What Happens When You Get It So Wrong

In my experience of releasing new features on a web site, never ever tell your users until you are completely satisfied they are stable. By that I mean, one can test like crazy on a separate test server but never until you go live do you know if that new feature is going to crash your server or site, if you don’t have the eyeballs of your entire userbase watching the site crash, it is easier to manage. Why I am telling you this?

Heathrow airport recently got it so so wrong. Now I am talking about a web site above, something that in reality does not affect the functionality of your life. We can all live without Fuelmyblog or a cell phone for the day or even twitter! But when you are set to go on holiday, one you may well have saved for two years for, one that requires your expensive skiing kit to start the holiday, one you are looking forward to relaxing on, and the chaos at Heathrow Airport happens, that is horrific. I watched many people on the news crying because they knew in advance that when they crossed the Atlantic, they’d have no baggage.. Others had their flights cancelled, others missed flights due to enormous queues..

This sort of thing should not happen, why not start off with a couple of flights per day and slowly increase it, just like launching features on a website, slowly increase the load until you are sure it is stable. Myself and Paul O’flaherty are off to Sobcon (Chicago) in 2 weeks, flying with BA through Terminal 5, we are taking things like laptops, video kit etc and it would totally ruin what we are doing if the baggage was lost, totally and utterly. Then the folowing email came in, phew!

“Dear Mr DIXIE,

Please note there is a change of terminal affecting all or part of your booking.

You may have heard the news that British Airways and BAA have agreed to defer the move of the majority of our long haul flights from Heathrow’s Terminal 4 to Terminal 5. The move, originally planned for 30 April, will now begin in June.

Although we have seen a steady improvement at Terminal 5, we want to be sure that our customers can be confident of high service standards when the terminal is handling larger numbers of passengers. Therefore, the majority of our long haul intercontinental flights will continue to operate from Terminal 4 for the time being.

All or part of your British Airways itinerary will now operate through London Heathrow Terminal 4.”

Hiring a Good Programmer – always a gamble

When I started fuelmyblog, I had no programming skills (some would say still have none!).

None.

If I could change anything in my life it would be to have somehow learned to during my early non-children years.. At my school, nobody had a computer, the Head Master still caned the bad kids and the nearest we had to programming was to write hello on a calculator (try it now, tap in the number 0.7734 and turn the calculator upside down).

So when I bought a script online for $30 to test if my fuelmyblog idea worked, I walked into a whole new world.

After a couple of email exchanges, I received a ZIP file in my emails with the text “script attached”.. Great. a ZIP file with thousands of components..I followed the tiny help file and got this:-

Warning: mysql_select_db(): supplied argument is not a valid MySQL-Link resource in /home/kevind/public_html/header.php on line 12

Warning: mysql_query(): supplied argument is not a valid MySQL-Link resource in /home/kevind/public_html/header.php on line 14
Access denied for user ‘db_user’@’localhost’ (using password: YES)

Meant nothing to me at all..after two days of loading, deleting, loading…the time had come, I needed help and fast!

I seem to remember googling “I need a coder”, I found a site that allowed me to write my request for work and then within minutes, people were haggling over the price to do the job. Not one of them seemed legitimate but in fairness I was at the end of my patience, I needed to see if my idea would work. Eventually a guy called Kanhai Patel from GudApps offered to do it for the best price, shortly after agreeing the fee, he sent me an email that said “The next step is you send us the script and also make an advance payment of USD 45”.

Hmm…would you have?

UPDATE DECEMBER 2009 – Kanhai Patel has scammed me and various others out of money, do not use this guy if you want to see a result for your cash, no idea what happened but after his first job, I used him again, totally took my money and ran. So don’t use Kanhai or Gudapps.  The reason for this update is due to being contacted by others scammed by him and I don’t want to be blamed for recommending him as this post has/did.

What could go wrong, three things. 1. They steal my money, 2. They steal my script and 3. They steal my idea. The final idea scared me most. I had been thinking about starting this idea for three months, to have someone steal the idea was worrying me. Hugely.

I was desperate..

I sent the upfront “sweetener” and we connected via Skype, Kanhai in India, me in France…one of those take a deep breath and slowly exhale moments.

It turned out to be probably the smartest move I ever made. Kanhai is a classy coder, quick and dedicated beyond belief. We talked as he coded until I passed out at 4am..I rose up again the next day at 7am, there he was, still coding. Eventually after 48 hours, Fuelmyblog, the test site was born, it had cost me 4 days without sleep or seeing anyone and just $300. I have kept in touch with Kanhai since and would recommend this guy to anyone.

Anyone who tells you they need $millions to see if a site works is a liar, you need energy, no sleep and of course living costs. The days, weeks and months after are the only major losses, and the cost of that is time.

If you are prepared to work 18-22 hours per day every day 7 days a week, you might have a chance, I had some money saved in the bank and was willing to gamble every penny of it. Was I crazy?

Up next meeting Ian Green..virtually.