Monday, 11 May 2015

Your advice please: "Testivate" or "Interface Analytics"

Hi all,

My business, Testivate, tests websites and produces detailed (100+ page) PDF reports about the features on each website, and how they compare to other websites and to best practice.

For example, the reports show whether the tested websites:


  • Hide or show global navigation when the customer is checking out
  • Provide answers when the customer searches for non-product information (e.g. 'returns policy') in the product search engine
  • Publish telephone numbers in their global header area
  • Use Facebook Like buttons on their product pages

I'm rapidly evolving this into a subscription business, where clients can interact with their information in real time, rather than ordering one-off static reports.

I call the service that I provide "interface analytics" and I've been able to register http://interfaceanalytics.com and its variants.

My question to you is whether I should change the name of the business from Testivate to Interface Analytics.

Pros:

  • Customers who are not searching for Testivate may still be searching for variants of "interface analytics", and find my business as a result
  • The phrase explains what the business does
  • I've not invested heavily in the Testivate brand; it still feels like this business is an early stage of his evolution

Cons:

  • "Interface Analytics" is a bit of a mouthful
  • Maybe it doesn't explain what the business does? Some people may be puzzled by the term
  • Testivate, being a unique word, will surely own Testivate in SEO, and is easy to track on social media etc
  • Maybe I should forget about the name and just focus on the business
Of course the "right" answer is I should tackle this by interviewing customers etc, but I'm still interested in your views.

Thanks,

Steven.



Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Out there idea: a nuclear power station in Wollongong to power eastern seaboard very fast rail

As an ALP member, I'm able to make submissions about what our national policy platform should be as we head into the next federal election. Here's what I wrote:

We need a clean energy policy that, unlike the Coalition's, is genuine about bringing about massive cuts quickly.

We need a clean energy policy that, unlike the Green's, is genuine about providing affordable and reliable energy to all Australians and Australian industry.

For this reason, we need to end the blanket ban on all nuclear power generation in Australia, as a first step towards allowing nuclear to be considered as part of our total response.

In arguing this, I stand with the IPCC.

The IPCC does not just say that sticking to <450ppm CO2 is essential.

The IPCC does not just saying that sticking to <450ppm CO2 will be incredibly difficult.

The IPCC also says that our best hope of pulling off such an incredible feat is to have more renewables AND more efficiency AND more nuclear AND more hydro AND more carbon capture.

Likewise, just as an overwhelming majority (>97%) of climate scientists believe in anthropogenic climate change, a smaller but still clear majority (>70%) of climate scientists believe that nuclear is a necessary part of our response.

On this issue, Labour can be the only party in Australia that actually listens to everything that climate scientists and the IPCC have to say about the required clean energy transition.

It won't be easy, because there is a lot of misinformation about nuclear. For example, most people do not realise that nuclear leakage at Fukushima has caused no deaths and no measurable increase in illness, and that the background radiation near Fukushima is actually lower than the background radiation on most beaches where high levels of thorium occur naturally.

But the ALP, as the party of reason and progress, should have the courage and strength to take on this fight.

I have attached one of many academic studies to support my case:http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wcc.324/abstract

Despite the environmental and social/economic benefits of very fast rail, it will be hard to get up in Australia, where longterm think is nowhere to be seen.

Even worse, any rail link that is built down the eastern seaboard will almost certainly bypass Wollongong because of the cost of crossing the escarpment.

But what if Port Kembla housed the nuclear power plant that ran the whole show?

More jobs for the displaced manufacturing workers of the Illawarra, plus a good reason to include a fast rail stop here.

And let's face it: we're not going to run this thing on solar panels, and running it on coal would defeat the environmental purpose.

What do you think?

Monday, 7 April 2014

Is the NBN coming to 2WLG?

A while ago I received the following flyer in the mail:
28 March 2014 
Dear Resident, 
Notification of footpath and traffic restrictions due to Service Stream undertaking necessary works on behalf of Telstra 
Telstra, will shortly be performing work on underground pits and associated infrastructure in your area. 
As part of this activity, Telstra has engaged Service Stream to undertake work that may involve some digging and reinstatement of grassed areas, footpaths and road reserve. The work is planned to be undertaken during business hours where possible. 
Pedestrian and traffic management safety signs will be displayed when the work is in progress. In some instances it will be necessary to remove pits that, due to the age of the infrastructure, may consist of asbestos containing material. 
Safety signs will be displayed when work is in progress. stringent asbestos handling procedures that comply with current regulations and codes of practice for asbestos will be adhered to and those undertaking the work are appropriately trained and supervised. 
Please note that as a consequence of the effective management of asbestos containing material, staff will be wearing personal protective clothing and setting up protective equipment surrounding the construction site. These procedures are necessary to ensure compliance with the regulations and codes of practice for the handling and removal of asbestos. 
Further information on this can be found online at http://www.telstra.com.au/abouttelstra/advice/asbestos-info/ 
This letter is to advise that within the next seven days there may be some traffic restrictions and footpath closures as the work is carried out in and around your local area.
Could it be true? Could the NBN be coming to 2WLG?

Well, the actual work on the Telstra pits started today. And the contractors said they were removing asbestos from the pits to allow Telstra to hand them over to the NBN Co.

From there, I called NBN Co. The person I spoke with there gave me a cheerful, non-committal "it's a very good sign" answer. He explained that asbestos removal is a very early step that Telstra completes long before NBN begins laying fibre. But he agreed that if the entire area was being remediated (and from the letter it looks like it is) then it's probably not an ad hoc Telstra repair job — it's probably Telstra preparing to hand pits over to the NBN Co.

There is probably a year's work left to do. And anything could happen to the NBN project in the mean time. But right now I can barely contain my excitement. Woo-hoo!

Illawarra Mockery can't cop criticism

Twice now I've noticed the Illawarra Mockery publish articles that contained some sort of flaw.

Twice now I've written comments on those articles that expressed my view. Neither post was offensive or off-topic.

Twice now the Mockery has deleted those posts.

It seems that someone at the Mockery does not understand that information wants to be free.

So, dear reader, here are those two posts and my comments.

Let me know: do you think the Mockery was being a little too sensitive?

 The first article was about Wollongong City Council's bike plan. My deleted comment was:
The article says: "The draft plan, due to go on public exhibition after next week's council meeting, outlines strategies to get more residents on their bikes between now and 2018." The poll says: " Do you like Wollongong council’s five-year bike plan?" Ummm...
The second article was about a local lesbian couple who'd arranged their own informal wedding.

Some jerk left the following comments:
Their exchange of vows means nothing. The law does not recognise same gender marriage. Why are you writing a story on this? If I was to tell you I wanted to marry my pet turtle, would you write a story on that as well?
In response to him or her, I wrote:
Means nothing to whom? Clearly it means a great deal to these women. 
As to whether the event merits a story, that's a different matter. But then you could have same debate about half the stories you see published in most regional newspapers, including this one.
Note that in this second case not only did the Mockery protect itself from my criticism, but it saw no need to shield the women from a direct and grievous insult from another reader.

So it seems the Mockery can't cop criticism — but that doesn't mean information won't be free. Hopefully, as many people as possible will see this post and the comments that the Mockery was too afraid to publish.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Please: less talk, more hacking

I've just read "#IllawarraDigital / A Regional Digital Strategy for the Illawarra".

The report runs to 50-odd pages, so let me give you the top line: it says we should do more good digital stuff, especially in the areas that the council/uni/etc have identified as being good areas in which to do digital stuff. You know: those thing we've all been working hard at anyway since the Microbee was king.

Yawn.

Call me a cynic, but I don't think the Illawarra needs more reports full of pretty diagrams showing how a new digital strategy can intersect with XYZ strategies from the various arms of government.

Think I'm being too harsh? Well, what can we possibly say about this pearler?

RDAI and LGAs should agree to operationalise the #IllawarraDigital within the constraints of resources provide active ongoing support for its promotion and implementation. Over time they should align other regional strategies and programs with #IllawarraDigital.

What. The. Actual. Farce? It's like I'm doing my MBA again.

This one is labelled "commit to a digital future". And by "commit", the report seems to be saying, basically, "promote things" and "align strategies". Which is a recipe for doing not much at all.

(Oh, and I'd snipe about the grammar but this blog post is probably worse.)

The #IllawarraDigital report was probably (??) funded by the federal tax payer, so I guess I shouldn't be too harsh. I mean, it's not like it diverted resources from actual Illawarra hackers, except to the extent that they are also tax payers. But what about the opportunity cost? How much did it cost the tax paper and what could we have received instead?

I read the report on a Friday night, in grabs, while running my test suite a few times. That is, hacking. Building a business. All that good stuff. Ultimately, I guess the report did no harm. But it just gets up my nose: seeing the talk come from one corner, when the action is all occurring in others. Because ultimately, if you really believe in the Illawarra's future as a digital hub, the best thing you can possibly do is to speak with some potential customers, fire up a text editor, and hack together something designed to put a smile on their dial. Most other activities are just hot air.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Lessons for Wollongong from Brad Feld's "Startup Communities"

I've just finished Brad Feld's "Startup Communities", subtitled "building an entrepreneurial ecosystem in your city". I bought this book in search of lessons for Wollongong, and that's what I found.


Initially, my mind battled with this book, because of its lack of hard data. I know geographers and economists are researching why some cities and sectors thrive while others stagnate or die, but the only formal study referenced in this book was the "The Rise Of The Creative Class".

Nonetheless, that's my issue. Once I got past it, I started genuinely enjoying "Startup Communities" for what was — a series of personal stories from the front line of startup community development, tied together by the author Brad Feld's personal view of what fails, what works and why. And with his vast experience as an entrepreneur, investor and startup community leader in Boulder and Boston and across the United States, Feld is the ideal person to write such a book.

So, what are the book's lesson for Wollongong?

Well, I can't say it changed my mind on any important issues, but it did broaden and reinforce many of my existing views, which is always nice.

So, let's start with how it broadened some of my views. Obviously the University Of Wollongong is an important asset to the local startup community. For that reason, I'm excited by the prospect of students or graduates launching their own enterprises. But "Startup Communities" alerted me to an issue I hadn't considered — that universities can also play a very important role by encouraging students to take internships, research projects and jobs with local startups. For every student who is keen to launch their own business, there are many more who would consider taking a job with a local startup if they knew the opportunity existed. "Startup Communities" describes a program from Boulder that does just this. It's a program that UOW could certainly replicate.

In terms of confirming my existing views, I was relieved to see Feld argue that building a strong local VC presence is not an important early step in the process of building a startup community. Build strong startups and the investors will come, Feld argues. You can make it easier for investors to find strong local startups, but the presence of active investors in a city is an outcome of having a thriving startup community, not something that does much to help create one. Too right!

Another of my existing views is that success breeds success. Seasoned startup founders and early employees in a city become that city's next generation of mentors, connectors and investors. For example, it's common to liken Wollongong to Waterloo, Canada. It's obvious that the founders and early employees of Research In Motion have had a massive positive affect on Waterloo's startup community, even if some people try to deny it. Likewise, "Startup Communities" was riddled with references to companies like StorageTek that beat out the paths that Boulder startups follow today. Now, Wollongong has a long history of startup success. For example, see this PDF about The Wollongong Group which I think I first spotted on one of Jeffrey Thom's timelines. Or reflect on Walmart's acquisition of Grabble. However, we've never built a locally headquartered IT company of the size of Research In Motion, or even the size of StorageTek. But one day we will, and the founders and early employees of that startup will turn Wollongong on its head. This is why I think one of the most important things we can do to build Wollongong's startup community is to keep building Wollongong's startups.

Anyway, "Startup Communities" is an interesting and motivating read. If anyone wants to borrow the book, do let me know.



Sunday, 25 November 2012

Hackagong: my personal faves

This weekend, 21 teams competed in Hackagong (no connection), Wollongong's inaugural hackathon. Yeah!

I know that competing in a similar event in Sydney a few years ago was pivotal for me. It left me with a very clear understand of what a handful people can achieve on deadline if they're willing to throw almost any nasty hack at the right business or consumer problem.

So I was very keen to attend the final presentations on Sunday night. My only regret is I had to leave at 7pm on the dot, meaning I missed most of Kickstart Kristmas, and all of the final Selera team's pitch. Sorry guys, I'm sure what you built was awesome. In fact, I know it must be, as Kickstart Kristmas actually won the entire hackathon. However, by necessity, what follows is sadly just based on what I saw of the first 19 teams.

So, without further ado, if I was lucky enough to be judge, jury and executioner, my awards would go to:

My choice for winner: Assetly

This team told a clear story about who would use their app and why: companies that lease assets like mining equipement and that still rely on paper forms and Excel to track their status. And you can imagine what sort of money would be floating around in that industry,

The team built an app that included just enough functionality to actually solve the problem: a barcode you stick on the leased asset, a scanner app for Android, and a database on the web that records the user's notes about the state of their assets.

The team had a potential customer already lined up.

For me this is the very definition of what hackathons are about: small teams throwing nasty hacks at real problems and in the space of a weekend creating a minimum viable product that could actually grow into a business.

My choice for business potential: Order Magic

Actually, Assetly has the great business potential, but in the name of spreading around the credit, let's give this award to the very close second: Order Magic.

Again, this team told a clear story about who would use the app and why: BigCommerce store managers who spend too much time and make too many mistakes when printing off their orders.

Again, the team targeted a market that is in a position to spend money to make money: online retailers.

Again, the team built just enough functionality to actually solve the problem: a script that talks to the BigCommerce API, downloads product orders to the user's DropBox, and optionally automatically sends them to the printer.

Sweet.

My choice for best overall design: Infinite Small

In a weekend, the team behind Infinite Small managed to create an application that was so polished it looked like the outcome of weeks of work. No nasty hacks here, as much as they are often necessary in a hackathon —this was pure user interface goodness.

Other categories

I don't know enough gaming, security etc to offer an opinion about most of the categories, but if I had been there at the end there would have loved cheering on my favourites in the audience choice awards. I would have reserved some of my loudest hollering for:
  • Check My Site: Clearly this team solved a problem that many audience members actually faced, as they won the audience choice award. That in itself is enough for Check My Site to get my vote too.
  • Kickstart Kristmas & The Alliance: In these events, it's not enough to just get up there and mumble your way through a product demo. The pitch really matters. So, just before I left, it was great too see the Kickstart Kristmas team start their pitch with something completely different — a short acted sketch ending with the audience being showered in the socks they didn't want for Christmas. Likewise, it was great to see The Alliance rising above the room's AV issues by running around the room showing everyone their game running on a laptop.
  • Melon — Messaging For Felons. Hilarious. And honestly I would have cheered them just for offering to put the audience choice prize money on the bar.
So, a fantastic event all round, and thanks and congratulations are definitely due to the organisers and sponsors— especially Nathan who started it all. Hackers are at the core of every successful startup culture, so I look forward to this being a regular feature of the Wollongong tech calendar for now on.