Switch to the cloud – shift of a century

The switch to cloud is way bigger than you think

A Review of Nicholas Carr’s book “The Big Switch”, available on Amazon here.

Also find Sean Hull’s ramblings on twitter @hullsean.

Do you work in devops or as a performance consultant? Do you manage web applications backed by databases? If so you probably love high performance beefy iron, big servers with equally fast RAID arrays that deliver lightening fast response to an entire application and ultimately your customers.

A related article, Devops can learn from Sandy, serious and very real disaster recovery lessons.

So if you’re like me you may feel a little leery about the cloud. On AWS for example, server commoditization has taken infrastructure for a sharp turn south. We struggle with unreliable disk performance & shared network bandwidth, while our applications compete with other customers in the so-called multi-tenant environment. Even the servers themselves drop like flies. Something’s got to give!

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All of them would be wise to study the examples of General Electric and Westinghouse. A hundred years ago, both these companies were making a lot of money selling electricity-production components and systems to individual companies. That business disappeared as big utilities took over electricity supply. But GE and Westinghouse were able to reinvent themselves. They became leading suppliers of generators and other equipment to the new utilities, and they also operated or invested in utilities themselves. Most important of all, they built vast new businesses supplying electric appliances to consumers — businesses that only became possible after the arrival of large-scale electric utilities. Sometimes a company can discover an even better business if it’s willing to abandon an old one.
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Shopping for a smartphone? Find out why the Android platform is broken.

That’s why Carr’s book offers an eerie and uncanny read. What we’re seeing today in infrastructure very closely parallels what happened to electricity before it. Turns out at the turn of the century electricity production was not centralized and no electric grid was yet criss-crossing the country. Big companies actually built and managed their own power plants.

What happened?

Through the efforts of great entrepreneurs like Thomas Edison & Samuel Insull, the electricity production machinery were centralized and eventually incorporated and run by government managed utilities. All of this drove costs of electricity precipitously downward.

Looking for a database expert? Take a look at our MySQL Interview guide for candidates, hiring managers and recruiters alike.

How did we benefit? Oh can you count the ways?

Now households could afford electricity too. Next we saw consumer appliances and automation begin. Vacuum cleaners to washing machines flourished, bringing social change with it.

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What the fiber-optic internet does for computing is exactly what the alternating-current network did for electricity: it makes the location of the equipment unimportant to the user. But it does more than that. Because the internet has been designed to accomodate any type of computer and any form of digital information, it also plays the role of Insull’s rotary converter: it allows disparate and formerly incompatible machines to operate together as a single system. It creates harmony out of cacophony.
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Cloud providers fail, components fail, datacenters fail. Find out why AirBNB & Reddit didn’t have to fail even while it’s AWS cloud went down.

The takeaway

The shift to cloud computing is way bigger than one application or one business. And the gains and momentum are way larger than we in devops may realize. With that it’s an inexorable shift, and one we would do well to embrace. Like all shifts we need to learn to adopt our technologies, as the benefits to business are incalculable.

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When Clients Don't Pay – Consulting War Stories

Also find Sean Hull’s ramblings on twitter @hullsean.

It’s a cold cold winter out there, so as they say you need money to keep the lights on? Yep, that’s true whether you’re a small business or a consultant. Everyone has to pay their bills. Or do they?

It’s an unfortunate fact of life in business, but sometimes there are differences. Disagreements about deliverables, timelines, milestones, and deadlines. But when all the work is done, there are still sometimes differences over dollars.

Over the years most of those I’ve managed to work out with clients, but there were a few that went sour. One case was with a large entertainment firm. The music business is one that I hadn’t interacted with much before. For these guys I’d done a few days work in the past, and was paid promptly. Now they were in a bit of a jam. They called me up and asked if I could help.

Related article: A CTO Must Never Do This.

These types of emergencies often come at the worst times, and I explained that I was already juggling a few other things. They pleaded for help, and I relented. I carved out a full day of time for them, explaining the day rate and so forth. While on the phone though, I expressed caution.

[quote]I understand that your issue is urgent now, what happens if your needs change in the next 48 hours, I asked? Not a problem they replied, we can use your help anyway, so we’ll book you either way. Fast forward 48 hours, work canceled & client won’t take my call.[/quote]

Great I thought, verbal assurances. That works for me, I thought.

Fast forward 32 hours, and I receive an email saying the problem is resolved, and offering a “kill fee” of which I knew nothing, and which was never negotiated or discussed.

Along comes the day of reconning, and I call the client. They don’t take my call. Shortly there after I receive additional emails. I reply and explain we should talk on the phone. Still the client can’t find the time to pickup the call.

So I judiciously put together an invoice for the work. I email it directly to finance, and CC all parties. From there I get responses ranging from disinterest to denial. Over the coming months I periodically resend the invoice, but to no avail.

Or was it? I actually feel that this experience is to great avail.

1. Small disagreements foreshadow larger ones down the road
2. A relationship between client and vendor is a mutual one. If parties can only pickup the phone when they need something, then things are out of balance already.

Sure I lost a day & the fee associated. But I gained a lesson.

Patience and polite persistence

I firmly believe that being patient and persistent wins in the end. Sometimes clients have hiccups in payroll or budgets. Keep communication lines open.

Freelancers & consultants: Grab my Consulting 101 Guide.

Appealing to fairness

If you maintain a healthy relationship with your client, then appeals to fairness are normally heeded.

Appealing to promises

Emails are important to keep a paper trail of agreements. Communicate clearly and often so you know when you get derailed, and can refer back to what was agreed previously.

Popular: AirBNB didn’t have to failed – AWS hosting outages.

Setting precedents & expectations up front

This is an important one, that freelancers and consultants alike sometimes forget. Setting and agreeing on expectations is key. Often details are in the fine print or left out completely. So ongoing communication can iron out those differences or bring them to light.

Want to hire the best? Read our DBA Interview Guide.

Getting a protective deposit

If you haven’t worked together before, a deposit makes a lot of sense. Executing on this is more than a show of faith. It underlines that accounts payable is on board with your hiring, and you are now in the payments system.

Related: Hiring is a numbers game

Sizing each other up

Websites provide the first representation of you and your client to each other. How you carry yourself and how they feel meeting them face to face is important as well. Ideally you’ll meet each other at the client’s offices, where you may meet others on the team, and put names to faces. At the very least a skype call will go a long way as well.

Managing spend – communication along the way

Keep a close eye on invoices. If a client is getting behind, resolve it before continuing to work. Deadlines are mutual in a business relationship. Yours to complete work by a certain date, and theirs to pay by an equally agreed upon time.

Read also: Real Disaster Recovery Lessons from hurricane Sandy.

Never go to court – defer to the handshake & gentleman’s agreement

I know the lawyers out there may think I’m naive. But I’ve been in business a long time, and I believe a handshake means and says a lot. Also common sense language & contracts, in the form of emails and so forth are better than heavily legalese ones that no one but a lawyer can understand.

What’s more going to court has a huge cost in time & stress. Don’t go that route. I also think it appeals to clients knowing that you’re not the litigious sort.

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Fear a zombie invasion? Try algorithms & bots

Automate This - How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World - Christopher Steiner

Automate This - How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World - Christopher Steiner

Also find Sean Hull’s ramblings on twitter @hullsean.

Have you read any of those tongue in cheek books on how to survive the coming zombie apocalypse? They’re funny in their own way, and reading Chris Steiner’s book it was the first image that popped into my head.

Countless industries falling to the algorithm invasion

I thought i followed automation & computer algorithms closely. Turns out this stuff is touching a *LOT* more industries than I even realized. Not only touching, but altering and changing the landscape of jobs. In many cases supporting & helping folks do their jobs better. In others they’re actually supplanting jobs.

Wall street – very high speed trading

The biggest industry that algorithms first touched was wall street. Rewind the clock back to 1980 and enter Thomas Peterffy. He went about applying mathematics to commodities options trading which to that point had been traded on gut instinct. The math won out, and he went on to become a so-called market maker on wall street.

The automation & computerization of trading continued at breakneck speed into the 90′s sucking up all the best math & science minds that the Ivy schools could churn out.

[quote]In a world where an increasing amount of power is being accumulated by those who can fashion and leverage algorithms with skill & finesse, our future looks to be one filled with bots judging us, routing us & measuring us. – Chris Steiner[/quote]

Enter high frequency trading and you know where this is going. We’ve weathered the near collapse of the financial system in 2008, and endless market shocks at least some of which can be traced back to algorithms. Today a full 60% of the world stock markets are run by high frequency computerized trading.

On a related note, check out Eli Pariser’s book The Filter Bubble which talks about search, and how algorithms are crafting and steering what we see and read.

Software & the creation of music

Our next stop is a strange one. We meet David Cope who, with a fascinating mix of music & love of writing software, built code to compose music. He then even played it at concerts. He astounded then infuriated critics who couldn’t tell what was composed by a human and what by computer. Some even loved the Cope code generated music more!

And after that it just gets stranger. He introduces us to the music industry software that analyzes music for it’s potential to be a hit. Can such software find unknown geniuses? Does it do away with the job of the A&R man?

It sure poses some tough questions. If such software can make record companies more profitable, no one will scoff.

Health care takes a lashing

Next up software touches the art of medicine, and the sacred science of diagnosis. First we’re seeing software that assists doctors, helping find cancers and analyzing symptoms & databases of diagnosis. But what of the day when such software does the job better. It’s already happening.

With rising health care costs, improvements in health care diagnostics at lower cost will be a huge boon for the industry. Spotting cancer better & faster?

Physicians beware.

Interested in management & business? Checkout A CTO Must Never Do This a war story about life in the devops trenches.

NASA & sanity in space

Before astronauts are sent off into space, they are given endless psychological evaluations. They’re asked questions, and probed on and on. Turns out there are a few different psychic groups people fit into, and if you mix the wrong ones, it can be volatile combination.

Turns out algorithms and software help NASA evaluate people, and ultimately makes those missions safer by pairing compatible and non-volatile personalities. When in the cramped confines of a spaceship it can be life or death.

Invasion of the Math refugees

As criticism, towards the end of the book I felt Steiner lost his way a bit. He spent lots of pages going on about the exodus of engineering, math & science talent to Wall Street, for what he saw as little gain. Whatever your opinions on that may be it didn’t seem to relate to the overall theme and served as a bit of a distraction.

As the financial industry has since contracted, he says that problem has subsided and talent has moved back to startups where innovation happens. As he says it’s certainly where the jobs are.

Ultimately I would have liked to hear some of his critical thoughts. He brings much to our attention, but doesn’t offer much in the way of caution or alternative ways forward.

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Why your cloud is speeding for a scalability cliff

Join 14,000 and follow Sean Hull on twitter.

Don’t believe me that you’re headed for the cliff?

A startup scales up to no avail

Towards the end of 2012 I worked with an internet startup in the online education space. Their web application was not unusual, built in PHP and using Linux, Apache & Mysql all running on Amazon web services. They had three webservers in the mix and were seeing 1000 simultaneous users during peak traffic.

All this sounds normal except they were hitting major stalls, and app slowdowns. Before I was brought in they had scaled their MySQL server from a large to extra large instance, but were still seeing slow downs. What can we do, they asked?

I dug in and took at look at the server variables. They seemed to have substantial memory allocated to the server and Innodb. I then dug into the slow query log. This is a great facility in MySQL which sifts through activity happening against your database, and logs those which take a long time. In this case we had it set to ½ second and found tons of activity.

What was happening? Turns out there were lots of missing indexes, and badly written SQL queries.

A related popular piece AirBNB didn’t have to fail despite Amazon’s outage.

Also: Why generalists are better at scaling the web

How can we resolve these problems?

The customer asked me to explain the situation. I asked them to imagine finding a friend’s apartment in NYC without an address. Not easy right? You have to visit all of it’s 8 million residents until you locate your friend’s home.

Also check out: Real Disaster Recovery Lessons from Sandy.

This is what you’re asking the database to do without indexes. It’s very serious. It’s even compounded when you have hundreds or thousands of other users hitting different pages all with the same problems. Your whole dataset can fit in memory you tell me? So-called logical I/Os still cost, and can indeed cost dearly. What’s more sorting, joining, and grouping all compound the amount of memory your dataset can require.

Related: Why you can’t find a MySQL DBA

Why didn’t a bigger server help?

Modern computers are fast and EC2 extra large instances have a lot of memory. But with thousands or tens of thousands of users hitting pages simultaneously, you can take down even the largest servers.

[quote]Throwing hardware at the problem is like kicking the can down the road. Ultimately you have to pay your debt and optimize your code.[/quote]

Read: Why Twitter made a shocking admission about their data centers in the IPO

High performance code isn’t automatic

We have automation, we have agile processes, we can scale web, cache and search servers with ease. The danger is in thinking that deploying in the cloud will magically deliver scalability. Another danger is thinking that ORMs like ActiveRecord in Ruby or Hibernate in Java will solve these problems. Yes they are great tools to speed up prototyping, but we become dependent on them, and they are difficult to rip out later.

Want more, check out our 5 Things Toxic To Scalability.

Also: Why startups are trying to do without techops and failing

Fred Wilson says Speed is an essential Feature

Fred Wilson recently gave a talk on his top 10 golden principals to successful web applications. He says speed is the most important feature. Enough said!

The 10 Golden Principles of Successful Web Apps from Carsonified on Vimeo.

Hiring a MySQL DBA? Check out our DBA Hiring Guide with advice and hints for candidates and CTOs as well!

Read this: Why a four letter word still divides dev and ops

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A master isn't born but made

A review of Mastery by Robert Greene.

Also find Sean Hull’s ramblings on twitter @hullsean.

Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power was a great read, offering endless lessons for business and personal dealings. When I saw he just published a new book, I was quick to grab a copy.

What I like about his writing is that he’s replete with counterintuitive bits of wisdom, that really offer new perspectives on old topics.

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Many people might find the notion of an apprenticeship and skill acquisition as quaint relics of bygone eras when work meant making things. After all, we have entered the information and computer age, in which technology makes it so we can di without the kinds of menial tasks that require practice and repetition; so many things have become virtual in our lives making the craftsman model obsolete. Or so the argument goes.
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You might also enjoy our 3 part consulting 101 guide and our very popular DBA hiring guide.

He goes on to elaborate on this idea…

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In truth, however, this idea of the nature of the times we are living in is completely incorrect, even dangerous. The era we have entered is not one in which technology will make everything easier, but rather a time of increased complexity that affects every field. In business, competition has become globalized and more intense. A business person must have a command of a much larger picture than in the past, which means more knowledge and skills. The future in science does not lie in specialization but rather in combining and cross-fertilization of knowledge in various fields. In the arts, tastes and styles are changing at an accelerated rate. An artist must be on top of this and capable of creating new forms, always remaining ahead of the curve. This often requires having more than just a specialized knowledge of that particular art form — it requires knowing other arts, even the sciences, and what is happening in the world.
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I couldn’t agree more. We wrote a piece a while back called Why generalists are better at scaling the web and that aligns nicely with what Greene is getting at here.

He begins with insight on finding ones life task, then apprenticeship & mentoring then working through the social challenges that are always present and finally ways to stimulate the creative-active impulses.

I really like that he emphasizes it as a process and one of life-long hard work. This resonates a lot for me, as that’s how I’ve found success doing independent consulting over the years. There have been a lot of ups and downs, wrong turns, and missteps, but tenacity wins out in the end. He even dispells the myth of the naturally gifted, such as Mozart or Einstein, arguing that in fact they did put in the requisite 10,000 hours of study and were not born with mastery as such.

Greene’s lastest book is a pleasure to read, and full of insight for startups, programmers, designers and business people alike. I highly recommend it.

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Facebook, Is Anybody Listening?

If you weren’t actually using Facebook on Monday, you probably heard a coworker or friend complain it was down. Can you believe it?!?!

Also find Sean Hull’s ramblings on twitter @hullsean.

What Happened?

Facebook explained that they hit a DNS glitch. DNS the the internet’s phone book, but it’s all automated. It turns website URLs into numbers. Like phone numbers they route you to the right place. A mismatch here will send you to the wrong place, and hence no Facebook for you!

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Always on, 24×7 uptime has become de rigeur, almost a holy mantra that no one questions. But as we rely more heavily on web services for business, availability grows in importance. We need realistic expectations about uptime to plan accordingly.
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Achieving HA in the Amazon cloud is even harder. Look at the outage that took out Reddit & AirBNB.

Who should care?

Whether facebook is online or not may seem like fun & games until you start tying business processes to the site. And we’re not just talking fan pages here. Facebook logins on sites like Spotify, Disqus, Xobni, Vimeo, CNN The Forum & Digg to name a few.

As more businesses rely on your platform, outages quickly multiply with collateral dammage.

Read this: The Myth of Five Nines – Why High Availability is Overrated.

Expectations of Perfection

The power grid can’t stay up with only five minutes of downtime per year, why should we expect online businesses to live to this standard. I work with a lot of startups, and universally 24×7 is expected. Other clients I work with, some hedge fund, legal or news providers and they don’t always have this expectation. Even banks, it is only the very largest ones who are also global, that promise 24×7 services.

I would argue it is cultural. Look at this whitepaper Bellcore Standards – Myth versus Reality. The real world is messier than calculations and probabilities. It’s time we brought the bar down a notch, and give operations folks a pat on the back for the heroic effort they do, and the huge uptime they’re already providing!

What did we learn from Sandy? A lot about disaster recovery, that’s what.

Want more? Grab our Scalable Startups monthly for more tips and special content. Here’s a sample

My blog traffic is growing – using 5 killer tactics

With a million websites & blogs offering endless advice on growing your blog, it took me awhile to get it right. But after months of experimentation I’m getting steady growth in traffic. Where once 10,000 visitors in a month seemed like a dream, now it’s regular.

Here’s what I do.

Also find Sean Hull’s ramblings on twitter @hullsean.

1. Think up a killer title or something controversial 

Trending topics are good. Even better is to tie in big events like the sandy storm that affected everyone. Follow these very clickable sites like businessinsider.com and use their model for writing titles. They are hard to resist, aren’t they? Beware actual link baiting though, this won’t win any friends at Google.

Also take a look at Why generalists are better at scaling the web.

2. Write content around that title

It may be counterintuitive to write the title first. But it really informs the content, and frame of your writing. Also pull out highlights and QUOTE them so they stand out. Also use nice solid bullet sections for easy scan reading. The internet is all about scanning through material, so make this easy for your audience.

A popular piece MySQL DBA Interview Guide.

Also, this is big, provide lots of INBOUND links to your popular content. This will give you a pile on affect, driving more pageviews and lowering bounce rate! That’s killing two birds with one stone.

[quote]Start with a great title, something that is irresistible, write content that is easy to scan & highlights your points, then let the world know about it by sharing creatively.[/quote]

3. Share the shit out of the content

Excuse my french, but if you don’t share it, people won’t like find it. And there’s a trick to this too.

Another popular one we wrote: Why the Android Ecosystem is Broken.

First I search twitter for related posts, then reply comment with your link. Say something relavent don’t just spam your links. Of course you’ll want to stumble, linkedin, news.ycombinator.com/submit post as well.

You might also look into blog carnivals, services like ping.fm, as well as tools that automate bookmarking across many sites.

4. Search news.google.com for blogs talking about the topic

Since you already chose a trending or in-the-news topic, you’ll be able to search and find other bloggers talking about it. Pick blogs with higher page ranks, 5, 6 or 7′s are nice. Read, then comment & share your link. Again don’t just spam your links here, but provide some reasoned commentary. This shows off your personality, and provides incentive for people to want to read more of your content. I find this very easy for disqus blogs, and really focus my efforts on those.

Why is it so hard to locate & hire The Mythical MySQL DBA?

5. Watch your analytics to see where you got traction.

This is the fun part, at least for me. Click on the content, then select secondary sort “traffic sources” to figure out where people are coming from. Tune your efforts to the sources and techniques that work for you. This will depend on your particular audience.

I also like to view Content-All pages in Google Analytics. Then find the horizontal graph bars button (rollover for Performance). Click that and you can see % pageviews by content title. Very handy.

6. Rinse & repeat

This is my favorite part. Once you see what you are doing right, you can do more of it!

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Business Agility at AWS re:Invent

Also find Sean Hull’s ramblings on twitter @hullsean.

Although I couldn’t be in Vegas to attend re:Invent, there is so much online it’s almost better than being at the conference. From an ongoing live stream of keynotes and sessions, to an archived collection on Youtube.

The big wins

You may have heard of all the great things that Amazon or cloud computing can do, but I thought Andy Jassy summarized these nicely in these six points.

1. Replace capex with opex
2. lower total costs of ownership
3. no guessing about capacity
4. encourage agility & innovation
5. differentiation
6. global from the start

Redshift

By far the biggest announcement at the show is Amazon’s new Redshift product. It is a fully managed datawarehouse solution that scales to petabytes in it’s cloud. Currently there are two business intelligence tools that are supported namely Jaspersoft and Microstrategy.

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In 2003 Amazon was a 5 billion dollar company. Today AWS adds the same infrastructure capacity everyday to it’s availability zones!
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Reduced prices by 25% for S3

As a lot of folks know, Amazon has always been about cheaper prices. That model has been disruptive in the book selling industry, and in a huge way in the infrastructure and datacenter industry. As more customers signup, economies of scale mean they can offer the same hardware & services for lower prices.

With that they’re announcing lower prices for S3 by a whopping 25%. To me this speaks to their continuing push to dominate the market by driving prices downward.

Amazon’s Channel on Youtube

If you weren’t able to attend the conference, or want to recap some highlights you might have missed, they have put up a great AWS Channel on Youtube.

Some of the speakers include Sharon Chiarella VP Mechanical Turk, Glenn Hazard, CEO, Xceedium, Todd Barr CMO of Alfresco talks, Bright Fulton, Operations for Swipely, Colin Percival, FreeBSD Developer, Ted Dunning, Chief Application Architect of MapR Technologies, James Broberg, CTO & Founder of MetaCDN, Mitchell Garnaat, Sr. Engineer, David Etue, Vice President, SafeNet, and Mike Culver, Sr. Consultant to name just a few.

Read this far? Grab our Scalable Startups for more tips and special content.

Hacking Job Search – Three Meaty Ideas

Also find the author on twitter @hullsean.

Demand for talented engineers has never been higher. It is in fact the dirty little secret of the startup industry, that there are simply not enough qualified folks to fill the positions.

What this means for you is that you have a lot of options. What it means for a hiring manager is that you will have to work even harder to find the right candidate. Just going to a recruiter isn’t enough. Use your network, go to meetups, follow Gary’s Guide daily.

Also check out our Mythical MySQL DBA piece where we talk about the shortage of DBAs and operations folks.

Further if you’ve dabbled in freelance or independent consulting, I wrote an interesting an in depth look at Why do people leave consulting. Understanding this can help avoid it in your own career, or avoid your resources leaving for better shores.

Find us on twitter @hullsean and linkedin where we share content and ideas everyday!

1. Build your reputation

As they say, your reputation precedes you. So start building it now. Fulltime or freelance, you want to be known.

Speaking, yes you can do it. Start with some small meetups, volunteer to speak on a topic. A ten person room is easier than 30, 50 or 100. Once you have a couple under your belt, fill out a CFP for Velocity, OSCon or some software developers conference. There are many.

Blog – if you’re not already doing so you should. Start with once a week. Comment on industry topics, controversial ideas, or engineering know-how. Prospects can look at this and learn a lot more than from a business card.

Write a book, yes you can. It may sound impossible, but the truth is that publishers are always looking for technical writers. Pick a topic near and dear to you. It’ll also give you endless material for your blog.

Go to meetups, you really need to be getting out there and networking. Get some Moo Business Cards and start working on your elevator pitch!

Social media – being active here helps your blog, and helps people find you. Twitter is a great place to do this. Interact with colleagues and startup founders, VCs and more. If you’re a hiring manager or CTO, you may find great programmers and devops this way.

We also wrote a more in-depth article Consulting and Freelance 101. It’s a three part guide with a lot of useful nugets.

Also take a look at our MySQL DBA Interview Guide which is as helpful to devops and DBAs as it is to managers hiring them!

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Above all else, build your network & your reputation. It will put you in front of more people as a person, not a commodity or a resume in a pile of hundreds.
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2. Qualify prospects

You definitely don’t want to take the first offer you get, and managers don’t want to hire the first candidate that comes along. You want two or three to choose from. Best way to do this is to have options.

If you’re a candidate, network or work through your colleagues. When you do get a lead, be sure you’re speaking to an economic buyer. If you’re not you’ll need to try to find that person who actually signs the checks. They are the ones who ultimately make the decision, so you want to sell yourself to them.

Get a Deposit – I know I know, if it’s your first freelance job, you don’t want to scare them off. Or maybe you do? The only prospects that would be scared off by this are ones who may not pay down the line. Dragging their feet with a deposit can also mean bureaucratic red tap, so be patient too.

Sara Horowitz has an excellent book Freelancers bible, we recommend you grab a copy right now!

Commodity You Are Not so don’t sell yourself as one. What do I mean? You are not an interchangeable part. You have special skills, you have personality, you have things that you’re particularly good at. These traits are what you need to focus on. The dime-a-dozen skills should sit more in the background.

You’ll also need to price and package your services. We talked about this in-depth in Consulting Essentials – Getting the Business.

We also think there is a reason Why Generalists are better at scaling the web.

3. Play the numbers game

For hiring managers this doesn’t mean working through recruiters that might be bringing subpar talent, it means networking through industry events, meetups, startup pitch and venture capital events. There are a few every single day in NYC and there’s no reason not to go to some of them.

For candidates, be eyeing a few different companies, and following up on more than one prospect. You should really think of this process as an integral and enjoyable part of your career, not a temporary in between stage. Networking doesn’t happen overnight, but from a regular process of meeting and engaging with colleagues over years and years in an industry.

At the end of the day hiring is a numbers game so you should play it as such. Keep searching, and always be watching the horizon.

Read this far? Grab our Scalable Startups for more tips and special content.

No iPhones Were Harmed in the Creation of this Outage

Apple’s recent iMessage outage had some users confused. What do you mean I can’t text my favorite cat photos?? How can Apple do this to me!?!?

What happened?

Apple provides services to everyone who uses it’s platform. iCloud for example stores your contacts, calendar, photos, apps and documents in the cloud. No more syncing to itunes to make sure all your stuff is backed up. It’s automatic in the cloud. Yes or course unless iCloud is down.

Same goes for iMessage. Apple has quietly introduced this, as a more feature rich version of text messaging. It’s great until the service isn’t available. What gives?

All these services are backed magically or not so magically by computer servers. These computers sit in datacenters, managed by operations teams, and to some degree with automation. All the things that brought down AWS & AirBNB & Reddit with it could also take out Apple. A serious storm like Sandy also presents real risks.

[quote]
iMessage is a text and SMS replacement service for iPhones & iPads. It is more feature rich, offering device synchronization, group texting & return receipt. But in a very big way it is also an attempt for Apple to muscle into the market and further extend it’s platform reach.
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100% uptime ain’t easy

Even for firms that promise insanely good uptime, five nines remains very very hard to achieve in practice.

For starters all the components behind your service, need to be redundant. Multiple load balancers, webservers, caching servers, and of course databases that hold all your business assets.

But as the repeated AWS outages attest, even redundancy here isn’t enough. You also need to use multiple cloud providers. Here you can mirror across clouds so even an outage in one won’t bring down your business.

What about in the world of messaging? Well you can bet your customers don’t likely know or care about high availability, uptime, or any of these other web operations buzzwords. But they sure understand when they can’t use their service. It may give companies like Apple pause as they try to stretch themselves into areas outside their core business of iphones, ipads, and the IOS platform itself.

iMessage – messaging standards power play

When I first upgraded to an iPhone 4S, the first thing I noticed was the light blue bubbles when texting certain people. Why was that, I wondered? I quickly found out about iMessage, which was conveniently configured, to replace my old and trusty text messaging.

Texts or SMS work across all phones, smartphone or not, and apple or not. But open standards don’t lend themselves well to market muscle and dominance. So it makes sense that Apple would be pushing into this space. I met more than one blackberry owner who loved using bbm to keep in touch with colleagues. It’s like your own private club. And that muscle further strengthens Apple’s platform overall. Just take a look at how the Android Ecosystem is broken if you need an example of what not to do.

The flip side is it means you have more to manage. More servers, more services, more dimensions to your business. More frequent outages that can tarnish your reputation.

[quote]
A lot complaining and publicity like the iMessage outage received, may just be an indication that you’re big enough for people to care.
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Alternatives abound…

There is huge competition in the messaging space. The outage and it’s publicity further underline this fact.

For example on the iPhone for messaging there is ChatOn, Whatsapp, LINE, SKYPE & wechat just to name a few.

Interestingly, while researching this article, I downloaded WhatsApp to give it a try. Only 99 cents, why not. Turns out that they had not one, but two outages, just a week ago. Seems Apple isn’t the only one experiencing growing pains.

A lot of complaining and publicity could be a sign that you’re big enough for people to care!

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