Mint.com appears to live up to the hype. It's a very elegant personal finance site that allows you to group all of your transactions in one place. You can setup a budget, then compare to your latest numbers, all in a beautiful web app. Unfortunately, you can only import from banks and credit card companies - brokerage houses such as Fidelity and Charles Schwab are not yet supported. Unfortunately, this means my planned Mint migration is on hold for the foreseeable future. If you're not tied to a brokerage company for the majority of your banking, though, I would definitely give Mint a try.
I think it sucks because it isn’t scalable and falls apart at 5,000 contacts. It pisses me off more and more every day because of that scaling wall.
Damn I wish I hadn’t locked my rolodex in this trunk.
I’ve been on Facebook, what, about six weeks? I have more than 4,000 friends...
I LOVE WHEN PEOPLE GIVE UP ON FACEBOOK!
Why? Because Facebook is now a media distribution network (among other things).
I’m in the media creation and distribution business.
In fact, I can’t add more than 5,000 friends in Facebook so the audience size of any one person will always be small. But the passalong is huge. The app platform there works the same way — virally.
Sometime in August, Scoble first hit the limit on how many friends a person can have on Facebook. Since then, he has been on an increasingly caustic campaign to have the limit changed. This is a remarkably skewed perspective.
Facebook has well over 36 million members and 300+ employees. According to him (via Facebook employees), thousands have also hit the 5,000 friends limit, but still a very small percentage. I'm truly amazed that Scoble expects the company to move this request to the top of their priority list. Obviously, he has remarkable influence, but this strikes me as an abuse of that influence.
First, he was aware of the limit long before he reached it. In fact, it appears to have struck him as a reasonable limitation at the time.
Second, he first reached the limit and began requesting that it be increased in August. It has been just two months since he started pushing for the change, yet he is so frustrated with the limit that he has greatly reduced his use and relentless promotion of Facebook. Twitter is his current love (understandably so), but Twitter can only hope they don't misstep or otherwise impede his use of their (free) service. The web hath no fury like Scoble scorned.
In a follow-up post today, Scoble reports that Facebook employees have told him hat the friend limit is due to scaling problems which occur when a friend list reaches that level. Does he expect that an issue that only became remotely common recently should be immediately resolved? He surely understands the level of complexity involved in such a change and the company's obligation to the other 35+ million users to maintain a growing, stable platform. The fact that the company has built such a remarkable site and application infrastructure that has handled unprecedented growth is a phenomenal accomplishment. They are obviously aware of the current limitations and are determined to address them. I think patience is appropriate at this stage.
Imagine if I signed up for the free version of Basecamp from 37signals, used it for a couple of months, discovered a missing feature or limitation (not a bug), and requested a solution. This is all pretty standard behavior. After two months of waiting, though, the feature still hasn't been added and now I'm angry. I begin criticizing the company at every turn and threaten to leave if they don't address this immediately. "It's been 60 days! How much longer do you expect me to wait?"
If I went around saying such things, they'd put me away. I have complete confidence that 37signals wouldn't listen to my demands, and thank God for that. I don't want the software companies I depend on to drop everything because a few vocal users say "Jump!" and threaten to leave with they don't get "How high?" as a response.
Demands, remember, about a free service.
I have no doubt this Facebook limitation will be addressed as Facebook continues to build its infrastructure to handle 100 million user or more. I think it's a reasonable request that will improve the service for a small, but significant, number of users.
As much as I respect Robert, though, such a reasonable request is a completely unreasonable demand.
Today's Wall Street Journal has a terrific article on the growing rush to build applications for Facebook: Why So Many Want to Create Facebook Applications. It's available online for free. The piece covers a few of the companies and venture capitalists that are behind what it describes as "another online gold rush".
Some interesting thingss mentioned in the article:
70,000 people have signed up for the developer tools
2,000 applications regularly attract at least 100 users
Facebook's monthly visitor total doubled in six months, reaching 30 million in July
One core reason behind its success and attraction to developers and companies? Facebook users aren't anonymous, unlike most social networking sites, particularly MySpace.
If you're curious to learn more, visit Facebook's developer site.
Another fine example from FeedBurner on how to make someone smile while they're using your site. The message is still clear, it doesn't distract from the point or slow you down, but it helps make an rather uninteresting experience (creating blog and podcast feeds) a pleasant and even enjoyable one.
The calendar that is part of Backpack from 37signals allows you to setup recurring events. You have a few basic options to choose from (every day, week, other week, month, and year), followed by how many times it should repeat.
It's the repeat question that I find fascinating - it's a drop down menu of numbers from 2 to 50. Whether the appointment repeats every day, week, month, or year, you have the same choices.
Now, I love the simplicity of this for a couple of reasons. Most calendars offer a recurrence option of "indefinitely" or "ongoing". Backpack doesn't and when you think about it, how necessary is that really? Do you plan on attending your weekly staff meeting in 2018? Are you sure your monthly haircut will still be at noon in 26 years?
Plus, from a software development perspective, why populate the database with completely irrelevant data when you can have the user impose her own limits? And how likely is it that we will be accessing this information in a remotely similar way in 20 years?
Where things get a bit odd, though, is when it you add a birthday to the calendar. Repeat? Yes. Yearly? Yes. How long? Hmmmm. Let me think.
Each time you add a birthday, there is this macabre moment when you are forced to consider the life expectancy of your friend, family member, spouse, and even yourself. Is Aunt Sarah likely to live 10 more years, or 15? I'll put my friend Paul down for 30, but he does eat a lot of red meat....yeah, I think 25 is probably more accurate. Didn't your cousin just get a cat? I think that's worth another 5 years. And my new workout plan should add a year or two.
Like I said, it makes perfect sense why they did it, and in some ways it's simpler and smarter than the alternatives, but I still hope they add an "ongoing" option in the future, even if it defaults to 50 years behind the scenes. I don't like playing the role of actuary whenever I add a birthday!
Bonus item: Check out this excellent 5-minute interview with Jason Fried of 37signals. It's a great introduction to the company and how they operate (including planning in terms of months, not years). I especially love his commitment to finding the best talent available wherever it is located. In software development, there's really no reason not to embrace distributed teams. And as Jason points out, instead of limiting your effectiveness, distance can actually make your team more productive.
I just finished Smart & Gets Things Done, Joel Spolsky's book on how to find and hire the best technical talent. I've been reading Joel on Software for years and have always enjoyed his perspective on development. This book is very short, easy to read, and a good collection of what you need to know.
The book includes a lot of different ideas, but here are the three that stand out for me.
1. The best developers do not submit resumes, you have to find them. A truly great developer will be hired by the first company that recognizes his or her talent and from that point on will be able to choose where to work. Your best hope is to find them (through blogs, conferences, books, open source projects, and word of mouth), befriend them, and convince them to join you by presenting incredibly challenging, high-impact projects, brilliant co-workers, freedom, and a terrific environment. Money is rarely the deciding factor.
2. Invest in interns. Since finding the best developers can be very difficult, develop a top-notch intern program to attract excellent college students. Treat them well, involve them in critical work, and spend the summer evaluating whether they'd be a good long-term fit. If you both agree, you have a great new hire in a year or two. Joel's company, Fog Creek Software, is famous for its internships. There's even a movie!
3. Treat them well. Once you have top talent, provide with anything that makes them more productive, and therefore better able to accomplish great things for your organization. We're not talking about perks or indulgences. Things like a quiet work environment with extremely limited interruptions (ideally a private office), a chair that makes it relatively painless to write code for 8-10 hours a day, multiple monitors and the right hardware and software tools. It is in your best interest for them to be insanely productive and to want to stay for a long time. These things are a small price to pay for that.
I definitely recommend the book, though it can feel a little thrown together toward the end. Don't read it without reading Getting Real by 37signals, though. In addition to endless insights on the development process and running a company, there is an outstanding chapter dedicated to staffing.
There is some overlap between the two approaches, but I find myself drawn to the 37signals perspective much more as it is focused on small teams where each person needs a variety of skills. Smart & Gets Things Done can apply to almost any technical position, but its heart is hiring hardcore software developers, not web developers and designers.
This weekend, we launched a new website for our fall message series - ineed2change.com. The site was a huge amount of fun to work on. It's the first Flash site I've ever been involved with, which presented some interesting challenges, as well as opportunities to do different things.
The site simply asks, "What do you want to change in your life?" You can post your thoughts, as well as read what everyone else has submitted. There's also a fantastic short film, with three more installments on the way.
The response has been incredible so far. It's inspiring to see so many people who want to truly change their lives, and very affecting to read their struggles, hurts, and dreams.
We've setup a Twitter feed of all the submissions. You can follow along at twitter.com/ineed2change.