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The Riverblade Developer's Blog

Beth demonstrating Visual Lint at the ACCU Conference 2008  Anna taking part in a discussion panel at the European Software Conference 2007 

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"Taming The Lint Monster"- ACCU London, 20th November
Saturday, November 15, 2008

If you are a member of ACCU - an organisation which promotes Professionalism in software development - you will almost certainly be familiar with the two ACCU journals CVu and Overload.

Having recently submitted the first part of an article entitled "Taming the Lint Monster" for publication in the next edition of CVu (see Sometimes articles take as long as products to write), I have now had my arm twisted into acting as guest speaker on the same subject at the forthcoming ACCU London meeting on Thursday 20th November:

If used effectively, code analysis tools can make a huge difference to the quality of a codebase and its perceived reliability and maintainability. However, in the C++ world, the one static analysis tool which is most established - PC-Lint from Gimpel Software - is also probably the hardest to configure and use. Consequently, many organisations who have purchased it do not use it effectively (if at all).

This session aims to present a practical introduction to PC-Lint from the perspective of how to configure and use it effectively to improve the quality of C and C++ codebases. Using a combination of theory, discussion and live demonstrations, topics such as setting up a PC-Lint analysis configuration, troubleshooting analysis problems and interpreting the mass of analysis results which can easily result from the first contact of PC-Lint with a "virgin" codebase will be covered in some depth.
The event is free, and you do not need to be an ACCU member to attend. You do however need to register beforehand. Further details are available at http://accu.org/index.php/accu_branches/accu_london.

Update: the session went rather well, despite a few technical hiccups at the start (not of our making, it turns out!). Paul Grenyer has a review of it on his blog at http://paulgrenyer.blogspot.com/2008/11/taming-lint-monster-review.html, and if you would like a copy of the slides you can download them here.

Posted by Anna at 12:30 | Get Link

 

Business of Software London Meetup
Thursday, November 13, 2008

When a networking group grows from literally nothing to several hundred members in matter of a few weeks, it is definitely indicative of an untapped demand. Such is the case with the Business of Software networking group which has grown to over 350 members in the past few weeks.

We've just attended the first London meetup of the group - held in the Pizza Express in Bishopsgate, near Liverpool Street.

The restaurant itself was mediocre at best (they couldn't even get the order right, never mind the bill...), but great company and very interesting conversation.

Southern Trains and Network Rail get joint second gong of the evening for their lack of planning (football matches=lots more passengers. It isn't that difficult guys) and the quite frankly disgusting state of the toilets at Clapham Junction. I'm beginning to wish I was back in Germany already...

By the way, if you missed this one the second meetup should be in January. Anyone know a good restaurant in London which won't foul up if 20 people arrive in a single party?


Posted by Anna at 09:39 | Get Link

 

ESWC 2008 - Wrap up
Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rather than dash off back to the UK straight after the conference ended we booked the train back for Tuesday morning, and so had an additional day in Berlin before the long trip back.

We were too tired to do anything much besides go over some of the issues raised by the conference, but did go for a walk for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Among the places we visited was Potsdamer Platz - where the "Wall of Terror" monument is located. The remnants of the thing are still somehow menacing today, but the photographs alongside them showing how the city was so artificially divided during the Cold War (and the standoffs between the armies on both sides) are if anything even more disturbing. I am so glad that is behind us.

After that experience we needed lightening up and wandered up Friedrichstraße to find Eismanufaktur, which Beth wanted to visit. That's the first time I have ever had the chance to try chilli and chocolate ice cream...and believe me it was indescribably gorgeous!

The view east from Berln Hauptbahnhof

We travelled back on Tuesday morning, by Bahn ICE to Köln, Thalys TGV to Brussels Midi and then Eurostar to St. Pancras. It was a long trip, but restful (at least in part - the German coaches are far more spacious than their French or British counterparts) - although the wait around in Brussels was as much of a drag as ever. Whoever designed Brussels Midi (and in particular the Eurostar terminal) was having a really bad day. No wonder the guys on passport control looked so miserable!

One final thought - why is it that so few rail operators see fit to install charging points in their coaches? The only train we've travelled on on this trip which had them was the Bahn sleeper. A real pain, given that few mobile devices (especially laptops) have decent battery capacity.

Anyway, we're back, but I suspect I will not want to go near another sausage (German or otherwise!) for at least three months...


Posted by Anna at 10:22 | Get Link

 

ESWC 2008 Day 2
Sunday, November 09, 2008

Last night we descended en-masse on Berliner Republik, a quirky bar where the beer prices go up and down according to demand (they even have a mini stock exchange - watch for the crashes and run for the bar!). Really good food, too.

OK...onto today's sessions:

Using Networking, trade shows and organisations to enhance your business (Sharon Housley and Mike Dulin)

This session was (to my mind) pretty commonsense stuff. Mike and Sharon discussed some of the trade organisations and conferences you can use to improve the effectiveness of your business, including:

To that I'll add ACCU which holds an annual conference in Oxford - particularly if you are trying to reach a technical audience or improve your development processes.

Marketing during a recession - (Dave Collins/Sharon Housley/Mark Iverson)
This panel discussed current market conditions and steps you can take to maximise sales during a resession.

Opening comments:
  • Sharon Housley: B2C products will be affected more than B2B products

  • Mark Iverson: Digital River are not seeing a drop in sales volumes, but signs of significan discounting (remember DR mainly serve B2C products)

  • Dave Collins - Expects that the B2C sector will see a drop in sales across the board. B2B products will (by and large) hold steady or grow (though possibly more slowly than previously). Pricing is not likely to be a factor.
Dave also made the interesting point that many Google AdWords accounts are poorly managed and therefore only marginally cost effective - hence as revenues drop and those companies cut back on their spending AdWords prices seem to be dropping across the board.

Sharon suggested looking for recurring revenue streams. In the case of NotePage, for a $200-$3000 product they offered a $395/year premium support subscription (which gave a 4 hour support callback guarantee during business hours as well as free product upgrades). This is effectively a superset of an upgrade protection subscription scheme, which are usually priced at 10-15% of the price of the full product.

Overall, it was a very interesting discussion. Let's just wait and see, shall we?


Microsoft Blueprints and More (Mike Lehrman - Microsoft)
Mike is a longstanding ESWC attendee, and previously introduced initiatives such as Project Glidepath. In this session he gave us updates on developments at Microsoft which may affect ISVs.

First up, and most promising for new MicroISVs, is BizSpark, a new programme designed to assist startup ISVs during their first three years of operation.

It provides free software and server licences for startups, with no up-front costs. Unlike the Empower programme, Visual Studio Team System is provided as part of the package and the server licences can be used for line of business purposes, rather than just development. There is a small ($100) exit fee, and potentially ongoing licence fees for line of business server licences.

Mike also talked about new platform opportunities including the Azure cloud computing framework, the Live Framework, Windows 7, Visual Studio 2010 and the forthcoming browser based version of Office.

Finally, there is Microsoft Blueprints. This appears to be a development of the core concepts of Project Glidepath, aimed at producing task driven SDKs, and looks very interesting (think project wizards with the ability to add functionality to existing projects rather than just new ones, and with additional guidance.

It could just be that Microsoft as an organisation has finally started to focus on ISVs...


So, you haven't got a Test Department yet? (Ian Hunter)
Ian started with a very funny story about the incredibly poor software supplied with the HP C6100 printer, and how that has coloured his opinion of HP (we've seem the same with Samsung mobiles - the software really is utter garbage).

After this very funny introduction, Ian described some of the consequences of inadequate testing, and what you can do about it. A key point is that - just as in coding, development processes etc. - in testing there are fads and fashions - among which is scripted UI testing (incredibly fragile and high maintenance, but often sold to executives as a panacea).

An interesting session, and I did like the comment about the plug...

After lunch we had very enlightening sessions on Amazon Web Services by Simone Brunozzi and Mac programming by objectpark.net, before the closing session:

Web Statistics and Metrics (Dave Collins)

This session is a departure from Dave's "Web Design Mistakes" session of previous years, but as entertaining as ever. The session focused on why you need analytics, what to measure and which tools you might want to consider.

And that's it for this year. As ever, we've learnt a great deal, made some interesting contacts and eaten and drunk far too much. Oh, and did I mention that not having coffee making facilities in hotel rooms where an ISV Conference is a crime? (OK, I did - but it's a big enough deal for me to advise any developers travelling to Berlin next November (yes, we're coming back! ) to bring a travel kettle with them...

Posted by Anna at 20:00 | Get Link

 

ESWC 2008 Day 1
Saturday, November 08, 2008

Last night's reception at Maximilian's restaurant on Friedrichstraße was great fun. Good food, great beer (I particularly liked the Berliner Weiß) and fantastic company.

After breakfast we set up our stand in the sponsor's area (complete with the usual last minute presentation edits). A rather large ice bucket (of all things!) was provided by the hotel for us to collect business cards from delegates.

There are two tracks for much of this year's conference, which indicates how much the ESWC has grown since we first attended in 2006.


Software Architecture (Hartmut Kaiser - MSDN)
This year's keynote had an all-encompassing title which rather unfortunately revealed nothing of the actual subject matter at first glance.

Harmut's introduction suggested that the session would be about what Microsoft are doing to provide tools/support to assist ISVs in design/architecture. In practice I found it a bit directionless, and by the time the SaaS (yawn!) buzzword came up I had pretty much tuned out.

I also couldn't help thinking that the existance the job title of "Software Architect" is diametrically opposed to the principles of agile software development. Separating the process of architecture/design from development is just asking for trouble. But then, that's just my view (and probably that of most ACCU members.... )


Mobile Web Adoption (Jon von Tetzchner - Opera)
The second session of the day focused on mobile web adoption. It was a rather interesting insight into the background and operations of Opera as a technology lead company - I certainly didn't realise how pervausive their products are in the mobile world!


Increasing Conversions (Aston Fallon - AskNet).
As the first session ran well over time, we lost our morning break and went straight into the next session. As we have no particular interest in Paypal APIs (taking place on the other track at the same time) this one was the logical choice.

Aston discussed issues affecting the effectiveness of e-commerce solutions (e.g localisation, local payment preferences etc.), along with some potential ways to increase conversion rates:
  • Improved usability (both product and website/store). e.g. using Ajax to provide a more interactive interface to the store and reduce page load times

  • Subscriptions, which of course raise issues such as how to handle automatic renewals, cancellations, upgrades/downloads etc., but provide the potential for much more pro-active communications with the customer and increased revenue predictability.

Software Marketing Myths (Sharon Housley - NotePage/Adriana Iordan - Avangate)
This session aimed to debunk some of the more common myths among ISVs:

  • "Customers will wait until the end of the trial before purchasing". Apparently, the majority of customers actually purchase with 24 hours of downloading a trial. Interestingly, we don't see that ourselves (possibly because the developer tools market is somewhat atypical). In addition, many (20% was quoted) customers purchase without ever evaluating a trial version. The obvious lesson here is to place "Buy Now" buttons everywhere to capture impulse purchases.

  • "More traffic is better" - it is actually better to have targeted traffic.

  • "Build it and they will come" - no, they won't. You really do need to learn how to market your product effectively.

  • "You cannot sell to the same customer twice". Existing customers are actually your best asset, so use them effectively.

  • "Our customers are honest". People can be rather good at finding justifications for behaviour they know is wrong. Keep an eye out for cracks of your product, and break them (but don't put huge amounts of effort into defeating pirates a it is a distraction from what you really should be focusing on).

  • "More marketing email subscribers is better". No. Segment your marketing, tune and use emails sensibly.

  • "Submit your url to thousands of websites"

  • "Meta tags are the key to higher rankings"
  • . Content is king, today (particularly with Google).
  • "Automated submission tools can help your link popularity". That used to work, but today it is better to cultivate links from relevant sites in your niche.

  • "AdWords is not effective for small software developers". If it isn't working, in most cases it is because either it is not being managed effectively or the site and/or software are not encouraging conversions.

  • "If you have good rankings in google, you don't need AdWords"

  • "Social networking sites are for teenagers and personal use". Just look at how Mozilla used it to promote Firefox...

  • "A/B testing is complex and expensive". Not necessarily - and tools such as Google Website Optimiser make it even easier.

  • "I have tracking code on my website, so I know web analytics". You really need to look into how your visitors behave, and why. Optimise your content and use analytics to measure its effectiveness.

  • "If it works for my competition it will work for me as well"
  • . Every product is different, and although there will be similarities you really need to tailor your approach to your product.
  • "No feedback is good feedback". This is definitely not true - for example the feedback (good or bad) we've had from developers has been instrumental in improving our product and guiding its development to fit their needs.
After a quick but relaxed lunch we met up with Mike Dulin of Shareware Radio to do an interview for a podcast (we did our first one at ESWC 2006, so this was a pretty relaxed follow-up). Mike is quite a character, as you'll know if you've met him...

Mike Dulin singlehandledly attempts to deplete Berlin of beer at the European Software Conference...


The Russian Software Market: Is It Worth Attention? (Eugenia Kolobukhova - Latte-PR)
If there is a theme at this year's conference it is reaching out into international markets. With that in mind, Eugenia Kolobukhova's session was rather enlightening:

  • Localisation (of both product websites and software) is very important if you intend to sell products into the Russian market.

  • The Russian software market is growing rapidly - it has doubled in value since 2005.

  • The use of PCs and the internet is expanding rapidly.

  • More is being spent on software in the corporate sector.

  • Electronic distribution of software is increasingly accepted.

  • The corporate attitude to piracy is changing. At least 50% of Russian companies now use only legal software.

  • Unlike the USA and Western Europe, resellers play a big part in the Russian software market - key ones being Softkey and Allsoft.
She also gave several useful links:


Expanding into East Europe and Asia (Tetyana Franke - Share-It!)
Tetyana first discussed trends in online shopping, before going on to give some tips on how to approach these particular markets.

Some statistics first:

  • 60% of Share-It's European sales are in Germany, the United Kingdom and France, but there is currently rapid growth in the Czech Republic and Poland.

  • In Central and Eastern Europe, Poland, Greece, Czech Republic and Russia represent the bulk of the market.

  • Japan, India and South Korea together represent 50% of the Asian software market.
The tips she gave included:

  • Localise your product and website (no surprises there, really!)

  • Special offers/discounts.

  • Cultivate links from price comparison sites (I'm assuming that this applies to the B2C market only).

  • Offer payment options appropriate to each region.

  • Add interactive content to allow users to post/share product tips.

  • In Japan and Korea in particular, use blogs and social networks to build product awareness.

  • Use testimonials as sales tools.

  • To prevent fraud, accept only protected credit cards.

5.30pm Business Conditions in Russia (Aleksey Savkin - AKS-Labs)
This session effectively duplicated the content of Eugenia Kolobukhova's session earlier in the day. Nevertheless, it was still pretty useful.

His points included:
  • B2B products are far more likely to succeed in Russia than B2C.

  • There is currently very poor broadband penetration among consumers in particular.

  • There is real money in the oil and gas industries, as well as the financial sector.

  • Piracy is rife, but affects consumer products far more than business ones.

  • Buying a .ru domain is important.

  • The most popular search engines are Google and Yandex.

  • Buying links/catalog submission still works with Yandex and Rambler (= spam in results)

  • Credit cards are not used widely.

  • Buying software is a beaurocratic process - something you really want to leave to your payment processor. Hence, it pays to use one with experience in the Russian market.

  • Find a local partner (e.g. ISDEF or Russian ASP members).

  • Use local partners to write/send press releases etc.

  • Submit product PAD files to Russian sites (e.g. using submit-everywhere.com) and outsource marketing and SEO services
It was a long day, but a worthwhile one. By the time we'd finished, I badly needed to unwind break (which the pool and sauna at the hotel helped nicely with!), following which we headed out for food and (of course) more beer...

Posted by Anna at 23:06 | Get Link

 

ESWC 2008 Day 0
Friday, November 07, 2008

A Eurostar train waits at St Pancras. Image by Amanda B.H. Slater

As I write this we are sitting in the Checkpoint Bar at the hotel in Berlin waiting for the crowd to form for this evening's pre-conference event.

We've had an interesting time getting here - Eurostar from St Pancras to Brussels (where we had an interminable 2 hour wait at the rather souless Brussels Midi) followed by a Die Bahn City Night Line sleeper to Berlin. The latter was quite something, as we not only had our own compartment but the attendant in our coach brought us two complementary bottles of sparkling wine when we joined the train... :D

We didn't sleep a great deal but it was still a great way to travel, and was definitely a new experience for us - although we did find that the motion of the train caused us to feel a bit wobbly for a while this morning!

While waiting for our room to become available we went for a walk around the city. The last time I was in Berlin was in 1990 - just a few months after re-unification. At that time the scars of the city's long postwar division were still very evident - the Wall was still in the process of being dismantled, and East Berlin was a grey and dreary place.

So much has changed since then. Berlin is now once again a vibrant and colourful city, with a feel all of its own. It is really heartening to see such a change for the better - and quite a sobering fact that the area where the conference is being held (Friedrichstraße) was once locked away behind the Wall.

The Brandenburg Gate, viewed from the west

After settling into our room at the Maritim proArte Hotel Berlin (pretty good, but lacking any coffee making facilities in the room, which I personally consider to be something of a crime...) we went for a run towards the Tiergarten in the west of the city. Running through the Brandenberg Gate quite simply felt like an awesome experience!

Posted by Anna at 19:16 | Get Link

 

En-route to the ESWC
Wednesday, November 05, 2008

At the end of this week we will once again be at the European Software Conference (in Berlin this time!). As such, please bear with us over the next few days as our internet connectivity may be a little patchy at times (particularly while we are travelling). If you are headng for the ESWC, we look forward to seeing you there.

By the way, we will also be at the London Business of Software Dinner next Wednesday if you are in the London area but can't make it to Berlin...

Normal service will be resumed in the middle of next week.

Posted by Anna at 20:43 | Get Link