Email your problems away

This week I’ve been struggling to set up a new mac after my trusty MacBook Pro died last Sunday (Please, no flowers.). If you’re not a rails/mysql/mac kind of developer you won’t care about the gory details and if you are, they would only keep you up at night.

But one good thing (actually 3) came out the experience; my good friend Corey Maass, PHP dev master and founder of and intro’ed me to two of his RonR friends – Scott and Todd.

The other good thing was by taking the time to compose an email to Scott and Todd with the exception, code, and log and play-by-play, I stepped back from the whole mess, saw it objectively, and am 99% sure the way I installed mySQL is to blame.

One reason why people used to write with ink or a typewriter and physically send the paper to another person was the whole ritual made you put your thoughts in order. Made you think – not multitask react. A good thing to remember how to do.

Creative Commons License photo credit: a.drian

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Bob WalshEmail your problems away

Is your Startup Tapworthy?

After six Evernote notes, three great ideas for my startup, two epiphanies and grabbing five great apps I’d never heard of, I’m through with the first two chapters (of 11!) of the brand new book Tapworthy: Designing Great iPhone Apps by Josh Clark. I don’t know which is going to give out first – my brain from all the great ideas, insights, and examples Josh has in his book or my budget for new Apple iPhone apps.

Yes, this is a book of chapter, verse, example, and tightly-edited interviews with developers behind some of the biggest iPhone apps. But that’s a disguise. It’s really an awesome set of fresh, up-to-date and useful ways to think about how you design iPhone apps, smartphone apps, desktop apps, web apps, you name it. This is not your typical rehash conventional software interface “best practices” book.

What Josh nails is a sea change in what people expect of software apps, especially mobile apps. It’s why Windows smartphones and the like were dead markets for software developers – and why there’s 225,000 iPhone apps and counting. Get this right, and your startup is on the road to fame and fortune. Skip over it, and you miss the boat.

This is an interface, big-idea, that’s-why-that-design-works book, not a coding book. Nor is it a “how to market your iPhone app book”. That said, the interviews alone with designers of big important iPhone apps about how they really designed those apps is worth the price many times over.

While Sara Peyton at O’Reilly was nice enough to send me a review copy, I’d have bought this book in a New York minute – as a physical book, it’s what a book should be: full gorgeous, color, great content structure, well-written and edited.

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Bob WalshIs your Startup Tapworthy?

What’s black and white and red all over?

The answer to this elementary school riddle used to be something called a newspaper, but the new answer is 37signals latest product for the iPad: Draft.

What does Draft do? On a black background you can draw with your finger in white or red, email your draft or post it to 37signals’ Campfire. You can undo, use an eraser, or delete a draft. And that’s it. For (a relatively expensive) $9.99.

Best app I’ve bought yet for initial interface prototyping on the iOS4 platform, maybe any platform.

Up to yesterday when Draft hit the App Store, I’d been using Interface (also $9.99) – a great app that will let you prototype an interface and export it to Xcode:

… in about a thousand taps.

With Draft, with 37signals ruthless simplicity approach to design, I can draw out enough of an interface so I can start defining the idea, picture it, imagine how it will work, wrestle with it – all the good things you should do during the first stage of prototyping.

Now this Draft may (will) mean nothing to you, but it externalizes about a dozen design/interface ideas for a iPad productivity app that have been bouncing around my head like a dozen dropped ball bearings on a kitchen floor. And it took under three minutes from turning on my iPad, to drawing it out, to getting it via email and dropping it into this post. That is awesome.

Yes, there is a million features I’d like to see (Jason – multiple levels of undo and double-tap for a text note!), but that’s the point: by paring down to the most minimal of features, the user can and has to use the app to do the one thing it was meant to do: drafts.

We are so used to a software world where every tool has to be multipurpose because it costs time, brain cells and money to acquire any facility with them. So starved for the right tool to do a specific job that companies use Excel to project manage multi-billion dollar bridge retrofits and developers use the Google command line to manage their lives.

Note I turned on my machine, opened the app, did the work, leveraged the value by sharing it (with myself), closed the app, turned off my iPad in under three minutes. That’s a whole new ball game for software developers and a huge opportunity for startups and microISVs willing to let go of the old paradigm.

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Bob WalshWhat’s black and white and red all over?

MicroISV Digest 06/24/2010

Community News:

  • Rob Walling, The Micropreneur Academy, has brand new book out: Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer’s Guide to Launching a Startup is out. Have not yet had time to read it, but Rob knows his stuff, and people I respect are raving about it.
  • There’s a new website, SoftCity, focused on connecting software developers, and experts with software users. The site provides a single destination for discussing, commenting, posting articles and reviews as well as trying and buying software. Think independent small developer Apple App Store + social media. If you’re looking for another channel to reach customers (and you should), check them out.

Interesting questions with useful answers:

News/posts for microISVs and Startups:, The Startup Success Podcast and other plugs:

  • New Guide at this week. ( is a subscription-based community of startup founders; if you’re not already a member, get your free 30 day free trial membership):
  • New show at the Startup Success Podcast:
    • Show #72 [link] [iTunes]. This week Bob and Pat talk with Adeo Ressi, creator of the Founder Institute (FI), a unique four-month apprenticeship and training program for startup founders running in multiple cities. Adeo shares FI’s approach to recruiting startups that results in a 75% success rate, answers questions about how FI works and has some excellent advice for startups.
      Also this week, Bob recently interviewed Alex Kölpin of Berlin Partner. If you are a US startup thinking about opening an EU office, Berlin Partner – a public/private partnership promoting Berlin as a Startup hub – has a great deal for you. Alex also has some very good advice for EU and German startups looking for assistance in breaking into the US market.
  • Active Scholarships at

(If you have an announcement of interest to your fellow microISV, indies or startups, please email me at with the word digest in the subject.)

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Bob WalshMicroISV Digest 06/24/2010

Thanks Chris Brogan!

With the noise level on the internets set permanently to overwhelming it’s rare to find one, let alone three great posts. In the same week. From the same blogger. If you’re not already reading him every day, let me introduce you to Chris Brogan.

  • June 19th – Stepping in Do. Like in doing. “Ideas aren’t worth a damn until they’re moved forward into doing.” Exactly.
  • June 21st – Stay Human. Something easy to forget in the mad rush to tap social media. “Somewhere in this process, we often time reduce the sense that there’s a human relationship element to it all. Sure, we have a lot to do. Sure, we want all our efforts to have plenty of impact. But is that to be gained to the detriment of acting more human?”
  • June 23rd – A Simple Blogging Formula. Want to know how to successfully blog – and by extension, Tweet and whatever it is you do on Facebook? In 816 words Chris absolutely, positively nails it.

That is consummate professionalism. I’d recommend you start following his blog via – RSS, iPhone, web, email – whatever works for you. I am.

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Bob WalshThanks Chris Brogan!

Walking the thin line.

If you want to get someone’s attention, write like Darren Rowse does when he tweets and posts (How I Conquered Being Undisciplined and Started Getting Things Done). He got mine!

Darren found the sweet spot today between too few challenges and too many deadlines, too little excitement and too much stress. What do you get when you hang out in between same old same old and OMG stress? Productivity.
Darren Rowse

It’s worth noting that while Darren could be stress out to the max by all that he’s doing (5 posts in one day, working on the marketing for new ebook, etc. etc.), he’s not. I don’t know Darren well enough to say how he escaped being stressed, but I would bet it’s because he really enjoys what he does, knows when to back off, and that carrot/stick (money) is not his prime motivation.

How about you? How are you doing as far as setting enough deadlines to keep the ball rolling and life interesting and having so much on your plate you can barely lift it? Where the thin line between mundane and overwhelmed is on your particular path changes everyday: the trick is to keep in mind boredom and being overwhelmed are the side ditches you want to steer between, not get stuck in.

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Bob WalshWalking the thin line.

We should discuss this.

And now we can at I just put into production Version 2.15, adding Group-centric Discussions to S2D. What’s Group-centric? It’s my stab at keeping Discussions and their Posts on-topic. Over the past 4+ years I’ve been a moderator at Joel on Software Business of Software Forum. Many is the time I’ve wished for some way to organize threads along major topics. At the same time, most PHPBB-like forums go too far, splitting up conversations into way too many topics costing too much time to move up and down their hierarchy.

Basically, I’ve taken the model of the Business of Software (threads with posts arranged by order) and added two things: the ability to see and rank Discussion and their Posts, and the ability to go beyond just plain text.

One of the best things about the Business of Software forum is how little if any spam gets in front of readers. Part of that is FogBugz’s automatic Bayesian filter and part of that is the ongoing efforts of the moderators. Keeping spam out of a forum, and if necessary banning trolls and the like, is a top priority for any good forum. At, first you need to be a member and secondly, there’s a “report spam” button available on every Discussion and Post.

In fact, if you are a regular at the Joel on Software Business of Software Forum,  the Association of Software Professionals Forum, the SoftwareCEO Forum or another software startup forum, sign up for free 30 day trial at, email me, and for the the asking and your participation, I’ll be happy to comp you a six-month membership.

Just to be crystal clear here, I’m not trying to woo you away from any of these forums. I’m hoping you’ll find additional value for your time and participation at and this is a small way to pay back all the help and good advice I’ve gotten at BOS and elsewhere.

Coming soon will be two more features I think will make for even more value: Discussion reputations will be accessible to all members as they browse and participate in Discussions and the ability to not just add a Post but add a Post with an embedded Resource, Tip or Event. So often, people are looking for answers when they participate in a forum: by making it really easy to create Resources, Tips and Events within Discussions, I hope to increase the value of everyone’s participation to all of us.

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Bob WalshWe should discuss this.

MicroISV Digest – 06/17/2010

Community News:

  • A quiet week…

Interesting questions with useful answers:

News/posts for microISVs and Startups:

  • So who are the 50 prominent startups who you should keep an eye on? Louis Gray knows., The Startup Success Podcast and other plugs:

  • No new Guides at this week. ( is a subscription-based community of startup founders; if you’re not already a member, get your free 30 day free trial membership):
    • New: In the next day or so I will be rolling out Discussions in Groups. Discussions has been one of the most asked-for features; I think you’ll find the implementation I’ve come up with fosters useful discussions while keeping noise to a minimum and spam to zero.
  • One new show at the Startup Success Podcast:
    • Show #71 [link] [iTunes]. This week Bob and Pat talk with well-respected Silicon Valley strategist Nilofer Merchant about her book, “The New How: Creating Business Solutions Through Collaborative Strategy“.

      How can you build a business – large, small or micro – that can compete and succeed in a world where constant change is the norm? Nilofer walks us through the components of the new how, why so many large companies suffer from an air sandwich between goals and execution, murderboards and their uses, and how even the smallest company needs to take conscious charge of their business culture.

  • Active Scholarships at


(If you have an announcement of interest to your fellow microISV, indies or startups, please email me at with the word digest in the subject.)

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Bob WalshMicroISV Digest – 06/17/2010

Announcing the Scholarship

It’s easy when you are a small startup to become 150% wrapped up in it; after all, you’re building your dream. That’s why it’s very cool when a startup takes time out from what they are doing to help other startups. Today we are announcing the start of the Scholarship.

Here’s how Aimee Williamson,‘s Director of Customer Support put it:

“At, we support the entrepreneurial spirit!  We are a startup — as are many of our customers — so live the challenges daily.  One of the greatest resources out there for companies like us is is a startup by Bob Walsh, author of The Web Startup Success Guide, Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality, Clear Blogging, and two ebooks: MicroISV Sites that Sell! and The Twitter Survival Guide.  This productivity application offers: guides, site reviews, resources, events, groups, and much more!”

“To “pay it forward”, is sponsoring 2 six-month scholarships to  The lucky winners will also each receive a free test with 3 users from (a $117 value).  Good luck!”

So how do apply? Run don’t walk to your favorite Twitter client and tweet to @usertesting “I want a scholarship”. Be sure to mention @usertesting so we see your tweet. We will be in touch with the lucky winners. Thanks again,!

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Bob WalshAnnouncing the Scholarship

MicroISV Digest – 06/09/2010

Community News:

  • Sarat Pediredla, hedgehog lab, wanted to let MicroISV Digest readers know about a special offer: buy their bug tracker, fixx, and get 50% off the purchase price until the end of July. (Promo code: SQUASHMYBUGS). (Check out their site in any case: nice use of a custom font.)
  • What’s better than having four iPad apps out? Launching four more. Kristina Godfrey, School Zone, has launched “Phonics Learning Game,” “Preschool Learning Game,” “Kindergarten Learning Game,” and “First Grade Learning Game,” for $9.99 each, for preschool, kindergarten or first grade children (or their parents who actually have the credit cards.)
  • Women 2.0 Labs is a new 5-week afterwork program (July 6 – August 5, 2010) for engineers, developers, biz dev folks, and marketing mavens to develop high-growth technology ventures in San Francisco, sponsored by Women 2.0 and open to both women and men. If you want to join one of five teams building a startup with great mentors and support, definitely check this out. Deadline to apply for this program is June 20th, 2010. ( is donating six-month scholarships to all team members.)

Interesting questions with useful answers:

News/posts for microISVs and Startups:, The Startup Success Podcast and other plugs:

  • One new Guides at ( is a subscription-based community of startup founders; if you’re not already a member, you will need to start your free 30 day trial membership for these links to work.):
    • Getting Legal Advice or Services as a Lean Startup.
    • New features: You now have the option of getting a tweek, email or message when another member completes a Site Review you requested and you can choose to be notified with a tweet and/or email when you are messaged within
  • One new Show at the Startup Success Podcast:
    • Show #70 [link] [iTunes]. This week Bob and Pat talk with Social Media and PR thought leader Steve Rubel on the changing roles of blogging, social media, public relations, and advertising. The days when a startup could get by with only a blog to engage people online are over as increasingly, social media weaves its way throughout organizations small and large. As SVP, Director of Insights for Edelman Digital, a division of Edelman (the world’s largest independent PR firm), Steve shares his insights from the bleeding edge of social media transformation.
  • Active Scholarships at


(If you have an announcement of interest to your fellow microISV, indies or startups, please email me at with the word digest in the subject.)

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Bob WalshMicroISV Digest – 06/09/2010