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Olson’s Observations

Technology. Innovation. Science. VC. Media. :: by Eric Olson

Archive for July, 2006

Get Your Site Mobile in Under 5 Minutes

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Nokia 9300I recently started using my Nokia 9300 quite a bit to do some web surfing on the go. In fact, some may say I am addicted to the on-the-go web but what do they know? Anyways… since I am surfing on the GPRS network which is just around 56k I noticed how slow my site loads on a mobile device. Also, Opera Mini (and other mobile browsers) load from left to right meaning that if you have a left rail full of stuff a mobile user will have to scroll through all of that before they can hit your content and then your right rail.

All of this got me thinking about how to quickly put together a mobile version of The Wannabe VC and VentureWeek. An idea John had a while back seemed to be the perfect solution and it would take under 5 minutes to set up. Here is a quick tutorial on how to get your site mobile ready in under 5 minutes. Enjoy!

1. Set up the subdomain for your mobile site - I would recommend placing your mobile site at www.yourdomain.com/mobile as that is the “industry standard” from what I hear. Other popular methods are m.yourdomain.com (what Google uses) and mobile.yourdomain.com.

2. Create a stripped down version of your site on the new “mobile” domain you set up - This is super easy if you are a FeedBurner user as you can just use BuzzBoost (under the “Publicize” tab) to create your mobile site. Head into the BuzzBoost set up tool and customize your output. Save those changes, grab the script that is automatically created for you and add it to the new mobile domain either via text document (which you can then upload to your server) or right in your ftp if your ftp allows you to edit files. The new file should be labeled index.html and it should be placed in the mobile subdomain. Your full mobile URL is now www.yourdomain.com/mobile/index.html (make sure you have the html and body tags set up in the doc of course otherwise the script won’t work properly). Save the new index file and then head over to your mobile site to see what you have done!

Important Note: If you are already using BuzzBoost as I do you will need to set up a dummy version of your feed in your FeedBurner account if you want your mobile site to have different settings then your current BuzzBoost. You need to do this because if you were to go in and change the BuzzBoost settings they would cascade to all other uses of BuzzBoost. In my case, I only BuzzBoost that last two headlines for the cross promotion I do between the sites and I wanted to BuzzBoost the last 5 items in full content format for the mobile site.

To create a second version of your site for your mobile BuzzBoost you can simply burn your FeedBurner feed again inside of your account. I suggest naming the dummy feed YourName - Mobile. Once the dummy feed is burned you can go ahead and create your BuzzBoost code.

3. Set up a redirect that will forward all mobile devices to your new mobile optimized page - Insert the block of code below into your .htaccess file. This code will forward all mobile devices listed in the code to your mobile site. This code came from Pocket PC Thoughts where it did not include Opera Mini. You’ll notice I have added Opera Mini into the code below. It’s really simple to do that. All you need to do is figure out what the user agent for the particular application is and then add a new rewrite condition with the new user agent to the code. Wikipedia has a great list of user agents for your reference.

Note: Change the bold below to your schema. Also, where it is obvious the lines wrapped in order to fit in my site design you will want to keep that info on the line it is attached to when you place the code into the .htaccess file otherwise the code may break.

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} “Windows CE” [NC,OR] #Windows CE and Pocket PC
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} “Opera Mini” [NC,OR] #Opera Mini
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} “NetFront” [NC,OR] #PalmSource WebBrowser 2.0
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} “Palm OS” [NC,OR] #Eudora Web Browser for Palm
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} “Blazer” [NC,OR] #Handspring Blazer Browser
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} “Elaine” [NC,OR] #RIM Devices
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} “^WAP.*$” [NC,OR] #WAP Browsers
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} “Plucker” [NC,OR] #Plucker Offline download client
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} “AvantGo” [NC] #AvantGo Service
RewriteRule ^index\.php http://www.yourdomain.com/mobile/index.html [L,R]

Other options: You can also use javascript to do this type of redirection but I would highly recommend using the code above if it at all possible. The javascript version of the redirect seems to be less universal and reliable.

4. You’re Mobile! - You can test your implementation by heading to the Opera Mini simulator. If you have done everything properly you should be able to type in your usual URL and Opera Mini will automatically resolve to the mobile optimized site you just created. I should note that it probably took you longer to read this article than it would to implement all of this so get to it. Help your mobile brethren out!

Written by Eric Olson

July 30th, 2006 at 3:32 pm

Posted in Technology, Tutorials

37ventures?

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37signalsIf you haven’t already heard, 37signals has taken funding from Jeff Bezos. There has been a lot of talk about this deal for a couple of reasons:

1. 37signals is notoriously anti-funding
2. No one is sure why 37signals needs the money

My take on this funding is that it really isn’t a funding. It is a buyout. Therefore, 37signals can still uphold their anti-funding philosophy and put money into their own pockets which will diversify their risk (they don’t need they money for the business - they just want to partially cash out).

37signals gains a great advisor out of the deal in Bezos and they are able to cash out some of their equity in the company making them a bit more liquid all while preserving their ideals. Not bad at all guys. Nicely done. Now, to the title of the post. I see the next logical step for 37signals as becoming investors themselves (gasp!).

Why not invest in some smaller companies just starting out now that you have some cash in hand? Entrepreneurs would love to have the signals guys as mentors and the signals guys can diversify their risk further while helping to develop some great new companies. They could also work the 37signals ideals into these companies (although I feel like they would probably only invest in companies already following their ideas) which would further their overall agenda. Makes a lot of sense to me.

You heard it here first folks. 37ventures is probably not far off.

Written by Eric Olson

July 26th, 2006 at 1:22 am

Posted in Business, Chicago, VC

Movie Pre-Review: The Prince of Peace - The God of War

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I don’t know how many chances I’ll get to do something like this but I hope I’ll get more of them. John Campea of The Movie Blog, who I met through my work at FeedBurner, just sent out a note to myself and some other folks about his new documentary called “The Prince of Peace - The God of War” complete with a trailer.

This documentary looks particularly compelling as it tackles a very intense topic that most dare not talk about. I can’t wait to view the full film as soon as John finishes it. Check out the trailer and let me (and John) know what you think. I am curious to hear your thoughts on the subject matter.

Prince of Peace - God of War

Written by Eric Olson

July 22nd, 2006 at 8:06 pm

Posted in Movie Reviews

Great Cycling Video

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I have never seen anything like this. Had to share it with you guys even though it is a bit off topic.

Cycling Movie

Written by Eric Olson

July 22nd, 2006 at 7:34 pm

Posted in General Thoughts

TECH cocktail 1: The Movie

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We’ve officially sold the movie rights to TECH cocktail 1, well, not really. But Lambert Smith of Stone Cliff Productions was nice enough to produce a video of TECH cocktail 1 for us and it is now on YouTube and Google Video. Enjoy and thanks again for coming!

TECH cocktail 1 - (YouTube)

TECH cocktail 1 - (Google Video)

TECH cocktail

Written by Eric Olson

July 22nd, 2006 at 7:20 pm

Less is the New More

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HomeMade Pizza Co.John has been telling me about a new food concept called the HomeMade Pizza Company for quite some time. This concept is only in Illinois right now but I feel like it will spread to other states shortly. Anyhow, I had thought for a while that the HomeMade Pizza Company simply meant that they used great ingredients and took great care in the pizza making process. So, imagine my surprise when they hand me the pizza, after the traditional 10 - 15 minute wait, and it is not cooked. Looks like they literally meant homemade! My girlfriend and I then took the pizza back to John’s car where he and his better half Michelle were waiting for us and we proceeded to head back to their place.

While we were driving through the streets of Chicago my mind began cranking away and I thought about the idea behind the HomeMade Pizza Co. (HMPC). What a brilliant idea. They did less for us and by doing so allowed all of us to have a lot of fun while cooking the pizza ourselves. As Michelle pointed out, the satisfaction probably has a lot to do with the fact that something really good comes out of your own oven. There are also some straight business benefits that the HMPC gains from operating the way they do.

The HMPC has no ovens to buy, clean or run saving them what could possibly be the largest expense involved in creating pizzas (maybe only second to the ingredients). They can also get pizzas done in a pinch since they don’t have to cook them saving them a lot of time. With all of these costs cut they can afford to use better ingredients in their pizzas so they taste better which allows them to justify charging a bit more than the average price of a regular pizza.

In summary, they have cut costs by cutting large pieces of the pizza making process out of their equation. They pass those costs on to the consumer by having you cook the pizza at your home (using your gas, electricity, etc). They use better ingredients which allow them to justify charging a bit more than average for their pizzas even though they still, even with the better ingredients, probably spent less than average to create them. The consumer loves it since they get to be hands on and actually cook the pizza giving them a sense of pride.

Less is the new more in the pizza making business and I wonder if there are other businesses that could employ the same tactics. I’d love to get a discussion going on this topic in order to hear all of your thoughts and to hear what other businesses this type of model could work for.

Side note: The HMPC’s pizza is incredible and I consider myself a pizza connoisseur so that says something! Worth every cent.

Written by Eric Olson

July 18th, 2006 at 11:31 pm

Thanks eBay!

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Just a quick shout out to eBay as they deserve it.  Today my account was hacked and 18 items were listed for sale without my knowledge.  I only caught them because my gmail account began to signal me with message after message of new items I was listing.  So, I hopped into my account and changed my username and password which stopped the attack.  Then, I pinged eBay and asked that all the items for sale be removed. I was a bit leery of how they would respond to this query as they are a large company and we all know how that usually goes.

eBay’s initial replay back to me said things could take 24 - 48 hours to fix which, with a lot of other companies, usually means that I won’t hear from them again.  This time, however, I was pleasantly surprised.  About 2 hours after the incident I received a note from eBay asking me to reset my password and notifying me that everything had been cleared out of my account.  Sure enough, everything was all set.  So, thank you eBay!  You have restored my faith in large company customer service.  You guys rock!

Written by Eric Olson

July 18th, 2006 at 10:18 pm