A trip to England

Last week I had to pop to England again for a meeting.

Firstly, this a view from the train with wifi heading up to York:-

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRmrNOzspEQ&hl=en]

The next night I went to the pub with some family:-

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wa0HbNzQwSc&hl=en]

And they really did put eggs and onions in the bag, my Uncle testing it:-

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dweq7-3Ve4s&hl=en]

Strange but true.

1 million hits is a new challenge

Fuelmyblog is now getting over a million hits per month, the majority of which are coming through the Friends widgets.  This is seriously slowing the site from time to time and we are working on a fix.  The best solution is to change servers and upgrade to something more robust.

Why haven’t we already made these changes?

Whilst we have enough funds to cover these changes, we are launching something in the next week or two that will be bringing in huge levels of traffic, estimated at over 5m per day.  We are talking to some major players in the hosting space and will hopefully be in a position to work on scaling up ASAP.  Sorry for the continued slowness, we will fix it soon and be bringing some very cool features asap (along with a new employee or two).

I’d love to see what features you guys would like to see installed in fuelmyblog, more writers, better blog help, better features etc.  I plan on hosting some user groups both in the UK and US during the next few months and am keen to see your feedback.

If you are reading this and are on fuelmyblog, please leave a note 🙂

A Challenge to UK Bloggers!

As the “avid” readers of my new blog, you know that I am currently working on a secret project, I should be able to announce it by mid April.  I have told a few people under NDA and have had a fantastic response, in fact, it looks 99% certain to have the potential future British Prime Minister involved too!  Anyway (to create a seamless link!)…whilst putting together the “project” I have agreed to enter a team into the First Mini Monster Dualathlon specifically in Leeds on 25th May 2008.

So, you’ll have to excuse the linking here, the people I have linked to probably don’t know about this blog and why should they! (I haven’t written this post for links, but is far easier than typing emails).

I want to challenge the following to put together some teams, i’ll even get a special trophy made for the challenge!

So, the UK PR Twitterers I follow and chat with please try to enter a team  DrewB, Stephen, Simon, Stuart and the PRGeek!

..and also I want to challenge the UK Press Peeps I follow and chat with ie JemimaMikeIan and Pete.

And this is an open challenge to anyone in the UK with a blog, if you can get yourself up to Leeds, leave a message, should be fun!

The Dualathlon is a four person relay, first leg is 3k run, hand the batton over to a cyclist for a 10k ride they then hand over to another runner for a 3k run then the final leg of 10k on a bike.  Not hard, 25% of the £20 team entry fee goes to Save the Children.  One can also raise money by sponsorship.

Go on guys, you know you want to 😉

Running a start-up – Forget rest

Since I started fuelmyblog life has been a roller coaster of emotion.  I know people always compare things to a roller coaster but there really is not another comparison.  You have amazing highs and dreadful lows.  Sometimes you have zero emotion.

One thing that exaggerates emotion is the total and utter lack of rest.  When I say rest I mean, “tools down” rest.  The kind of rest you can only have when you are employed.  I remember that 5.30pm on a Friday, the last work day before a fortnight’s holiday.  That feeling of elation, recording your voicemail “I am now on vacation until..”, typing your out of office message for your emails.  When you have a start-up, this never happens.  Firstly, you are never away from the office (you’ll have a Blackberry, your laptop etc).  Secondly, you can never switch off your mind, welcome to the world of “always on”.

I remember planning Christmas last year with my wife, we were invited to spend it with my in-laws in Provence, the South of France.  Their large new apartment had just been built, they still lived in Paris and wanted to basically invite all the family to their new pad.  The first thing that crossed my mind “have they got wifi or internet?”.  The answer was no, we had to book into a hotel nearby with wifi, away from the family.  Of course the wifi didn’t work, apparently I was the first person ever to use the wifi, “people generally booking our hotel are here on holiday”.  I had to go into the Managers office, get on my hands and knees and fix the bloody wifi for them.

You see, when you have a start-up, more so an internet start-up, Christmas for you, is not a holiday, it is a time when users are away from work, a time when users are on the internet.   Granted, generally people are not using blogging networks on Christmas day, but picture this, on Christmas day in Europe, it is 26th December in Australia, Malaysia etc it is also Christmas Eve in the USA, Mexico etc..So you see, although there are days of rest, we are not all on the same day at the same time.

Having a day off means getting up at 6am, reviewing blogs, checking the servers, making sure the blog posts are up to date, checking the forums, answering 2-300 emails and then, at 10am, going out for the day.  Arriving back home late, the day off is over..time to review blogs, check the servers…

So if you want to enjoy the riches presented by having a start-up be prepared never to rest.  Ever.  But be prepared for the most amazing highs (and of course sometimes, big big lows).

But most of all, be prepared to meet the most incredible people on Earth, people like you.

Next post – time away from the family is part of the parcel.

Why Techcrunch is not always right for your site

When I first started Fuel I thought the best thing that could happen would be to get Mike Arrington of Techcrunch to review it. I was wrong on many parts. Not because of fear that Techcrunch would write a bad review, nothing like that but I think a review would have killed the site back then (and would today for a day or two!).

You see, when a reader of a blog or news site get to hear about a new service or website, they generally, based upon the quality of the review, will go visit and see for themselves. So this presents two immediate problems, firstly, the site needs to have the server and capacity to take the hits and secondly, is the traffic going to be sticky or "drive-by's"?

The friend widget (fuelroll) on fuelmyblog is currently getting over 40,000 clicks per day, this has resulted in the site slowing down and now we are experiencing some running issues, so we can only imagine the numbers if the site was stable and up all day every day! These issues will all be resolved with a shiny new server next week, we are self-hosting finally and I guess this is the first stage of "scaling up". So with a review from a large site like TC, we'd be screwed for at least a day or two, this is why sites need to be able to scale up, even with our small site, that point has already happened.

So on to the traffic, as we all know, as bloggers or site owners, traffic is what we crave and desire. We all want traffic, for some it is key to survival, for others it brings pleasure in the form of comments. We also want that traffic to stay and come back (sticky). So, if TC reviewed fuel, I suspect, the traffic it would generate would be high, when Mashable wrote about fuel we gained 1000 users in the first 24 hours, with readership of around a 7th(?) of Techcrunch, I suspect we could safely expect a similar pattern. But what kind of users would they be?

Organic users are sticky, they are generally referred to read your blog or site by a friend and stay because, well, they are already a friend of that blog or person and will have similar interests. Are people arriving following a Tech review going to stay? I say Tech review in particular because people that read Tech blogs or sites tend to be early adopters, always willing to try new stuff, staying in general with a handful of sites they prefer. Generally, I suspect they will take a look around, maybe hate it, maybe love it. I am guessing they also pop back to the source of the review, leave a comment and move on to the next review. This is why the majority of that traffic may not be sticky. Of course, if the site is good, they'll come back and that is key to actually getting a review, something we don't deserve yet 🙂

So, this is why I think a Techcrunch review would have killed the site before but in a couple of weeks time, won't (or shouldn't). We'll have the new features by then and be ready to start actually talking to the world about Fuelmyblog, it will have to be ready too, as I have that huge announcement coming soon.

One I have promised to tell Mike Butcher about before I go to the press. And this announcement, linked to Fuelmyblog in a way, will attract as much offline ("deadwood" news interest) as the online news/blogs. And I know I am still being vague, I have to be. I am meeting with two public companies in a few weeks time to discuss it. These companies have 40,000+ employees, are based mostly offline and their CEO's want their companies to be involved. So believe me, dear readers, I have something cooking that will benefit the bloggers and users of fuelmyblog like no other social network has ever offered before (or possibly ever after). And I will not let you down. I promise.

(Oh and Paul and I are going to Sobcon08, an interview with Liz Strauss will be on here next week, if you are going, I'll be able to talk about it with you in person!)

'Til the next post folks, see you soon!