Stories about Software


How We MVP Organic Traffic as a Lead Gen Channel

Minimum viable product (MVP), as defined by Eric Ries in the Lean Startup, is a fascinating term.  It has a specific meaning in the context that he defined it, but it also has a highly-inferable, slightly-wrong meaning if you simply happen to know what each of those three words mean.  I imagine a whole lot of people have inferred the definition without reading the book:

A minimum viable product is the earliest, feature-poorest version of your product that can survive in the market, right?  Right!?

Turns out, not exactly.  According to the source:

The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.

I’ve always thought of the Lean Startup as a book about applying the scientific method to business. And so I’ve thought of an MVP as an experiment rather than a product, myself.  How can you form and then verify or disprove a hypothesis as quickly and cost-effectively as possible?  This is the core question of the MVP.

(As an aside, if legibility and lifecycle of buzzwords is a topic that interests you, I once spent a whole blog post musing about this.)

Against this backdrop, I’d like to formalize an offering we’ve been doing more frequently of late: our organic traffic MVP.

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Coders in the Hands of a Missing God: How Newly Minted Freelancers Badly Miss the Point

As any follower of this blog knows, I regularly answer reader questions, both with blog posts and videos.  Usually, these are fairly specific to an individual situation.

But sometimes, I get many variants of the same core question, such as “help, my boss sucks.”  When that happens, I answer a composite question.  And that’s kind of what I’m going to do today.

I say kind of because we’ve got two mitigating factors here:

  1. The questions actually differ considerably, but all miss the point in a common way.
  2. I won’t answer the question directly, but will instead try to get people asking these questions to think differently.  (I want to include this caveat because this is the equivalent of you asking, “how do I do X in Java” and me saying, “don’t use Java,” which is not the same thing as answering the question.)

How Can I Optimize ____ to Bring in Business

So with that aside, let’s look at what people ask me.  And bear in mind that the people asking this are either newly minted freelancers or freelancer-curious, considering going off on their own.

These people ask me questions like:

  • Which Stack Overflow tags should I answer to bring in lots of business?
  • How can I optimize my Upwork profile to get the most business?  (My five second answer here, if you’re interested.)
  • What’s the best title to give myself on LinkedIn to attract interest?
  • Does my current website copy sound polished and will it appeal to potential clients?

These are at best tactically different questions.  I’d actually call them nominally different, myself.  Underlying them is a common pattern.

All of them put the spotlight on you, personally, and not your prospective clients.

In other words, all of them assume that if you dial up the right and optimal magic sequence of words, points, layout, and presentation, you will earn business.  Notice that the client here doesn’t matter or have any agency; clients are almost like NPCs that simply have to hire you because the game dictates as much when you activate the magic stones in the right sequence.

My answer to any and all of these reader questions is both simple and bleak.

What you’re asking about doesn’t matter. And as long as you continue to think that it does, you’re going to have a painful journey likely to end in failure and an eventual return to salaried employment.

The good news is that you can easily avoid this fate and flourish.  You just need to grok and adopt a rather fundamental mindset shift.  Today I want to try to explain that shift with a bit of humor and metaphor.

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Reader Question Round-Up: Freelance Taxes, Billing International Clients, and More

It has now officially been over a month since I posted anything related to the software industry.  Well, that ends today.

As I said in the video below, I’ll offer an explanation, but not an apology.  I was on a vacation.  After 2 and a half years of not ever taking a true vacation, we finally helped ourselves to one.  And we made it count by taking something like 19 days.

But now I’m back and ready to resume normal content operations.

Today I’ve got a reader-question round-up video and digest.  And this video even has some vacation B-roll in it, as I continue my slow trek away from complete video amateur status.

As a reminder, if you’d like to ask a reader question for me to answer in a video (or on the blog), you can ask here.

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Reader Question Round-Up: Niches, Being Consultative, and Career Plays

Wow, what a week in world politics, huh?  Well, let me tell you, if you’re looking to hear absolutely nothing more on that topic, then you’re in the right place, my friend.

The only partisanship here is over the music in my videos.  In previous editions of the reader question round-up videos, such as this one, I I featured background music throughout the video.  This week, I left that out, except in the intro and closing.

Early on when I was making videos, a few people suggested incorporating music.  More recently, people have suggested, well, unincorporating it.

Now, I honestly don’t care one way or the other.  I suppose it’s slightly less work to omit the music, but that really, honestly doesn’t matter much.  So I’m turning it over to mob rule and asking you all to weigh in.

If you have any opinion whatsoever on the music in the videos, please head over to this one and leave a comment on it voting yay or nay.

Do you have a question you’d like to see me answer?  Head to the “ask me” page and fire away!

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Reader Question Round-Up Video, Consulting Edition

About a year ago, I wrote a couple of posts.  One was about becoming a management consulting, and the other more about becoming a consultant in general.

Well, going back like an archaeologist through old reader questions, I see that these two posts prompted a bunch of questions.  So, in today’s video, I tackled four such inquiries.  Always interesting fodder for me, personally, so thanks for asking.

By the way, if you have questions, please ask them.  I’m letting this drive a lot of content for the blog these days.  And, I’ve also settled on a more canonical way of asking people to submit them: a simple “ask” page.

So if you’d like to hear my take on something, head on over and submit a question.

This Week’s Picks

  • I spent some time visiting family over the weekend, and stayed in a hotel in my childhood hometown.  Specifically, it was a Courtyard Marriott, and it was a stand-out in terms of the service, even among the countless Marriotts I’ve occupied over the last 6 years.  If you’re ever in the vicinity-ish of O’Hare and run across this place in your search, it’s a gem.
  • Last Thursday, I did something that I now wish I’d done years ago.  I un-synced all email from my phone.  I can still get the emails on the device if I want them, but I have to actively pull them from the server, instead of having this pushed at me.  I can’t tell you how great this is, both for avoiding distractions and for minimizing my hour-to-hour cognitive burden.

This Week’s Content Digest

The Round-Up Video