Friday, March 16, 2007

Xslimmer, dugg (indirectly)

This week's traffic in our main site has come as a bit of a surprise to us. It all began on Tuesday, 13th -which, ironically, is the Spanish date when bad luck conjures up to make your day miserable-. When I got to bed at around 2am, everything was quite between the normal boundaries. However, when I got up at 6am (yes, it's a hard life for poor little developers with a day job) I immediately noticed that something was happening that was out of the usual: the moment I switched my mobile phone on, I began to receive SMS messages alerting me of events that had been happening while I was asleep. One of the consequences of crafting something that others are willing to pay for, combined with a technically oriented mindset, is that you develop a compulsion to measure, analyze, monitor and graph everything that happens. In my case, I had programmed the sending of SMS messages to my mobile whenever important events, such as sales, take place. Receiving an steady stream of SMS beeps is something I did not expect to happen in a random day with no recent important releases or noteworthy events on our side. This lasted for a couple of minutes, signaling that something had happened in the 4 hours my mobile had been switched off. I got to my MacBook Pro and run a couple of scripts to determine that we were receiving a lot of traffic from this article by Ed Eubanks Jr. at Xslimmer was mentioned as one of a variety of options that can be used to help you optimize your Mac. I read the article, dugg it, wrote the author with my compliments and comments, answered to some emails from customers, and drove to work.

Whenever Xslimmer is featured in a popular blog or site, we experience a traffic burst that translates proportionally to sales and mails from prospective customers or new buyers. Although the effect lasts for some days, the main spike declines pretty soon. However, in this case we kept having a relatively steady amount of activity during the following hours. And then, a second burst was noticed at around 15:30: the article had already accumulated 670 diggs and had been deemed "popular" by the Digg team. We kept receiving a lot of traffic, more sales than usual, and therefore had to cope with an increased amount of support activity (mostly derived from licenses that got trapped by spam filters and had to be resent manually). I thought this would last for a day, but that night when I got home the article had snowballed to more than 2,000 diggs and traffic was solid. This continued for another day and a half, and then decreased when the article finally left page 1 of Digg's Apple section.

We are proud and very grateful about the response received from all of you. We have gone through frentic activity trying to answer all your emails as soon as possible, but this activity is much more pleasurable when most of the feedback we receive is positive and encouraging. We'd also like to send our heartfelt thanks to Ed, who originated the best string of sales and response in our short history. And your article is interesting, too, if you don't mind we may borrow some of your ideas for future Xslimmer releases! :)

There are a number of lessons to be made from this story. The obvious one is the immense power of community sites such as Digg. I cannot imagine what would have happened if Xslimmer had been "dugg" in a direct way instead of marginally. A consequence is that quality and word of mouth really, really count: Ed chose to mention Xslimmer because he had liked the program. And because Ed's article was authoritative and respected, it was chosen and made popular by its readers. I believe there is a parallelism between this new wave of user-promoted content and the strong and traditional heritage about quality in the Mac tradition, whose users tend to look for good solutions, recognize them and recommend them to others. Being small software developers, our bet was to provide a "Mac-like" experience to a seemingly sensitive operation and rely on word of mouth to get our message through, hoping that this would pay off in the long run. The process is cumulative, and we do believe that each new customer is a potential referral for new ones; therefore, we have no option but to strive for simplicity, quality, robustness, ease of use, customer support. That's why we chose to distribute 5,000 free (non-upgradeable) Xslimmer licenses during the MacAppADay promotion, back in December, and only a few weeks after having released Xslimmer 1.0: in the hope that this community of users would spread the word if they really liked our application.

You know what? Ed downloaded Xslimmer during MacAppADay, bought it a few days later, and recommended it to the world last Tuesday, 13th.

The next Tuesday, 13th will be in November. After this week's events I'm confident that by then we'll be closer to our goal to "go Indy" and work on this thrilling activities the whole day. We'll keep working to achieve that, and we can't fail because November 13th is my birthday, and I'm determined to prove that bad luck may happen on Fridays, but not on Tuesdays, and certainly not on my birthday!

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