Don't take out a loan. Don't restructure your debts. Don't negotiate with your creditors. Don't sell your car. Don't take a loan from your parents. Don't incur anything more than nominal legal bills.
Collect your contracts and take them immediately to your personal attorney and have them reviewed before you attach your own personal credit to your business'. Doing so is almost certainly unnecessary. You are probably just fine.
You are a businessperson, but you're not thinking like one, and you are going to get screwed. When your company's creditors worked out contracts with your business, they understood that they were assuming the risk that the company might go out of business and be unable to pay. That risk was priced into your contract terms.
If people you've done business with are now telling you that you should stake your personal finances on the debts of your company, then, absent some poorly thought out up-front agreement you had with those vendors to the contrary, you're being taken advantage of. Perhaps we'd benefit from hearing more about who those people are.
As for the merchant account: well, the people saying you could be blacklisted sure sound credible, and maybe you should listen to them. But please also note that there are people on this thread saying you should sell your car or take out a loan to satisfy someone else's debts, and take all the advice you get here with a big grain of salt. It shouldn't cost more than a couple hundred dollars to have an attorney explain to you (not your company, not your cofounder) that you are almost certainly not liable for thousands of dollars of company debts.
a) Most lawyers, especially extending credit terms in the startup field, will carry over that debt with interest for years. Call and state your case, make it clear it's no-pay right now either way, but you want to fulfill your obligation in the further - say start making payments in 12 months.
b) RackSpace - you owe personally or through corporation? If personal, call them and have the same conversation - speak with a manager and ask for payment terms outside of normal, otherwise you have to default. If corporate consider folding and walking away, corporate protection is there for a reason and even though it's not a stand-up thing to do, Rackspace's world is littered with bankrupt startups.
c) Visa & MC may be your big problem, getting blacklisted from merchant accounts isn't the end of the world but certainly something to avoid. Also nearly impossible to reach a human that can make decisions on terms. For a startup they should have a 20% merchant reserve on your account anyways, how far does that take you?
Bottom line, think 6 - 12 month terms instead of 12 day terms.
No reason at all you can't get there with the right amount of sucking it up and pleading your case.
If you are as well known as you say, your reputation might open some doors for you. Some people who like you but assume you're busy doing your thing may be excited to do some work with you that would solve your problem.
Moreover, relationships matter. So if you're a menschy guy, someone whose brother works at Rackspace, for example, might take this through a back channel on your behalf.
Pride is tough. Looking back on the last time I fell on tough times, my biggest mistake was not being more transparent about my situation to people who liked me. I felt weird and silly to be not successful, to have failed, but I ended up making things harder on myself.
My co-founder owns a majority of the company but he's traveling so he's a bit unavailable.
They need to be making phone calls regardless of where they are.
No offense, but it sounds like if the company was on a downward spiral it was a bad time to take a vacation.
Your debt, while big to you, is minimal to the people you are working with, so they should be open to working through the issue with you.
a) Your lawyer, if it's a big firm, probably has a $2-3mm+ book, and a non-collection of $3k isn't going to effect them one bit. S/he has an incentive to work with you to come to an agreement on payment (if any) to maintain the relationship. Treat them with respect and you will get it in return. Deal with this bill last because it will be the easiest to manage.
b) $6k rackspace bill. Escalate the issue through the accounts payable department by explaining the situation and telling them they aren't going to get paid in full. If the first person on the phone doesn't get it, escalate to the next level, then the next level, etc. The gatekeeper's job is to put pressure on you to pay and create anxiety, which they seem to have done.
Once you get someone willing to work with you, fight to reduce the balance and then extend the payables as much as possible. For the value of the balance, figure out what rackspace could get by selling your receivable to a collections agency and offer slightly more - if they get $.18 per dollar owed, agree to pay $.19. Then, stretch the time period as much as possible.
c) Merchant account. This is where I would focus. This is your greatest exposure. Even if you didn't sign a personal guarantee, this could follow you professionally. Get on the phone with the merchant account holder and start dealing. Get the balance down to their cost first (that shouldn't be hard), and then see if you can grind it down farther. They have a loss reserve for this exact reason. Be open and transparent and pay the least amount possible while avoiding getting on the blacklist.
Bankruptcy (I'm not an attorney, so take this with the necessary grain of salt) is the last resort. It's long and painful for everyone involved - including you - and none of your creditors want to go there. Your creditors have an interest in working out your debts with you without going to court.
Therefore, you're fine. The company can't pay. That's called bankruptcy. Creditors are pros too, they should be used to it.
I'm sure that you've thought of this, but is there any by-product that you can sell out of the company? Any IP liquidation?
In whose name is the rackspace account? Corporate? Private? Are you incorporated?
Basically what you have to do is to come to an agreement where you contractually agree to pay them an X amount per month + some interest on the outstanding balance.
Make it clear to them that if they go the debt collection route that they will likely get nothing at all but that if they will come to an agreement with you that they have your word (for what that's worth) to make up for the hole.
How did it get this far?
I'm sorry to hear about the credit card fraud, every time someone here says they'll do their own processing I keep hammering on that, so I'll use the occasion to do it once again: Please do not do your own processing, use an IPSP that has very thorough fraud controls and scrubbing in place or you are very likely to get burned.
As for your lawyers fees, it sounds to me like he'll have to give you a discount.
Your co-founder being 'unreachable' is not very nice, in for the good times together, in for the bad times together, let's hope he turns up and will shoulder his part of the problem.
Kudos for not going incommunicado like your co-founder.
The original creditor maintains all rights, and they can sue you, or they can contact you, or attempt to work out an arrangment. By turning it over to a collection agency they have indicated that they don't think they can collect and are writing it off, which is fine as this is one of their options. But don't let your credit be hurt. Send the C&D to the collection agency, and they are prevented from reporting the debt on your credit report. Often this is also effective in gettign the original creidtor to actually talk to you so that you can work out payment terms.... and since they already wrote off the debt they should be willing to accept good payment terms (like 10 years, no interest, monthly payments starting in 6 months after you send them a $200 initial good faith payment... that's what I'd propose.)
Collection Agencies pretend like they have the authority and will pretend like they can sue you, they often pretend like they are law offices.... but remember their job is basically to intimidate you or trick you into paying, anything to get you to send a payment. But under the law, you have no contract with them, you never agreed to deal with them, and they have no legal rights. The original creditor can sue you, but if they were going to do that, they wouldn't have turned it over to a collection agency in the first place (Which keeps a large chunk of what they collect.)
So, don't let your credit be damaged-- be on the ball with the C&D and you can not only keep collections from harassing you, but force any creditor who really wants their money to work with you on terms.
[Your Name][Your Mailing Address][Your City/State/Zip]
Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested # [Insert the Certified Mail Receipt Number here]
[Insert Date of Mailing]
[Insert name of collection agent, if available][Insert name of collection agency][Insert address of collection agency][Insert City/State/Zip of collection agency]
REF: Account # [Insert either the original account number or the collection agency's account reference number here]
Dear [Insert name of debt collector calling--if available--here]:
1. You are hereby notified under provisions of Public Laws 104-208, also known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, that your services are no longer desired.
2. You and your organization must CEASE & DESIST all attempts to collect the above debt. Failure to comply with this law will result in my immediately filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the [Insert your home state here] Attorney General's office. I will pursue all criminal and civil claims against you and your company.
3. Let this letter also serve as your warning that I may utilize telephone recording devices in order to document any telephone conversations that we may have in the future.
4. Furthermore, if any negative information is placed on my credit bureau reports by your agency after receipt of this notice, this will cause me to file suit against you and your organization, both personally and corporately, to seek any and all legal remedies available to me by law.
5. Since it is my policy neither to recognize nor deal with collection agencies, I will settle this account with the original creditor.
Give this matter the attention it deserves!
[Sign your name here]
[Insert your name here]
Explain that sending it to collections is bad for you and them. If you don't have the money, then you don't have the money. But if also have to deal with a collection agency then you'll have more stress to deal with. Also the collection agency gets a cut of your (current non-existent) money owed.
If you can explain that is in both parties interest to keep it out of collections and extend the deadline or work out a payment plan, you may be more likely to get out of this situation without damaging effects on your credit.
Robert J Taylor
Sr Sys Engineer / Mgr, Realtime Customer Intervention
TF: 800.961.4454 x 501-5505
I will comment though that people are often confused about forming companies to prevent personal liability. If you are the only person on the books for the company, you're still on the hook for everything, whether you've got an LLC, C-Corp, S-Corp, etc.
Write. Nothing will give you catharsis and perspective on this unpleasant experience like writing. Consider sharing your experience with the community; your lessons learned may end up saving someone else from a similar situation, and while learning from a failure is great, teaching from a failure is even better.
Use the checks they give you, to pay down your debt.
This way you'll be down to 4-5K and you won't pay any interest on it for a year...which should give you plenty of time to get back on your feet
I don't know what the usual legal proceedings are to declare bankruptcy, but this is why they have bankruptcy laws and limited company.
Speak to a bankruptcy lawyer. Presumably all of this is your company's debt, not your own personally, and you have not committed fraud or done anything illegal, so hopefully you're in the clear personally. It may even work out that your cofounder is the one who ends up with a black eye on his credit record if he's the majority shareholder and ends up being the person named in the bankruptcy.
You haven't specified what country you're in. I'm guessing US. From the little I know, bankruptcy protections are pretty great over there. In the UK, if you take a company that you're a director of bankrupt, you aren't allowed to be director of another company for 5 years.
2. most likely, you signed a contract with Rackspace personally right?
3. as for the merchant/credit card account - most require a personal guarantee anyway
So, first of all - I am sure your lawyer will defer or write off a bunch of that bill - happens all the time, especially if you have already paid a number of previous bills.
Rackspace is probably doing what most creditors do - acting as aggressively as possible. If they turn it over to collection, they are already looking at a huge writeoff (collection agencies get a nice percentage of whatever they collect and usually also have authority to write down the debt substantially in offers in compromise). So when push comes to shove, if you offer them a payment plan, I bet they will go for it or at least counter offer. Offer them $1,000 now, and $500 a month for 10 months say - that's full payment of the account. If you feel lucky, offer $3K, $1K now and $500 a month for 4 months.
The credit card account is going to be sticky - because unlike rackspace who made a profit margin on the $6K you owe, the credit card company has probably already refunded the $$ to cardholders that it "paid" to you - the fact that you describe it as "huge" doesn't help - I would assume it may be the majority of all payments advanced to you by the merchant provider. Again, you can probably propose a payment plan which has a good likelihood of being accepted.
1. What is your role in the company. Are you just another employee or does your contract 'tie' you in some way with the company's assets and liabilities.
2. Is there anything in the contracts that you signed (if applicable) that relates directly to you personally? If yes concentrate on that one and nothing else.
3. Just because you poured money in the business, it does not necessarily mean that you are responsible for its liabilities. Review the documentation with a lawyer as to what your exposure is towards this situation.
From the looks of it, the merchant account is your 'weakest link'. Follow the advice of others here by talking to the merchant and sorting something out. Chances are that the future is not as bleak as it seems now. There are always choices.
Remember: Ask and you shall receive. Asking the relevant parties for extensions, better terms of payments etc. is not bad. The worst thing that can happen is for them to refuse.
Good luck and stay strong. There is always light at the end of the tunnel!
I used to live and breathe my start-up, be passionate about the startup scene and thought my project was on the fast track. Debts mounted up and deciding who to pay first / last is somewhat stressful. I personally focused on paying the areas that would potentially come back to haunt me in my career first, I then restructured and negotiated settlement amounts. The surprising aspect for me was that negotiation is entirely possible, the small amount that firms expect to receive from insolvency is significantly lower than a settlement plan with yourself.
I won't go over my specifics as this is about you, but if you ever want to chat or just some advice in how to deal with this on a personal / mental level let me know.
You need to speak with your lawyer, or do a little research.
Second, approach the situation honestly. Honesty does not mean you need to approach everyone on your knees. Most of your creditors likely do not know what situation you are in right now. Many people actually enjoy finding creative win-win solutions. You never know unless you ask.
Third, good luck. Looking back at the low parts in my life, they all worked out one way or another. Without challenge and without hardship, I would not appreciate what is good in life. Learn what you can and always remember to smile :)
You might want to find family and friends who can loan you the money without interest.
Can you sell the domain?
Just curious, how did you get so much debt from your lawyer.
Hope it works out and best of luck.
(Note: I am an American, and thus reserve the right to poke myself in the eye.)
(While this was meant to be funny, it's really meant to be "ha-ha serious" not "ha-ha funny". Start-ups are by-nature risky endeavors. Putting your own financial well-being on the line in this fashion is as foolish as tight-rope walking without a net. If you've got a C-corp your personal assets should be somewhat protected. Make sure to do your homework on this...)
Oh, and last of all: Don't Panic. You can always flee to Europe or elsewhere. ;)
remember, if you do pursue bankruptcy (which may not be a bad option for a failed business), the judge will ultimately decide who gets paid what amount. no one creditor can walk away with a disproportionate share of the assets (subject to debt rankings). this removes all leverage for subordinated debt.
your first call needs to be your current lawyer. explain your situation and ask for a referral to a bankruptcy lawyer. your next calls should be to your network for more legal referrals. as these lawyers for a 30 min consultation off the clock. if they want your business, they'll give it to you.
most importantly, don't let '12 days' pressure you. your creditors can wait. they may get loud, but they can wait.
(downvoting, eh?) Talk to them about a loan.
How did the fraud occur? Who did it, where were they, and what did they do technically to steal from you?
However not all stories are created equal. Most of the stories on that page are from noob users who want to jack up their karma. Hence, the deluge HN on the weekdays (only dedicated ones stay around on the weekends) leading to this difference between the weekday and weekend articles.
How can we solve this?
One simple way to do this would be to post noobstories only to the noob stories page and sort the entries not by time, but by karma of the user as well as the votes given like the comments.
This way we could have a quasi front page which will create a positive feedback loop. Hence, there will be an implicit reward in going to the new page which will ensure that only the good stories were posted. Also, since older users (by karma, PG's metric) who are more settled in and are less likely to do karma antics it won't overflow every minute or so.
However, this might create a barrier to entry on HN and perhaps that's a good thing. This would force people to comment and get karma before it shows up over there. Hence, ensuring that the quality get maintained.
All in all with the same code behind the comments the new page problem can be solved.
(update: wrote a lot more detail)
I think HN really should implement a way around this. The most obvious is to randomly show new articles on the front page, give them a chance to collect some points (if they're good, of course).
(Update: On reflection, reducing usability might not be a great way to go. Typically that's a better way to reduce bad behavior than to encourage good..)
And of course you didn't write about a scandal in progress or something like that.
If you write just for the interaction with HN I can imagine that it is hard if your stuff goes by unnoticed, but of course there is no automatic relationship between what you did and how it was received in the past coupled with everything you write in the future.
Maybe simply not enough people thought it was homepage worthy and it is a signal to do better? That's how I interpret it when my stuff slides by without even a single upvote.
(I note that even devmonk who commented did not upvote your submission).
Don't take it so personal, as HN grows this is bound to happen more and more often. I've had it happen to me with an article that was requested by people here, that felt pretty weird too, but there really are no guarantees.
Spray and pray :)
The problem is too many submissions, not less people reading the new page:
It's an alternative explanation.
The more mainstream adoption HN receives, the more the stories will degrade to the lowest common denominator—that of gossip, fan-bait, and chop shop content. I returned to my feed reader for the majority of my interesting articles a long time ago.
The "new" page is basically a feed aggregator of tons of individuals' posts, most of whom don't have the notoriety or baiting title necessary to stick on the page long enough for the few people who read "new" to see them.
Like any other public link sharing site—no matter how niche or well-seeded to start—it will increasingly pander to the 90% who come rather than the 10% who started it. And it'll keep doing that until it becomes reddit (no insult meant; reddit is a great public link share). But at this stage I'm pretty confident it'll always have better discussion.
I try to check the "new" page periodically, but I must admit, I don't scroll beyond the first page-- so, the article referenced above I missed entirely, and it seems like I wasn't the only one.
Which means that the problem may not be that "nobody is reading the new page much any more" as much as "things age off the new page too quickly for most people to notice them."
As for potential fixes: off the top of my head, I haven't the foggiest.
Now I realize that many people don't vote up videos. However, this is Grace Hopper, who was one of the first programmers for the very first computer ever. She is credited with coming up with the term "debugging" after finding a moth in one of her computers, and she wrote the first compiler for a programming language.
If that's not Hacker News worthy then I don't know what is.
And yet amazingly, this submission only got two upvotes (one of which is mine). Now I realize that we've had a lot of scandalous and "Big Important News" but two upvotes seems abnormally low to me. In fact, if Google Students had not tweeted it (http://twitter.com/googlestudents/status/25361367579) I would have never even seen it.
I don't vote on anything because I don't want to 'save' all of the threads I find slightly interesting. Saving is only for things I want come back to later.
Now, how we pay for the posts is probably have karma as part of it somewhere. Or may be not. But, it's a discussion worth having.
I think downvotes on new page can actually help so they can discourage users from spamming HN with articles in trying to build karma points
Alternately, make posting cost the user something, say 10 Karma points per submission, in that case users will only submit something they think will grab enough attention
It only takes 3-4 votes for a newly submitted (< 30 minutes ago) story to hit the front page. If you and one other person like it, it'll usually get to the bottom of the hot list. From there, there's often a cascade effect as more and more people see it on the hot list. If the article's any good at all, it can often be in the top 5 within an hour or two.
It's good for karma, too, as getting early comments in on stories that later become hot is a good way to get lots of points on them.
The first few karma points have to be gained by commenting, and then for example with every 10 karma points a user can make 1 submissions. Or have different 'levels' with certain thresholds, etc. You get the idea, and I think that could help reduce the amount and increase the quality of submissions.
In all seriousness, it took me quite awhile before getting into the habit of going to the New page, but now I do it after going over the main page. It was actually only after seeing a comment that "people don't go to the New page" that I started doing it, so it was one of the rare times when a "reminder" post didn't annoy me and seem like whining. These types of reminders are legitimately helpful IMO.
I'd love to see new items integrated into the home page, personally. Like a split screen, or just have them listed at the bottom of the page, or just in a narrower column somewhere, or whatever.
But I'm not sure that that would have any effect on your other issue, which is the type of thing being voted to the top. They get there because people start by going to the New page; they don't get there on their own. So although giving more attention to new items might get more people to take notice, I don't think it would have any effect on what makes it to the top.
I've recently submitted a few links that I thought were HN worthy but they barely got any notice if at all.
Perhaps they're not interesting or maybe with the current system more things are getting overlooked and lost. Don't know.
Usually, I tend to only look at what's on the New page when I submit something (since it automatically redirects you there). So, I'm as guilty as the rest. However, at that time, I'll check out the other posts and upvote other submissions that I consider quality material.
I probably need to spend more time looking at the New page than the front page to help with keeping the quality up.
1) Why not limit submissions on HN to one per day?
That way, people will only submit their most relevant links. If a story is important enough, then either 1) someone else can submit it and this will invite broader participation on the site, or 2) it won't be submitted today and can be added tomorrow (and it probably wasn't that important to begin with).
2) HN articles used to relate to either hacking or startups (stories about education, economics, etc. were typically found on Digg and Reddit). Why not return to this formula?
Personally, I visit the "new" page as often as the frontpage and find many interesting stories there.
But what if one were able to earn karma points by interacting with the "new" page. The details could be worked out to make it un-"gamable", but the basic premise is to reward users that put more effort into discovering posts in the waterfall of the "new" page.
Hardly anybody is viewing "new" queues, making links to interesting web pages, or otherwise doing the work to discover what's new and good. They make it too easy for spammers and voting rings to do their evil work.
Also there's a general "burnout" effect that happens in social media -- if a particular forum isn't all that excited in your content, you'll find that it gradually gets less and less traffic because people see your URL or your name and decide to move on to the next thing. This can be overcome with real or imaginary 'social proof' (lots 'o votes) but then you get into the fact that the populations of people who are looking at the "new" queue and looking at the front page are entirely different.
Submit on a Saturday.
In your first paragraph you use the phrase "web interface" if that or some other technical term had been in the title, I might have clicked. fyi
(EDIT: This wasn't meant as a diss... it's just that people know by now that saying "HN is becoming Reddit" is a no-no, it's even listed in the guidelines. So whoever has complaints or concerns about the site, often wants to make it clear that they are not playing the HN-is-Reddit card.)
In most people's vocabularies, design means veneer. It's interior decorating. It's the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.
So if your goal is to make something consumer facing or where the user is key in your thinking don't use a professional designer, make one a co-founder.
I think design is wildly underutilized and 1 good design hire can be worth 5-10 engineers at the early stage. This may sound heretical, but a good designer can make UX decisions that have massive impact across a site, but piggy back on pre-existing engineering tasks. This doesn't scale though. 10 designers aren't equal to 10 engineers.
That said, if you are creating some B2B product that doesn't have a lot of meaningful user interaction, the value exchange is simple, or there aren't a lot of competitive solutions (web or otherwise) then piece something together via woothemes and 99 designs, or make friends with a good designer.
I'm a programmer by night / business type by day. I have a website soon to be released in beta and I hired a designer I trusted (and could afford) from a previous job. She worked wonders for the project -- seeing the new design also reinvigorated me.
A few tips: Hire a friend if possible (you'll probably get a friend-rate), if not work by referral. You want someone you can sit with face to face. Avoid 99Designs and the like if you can. Pay your invoices immediately and you'll find the designer will likely continue to be super helpful. Also, get an hourly rate up front since you'll probably find things that need to be adjusted. Lastly, I wouldn't use the designer for HTML, just have them hand off PSDs, the markup tends to be not so good. Insist on PSDs, not flattened images.
By the way, I'm happy to give a refferal for a trusted friend. Just email me at juliuss at gmail.
Suck it up, find a good designer and pay them well. I'm glad I did.
v1? Just get the damn thing out. Don't worry about whether it has the perfect design or interactions at this point since the hardest part is simply launching (and you're going to change your idea/design once you get feedback anyways). After that, I believe a designer is invaluable, for taking user feedback and results and crafting the product into something that promotes more sales/views.
but you don't need a designer for that.
1. istockphoto gets you a ton of illustrations that you can use to spice up your pages.
2. 99designs gets you a good logo or any other custom work you need. Some people will knock 99designs...and yes the quality may be worse than one you'd get from a top of the line designer. But it'll be miles ahead of what you can achieve on your own, and you'll get to avoid paying thousands for a logo.
from my experience, a single illustration can turn a boring and bland page into something that's decent.
Firstly, what stage of a startup are we talking about? Are we talking a guy building just a landing page? Are we talking a 20-person team with VC? The answer is different for each case, both because of the money available, but also because of how much that design will end up being used. A landing page that might never lead to a product shouldn't cost you $1,000.
I haven't had much experience on the later stages of a startup, but I have built a few products to the beginning stages. Early on, I made the mistake of building the product without a design first thing. I figured, if it gets good feedback, I can alway redesign it. Instead, what I would do today if I were building any product is go buy a template for $50, and work off that. Saves a lot of redesign time (which is harder to do, since you've already got legacy code). Also, gets you the "good design first impression" right off the bat, which will lead to more accurate results when you need them the most (since you really don't know if the product will be a success or not).
For a landing page, which you should do before building a product (unless the product is really simple), I've recently learned the best way. Go to WooThemes.com or ThemeForest.com, buy a WordPress template for $70, and it will make setting up your landing page a Wysiwyg experience, which is much better. Even if you're a programmer like me, trust me on this, using WordPress will make things smoother, and the design will be better for it.
As for an actual startup with an actual product (and money in the bank), I wouldn't even think twice: hire a designer.
...assuming the startup is bootstrapping. Why?
1) Ugly designs are often very effective. 2) You can polish it later when you're making money.
Your site might look amazing. Your site might look crappy. If no one knows about your site or no one cares, then it doesn't matter either way.
Focus on traction for the product or service you're providing, then worry about the design of your letterhead, business cards, shiny web 2.0 logo, etc.
And it's rare for a strong systems or web back-end programmer to also have a good design sense and to be versed in the various rendering quirks and workarounds for the common browsers.
Note that it doesn't mean you have to hire a full-time designer. A lot of designers are freelancers, and like it that way.
37signals' Sortfolio (http://www.sortfolio.com/) lists a lot of independent designers for a range of budgets.
YES. The value that a design has in a first impression helps with that first bit of traction so so much. I've had projects fail because of crappy designs, and crappy projects succeed because of - subjectively - great ones.
Invest, it's not even that much compared to some of your other costs. Look into students (like me!) who may need the money and the recognition, though don't abuse them.
If you're building a photo sharing site, better get a UX guy.
If you're building a social app, then hell yes, get a UX guy AND a designer.
My product is http://smallpayroll.ca, it's a do it yourself payroll site made for people who don't know anything about payroll. I freely admit it looks like crap. But of the handful of people that have tried it out and paid for it, I haven't heard "this looks like crap". What I hear is "this product makes my life so much easier"
Could I get more conversions with a better design? Maybe... But I know for my product it's not preventing me from getting paying customers.
(As an aside, I've often thought there should be a place for people like us to find designers that know how to work with applications instead of just designing web pages.)
Focusing on what you do best (programming) and subcontracting what you do worst (design) leads to a great product imho. If you end up doing both, you'll eventually lose motivation because you'll never get satisfied with your own designs (you are not a designer after all). Not to mention that you'll be shifting focus back and forth between design/programming, and each one requires a different kind of focus and way of thinking. The end product if it sees the light? Mediocre at best.
But, you'll be even better off if you have someone with good design skills working for you if you plan to be able to do revisions, ongoing changes.
I worked for a small company that outsourced some design for logo, but ended up hiring someone full-time to do photography and design. It was a bold step since they were a telecom company, but the polish and sheer amount of the work by having someone in-house differentiate them from their competitor.
At first I thought they were foolish (for years actually), but now that he is still working there, and seeing where they are, it was sheer genius to have hired him.
try to stick to something simple and clear that lets users know what they're doing next.
Maybe this will help - Has anybody dared to do any A/B testing on professional vs "unprofessional" design?
One thing to keep in mind: No matter how good your design is, it is no match for an ugly site with a really useful feature..
A designer does more than just make pretty pictures.
Ugly or not (the art, not the designer), a designer actually will help design the usability of the site at the same time so that you can grow.
A good designer knows where to put the little calls-to-action and the email signup forms and all that so that you can meet your business goals.
It's definitely worthwhile to get a professional designer.
I have been turned off on a number of occasions by the lack of a professional design.
You could probably scrape by, by getting a free theme from the intertubes, but what about your logo/branding.
Go to your local college and post something for a design job. You will get a ton of replies and it probably won't cost you that much.
So, yes, design matters :)
I'd figured to play with Git in an unusual way: to create a repository for the U.S. Constitution where amendments are presented as patches.
What follows is an interesting discussion of getting git to represent the dates correctly. :)
1. The U.S. legal system is designed to go slowly. That's what checks and balances are for. It takes a long time to see the full implications of each law (look what happened when Glass-Steagall was repealed), and if the laws change every day, you can end up whipsawing with no idea what really works or not.
2. How will the laws be evaluated? In the U.S, you have judicial review, where cases come before the courts, the facts come out into the open, a jury of your peers evaluates how the law applies to those facts, and then the appellate court system ensures the law was applied correctly. If the law is egregiously wrong, there's widespread publicity and then public pressure to amend the law. How does this same sort of fact-based discovery process factor into your system, and how do you avoid it devolving into a "he said she said" contest of differing opinions?
3. How will you get public buy-in? Democracy's based upon the consent of the governed; when everybody writes their own version of the laws, each person could make the argument that they didn't consent to the other person's version.
4. It seems like this would replace plutocracy (government by the rich and well-connected) with technocracy (government by the quick-thinking and technically savvy). As a technocrat, I'm all in favor of that. ;-) But it seems like you're just exchanging one set of masters for another, and in many ways, this new system is less fair than the old one. What happens to the 95% of Americans who are not accustomed to thinking at Internet speed? They're already being left out in the cold by many economic developments; will you exclude them from the political process too?
However, I not only wanted to put the current US Constitution and Code into git, but every version going back to 1776. What an amazing data source that would make, to be able to see all revisions and additions to the US legal code since inception, how it grew and changed over time. The data visualizers could have a field day.
However, that's a massive project, and I'm not sure if all that data even exists in portable electronic format, or just the recent versions of the Constitution and US Law.
It's still in the back of my mind and if I figure out a way to do it I'll probably revisit it.
That network graph would be AWESOME.
It could try to find a way to allow more specificity with less verbosity, and provide a standard way of creating abstractions that would allow for easy checking of conflicting definitions. Maybe even include a comment system for stating the intentions at time of writing, which could be taken into account when modifying the code.
Before you object, yes I know everything is gameable. I'm just throwing it out there. We have karma systems for async discussion, and they work at least somewhat well. Why not synchronous too?
There is no such thing as sorting messages by karma for synchronous chat but perhaps other analogues could be found. Maybe in the same way that Slashdot has "browsing at +2" you can choose to receive all messages or just messages from higher karma people.
Is this idea the right way round?
I had an idea for a bot that would allow temporary, rule-based bridging of conversations in participating channels. I never got around to coding, but I did blog the concept in more detail: http://mmol-6453.livejournal.com/213900.html
Never discount SlashDot as another - with any of those suggestions helps to build up credibility, plant seeds by sharing pieces of your start-up story, building excitement for a pre-launch , etc
Having people try the site and give feedback on Mechanical Turk also doesn't work.
I like the suggestion of others on this thread to post to a focused subreddit. Another good idea is to find a blog through AllTop for your industry. I've found most bloggers will accept a direct ad for less than $100 a week.
What worked the best for me was good old AdSense, monitoring, and a/b testing. It is pretty easy to get a $100 coupon for new AdSense accounts and you can find out much about your site for that amount. Good luck.
(1) Fyi traffic figures indexed to highest: KillerStartups 1. FeedMyApp 0.85. NetWebApp 0.10. Cloudomatic 0.04. GreatWebApps 0.01.
Edit: I haven't tried this, just gotten to know from the emails they have sent me.
I have also seen some good feedback come from posting a link on Twitter. Usually just the people I know will actually try it out, so the feedback is honest and straightforward.
ruby -r base64 -e 'puts Base64.decode64("emhhbGJyZWNodEBnbWFpbC5jb20=")'
It's a simple "personal portal", I guess you'd call it. My email address is the first thing listed, followed by my erratically updated programming blog, github, twitter, flickr, linkedin, and resume.
I'd rather keep all those links in one place and just hand out my domain link, rather than have to update things everywhere when I add a new link.
Maybe HN could add a contact form to user profiles, to facilitate correspondence without sacrificing anonymity?
Base Price (US) < Base Price (India)
Base Price+warranty(US) > Base Price (India)
Base Price+warranty(US) < Base Price + warranty (India)
-- i.e. the difference wasn't that large as evidenced by eq. 2
The Magic School Bus series. For example:
If I Built a Car (a great book on design)
Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau
I keeping editing as I think of new things. This may sound odd, but if they are in the 14+ range, How to Win Friends and Influence People is great. It changed a lot for me.
When I was like 9 I got the book How to be Twice as Smart and it taught me a ton of mental tricks.
This book taught me a lot (probably if the boy is like 10 or 12+?)
Alice in Wonderland iff still young enough not to think girls are gross. Otherwise you must sneak up on him with the poetry, then introduce the book. (I've had success with reciting 'Jabberwocky' and 'The Walrus and the Carpenter.')
Learn 'If,' by Kipling, by heart. Then teach it slowly and patiently.
As an aside, quite a lot of Kipling is truly excellently boy friendly.
The Proverbs of Solomon, et al. Found in any Bible or Talmud. Bears repeated reading, as most eastern 'wisdom' literature does (The Book of Five Rings, The Art of War, etc.).
While we're at, why not the Narnia books? I loved them, and I'd no idea the Lion was apparently Jesus until I was nine or so.
But by far do not DO NOT forget Michel Ende's marvelous 'The Neverending Story.'
If you're only familiar with it from a movie, you've missed the best part, when the boy 'Bastian must take up arms and become the adventurer he has read about and loved.
Book of Virtues---don't give him this, just have it around in your house to read when bored. Gambling scandals notwithstanding, it's full of good stuff.
Blind Man's Bluff---for a kid a bit older, but it's about submarine history in the Cold War.
Bigger Boys:Phantom Tollbooth,Avi,anything with swords
Older:Jack London, Shakespere
1. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
2. The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas : An awesome closeup of revenge
3. The complete Sherlock Holmes series : 'nuff said.
1. Cosmos - Carl Sagan : I fell in love with science post-reading this book.
2. October Sky - Homer Hickham : A real life story of how a group of boys in a backwater town build a rocket that changes their lives.
3. Chariots of the Gods - Erich Von Daniken - A real mind bender, even if you choose not to agree with his ideas.
Personally, I'd stick with a pocketknife regardless of age. Or a lighter.
Get awesome writers. Get awesome editors. And you have wikipedia all over again, only for op-eds.
Why wouldn't it work?
1. Nobody wants to write articles to just to consume articles. 2. Finding quality editors and writers are like finding *two* needles in a haystack. (I make no pretense to be either.) 3. A dearth of (2) would make (1) even harder.
1. It's a great tool to learn how to write. 2. It would bring a close-knit, smart community of people together. People love it when they can just dip into a pool of knowledge like that.
Printmaking is much more difficult than I'd have expected. One of the biggest challenges is maintaining a clean, inkless field. It's so easy to get ink on your hands, at which point it's nearly impossible to pick up a sheet of paper without smudging it before you're within three feet of the press itself. Registration (proper alignment) is a challenge as well, but is manageable. Working slowly and deliberately is difficult but certainly rewarding (though the reward here is spending an hour with lacquer thinner cleaning off the type, but I digress).
Even so, it feels great to take a Saturday evening away from the Internet, sit down with a set of lead 72pt Franklin Gothic, a brayer and ink, and print a few runs of something that strikes you as amusing at the moment.
Here are a couple photos from the last experiment:
(See the "luck" tag for a couple in-process shots)
Anybody I show this thing to is instantly amazed. About 10% of people can actually figure out how it works. And, in general, if they don't understand it before having it explained to them, they won't understand it afterword (though they will claim to "get it"). Maybe I'm just not good at explaining the strobe effect. When people first see it, they momentarily believe that I've managed to create some sort of anti-gravity device. Then when they see it going backwards, they sort of lose grip of reality for a moment. It's amazing.
My time fountain kicks the original one's ass. Unlike the one in the video, mine does a full 30fps and has analog adjustment knobs for forwards, backwards, etc. It doesn't relay on a "drip detection" circuit, but rather just two 555 timers. I freakin' love the thing.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvY7NGncCgUNote: I didn't make the one in the video, and this wasn't my idea. I simply implemented the same concept myself with various improvements.
500 Feet long, held two passengers, guts were a rewired electric wheelchair.
1 PC1 Matrox TripleHead(3 monitors-View),1 Matrox G200(3 monitors-Instruments)
Built some electronic boards to control LEDs, Switches, Potentiometers for Throttle, Yoke, Overhead panel, Central console, etc...
Nice project if you have the time....
Still waiting for royalties from the Wii :)
I also built the desk on which my workstation currently resides. I couldn't find a desk that (a) looked decent and (b) was enormous, so I designed a desk that satisfied both and built it.
Building is just another part of hacking. If you asked me what I'd modded, I'd have an even larger list. I originally got into electronics and computers because it was a cheaper hobby than model railroading. I couldn't afford railroading stuff from the hobby shop, but I could always find a broken radio to get parts out of for electronics projects, and make money repairing radios and TVs until I could afford a microprocessor. :)
Later, I built one of the second wave of the Altair computers, and actually had one or two consulting gigs from that.
And, to brag a little, I pointed my daughter, to a QST article on a code practice oscillator, and she built it with almost no supervision when she was in high school.
I built, from a kit, one or three of the amateur packet radio kits, and ran a radio BBS for too long a time. (You see, the internet is just ham radio 2.0, but none of you get that fact, but i digress)
I built (strictly was architect for) a medical information system that gathered electrocardiograms from patients bedsides, transmitted them via telephone to a datacenter near Chicago, which returned an english-language report to the hosptial in ten minutes or less. (This one is cheating a bit, as a large component of this was software.)
But by far and away most of the stuff I have built is software.
Now, my gig is to break software, but that is off-topic. (Hint--you sometimes need to write software to break other software.)
I was into cars for a long time. In college, I built strut/tie bars and sold them on the web. I turboed my car and built the downpipe and the charge piping. I also made and modified numerous parts for the car and friends' cars (suspension parts, wiring, brackets, blah blah). I also reverse engineered the ECU running the engine and wrote an engine management system for it which required some hardware integration (that count? http://benogle.com/projects/bre ).
All of my furniture that was not upholstered (no couch, etc) until last year was built by me in high school.
I finished the basement in my house which required making a bunch of stuff at previously mentioned fab shop. Even for general house maintenance I often ended up making some small part(s) at the shop (i.e. sprinkler system install, fixing the garage lean, etc).
One day I came across this nice product, http://www.amazon.com/SNAIL-SAKK-Mail-Receptacle-Slots/dp/B0..., and it seemed more than possible to make my own. So, using a fabric shopping bag from a local store, some Velcro and a sewing kit I managed to put my own together in a couple of hours. It works great! :)
I also built a T-Shirt with EL wire that sync'd to Ableton Live
My grandfather was a carpenter and when he passed, he gave our family his tools. We always have lots of wood and woodworking tools around so that's my preferred medium (when all you have is a hammer....).
Oh, and soap. I make soap - does that count? :)
it's a long story, to do with a church funding something, but i was the eventual designer of it despite being an intern, then went and built it in my own time one weekend. was fucking heavy and never used it, just donated my time to that client
I finished lot of work comparing to the past, rescue time was a reminder that "Hey, a month just gone, what did you do? Oh, sh*t there wasn't enough time!". It turns out to be false, my productivity just wasn't at top. Now I'm starting to run out of time, really!
So my idea was a web app where people could sign up to be "bosses", and you'd have some karma system to figure out who the good bosses are, matching them up to the "employees" who sign up to get bossed around to do the tasks they've set for themselves. Now, you'd have to put in measures to make sure bosses don't get abusive (make it part of the karma system I guess), ways to match up people with their boss, etc. But it seems like a neat idea that might just work. I just don't know if you could find enough people who like being a good boss (or at least like getting the karma points associated with good bossing), as well as enough people who'd sign up to be bossed around.
In the evening, wind down the day, have a beer and plan out how you're going to use two hours in the morning tomorrow most effectively. Set one clear goal. Then...
1) Go to sleep
2) Wake up early (I recommend 6am)
3) Do the work you thought up last night
I find myself remarkably productive in this cycle. If you've planned well, you'll whiz through the tasks. Focus on "doing one thing" each day and you'll be racing through iteration cycles. I find that I'm usually so productive like this that I can comfortably keep the weekend purely for recreation guilt-free, rather than continuing to iterate on my down time and burning out.
This is how I built http://goodgecko.com
It's taken about 3 months* of doing exactly the above, now has paying customers and is an extremely satisfying "side project"!
*I should elaborate - 3 months since the very barebones MVP. The MVP took about 2 months and featured basic surveys and a one-page sales site. The current product features web, mobile, popup and kiosk surveys and has a fully-realized sales site. The sales site itself took about a month to make...
Then:1) I never sacrifice dinner with my family and I try to "be home" from 5-9. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally.
2) Always prioritize your most difficult work first. If you start with "check HackerNews", time will disappear. Finish a use case first then reward yourself. Pick a new feature to ship each night and the progress will fuel you.
3) I've never liked working super early in the morning, so I take quick power naps in the evening (30min to 1hr.) to refresh and work from 10-1. Solid, uninterrupted 3 hrs.
4) Passive work (like catching up on HN, other sites) can be done with MacBook in lap on the couch if you want to unwind with some Tivo.
5) Don't be afraid to invest appropriately. I'm actually taking vacation next week to complete my punch list: finish coding, meet with an advisor, attend a trade show and prepare product for beta.
I usually make sure I have what I want to do in the evening sketched out in a notebook at lunchtime - which is when I do research etc.
The thing that makes this possible is pretty much having a "regular" day job that is within walking distance of where I live - 20 minute walk away. With a commute I'd be too tired to do anything at night (I know, I have tried). I usually get home at 6pm - same time as my son gets home from school.
The other thing I have found is that staying up past midnight is a bad idea - I even have an alarm set on my watch to remind me to start shutting down at 23:50.
I tend to sleep most soundly when I've just fixed some horrible bug or implemented some sweet feature!
Note that includes plenty time with 11 year old son and my wife - who has a much more high-pressure job than I have (I do all of the cooking).
For a while I was working late nights and making good progress but since having our 2nd kid it has been very difficult to get back into it. Being depressed over the day job and money definitely doesn't help.
It's interesting that so many people recommend the mornings. I can see the logic but from a practical point-of-view, I don't think it will work. My kids are v. good and sleep from ~7pm to 7am but they're awake earlier in the mornings and just happy to stay in bed. If I get up at 5 or 6am then I'm going risk waking not only my wife but also rousing the 2 children too. Maybe I'll give it a try next week but I'm sceptical.
One thing to bear in mind... when working in the evenings I've found progress is roughly: 1 week of evenings == 1 full-time day. Things take an extraordinarily long time to complete.
Turns out that I basically needed an assistant. Since I was building features for my cofounders, we decided that we should pair program (except they don't know how to program). So they act as the "feature manager" and come up to my apt for 2 hours a nights a week and we work together.
A few key points: the feature managers MUST have their thoughts detailed out. In order for me to crank out code, I need to know exactly what to do. I think there's a cognitive cost when you have to shift from implementation to design mode (and even testing mode). You'll be amazed how much it helps to push those responsibilities out of your brain (and yet still get fast feedback).
Doing this, we've gotten probably 4 months worth of work done in the last month, without me increasing hours. Seeing how efficiently I can implement features made my cofounders realize that it's worthwhile to pay me even 1/4 time, so that I can reduce hours elsewhere. Been a real game changer for our company.
My point is, focus on everything else and somehow, the time will manifest itself. Whether it happens because you're avoiding something else, or just because you're not used to doing nothing (like I used to do, and still do, a lot) in your downtime. Just be sure you aren't avoiding the family. :)
2) I'm lucky enough to have a high paying job, enough so that I can afford to have house cleaners, and I also pay my brother to do our laundry every few weeks (this is a win-win, since he gets spending money). Sometimes I feel bad for not doing these things myself, BUT in reality it's working and that's what counts. To be honest, if I made less, I might consider going for funding instead of working, but since I make good money, I consider that to be my investment in my business. That being said, I still have household chores to do, but you just have to get realistic about how much you can really do, whether that means getting help, or just NOT doing chores (sad, but true)
3) Since I know have much more limited time than other people, I really really REALLY need to find ways to keep the product lean and focused. Everyone says they try to do this, but you know, necessity is the mother of invention.
4) Finally, sometimes I'll be in bed, it's midnight and I need to wake up early for work. I'll start thinking about the product and get so excited I have to get up and work on it for an hour or so. And of course, since I'm pumped, I'm much more productive. This is horrible for my sleep, but I think it's a fair trade for starting a startup, in addition to living a full life with family and work.
5) Assuming you have a supportive spouse, he can take the kids for an outing to the zoo, or whatever, on Saturday mornings and you can get a good 6 hours in. We find it to be a win-win, since they get to spend quality time then.
That's something my Dad (a writer himself) told me when I wanted to write a book when I was young. And it's true for business as well! When I wrote just a little bit regularly (a page or two a day) I got a _lot_ done in a month, but then I started just writing in batches, marathon sessions here and there, and nothing really got done plus I lost wind pretty quickly.
Now I'm working a day job and writing code for another startup idea and regularity helps me, this time I plan to stick with the consistency, rather than degrade into spurts, so that I finish this (unlike the book).
My current job is still technical, but I'm not working as a coder. As such, I have a lot of energy to put into a project. In fact, working on the project is one of the things I look forward to when I get home.
Something to keep in mind when looking at a job. How much of your personal capacity will be left when the day is over?
A good summary of other things that can be done to improve and simplify your life is at zenhabits: http://zenhabits.net/brief-guide/
For me I just finished my mvp for http://democratic.ly in 3 weeks. I worked on it after 4pm on weekdays and during the weekend. If I was organized or had more programming skills it could have been much less time to MVP. But from the start I had a very clear goal.
I choose small pieces of work to do that can fit in about an hour. My wife does writing/school in the evenings, so we often sit together and work. If I don't have the mental attention to write code, I work on other things.
Funny enough, I've been very productive while taking my oldest kid to karate. I've built a surprising amount of my application at the dojo :)
I start my day job early (at the office around 7) so that I can get back home and spend more time with the family until bedtime.
I've also learned to accept that my progress might be slow some weeks because I've made the decision to put my family first.
But neither necessarily coincides with your peak creative period.
The muse comes on her schedule and sleep is just something in the way.
When she's absent, you're just tacking more time onto a long day.
The biggest problem I have is finding large enough blocks of time (> 30 mins) to concentrate on the task in hand. The only two blocks that I've managed to secure are early in the mornings before the kids get up and on my commute to work. I use the return journey of my commute to plan what I'm going to do the next day. Although this strategy only provides me with a few hours a day, I find that this is sufficient to give my project some sort of momentum.
I tend to avoid evening development as the quality of the work I produce isn't optimal and it would eat into the time that I want to spend with my very supportive wife and children.
I also try to tackle the larger/tougher parts of my side-projects on weekends instead. To make my weekends more productive, I try to finish the interruptive boring work such as laundry etc on a weeknight when I don't feel like coding. That way, I don't have to worry about it over the weekend.
It works well for me because I'm awake and thinking about tech problems anyway thanks to the morning, and an hour with no distractions is enough to make small gains.
My other tip is to listen to your body's signals. If you're sputtering out, grab a snack and walk around a bit. Speaking of which, it's about time for me to do that right now!
Talk = http://c2047862.cdn.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/tnhc17.mp3
Study by AVG: http://www.sourcewire.com/releases/rel_display.php?relid=587...
Barracuda Labs study: http://www.resourceshelf.com/2010/07/30/new-report-findings-...
CEO of HBGary: http://www.darkreading.com/database_security/security/intrus...
(I pulled these from the malware tag from PhiBetaIota.net)
It's not that easy to drain a bank account- which is why malware authors will typically sell bank account info in bulk for about 1% of the balance. You can get a credit card number for as little as $2-$3 on the black market.
- Sell infected users software to remove it.
- Replace links with affiliate links.
- Redirect websites/searches to other sites.
- Steal your data and sell it.
- Turn your computer into a zombie (botnet), at which point you and thousands of other infected computers attack various business servers around the world.
That's the jist of it. It's all about money.
Why not try it out with the free, 2GB version, and see how it works for you?
As for the other aspects of their service, I have to agree that it 'just works'. I don't have to worry about it, ever. I haven't dealt with customer service, so I have no idea how they are, but I've never had to either, and I've been using them since their inception. No lost files, no corrupt files, no strange files, and no problems with version conflicts. It's just... solid.
> What do you all think would happen if DropBox went out of business. Would they make sure we all had copies of our data?
That's the beauty of DropBox; you already have copies of your data, on all computers that you sync to. It's really convenient, especially on laptops that aren't always connected to the internet, etc.
99% of all my files are in Dropbox (minus large archived projects and videos for space/bandwidths sake) and I do a monthly dump to an external.
I use it as a general dump-folder that I sync across my Macbook Pro, my work PC (Win XP), and my Android phone. This cross-platform ability so share files is priceless to me.
I also keep my KeePass file on it, then have copies of KeePass on my phone, work PC, and laptop all pointed to that devices Dropbox folder, giving me shared access to my encrypted passwords anywhere, anytime. Again, priceless.
I use a shared Dropbox folder with some friends, and we sync files to each other when we want to share them. No more email attachments, image uploaders, or IM file transfers.
Totally self serving link:If you want to try Dropbox, but don’t already have an account try signing up using my referal link. You’ll get an additional 250 MB (in addition to the 2 GB standard amount)
Full disclosure: I’ll get 250 MB too. So everyone wins :-)
1. Where the author (domain) is well-known 2. Where the title is link-bait 3. Where the submitter tries to game the system
Not enough people check the new page. It's impossible to get an article on the frontpage unless like four or five people upvote it in the first few minutes after submission. This is extremely unlikely, unless you have a popular title or popular username.
Once something gets on the frontpage, it gets a LOT of upvotes, and the algorithm decays its weight so slowly that it is essentially a rich get richer phenomenon.
* Front page upvotes don't count as much, since there are more views. In particular, the "weight" of an article should be the probability that someone who views the title clicks on it, combined with the probability that someone who clicks the link decides to upvote it.
* Frontpage is stochastic. Instead of being fixed, you sample articles based upon their probability (or score). Each person gets a new frontpage, in order to actually explore which articles are good. (Exploration vs. exploitation)
Also notice that the 'new' page has a 'more' link at the bottom, you could do worse than to check page 2 and 3 as well to see if anything good fell through the cracks.
Voting up articles that have not made the front page past the third page of 'new' articles is unlikely to have much effect.
It appears they're actually back now, so I've submitted it again:
Funny, because a couple years back that's what would happen to anything you submitted to /r/programming. Now the noise has all moved here and it's actually easier to get Reddit to pay attention then HN.
The only suggestions that I have would be (1) to automatically load a handful of "new" submissions in a separate section of the main page (at the expense of destroying the current design and cluttering the page), or (2) giving out karma for upvoting new stories (which is ripe for exploitation by simply clicking randomly).
What I like about this approach is the randomness in it where random people get random link. I also like the fact that by you aren't choosing between 30 links.. you only get one and you need to say if it's interesting or no. Also, I like the fact that it's on the front page.
So, the top 10 links could be the most yes-ed in a certain period, or the ratio yes/no ratio, or anything really.. You could also put more weight on a yes if you've got more point in HN (Simply because I usually trust their judgement.. for instance, they know when something has already been shown dozen of time)
Also, it feels a little bit more like a game to me.. each time I refresh I need to really participate to say if that special link is interesting or no.. :D
I postulate that the necessary quality level is greater now because of the sheer number of articles that get sifted through. What used to make the cut, no longer does. Or, it could be vice-versa.
It's an unofficial API though and it might not do everything you need.
It indexes HN within a few minutes of any post.
Also, could you please post final dataset somewhere when done?
I will admit it seems a little more geared towards pilots than the masses but there is lots of information presented well.
I think TripIt Pro does notifications too.
That being said, you're correct about quality being an issue. It seems that there are more algorithms, and less human component, deciding what reaches the front page. I think it would work better if it were like this:
1) Algorithm "bubbles up" the best news stories.
2) A trained human (or humans) filters through them, selects the best article.
3) Said article gets posted on the front page.
The trained person would have to have good journalistic taste. Pick out articles with proper headlines, rather than link-bait titles, or titles written by someone who has little clue what he/she is talking about (e.g. there aren't many journalists who are DBA's).
A BIGGER problem is this: Showing only "news" and not "fluff".
Whenever there's a top-ten list, celebrity news, an op-ed piece, sports "news", reports on "marketing material" for new products/services, a puppy who fell down the well, "sharks" in the ocean (who pose no threat to you), the virgin mary appearing on a piece of toast, etc..., that's not real news. That's entertainment.
It would be nice if there was a news source that filtered all of that crap out. It might be as simple as gathering all news stories, and RegEx'ing out anything that also appears on Fark.com. ;)
The only news organization I'm aware of which does this well is PBS's News Hour. The problem is their presentation is very dry. On the plus side, they don't have "opinionated" reporters who add judgmental tones of voice and facial expressions to their presentation.
Another random thought goes back to Op-Ed pieces. It would be nice if all online newspapers, or some sort of services, marked them as such, visually distinguishing them from news pieces. Perhaps make the webpage background light sky blue, rather than white. Anything, in a subtle visual manner, which states "This is someone's opinion; it may or may not be true".
How do you do this?
Get to know them. Spend time with them. Find out what their lives are like, what they have to go through to compete, and what makes them suffer. Jump into their pool at the deep end and learn how to swim. Walk through their warehouses, customer service departments, and general offices. Sit down at their computers and try to do their jobs. Get them talking.
Once they see that you are sincere and have something to offer, they will not be bashful. They will tell you everything you need to know to help them. This will do 2 critical things:
1. It will provide specific feedback about what you're building or have built, whether or not it makes sense for them, and what to change/fine tune/refocus. It they need it like that, chances are that many others do too. Your first prospects have unwittingly been the best focus group you could have assembled.
2. You will be offering exactly what they asked for so they will have few excuses not to buy. Do not underestimate the solid gold of this approach; it works incredibly well.
Call this good sales and marketing if you want but I never have. I just call it doing whatever it takes to help your customers. Becoming successful is a byproduct.
You say you "could really help small businesses."
How, exactly? By increasing their revenue? Decreasing their costs?
If you can convincingly demonstrate a significant ROI, people will overcome their resistance to technology. At least, that's been my experience.
So: can you demonstrate a significant ROI? Do you have enough real-life industry experience to be able to write the business case on your software? Does your software solve a pain-point that they know they have? Or do they need to be educated on both the problem and the solution?
If you are getting this product in front of true potential clients and they are not saying "wow we need this" then you might be in trouble. Even traditional industries now realise the value of technology and if it is going to save/make them money they wont be against new technologies (and for the few exceptions, stay away from them - they'll soon be dead).
So firstly you need to make sure you are building something that customers "don't know they want/need" as opposed to building something "they don't need or want". Just because you thought it was a great idea and could save money or improve processes doesn't mean they will. So if this is not a spinoff of software you have already done for a company I would suggest you do some serious market research to ensure you are not flogging a dead horse.
The next stage is then marketing. Firstly in doing your market research you should have identified some potential clients that said "yes this would be useful", so target them first. Then target their competitors. If this is a product that costs a lot of money then you can factor in having a sales team that really spends time selling the product to each client.
Then think about how you can market the product. It doesn't sound like your target users are likely to be doing Google searches for this product, they may not read anything online in relation to their industry, but are their industry magazines? Can you get cheap advertising in such magazines. Can you offer to write an article about how "tech is changing the industry" - you don't need to reference your product too much if at all - "Guest article by Yosho, CEO of XYZ Enterprises" will get things started.
And lastly don't forget about face to face with any local businesses that you might be able to work with. I did some work with a small consulting company that was looking for new clients, they decided to go to some conferences to try and get new clients. I found a website in the US that showed approximate turnovers for businesses in the area (can't remember the site but was government related) and we found more than 2,000 business with 10 mill a year turnover (their target clients) within about a 10 mile radius of their office. Here they were all about to get on planes to get clients that would have them on planes and away from family for years, and they had never tapped the 2,000 clients down the road. Anyone close to you involved in the industry you are targetting - cold call them, phone them and ask to meet them and show them what you are doing. If you are young (under 25 say) play the "I need guidance" card - you'll be amazed at how many people might be interested in helping. And never rule out getting these people involved - potential investors etc.
Good luck, but do check that you are building something someone wants before you go too far!
I haven't looked at this quantitatively - I think it would an interesting study - but I wonder how many businesses started out building something that people already wanted, or instead built something that people didn't know they wanted. I reckon that a lot of products, particularly in technology, fall into the latter group. So don't despair.
As Michael Dorfman says: you have to be able to quantify either a) how much your product will increase revenue, or b) how much it will save in costs/overheads. If you can't do this you wont be able to sell your product - even if it's free. The overhead in learning a new technology will not be deemed worth it.
Even if you can quantify the value of your product, you still have to fight inertia. As you are discovering businesses have established ways of doing things. It might cost them a lot both in time and money to switch to a new way of doing things (a factor you'll need to consider in the ROI your product offers). Additionally an even bigger barrier to change is contractual relationships with suppliers, buyers and staff. So even if your widget is half the price and twice as good, if the customer is locked into a three year deal with another supplier they are not going to buy it.
You really need to understand your target markets' motivation for doing things the way they do them now, and the value that they derive from this. The value they see might not be the value you imagine - and if your products value is not aligned with this, it's going to be difficult.
So talk to your market, find out exactly what value they derive at the moment, assess how your product aligns with this, and how much it will cost them to change. Then value your product.
Last year I had built a really nice marketing tool to help contractors (builders, plumbers, trades people). I sunk myself into the project for months on end, toiling and envisioning this disruptive tool for the industry... not once talking to any potential customers.
A few months in, I "launched" and tried to sell. It was a disaster. The market segment I picked had no interest in it. It was a problem of "teaching" them that what I was providing had value. But they were a group of non tech-savvy individuals. And nothing could really convince them to use my product.
For my next project, I'm going the Steve Blank route: get out and talk to potential customers, understand their problems, and let that guide what you will build.
How to overcome this? You need to find the early adopters. The tech-savvy users who do find value in your product. Get it in front of them, get their feedback, and sell!
If you can't convince the early adopters... then perhaps what you built can be applied to another market segment, one that would see value in your tool.
If you can't find another market segment... then that's probably the end of it. Fail early, fail fast. Learn from your mistakes and your next shot will make it farther.
It's often said that it's better to have technical-only founders, because it's easier for them to learn the non-technical aspects of business than it is for non-technical people to learn the technical side. This is true, but it's predicated on technical people actually putting in the effort to learn.
I'm still learning sales and marketing myself, so don't take what I say as gospel, but I think the solution to your problem has two parts. The first part is an intensive, non-sustainable effort to win your first few customers. See edw519 for how to go about it. After you win your first customers, things will get easier, by which I mean possible.
Seeing other people have success with your product is an essential part of the sales process, so once you get your first few customers it won't be like pushing water up a hill anymore. It will be like pushing large rocks up a hill -- difficult, but not impossible.
The second part of your solution itself has two distinct parts: selling the problem, then selling the solution. You have to separate selling the problem out as a separate activity. Blog posts are part of this, but won't be enough by themselves. You'll have to figure out the rest on your own. Once you've sold the problem, you're ready to sell the solution. Pointing to other people having success with it will have much more effect than any of your logical reasoning as to why your solution fits the problem.
When people say a good product sells itself, they don't really mean it. It's like if we programmers say that with a good requirements document, software writes itself. What we really mean is that with a good requirements document, someone who knows what he or she is doing can write the software with minimal struggle and creativity.
Your next challenge is to become somebody who knows what you're doing in the sales/marketing area. Until you do this, it will be as hard to bring in an appropriately skilled sales/marketing person as it is for a non-technical founder to bring in an appropriately skilled programmer.
If it's a meaningful amount, there's a process in sales called "developing the need" of the customer (Read Spin Selling by Rackham). The process is basically asking them about how they do things and try to build a shared understanding of how much time/discomfort their current solution is costing them. Take a molehill and turn it into a mountain. Of course, it works best if it really IS costing them and they just don't think about it.
They don't know they want the product- np.
Are they aware of the problem that it solves? Can you make them acutely aware of the problem? (In terms of lost time, cost, etc.) And then, can you show that your solution is "morphine" for the problem? (rather than a vitamin for general well-being). And finally can you show them that (due to ease-of-use etc.) they can be relatively sure that it won't add its own set of problems?
If you can honestly do each of those steps, you're golden- get a killer sales-person and do it. If you can't honestly say yes, you have product issues to work out regardless of your instinct about it's efficacy.
I can't really remark on specifics, as I have no clue about the industry your targeting. However, hopefully some of this will click.
First, to answer your question: Yes.
Simple enough. However, what are your sales and marketing team doing? Obviously not selling. But how are they going about doing it?
Trade shows? Trade magazines? Cold calling? Flying down and meeting with people? All of these are methods my sales guys used when I started my company. Trade shows were the best. They let them promote their product, and actually talk to the people involved. They got to know their potential clients. You aren't trying to sell a product. Your trying to help them run a business.
You need a good feedback loop from your sales guys, too. They can't just sell. They need to market. They need to bring the clients to you, but also you to the clients.
Basically, you need to become apart of the industry you are targeting. Right now it seems like you are trying to sell something to them. That's not the right way to look at it. Basically, how can you help your industry.
You discount their reasons for not wanting to join as being traditional. Why? Not the reason they give you, but really, why? I find a lot of the reasons is that, in truth, the technology route is often more cumbersome for a large number of things.
But really, it all comes down to meeting the people in the industry and becoming apart of that industry.
I remember the first trade show we went to. Our booth had banners and marketing material, and my sales guys pimping the promise of a product we didn't have completed yet. We kept going back, and went to many more throughout the world. It's much easier to get someone to try your product after you've met face to face, shared a drink, or taken them out to dinner.
If you're getting the product in their faces and they aren't responding, that's one thing. If you just can't reach them (short of doing it manually, one by one) then I guess that limits your SEO options and you might be best off targeting/advertising towards areas they might research/read.
One example: Intuit with QuickBooks. More than 90% of small business owners prefer to use pen and paper than a computer to do accounting. Probably they even prefer to chew Styrofoam than doing accounting. But, nevertheless Intuit is not doing bad.
What you need is competition, preferably a weak one. People will be able to better assess your value with something they can compare your product to; like that flopped Microsoft Office Accounting software.
Also, try to reach first the opinion makers, those that create a following (like accountants for QuickBooks).
To finish: everything in business is a matter of just good sales and marketing. Even good engineering is just part of it. If you don't have good sales you don't have a business; it's simple like that.
Give away your product for free to a couple of your prospects - hopefully well known in the industry. In return, feature a case study on them. How they used your product. And how it helped them save time / money etc.
Try getting these case studies published in industry trade journals.
Otherwise, just create a white paper with these case studies in it. And mail them to your prospects. And then follow up.
If you're not working with some specific customer (but just throwing the product online and hope someone starts using it) then you better find at least one live, cooperative customer to work with (huge discounts or even for free if necessary) and see your own product through their eyes. That will help you understand most problems with the product or marketing.
After that you have to face the brutal possibility that the "very traditional methods" reach a certain threshold of ease/cost that it makes other options negligible. As a business owner you have hundreds of mini problems to solve. Once one is solved, you move on. You don't have the time to waste re-solving old problems, even if there is a newer, better solution.
But if you're certain your product is that much better, you have to start at the bud: new businesses. The businesses that just starting to learn to apply those "very traditional methods". Jump in there, offer them your better alternative, and get them to start using it. You're not gonna take over the market overnight, but slowly through word of mouth and good testimonials you'll get your customers to cross that chasm.
The ceteris paribus consequence of building something that your customers don't know they want is simply that you need better marketing.
Retube has made many good points, but without knowing more about your business I think it's difficult to give concrete advice.
You know your market, and somewhat tautologically, if your customers don't know they need you, and they need to know, then you need to tell them.
Again, I'm not really familiar with the value proposition of these services, so anyone with experience (especially a founder of one of these services!) please chime in with a counterpoint.
Just don't leave piles of money sitting in your PayPal account. And once you have things started, assuming it's working out, consider adding additional payment methods as a backup (even if PayPal mostly works, some customers may have trouble with, e.g. their credit cards not being accepted).
If you don't want PayPal, I wrote up some details about why I recently did for a new venture (and some other options). Here:
I like Chargify and use them at our main company ... but they don't support BrainTree's newest version and I don't really like the other merchants they recommend.
You'll need code later for doing IPN and customizing and encrypting the buttons. But it is definitely the lowest barrier to entry. It is also probably the cheapest option, at least when starting out.
I added Recurly for credit card payment for flexibility and credibility. The costs are much higher per paying user than PayPal. Each credit card authorization costs about 30cents, and if a customer input bad credit card info and you have dunning on, it can cost more than a dollar to have a nonpaying customer.
Man up and set it up properly from the start. It costs more but in the end you'll be happy you spent the time and money to do so.
You might consider Recurly http://recurly.com/ as an alternative.
I recommend learning the QT framework. It's cross-platform, unlike .NET, has very well designed libraries, and bindings for a bunch of languages if you don't want to write in C++.
It's nice if a desktop program syncs to an online service though (eg Picasa).
Portable toolkits just copy superficial look of Cocoa controls, but don't mimic "feel" part correctly. Not all mouse interactions and keyboard shortcuts work "right".
And even if your toolkit uses real Cocoa controls, there's still problem of window layout and UI design patterns, which aren't portable to Mac OS X (e.g. non-destructive preferences don't have OK/Apply buttons, drag'n'drop is expected almost everywhere, OK/Cancel are in reverse order than on Windows, etc.)
e.g. do you know OS X has separate clipboard for search fields? Cmd+E/Cmd+G. I like it and use it, but it doesn't work in "fake" Mac apps.
If you want to make good portable app that supports Mac well, then separate UI from the rest of the application and on Mac add Cocoa GUI (you don't need ObjC, you can use PyObjC or MacRuby).
Here's patio11 on desktop vs web: http://www.kalzumeus.com/2009/09/05/desktop-aps-versus-web-a...
That said, Tcl and Tk are a fun, fast way to hack up little applications if you need something local.
- What kind of application do you want to build?
- What OS platforms will the users have?
- What experience do you have or is there a platform you particularly want to learn?
If you can narrow it down to one platform then most of these have pretty decent tools - if you want to support multiple platforms then things get interesting.
Is it mainly for Windows users? Might want to go with .NET. There are free versions of Visual Studio available for this purpose.
Is it for Linux systems? GTK with C/Python or Qt with C++/Python maybe a better option. All the libraries and compilers are free. Mono (an open source .NET implementation) also works well on Linux.
If its for the Mac then Objective-C + Cocoa is the de facto method. The IDE, Xcode is a free download from Apple.You can also get python bindings for Objective-C.
If it has to run on many platforms then you might want to think of a cross-platform toolkit.
If the program has a very simple UI, then you can probably get away with using wxWidgets or QT with Python.
If UI is more involved, then you will probably want to write the front-end for each in it's own native framework.
If your looking to low level system stuff or prioritize app speed have a look at Visual C++. Even Google used if for Chrome.
The most advanced UI framework I've seen is WPF. It has GPU acceleration; compatible, but separate tools for developers and designers; lots of 3rd party controls; can run in browsers through Silverlight.
Both these unfortunately come from Microsoft. You can get the dev tools for free or at low cost through programs like BizSpark.
But actually Qt really adds a great abstraction layer that makes coding in C++ as enjoyable as Java, for example. Easy string manipulation, easy iterators, the signal/slot stuff is awesome, and the community is great.
As a bonus Visual Studio has awesome auto-completion features and is a great WYSIWYG GUI editor.
MS really ought to pay me =p
I've been looking at shoes by _why with some interest but think a dsl/swing (jvm) comboo would be the quickest and easiest cross platform option.
Downloading and installing adds extra friction to your distribution, which you can live without for most of the cases.
For example, I've built game creation tools. These are better suited for the desktop because of the complex interactions and user data involved.
There are plenty of startups that have built their software partially or wholly on the desktop such as Dropbox and Unity3D. For small developers, building desktop clients to popular web services like Twitter is another relevant path to take.
A good UI should not introduce new colors or visual elements that are unnecessary. Zebra coloring of rows has its place, but not here. Don't need the lines between posts (lines are for grids, and this doesn't need one). Additional box around arrows unnecessary. Text too small. Contrast of white on black at top draws eyes too much to title and menu.
Basically, please leave things as they are or ditch this design. I know you've spent a lot of time on it, but you will not gain users at as high of a rate with the new design.
I've always thought the real value of this site was in the comments.
Sometimes a thoughtful comment gets lost because it has no replies, while a less substantive thread might be dominating the discussion.
The voting system doesn't always help either, since the fanboy (and pariah) effect causes some comments to be inflated (or rejected) based on who said them, not their significance or merits.
So if you can think of a good way to present the best comments for a given link or topic, that would be a useful improvement.
The lack of contrast between text and background is an obvious problem though, and one that the redesign linked here doesn't really help too much, imo. Also, the alternating rows are actually kinda distracting.
However, if you are looking for more style (I suspect that most users are NOT), you can check out my project: http://quippd.com
2. Meet people at networking events.
3. Ask from your earlier middlemen if you can use "non-real" gigs as a reference on your website. "Together with Company X, I helped to build Y for company Z."
4. Be ready to do your first gig way below your price. And do it well. It's really valuable to have one gig under the belt.
5. Pick a niche. If you build just websites, there are several established small web development companies in your area. But if you build websites for lawyers, or build iPhone-versions of an existing websites, you have a better change to become a name that is recommended when people are looking for a right person for the job.
6. Do something small but visible as a spare-time project. It doesn't need to be on your niche, but something that other techies in your area appreciate.
The client has to have a trust that you are the right guy for the job. To get people calling you instead you calling them, you have to build that trust over the time. But you can shortcut it somewhat when people that already know you recommend you to someone.
If you need to build a portfolio or have no connections, you can try sites like elance or craigslist - but I wouldn't rely on them for too long. People shopping sites like that are looking for a bargain and probably won't pay what you're worth.
Check with your local Chamber of Commerce for events. Also, go to events that are totally outside of IT, such as construction or travel. Talk to people and tell them what you do. Somebody will have an idea that they want coded up.
1. Get them to sign a contract.
2. Put ads for 3 developers on craigslist. Send the developers over.
3. You go check on them every day at 10:30 am.
4. At about 11:30 am walk down to the client's office, chat for 10 minutes and then ask "have you had lunch yet?"
5. Take client to lunch everyday. They pay you to take them out to lunch. Just pad the fee enough.
If working remotely (i. e. from home or while traveling) is a big part of your reason for contracting, I suggest Intridea, where telecommuting is common and not limited to people at the bottom of the hierarchy. http://intridea.com/careers
Of course, this was better for me b/c I hate doing sales. YMMV.
The job went very well, and was rehired directly by that company as a 'vendor' (on their suggestion). More money in my pocket and theirs by cutting out the middle man.
Still there 3 years later, with the flexibility of being able to work on other projects outside.
It changed the way I view the world, and this perspective has let me see so many things that are invisible to nearly everyone else.
IMHO he's better than Heller, Harvey-Jones, McCormack and even Drucker.
If this interests you, this is one book I have read and am glad I read. It was good enough to open my eyes on certain ways of the business world.
Trump-Style Negotiation: Powerful Strategies and Tactics for Mastering Every Deal by Donald H Ross.
I recently read Fermat's Enigma which I would recommend if you have any interest in mathematics and number theory.
It's not really that interesting to most people, it was designed to be easy to read, easy to maintain larger programs in, in particular, it was designed to be easy to read and review, that was the point.
It was not designed to be interesting to hackers like the folks here, I strongly suspect that 98% of you will go WTF? You based this on top of tcl? Are you retarded? And the answer is "well, yeah, sort of. But it fit our needs".
Anyway, we're in the midst of a commercial product release but after that I can see about getting the source out for anyone who wants (BSD license or whatever tcl is, I know it's BSD or BSD like) as well as prebuilt images for all the common platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux, *BSD, HPUX, Solaris, AIX, even IRIX and SCO for the 3 people in the world still using those).
If anyone has constructive feedback, bring it on. It's a moving target which is why we haven't released yet, haven't nailed down 1.0 hard enough that we want to live with it. We are using it internally.
But, if what you want to do is to learn about programming languages, the thing to do is to write one of your own. Language design is among the most difficult of human intellectual tasks because the language elements must be composable to create larger, more capacious elements. A common error is to "add a statement to do X" rather than creating a conceptual framework that works with other language elements to allows X (and other things) to be performed.
A book worth reading on the design of language is Alexander Stephanov and Paul McJones, Elements of Programming. A talk covering some of the material in this book is scheduled for the Stanford EE Computer Systems Colloquium for November 3rd (http://ee380.stanford.edu). The lecture is open to the public, webcast live, and archived for on-demand viewing. Eventually it will be out on YouTube, iTunes, and elsewhere.
And while we are on the ideas of language design, you might want to look into some of the theories of natural language. George Lakoff's ideas in cognitive linguistics seem to apply to programming languages as well. Language, in his view, is motivated by metaphor.
I also think anyone who is serious about programming languages needs to have programmed in several assembly languages and to have experimented with macro assemblers. Macro assemblers provide a powerful tool for creating nonce programming languages at the assembly level.
I would also suggest that learning about optimizations would be of interest. At some level, optimizations are about mapping programming language concepts onto real machines for efficient execution. There is a dymaxion tension between programming languages and computer hardware with each influencing the other. Today, the need to efficiently map programs onto multi-core machines has renewed interest in parallel programming languages.
I'd say learn Haskell, Clojure, and Scala before anything else because they seem like they might actually be 3 of the best programming languages out there. After that I'd recommend Oz (in conjunction with the textbook Concepts, Techniques, and Models of Computer Programming, which Peter Norvig mentions as being a possible modern equivalent to SICP (Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, a classic MIT Scheme-based text)), Scheme (with SICP), and Erlang.
Can't say I've done all this myself, it's just what I would do if I had a really strong interest in learning new programming languages.
It's one thing if you want to deal with integer representations and memory allocation, and quite another to want to experiment with language design, grammars and object models (and be playing with <canvas> animations tomorrow). The CoffeeScript codebase is only 2,200 lines of code in toto, and it's all annotated to help you get started and make sense of things.
I'll second the motion for you to write your own thing.
- Cofeescript http://coffeescript.org/
- Fantom http://fantom.org/
- HaXe http://haxe.org/
- Neko http://nekovm.org/specs
- K http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K_%28programming_language%29
- Factor http://factorcode.org/
- Ragel http://www.complang.org/ragel/
- CLOS (not just Lisp, but it's wonderful "standard" object system)
- PostScript - which is actually a nice interactive programming language that just happens to have nice graphics capabilities
I've spent years working in CLOS and PostScript (on the same project!) and of all of the languages I've used these were the ones that I found the most satisfying. I still keep a copy of AMOP on my desk in my study at home to browse occasionally.
[Deleted reference to APL after seeing previous post]
Watch someone program Conway's Game of Life in one line of APL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9xAKttWgP4
It's black magic to me, but pretty cool looking, too.
Also, learn Scheme, or Lisp. You'll rethink recursion after that.
Lua. A tiny yet powerful language whose only data structure is the associative table. Can be learned in half a day.