Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Who's Number One: Revenue or Customers?

There's a new kid on the block, that, from what I understand, is a Twitter-esque service that is supported by user and developer membership fees, not paid advertisements. The company puts it this way, "We're building a real-time social service where users and developers come first, not advertisers." Call me a cynic but I don't think puts users and developers first any more than Twitter and Facebook put advertisers first. And thanks, to my cynicism, this sparked a great Twitter Debate or "twibate" mainly with my boss, @jeffturner (from the bottom up):

As you can see from the conversation, I think that revenue comes before anything else - users, developers, or even advertisers. For a company to say that they put users and developers first is the very definition of being altruistic, that is to be selfless. If the company is sincere about users first, then I ask, why not be structured as a non-profit organization? There will be a part two of this coming soon to discuss the merits of both for-profit and non-profit business organizational structures. For the duration of this post, I simply want to assert my case for why I think revenue comes first because Twitter simply doesn't lend itself to the lengthy explanation this requires.

I can't think of a single business that doesn't say something along the lines of "the customer comes first" or "the customer is always right". But that's a lie. We all know it's a lie but it's not offensive because we are endeared by the implication that customers are at least very important. Customers aren't always right. If a person attempts to return a Dell laptop to an Apple store, the geniuses are going to laugh him out of the building. If someone fat-fingers a contract so it says a website will be built with HTML 6, the customer is still going to get an HTML 5 product.

The customer isn't always wrong though either. In fact, customers are extremely important - so important that I think it's fair to say that customers and revenue go hand-in-hand. If a business doesn't have a customer base to fill the bank account, it will cease to exist faster than Solyndra. Because of that, it's imperative that the company cater to the customers but the business itself still comes first. A company can't operate in a deficit to please customers. A company can't operate illegally to please customers. A company can't operate unethically to please customers.

In the end, whichever group is paying is going to get the most attention but don't mistake attention for importance. When ordering by importance revenue is what keeps the business operating and therefore revenue must be the greater of two equals. One may start a business with the earnest intent of providing a great service and not with the intent of becoming a bazillionaire. was started to provide some user-oriented features that Twitter simply can't offer and they're able to do that because they're using a different model for generating revenue. They still wouldn't even be in business if they didn't have some sort of funding. 

Acknowledging that revenue is first isn't a bad thing. Money isn't a bad thing. However, when revenue becomes disproportionately large over the customers then the business/customer relationship begins to break down. There's an implicit trust that customers understand the business needs to make money but that the business will not gouge the customers. If the business can't make money, it ceases to exist. If the business takes advantage of the customers, they'll eventually catch on and patronize someone else who will treat them fairly. Balance is key but revenue is #1.

On a side note, I'd like to mention I haven't actually tried's service but I believe that is irrelevant to the opinions mentioned above. This isn't a review of the service. Rather, serves as an excellent case study of my broader world view on business economics and should not be construed as being either for or against either Twitter or 

Side note #2: Thanks to fellow blogger Stephanie Quilao (@skinnyjeans) and her post, App.Net: Why This Consumer Would Pay A Subscription for a Twitter-like Social Network, which helped set all the gears in my head turning. I always love to read something that makes me think!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Channeling Emily Post: Meeting Etiquette II

A few weeks ago, I wrote about some tips on how to be courteous when scheduling a meeting or receiving an invitation to a meeting. Today I present the companion, being courteous during the meeting.

Meeting courtesy begins long before the meeting actually starts.
  • Do your homework: If you've been asked review a document or perform some other preparation, do it at least a few hours in advance so that you can be thorough and have enough time to let it sink in.
  • Prepare your handouts: If you're providing handouts, print them early because the printer will always jam and take longer than "normal".
  • Use the restroom before the meeting.
  • Arrive early enough that you can be ready immediately at the scheduled start time - no waiting to find a find a clean sheet of paper, pour your coffee, or boot your laptop.

During the meeting:
  • Be sure to have brought a notepad, tablet, or laptop so you can take notes. Don't expect that you'll remember everything you need, a handout, or a post-meeting summary.
  • Put your phone on silent and check your messages after the meeting. If your presence at the meeting isn't important enough that you think you can be checking your messages, then why are you at the meeting? If an emergency does come up then the meeting should be postponed so that everyone can participate.
  • Be an active participant - ask questions and offer personal perspective when appropriate.
  • Remain focused on the topic, don't start unrelated conversations with other people in the room.
  • End the meeting on time.

After the meeting:
  • If you uploaded files to the meeting room computer, remove them and turn off all  equipment.
  • Clean up after yourself - if you have garbage (e.g. an empty coffee cup), throw it out; if you provided refreshments, don't leave the remnants in a mess
  • If you've been assigned a post-meeting action item, complete it promptly.

The universal key to etiquette is to be considerate of other people. Treat other people, their time, and their property how you would like to be treated. Keeping this in mind should make meeting etiquette a breeze.

Friday, August 10, 2012

UPDATE: Dear Web Designers

At the end of May, I wrote a heart-felt plea to web designers for them to please throw out their 960 pixel design mold. Today I have a brief update on the numbers from Global Stat Counter.

By way of review, here's an excerpt of what I previously wrote:
For the three months February to April 2012, screen resolutions of 1280+ totaled 66.35% of the market, 1360+ were 42.07%, and 1600+ were 14.05%.
We now have three complete months of new data. The trends continue. For the three months May to July 2012, screen resolutions of 1280+ totaled 67.50% of the market, 1360+ were 44.30%, and 1600+ were 14.78%.

I do wish to take a moment to talk about that old foe 1024x768.  It appears that the rate of decline has slowed down quite a bit. In April, that resolution had a share of 18.02% and in July it was just down to 17.47%. It definitely has a significant market share, but I think it's important to remember that iPads, "the world's most amazing tablet", run that resolution (or double). When talking about iPads though, it's equally important to note that they scale pages quite handsomely.

Dear Web Designers, please use a bigger mold. The numbers justify it and I think the masses would appreciate it.