Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Keeping It Simple

We hear about KISS (not the band, or is it???) all the time, but do we do a good job at it. Since we are talking about KISS let's examine them. Gene and Paul got together with Ace and Peter back in the early seventies and have made probably billions singing the same set of songs with a few minor updates to sell the latest album. In fact they have probably released the same songs over and over on different albums.
How have they been so successful? I think the answer is in specializing in a few things, say 20 core songs, dressing things up a little bit (see spitting fire etc. For theatrics) and finding a formula that succeeds. Then doing it over and over and over and over again. This is what business gurus would probably call a replicatable system.
Their act and core song set have not changed much since 1973, but they still release albums and tour to millions every year. They figured out what young people would buy in mass, high energy music that the kids feel like they are being rebellious with. Teenagers are teenagers no matter what generation it is.
Now back to business. Evaluate your business and your products and or services. I know when I first started out I tried to make things fairly complicated because I thought that is what was needed. Generally I have preached that a site must have an administration portal to update the content online. That way our customers have more control over their sites. At this point I think that may not be a good idea. We tend to spend more time answering questions about simple things on the admin than just having the clients send us their information and updating it for them and billing them as well.
What I have learned over the years is people do not care about the real technology (in my case), they just want to see something that looks professional and in online. Plus they want there e-mail, every 30 seconds =>. So the next generation of clients we have will probably never know about the site administration capabilities, unless they want to go through a formal training course. I think this will make out products much more desirable and controllable as well.
This is just one example from my business, what sort of things do you notice in your business and personal life? Do not complicate things, but Keep It Simple Stupid.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Being Abstracted

Now that my server migration is coming to a close, still no thanks to sharpened, I thought about a tangent point, abstraction. I get the concept from my development process, where you define an entity and then inherit additional classes from that base. It is a great concept.
Basically as I develop an application I have to see into the future to build a scalable and more importantly maintainable class structure.
So for example let's build a class to represent a table (this is the classic example). A class contains members, either functions, properties or variables to represent the object. This is how I might go about this:

1)Define a class for a rectangle (for the surface)
Properties:
Height
Width
Thickness
2)Define a class for the leg
Properties:
Height
WidthorDiameter
Shape (Enum of either Round, square or can be expanded for other options later)
3)Define the Table Class
Properties
Surface as Rectangle
Legs(NoLegs) as Leg

So as you can tell now my table is essentially a collection of other objects that make our table. In the future we may Inherit the table class:

FormalTable
Inherits Table

Properties
Leaf as Boolean
Surfaces(NoRectanglesforSurface)

So this might be a dining room table with a leaf option, where the leaf might be one of the surfaces, and we would have two more surfaces for the other halves of the shorter version of the table.

Of course this is an over simplification of things, but do you see how nice defining a good solid base to build the rest of your world from? Great Chris is just rambling along about technical things again, well not exactly.

Think about your business processes and look for common patterns in flow or structure. As you see these things it should become easier to define an operations manual or a method of doing business. The end result will be a much more efficient business model for you to become successful.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Planning for the Future

So often I have read when starting a new business, service or product offering, just damn the torpedos and go. Often that is what I personally seem to do. Now as I am starting to become older and much more experienced in life (yet I know I have a long way to go), I am seriously second guessing this.

This weekend it was time to retire our first server from service. Over five years ago when we started Extreme Web Works, we bought a server to start out. A very expensive server at that. We wanted to make sure it could handle all the load we would be having from the thousands of new hosting customers we never really saw =>. Needless to say, we did not really know what to expect from the way we structured the server. We had everything on the one server, mail, dns, database, ftp and web. So we had a nice little eco-system that lived pretty harmoniously.

A few years ago we added a new server. This one is just a web server. As instances warranted, we migrated a few of the web sites over. So by this weekend we were left with less than a dozen sites on the old server. Unfortunately several are SharePoint sites and the first version. Also the new server houses several new version SharePoint sites. This migration requires us to migrate the database to a new server and the sharepoint sites to the web server. This has not been easy.

So as I spend several extra hours this weekend trying to move these sites I have to think about the damn the torpedos philosphy. I hear Amazon took their first orders on post it notes back in the day. Maybe so, but now whenever we build anything new I seem to think more several years into the future and making sure I have a good migration and upgrade path planned out. I think this is something that just makes more and more sense in the long run. It may take a little extra time to get things completed initially, but hey it may save you a weekend of frustration and money in the future.