Monthly Archives: November 2010

LinkPeelr: Wondrous Journey from Weekend Project to 3000+ Users

LinkPeelr has been fine and dandy. So fine, in fact, that I feel a pressing need to tell you about its progress. This is a long post — sit back and enjoy!

When I started on LinkPeelr I thought it was a neat and compact idea, and a small enough project I could actually tackle myself. I ended up launching LinkPeelr after 3 weekends of work, but I never intended for it to evolve far beyond the small project that it was. From day one I viewed it primarily as a “pipecleaner”, an app that could help me test my own ability to go from problem to launch and prepare me for more ambitious things that I’ve had simmering on the back burner.

LinkPeelr was a first in many categories. It may come as a shock but it’s the first “complete” piece of software that I wrote from scratch (all 122 lines of Python and 507 lines of JavaScript). If that’s not shocking enough for you, it’s also the first piece of software that I wrote that now has thousands of users whom I’ve never met and who don’t know me and who voluntarily choose to use this software.

Needless to say LinkPeelr has quickly outgrown its  purely experimental intent, managing for a few weeks to eclipse everything else I was thinking about and working on. This period has been a period of rapid learning, and something that I enjoyed immensely. Although I obviously set out to make LinkPeelr a learning experience of sorts, I never anticipated that this learning would come at this pace and intensity.

What follows is an account of what happened after I launched LinkPeelr, and what I’ve learned in the process. After hitting 1400 words with this post I realized that “what’s next for LinkPeelr” section had better come in its own separate write up.

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Would you like some room for cream?

Call me hopelessly naive about customer service, but there is something about “would you like some room for cream?” question that makes me feel good in a kind of subconscious “they care” way.  Here is why I think it strikes a cord:

  1. It’s not an upsell. They already sold you the coffee, so (at least in my mind) the question is not tied to the commercial transaction. They are not trying to get you to buy something else.
  2. It’s the thought that counts. What if you did decide to add cream and the cup was already full? Ever tried squeezing a plastic lid on a full cup of steaming coffee? Good luck.
  3. It’s engaging. With business transactions getting aggressively depersonalized, a personal touch (albeit a semi-automated one) is appreciated. Yes, the line between overbearing and engaging is a fine one, but here I feel this is well-balanced. I know it’s not a real conversation but it could be a beginning of one.
  4. It’s unexpected. I know I’ve been asked this so many times, but it still feels unexpected and out of ordinary routine. In my mind this is distinctly different from “How are you?”, which we all know is a formulaic greeting and is in no way an indication that the party gives a hoot about how you are actually doing.

Commercially speaking I don’t think this is of any direct value to the coffee shop. Perhaps, there is some product waste reduction and fewer lawsuits from scalded customers, but I bet that’s not why the question is asked. I think it’s asked for the warm and fuzzies, and is a subtle way to let the customer know you value their business and look out for their well-being.

At this point you might be wondering if there is some greater insight here about the evolution of customer service. Not really, but do think about what defines a good customer experience for you personally. This combination of moves works for me:

Find a way to let me know that you care about what happens after the sale is done. Make sure it’s as personal as possible and untainted by the sales pitch. Make it unobtrusive and slightly unexpected.

Then at last I am really sold!

The Strategy-Execution Deadlock

I’ve recently observed a specific product management/product engineering dynamic and I got to thinking that it’s quite common.

Observe: The engineers are clamoring for the product management to provide a roadmap or at least a high-level vision for the existing and future products in the next year or three. The product management is unwilling or unable to provide this information, but wants to know what engineering has been doing recently, i.e. some form of a progress report that they can trade in to top managers to get a green light for the ideas and vision that engineering is asking for.

This deadlock can take any form from very amusing to very dysfunctional, and I’ve personally seen this particular information flow break down on several occasions.

So how can this pattern be defeated? What would it take to break the vicious cycle? Read on to find out…

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How I grew my blog by 500% in 8 months (not really)

Disclaimer: It’s going to be a long one.

“One Budding Entrepreneur’s Story” turned 8 months on October 2nd, and I feel like enough time has elapsed to sum up my experiences writing and promoting this hodgepodge of musings, commentary, thoughts and shameful self-promotion.

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