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.”

Be Sociable, Share!

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 😉

Be Sociable, Share!

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.

Be Sociable, Share!

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!

Be Sociable, Share!

Uninstall Windows Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1

A quick break away from the norm here.

I recently downloaded and installed Windows Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 for Vista. Big mistake, it is totally unstable right now and probably should be tested more from such a big corporation, I will not dismiss it but as I cannot use it, will not review it. I will revert back to Firefox until they release a better version. So how does one uninstall it from Vista? In XP, it is simple, go to Add/Remove programs and uninstall as per normal.

It seems Windows Vista does not regard Internet Explorer as a program so when you go to uninstall programs, it is nowhere to be seen, it is in fact, tucked away as an Update. Great, so how do I remove it?

Simple, go to control panel, click on Uninstall Programs, then glance over to your left, you will see “View Installed Updates”, click on this link, then, once it has loaded up, you will see a sub section called Microsoft Windows, you should see Internet Explorer 8 , click on it and then click on the uninstall button. Done.

You’ll need to then restart your PC. After that, download another version such as IE7 or Firefox.

Who says you learn nothing in here!

🙂

(I copied this post into the fuelmyblog blog so sorry if you read it twice!)

Be Sociable, Share!