LaSalle Software News #22: Exquisitely Unconventional Clients

Friday June 1st, 2018

Episode Summary

Welcome to my twenty-second LaSalle Software News podcast.

This is Bob Bloom from Toronto Canada. 

Today is Friday, June 01st, 2018. 

I publish LaSalle Software News monthly, at the top of the month except for September, to update you on my LaSalle Software. 


I was not sure that I'd have enough content to merit publishing a June podcast at my usual "top of the month". However, from the notes I took during the recent "New Member Showcase" event at the RIchmond Hill Board of Trade, on top of some discussions I had at this month's GTA-PHP meet-up, my doubts were quenched.

At the "New Member Showcawse" event, I had a table with which to put up a trade show display. I was granted a full minute to address everyone at once with my elevator pitch. On my table was my MacBook Pro opened to my website's newly revised home page, and my copy of "Laravel Up And Running". The event was well attended and I talked to a good number of people. People wanted to know what my software does, how much I am selling it for, if it is designed for a specific industry. I lost track of how many times I was asked: "What is a web application?". Well, what is a website? Since the people asking typically have a WordPress site, let's ask the question, what is WordPress? Let's look at websites through the WordPress prism, since this is where a lot of potential clients are coming from. I have links galore in the following paragraphs in my transcript. WordPress is the world's most popular blogging software. It is free open source software licenced under the General Public LIcense version 2 or later. You can see the actual source code here at WordPress is written in the PHP language, a highly popular language for building websites and web applications. A good recent podcast about WordPress by the PHP Roundtable team is here. A few things about this podcast: interesting comments about the new "Gutenberg" feature, good quick look at WordPress' history, and I disagree with the comments that those who are not part of the solution are part of the problem because WordPress has real issues that are not solve-able by you or me. WordPress is an all-in-one thing. The front-end and administrative back-end exist within the same domain. The database is typically installed on the same server as the source code. The entire codebase exists under the "public_html" folder, meaning that if server level restrictions were lifted you would be able to see every single source file that runs WordPress in your browser. The front-end is what the public sees -- basically what is generally referred to as The Website. The administrative back-end is the login area where you enter new blog posts, create new users, etc. The blog posts and user information, among others, is stored in the database. WordPress is free, every webhost is configured to run it, the hosting is cheap, and it has a huge eco-system. 15 years ago, a very young fella was unhappy with blogging software. So he grabbed a free open source blogging software and tinkered with the code. He tinkered with it so much that he gave it a new name: WordPress. WordPress grew to the extent that it has lines of businesses and has received venture capital financing. WordPress may be free to download, but it is controlled by the people who run and back it, and its purpose is to create a profit. The latest PHP Roundtable podcast talks about this issue. Usually one domain is associated with one WordPress installation. A WordPress installation is an all-in-one unit of front-end, back-end, and database. Ok. We're getting there... A small business owner-manager typically has just one website -- a WordPress installation where the front-end, back-end, and database exists as one unit, associated with a single domain ("domain-name dot com"). Since there is one website, everything that would be in a website is in that one single website. In my opinion, shoving everything into One Big Website is a huge mistake. In my opinion, the answer is *not* having multiple WordPress sites, although you might think that that is where I am heading. I am definitely not heading towards having multiple independent WordPress installations. Oh boy, I'm getting a headache just thinking about that! In my opinion, the answer is having multiple front-ends, and a single back-end. Each front-end is designed for a narrow specific purpose. You can have as many front-ends as you need. Each front-end can be written in their own language, designed for differing operating systems and devices. There is only one back-end, but that back-end is comprised of many separate but related applications and API's. Conventional wisdom says that doing things this way is beyond the reach of small business owner-managers: the money involved is insane, the technicals are beyond the pale, and the time commitment prevents the "real business" getting done. Well, the economics of the cloud, and the evolution of the technologies involved, have put this way of doing things within reach of small business owner-managers. The problem is that it may be within reach, but it is not easy. It is definitely, and will remain for your peers, The Road Less Travelled. Conventional wisdom says that only start-ups and large businesses can have technologies that are themselves lines of business -- that themselves generate revenue. Small businesses just use technologies as adjuncts and helpers for their "real" business. Technology is not itself a "real" business. Things are changing. Things are not idyllic for the small business owner-manager. But things have, and are, changing, so that small business owner-managers have within reach to make technology itself a profit centre. Or, at least, to intimately intertwine their "real" business with technology to make even more money. In my opinion, it comes down to the elemental activity is custom web application development. In my opinion, small business owner-managers have to get into the custom web application development business. As a core line of business. In my opinion, those who struggle now will be the most rewarded, especially over the longer term. Why? Because it is not easy! And it is not going to get any easier for a while because the technologies and techniques are still evolving. We're still fairly early on with these technologies. It's going to be a while before things settle down. So if you are waiting for some idyllic moment to jump into custom web application development, you'll be waiting and waiting and waiting. There is no need to upend everything all at once. There is no need to invest gargantuan amounts of money. There is no need to starve your "real business" of the love and attention that it needs. To start, there must be the will, the right mindset, and the first modest little project. That first modest little project is probably fixing the failure of getting the leads you feel are slipping through your fingers because your SEO is succeeding, but still you are not actually hearing from anyone -- or you are compensating by spending much too much time on social media.


In my last podcast, I said that conversions -- people taking the action that you want them to take on your site -- requires an exquisite understanding of value. What value to you offer? What value do people seek from you? It is really hard to define. Did you see the movie Moneyball? A wonderful movie about a major league baseball general manager using analytics to improve his team. What attracts me about the movie is its focus on value. Most people are probably attracted to the movie because Brad Pitt is in it. The movie has wonderful scenes about the value of base-on-balls. The traditional perception is that the only way to get on base is to get singles and doubles and triples and home runs. A player's ability to get on to first base via base-on-balls is not valued at all. However, the "moneyball" view of things, the ability to get on first base is what is valued, regardless of hitting or getting a base-on-ball. As a result of this perception of value, a player that can get on base via base-on-balls is perhaps as valuable as a player that can get on base via hits. A player that can get on base both ways is particularly valuable. However, baseball generally under values these players, which means that they demand a relatively low salary. Ok, you are an owner manager of a small business. The thing is, you are not alone, there are other businesses of varied shapes and sizes for customers to choose from. What is "value"? What attracts customers to your business -- what "value" do customers assign to your business? Value is a very difficult thing to figure out! Here is a great scene early in the movie, where the essence of "moneyball" is expressed in an underground garage because it is so against the conventional mantra: "They think in terms of buying players. Your goal should not be to buy players. Your goal should be to buy wins. In order to buy wins, you need to buy runs." And, to buy runs, you need to get on base. While still in the underground garage, "I see an imperfect understanding of where runs come from".


I do not do spec work. That is, doing work for someone without being paid for it -- in the hope of being compensated later. Submit a Request for Proposal? Not me. Check out your development website and submit written comments about it for free? Not going to happen. Submit detailed (or even general) proposals? No. Submit proof-of-concept web apps as proposals? Don't even think about it. Insist on discounts because you are a not-for-profit? Wasting your time. Speculative work, joint ventures, non disclosure agreements. Forget it. I am prepared to talk about sponsored open source software, and in fact want my clients to do this. However, I've been burned by what I will call "Intentional Unintended Misunderstanding", where the perp feigned understanding of what was really meant by the term "free open source software" and what features were really intended for this free open source software. The perp just wanted a discount on their software development and exploited the only way he saw that he could get it. It took me just two events into my RHBOT membership to get hit up for spec work.


I'll have more to report on my Software next month.


You have been listening to a production. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of SouthLaSalleMEDIA dot com, nor of the organizations represented. Links and materials discussed on air are available in the Show Notes for this show. Information contained herein have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but are not guaranteed. Podcasts are released under a creative commons licence. Some rights are reserved. Email correspondence to the attention of Bob Bloom at info at SouthLaSalleMedia dot com.

Monthly report on the good, the bad, and the ugly of my ongoing LaSalle Software development. Produced by Bob Bloom, founder and developer of LaSalle Software.

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