Archive for the ‘Wondermill’ Category

Welcome to the crew, Ryan!

May 9, 2008

We’re thrilled to announce that Ryan Ozawa is joining the Wondermill crew.

He’ll be keeping the community updated as we roll out new features, getting feedback on what people want to see next and wearing the product evangelist hat as well.

About Ryan: Ryan grew up in Hawaii where he picked up a B.A. in journalism before jumping into the local tech scene. Along with experiments in lifecasting he produces and co-hosts the hugely successful LOST podcast “The Transmission” with his lovely wife Jen, with whom he has also produced (and continues to co-host) three wonderful children.

Welcome Ryan!


Trolls incoming!

November 2, 2007


Today was stressful.

The number of people online at Ask500 climbed from around 60 up to 130, the highest we’ve had so far. Registrations were speeding up and then we found that some of the new users were posting nasty questions and comments.


Evidently there are groups of people out there who get together, target a site, register en masse and stomp all over it. We caught it pretty quickly and spent the next few hours cleaning it up. We closed registration, created ways to find and deal with abusers, opened registration back up and got in touch with people who’d had problems signing up.

I guess fighting abuse is just one of those things everyone has to handle. As traffic scales up it becomes more common. I had hoped we’d get more time to happily implement new features before having to deal with it.

In any case, we have a few more tools now to deal with the next wave, whenever that arrives.

Update: Ask500People is launched and sleep proves elusive.

October 10, 2007

After months of work we are finally off and running and boy does it feel good. The site is – a tool for tapping into public opinion in real-time.

I hope you like it.

It’s 3:23AM by my laptop clock as I start writing this. I can’t sleep.

The East Coast is just coming online, and in a few hours we’ll have a much better idea if Ask500People is going to grow by word of mouth, and if so how fast.

Instead of an initial marketing blitz we’re doing a soft launch, telling a few friends about the site and hoping that word spreads. If it does take off, we’ll be happy we started off slowly because we’ll have more time to handle growth issues. There are technical challenges that we’ll encounter only once we start growing, and it’s easier to handle them when things are still moving slowly.

We told friends about the site to get things started, and initially we recognized everyone who came by to check it out. Ah there’s Jeremy. Oh, and Kim. Hey Kim.

After awhile we noticed a few people we didn’t recognize, which meant word was spreading a bit. “Hey, anyone know username X? No? Coooool.” On Tuesday we added a simple web counter so we could easily watch traffic and referrers:

Here’s visitors by hour. You can see where the counter was added to the page between 6-7PM PST yesterday.

Ok, I’m off to try to sleep again. (Yeah, right!)

Almost there…

September 23, 2007

We missed our self-imposed deadline of launching on September 20th.

Here’s what happened. In our application we want the community to be able to vote on which content is most interesting. It’s a core feature of the app, and while it sounds simple it’s tied into many other systems.

We could launch on time without it, but then we’d be trying to add it just when we want to be most responsive to initial feedback coming in. Just after launch we’ll want to be working on small features, which means we’ll have lots of good stopping places for the inevitable tweaks and adjustments.

Thanks for your patience!

Update & Count down

September 3, 2007

Making web software is all about iteration.

First you put out an incredible, world-changing product. Next, people tell you why it’s no good, and then you keep refining it until they change their minds or you run out of money, time or willpower. Usually money.

Because we haven’t yet opened the front doors and let the world in, we don’t know the answer to the only question that really matters; “Will people actually use this?

It’s easy to rationalize the delay. The longer we keep polishing, the less likely we are to make a bad first impression.

On the other hand we could realize we’ve been adjusting the rear-view mirrors while the rear axle sits waiting to be installed.

Anyways, we’ll have something to show the world by September 20th. These rear-view mirrors are almost right…

blue skies and business plans

June 13, 2007

I’ve always been proud of the fact that Wondermill has never taken outside investment.  We’ve had our ups and downs, but we have a solid business model and no debt.  We’re in good shape.

Bootstrapping for years has taught us to be careful with money and ensured we keep profitability in mind.  On the other hand we’ve had to pass up ideas with big growth potential but that might not fund themselves in the short term.

Now we’re at that fork in the road again with a new idea, and it’s time to choose the other path. 

Here’s what’s up.

We’re working on a new service, which we’re hoping to launch in the next month.  When we light the fuse, one of two things will happen.

A)  People love it.  Takeoff is explosive and we’re holding on tight as we go see what’s on the other side of the moon.

B)  The world shrugs, and we clamber out wondering what went wrong.  Then we either tinker with it and see if it’ll go, or go back to work on other projects.

I believe it’s going to be A. 

There are competitors already in the space, which is reassuring.  They’re proving a market exists, and they’re well-funded.  One has received $4M over two rounds and one started with $5M. 

We don’t need anything near that amount, but we do need more than we have now.  If the app is successful, we’d need three more people right away and more soon after that.  Ideally we’d be hiring for those positions now, as it usually takes six weeks to hire the right person.

Wondermill might be able to fund the new business at a survival level but there are other reasons to look for outside investment. 

I’ve got responsibilities now.

I’m married, and we’d like to buy a house someday.  I’ve got a kid who says “balababababrrble” but may someday say “hi dad, put me through college”, and I’d like to stop asking my wife if I can not pay myself again this month.

And so, for the first time in many years it’s time to make a business plan and see where this thing goes.

I’m a little nervous because it’s outside my comfort zone, but I’ll get over it.

Wish me luck!

Freedback powers Spin Magazine’s Artist of the Year contest

February 7, 2007

Server loads for our Freedback form processing service went through the roof recently. As it turns out, Spin Magazine chose Freedback to power their artist of the year contest.

The servers aren’t even breaking a sweat, and we’re excited to be involved. Don’t forget to vote!

Let’s get this party started

January 24, 2006

Inspired by Kathy Sierra’s get off yer duff post, we’ll just get started and see where things go. The right time to launch something new is always now.

I’ll be writing about entrepreneurship and innovation in small companies, sharing lessons we’ve learned along the way and talking about what we’re working on and learning about today. Thanks for checking it out!

– Aaron