Selling to the virtuous

I just realized one big thing that Freckle and Stack Overflow have in common: they have virtuosity built into the definition of their target market.

Freckle‘s target market is defined as small businesses where everyone trusts everyone else. That’s how it can be a social time tracking where everyone can see everyone else’s entries. And tagging makes seeing other peoples’ entries useful for owners, managers, and employees alike.

Stack Overflow, on the other hand, is geared mainly towards programmers who want to cultivate knowledge. It’s also geared towards google searchers, but they’re not the core group, and don’t get the benefits available to the core group, like reduced advertising and moderation abilities.

For a counter example, there are mass-email companies that sell their servers to spammers. And there are ones that avoid spammers, but have a hard time achieving separation just by how they define their target market (and saying people who want to send mass email minus the spammers doesn’t work well). But Campaign Monitor circumvents that problem by marketing to designers, who are an intermediary between them and a larger group which includes spammers, that keeps most of the spammers out.

I think defining a good customer base is a large part of having a good customer base.

Why apps fail as marketing channels

When I hear someone talk about how nice it would be to have a companion iPhone or Android app to a website, I want to know why. There are two reasons, and I think that one is more valid than the other:

  1. They want to provide the customer with a better user experience.
  2. They think that if the user has their app installed they’ll be more likely to use their product. Thus, it’s a marketing channel.

I don’t think reason #2 holds up to scrutiny. First, I have 5 pages of iPhone apps, but two of them, Tweetie and Dan Bricklin’s Note Taker, account for more than 90% of my app usage. Many of them I haven’t touched since installing. Second, after the initial flurry of installing and trying out apps, I rarely install a new app because I don’t need more apps that I don’t use.

Now, I’m not a typical user, but I’m inclined to think that most casual iPhone users either don’t install many apps, don’t use many of their apps, or both.

Another angle, though, is that to me, it sounds kind of arrogant to think that just because you have your app on someone’s phone they’re likely to use it. That’s like the marketer who thinks that if they get a nice commercial on TV, sales will roll in, even if the product isn’t remarkable. I think what Seth Godin says in Purple Cow is right: you have to be remarkable to be noticed. I don’t think you’ll be noticed just because your icon is on peoples’ iPhones.

I think some people are attached to this idea, though, so much so that they’ll argue to project managers or developers that it will provide a better user experience, and express doubt over the ability of alternatives, like HTML 5 mobile sites, to provide a good user experience.


I got linked to an MSDN blog and noticed that the URL was I don’t think that this is the actual folder structure on the server’s filesystem. I think it’s just what gets passed on to a script, that determines what content is being requested, and generates that content.

The “.aspx” must be deliberate. I think it’s an advertisement to anyone who programs computers that the website uses XML-based ASP (Active Server Pages, a Microsoft technology).

I think that this is pretty silly, because the extensions in the URLs are extra typing, are incorrect after switching languages, and don’t make things any easier for developers that are using URL dispatchers.

On the other hand, I think it’s a pretty slick move by Microsoft, and in some way I wouldn’t mind seeing it countered by Java, Python, and Ruby programmers.

Any thoughts?