Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Mad Libs" format for registration forms

Jeremy built the form to work as you'd expect. You can tab between the "blanks" just the way you tab between standard Web form input fields. You can click on any "blank" to start entering text. The password "blank" masks any characters you enter just like a standard password input, and the whole form manages errors if you answer any questions incorrectly. In other words, it works like a standard Web form but it looks quite different. The presentation is inviting and fun, which is quite unlike a standard Web form.

Narrative "Mad Libs" format for signup forms was used in the several A/B tests and *actually* increased conversion by 25-40%.

I find it very cool. What do you think?

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MySpace product document leaked

On Tuesday we posted an internal MySpace product document presenting detailed recommendations on rebuilding the MySpace developer/apps platform. Included in that post was an embed of the document hosted on Scribd. MySpace has chosen to send a DMCA notice to Scribd to have that document removed, and Scribd complied.

So we’re putting it on our own servers. You can download it in all its glory here.

If you want to fight this, MySpace, you have to come through our lawyers.

MySpace is get to fight it back, by the way. I don't think it's going to happen though. :)

Here is the direct link:

(Plenty of illustrations with comments.)

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Initial traction for startup

Maybe that number is different for you, but in all cases, we’re talking about going from no traffic to a certain level of sustainable traffic. The sustainable part is key – a large bump in TechCrunch traffic followed by no long term users does not count (trust me, we went through that once). So traction is the process of getting from customer 0 to customer 10,000 and maintaining a sustainable growth rate. founder shares his experience about getting initial traction for startup company. Interesting.

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Ads, marketing, PR & branding



Public Relations


An easy way to remember. :)

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16 Things Your Lawyer Won't Tell You

1. I use forms but charge you as if I did it from scratch.

2. I hand off work to peons but charge you a lawyer’s rate.

3. My Ivy League education doesn’t make me a better lawyer.

4. I hope you don’t look too closely at the expense report.

5. You don’t really need me.

6. My fee is negotiable.

7. You’re always on the clock.

8. I don’t know much about the law.

9. I don’t refer you to the best lawyers.

10. Your bill is only a guesstimate.

11. I don’t have to tell you how I screwed up in the past.

12. I put on a tough act but that won’t actually help your case.

13. Mediation might be the better choice.

14. I can’t easily fire you as a client.

15. I’m training junior attorneys on your dime.

16. I’m a dime a dozen.

The most of these are pretty straightforward, but it's nice to see them altogether. :)

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SEO for Startups

Rand Fishkin's (CEO of SEOmoz) presentation on SEO for Startups from the recent YCombinator alumni conference (Feb 2010). Worthwhile reading.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

MailChimp's A/B test

“Online Training” wording increased clickthroughs from the support page to the webinar page 10.4%. More importantly, webinar attendees doubled the first week the winning navigation link went live.

MailChimp run a simple test by changing Webinars to Online Training. My first idea was that Online Training would convert better. And, as you can see, I was right.

Why? I can't tell you exactly, but I have a strong feeling that webinars are often attributed to negative or neutral experience, while training (either online or offline) is good.

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Minimum Viable Product @ Zynga

How Zynga Assesses Market Demand

- Create a 5-word pitch for a new product or feature

- Put it up on a high traffic webpage

- If it gets clicks, collect the emails of interested customers

- Build a ‘ghetto’ version of the feature

- Test everything

- Iterate constantly

Interesting comments on Mark Pincus' podcast on using MVP at Zynga.

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Ooma vs Vonage

My Ooma just arrrived.  Sorry, I can't resist saving money any longer.

Lets do the simple math.  Ooma Telo is $199.99 on Amazon right now.  Premier service with free number port is $119.99 for 1 year, with $11.99 regulatory fee recovering (starts from the second year, but I'll count it in right away).  For one year of usage the price is $331.97.  

Lets do the Vonage math.  Nothing counts (I already got the whole set), but the monthly fee.  I'm paying $33.13 total for $24.99 plan in Los Angeles county. (That's a lot of different fees!)  The annual usage of the plan would be $397.56.

So Ooma wins.  If even I'll change Vonage to annual plan with $59.98 (20%) of savings, it's still $337.58, more expensive then Ooma.  And the second year is when we're either making (Ooma) or loosing (Vonage) money.  

I can also downgrade Ooma to the basic plan, still have all the features (but the call forwarding when the device is offline), and pay $11.99 a year.  With Vonage, the second year is still $300+ more.  And so on and so forth.

By the way, I am not going to use either Vonage or Ooma much.  That's why keeping the costs as low as possible is very important.

Do your math, stop wasting money for something with no value. P.S. And Ooma looks better.  Even if I keep it hidden in the closet, it's always nice to know. :)

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Calendar or TODO ?

Today I found myself using iCal for the first time during last three to four weeks. And it looks like a trend already.

I'm not using calendar any more. I have no need for it. Everything is going to my TODO list. Think about it. Every note in the calendar should require some action, otherwise, it's not worth noting it. Birthday? Send a gift. Meeting? Make sure to arrive in time.

Well, the day representation in TODO is often loose to calendar, however, with things like TeuxDeux, it's arguable.

And you still keep the day on schedule.

So what about you?

P.S. Well, I'm cheating a little bit. I still keep the availability notes for people other than me in the calendar, to make sure that I can adjust my upcoming plans according to theirs schedule as well. However, I should find the solution to this problem shortly, too.

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Cassandra @ Twitter

MyNoSQL: If you draw a line, what were the top reasons for going with Cassandra?

Ryan King:

  • No single points of failure
  • Highly scalable writes (we have highly variable write traffic)
  • A healthy and productive open source community

Interesting interview with Ryan King @rk about Cassandra at Twitter.

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Customer Validation by Ash Maurya

At the end of Customer Discovery you should have identified a customer problem worth solving and started building your solution (MVP). During Customer Validation, you’ll test your finished MVP by selling it to earlyvangelists and in the process start developing a repeatable and scalable sales process.

One more great post by Ash Maurya on Customer Validation. Give it a look.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Tracking Amazon prices

I really liked using @camelcamelcamel for tracking down Amazon price for ooma Telo, which I'm about to enjoy (almost free calls for ever!). Instant email & Twitter notification saved me almost 20%. Plus you can see the history back. Very recommended!

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The Writers Junction

One more coworking spot found in LA.  

It's the writers junction in Santa Monica, CA.  While it looks like they target writers auditory, they do provide coffee, tea, printing and wireless Internet - so this sounds like a pretty good match for tech community also.  24x7, unlimited access is $140 on a 6 months commitment and $125 on 1 year contract.  But they also impose one-time $75 initiation fee.  However, they don't have day passes and walk-ins, and any type of commitments turn me away.  

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Coworking in Los Angeles

I'm currently considering a coworking space for occasional needs.  Sometimes more, sometimes less.  Actually, it's all driven by the cost.  If I'd be lucky enough to find something similar to Mountain View's Hacker Dojo I would go with it right away.  Anyways, here is what I've found so far:

Office & Company in Pasadena, CA.  The closest location to my place, and probably the cheapest one.  They do have drop-in rate for $25 a day, with full membership price of $350/month.  If they would provide a half day for $10 or close, I'd go with them by no means.

CoLoft in Santa Monica, CA.  One of the newest, I guess, and pretty interesting.  The cheapest plan is 5 hours a month for $30, which is sorta okay, but still doesn't look to be within the budget.  Spending 4 days a week, at least 3-4 hours a day, can end up with about 64 hours a month, and the lowest closet plan is 50 hours a month for $199.  Ouch.

theOffice in Santa Monica, CA.  They provide an intro rate of $149 for month and then it goes up.  The limited amount of guest passes is $39 per day.  I've heard that they are pretty cool, but they're rather expensive.

And finally Blankspaces in Los Angeles, CA.  They are the most expensive, from what I was about to understand.  However, the day rate working out of the work bar for 5 hours is only $20.  Which is pretty cool.

That's all I found so far.  Which is not a lot, but still an option.  I'll keep an eye on the new places.  And while I'd prefer beach area :) I'll be probably do fine with the central LA.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

What is the best blogging platform for occasional blogger (like ?

I'm becoming unhappy with Blogger gradually day by day, so I'm starting to consider my options. Please, help me out.


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P.S. Yes, I'm over excited about them. :)

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Experiments in lean pricing

I strongly feel that, especially for SaaS products, starting with free and figuring out premium later (all too common) is backwards. If you know you are going to be charging for your product, start by validating if anyone will pay first. There is no better success metric and it leads to less waste in the long run. Focusing on the premium part of freemium first lets you really learn about your unique value proposition — the stuff that will get you paid. You can then come back and intelligently offer a free plan (if you still want to) with more intelligence and the right success metrics clearly defined. Even if you think you have a one-dimensional pricing plan like I did (e.g. number of projects), you’d be better served testing it with paying users because pricing experiments take a much bigger toll than other types of experiments

Great guest article by Ash Maurya, who went thru and telling about his experience with pricing experiments and how valuable can they be. Although I'm not very agree that free-to-paid approach is backwards most of the time, he's still very right that putting out your original intentions to charge is a great way to start working on your pricing scheme.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Smashing Book

I've just finished this book. Well, my impression is mixed. This is a solid product from the reputable resource, however, I didn't find much for myself in it. It was a worthwhile reading though.

It's sold exclusively by the Smashing Magazine, and I had a chance to get it with 20% discount and free shipping my pre-ordering. It's a little bit on expensive side now ($29.90 plus shipping costs), but the print is great. (However, because of the format, I wasn't feeling comfortable reading it -- to tight and small.)

If you're in the Web business, and, especially, designing stuff, make sure to take a look at it.

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Amazon Associates Bookmarklet

Amazon Associates Bookmarklet

A bookmarklet to convert any Amazon product page into a page 'tagged' with your Amazon Associates ID

Amazon Associates Bookmarklet v1.1

To use this bookmarklet, follow these steps:

  1. Drag the above link to your browser's toolbar.
  2. Edit the JavaScript to reflect your Amazon Associates ID (i.e., change "justinblanton-20" to your ID).
  3. Click the bookmarklet while you are on any Amazon product page.
  4. Wait for the page to refresh and then, depending on your intended use, either do nothing or copy/paste the URI that's now in the address bar.

I've tested this only on Firefox and Safari, but it should work with most any web browser.

*Disclaimer*: I love Amazon. And I have Amazon Associates account that gives me a chance to send people to Amazon thru my referral links and get paid. I usually generate about 10 bucks in 6 months, so this is more like fun rather than a business. :)

Anyways, after getting tired of Firefox slowness on my Mac laptop and moving to Safari, I found that I missing the Amazon Affiliates plugin more than I thought I would. Even after Amazon has added a site bar on the top of the page, it still needs too much of clicks and keystrokes.

So I thought that I would do a quick bookmarklet to make a proper affiliates link for Amazon pages. However, Googling first, I found this link and it was working fine.

With one little issue - the link was still too long. Well, it's much shorter than what Amazon gives to me, but still long. So I tweaked the Javascript code a little bit to make it produce a better links:



You can probably do well without URL shortener now.

Here is the code:


Sorry if it doesn't read well - I don't know all the tricks of Posterous' bookmarklet, yet, too. :) Enjoy.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Ruby Quicktips

Random Ruby and Rails tips.
This blog is dedicated to deliver short, interesting and practical tidbits of the Ruby language and Ruby on Rails framework.

Nice collection of tips and tricks on Ruby (+oR). Not that big (about 20 so far?), but nice thing to keep in bookmarks.

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Они забирают нашу прелесссть!

Google Buzz is DOA ?

Horowitz said Google is considering separating Buzz from Gmail, so that people can participate independently from email. The company might also allow people on Buzz to claim new names and redirect anyone seeking them at their old profiles to the new locations. Horowitz says Google also continues to look at ensuring search is a good way for people to locate the “right” people, as well.

Google has responded quickly to some of the concerns raised this week. In a blog post Thursday, Buzz Product Manager Todd Jackson shared and explained three changes:

  1. More visible option to not show followers/people you follow on your public profile
  2. Ability to block anyone who starts following you
  3. More clarity on which of your followers/people you follow can appear on your public profile

Some users and industry watchers are still unimpressed with Google’s changes. It may be that ending the marriage of Buzz and Gmail is Google’s best option to address these ongoing concerns.

This is so funny.

My experience with Google Buzz was very mixed. It looks *great* at the same time as being *too much*. All this linkage of other sites and accounts gave me a strong feeling of the Friendfeed's chatroom applied to the wrong place. (I don't use Friendfeed, so excuse me offending, if I do.)

I'd say Buzz might be more interesting for me running separately though.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Русский часовщик проектирует часы

Несмотря что по дизайну часы очень на любителя (по-крайней мере, пока что), идея просто замечательная и я постараюсь проследить за судьбой. Интересно, найдет ли применение мой обзор "заводных головок" в данном проекте ( :)

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