An interesting synchronicity occurred today.
Let me preface this by saying that I read a lot of blogs. I spend hours a week reading blogs, and I consider most of them part of my work time. Blogs help me know what the trends are. Blogs help me know what our customers want (I read several of our customers’ blogs.) And most importantly, the really good blogs out there fairly often provide insights that I just wouldn’t have had otherwise.
This is pretty much what happened a few days ago when I read Tantek’s blog about human interface design. Basically, he stated that one of the reasons Twitter is so popular is that it only has one text field where you can enter anything you want and it’ll get broadcast to your friends. I am also powerfully drawn to the simplicity of Twitter (btw, I’m ericabiz on Twitter and you can click there to add me and follow me around.) The reason why people who are into Twitter are Twittering tens or hundreds of times more often than they blog is because blogging, for most, is a large effort: Log into your blog software, then click the create post link, then type a subject, pick categories (I hate categories) and then blog, proofread, blog, proofread, blog, proofread, and finally post. Then you have to watch for spam on your blog and make sure your friends’ comments aren’t getting marked as spam. Frankly, this is a large effort to go through even though companies like WordPress try to make it a lot easier. That means that most of the people who blog on a regular basis actually enjoy writing and find it rewarding enough to jump through the hurdles…like me. There are, however, hundreds of things I just don’t have time to blog about, or I can’t make long enough to fit into a blog post…so I Twitter them instead. This is a powerful recognition.
Jeff Lindsay, one of our customers and also a friend of mine, has also been blogging some really good stuff lately. In particular, I’m thinking of his recent post regarding open source web services. Jeff thinks virtualization is the future of web hosting, and mentions so in that post. I happen to agree, but in a long term, meta way, not in an immediately practical “I can host my web server on a cluster and it’ll be faster and cheaper than hosting it on a dedicated server today” way. (We’ve run the benchmarks, and with today’s technology virtualization is both more expensive and slower than dedicated servers. That’s not to say that won’t change in the future, however.)
Jeff also brings up utility computing, which is the trend that’s worried me most about hosting. Amazon has introduced their EC2 computing service, which allows you to buy all the gigabytes and megabits you want on an as-needed basis. That means Amazon and other large companies are gearing up to turn web hosting into a utility that you turn on and pay for as you use, much like electricity or water. This is good in some respects because the centralization of these services is lowering the barrier to create and distribute web services. But these services are also evangelizing that web hosting is about bits, bytes, and cost per unit. I feel strongly that the removal of people from any industry leads it down a path that we as a society don’t want to go down — that the more we dehumanize services, the more that we forget that we are, indeed, creating and distributing these services for other human beings. The more we make any industry all about costs, prices, and numbers, the more we lose focus on moving society to a better place together as a whole and helping other people, and that’s why I fight the trend toward making web hosting into a numbers game.
That’s getting pretty tangential, so I’ll get back to my point. The third fortuitous thing that happened was that I again picked up and began reading The Science of Getting Rich today. This book is highly recommended if you are interested in being rich by delivering value to others instead of by taking away or competing with others. It showcases a step-by-step method to having everything you ever could wish for in your life without feeling “guilty” that you have money and others don’t…and it shows you how to make others rich as well, so they don’t have to feel guilty or bad either.
Relevant quote from the book: “The normal desire for increased wealth is not an evil or reprehensible thing; it is simply the desire for more abundant life — it is aspiration.” Powerful stuff, and if you resonate with that sentence, I urge you to go buy the book and read the rest of it.
I had three things in my mind at that point: Tantek’s blog, and with it a realization that I needed to change Simpli’s website to make it much easier for those who need web hosting to order from us; Jeff’s blog, and a general agreement with his assessment of the future, but also a dissatisfaction of the hosting industry being turned into a numbers game of “who can deliver me the most gigabytes and megabits for my money?”; and The Science of Getting Rich, which (among many other things) states: “In so far as your business consists of dealing with other people, the key-thought of all your efforts must be to convey to their minds the impression of increase.”
That sentence hit me like a lightning bolt and shifted my perspective dramatically. It hit me so hard that I had to put down the book and start sketching out a new website for Simpli. What does everybody want? To be more successful! Why do they want to change hosting providers, or to start a new business which will need a hosting provider? To be more successful; to make more money; to serve their customers better! Then why is every hosting provider talking about gigabytes and megabits?! Why does our website say “100% uptime” on the front page? That’s a great thing, but it doesn’t convey to our customers what they really need!
So, do you know what our new website is going to say? Right on the front page, it’s going to say “We help your business grow and succeed.” And we’re no longer going to have categories like “Dedicated servers” and “Colocation” (although we’ll have links to those so people who are looking for something specific can find it quickly.) No, instead we’re going to organize it by business category: “Startup”, “Growth Mode”, and “Advanced.” And we’re going to offer an hour of consulting, either in person or on the phone/Skype, before you buy a hosting package from us, to make sure you’re getting the right hosting package that can scale with you as your website skyrockets to popularity.
Why? Because that’s what you want. You want to run a more successful business. You want to leverage the Web and email to make you more money and to make your customers happy by delivering them more value. And we want to help you do that. No more gigabytes and megabits on our front page. No more competing on price. We’re here to deliver you more value than any other hosting company out there, and we’re here to turn the slow slide of the web hosting industry into a numbers game on its head.
The new website will be up by April 1, 2007. I’m ready to make Simpli living, breathing proof that the world, and particularly the computer industry, is built on human interaction — on serving people — and not on numbers. In other words, I’m changing the world. Again.