Monthly Archives: July 2005

Acceptable Downtime

Brad Feld has a great post about the difficulty in quantifying the acceptable unexpected downtime for software sold as a service, and the delicate ongoing balance between minimizing risk (investing in redundancy and infrastructure) and driving demand (new features).
At QuickBase, our umbrella term (coined by Jana, the GM) for these efforts was “Business Reasonable.” Vague? Yes. But the important idea behind it is that any notion of reliability and redundancy has to be defined relative to the kind of customers you have at the time, and how they’re using the product. So instead of reflexively falling back on axioms like 5 nines, you use your empathy and sense of the customer to try to answer the question: what sort of downtime they will they consider reasonable? Just as Geoffrey Moore’s early adopters and visionaries are willing to overlook holes in a product’s functionality, those same customers are often, by temperament, willing to give away more more “free passes” than later stage customers.
During our periods of early rapid growth, we definitely used up one or two of those precious free passes. We all spent time calling customers to explain. And ultimately, after some incredible efforts by our engineering and operations team, we became a service our customers could depend on.

Google hijacked?

Strange coincidence after my last post: Suddenly, I can’t get to Google anymore. It seems to have been replaced by ‘SoGoSearch.com.’
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Update: Odd. I restarted my computer, and it’s working again. Guess the problem is on my end — which raises another question: is there any way for others to affect the OS X routing table? I’m using OS X 10.4.2, Firefox 1.0.5.

Google Credit Card Fraud

Earlier this month, I noticed a strange charge for $160 on my credit card for advertising in Google’s Adwords program. As I’ve never done any advertising on Google, I sent them an email to let them know and see if they could reverse the charge.
Turns out that was just the beginning; in the next two days, my credit card (still physically in my possession) was hit with additional Google charges for $677 and $699. I cancelled my credit card, and shortly thereafter received a nice email from Google saying they had closed the account that made the charges.
With all the overseas gaming and porn sites desperate for everyone’s attention, I couldn’t help but wonder if many of the credit card numbers stolen in the recent breach were being used to buy Google ads.
And, for investors in GOOG, what does this mean about the quality of their earnings?

Bonnie CLAC

Over the past few months, I’ve had the privilege of helping an awesome non-profit out with their website and marketing. Yesterday, we just launched a substantially revamped website.
Nominally, Bonnie CLAC’s mission is to help lower-income people buy cars. Typically, when many people with shaky credit need a car, they head straight to their local used car lot. You’ve heard their ads on the radio: “WE FINANCE EVERYONE!!!”
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And they do — by selling their customers old cars at exorbitant interest rates. The monthly payment is affordable — barely. But when the car inevitably breaks down or a major repair job is needed, they often can’t afford to pay it. Worse, they have no way of getting to work.
So they default on the car loan, and the cycle of a paycheck-to-paycheck existence and bad credit continues.
This is where Bonnie CLAC helps. Their goal is to help their clients buy a new car — usually, a Honda Civic. To qualify, clients have to take financial fitness courses, and sometimes build a payment history for several months on a “bridge” loaner car.
Once the client has qualified, Bonnie CLAC will guarantee a car loan, and negotiate for a new car on behalf of their client.
So a new car is the carrot, but the end result for the clients is often a completely new, longer term and vastly more informed approach to their personal finances.
Right now, they have four offices in New Hampshire: Keene, Lebanon, Manchester and Portsmouth. Longer term, they think this has the potential to get much larger. I agree. It’s one of the rare cases where the incentives for everyone involved are aligned in exactly the right way. Even better, they have a tremendous team and do great work. I’ve been lucky to be able to help them out.
Final note: they provide a no-hassle car buying service for everyone, even for those with good credit. If you’re around New England, and know someone who needs a new car but doesn’t want to haggle with a dealer, send them their way. You’ll be supporting a great cause.