Posts from May 15, 2004

The SixApart solution: Divest TypePad

The SixApart solution: Divest TypePad

: Been thinking about what led to the firestorm over the new licensing scheme for Movable Type and I believe the problem is an inherent conflict of interest in the company that I’ve seen before online: You can’t be a software company and a service company under one roof, for you will inevitably end up competing with your customers. And that will not work.

So I suggest that SixApart, the software company, divest TypePad, the service company, so that each can serve its customers optimally and so that each can become as profitable as possible.

Any generous and capitalistic soul should expect SixApart to be paid fairly its damned good product. I paid $75 for the “free” version. My day-job company paid the commercial license fee. I expect to pay more for an unlimited version (and I wish they’d make that pricing clear on their site: What will About.com pay for its 450-blog installation?).

But what has irked — to say the least — many until-now-loyal MT users are the rather extreme limits on the number of users and blogs for each license. I wondered why MT would be so cheap about something that would cost them nothing incremental and would not greatly affect the volume of licenses sold (in fact, with reasonable limits, I’d say that most users would end up buying a version more than big enough, just to be safe and give themselves flexibility… instead, SixApart greatly limits that flexibility). Sure, any software company has to have ways to charge for volume usage but these limits are driving present and potential customers beserk, which means that they got something way wrong.

And then it occurred to me: Of course, it must be about TypePad. SixApart has never wanted others to become major-league hosts of Movable Type software because the founders have long planned to make a business from paid hosting. And that’s fine… except now that they are charging for their software, the conflict of interest immediately comes to the surface: SixApart is not selling generous licenses to MovableType because it does not want to affect TypePad’s business; it does not want to enable competitors (even small ones) to TypePad and it still wants to motivate people to move to TypePad (and pay a monthly fee instead of just a one-time fee: an annuity, we call it in the biz). But that, in turn, is clearly hurting the software business. They are in inherent conflict.

I’ve seen other companies go through this and the answer is either to drop one line of business or to divest. I suggest divesting. Then SixApart, the software business, will come up with licenses that serve its customers well and will sell as many as possible. Rather then having your entire customer base scream in protest — as they are now — they would beat a path to your door to pay for your mousetrap (whenever your customers are screaming in protest, you know you are doing something very wrong). Meanwhile, TypePad — a licensee of Movable Type software — would offer no-hassle and reasonably priced hosting and would compete with other licensees. Competition would lead to more business for the two companies and happier customers and probably market dominance for Movable Type and its standards (e.g., TypeKey and Trackbacks). Instead, what we’re seeing now is that SixApart is driving present and potential customers to competitors.

Bottom line: If I do not believe a company has my best interests as a customer at heart, then I would be a fool to stay with that company. That is the net net of this conflict of interest.

There is another advantage to divesting: The management of each company will not be distracted as the management of this one company is. I’m not a VC, but I have seen this in many companies as a corporate investor, board member, and corporate customer: Startups always try to do too many things and that means they will end up doing nothing extremely well. SixApart started by developing a damned fine product in Movable Type but it has neglected that product (as I’ve whined) as it built its hosting business at TypePad; now it is handicapping the software company to advantage the hosting company; and when the protests get loud enough, it will surely neglect the hosting company in turn. The company is small with extremely limited resources and management focus and trying to run these two very different businesses is difficult unto impossible.

So it is with nothing but respect for SixApart and its founders, staff, investors, talents, and products — and a strong desire to stay a customer — that I suggest: Divest.

Gay marriage in blogs

Gay marriage in blogs

: You can follow the start of gay marriages in Mass. thanks to bloggers:

+ Janis Bohan, one of our hyperlocal bloggers at MassLive, will be there covering the line to get licenses early Monday morning, along with Masslive.com editor and blogger Scott Brodeur.

: Rossi was blogging from Provincetown last week:

Let me tell you honeys the energy in P-town this past week was like a case of pre-wedding jitters only times like oh 100,000! …

So it

To the barricades!

To the barricades!

: Loic Le Meur reports that a French blogger was nearly arrested because of what he has been blogging about his town and its mayor.

Arafat: King Terrorist

Arafat: King Terrorist

Yasser Arafat called on his followers to “terrorize” their enemies on the occasion of the anniversary of Israel.

Mr. Arafat called on his people to be steadfast in their struggle against Israel.

Quoting from the Muslim holy book, the Koran, he told his supporters to “find what strength you have to terrorize your enemy and the enemy of God.”

Mr. Arafat said that the international community had no right to allow the establishment of a Jewish State in 1948, and the Palestinian people were determined to press on with their claim for an independent country of their own.

And so what separates him from bin Laden? There is no hope of peace with this man.

: He terrorizes even his own people. From the Scotsman:

Arab prisoners beaten and tortured, innocent bystanders killed by gunfire – another damning human rights report.

But the difference this time is that the violence is being perpetrated not by coalition forces in Iraq, but by the Palestinian Authority, and the victims are its own people.

The report, partly funded by the Finnish government, claims Palestinian cities are in a state of near anarchy, with people on the payroll of Yasser Arafat

Iraq assignment desk: The rebuilding beat

Iraq assignment desk: The rebuilding beat

: If I were in charge of a bureau of reporters in Iraq — are you listening NY Times, Washington Post, FoxNews, NBC, CBS, ABC, Reuters, BBC? — I would assign one reporter, just one, to the rebuilding beat.

There are plenty of reporters — hell, every reporter in the country — assigned to the police beat, the blood-and-guts beat, the who-shot-whom today beat. When I worked in Chicago and San Francisco and New York, we had one or two reporters in the cop shop covering all that. We had hundreds of reporters covering the rest of life.

I see no reporters covering the rest of life in Iraq. The stories would be easy to get; all you have to do is read a few of the Iraqi weblogs. Read Zeyad or read Omar on the new economy. Or read posts like this from Mohammad:

My arrival day was the day when a rally of support and gratitude to the coalition passed the streets of Samawa. The scene was very delightful for me, I, who believe in the necessity of establishing a strategic partnership with the free world represented by the coalition, because this the only way for Iraq to rise again, prosper and join the modern, free world….

On the road to the residents

Traffic

Traffic

: I’ve heard from many Iranians that Tehran’s traffic is a nightmare. Now we can watch it. [via Nema]

Keystone Cops state

Keystone Cops state

: The NY Times’ Nicholas Kristof finds himself detained twice by the authorities in Iran:

The second time was at Tehran’s airport as I was trying to leave, and this time the interrogation was tougher.

“Have you ever been to Israel?” Gulp, yes.

“Are you working for the Israeli government?” Of course not….

After hinting for 90 minutes that I was a spy and a liar, and that they might hold on to me indefinitely, the interrogators finally let me board my plane. Indeed, toward the end, they seemed worried principally by my threat to write about the encounter.

That episode crystallized an impression that had been forming during my trip through Iran: if it were an efficient police state, it might survive. But it’s not. It cracks down episodically, tossing dissidents in prison and occasionally even murdering them (like a Canadian-Iranian journalist last year). But Iran doesn’t control information