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Archive for June, 2005

Time to bite the bullet: Death to IE5!

June 30, 2005 1 comment

Long overdue, I’m declaring Internet Explorer 5 officially dead. The browsing percentage of IE5 (Windows & Mac) is crazy low at smugmug, yet it keeps us from doing all sorts of cool stuff. We’re going to phase it out gradually over maybe a month, but that’s it.

Firefox is free (and preferred!). Internet Explorer 6 is free. Safari comes on every Mac. IE7 is going into open beta soon (?).

Sorry, IE5, but your time has come. It wasn’t fun knowing you and we’re glad to see you leaving the building.

I think everyone will enjoy the new features we have planned for smugmug. Stay tuned.

Categories: smugmug

Word-of-mouth advertising

June 27, 2005 3 comments

As a follow-up to my post on Buggy Games, I think it brings up a telling point for any business and a key to smugmug’s success.

Word-of-mouth is an incredibly powerful thing.

For a video game, they have a very small window (not quite as small as a Hollywood movie, but still very small) in which to attract a lot of purchases. If they don’t, the game flops. In the case of Battlefield 2, if the game crashes constantly when your average customer gets it home, your word-of-mouth campaign comes to a screeching halt before it’s even gotten started.

With smugmug, it just doesn’t make sense to run expensive TV campaigns and the like to get our brand and product out there. We’d have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to get even a single customer, who then only pays us $30 per year. What to do?

It’s shockingly simple. There’s no great secret. If you build it, they will come. Not in waves upon waves, at first, but they will come.

  • Build a great product.
  • Deliver great customer service.
  • Listen rabidly to your customers to find out what more you can do.
  • Constantly refresh your product with what you’ve learned to stay great.
  • The end result of the above formula is a fanatical customer base who does your marketing and advertising for you. They’re so enthralled with your great product and great service, they shout it from the mountain tops.

    How great would it have been if I could, instead of lamenting the quality of Battlefield 2, have told the world how great it is? Bought copies as gifts for my friends?

    We’ll try to never let something like that happen with smugmug.

    Categories: smugmug, video games

    Buggy games

    June 27, 2005 4 comments

    I’m as guilty as anyone else with this particular pet peeve of mine, but I’ve gotta get it off my chest. πŸ™‚

    At smugmug, we have a “Work Hard – Play Hard” mentality. Luckily, our jobs often combine fun with work, but every once in awhile we like to let off some steam and play video games all weekend. Everyone hauls their gaming PCs over to smugmug HQ and we play LAN games 24/7 for a few days.

    We’ve all been anxiously awaiting Battlefield 2, the sequel to one of our other LAN staples, Battlefield 1942. It finally arrived last week, so of course we all bought copies and settled down for a long weekend of online squad-based combat.

    What actually ended up happening was the following:

  • lauch game
  • game crashes
  • yell at game
  • re-install driver X, reboot
  • launch game
  • game crashes
  • yell at game
  • launch game again (no changes!)
  • game is stable! quick, connect to a server!
  • play for 5 minutes!
  • game crashes
  • yell at game
  • Rinse, lather, and repeat. End result? 72 hours of Warcraft III instead! Thank goodness for Tower Defense, Hero Defense, and every other mod for good old Warcraft.

    I know shipping bug-free software is tough. I’ve been there, we blew it with SiN, and I’m in the middle of it every day at smugmug. But come on, people! We’re talking about a highly anticipated game from a $17.5 BILLION corporation.

    We have 6 PCs in the room, all with widely varying system configurations, all rock-solid on every other game on the planet. But not the one we’ve waited years to play and took time out of our schedules to enjoy.

    I don’t think it’s an accident that the titles which sell really *really* well from Blizzard, id Software, and Valve actually tend to work right out of the box for most of their customers. Yes, they had bugs, but not to the extend that BF2 has – go read any Battlefield message forum.

    If they can get it right, why can’t EA and DICE?

    Categories: video games

    Speak of the devil…

    June 27, 2005 1 comment

    Looks like Basecamp 2 is already making progress. Man, I’m enjoying using it.

    And it’s great to see another product that does gradual feature rollouts like we do at smugmug. Big monolithic releases are such a pain: they break things, they require massive amounts of testing, they take longer to get out that you can possibly imagine. Our philosophy is “release early, release often” and it looks like 37signals is the same way. Good for them!

    Categories: smugmug, webtoys

    Basecamp rocks

    June 23, 2005 1 comment

    I’ve played with Backpack, and loved it, and sent lots of people there to play with it as well.

    Little did I know that Backpack’s big brother, Basecamp, was even cooler. Yes, it’s lacking a few of the neat interface things Backpack has (AJAX, I’m guessing, but I haven’t looked), but it looks like some of that is coming in the form of Basecamp 2. I can’t wait.

    The functionality is superb. Managing both internal and external projects is already easier. I haven’t yet invited anyone not at smugmug to participate, like our outside vendors and partners, but I’m sure we’ll get there soon.

    I’ve got the Basecamp needle in my arm, that’s for sure.

    Categories: webtoys

    smugmug release – June 17th

    June 21, 2005 Comments off

    Got a bunch of fixes and updates rolled out. I think everyone likes the speed increase the most. πŸ™‚

    Funny thing is, it was a stupid bug we introduced ourselves. Argh. Oh well, live and learn.

    Categories: smugmug, smugmug releases

    smugblogs

    June 21, 2005 1 comment

    We’ve been active on our forums and plenty of other people’s blog comments, but never got around to setting our own up. (Well, I’ve been blogging since 1994, but we haven’t had official company blogs. πŸ™‚ )

    No more! We’ve got a Release Notes blog to track changes on smugmug, a getting great prints blog to track everything we’re learning about getting great prints from digital shots, and even a web tricks blog for our resident web superhero, Green Jimmy, to spill the beans on all the easter eggs available with smugmug’s customization.

    Of course, we have personal employee blogs as well. See Chris MacAskill‘s and Jimmy Thompson‘s.

    Let’s hope this little experiment works out.

    Oh, and BTW, if Batman were to blog … he’d use WordPress. πŸ™‚

    Categories: smugblogs, smugmug
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