Three pounds got me a tea and hot roll this morning from my local cafe. A pot of tea which should give me three decent cups of tea and a toasted flatbread with sausage. A little bit upmarket when you consider this is a cafe in the West of Scotland but also good value when you consider that it’s not your usual greasy spoon morning roll with a slice of cheap meat thrown in. Good value I think you would agree. I get enough fuel to see me through to lunchtime and enough tea to keep me working for at least two hours.
What about value on the Internet though? What determines value in the products and services that we buy but are nothing more than bytes that exist in the Internet?
Five dollars is a common price point for many products and services. Evernote offers extra bandwidth for synchronising data for this amount, Github offers a private repository for the same amount and you can follow more people on App.net for, yes you guessed it, five dollars. It’s a common price for many services but the variety of value differs from product to product.
There is a trend on the Internet when it comes to services and value. The older the service, the more value you get. It’s not true in every case, but it’s certainly applicable to many.
Take Evernote for example. Back when I first took an Evernote subscription the added value I got from it was mainly their offline notebooks and extra bandwidth for synchronising my data contained in Evernote. Now though, Evernote offers collaboration, extra security, presentation and even other premium features from their other apps. Good value if you use these on a monthly basis.
Let’s look at App.net now. Out of the box a free account gives you great value including the ability to use their Passport application and follow up to 40 people. On top of that you get 500MB of storage on their platform. For an extra five dollars a month you can follow as many people as you like and also get an extra 500MB of storage taking you to 1GB. Right okay, not the range of extra value that Evernote offers but it is value. App.net is young though and in time they may offer more to its paying customers to encourage free customers to upgrade.
The trouble with comparing these services and more is that there’s usually only a handful of great services in each market. Comparing services from different markets isn’t going to work. It’s not fair to say that Evernote offers more value than App.net but in terms of a basic feature count, yes it offers more, but it depends on person to person what features they use.
For many of us that use the Internet on a daily basis though, we live in a time where five dollars is nothing. It’s a fancy coffee or even breakfast. I don’t think five dollars to me is a lot of money to pay for a serivce online for a month. Even the most basic service is worth paying for.
If it provides value to you as a consumer then why not?
What’s the minimum you would pay for extra features and value from a service?
Also does that price change depending on the important of the service you are using. Would a service critical to your business warrant a larger minimum price so that it continues to support your business?
Yesterday I decided to pull the plug on the Netterpress newsletter. Saying no to your own ideas is difficult to do. You want it to grow. You want it to succeed. It doesn’t always end up this way though. The journey to a successful product is hard work and needs a significant amount of effort. After working on Netterpress for over a month it was clear that it wasn’t something that was worth doing given the amount of money that was coming in from initial subscribers. This wasn’t the only problem though.
A Small Community
App.net is still a small community when compared to other well known social networks but it shouldn’t be pushed aside for its size though. There’s still a fair amount of daily interaction that goes on here and it is growing on a daily basis. It can’t be compared to the millions of users that other networks can and that restricts the number of potential customers that a premium newsletter like Netterpress can have.
I was buoyant about the newsletter when I first wrote about the idea, but when I unveiled the sign up page and price, the take up for it was low. The number of interested subscribers just wasn’t there. With a bigger network, there may have been more of an interest, but App.net being a small community means that there just isn’t enough people there interested in the newsletter.
Sourcing News & Content
I had a plan at the start which involved finding content to put in the newsletter from a number of sources. The first was to follow a number of developer accounts for apps on App.net and a few other accounts that would give me news on app updates and changes to App.net.
The problem with this is anyone else on App.net can follow these accounts and get the same news for free. I was counting on the fact that I would do the leg work in correlating the news and updates from a number of different accounts and present them in one easy to read list.
Another plan I had for finding content was the use of hashtags that people could include in their posts if they want a post with a link to feature in a newsletter. Unfortunately this idea wasn’t conveyed as well as I could have and was never used in the entire time that Netterpress ran.
The last strategy I used for finding content was the use of saved searches in the Felix app on my iPad. I setup a number of saved searches within the app and checked them on a daily basis. Some content for the newsletter came through this way but it wasn’t the flood of newsletter content that I was hoping for.
Most of the content for the newsletter came from spending a few minutes each day searching links in my own timeline and the timeline for the Netterpress account. It was time consuming and certainly wasn’t an efficient method.
One thing I took away from the experience of running the newsletter was that it is a time consuming task. I now have new found respect for those people that curate content for the benefit of others, whether they run a newsletter, a blog or even a magazine. Publishing a periodical for others to read is hard work and it needs a lot of time and thought.
You can get so far by automating the curation process but it still needs a final check to confirm that the final content is okay for the newsletter. Although I didn’t get the entire process automated, the curation process for one part of the newsletter was almost fully automated but it did need a last check before publishing the newsletter.
It’s Not The End
The newsletter itself is not dead however. Shortly after announcing the retirement of the newsletter, I received an email from another App.net member who wishes takeover the newsletter and publish it on a more irregular schedule for free. I’m in the process of migrating over the assets of Netterpres including the account the subscribers that have allowed their email address to be given to the new owner.
It’s good that the newsletter will in fact live on, but it wasn’t a viable product during it’s first run. This might change with a new owner and perhaps making it free for a while will get enough subscribers so that one day it could eventually pay for itself in some way.
I’m done with this idea though. It’s time to sit back for a few days and catch up on reading, writing and code. Another idea will come along soon and when it does, I will start the process of evaluating it as a product all over again.
- Justifying Purchases
- Teaching My Kid Programming: A Retrospective
- Write from the Beginning
- Plain Text Data Please
- Dropped the ball
- One Gesture, Multiple Actions
- How to Keep a Programming Journal
- Who Are You?
- Things To Do With A Bad Back
- Considering a Standing Desk
- Netterpress – A Retrospective
- Social Networks: The False Ego Boost
- Switching to Annual Subscriptions
- Remembering the Start Page
- Make It Stick
- The Marketing Alternative to Social Networks
- Blog Update: New Posting Routine
I’m coming to the end of a project with a client. In the past I would have made sure the client was happy, closed the project off and collected the rest of my fee for the work. So would many freelancers. The work is done, you’re done. Right? Maybe not.
Over the last few months a number of projects have been started and finished with the same client. This has led to a familiarity that is great for day to day communication, but as a working team we have become complacent in the work we are doing and there is clearly room for improvement in how we work together to finish each project.
In an agile team, frequent retrospectives are used to find out what’s working for the team, what isn’t and areas where the team can improve. It’s a time of reflection. As part of a my pledge to deliver a professional service, I’m am now going to give a retrospective for each project that I finish with a client.
Essentially it’s a report of three areas. Developers will recognize the questions as they are the same questions asked when an agile team gets together for their own retrospective. So why not apply the same idea to client work as well?
1. Where did we go wrong?
Admitting where a project went wrong can be difficult for all concerned. It’s not a finger-pointing exercise though. If you think I’m picking at your faults, then you’re probably not the type of client I want to work with. We’re simply trying to isolate the problems areas so that we can change them for the better.
2. Where did we do well?
Highlighting where a project went well is important for any future work I do with a client. This is often over looked and we should never just think the work that is done on time and within budget is okay. If work is carried out within these constraints, then recognising that success is a great area to start for future projects. I want to build on a set of good practices that we both recognise so that future projects become easier to do.
3. Where could we improve?
We found out where we went wrong from the first question, but is there something we can do to fix this for future projects? If we are to continue working together, then it would benefit everyone if we could gradually improve on projects in the past. Less bumps on the road means projects can be finished to a higher quality, on schedule and with-in our agreed budget. Who doesn’t want to work like that?
I have a first retrospective coming up in the next couple of weeks, and I’ve already collected a number of different observations from the project where both myself and the client could improve. Not all clients will be happy to read the retrospective or even take any advice from it. That’s okay, it’s their choice. For those clients that want to improve on future projects when working with me, I’ll be more than happy to help them resolve problems from the retrospective and suggest recommendations for future projects with them.
The project doesn’t end with the last commit or deploy, it ends when I’ve exceeded the expectations of the client and helped them get the most from our time together working on a project.
The last couple of weeks have been busy. Freelance work is steady, the house is going under a period of refurbishment that will keep me busy for the next six months and then there’s my side projects like Netterpress and Journalong to keep me busy.
With everything that’s going on I don’t feel that I’m getting enough time to keep my routine of a blog post every weekday going. My list of ideas was running rather short for a while there and coming up with new ideas when you’re so busy is not a good idea. For a while there I thought my posts had dipped in quality, and that’s not how I envision this to go. If anything I wanted my quality of writing to go up.
So I’ve made the decision to scale back on the posting frequency during the week. I want to publish three times a week. It’s not every weekday but then it’s frequent enough to keep you the reader interested. If I decided to just publish when I felt like it, I think eventually this blog would just sit and lie dormant. I still need an aim for each week.
The usual routine of my Fixie Friday and Link Love posts will continue to run as well. All the subscription details can be found here.
Writing is still something I enjoy doing, but I’m getting to the stage now where I want more quality than quantity in my posts. I’m prepared to reduce my posting routine in the hope that I can increase my quality of writing. It might take a few weeks before I see it happening, but having the extra time to think, write and edit is definitely better than rushing through a quick post and not giving it much thought.
We’ll see how it goes.
A reminder from Michael Wade that we need log our day as it happens.
How else are you going to see where your time has gone?
A reminder from Carl Holscher that opinions on everything aren’t a necessity.