Start-up Static

“At this point, you’re so dang cocky that you have too much wine at Thanksgiving dinner and pointedly remind your mother-in-law about how rude she was to dismiss your start-up idea and how, when you’re making millions of dollars, there will be nothing for her — she can bloody well eat frozen government cheese.”

From my latest Inc. column: Start-up Static

Is the tech recession over?

OK, it’s just one data point. All I know is sales of FogBugz and Copilot. But what I’m seeing is this: October-December 2008 were terrible—sales were 20% lower than usual—but starting January 5th, we saw a significant bounce back to the same level of sales as we had before this recession started, and it’s continued to this day.

This could be a fluke; it might not reflect any reality. Or it could be a sign that tech firms, for the moment, are doing reasonably well. The Joel on Software job board is holding steady at about 50 jobs listed, down from a peak around 100, but there are still a significant number of openings for great developers.

Does this jive with your experience? (Comment over at the Business of Software).

The New York Times covers the Fog Creek office

The New York Times covered the new Fog Creek office: “A client who claims to know something about design might be an architect’s worst nightmare. But it turns out that Joel Spolsky, a software designer, author and blogger, actually knows a lot about it.”

If you’re coming here from that article craving more pictures and descriptions of the space, there’s an article I wrote describing everything in detail, and there’s also a slideshow with 49 pictures.

New, faster Copilot

Something I knew: if you just put traffic on the Internet, it’s not necessarily going to go by the most efficient route.

Something I didn’t know: that can make a pretty big difference. The default routes can be slow, clogged, and high latency. Think Cross-Bronx Expressway.

Akamai sent a couple of salespeople over to pitch us a service called IP Application Accelerator. According to the goofy pictures-with-clouds in the whitepaper, when you subscribe to this service, your packets go straight to the nearest Akamai node, which are installed all over the world, and then they magically zip on a superfast superclean superhighway to the Akamai node nearest your destination, after which they hop off and take the city bus to their final destination.

I have to admit to being extremely skeptical. Isn’t that what the Internet is supposed to do anyway? When I heard about this I really didn’t think it would work. I mean, sure, I understand Akamai’s original product, whereby the big static files in your site would be copied to nodes all over the Internet for faster delivery, but I didn’t expect great speed improvements for an application like Fog Creek Copilot, which can’t cache anything.

Jason, on the Copilot team, wanted to try anyway. Performance is the biggest complaint about Copilot, so we were ready to try anything that increased the “speed of light.” Setting it up turned out to be pretty easy. The costs were reasonable and Akamai was more than happy to let us see if it worked as well as advertised before committing to spending anything. Setup consisted entirely of changing an IP address or two.

Well, the new Akamaized Copilot seems to get about 100% more throughput going from Boston to Los Angeles. More importantly, our exhaustive scientific experiments using beakers and chemicals and graph paper and slide rules proved that the usability of Copilot jumped from “tolerable” to “pretty snappy.”

My high school science teacher would be proud.

Last week in Munich I was staying in a hotel (Bayerischer Hof) with ridiculously bad internet connectivity (provided by Swisscom) that was bursty, had lengthy dropouts, surprisingly low bandwidth (I couldn’t watch YouTube movies of cats doing funny things, even at the lowest resolution), and was poorly managed (it literally could not route to many popular sites). So I tried the new Akamaized Copilot back to my desk in New York and was blown away… Copilot’s speed and reliability doing remote desktop was actually better than the native internet access in the hotel. This shows, I think, that Akamai managed to pull its traffic off of the crappy Swisscom network before Swisscom could do any more damage. Awesome.

It’s still too early in the experiment to decide conclusively that this was a good move. The internet is a huge place, and we’ve only done a handful of experiments. The final verdict will come from our customers, but so far I’m a believer.