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Joel - how'd you do it?

I've been a JOS fan for sometime, and have been amazed at the quality of product FogCreek puts out with such a small staff.  I read another post recently that stated the same thing: http://discuss.fogcreek.com/CityDesk/default.asp?cmd=show&ixPost=11236&ixReplies=0

I'm wondering the following:

1)  (around) How much capital did you start the company with?

2)  Are there only 2 full-time people working at the company?

3)  Do you do focus groups / have a usability consultant to make the products so easy to use, or do you just mock it up in Photoshop and implement?

My nizzle.

Snoop Dogg
Wednesday, January 28, 2004

1. He said not much, about as much as you could borrow on your credit cards, they started as a consulting company.

2. No, more.

3. Doubt it, since Joel is a "Usability Guru."

"I've basically given up on software prototypes. If the prototype can do everything the product can do, it might as well be the product, and if it can't, it's not much use." - http://www.joelonsoftware.com/news/20030516.html

www.MarkTAW.com
Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Hey, that was my post. :)

I believe JoS is a small biz, not a tiny biz.

As a small biz, not a big biz, he can do what small bussinesses do well.

Do something you're good at doing and do it to the best of your ability.

Don't waste time on things that won't make you any money or you're not good at doing.

Strictly control quality by strictly controlling features.

Make sure you don't employ lousy workers.

FogCreek's success is not magical.  It's just a matter of sticking to good business principles and not getting greedy.

Some basic business principles:
1) Determine what the market needs, what they will pay, and if you can profit at that price point.
2) Build a higher-value product than your competitors
3) Market it at an appropriate level
4) Profit
5) Re-invest in market research and product development

Richard P
Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Richard P: your #1 is easier said than done... I've had the experience of holding focus groups to test an idea that received positive feedback, and when it was implmented and released to market, the same interest level didn't hold true.

Now there could be many reasons for that (poorly implemented, etc...) but it's a very hard thing to determine what you should build and what the interest level will be.  It's not magical but it's not a science either.


Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Joel seems very retiscent to join in these sorts of discussions which raise questions like: what's your turnover? what's your profit? how many employees are there?

Considering Joel normally likes to be open about things I can only presume that there's actually a Fog Creek facade that is a lot larger than reality.

Which is the beauty and the curse of the Internet.

gwyn
Wednesday, January 28, 2004

"I've had the experience of holding focus groups to test an idea that received positive feedback, and when it was implmented and released to market, the same interest level didn't hold true."

This I believe is more often the case than not.  The reason I believe, is that the wrong questions are asked in the focus group.  They tend to lead the group to a decision.

As an example, in "Rules for Revolutionaries" Guy Kawasaki's talks about a group of kids choosing which of 2 walkmans they prefered.  A yellow one or a black one.  They unanimously chose the yellow.  At the end of the group, they were told they could keep a walkman as a gift.  Almost all of them took a black one.  There are many possible reasons for this (peer pressure being a good one), but the point was to make sure you think about your questions well.

John.
Wednesday, January 28, 2004

gwyn - i would have to agree with you.  Joel has a huge following for three reasons: he writes extremely well, he's generall very honest / open, and he was one of the first people to write in ths level of detail online.

I think this has directly translated into his success much more than his products.  And his success is quite unkown to be honest (which is his choice to reveal).

~
Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Focus Groups suck. You don't want to insult the guy behind the mirrored glass. I attended a focus group once for a really really really lame site for clipart. They were trying to SELL clipart about the level that comes with MS Word.

I was the only one willing to say something bad about it, though my talking did break the ice for the others. If I were to conduct a focus group, I'd put a couple of plants in the group to say positive/negative things other people could agree with and build on, and yes put a mic in the elevator.

Later we concluded that they'd be smart to put a camera & microphone in the elevator to watch us as we were leaving because that's the only place the truth was told, similar to what happened in Rules for Revolutionaries with the Walkmans.

www.MarkTAW.com
Wednesday, January 28, 2004


Re: Getting accurate feedback.

I remember seeing on a documentary about hollywood that some organisation would camp a woman in a cubicle in the womens toilets with a pad and pen during test screenings in order record critisisms.

braid_ged
Thursday, January 29, 2004

"in a cubicle in the womens toilets"

I think you mean "a stall".

But your mistake is telling.

Joe
http://www.joegrossberg.com

Joe Grossberg
Thursday, January 29, 2004

"I think you mean "a stall"."

Yes. I also get those mixed up. The guys on my cubicle block really hate it when that happens.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, January 29, 2004

They're usually called cubicles in Britain. 

a cynic writes...
Thursday, January 29, 2004

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