, that’s what I was originally thinking that like there’s a company near where I live that — and I’ve already talked to them about this. I mean, they have an $8 million a year manage services for they have all these customers that — probably two or three hundred customers that pay them on a monthly basis for various services. So they’re constantly talking to these people. They’ve got sales reps who are constantly working with them, trying to figure out what it is they need and what other services they can provide.

[07:17] And if I can go into their customers and — you know, they’ve already told me. We would love to have you work with us to help identify the problems in our customer’s environments so that we can then go in and charge them to fix those things.

[07:31] Rob: It definitely makes sense what you’re saying. My concern is that you now have two customers, right? You’re not selling to ends users and you’re also selling to resellers.

[07:40] Mike: Yeah, I’m not really selling to them though.

[07:42] Rob: But you do — you have to convince them that there’s enough of a market, that they should invest a lot of time into learning your product and into pushing your product and into supporting your — you know what I’m saying? Like you really are — you have to convince —

[07:54] Mike: I’d start saying — yeah.

[07:55] Rob: This is sales effort. They don’t have to buy it but there’s a sales effort nonetheless.

[07:58] music

[08:01] Rob: There was a couple other things. One is, you know, we’ve been kind of giving updates on how MicroConf is coming together and I wanted to let people know we’re planning to start selling tickets in January when we’ll have — you know, we’ll have the exact location and dates and all that stuff. But if you’re a listener and if you did not attend last year, I recommend you go to microconf.com, we’ll link it up on the show notes. We have a mailing list because we’re gonna give, well, two things. One, we’re definitely gonna give discounts to, you know, people who are on the early mailing list and anyone who attended last year and the tickets are going to be cheaper than if you’re just the general public.

[08:35] Second thing is we are limiting the number of tickets we’re selling. We got a lot of feedback last year that one of the coolest parts of the conference was how small it was and it was about 110 attendees. And so what we’re gonna do this year, we’ve talked about doing two to the seventh power which is 128. So we’re talking about limiting it to 128 attendees. And I don’t know, you know, at that level, with the level of interest that we have and the size of, you know, we have several mailing list. I’m pretty confident it’s gonna sell out fairly quickly. So if you are interested in coming it’s gonna be in Las Vegas in mid- to late April. I would definitely, you know, go to microconf.com and get your name on the list.

[09:10] Mike: You know, I told you last week that the previous week we’ve pushed off the podcast because of my medical issues with my back and my back has been doing a little bit better. I’ve been having some weird pains here and there in my leg which I may attribute to nerves, I may attribute to just not stretching out but I think overall things are a lot better and I’m open that that trend continues. We’ll see if it turns out that I eventually need surgery, I’ll probably find out some time next month. But one of the things that I found separate from that is that — how long have I been working on AuditShark here? You know, at least how long have we been talking about it on this podcast? Well, like 8 months, 10 months, something like that?

[09:44] Rob: Well, it’s December and you originally — I mean, we originally talked about you getting to Alpha in June which is six months ago so I know that it could easily be January. I can imagine it being a year.

[09:57] Mike: Right. And it’s not like I’ve really taken what I would consider a major break from it either. So I mean, I’ve really been kind of pushing hard ever since — I’ll call that missed deadline back in July or August or whatever it was that I ended up setting because I think I ended up missing the first one because of MicroConf and that set me back a couple of months. And then I ran into all these other things that I didn’t necessarily count for during the development and things that I needed to implement that I — that it took me just a lot more time than I ever thought that they possibly would. You know, having pushed through all of that, I’m at the point where — or I’ve gone to the point in the past couple of weeks where I’ve just realized like I am severely burnt out.

[10:36] So I tried to step back a little bit, maybe trying to figure out how to get my mojo back a little bit. So, you know, you and I both know that when you’re building stuff, you’re in this create mode and then in the past I basically cut off all my podcast, all my additional reading, all the additional information consumption that I was doing in order to focus on just churning out code and being creative about how I put things together. And over the past week or so I’ve taken a step back and try to get into the consumption mode a little bit again just to kind of — I guess recharge the batteries.

[11:10] And one of the podcast I really found to be helpful with that is the Lifestyle Business Podcast with Dan and Ian. And Dan was on a couple of weeks ago but I just want to say thanks to you guys for, you know, just helping lift my spirits and morale and everything because being in that constant mode is just, you know, it wears on you after a while and you don’t actually have customer, you haven’t actually launched yet. It’s funny all the parallels between their podcast and ours is just very similar but obviously I’m not here in own voice to talk.

[11:36] Rob: Right. No, I would totally agree on both points, man. When I cut myself off totally because we do. You go through the ebb and flow of a kind of being able to consume and being able to absorb it and process it and then you go to the times where you’re just so busy creating that you really can’t take any more input. And I find that when I get in the creation phases, it’s great but I can’t do it for more than a couple of months before I burn out pretty hard and then I need to go back to having some involvement in the community and I’ve done it a lot with audio with books and with podcasts. I totally know what you’re saying and it also give definitely — give a shoutout to Lifestyle Business Podcast.

[12:10] music

[12:13] Rob: So I have a couple of other things. The first is, I don’t know if you saw it on TechCrunch but WPEngine race a round of funding. WordPress Engine which is Jason Cohen of Smart Bear, his company. And I was one of the angel investors.

[12:26] Mike: Really?

[12:27] Rob: Yeah. Isn’t that crazy? He e-mailed me and mentioned — he said it was like a close round. It was like invite-only or something. And so he and I have known each other for a couple of years and I was obviously completely floored and very flattered. You look at the names. It’s like big name venture capital firm in Austin. Eric Ries, Dharmesh Shahand and then I’m like wait — and dot dot dot and Rob Walling. I mean, I still don’t get in that list. So I was totally, totally flattered that he asked and it was cool.

[12:52] So I don’t see myself becoming a big angel investor. I never would have approached him or anything but it was fun to be a part of it and now, I actually moved my blog there from DreamHost and that’s been nice. You know, as much as I like DreamHost I have so many sites on there. I am having problems with my virtual server at this point and getting my blog off there which is, you know, getting quite a bit of traffic these days has helped. So WPEngine, y’all.

[13:15] Mike: You’re gonna totally pimped it out now.

[13:17] Rob: But that and buying HitTail has really kind of tapped me out for a while so it’s been good that my other businesses can continue to do all right. Two more things. One is I have this 2012 prediction that I wanna throw out. There’s this website — have you heard of it? It’s called Pinterest. It’s like interest but with a P in front of it, pinterest.com.

[13:34] Mike: I have not.

[13:34] Rob: This site, my prediction is that 2012 is going to be the year of Pinterest. It’s a social network. It’s like a visual, social pinboard and so you create pinboards and you can just pin images to them and then you can share them with other people. The reason I think it’s gonna be big is within the span of maybe 30 days, three different friends in three different social circles who are not techies told my wife about it.

[13:57] It’s — right now, it’s a female driven website. I could totally — I mean, obviously there’s some men using it but I could see it, you know, becoming more gender balanced but guaranteed it’s pulling in — I mean, one of our friends is a physician. She’s our age. My wife’s a psychologist, a Ph.D. in Psychology. I mean, they’re educated there. They’re like the demographic that people want to attach to. So I seriously think Pinterest is gonna be big. The reason I mentioned it is they don’t have any PI yet but they’re working on one and I feel like some folks are gonna get in on the ground floor. Well, I guess we’ll see in six months if I’m correct.

[14:29] Mike: We’ll see.

[14:30] Rob: And you’re gonna try that out, aren’t you?

[14:31] Mike: No.

[14:34] Rob: And last thing for me, I’ve read two book in the past couple of months that I just really wanted to share with people. One is if you’re gonna be doing high touch sales because I’m kind of ramping up, you know. I’ve always done more inbound marketing and low touch sales and I’m looking to do some higher touch sales with HitTail. The book is called the Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes that is ridiculously good. So I wanted to recommend that to people. I listen to it on audio which I have to do and I liked it so much that I bought the physical paper copy which I have not bought a paper book in months. But I just wanted it around for reference. I wanna be able to flip through it and take notes and do that stuff that I can’t do with the Kindle or audio version.

[15:12] And then the other one is more about finding goals and designing lifestyle and it’s called the Art of Non-Conformity: Chris Guillebeau has a blog that’s quite popular. It’s also under the same name. I actually recommended this book to my wife who’s not typically into this kind of stuff. She read it and she’s — now, she went on that two-day kind of vision quest and she’s using it as a guideline to help shape what she thinks she might do over the next couple of years. I’m probably gonna be doing the same when I go off in early January.

[15:40] If you’re wondering what the hell am I doing and what’s gonna make me happy? Like how do I wanna shift my career, how do I wanna shift my personal life? It’s a really good book. The guy is a really good writer. He’s done a lot of stuff. He has a lot of experiences. I highly recommend it.

[15:51] Mike: Very cool.

[15:52] music.

[15:55] Mike: So we’re gonna move on to some of the letters from our listeners for this week. We do have a number of questions that have been streaming in which we — I think I’ve been severely neglecting over the past several weeks partially due to the — how far had we got on some of our podcast episodes. So the first one is a discussion that I got into with a person named Tomas from planmysite.com. And planmysite.com is a web design company based on New Jersey and through the course of the discussion, we were discussing some web designs stuff.

[16:25] But one of the things that kind of stuck with me was the fact that e-mail is a notoriously terrible communication device and I know that like Jeff Atwood has serious reservations about using e-mail for virtually anything and absolutely hates it. He much prefers Twitter over e-mail but, you know, Twitter got its problems too. I mean, you’re limited to 140 characters.

[16:46] But I think that when you’re trying to use e-mail, the issue that comes up is you’re better off probably just getting on the phone with somebody because once you start writing more than a couple of paragraphs, the thing just go down real quick. I mean, things can easily get misinterpreted and you start making assumptions about what the other person meant. You know, it just start go down the wrong road. That’s one of the conclusions that, you know, he and I came to was e-mail was just awful.

[17:08] Rob: Yeah. I’m finding that the more I use e-mail over the years, the shorter my e-mails are getting and I think that’s a good thing. Have you seen the three sentences and four sentences that I have? For a listener who hasn’t heard, the domain name is like threesentenc.es or something like that. If you Google it, you can see that —

[17:26] Mike: It’s three, four, and five, actually.

[17:27] Rob: Yup. And so some people put the link to that — all that website says is, all of my e-mails are three sentences long and if you just put that link at the bottom of your e-mail and your signature, people might understand why you’re so brief. I don’t do that because I do like to preserve the right to go on and on and on. But at the same time, I find that when I’m e-mailing with friends or acquaintances or people I’m very familiar with, I actually find e-mail to be pretty good because people know your intonation. They know you’re not being an ass when you’re being sarcastic, you know, they don’t take offense.

[17:59] Whereas, yeah, if you’re on a discussion with someone brand new, who e-mails you, it is so easy to just — have things get out of control pretty quickly. It’s like, what is e-mail good for? I think e-mail is good for — it’s a brief message. It’s certainly when you wanna keep it private. I find Twitter painful to have a discussion over because of the 140 character limit. So I do like e-mail more than Jeff Atwood does. You know what I’m saying? I do still use it quite a bit. I would agree, yeah.

[18:22] Mike: Somebody should come out with Twitter that doesn’t limit you to 140 characters. It limits you to five periods.

[18:28] Rob: Google Plus doesn’t limit you although I used a lot of dot dot dots in my e-mails so that would kind of know me.

[18:33] Mike: It would, it would. Anyway, I do wanna say thanks to Tomas for having that discussion with me. So let’s move on to the next question. This question is from Ray. And he says, “Hi, guys. Finally got around to writing a review and hope you can help me with this problem. Gmail is fine but I really wanna be able to send and receive e-mail like it does in e-mail addresses for each of domains I own and manage. I think you said just forward everything to your e-mail but when it comes to sending, I don’t want my e-mails to come through as my name @gmail.com on behalf of so and so. I want to look like I’m an actual business. Outlook forces me to have separate e-mail boxes. I just wanna have one inbox and have the ability to send e-mail from a dozen or more e-mail addresses. Any suggestions? Is there a setting in Outlook that I’m missing?”

[19:14] Rob: And I actually applied to him via e-mail because it was about a month ago and I knew that it would take us a while to get to this but essentially in Gmail I’ve been using this setting for a couple of years now. If you just forward into Gmail and then reply, it’ll give you that stupid, you know, someone saw a Gmail as a whomever and that isn’t professional. But if you go into each address and you set up an actual like a mailbox instead of just forwarding into Gmail. You set up a mailbox on your mail server and then you can use Gmail to use POP3 and it will send as them and no one will know the difference.

[19:49] So I have probably a dozen e-mail addresses from probably ten different domains that all go into my Gmail account and then when I click reply, it goes out and uses the POP3 server of that domain. And I’m — I see we’re not gonna go into the specific details of how to do that in Gmail because it’s so painfully boring but if you go to Google and you type send using SMTP from Gmail — oh, I realized I’ve been saying POP3 to send the e-mail, what I meant was send using SMTPs.

[20:17] So if you go into Google, type send using SMTP from Gmail. You’ll get detailed instructions on that and you do have to configure each one individually but then you’ll have that professional look of, you know, a dozen addresses all going out in the same inbox.

[20:31] Mike: So the next one is from David Wilson. He says, “Hello. I love your podcast along with Rob’s book. It’s been a great help to me while developing my first SaaS app. My question is whether you guys have any experience using Google SMTPs server to send the e-mail for web apps, for appointment reminders, app notifications, etc. I have an e-mail address for my app to use from Google apps and I have set up the e-mail back-end to send the e-mail from this address using Google SMTPs server. This works well in testing and I like the idea of not having to run a mail server myself. However, I’m not sure if there are any drawbacks to this approach that I’m not aware of. Any thoughts on this configuration or sending an e-mail in general. Thanks, David.”

[21:09] There’s a few different things that you can use. We just switched the academy over to using one. I think it was — do we use SendGrid?

[21:17] Rob: We’re using Postmark at postmarkapp.com. Yeah, it’s a $1.50 for every thousand e-mails you send.

[21:23] Mike: Right. And then there’s other things like SendGrid and then there’s also Elastic Email I think it is.

[21:29] Rob: Yup.

[21:30] Mike: So there’s a lot of different options but basically they’re hosted SMTP servers and you sign up for an account. You promise to pay them, I don’t know, like a penny for every 10 e-mails you send or something ridiculously cheap like that. And your e-mails will basically go through their servers. You call it just as you would a standard SMTP server. Sometimes there’s additional authentication code or something like that that you have to include in your e-mail or sometimes there are changes that you have to make to your DNS servers to prove that you own a specific domain.

[21:59] But by and large it’s a pretty simple and painless process and it’s dirt cheap to send those e-mails. I mean, if you’re sending 10 million e-mails, obviously, that’s gonna go a little expensive but for the most part if you’re just sending notifications and reminders and things like that, it will not cost you very much and for something like a SaaS app, chances are you’re charging 10, 20, 30 dollars a month and you’re gonna be paying in pennies per customer that you have in order to use these services.

[22:25] Rob: Absolutely. I started using Postmark just maybe three or four months ago and I will never go back. I told you this, Mike, a couple of weeks ago. I mean, I just — the control that you have over it, well, there’s a couple of layers up but one is I can see every e-mail that goes out and they logged it in their web app and you can — if it gets bounced or if they marked it as spammed or if anything happens, it’s all marked there.

[22:47] In addition, I caught a bunch of — you know, when you’re writing code and you’re searching and replacing in an e-mail, you never really know how it looks. You send yourself a test and then that’s it, right? But some user’s data are different and all that stuff. So I was just flipping through a bunch of them and I realized that some people had a weird anomaly in their domain name and it was coming out funky in the e-mail and I went in then fixed it more professional.

[23:08] In addition, their deliverability is gonna be way better than if you try to run an SMTP server from your own server. It’s just night and day. How much better, how many more e-mails you’re gonna be able to deliver if you go through one of these services. So yeah, I will never go back especially for SaaS apps. I’m sending quite a few e-mails. You know, we’ve talked about I’ve been sending some blasts out to older groups of customers and so I — you know, I sent 4,500 e-mails. What was that? It was $6 or something. You know, I mean, it’s a complete no-brainer and I bet the deliverability, I bet between two and five times more e-mails got to people because I did not send it through my web server SMTP server.

[23:46] Mike: And just doing the math on that in terms of what your conversion rate is on those people that you got to versus that ones that you probably wouldn’t have. I mean, that pay is to $6 on its own easy.

[23:55] Rob: Right. It pays it for the rest of my life probably. And, yeah, so I would not use Google SMTP server. It’s just not designed to do that. My guess is if you actually started sending any kind of volume that they would flag you because they just don’t really want you using it as like an application e-mail address. I would just absolutely bite the bullet and I’m migrating — like you said, we migrate at the academy over. I’m looking at migrating a couple of other apps that I have over just so I have the control and the visibility and, you know, there’s just so much there for a low cost. So to me it’s a no-brainer these days.

[24:25] Mike: So the last question we have is from Justine Chimura who has e-mailed us — I think this is his third question but he says, “Hello. I’ve got a couple of ideas that I’ve been forming and iterating on. I’ve come down to choosing the web technology to build them off of — ASP.NET MVC or Ruby on Rails. They both seemed like really cool technologies. To preface this, I’ve been a consultant focusing on just .NET and I’ve started a new job for a fairly large city doing .NET work. So my primary business experience is on .NET. I recently picked up Ruby on Rails and I’ve been playing with it. It seems really cool but to build a working production app would take me probably twice the time as if I use .NET. With that all in mind, I know you guys are Microsoft developers and have built, maintained and enhanced .NET web apps. I would like some advice from people that doesn’t end with Microsoft sucks. I’m trying to take into consideration cost, difficulty of maintenance and time of development. Thanks, guys.”

[25:14] Rob: When he called us Microsoft developers, did you cringe a little bit?

[25:18] Mike: Just a little bit. I did —

[25:19] Rob: That’s funny, yeah. But we do — I mean, you and I do most of our development in — we both know other languages, right? I’ve done PHP and Java, ColdFusion and I prefer these days to use PHP but you and I both have apps written in .NET.

[25:32] Mike: Oh, well, I started off my response by basically saying that I work with pretty much everything. I own computers and devices running Windows, OS X, iOS, AIX, Solaris, HP-UX, Linux and ESX. So if it’s a good technology, I’ll use it but that said all technology sucks in some way shape or form. So, you know, it’s really important to understand what you’re trying to do and why. And the why is the most important part of it. And Justine, if you have any intentions of outsourcing your code, you should seriously consider Ruby on Rails. They’ve got a great community and you can generally find programmers who are much cheaper than .NET programmers. Or, at least that was true a little while ago.

[26:15] Rob: So Ruby on Rails programmers tend to be a little more expensive than PHP and less expensive than .NET and Java but they’re all out there.

[26:22] Mike: I mean the fact is that if you’re outsourcing the code, it shouldn’t really matter which technology it’s in because it’s not about the technology at that point it’s really about all the other things that go into it. In terms of cost, both can be completely free. Microsoft’s got their BizSpark and Web Spark programs. Those are dirt cheap to get into and sure they cost money down the road but you’re gonna be paying for things one way or another.

[26:45] So you know, do you wanna pay for those software licenses, yes or no? And if you end up with a host provider, it’s very possible that they could be providing those things for you. I mean, you don’t need to buy a sequel server license. You can essentially rent a sequel server database from most hosting providers.

[27:00] On the Linux side, yeah, you can run Ruby on Rails over there. My sequels are probably gonna be a little bit less expensive in terms of hosting cost but at the end of the day, you’re hosting cost are gonna be far less than either your cost of development and that’s in terms of the time that it takes whoever it is to develop the times or in their hourly rate.

[27:19] Rob: It’s assuming they don’t have some specific limitations, right? Like with HitTail, since I have such high IO, Disk IO, I actually do have some very specific hosting requirements and the Windows stuff is substantially more expensive than Linux but that’s a special case. For most SaaS apps that are just doing basic, you know, putting stuff in a database and taking it out, you’re right. You’re gonna get a VPS for, you know, 100 bucks or 150 bucks either way, right?

[27:45] Mike: I mean, the only thing I mentioned to him was that you really need to consider the time to market. And if it’ll take you in 100 hours to build in .NET, do you wanna spend 200 hours doing it on Ruby on Rails? And if you want the experience, go for it. You know, if you’re not looking for that experience since it really makes sense going through and making all the mistakes that you need to make in order to get the software to where it needs to be. That’s a judgment call that you’re gonna have to make either way.

[28:12] Rob: Yup. If you don’t know Ruby at all and you’re gonna outsource it, I would be hesitant to outsource a Ruby app only because if you’re a .NET developer, you’re gonna get it build and there’s gonna be, you’re gonna launch. There’s gonna be tiny little tweaks, tiny little fixes, little things you want to add and that becomes a pain in the butt when you can’t just go and tweak your own code. So I would say be careful of that. Again, I’m not saying don’t do it on Ruby. If you’re a Ruby developer looking at doing a . NET, I would give you the exact same advice the other way. So its language diagnostic, it’s more of what you know.

[28:44] Are you really interested in learning Ruby? Are you really interested in learning this moving forward? Because if you’re not, then I would probably not do it in Ruby. I would stick with the core competency because the technology doesn’t matter, right? No one’s gonna know when they’re using the app, what technology it’s written in.

[29:04] Mike: Well, they may know but they won’t care.

[29:05] Rob: They won’t care. That’s a good point. The bottom line is if you were, you know, a quasi-expert in Java, .NET, Ruby, PHP, and Python, then there will actually be a question where we could say, well, which one actually has the best development committee. Which one is best for web development or SaaS app development? And we could get into a philosophical discussion about that. Probably not worth it. You could also say which might have the most if you ever plan to sell it, which one might be easier and it’s probably gonna be PHP or Ruby in my experience.

[29:35] That’s gonna be the easiest to sell if people are more willing to take over and if I — these days if I was gonna built something completely from scratch knowing the languages I know, I tend to lean towards PHP because I know it. I know that Ruby has a better web development framework and, you know, debatably from what I heard it does. I wouldn’t go with it just because I don’t know it and I don’t want to take the time to learn it right now.

[30:00] I think my recommendation, Justine, if you really want to learn Ruby then, you know, go ahead and do it. And if you don’t, if you’re kind of just thinking which technology should I use and you wanna get in fast then I think sticking with your core competency. If that’s what you know, and you really don’t wanna learn something new, you really just want to get an app out then that would tend to be my recommendation.

[30:19] Mike: On the surface, what you said earlier about if you’re a .NET developer then outsourcing to have somebody writing in Ruby on Rails is probably a bad idea and if you’re a Ruby on Rails developer outsourcing somebody to write something on .NET is probably a bad idea. You mentioned things like once you go into production you have to make little tweaks and things like that.

[30:38] Most people who are building businesses or who are entrepreneurs, you know, tend to be decent developers or the very least think they are and feel like they could probably go through and debug things. But the issue I think you run into is that there are going to be times where you don’t necessarily have the time to mess around with it. Somebody’s got a problem and you want to or you need to fix it quickly and because you’re not familiar enough with the development environment and the debugging techniques, it’s gonna take you much, much longer to do it.

[31:10] Rob: Right. And so I guess for, you know, we have a lot of listeners that are not developers and so for them, they would just ask the general question like what should I develop my next app in. If they’re really gonna built an app, I would actually base purely on availability of labor cost of developer’s ability to sell it later on if you want to and just go to frameworks. I would probably go with PHP, I may go with Ruby on Rails. I would go with one of those two. What do you think?

[31:37] Mike: I think I’d probably lean towards PHP or Ruby on Rails, something like you said and it’s more just because of the saleability later on and, you know, the availability of the programmers who do that kind of thing. I think that you’d have a much easier time finding them. I think that it’ll be significantly more cost effective, or at least, you know, more cost effective. And if you don’t know anything about it but what difference does it make with it’s written in because you can’t fix it anyway not because it actually makes technical difference. Because like I said, your customers don’t care. It could be written in VB6 or Delta in it. And I know that there are production applications out there that are still selling today that are written with those and they still sell and they still sell well.

[32:20] Rob: Absolutely. HitTail is written in classic ASP. Man, that was deprecated in 2001 when .NET 1.0 came out but it’s absolutely still functioning and going so — and no one, you know, who’s using it is gonna know the difference. If you don’t listen to this podcast you wouldn’t be able to tell.

[32:35] Mike: But Microsoft is trying to get rid of it. You can tell by — if you do a Windows 2008 install and you install IIS, ASP is not selected by default. You have to —

[32:44] Rob: Oh, totally.

[32:45] Mike: Yeah, you have to manually tell — let’s to say include this.

[32:48] Rob: Oh, I did. I did when we did the new server. And, in fact, obviously my ultimate goals is to get off the classic ASP and move to a different technology. Yeah, either ASP.NET MVC or something else. I mean, but it just goes to show you — I mean, HitTail has a pretty — it has a heavy volume. It’s gonna have a heavier volume than probably 99% of the SaaS apps that anyone’s gonna want to build and it functions just fine.

[33:09] Mike: But I do have a question. You said you would port HitTail to ASP MVC or something along those lines.

[33:15] Rob: Yup.

[33:16] Mike: Why wouldn’t you — if you’re doing a port, why wouldn’t you port it to PHP or Ruby on Rails.

[33:22] Rob: I have thought quite a bit about this. The migration path from ASP to like ASP.NET MVC is quite easy because they can both co-exist on the same server, easily share cookies. There’s a path there. Whereas if I go with PHP, I basically have to rewrite all the code at ones, create this monolithic new thing and then migrate everyone to it. Also, everything in the sequel server 2005 back-end, it’s a 250 gig database with literally more than a billion rows. I don’t exactly wanna move that into PostgreS or MySQL.

[33:56] So I have some reasons to stay with the Microsoft Stack just because — again, if I was doing it from scratch, I would probably go with PHP and I would go with NOJS as the, you know, the tracking part where the JavaScript calls back because there’s so much traffic going through there and NOJS handles a lot of request really, really well. I would wanna move to a Linux box I would use PostgreSQL and I would go with PHP NOJS and that — but that’s a massive undertaking even with this app is, you know, “small as it is” as I’ve looked at it and try to spec it out, it would be big.

[34:28] Whereas with moving to ASP.NET whether it’s web forms or MVC, I can do it gradually over the course of a year or two and just do a piece of — rewrite a piece of it at a time and kind of leave the database intact and leave everything else intact.

[34:42] Mike: I just thought that the listeners were probably finding this strange why you would not make that leap but —

[34:47] Rob: Yeah. And I’m —

[34:48] Mike: I know you have good reasons.

[34:50] Rob: Yeah. Yeah — no. And I would be totally up for discussing it at some point because I spent a lot of time early on. I mean, as I was gonna require to start looking through the code and I was like good grief, like I really wanna just get all this rewritten. I don’t wanna pay for the — like I said the hosting is — it’s absolutely more expensive maybe even twice as much on the Windows Stack since I do have such heavy volume and I need a full process or license or multi-process or license of equal server.

[35:13] I need a lot of things that would be much cheaper on Linux Stack. But, yeah, the cost and/or effort to do that would — it just would completely not be worth it at this point. It wouldn’t be worth paying itself back so I’m always open to discussions and stuff about that because I did put a lot of time and effort in, you know, figuring out how I would do that later on.

[35:32] Mike: Cool.

[35:32] music

[35:35] Rob: If you have a question or comment, please call it in to our voicemail number at 888-801-9690. You can e-mail it to us in text or mp3 format to questions@startupsfortherestofus.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from We’re Outta Control by MoOt used under creative comments. If you enjoyed this podcast, please consider writing a review on iTunes. Let’s see, there’s at least 71 ratings for us right now. Just go to iTunes and search for startups and we’re in the top three podcasts. You can subscribe to it in iTunes or via RSS at startupsfortherestofus.com. And a full transcript of this podcast is always available at our website. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.

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7 Responses to “Episode 61 | Listener Questions December”

  1. Robin says:

    Thank you guys for a fantastic year of podcasting, I love your podcast, it is both fun and educational, every episode is inspiring and keeps me working towards my own goals.

    Many thanks


  2. Dan says:

    Cheers Mike!!! I’m so thankful we’ve got these outlets to share, glad we could help out in some small way as you and Rob have done for me. Best of luck with your health, product, and here’s to 2012.

  3. Ryan says:

    Love the podcast, guys. Listening to you gets me juiced on my own projects. Have a great 2012!

  4. Eric Brandel says:

    Listened to the podcast last night. For the Google apps question, I thought it was a little unclear what he was trying to do. If he is using Google apps to send the email for his domain, which is something Google supports, he’ll want to update his SPF records to reflect that. Basically, he needs to have his SPF record contain include:_spf.google.com.

    I’ve got a little write up on SPF records that covers that here: http://ericbrandel.com/2011/12/10/email-deliverability-spf-records-part-2b/

    • Rob says:

      I’m pretty sure he is not using Google Apps, just regular email. But if he is, thanks for the link.

  5. Pierre says:

    Hi Rob, you say that you are using Postmark to send your mails… but in their developer page (http://developer.postmarkapp.com/) they state that:
    Postmark is for transactional email only. You may not send newsletters, announcements to your lists or any other bulk email.

    Doesn’t that means that you CAN’T use postmark for marketing communications?



    • Rob says:

      Would you look at that. I have my SMTP server running through Postmark so all of my outgoing email goes through their system. In my case I wouldn’t be able to use them at all if I didn’t have it configured this way since the code doesn’t have a centralized place that sends email.

      Judging by their language it does look like they don’t want email newsletters going out on the system. I’ve had a single spam complaint out of several thousand emails so I think I’m safe thus far, but I’ll see if I can figure out a way to not route my non-transactional emails through another service that allows that kind of thing. My guess is that Postmark doesn’t want a bunch of people spamming using their servers so they have this policy, but if you have a low complaint ratio they will leave you alone.