16 March 2008

Homegrown Software

It's very tempting to think that your piece of software is very unique. In fact, why would you have a need for this software, if someone else thought about it already?

As the old saying goes: "There's nothing new under the sun." And it's quite true. There is almost never any new ideas or thoughts. They're just packaged differently.

The same goes for your piece of software. All, or most of the concepts are not new. You just thought of a new way to package them. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Think of Google. They are making billions of dollars each month with two main ideas: Search engines and targeted advertising. Neither of these are new concepts. They just packaged them in a better way.

Let's come back to your web application. It really frightens me to see people writing something like a CMS from scratch. They tell me that they have talented PHP programmers that can do a complete new CMS site in under two months.

TWO MONTHS! Are you crazy? Why would you do that? Consider the following:
  • You can probably create the same site on an existing CMS in 2 to 5 days
  • The best CMSes are Open Source. That means it costs you nothing to get that code
  • They have literally hundreds of plug-ins available. You can add something like a poll to your site in 5 minutes flat.
  • There are thousands of sites on the net using this CMS, so it's tested really well
  • There are dozens of programmers working on this CMS as we speak
  • That means that they are fixing things that are not quite right
  • They are also looking out for security breaches, and fixing them, often before it's hit your site
What would happen when your two talented PHP programmers leave you? No-one knows how their code was written. Suddenly your CMS sites are unmaintainable. A new PHP programmer will take weeks to understand their code, and more often than not want to re-write everything. It's in the nature of programmers to do this.

If there is a vulnerability in the code your two PHP programmers wrote, you will only know about it when it hits your site, because no-one else is using that code. Now the programmers have to rush like mad to get the code fixed. Let's say it takes them a week, that's a week your CMS site is out of service. You are losing business.

In the world of the pre-built, open-source CMS, the vulnerability is probably found before it hits your site. And the dozens of programmers working on it has fixed it in a matter of hours. What's more, they send you an alert as soon as it happens, and another one as soon as it's fixed. Now all you have to do is click one button, and your site is fixed. No loss in revenue.

So I think it's a much better idea to use existing software modules, and just package them differently. It makes much better business sense.

13 March 2008

Dark nets

Some scientists believe that the universe consists of about 5% matter and energy as we know it. The rest is made up of "dark matter." No-one really knows what it is, but they all know that there is a lot of it.

The internet is bit like this. Some people think that the part of the internet that the public can see is maybe 10% of all the internet. The rest is called the "dark net."

What is this "dark net"? It's not as sinister as you might think.

The dark net is just a part of the internet that is locked behind a password. Think of your internet banking. All your accounts and transactions are available on the internet, yet only you can see it, because only you have the password.

No-one else can see your information. Not even the all-powerful Google. So your account information is on the net, but is not visible. It is dark.

Why is there so much darkness to the net then? Well people use the internet for a whole lot more than just browsing a few websites, and buying stuff from Amazon.com.

Companies have intranets and extranets. Supply chains have visibility upstream and downstream. Closed communities share ideas and information.

This is where the real power of the internet lies. Think about this: If you are a wholesaler who sells your product through retailers. How do you communicate with them?

Do you send them catalogues? How do they know when you have a promotion? Do you fax them? When you launch a new product, how do you effectively communicate with them?

How do your wholesalers order goods from you? Do they fill out an order sheet and fax it through? What if their order sheet does not have your new range on them? Do you loose sales?

Now imagine if you had an extranet. That's just a fancy word for saying a "dark net" that you and your wholesalers can access. No-one else on the whole internet can access this information.

When your wholesaler logs in with their unique username and password, they immediately see a page with your news. This can be a new product range, or a promotion you are running.

Your wholesaler can also immediately see their order history, and even which orders are on their way. And when he wants to place an order, he does it online. And the online order form has all your current products on it, with current prices. No mistakes, no hassles.

When your wholesaler places an order on the extranet, it immeiately notifies you either on email or sms, or both. What a pleasure! Just imagine how much better your service can be, when the orders come looking for you!

When you package all the products, and are ready to send, you update the system, and it automatically notifies both your wholesaler and the courier company! Now everyone knows what's going on all the time!

And that's just the start of what can be done. There's a whole other world "out there"