Liveblogging Bizconf

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I’m lucky to attend BizConf so I thought I’d blog about my experience here. I can’t promise to get every presentation here but I’ll try my best. This post will be updated as things happen.

Impressions so far: amazing conference. I’ve never been to a conference where so many people are having difficulty choosing talks because they all look so interesting and useful.

Welcome Address and Keynote

Obie Fernandez, Hashrocket

Be controversial. But if you’re going to be controversial be prepared to take the abuse. In that respect, be confident in yourself but not to the point that you seem desperate. “He who cares the least wins.” This can be a fine tuned art or skill that some have innately and some have to really work on. Referrals are your lifeblood — try and get the most values out of referrals as possible. Obie shows a video where a client talks about what they’re doing and . As tech people we’re used to email and instant messages. But don’t do that. If there’s a phone number in an email, call the person! Keep a notebook to keeping notes and to-dos.

Lawyers cost a lot of money. If you run in to a situation where things can be difficult then make sure to negotiate at a time that’s good for you, and not when you’re under pressure. This goes back to not seeming desperate. Don’t do fixed bid contracts. Agile doesn’t work with fixed bid contracts. Charge what you are worth. Budget for both nonpaying clients and internal products. Use pivotal tracker.

Regarding agile, do it by the book first and don’t defend it. Be consistently excellent because perception is reality. Make sure you make it easy to see. If the client doesn’t recognize it then you’re not doing an excellent job. This reminds me of a quote by Richard Bandler – "The meaning of your communication is the response that you get."

He closes by saying don’t lose your sense of fun. Great keynote. I’m not sure Obie realized it but he demonstrated nearly everything he spoke on during his actual talk. This was a very inspiring start to the conference.


Selling Value For Fun and Profit

Randall Thomas, Engineyard

I came in a bit late on this. Adding features to a product actually changes the product. Example: BMW i-drive.

Simplify the complicated
Simplification is really important and it adds value. 37Signals is a great example here. Consumers actually face anxiety when they face choices no a product. Amazon is an example of things that are easy, like Amazon prime. Randall went from buying 3 or 4 things a year on Amazon to 3 or 4 a month

Educate an audience
As geeks, we like to educate. A good example of this is having APIs for your apps. Writing an API educates your audience about your app.

Preserve existing value
Once you’ve invested in something you have to preserve the value of it. He asks how many people have expensive electroincs. Lots of hands go up. How many have an alarm? Not nearly as many hands go up. Software is similar to this.

Selling Value
Value is the only thing that’s ever sold and bought.

Communicate Value
If you solved an awesome problem, make sure your clients know about this. If you solve a problem in 3 hours but don’t communicate how awesome that is compared to the guy who takes 300 and keeps in constant contact with the client, the client will see more value in the longer one. We have lots of ways to do this: email, sms IM, skype, etc. You’re not delivering value if your client doesn’t understand it.

Understanding Value
Your clients need to understand the value you provide. If they don’t you’re not providing that value.

Getting Paid
Do what’s valuable for a client. If you don’t understand what is valuable for a client you can’t charge correctly and get paid. Some people are more interested in how nice you were at a party vs how great of a programmer you are. This affects how you will get paid.

Open with Value
Before you start talking about how you are getting paid and what you’re getting paid, explain the value. Money is easy to communicate but value is not. Start with the value. A great example is NewRelic. Engine Yard lets people try it and they often upgrade.

Show Don’t Tell
Make value tangible. Agile plays in to this because of collaboration and communication. Example: saying a bomb can level a city vs showing footage of Nagasaki. When you demonstrate value consistently you preserve your value and get more referrals.

Price at Value
Not at cost. The value of something is relative. Focus and price at value. If you’ve done your homework, you know what the value is. Make all efforts to preserve that value because if you don’t it starts a bad precedent. "Protect the integrity of your fee."

Selling on value is based on trust and honesty. If you can’t deliver on a promise or slip on a promise this needs to be communicated. If not your value goes down. When you sell and get paid based on quality, you start focusing on craftsmanship, quality, and the art of it.

This was an great presentation and full of useful information that is applicable to almost everyone.


Fifty Simple Things that Can Improve Your Business

Jerry Weinberg of geraldmweinberg.com

Three things to look for when developing software:

Motivation

You can teach all you want. If you see an organization with no enthusiasm for what they’re doing they probably don’t have enthusiasm for what you’re offering.

Organization

Learn whether or not people are organized. If an organization doesn’t care enough to organize, nothing is going to happen.

Information
Information is not really enough. Strive to find out what’s really going on and what the real problem is. Example: "We have this software project that has been mishandled. It needs to be done in three weeks or the company goes under." In this instance you’re a scapegoat not an architect.

Figure out the real situation and act in accordance.

Jiggling
Like physical things, organizations can get stuck in a loop. You give them a jiggle and it helps them get back on track. At one campus a fire destroyed everything including data. One year later they were more efficient. A lot of times when you come in as a consultant you need to jiggle the company. It may cost you your job but it will be worth it to the company. If you do it nicely you may get repeat business. Agile is the opposite of stuck. A lot of problems aren’t the model but the organization being stuck in what they’re doing.

Audience Question: How can you get stuck in an agile process?
If you think you’re doing agile and not really, you can get stuck. If you’ve spent time and budget not giving someone what they want you run in to problems. If you have a client that doesn’t have an idea where they’re going to end up they may be surprised. You can deliver a lot of product without delivering value. You can be agile at the process level but not be agile at all.


Learning to Say “No”

Jerry Weinberg of geraldmweinberg.com

Jerry opens this talk by asking if someone had something they should have said no to but didn’t. Then the whole audience goes through and analyzes the situation with Jerry as the leader. He breaks down what was done well and what could have been done better. By using an actual example and getting the audience involved, we all got value out of this.

Here’s some things I got out of this presentation:

  • Your bottom line applies to everything. If you wouldn’t build something for free it doesn’t matter what else is offered.
  • Make the NO clear. There should be no ambiguities.
  • Do good business. If you can’t accommodate something, say no. It will be better than doing it poorly.
  • Word spreads around. As with the previous point, if you’re not doing good business people will know.

I would have liked to have better notes for this one but it was more of a participatory thing. Jerry did a thorough job getting his points across in this way.


Bootstrap Like a Missionary

Andrew Warner of Mixergy.com

Find ways in the door when you’re not supposed to be in the door. Find ways to get your message in the door. He gives an example of an ad company who he wanted to sell his ads. He was too small a company for them but didn’t give up. He called every day and they declined. Every day. Finally he drove down with a check for $2,000. They took a chance on him.

Start with garbage as your first product
Build your product in stages. He asked Christian Carter how he builds a product. The answer was "When I have an idea for a product, I buy an ad on Google and see the click rates." We then get a ton of examples from Andrew and the audience and the moral is the same for all of them: I wish I would have launched earlier. Your audience will shape your product more than you can imagine. You will have a better product for it.

Build an audience for yourself.
Some people build their audience by a blog. Some build their audience by message boards. Some do it by meetings. Do what works for you. We get some more audience participation for this one. Alex De Carvalho gets up and tells us about Refresh Miami and how he built the community. As in the case of Threadless, Magento, etc, you generally can’t buy the great press you get from involving the community and building your audience.

Get your members to recruit for you.
Viral marketing doesn’t work anymore. Hotmail was the originator of this by adding on to everyone’s email message. Viral marketing can it or it can’t. Some youtube videos get millions of views. For Andrew, this isn’t enough to build a business off of. You don’t want to build your business on hoping people spread your word.

Must Marketing
Andrew’s dad got Skype installed. His dad wanted a friend to use it so he installed it for his friend. Some popular restaurants don’t have tables for one. You have to get friends to go with you.

Rules for Must Marketing

It doesn’t work alone
You can’t have must marketing if you can do something alone. The big risk is that it could fail completely. That’s why you put out garbage first and iterate.

There should be accountability
People should be able to see whether or not you did something. An example is a Twitter post voting site. People could see who tweeted to vote for things and who didn’t. Then they would ask for people to vote.

The Recipient Needs To Be Able To Reciporicate
In the virtual gift example, a guy can send his girlfriend virtual flowers. When she gets them she can send some back. By converting the recipient in to the sender the loop continues.

Andrew has a ton of energy and really gets people involved in his presentation. It’s no wonder he’s a successful entrepreneur.