Happy Thanksgiving

No post this week.  I’m taking the week off in honor of… um… the turkey that was beheaded on camera behind Sarah Palin in an interview last year after she and Sen. McCain lost the election.  Ew.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Development Issues Delay Launch

I hate to say it but we missed our first launch deadline and won’t be launching for a couple more weeks.

The issue has been development but – as much as I would like to – I can’t place 100% blame on the developers.

Grouvia has a lot of bugs and I refuse to launch a sub-part product. I know I only get one chance with my target audience and the level of quality I want just isn’t there yet.

Grouvia has a lot of bugs and the developers haven’t been able to fix them.  They’ll say it’s fixed, we retest… and it’s not fixed.  Worse, we retest these elusive bug fixes and we find more bugs.

Granted, the vast majority of the bugs are minor.  The major bugs have been fixed, or fixed to the point where the remaining issue is tolerable enough to be downgraded.

But there are still too many bugs for us to launch.

I’ve concluded that the best explanation for the development problems are communications issues compounded by language.  I do believe these developers have the experience and skills to do the work.  However, many things point to communication issues as the main reason we are having the problems we’re having…

  • Often the implementation of a particular feature does not meet the requirements.  Actually it’s not often, it’s usually.
  • Details are missed.  A feature will be implemented but the nuances and logic details aren’t there.  For example, the private events were implemented without any way to invite participants.  It was in the requirements, but they didn’t put it in.  Details are not just nice-to-have.
  • The developers make assumptions instead of asking questions.  If they don’t fully understand something, they will make their own decision about how something should work, instead of asking for clarification.
  • The technology is driving the features.  If the developer finds that the technology does not support the feature properly, he will change the feature to match the technology.  For example, the messaging feature was changed to match the abilities of the standard Drupal messaging module. This isn’t what we wanted.

I know that many developers work like this.  I have been in this field long enough to have seen this before, lots of times.  But I’ve always been in a corporate environment where I can call a 2-day-long meeting in a conference room somewhere with American-English speaking developers, analysts, testers, and team leaders and hash out the details.

I don’t have that luxury now.  These developers are halfway across the world and our meetings take place over an unreliable Skype connection at 7:00 in the morning.  We have a daily 2-hour window to work together, sometimes a little more if they agree to work late or if I can get up earlier.

But I’m also paying about a third (maybe less?) of what I would have paid for an American company to do the project.  You get what you pay for.  I knew that going in.

Delaying the Beta launch was disappointing but it was the right thing to do and I know we will have a better product because of the delay. I’ll keep you posted.

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Countdown to Public Exposure

Next Tuesday is the public beta launch of Grouvia 1.0, and the anxiety is building in a big way.

Development is behind, and I am pushing them really hard.  I made the decision to descope some of the features temporarily, because I really want to make this date.  What that means is that the “official” beta launch will still be November 17th, but we will follow it with a 2nd beta release a few weeks later to implement the final features.

I’m concerned about bugs.  They’re bad.  They’re everywhere.  They’re multiplying.  I hate bugs.  Where the hell is my flyswatter?

No seriously.  There are a LOT of bugs.  The new project manager (oh, did I mention that my development team got a new project manager this week?  sheesh, what bad timing.) has assured me that all the major bugs will be fixed by Friday.

Now that would be a miracle.

I’m also getting my hands into the code now.  I am a stickler for things that look nice and organized and line up properly and are symmetrical.  So every day after the developers leave for the day (mid-morning here on the East coast) I go into the code and start fixing things.  I fix images, line up form fields, and correct unbalanced drop shadows.  I test things and put in bug reports for stuff I can’t fix.  I correct typos and fix paragraph alignments and line spacing.  It’s tedious and it’s fun.

It helps my stress level.

On a more positive note, I have two groups who are literally waiting for Grouvia to come out so they can get their sites up.  One is a small local girl scout troop and the other is my weekly networking group.  Actually the latter is one I’m pushing to happen, and I’ll be giving the group a demo of it a few weeks after launch.

Still… I’m just sayin’.

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Begging for Users

A few weeks ago I got a connection with the director of an historical society in the town where my sister lives.  According to their home page they were looking for someone to build their new web site.

Aha!  I thought.  Grouvia is a solution they might want to look at, given that it’s specifically built for these types of groups.

So I sent them an email with an overview of how I could help.  Given my background I could easily build them a nice web site for a good price if that’s what they wanted.  So I offered this options as well.

The director emailed me and we set up a conference call.  The day of the call he canceled.  We set up another one, and he canceled that one.  We rescheduled again.  He just canceled that one also and we’ve rescheduled it for next week.

So far I have already put about 2 hours of my time into trying to get this customer and I haven’t even spoken to him yet.  What I really would like is to understand what their goals are for their site, and determine if Grouvia would be a good fit.  Building a custom web site for them wouldn’t be bad.  It’s not our core business, but we’re a startup, it’s income, and I know he’d ultimately be happy with our work.

Eventually Grouvia will sell itself.  However, I am starting to think that this Begging Process Begging Process is one of the things we will need to do to get early adopter groups to put their sites on Grouvia.  I know this really is marketing – a combination of digital public relations, outreach, blogging, micro-blogging, networking in the physical world and getting the word out there in as many different venues as is possible.  But sometimes I just feel like I’m begging.

These early groups are the ones who will give us the best feedback on Grouvia’s features, help weed out the leftover bugs, and most importantly, provide us with testimonials,  references and case studies.  That is why spending all this time trying to get these early customers is worth it.  Each rescheduled meeting helps me develop my patience, gives me additional time to revise what I want to say, and brings us closer to an actual launch date after which there will *really* be something to sell.

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Do you enjoy reading these posts? Why not sign-up to receive Grouvia’s e-newsletter? You’ll get the latest news delivered to your inbox and you can participate in the Grouvia development process. It’s free. Sign up at www.grouvia.com.