Wednesday, November 26, 2008

DotNetNuke Corporation gets Series A financing

According to CMS Reports DotNetNuke Corporation whose principals are the progenitors of DotNetNuke, the open source platform that OS-Cubed does much of it's customer facing web development on, has acquired Series A Financing from August Capital and Sierra Ventures. Sierra originally invested in companies such as Symantec, Cisco, and Barnes and Nobles. August has invested in more recent start-ups such as Splunk and eBates.

"This initial funding comes at a key juncture for DotNetNuke Corporation, as the use of DotNetNuke continues to accelerate and we must scale to meet the needs of our rapidly growing community and ecosystem," said Shaun Walker, Chief Architect of DotNetNuke Corporation and original creator of DotNetNuke. "With an impressive track record of growing early stage companies into market leaders, August Capital and Sierra Ventures represent valuable partners and resources for DotNetNuke Corporation. We look forward to working closely with these firms to build on our past success and strengthen our position in the Microsoft ecosystem."

At the same time DotNetNuke Corporation announced that they will be releasing a "professional edition" of DNN 4.9 which will come with technical support and official bug-release level backing of the company. In keeping with the spirit of the open source development model, the core elements of the commercial distribution will continue to be licensed under the permissive BSD open source license and the company will work continuously to provide new innovation and increased value in the free, open source core product.

OS-Cubed looks forward to exploring just what this means for the future of DotNetNuke, and are excited to see the product move into the professional arena. We congratulate Shaun and the other DNN inventors on their success, and hope that same success extends to our clients who continue to use and create awesome software on the DNN platform.

As an amusing sidenote, the blogger suggestion for correcting the spelling of DotNetNuke is "Detonating" :)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Do you remember this?

This month in 1977 the Cray 1 supercomputer was released.
It was 6.5' tall, and almost as wide
It cost 8.8 Million dollars
It did 80 million floating point operations per second

The PS3 pictured above cost $399
It is barely 1' tall and 4" wide
It does 218 BILLION floating point operations per second

So the next time you complain your computer is slow...... think about it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

What to write on next....

I've gotten some interesting requests for topics to write about. I thought I'd put it up to my readers for comments about what items they are most interested in hearing about:

Some great ideas from Sharon Flank:

  • How do you be sure your entrepreneurial site is secure and can't be used for illegal purposes?
  • Should you partner with an outsource firm that retains some ownership in the final product?
  • Outside reviews of scope to help control scope creep
  • Reserving development dollars to implement ideas from user testing
  • Software documentation do's and don'ts

Other ideas:

  • What makes a great programming team?
  • Version Control: protecting your assets and maintaining a development audit trail
  • FFF funding - opportunity and challenges
  • Why use the Microsoft platform
  • Mixing open source and proprietary software

What are your ideas? What would you like to hear about next?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

An agile programmer team room

I've been reading and admiring the quick article on about building an Agile Programming team room. While we have many of the same elements in our development environment there are many ideas here that I'd love to steal er borrow :)

I was surprised by how much their offices look like ours. We also have an open floor plan, tons of natural light, dual monitors at every workdesk, lots of available whiteboard space. One of the things I loved about their space is the overall storyboard with colored cards, and the weekly iteration rollover plan. Very nicely laid out.

Agile or XP is a methodology frequently used in early stage (and some late state) startups to rollout product effectively, iteratively, and with stable solid builds. The idea is to rollout stable usable versions of the application almost weekly. OS-Cubed's methodology definitely adopts many of the great ideas of XP, but we're always learning new things about how best to develop software.

I'm going to challenge my programming team to take a look at this and see what elements they feel might help them keep on track and develop better software. Thanks to William Pietri for revealing some of their "inner geek"...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Followup on usability testing... and a bit of a break

I'll be taking a bit of a break for a week as I take some time to relax, but in the meantime you might want to take a gander over at Lightspeed Venture Partner's blog. They have a great followup to their recent usability testing article which I commented on here.

In this post they go into depth on what sorts of testing are appropriate at various levels of development. Most of our work for entrepreneurs has focused on the Ideation phase of development, where LSVP recommends that you explore new ideas and opportunities, take the founders vision and add in the background developed during initial testing. Specifically Knowledge Athletes (aka KA one of our most successful clients - our first) has performed the following types of testing in their product roll out from LSVP's list:
  • Ethnographic field studies (KA's "in school trials")
  • Focus groups (KA has focus groups consisting of high school students at all levels, college students and corporate clients)
  • Diary studies (the unique nature of KA's product is that it IS a diary so users can comment and track their usage of the product IN the product itself)
  • Surveys (So far online user surveys have created a number of interesting new ideas for the product)
  • Data mining (As KA has created user experiences TONS of data is now available on how the product is used and when it has been successful. This data is leading not only to new development ideas, but also paradigm shifts in teaching methods)

Th original paper on this topic by Christian Rohrer of has a great chart that shows where studies work best and compares data source vs approach vs context of use. You can learn more about usability testing at this University of Texas site.

Alternatively Jakob Nielsen's book on usability testing (linked below) is widely regarded as being one of the best in the industry.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Analyzing software features

In my post on scope I discussed the idea of limiting scope - both to budget and to goals. Brad Feld in this post, mentioned an interesting methodology, which quantifies the method we've used in our projects in a neat and tidy way. Since we work with early seed companies and startups in the Family, Friends and Acquaintances funding mode, we are constantly working to see what features we can build into a project for a small dollar budget. Obviously we need to leave some features out, but how best to decide?

Brad neatly summarized the decision as chartable on 2 axis. Along one axis is appearance vs substance (though I prefer the term functionality), and along the other axis is what users say they want vs whether they are willing to pay for that feature.

I would add a 3rd dimension - what the cost to code, test, implement and train are vs the speed at which the new feature can earn back it's investment. I know this is a purely ROI sort of view of the data, but it lets you see whether it's really worth it to put limited dollars into a particular feature. Perhaps in Brad's discussion they were talking about once there is Venture money already in the development and it's more a choice based on having enough money to do everything but not wanting to overburden the product with features. In our world though it's literally what can we afford. If Feature A has strong functionality, and users are willing to pay for it, but it would cost 2x as much as we have in the budget for development - then trying to build it won't help anyone until we get more funding.

In any case, it's an interesting thought exercise, and one that each entrepreneur should go through as they try to narrow down their feature set and build their demos and proofs of concepts. Take each feature and chart it three dimensionally. This will help you visualize your feature set, and decide which features to build, and which to build first.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Personal branding in the Web 3.0 age

I recently attended an event sponsored by The Rochester Professional Consultants Network (RPCN). I've been a proud member of RPCN for a number of years, though I've been able to participate more actively in past years. I was quite impressed by the event - both the caliber of its speakers and the organization - mostly a result of Emily Carpenter's hard work, along with her committee, and the other RPCN volunteers.

I especially enjoyed Neil Hair's segment on personal branding - both extending and controlling your personal brand. As a proponent of the use of personal branding to extend my sales network, promote OS-Cubed, and build a really fantastic network of resources to both draw on and assist, I really began to think about how the entrepreneurs we work with could benefit from spending some of their precious time on building their personal brands. I think it's interesting that Neil's talk was centered around how best to manage the online perception of you. Most of our largest clients have come from the internet in a variety of ways, and I suspect that some if not all of them checked out both OS-Cubed and myself extensively on the Internet before engaging with us. All of them are very interesting, engaging and intelligent individuals - and many know that people do business with people, so being transparent about who you are, what you stand for and what your capabilities represent can only improve your chances of having a successful launch.

One amusing thing was that Neil gave us a "checklist" of things you should be doing to manage and promote your personal brand. I ran through the checklist myself and found myself solidly in the "Psycho" section of the personal branding pantheon. My wife would probably agree :). If Neil posts his checklist, I'll present it here so you can take the test yourself. But in the meantime, ask yourself:
  • If you google your own name are you on the first page?
  • Do you have, and at least weekly maintain, a LinkedIn, and also a Facebook Account?
  • Do you have a blog?
  • Have you registered your own name as a domain?

If the answer is no to these, then you should consider adding these to your marketing portfolio. How else are your potential customers, investors and partners going to learn about you, your company and your ideas in today's internet age?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

We're even more certifiable....

OS-Cubed recently achieved the Microsoft ISV/Software Solutions competency. As a Gold Certified partner, OS-Cubed's new competency is joined with our Networking Infrastructure solution.

“Solutions competencies are an important way for Microsoft to better enable ISVs to meet customer needs,” said Sanjay Parthasarathy, corporate vice president of the Developer and Platform Evangelism Group at Microsoft Corp. “They allow ISVs to keep and win customers through their deep knowledge of solutions-based Microsoft platform technologies. Microsoft has a long history of working closely with ISV partners to help them deliver compelling solutions and applications to our mutual customers, and the Microsoft Competencies are an important step in continuing to enhance vital relationships with ISVs worldwide.”The ISV/Software Solutions Competency recognizes the skill and focus partners bring to a particular solution set. Microsoft Gold Certified Partners that have obtained this competency have a successful record of developing and marketing packaged software based on Microsoft technologies.

Additionally, OS-Cubed has the Networking Infrastructure Solutions competency. Microsoft Gold Certified Partners enrolled in the Networking Infrastructure Solutions Competency have proved their expertise in implementing technology solutions based on the Microsoft Windows Server operating system. These implementations may include crafting solutions that connect Windows-based servers, PC locations and the Internet; installing a server farm; or building a small-business Windows Server stand-alone solution that includes file and print capabilities.