Sweetest forum on the web

Vanilla 1 

I’ve been following the development of Mark O’Sullivan’s cool new discussion forum for the past six months.  Vanilla, “the sweetest forum on the web”, is a really amazing forum application that uses some smooth Web 2.0 AJAX and a clean user interface.  I think it’s great to see a well-done, standards-compliant forum that’s easy to install, configure and use.  He’s really taken what I love about forums and stripped out all the crap, like the focus on statistics and clunky interfaces.  You can see it running by visiting the Lussumo Community, the forum for Vanilla users.

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Unboomed

Rocketboom

I got hooked on Rocketboom again after watching their take on Net Neutrality and then Amanda Congdon gets fired a week later???  How frustrating!  Maybe she’ll take a great offer from Netscape or Om Malik’s suggestion that “PodTech should hire her – right away!” 

Great summary from Tech Crunch…

Amanda was RocketBoom. She will certainly go on to continued success. The future of RocketBoom may not be so bright.

I love the drama.  Amanda’s now posted the details of the whole ordeal.

Death of the Sales Call

I was reading through some of the archives on the FreshBooks blog and found a great response to Seth Godin’s post about the death of the sales call.  It sounds like the guys at FreshBooks are getting some of the typical inquiries that most small business software companies dread.

  • Do you offer onsite training sessions?
  • What are some of your larger customers? Would I have heard of any of them?
  • How can I be sure you will be around in the future?
  • etc. etc.
  • I think Levi’s honest answers to these questions (below) is great.  Questions about onsite training are pretty common, but isn’t it obvious that companies that they’ve “heard of” are not going to be in the same market and how can they be sure that any company will be around in the future.

  • There are no onsite training sessions, just an easy to use application with good online help
  • Most of our customers are small consultancies that you would not have heard of
  • Our application has been live for over two years, our business has been here for over three and we are here running the business and answering the phone from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM Eastern
  • Smart Casual

    Yesterday, in our management meeting, the topic of casual Friday was brought up again. First of all, I can’t define how the women in our office dress, but I assume its “business casual”. So, I can only speak on behalf of the guys. We probably don’t need to be dressed to the nines everyday, considering that we rarely have any customers in the office. The standard attire for men in our office is khackis and a dress shirt. So, I’m suggesting that we relax the dress code a bit and call it “Smart Casual” and allow some blue jeans now and then. It sounds like everyone agreed on “Casual Friday”, but everyone still hasn’t agreed on a “policy”, so we’ll see how it turns out. We are a business software company, so I don’t see our offices changing into the Googleplex, but this will probably be a good move. When you focus on being “professional” all the time, people tend to become less personal. In a small business, you have to keep it personal with your customers if you want to build great relationships with them.

    Freedbacking

    Wired News picked upnew term created by Chris Pirillo in a Bloggercon presentation last week.  He suggested using the tag “freedbacking” when you post comments or feedback about a product or service.  I think it’s a great idea to promote the concept of public feedback that’s easy for manufacturers and developers to find, but not sure if this phrase will catch on.

    Companies already offer ways for users to provide feedback, for example, through e-mail and forms. But those methods are private, giving users little sense of participation. Frequently suggestions go unheeded, with not so much as an acknowledgement or thanks from the company. As a result, Pirillo said, public feedback postings are more satisfying because they allow users to compare notes with others to see if their complaints are shared, as well as the chance to disagree and debate.

    We get a fair amout of suggestions (via email, a feedback form and sometimes by phone) from our users and we’re still small enough that I can read every one.  They’re generally very brief and there’s not much (if any) follow-up other than a quick, sincere “Thanks for your suggestion” email.  It would be great to keep the conversation going in comments on their blog or find other users having the same problems by a quick search.  Of course, this requires that your users remember to tag their posts with this new funny term.

    However, I think the real problem that our company needs to address is motivating our users to just give us any feedback.  Most of our users are busy running their companies and don’t typically give us suggestions unless they’re already working with tech support or if we’ve contacted them for some reason.  We’re getting 95% of our suggestions from 5% of our users.  In fact, I remember one customer suggested that we provide rewards (such as a $50 credit for other add-ons or services) for any suggestions that we turn into new features.  That’s an interesting idea, but we often get the same suggestions from different customers for features we’re already planning to include, so I don’t think that would work for us.

    FreshBooks

    2ndSite has changed their name to FreshBooks.  I’m pretty excited about new products like FreshBooks and QuickBooks Online Edition.  Web 2.0 apps promise a rich desktop application-like user interface, but can these products really keep up the requirements of data entry clerks that are accustomed to entering lengthy orders without looking up at the monitor?

    freshbooks

    We had a user complain one time about performance of our sales order entry once when entering an order with over 1,000 lines.  It turms out it was a simple problem in the code and we fixed it, but I can’t imagine that these web apps can keep up with large orders like that.  Of course, I assume that FreshBooks and QuickBooks Online Edition are targeted toward casual users that are not in the distribution business.

    Zillow is awesome!

    Wow!  Zillow is great!  We used Realtor.com in conjunction with our local tax appraisor’s website when we were house hunting and I’m shocked with much information Zillow gets about a property.  It actually puts a price tag on every house in the neighborhood, not the appraisal value, but an estimated market price.

    They also have a cool page that shows some famous houses.  Anyways, the site speaks for itself.  Go there now and enter your address to see the value of every house in your neighborhood.

    Zillow