What? Two posts that aren't over a week apart?! Believe it...
A lot of exciting stuff going on over here.
First - I have seroiusly neglected my friends and my desire to have fun for the past few months because I've been working on an awesome project (Sorry guys, I love you and miss hanging out). I haven't been this excited about working on something until I wrote my book (yeah... the marketing part of the book isn't so fun).
And the good news is... I'm almost done! I've built what I think is THE BEST multivariate testing suite available. Multivariate testing, for those interested, is the process of running tests on your site which show different combinations of variables to each visitor to figure out which combination yields the most sales/e-mail conversions/rss subscriptions/etc.
Examples of variables are things like headlines, colors, graphics, and button sizes.
One visitor might see headline A in a blue color with a picture of a dog and a large button. The next user might see headline B in red with a picture of an airplane and a small graphical button. The software tracks all of your visitors and calculates which combination had the most conversions.
I first came across Multivariate Testing when I worked at Smiley Media. I was charged with researching the different products and picking the best one for us to use. I had meetings and phone calls with all of the major players in the industry. We ended up going with a company that cost over $7000/mo.
It was great software and was useful, but I always got the impression that whoever designed the software had never owned a site that he was trying to optimize. The interface lacked, the test creation process was extremely cumbersome and error prone, the results were difficult to interpret. When you did finally find a winning combination you then had to design it AGAIN manually and upload it to your server.
Still... it was an invaluable tool and was worth the money we paid.
I wanted to optimize my Make Her Chase You site, but couldn't afford the $7k for the software we used. So what did I do? I started making my own program. My first test let me cut 80% of my advertising costs because my program can easily analyze different traffic sources independently. I then tried a new set of bullet points that my friend suggested and my e-mail conversion rate improved by about 25%.
My program was awesome.
So I spent 8+ hours every day working on it to make it easy for anyone to use. Of course I kept adding new features too.
"Wouldn't it be cool if it could..." BAM.. three days gone.
When the test is done with theirs you have to manually create the new page and upload it to your server. What a pain! With mine you click ONE button and the new version is live. Best of all, it doesn't mess with your underlying files. So if you want your old file back, it's no problem.
Why don't the other guys do it like this? I don't really know. That question haunted me while I was building it... "Am I going to hit a wall that makes this method impossible?"
Before this I had never written in PHP, AJAX or MYSQL, the key underlying technologies. I had to learn as I went along from google. As I learned better methods and became a better programmer I rewrote massive sections of code. I learned about MYSQL optimization because I want to make sure that it can handle high loads. Several times I got to brick walls that were seemingly impossible to break through. I'd spent over a week over three lines of code, knowing there must be SOME way to do it. In one case the experts in #php and on forums couldn't figure it out. I refused to give up and found a solution. I had written WAY too much not to figure it out.
Now I'm writing little bit parts. I'm writing help files, adding little functions like renaming test variables, etc. The functionality is done and has been actively tested on my site for the past month. I even did a fresh install last week to make sure it all works seamlessly from the beginning.
I'm really excited to launch it. I think customers are going to flip out at how awesome my program is. The cheapest serious contender is $1250/mo. I'm going to charge way less than that, but it will still be a lot of income and it will be regular. Best of all, they will make way more per month than I'm charging, so it's a win-win!
Anyway... moving on
TICKETS ARE PURCHASED FOR LIFE NOMADIC 2008!
I'm out of here on Jan 7 2008. We've added a couple stops to the trip. Todd is going for sure and Elisia is going to AT LEAST go to Panama. DJ Doug of Tazeroke fame is going to visit us in all the major stops. Lots of other friends are going to meet up with us at some point.
Here are the FINAL SET IN STONE DATES:
Jan 7 - Panama City, Panama
Mar 2 - Los Angeles, United States
Mar 10 - Tokyo, Japan
May 5 - Taipei, Taiwan
June 23 - Hong Kong
July 4 - Doha, Qatar (ironic that we happen to be in the middle east for July 4)
July 6 - Paris, France
That's all we have so far... we had to buy the ticket in two parts. I could not be MORE excited about the trip. I still have to sell my car and RV and some other little stuff, but that's ok. I have a few people interested in the RV. If anyone from the blog is interested, let me know. I'd love to have someone cool continue with it. I still love living in it after 6 months!
I finished learning Japanese!
If you read my forums you know I started it 90 days ago. I didn't miss a day, doing a tape every day. WOW. Three months ago I knew NO Japanese. Now I can definitely say anything I'd need to say. After two months in Japan I'm pretty sure I'll be fluent. I know a bunch of people will tell me how hard it is, but I don't care. I'm ONLY going to speak Japanese there. I've already done 45 hours of speaking and have that stuff down. I'll get it down no problem.
By the end of the year I'll also have Spanish, Chinese, and French down. Don't believe me? Wait and see, ladies...
For those curious souls out there, I did the Pimsleur series. They are AWESOME. Todd is doing the Spanish one now and his Spanish is very impressive now. He's only 2+ months in, too.
I personally challenge everyone reading this to do the full 3 months of a language of their choice without missing a day. I'll call up anyone who does it and give you pickup advice for free or something and will talk about how awesome you are on the blog. Keep track of your progress on the forums. You can get the CDs for free at your library.
Jay-Z has a new album out. It's called American Gangsta and is pretty great. I really like the song "Blue Magic".
I like supporting Jay-Z because I really listen to his albums a TON. In fact, he's 80-90% of what I listen to. I like classical music and Frank Sinatra too. I think I'm going to just send him a check for $15. I have no use for a CD since I don't drive my car anymore, and I don't want some crap 192kHz AAC from itunes. Or maybe I'll buy a CD and throw it away so that everyone else involved with the CD gets money too. Then again, it's $15, so it's not that important.
One more little story.
Back in 2000 I was at UT. I loved rap. I decided I wanted to be able to freestyle. I would download Eminem freestyles and my friends and I would sit around amazed.
One day along with two friends, Cheeze Cracka and Adam Hammonds, I decided to try to learn how to freestyle. We sat in a circle on my bed and took turns.
We couldn't rhyme two lines. Just couldn't. None of us, especially me, had ANY natural aptitude for it.
Ever since that day I've practiced almost every single day. I'm sure I've missed a few days, but I can't remember the last time a day passed where I didn't practice.
I'm not excellent by ANY means, but I'm good. I can go pretty much indefinitely, rap about actual content (rather than regurgitating and rephrasing popular rap cliches), and don't feel embarassed when I freestyle in front of people.
For the first YEAR I couldn't do more than a couple lines.
Soon I could do a couple rhymes and then weave in a few lines I'd thought of before.
A couple years later I could freestyle for fifteen or twenty seconds.
Then I got to the point where I could go for a while but would constantly repeat the same phrases. I thought I was good, but it was embarassing to listen to recordings because I repeated stuff so much.
After that I reached the level where I could go for a very long time and rarely repeat myself. But my range was limited to things from other rap songs (selling drugs, making money, getting ladies, etc.).
NOW I'm at the point where I can rap about 50% about how great I am (an easy topic) and 50% about situational stuff. Obviously the goal here is to get to 100% situational. I occasionally back myself into a corner where I can't think of a good rhyme in time so I say something lame or that doesn't make sense.
Also, my intonation isn't great now. I'm not very emotionally expressive with my voice. This is getting better, but not quickly. I AM getting better at varying my rhyming pattern by doing segments of quick rhymes, segments with pauses and callbacks, etc.
I'd say my skills are somewhere around 6/10. 5 on a bad day and 7 on a good day.
My recent breakthrough has been getting over my fear of freestyling in front of other people. Half the time I'll freestyle sometime during tazeroke, which I think will be very beneficial to me.
Anyway... it's just cool to think about how practicing a skill for just a little while each day can really bring some benefit down the line. What else should I practice? What can you practice?
That's it for now. If I was a reader of my blog I would be disappointed with it recently. I'm aware of the problem and will fix it, so hang in there!