Things of interest on the internet

Every so often, we find something of interest on the internet. This week, three things caught our attention...

Money, Feedback, and Pressure

Jason Fried of 37signals wrote a column in Inc. Magazine pitching advice to small businesses about, well, how to make money. We find his advice worthwhile—he built a great company that sells really useful products and eschews conventional business advice. Much of what he says is relevant to any organization that faces constraints and limits... like a lot of our customers—smaller schools with limited resources.

Here's what caught our eye:

Charging for something makes you want to make it better.

When you put a price on something, you get really honest feedback from customers. When entrepreneurs ask me how to get customers to tell us what they really think, I respond with two words: Charge them. They'll tell you what they think, demand excellence, and take the product seriously in a way they never would if they were just using it for free.

As an entrepreneur, you should welcome that pressure. You should want to be forced to be good at what you do.

This quote encapsulates a lot about the company we're building here. We charge our customers—schools who don't have the time or money to burn on stuff that doesn't work—and so they (well, you) are very forthcoming with their feedback. In turn, charging for Populi has contributed to the company-wide restlessness we feel about our service. As good as we think some things are, there are always things we want to make better. Whether it's a software bug that a customer discovers or a workflow issue that screams for improvement, there's always something. Knowing who our customers are, and charging them for the service we provide has given us that pressure to be good—and get better—at what we do.

Requiem in Limbo, IE6

Microsoft, the company that unleashed on the world Internet Explorer—a web browser that's actually made out of chewing gum and baling wire—has a site called The Internet Explorer 6 Countdown. The site says that it "is dedicated to watching Internet Explorer 6 usage drop to less than 1% worldwide, so more websites can choose to drop support for Internet Explorer 6, saving hours of work for web developers." According to their interactive map, IE6 currently has 2.9% usage share in the United States; the vast majority of this likely owes to recalcitrant IT departments who won't let their organizations upgrade. Microsoft is pretty mum on most of the reasons you should quit using that browser, like, yesterday (horrifying security issues for the most part), but its basic incompatibility with the modern web should be reason enough.

We're looking forward to seeing similar countdowns for IE7 and IE8.

HT: Daring Fireball

Apple and Liberal Arts

And, finally, Apple released the iPad 2 this week. Steve Jobs' concluding remarks about how Apple approaches the design of their products were particularly interesting. "It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough. That it's technology married with the Liberal Arts, married with the Humanities, that yields us the results that make our hearts sing, and nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices."

As a tech company (one way humbler, we think and hope, than Apple!) staffed in part by Liberal Arts graduates, we hope we're able to strike a similar balance. Technology can do a lot, but without keeping human needs in mind—the needs for elegance, simplicity, to understand, to be understood—it's just another burden.

Which brings us back to the first point: that need to improve Populi that presses on us almost always comes back to tempering the demands of technology with the harder-to-gauge needs of the people who use it.