Swoosh Blog

Big day at Swoosh

we came, we launched, we didn’t sleep,

Our new site is where the old one used to be:

Let me know what you guys think.  We’re still getting feedback and tweaking as we go.  We made a strategic decision to go with BR vs. PR, and wow the payoff was huge.  I couldn’t list here all of the blogs that gave the Swoosh some love, but here’s a smattering of a few interesting ones:

Robert Scoble with a vision for vlogging at Scobleizer

Arrington with the full scoop at TechCrunch  

Matt Marshall with the finance tip at SiliconBeat

We were rockstars on Digg for the day making it to the TOP of the home page. Digg is a top 100 site that gets more traffic than the NYTimes -  400+ diggs today!

It’s a wild west world out there in the blogosphere. Everybody comes out of the woodwork and it’s on the record.

Now it’s back to the work of getting web developers to Swoosh those links

 - chief swoosher

Red Swoosh Refresh

For most of you, Red Swoosh is new to you.  It’s a fresh thing of Web 2.0 brilliance.  Cool, disruptive technology but practical, and easy to use.  Our mission: to rid the world’s webmasters of bloated bandwidth bills. . . man that’s web2.0-dotcom -p2p-diggnatious. . . 

. . . okay, that was a bit much.  But we are good stuff, . . .no? 

What most of you don’t know is that Red Swoosh has been here for years.  

Yes, long before Bittorrent was a sparkle in Bram’s eye, we got going on the company in the final days of 2000 and launched our first Swooshed website, in 2001.  

Well, we were a bit early to market. . . . ummm, about 4 years, and we kept a tight ship as we waited for the big wave of digital distribution to hit.  We kept things tight and pulled in customers where we could, ultimately doing great work for mostly really large websites paying 1000’s of dollars per month. 

We even got our first major investment from Mark Cuban last year, and signed dozens of customers since. 

But really, things still weren’t lighting up the way we think they could have or should have.  We were so Web 1.0.  We had “brochure-ware” that we put up on the site, and you could sign up for a newsletter.  Then we would call you. . . old skool stylez, the equivalent of the  rotary telephone for the Internet-set. 

Well, we knew that had to change.  More and more folks were calling us for services, but most of them didn’t have the money to even register into our normal pricing schemes, and we certainly didn’t have product or the customer support infrastructure to support them. 

So we went to Thailand to Offshore Ourselves for 6 weeks in May and June, and we’ve come back with a vengeance.

  • Self-service portal  
  • Swoosh Developer community site 
  • Javascript API and cool P2P widgets

And can you say FREE content delivery for everyone. . .?

Here’s a teaser screenshot of the home page:


We’ve got lots coming up over the next few days. . . even a little sumptin’ sumptin’ from the top martial arts Vlogger on the planet. . .stay tuned. 

Right this way folks, the mysterious mind of the user awaits.

As an engineer I am not always on the same wavelength as the end user. What I feel is interesting and innovative might induce reluctance, panic, or hunger in the user. Our jobs depend on catering to these puzzling beings, whose rationale we may never understand. Fortunately, we can observe them in their natural habitat and adjust accordingly. Altering the users’ environment and seeing how they react helps us to create a better environment for them. This does not tell us ‘why’ they like this more than that, but I doubt the users themselves can answer that question.

The investigation into the users’ collective mind began with the release of our new installation page, or ‘the bar’ as we like to call it. For those of you who are not familiar with Red Swoosh, our installation page is where users are sent if they click on a swooshed link but do not have the Red Swoosh client installed. Man, that bar looks good (left). And, it kept the referring customer’s page in a frame below it preserving context for the user. It was going to send installation figures through the roof. On the contrary, after its release, we noticed that installation rates dropped significantly. Was the bar broken? No, for reasons we could only guess at, the users did not like it as much as our old full page installation screen.

Our model changed. Rather than trying to give the users what we thought they wanted we decided to give them what they actually preferred. Randomly sending a subset of the potential swoosh users to various installation pages gave us invaluable information. How much better is a full page installation screen than a frame based one at converting users? Does the inclusion of a referring customer’s logo matter?

Over three iterations we removed poorly performing installation pages and replaced them with variations of the ones with high conversion rates. Here are a couple of fun facts we have discovered.

  1. Quickly whipped up variations of the full page installation screen convert at 10%-15%, where as the variations of the bar did not exceed 5%.
  2. Including the referring customer’s logo, making the installation page look really nice, changing the wording, hardly affect the conversion rates.

Our Darwinian approach to installation page selection is only in its infancy, but the results are already noticeable. Hopefully we can reach an understanding of the users to clearly convey the good will of Swoosh, and even conquer their habit of clicking ‘back’ or closing the installation page.


Sneak Peak: Vista MicroDLM

Want to download Vista, but don't want to suffer from broken links 3GB into the download? Try the following MicroDLM:

Click the install button, run the installer, and it'll detect that you've done so. Once installed, it'll show you download progress right on the page, like iTunes in a box. Just a sneak peak at the magic we've got working for us under the hood; expect more fun soon. -quinthar

Engineering is not Innovation, Bangkok Style

For an extra 60 Baht, the taxi driver will take the elevated toll road to the Bangkok international airport. Quicker, smoother, and well worth the $1.50. Along the way, however, I’m struck by what appears to be a second, uncompleted toll road running along side. Some years ago, massive construction began on the first incarnation of the road, but was abandoned for reasons unknown.

Through some colossal feat of mismanagement, dozens of cement and rebar pylons were built at an epic scale - at I’m sure astonishing expense - only to be left forgotten as a second, nearly identical toll road was constructed along the exact same route. It would appear that someone took the old software engineering adage “plan to throw one away” to heart.

But software engineering is not civil engineering. Indeed, if “engineering” is the practice of applying known techniques to predictable problems with high levels of repeatability, using that to word to describe innovative software development exercise is wishful thinking.

Innovative software is no more “engineered” than your mom’s home cooking. In each case, the ingredients available, the appetites of the customers, the time constraints, kitchen supplies, extra hands - everything is volatile right up to the point of being served (and even after).

No, innovation cannot be engineered. It can only be inspired and nurtured. And to the degree it can be done at all, innovation management is more about directing the firehose than watering a garden.

Which brings me back to the discarded roadway littered across Bangkok. Someone on that project screwed up, and I doubt it was the engineers. Rather, the project leaders mistakenly thought they were executing on a predictable engineering project, when in fact they were embarking on an innovative exercise in Thai financing and politics. And from an engineering perspective, it was a remarkable success. But this wasn’t the real challenge, and thus millions of taxpayer dollars produced nothing more than a crumbling monument to innovation mismanagement.

So the question that every manager needs to ponder is: am I managing engineering? Or am I managing innovation? Because the two are not the same thing, and the tech landscape is littered with countless examples of one that was mistaken for the other.

Midnight Train

I’ve tried to keep all of my posts biz-related, but there’s one Thailand story that needs to be told, what a friend of mine calls a “Life Story.” Nothing big, but one of those things you’ll never forget, and something to tell the grandkids.

We’re on our way up to Bangkok from Krabi, Thailand, nearing the end of our trip, and getting a last week in of work before we head back to the states.

We’re getting out of town right as monsoon season starts, and I’m telling you, those Vietnam movies that seem unrealistic where it’s just raining like somebody’s pouring water from a bucket. .. they’re legit. We’re about ready to get onto our ghetto train, and the air is simply turning into water. Tom and I are carrying our laptops, and scared out of our minds that our most important assets are short-circuiting as we run to the sleeper car. We make it in the train right as it starts to leave the station. An old Thai lady is sitting in my seat smiling. David tells me not to go aggro or cause an awkward scene. . .so I don’t.

One constant of this trip, wherever we go, whatever we are doing is that we have our laptops out and are incessantly looking for AC power to plug in. We have a power-strip, and don’t hesitate to lay it out anywhere and everybody plug in. On this train, I have power-finding duty. Walking up and down the train, I make it to the cargo area where I’m abruptly confronted by the conductor half naked in a towel, like he just took a shower, with shaving cream on his face yelling at me to get out (in Thai of course). Ummm, who’s driving the train?. . . . nevermind, don’t want to know the answer. No outlet, no power, nothing, nada. Meanwhile, Tom, our resident Aussie-DJ, software dev, and DIY electrical engineer is trying to take apart the lights in the train to turn into a power source. The police walking up and down the train look at us in a way that says, “Do you really want to spend the night in a Thai jail?”

Finally, I make my way to the other end of the train, where there is a diner car. After ultra-cheap meals all throughout Thailand, I was actually upset with the menu prices, almost a $1.50. But all of a sudden it got real quiet, I see this glowing light in the corner, and a soothing catholic choir sounding background noise of awwhhhhhhh (you know the sound I’m talking about). There it was, the AC outlet. Now forget about the glowing and the religious moment I had there, this outlet is tucked away in a place in this diner car people don’t go, and this outlet is GHET - TOE, looking shady, like if you plug into it, the train will derail or something. Nahhh. . .it will be fine.

I get the guys, we make our way to the diner car. We order some food as a sign of supporting the local diner car economy. There are 4 police officers in the diner car and a lot of people that look at us somewhat suspiciously as the only farangs (aka, white-boys) that made it to this side of the train. We’re eating, looking around, trying to figure out how to get us some power. . .

Breakthrough. David has the idea that we buy everybody in the diner car including the police and staff, a round of beers. At only $0.50 or so a beer, it’s really no skin off our backs, and if it gets us power to work for the rest of the night, then it’s *way* worth it.

So the locals were very pleased with the generous farang outsiders and the general mood in the diner car warms up precipitously. The police were the first to pop the tops and start guzzling. Suddenly a screeching, chalkboard-scratching sound starts squealing from the stereo they have set up in the diner car, like some RIAA-induced “You are a pirate, we have jacked your music up, so that you will no longer be a pirate and conform”. Let me tell you, that anti-piracy crap doesn’t work in Thailand. They make their way through the scratches like nothing happened. But we had to do something, and this could be our opportunity to hit a couple birds with one stone.

We offer up Tom, our resident Aussie-DJ (new Swoosh team member) for DJ services-they call him DJ Asbestos back in Australia. He lights up his laptop, plugs the stereo into his audio out, and starts getting this train rocking and rolling. Now, this isn’t entirely new for us, we’ve pulled out DJ Asbestos in a number of occasions during this trip to enhance the nightlife and barter with the locals. This was no different. The moment he lit his laptop up, we quickly whipped out the power strip, laid it on the side of the car, we all plugged in, and we were on our way to a productive Swoosh evening. The locals were rocking, Tom was able to get his software development on after setting up a long playlist, David was cranking on some code, though harassed by an old-drunk thai man who was a bit scary, and I was jamming on our new site layout.

The old man was getting pretty aggressive, so we tried to mollify him with a couple more beers. . . no luck. When the locals guessed that he was going to be the buzz kill, the police escorted him back to his seat. A few local thai girls were into the tunes and into this strange scene, were practicing their english with us “I think you are beautiful”. . . “My heart pounds for you”, weird . No, they weren’t lady-boys, and no we weren’t interested, but they were good looking and yeah, it was cool to be rock stars, at least for a night.

The night got a bit more underway, and one of the diner employees just started emptying beers into buckets of ice, and just made the rounds back and forth throughout the diner car. Even when we were inundated with one of the deadly plagues, thousands of 2 inch flying ants get sucked into our car, this guy keeps pouring. He kept filling them up, 10 straws in each of them, making the rounds while we hammered away on our keyboards.

As we split through the remote jungles of Thailand, we filled the locals with good cheer, filled the air with good tunes, good fun, and one hell of a Life Story.

- chief swoosher

Whoever invented tonal languages needs to be fired.

To give an example, I’m a voracious tea drinker, but despite my best attempts I’ve never successfully ordered it in Thai. No matter how I try to pronounce it - cha, caa, tza, chaa, shaa - it just never works. I’ll pantomime drinking from a hot cup, pouring from a pot - nothing ever works. Eventually I’ll break down and say “hot tea” and they’ll say “Ohh.. you want cha.” We’ll have a futile language lesson as I practice a dozen identical forms of pronunciation, and the experience repeats. The depth of my misery is so great that I’ve went out and bought a thermos, and carry around my own tea. Besides, their tea sucks anyway.

But non-tonal languages suffer no such problem. Like, I write this from a sushi counter in Bankok, having just ordered from a Thai waitress in Japanese (a non-tonal language which is native to neither of us). Our conversation goes:

[Me] “Um… hamachi, saba…”
[Her] “Sashimi?”
[Me] “No, nigiri. Maguro…”
[Her] “No maguro.”
[Me] “Oh, hm… tekka maki?”
[Her] “No, no maguro.” (we laugh)
[Me] “Ahh… sake.. tobiko.. you have salmon skin hand roll?”
[Her] “Yes”
[Me] “Good, that’s it.” (she turns to leave)
[Me] “Oh, and hot tea.”

Somehow I can express a full sushi menu in Japanese without trouble — to a non-native Japanese speaker, no less — but a single syllable of Thai confounds me.

Last Night Discovery

After weeks of scraping together a routine of restaurants and coffeeshops in Krabi, we finally stumble upon nirvana on the last night:

A beautiful, air-conditioned, private library in a luxury resort, complete with cozy chairs, hot drinks on call, free hand massages. Free internet.

Granted, you had to sneak past security guards and wander nonchalant amongst $2000/night villas, but basic infiltration techniques are prerequisite for all Swoosh employees.

Live P2P Streaming: The Next Urban Myth?

How much of the TV you watch is truly “live”? Don’t look at me funny, it’s a serious question. What fraction of the TV you watch is only a few seconds old, straight from some camera to your TV without editing?

Let’s break it down:
- Is anything on Must-See-TV live? No
- How about Saturday morning cartoons? No
- Leno?, Letterman? Nope
- The Sopranos, Everybody Loves Raymond, Soaps, Opera Winfrey? Nada

How about the national news? If you’re on the east coast, maybe it’s live, not on the west coast though. If you’re watching a 24 hour news channel, the *vast* majority of play time is pre-recorded segments. How about 24? That clock doesn’t make it so :)

Now isn’t the holy trinity of media distribution - broadcast, cable, satellite - perfectly designed and suited for live distribution of Television? Of course it is.

So why isn’t most of TV live? Here are a couple reasons:

- Editing makes TV better.
- For 95%+ of the TV people watch, live doesn’t matter, NOBODY CARES

Even the notion of linear programming seems to be dwindling in every direction I look. Comcast and their MSO brethren have launched and are aggressively expanding their on-demand offerings. 99% of what is distributed on the Net is non-live content (the 1% is made up of the few radio stations that still do live streams online - the most popular radio services are simply playing pre-recorded songs in a pre-set playlist).

So, why the heck is everybody knocking down my door about live P2P streaming? Usually they’re frenetic, intense and on a mission, like Indiana Jones about to get the holy graille or something. Cheap, live, high-performance video distribution online. Previously, only in the sci-fi books. Does it make me feel kind of special to be the guy, behind the guy, behind the guy, that can make their dreams come true? Of course it does, and I bask in their praise every chance I get.

But then reality sets in:
How much of Headline News is Live? I’m going to guess less than 10%
How much of ESPN is Live? Less than 50% for sure.

Now don’t get me wrong, if you’re going to want live, it’s going to be in one of 3 categories: sports, news, events (like concerts). But even in these categories, sports is the only one where a majority of its viewed content is Live. Long-term customers probably range only at 15-20 max. My point isn’t that Live doesn’t exist or that there’s no business there, but it’s not even in the same order of magnitude as the big business of pre-recorded content delivery.

So how come all the hub-ub, the frothy mouths, and the Venture Capitalists circling around like vultures?

The REAL reason for this recent move toward live online P2P is licensing.

Content owners are scared of losing ad revenues in an on-demand world (Tivo on the Net is worse than the Second Coming for these guys) especially one that’s online. Cable companies are scared that the pipes they built to double up for Internet access will be used to get around their $80/month/subscriber cash cow. Content companies are scared that their cable deals will get screwed if they try to “go around” the cable companies by doing on-demand on the Net.

Bottom line is that for the next couple years, on-demand, ad-supported TV licensing for the Net is a non-starter.

And so with all those 100 million people on the Net but no way to get them on-demand programming online, some brilliant guy trying to make his numbers came up with a genius holding pattern:

“Why don’t we take pre-recorded TV content, and broadcast it Live over the Internet?”

Don’t even get me started on the technical lameness of the proposition, but this is the world we live in for a couple years, until online, on-demand licensing makes the world better for consumers everywhere.

In the meantime, I’ll bask in the temporal sunny rays of the Live P2P streaming spotlight.

- chief swoosher

My new found love for Offline Email

So when you’re at work, fat broadband pipe into your office, how many times do you click on SEND/RECEIVE button in Outlook, or check gmail for new stuff?

Once an hour. . . ? don’t lie. . .

Once every 15 minutes. . . maybe, but you probably do it more than that

Once every 5 minutes . . . only for the true ADD/OCD among us. . .

How many IMs do you get?
How many phone calls?

I went through my IM logs, email history, phone records and found it hard to believe how many interruptions I get in a SINGLE heavy activity day:

- Over 150 non-spam emails
- Up to 75 instant messages
- 30+ phone calls coming in
- Send/Receive button (assuming every 15 minutes) is hit another 48 times

That adds up to over 300 interruptions in a single day! If you consider that most interruptions happen during business hours, that’s one interruption every 2 minutes. It’s no wonder I get my best work done between 9PM and 2AM.

But then we start working from Thailand. The Internet for the whole peninsula we’re on goes through one satellite dish. This satellite dish is flaky and can go down for 15-20 minutes at a time. Developers don’t have a problem with that, but [gasp] business dudes can freak out [/gasp].

So we get on the Net for a few hours at a time, a couple times a day. This forced me to adapt. . .but how? I heard of guys doing email offline, and then syncing up a few times a day, but I thought that was for members of the AARP or something. Well, let me tell ya’, offline email is the holy graile of productivity.

I’m offline, no IMs, no Skype, no send/receive - send/receive, and I churn out 100 emails in less than 5 hours-and these aren’t short two-word emails, most of them thoughtful but to the point, usually a paragraph or two long with the occasional one-pager.

100 emails in 300 minutes is an email every 3 minutes sustained. You can’t do that with interruptions. Now going offline for that long can come with some downside, but I guarantee massive increase in productivity to any sales/bizdev. guy who does this 3-5 times a week. . . I don’t care what else he does.

Maybe I’m late to the party, but when I come back to the states, I’m turning wireless/LAN/EVDO card OFF for my special Thai-island productivity feasts.

- chief swoosher