Archive for November, 2010


My new gig: making the internet faster

I’m incredibly excited to announce a brand new company from Jon Fox and me. It’s called Torbit. We’re here with a simple but audacious mission: to make the internet faster.

Jon and I met at TechStars in 2007 and have been good friends ever since. Jon’s previous company was IntenseDebate which he sold to Automattic. We have both been itching to get into another startup and we’re extremely excited about Torbit. I have a huge amount of respect for Jon and I’m stoked for the chance to finally get to work with him.

The idea behind Torbit is to have a service that automatically speeds up your website.  We want to take all the best practices for website speed optimization and apply them automatically to your website.  Jon and I have both wasted countless hours learning this stuff on our own so we both feel the pain and have a good idea of how to build out a solution.  I’m looking forward to stretching new muscles this time around as I tackle more of the business side of the company.

If you want to know more, head over to torbit.com. We’d love any feedback you may have on what we’re doing. We’re also currently looking for some brave souls to be our first customers when we launch, so if you’re interested, be sure to sign up.

We have a huge vision and a ton of work ahead of us. I’m looking forward to doing my part at making the internet better by making it faster.

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Google Apps for your domain is awesome, except when it isn’t

I recently bought a new domain name from a domain squatter. I used Sedo as the escrow and started the transfer on October 25th. Sedo are horribly slow and so I didn’t get the transfer completed until November 3rd. The first thing I did once I had the domain was attempt to set up Google Apps for my domain. I entered my domain name on their Standard edition signup form, only to be greeted with the following message:

This domain has been registered and is in the process of ownership verification. If you believe this registration was unauthorized, please have your domain administrator contact Google support.

Ok, so I guess the previous owner used Google Apps too. Figures. That shouldn’t be hard to fix, right? I did a little hunting around and found a Google help page that says:

The first thing to do is to visit the control panel login page for the domain. The control panel login page URL is https://www.google.com/a/your_domain.com. (Note: Your extension may vary eg: .com, .net, .org).

If this is a valid login page and you are the rightful owner of the domain name, you can reset the administrator password to gain access to the account. Please also contact other people in your organization who may be managing this account.

If it’s an invalid login page with a server error, this means the account is currently being deleted and you can sign up again in 5 days.

That’s annoying, but okay. At least I was seeing the server error message they mentioned. I figured I could wait 5 days. Besides, I’d started the transfer 9 days before, so there was a good chance the clock had already started counting.

It’s now November 12th and I’m still waiting for Google to release the account so I can set up my email. That’s 9 days since I got the domain in my possession and 18 days since I initiated the transfer.

I’m posting this in hopes that someone will have some suggestions on what I can do. Google makes it virtually impossible to get in touch with a real person on the Apps team. The fact that Google doesn’t have a straightforward process for resolving this is mind blowing to me.

I can’t possibly be the only person who has run into this situation. Anyone dealt with this before and have any tips on what I should do?

Update 11/13/10:
WIthin a couple hours of posting this, multiple people reached out to me offering to help and my domain was up and running shortly after. A huge thanks to everyone who reached out and got this resolved for me.

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How business guys can identify good coders

You’re the business guy. The idea guy. You have an MBA and a killer business idea to boot. The only thing standing between you and becoming the next Google is finding a good technical person to build it for you. The only problem is you don’t know how to code and you’ve got no clue how to interview or evaluate developers. What do you do?

Thankfully, identifying good developers doesn’t have to be hard. You can actually find great developers without knowing a thing about coding. Just like good sales guys can be measured by how much they sold, there are some simple questions that can act as your filter for finding talented programmers.

How old were you when you started programming?

I started coding when I was 10. Most of the best developers I know started coding long before college. While it may seem like a weird thing to evaluate someone on, I’ve found there is a strong correlation between the age someone started programming and their skill level as a developer. It makes sense. Just like most professional athletes started perfecting their art at a young age, the best developers did the same.

Think about all the distractions you face growing up. As Paul Graham says in Hackers and Painters, being smart in elementary school is a guaranteed way to be unpopular. While the kids who are coding in middle school may not be cool then, they’re the people I want to hire when they are 20. The intellectual curiosity that drove a kid to code instead of hanging out at the mall is probably still with them later in life.

And all things being equal, the kid who started coding at 10 has 8 years extra experience on the guy who didn’t start until college. This doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions to the rule, but it’s a surprisingly good indicator.

What weekend projects have you built?

If you’re a developer, you have the ability to turn your ideas into reality in a way that few people have. Think there should be a better way to share pictures with your friends? You can just build it. You don’t need money or permission from anyone. I’m suspicious of anyone who claims to be a developer but doesn’t have any projects to show off that they built “just for fun”.

Programming is more of an art that a science. You usually either have a mind for it or you don’t. If you don’t enjoy coding you’re not going to be any good at it. More than anything, the weekend projects show that you enjoy the creative process of programming.

Things you enjoy, you do a lot and things you do a lot, you tend to get good at.

What open source projects have you contributed to?

Being involved with open source projects is another positive sign of a good developer. Not only does it show they enjoy coding enough to give their own time to it, but open source developers also have the benefit of continual feedback from other smart developers. There is not a single piece of code I’ve open-sourced that hasn’t been improved from having other developers use it. The more you open source, the more you learn. For example, when I contributed my PHP library for PubSubHubbub, it was Brad Fitzpatrick (the guy who invented memcache) who did the code review and gave me some great feedback on how to improve it. It’s tough to get that level of feedback and not become a better programmer as a result.

While asking a developer how to write a linked list may show off their memorization skills, I’d rather see the evidence of their abilities for myself. Why quiz Picasso about the principles of painting, when you just ask to see his gallery of paintings instead?

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