About Spackle and F5Direct

There are many rough edges around technology and opportunity.  Whether that opportunity is at work or at home, I often find that people can benefit from getting a larger perspective on their particular situation, and then make a more informed decision.

That’s where Spackle comes into play.  Bridging that gap and smoothing out those rough edges can often mean the difference between a troublesome “time vampire” and useful technology.  Spackle is also transient.  If you revisit a situation in the future, you can decide to change how you re-join those technologies to get the best utility out of them.

I started F5Direct to give people refreshing directions on technology.  I started this blog to bring some of those refreshing directions to more people.  There are situations and solutions that I encounter almost daily that might be useful to you.

Sometimes we’ll talk about something that works for industrial automation, or perhaps business systems, or even something you’ll find in your living room.  It all depends on what each day brings, so stick around and join the dialog.

2 responses

23 06 2009
Brian

http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/30_years_after_visicalc_socialtext_unveils.php

Any thoughts? I’m a Dan Bricklin fan from way back. Haven’t tried it yet, but looks interesting. Pricing model in particular gets my attention.

23 06 2009
spackle

Yes, I saw this announcement today… coincidentally it happened as I’m doing a social networking project for a client.

Earlier this month I was disappointed that SocialText was more of a “white label” offering (meaning, like the CMS companies of old, consulting was required). Whereas you could dink around with any number of other (perhaps less powerful) alternatives like grou.ps, CrowdVine, Groupsites, GrupThink, WetPaint, KickApps, Ning, and my current fave, Wiggio.com.

These other sites have a theory that eventually you’ll get tired of their advertising schemes and pony up for a low monthly fee to eliminate the noise. (Wiggio and Grou.ps are free.)

The Spreadsheet-as-wiki is an innovative twist, but one that could really be interesting. We all know how defensive people are about their spreadsheet algorithms… so I bet there will be a lot of heated discussion about what’s in the sheet.

The pricing move on SocialText suggests to me that their entirely opaque model wasn’t working. People (like me) want to create an account, set up a site, and fool around until they get stuck. Then they want to talk to someone. That way you can bring up concrete points about your experience and requirements and talk with the company on equal footing.

In my opinion, 50 users (from the same domain) is actually pretty large. Most of these sites will limit one or more degrees of freedom like storage space, user count, document quantity, page views, or bandwidth. SocialText’s other limitation plan is a 30 day trial, which is too short.

What the Freemium pricing model relies upon is the capability of the offering. If a user can get by with “good enough”, free is the right price. If users do their due diligence, are serious about collaboration, and know their target users’ requirements, then the Freemium to Premium conversion has a prayer.

Ceding the tiny to small market revenue (classrooms, baseball leagues, cub scout coordinations etc.) and tiny businesses is a strategic decision on SocialTexts part. They can capitalize on the statistics and organizations they help support to bolster credibility and use their feedback as input to their innovation machine.

This is important because SocialText has now turned the success of their strategy squarely on their development staff. They can ride on the reputation of being “a professional service provider” for a while and hit the C-level suites hard (who probably aren’t interested in spending money on soft-savings like collaboration infrastructure right now).

But it becomes a race for SocialText to innovate enough to keep ahead of being commoditized by the growing capabilities of the free offerings out there. If they can balance a unique, compelling feature set with professional advice to make their tool work as envisioned, they will be able to capitalize on the Freemium tactic. Most of all, they must stick to not being “all things to all people” – all their competition may overlap, but they need to keep their niche targeted and distinct.

(check out posts from
https://spackle.wordpress.com/tag/flexibility/ and
https://spackle.wordpress.com/tag/economy/
to see how it wraps together in my head)

This is a dense space, and all the offerings feel somewhat similar because the Web levels the playing field of companies big and small… if their competitors are smart enough to make their product look nice, SocialText may be indistinguishable from two guys and a dog with a server. A collaboration company’s size and experience may not tip the scales until the target customer is very large.

If I were them, I would certainly be focusing on usability and staying ahead on the innovation front while keeping their developers motivated and interested. If they can afford to stay top-of-mind with analysts like Forrester and Gartner by delivering this innovative feature set, and get reviewed by RRW and Mashable, they they may also be able to just plain outlast some of the upstarts.

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