Archive for October, 2006

Product-ize your Services

October 31, 2006

Are you one of the those people who works all day and all night and all weekend and all holidays and… well, you get the idea. 

The Internet has created a collective of consultants that are always working to bring their clients up to speed on the web.  With the constant change, it means constant work for those consultants, which hypothetically is a great situation.  The problem is that you only collect a paycheck when you’re working on the project; there’s no passive income in the consulting world.

Fortunately, most of us know what we have to do – “Product-ize your Services.”

If you’re a web application shop like 37Signals, you create a great project management application like Basecamp, because you know everyone needs it.  Coudal reiterates the mantra with “be your own client” and Threadless used design and web skills to create shirts combined with great web communities

Of course, since you’re working like crazy for your clients, you don’t have time to make a left turn into incomeless product development.  In your case, take the first step and “Order-ize your Services.”  Huh?

When a potential client contacts you, do they already know what to order, or do you have to sell them?  Think of your consulting services like a In-N-Out menu board, where your basic service, say a quick report on a company’s online marketing is a hamburger.  A cheeseburger is an online marketing plan, and the Double-Double is the implementation of the marketing plan with three months of SEM and SEO work.  Of course, some clients are going to want to order off the secret menu, but only after they’ve tasted what you’re cookin’.

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Container Data Center

October 27, 2006

There’s a lot of technical debate on whether it really makes sense to put a data center in a cargo container like Sun and possibly Google are reportedly doing.

This is a huge advancement in data center thinking because it mitigates the underlying real estate problem.  Traditionally, data centers need to be located near fiber loops (the secret buried fiber network that no telco will discuss) and have capacity for at least 50,000 square feet of conditioned rack space, UPS systems, and fuel storage to be cost competitive.  Usually they like a non-descript location too.

That’s a real estate challenge in any major market.  So a data center in a cargo container changes something?  Yes!

The data center problem is that you have to have 50,000 sf of data center space for economies of scale and the ability to take on the big customers.  Ever tried to cool 50,000 sf of office space (data center) that has a bunch of portable heaters (servers) fighting against you?  You’ve got to move a lot of air, all the time, and that is expensive, which is why lots of people are focused on data center efficiency. 

But look at what just happened to with the cargo container idea to help design a new kind of data center:

  • Standard size container
  • Movable, plug-and-play if you will
  • Self-contained cooling

So now I can drop (actually, you can stack them for even better real estate returns) a bunch of these in a warehouse that has connectivity, and I only have to cool the container!  I still need power, but if you have a couple of these around the country, you can reduce most of the redundancy. 

Again, the biggest change is cooling.  You’ve broken down the space into manageable units that can be cooled to the needs of each one. 

So do I think you’ll sell a ton of these cargo container data centers?  Nope.  What will happen is that data center operators will demise (make smaller spaces) the large data centers into manageable sections.  If you’ve only leased 10,000 sf, that’s all you cool.  If you’ve got a customer with a bunch of blades, you put them in a section with colder temperatures and more airflow – and charge more!

Just like metered powered and bandwidth, soon your data center provider will charge for cooling.  You heard it here first.

Ask.com now googles on mobile phones

October 25, 2006

You know a company has too much money and power when they start throwing around billions in stock and scolding their users

Google today announced guidelines for using the verb “google.”  Yes, they even gave examples of improper usage, one of which I’ve posted below:

Usage: ‘Google’ as verb referring to searching for information via any conduit other than Google.
Example: “I googled him on Yahoo and he seems pretty interesting.”
Our lawyers say: Bad. Very, very bad. You can only “Google” on the Google search engine. If you absolutely must use one of our competitors, please feel free to “search” on Yahoo or any other search engine 

So I thought I’d see how serious they are about policing this policy, because if they don’t then they run the risk of losing their rights. 

Ask.com released a mobile version of their search website a couple weeks ago that has some impressive mobile search features

I guess you could say Ask.com now googles on mobile phones.

Search Google Reader

October 21, 2006

Even though Google Reader is just a Google Labs project, you’d expect that if they were going to make improvements (they recently did), one of the improvements would be the ability to search Google Reader.

I doubt Google is focused on video and search is no longer important, but it seems rather idiotic to not offer a search box for the RSS feeds.  They’ve got the data, they’ve got the search engine, it just doesn’t make sense for Google.  

I think it’d be great to get search results in typical article/feed format, 1 line at a time.  Google could insert 2-3 ads at the top of the search results based on the search terms, in 1 line format, and everyone would be happy.  Google could monetize the product and add ad inventory, and I could find relevant articles without reading all the garbage, especially on Craiglist.

By the way, Google Reader is a RSS reader that allows you to keep up to date on your favorite sites.  MyYahoo is a good starting RSS reader, but it has had recent problems with common RSS feeds that they haven’t bothered fixing.  Your SEO consultant probably wants you to provide a RSS feed for your website.

Idea Factory – Trim and Wash

October 20, 2006

Ralston Ventures has a little known section of the website called the Idea Factory.  It’s an outlet for ideas that we’ll likely never get to tackle, but it makes us feel smart and lets us stop thinking about them like that Lionel Richie song in the shower. 

The Idea Factory, or Beta Factory if you like that better, released our first idea into the wild.  It’s called Trim and Wash.

Happy Birthday Ben

October 19, 2006

Ben, you’re getting old, but I doubt you’ll slow down.