Launched: Evidensity for Highrise

HighriseFor the last few weeks I’ve been working on a new analytical dashboard tool for Highrise and it finally launches today! Read about it here.

In the launch post I talk about what makes Evidensity different from other tools and my worldview on sales dashboards:

  • Some people don’t want customizable line graphs
  • They want actionable intelligence about their data.
  • Sales pipelines are built on faulty assumptions and overly optimistic sales people
  • They should be built on historical data.
  • Your eyes and brain can handle it, so fit tons of data into one screen.

Creating a comma separated list

For years, whenever I have to create a comma separated list from an array I have been writing code that looks vaguely like this.

$first = true;
foreach($arr as $m) {

if ($first) {
$first = false;
}
else {
echo ",";
}
echo $m;
}

I’ve had it. There has to be a cleaner way than using $first to skip the comma on the first value. What am I doing wrong?

Spam as Spoken Word Poetry

This spam I got today on our lead generation form could easily pass for spoken word poetry at an open mic night.

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37signals Sent Me a Gift for Pwning their Leaderboards

This year I took an AK to the Answers leaderboard at 37signals, mostly answering Highrise questions. The Answers board is the best place to learn how to use Highrise because if you have a question there’s a good chance someone else has already asked it. I scoured it during our implementation in April, 2010 and continued to read it in case anything new came up. In that time I started helping people out and answering questions myself and this week I cracked #3 on their leaderboard.

I cracked the #3 spot this week
I cracked the #3 spot this week

On Wednesday a packaged was delivered to my office. I wasn’t expecting anything, but it’s not unusual for me to get random samples for us to test run from customers. I opened it up to find 6 beer glasses from 37signals.

6 premium beer glasses
6 premium beer glasses

The genius move of this is not the free gift for a good customer who gives back the company he’s already paying $150/month for business software. Any company can write a algorithmic trigger for x number of questions answered gets a t-shirt, if then else, etc. and come out a winner. The best part was the note that let me know they researched enough about me to know that I brew beer and would appreciate good beer glasses.

note from 37signals
Ben - Thank you for all your hard work on 37signals' Answers page! You've been a huge help to our customers. We hope you can use these glasses for your next home brew. Thanks again from the crew at 37signals.

I love great customer appreciation stories and for once I got to be in one. Thanks!

Beercamp Philly 2011 Recap

Yesterday I sampled beers with names like Chocrilla, Blood Orange Berliner, and the Bee Sting Ale along with the spiciest shrimp I have ever eaten. I poured my own homebrewed Amber Ale called Yakima Sax to a few hundred beer geeks and watched the legend of Beercamp Philly Camp grow.

Beer Camp is Back
Beer Camp is Back

The first Philly Beercamp was the most fun I ever had as a homebrewer, so when they announced a 2nd one during Philly Beer Week, I signed up right away.

The weather was amazing all day (we spent the morning selling our crap at the town wide Collingswood yard sale) and perfect for outdoor drinking. Getting all my equipment to the event was a little bit of a challenge. I dropped off the keg, CO2 tank, and some other beer brewing related stuff to educate others on homebrewing and then drove over to the hotel in Philly I booked on points. While I was there, Jeanne texted me and said she felt a few rain drops so I lugged two packed up party tents with me in the cab back to the “camp site,” the Jamaican Jerk Hut on South Street. I didn’t need the tents in the end since it didn’t rain. We lucked out big time with the weather.

The crowd sampling beers and Jamaican food
The crowd sampling beers and Jamaican food

Pics by Marusula. See the rest of the gallery.

Another one of my favorite pics.

Once the event got going I iced my beer down and went to hook it up, only to find I was missing the tap connector for my keg! Disastrous!!! Having to go back home to get this would have easily taken me 30 – 60 minutes. Luckily, a fellow brewer saved the day and had a spare. I declared him my new best friend and started pouring.

Everyone came away with a free pint glass
Everyone came away with a free pint glass

The beers I tried were fantastic, but what was even more fun was just meeting and interacting with beer geeks from all over the Philadelphia area. One fellow brewer stopped by and declared to my wife that the best thing about Papazian’s Joy of Homebrewing I had on display was “the chick” in the HOWTO pictures of the first few chapters. Another guy stopped by and gave me some tips on getting rid of some after tastes I occasionally find in my beer. I was also thrilled to meet up with many, many people I have only talked to on twitter.

Here’s a list of all the beers and the ones I voted for in bold.
Brunch Stout
Transcontinental – California Common
American Pale Ale
Baltic Porter
Bee Sting Ale
Cherry Wheat
Wobbly Bass Brown
Mmmm Creamy Milk Stout
Blood Orange Berliner
Ryeghteous Brown Ale
Chocrilla
Redcoat ESB
Redcoat Stout
Dunkelweizen
Golden Pale Ale
Northwestern Pale Ale
American Porter
Yakima Sax (Amber)

The winners were:
1st B WeeRd Brew D – Chorilla
2nd Saint Benjamin – Transcontinental (I didn’t get a chance to try this, but I loved his other beer)
3rd Melloproto – Blood Orange Berliner

The beers and food were great and the plan so far is to have BeerCampPhilly 3 in October 2011, which would be awesome. I’d definitely do it again. Congrats to Kelani, Two Guys on Beer, and Indyhall for putting everything together.

My low cost e-commerce stack

Dungeon Adventure
Dungeon Adventure

Since I launched Dungeon Adventure, an RPG for kids, a few weeks ago a lot of people have asked me how exactly I’m selling it. It’s for sale as a digital download and print out board game, or “floor top RPG” as Phil Nelson called it. Here’s how it works:

I have a hosting account with iPower that I have had for about 9 years. It hosts this site, Dungeon Adventure, and almost any other domain I’ve ever had like markgarvey.net. My cost is $99/year, but I don’t count that against Dungeon Adventure because I’d be paying that anyway to host bengarvey.com.

I registered the domain name through iPower: $12.95/year

I looked for a while at different e-commerce / checkout software sites like scribd, PayLoadz, DigitalGoodsDelivery.com, and e-junkie. I decided on e-junkie for the following reasons:
1. Seemed reputable based on reviews and testamonials.
2. Ultra low cost. $5/month flat fee for 50MB storage and no transaction fees.

So far I have been extremely happy with my choice and in hindsight I am so glad I chose a service with no transaction fees. Spread over the cost of all my sales, that $5 is just a few pennies in transaction fees. E-junkie allows people to download the file with a unique link up to 5 times, provides email alerts to me, sends customizable confirmation emails to customers, and allow me to email customers (for a small additional fee). I was setup in about 10 minutes and it has worked flawlessly since day 1.

For payment I use paypal. I’ve used it for a long time and never had any issues with them. I’ve heard the horror stories of account freezes and such, but everything has been great. Paypal’s cut is 3% + $0.30, so on my $5.99 game the cost is $0.48. e-junkie integrated with paypal very easily and it had all the setup info I needed to accept payments through them.

Cost breakdown:
Hosting account: $8.25/month (I was already paying for this, but I’ll include it anyway)
Domain name: $1.08/month (if you’re buying hosting, you’ll get this included with the $8.25)
Checkout software: $5/month
Transaction fees: $0.48 per transaction
Total: $13.25 per month ($6.08 if you already have hosting and just need a domain)
Throughput per transaction is $5.51, so I need to sell 2.4 games per month (or 1.1) to break even.

With a cost structure this low I’ve already covered them for years.

I love the Internet.