Clicky Web Analytics (

June 8, 2009 in 5 out of 5 stars, Analytics

What is it?

Clicky Web Analytics: A web analytics system (i.e. a web stats program).


Who makes it?

Roxr Software Ltd.

Why is it the killerest?

I remember when Google Analytics (GA) came on the scene, and for free, I thought "there goes every single web analytics company, it's over." And to a degree, I was right. I don't think there are any web analytics offerings that existed before GA came out that haven't lost crippling market share to GA.

But in an instructive (and inspiring) move – the Roxr folks found a way to create something that is more in touch, more contemporary, more interesting, and ultimately (yes I’m going to say it) better than Google Analytics.

Of course you can always use both. I’m doing that – but I virtually never look at my GA reports anymore, like an addict I return at my Clicky reports.

I won’t go into detail on all the juicy Clicky features here – you can see those on their site. But I will outline why I think they’re succeeding, and why I’m such an enthusiastic fan.

Clicky gives you a raw, intimate, personal connection to your web traffic (including a fantastic “spy” feature letting you know who is currently on the site, where they came from, what they’re viewing, and more) and they “get” the things that matter, and that we care about in today’s online market place (take their Twitter tracking features, for example).

But it’s not all stat candy, it’s useful stuff. Like GA they’ve got goals, and campaign tracking so you can use it with your serious online marketing efforts.

Plus the interface is a pleasure to use, and is very well considered. These folks entered what any sane person would call an impenetrable market, and they’ve made their mark. I’ve been using them for over a month now, and I can’t imagine living without them now.

What could be improved?

I have only one complaint - it's impossible to find pricing on their site. It's ridiculous.

How much does it cost?

From free to $50/mo if you really try.


Reviewed by Carson McComas

Permalink | | Comments (10)

Stanford University's Entrepreneurship Corner

March 13, 2009 in 5 out of 5 stars, A podcast, Expert Advice

What is it?

ecorner Stanford University's Entrepreneurship Corner: A collection of short, potent videos and podcasts by very well-known successful entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerburg, Larry Page and Michael Dell, as well as some less well-known, but still inspiring and successful entrepreneurs. They've been doing this for a few years, and new additions are added regularly.

Who makes it?

Stanford University

Why is it the killerest?

Well, because it’s bite-sized nuggets of inspirational goodness and expertise that we all need.

I like as well how it’s broken out by topic, by speaker, or by date.

How much does it cost?



Reviewed by Carson McComas

Permalink | | Comments (19)

Macrium Reflect

February 18, 2009 in 5 out of 5 stars, A piece of software

What is it?

macrium reflect

Macrium Reflect: Disk imaging software. Sound complicated? It's not - put simply, you use it to take a “snapshot” of your hard drive, then if your drive ever fails, you can quickly restore that snapshot.

Who makes it?

Paramount Software UK Ltd

Why is it the killerest?

Because using this software, you can backup a complete "image" of your hard drive, and restore it if you should ever suffer a hard drive failure, or just a catastrophic data loss or other meltdown.

And you don't need to be a computer genius to use it.

You create a disk image, back it up to an external hard drive or other medium. Macrium also helps you create a “boot CD.” In the event of failure, you use the boot CD on the failed machine, point it toward the image you made, and a few minutes later you are back up and running. It’s really that simple.

Example: I have a colleague who kicked over his new computer tower, blew out the hard drive. I had helped him make an image of his hard drive about a week earlier. He bought a new drive, restored the image, 15 minutes later he was back up and running.

How much does it cost?

Free version does everything I need, power users and corporate users can pay a measly $40 for the full version. Crazy value for the money.


Reviewed by Carson McComas

Permalink | | Comments (11)

Microsoft BizSpark Program

February 9, 2009 in 5 out of 5 stars, A piece of software, Productivity, Software Development, Virtualization, Web/Tech

What is it?

Biz Spark: Virtually free* access to all current Microsoft software, plus some additional support from peers and other Microsoft partners, if you care to get involved in the social side of it.  


Who makes it?


Why is it the killerest?

One of the biggest and most painful expenses for a startup can be software. Windows and Office primarily, but if you're a Microsoft developer – this is an outrageous deal because it includes everything you get in an MSDN subscription (note: it is an MSDN subscription).

If you're a startup, three years old or less, and make under $1 million per year, you're eligible. This is basically all Microsoft software. Signup was pretty simple. There are a few hoops they want you to jump through to verify that you qualify, but they're tame. The big hurdle was getting a sponsor. I emailed this guy, explained my qualifications, and he hooked me up a couple days later. Twitter friend Geoffrey had good luck with this guy.

This is worth tens of thousands of dollars and can be a real boost when you're boostrapping.

What could be improved?

Well, obviously this is for Windows users only.

Hey Adobe, the web startup community would kill for an offering like this from you.

How much does it cost?

*Free to enroll, you agree to pay $100 when you exit.


Reviewed by Carson McComas

Permalink | | Comments (4)


January 21, 2009 in 5 out of 5 stars, Hiring

What is it?

crowdSPRING: A marketplace where someone in need of creative services (say, a logo or website design – most requests appear to be for logos) can post what they need, when they need it and how much they want to pay. Once posted, designers (called “creatives”) from around the world (about half in the US, half outside the US) will submit actual work – not bids or proposals – for the buyer to review. As the submissions come in, buyers are able to review, sort, rate, provide feedback and collaborate with creatives until they find the "the one." The buyer then picks the winner, and the winner gets the project payment. 


Who makes it?


Why is it the killerest?

When I first heard about this service, my hackles went up. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that crowdSPRING fills a real need. There is a market of folks who think $500 is a lot to spend on a website. In my experience, these folks are not typically well-served. I can't afford to work with them, and they can't afford to work with me. So usually they end up hiring an amateur/hobbyist and the results they get are extremely hit and miss.

crowdSPRING seeks to fill that niche. As of this posting, there are 12,181 creatives registered on crowdSPRING. In looking through the next 20 project about to close, it looks like the average number of creative submissions per project is 55. That’s 55 different options to choose from. Compare that to the handful you get if you try one of the outfits buying ads on this page.

While this can be an attractive option for budget-conscious startups, crowdSPRING are careful to protect their providers/creatives as well. Each project is started with the project fee put in escrow and awarded without exception to one of the providers if the project gets at least 25 submissions. Both parties enter into a written legal contract (provided free and customized by crowdSPRING) with the intellectual property of the provider protected, and ownership transferring only from the winning provider when the project ends. Logo projects can be no less than $150 (most end up around $300), and website designs (uncoded), no less than $400.

They also have a “Pro” service for higher end work (projects starting at $1,000) which have constructs for privacy and include NDAs.

They’ve really done a great job of laying out all the necessary elements for this to be successful for both parties. The website is easy to use, and very well done. The whole process is carefully thought out and constructed.

As startups try to take advantage of the current economic conditions to get ahead, looking seriously at crowdSPRING for early creative work is an attractive option.

What could be improved?

Hard to find anything. These guys are hitting on some incendiary topics to be sure, but they appear to be forging these waters with careful thought and respect for all parties involved. I don’t personally think they’re hurting the mid or high-end design market – most of these buyers couldn’t afford it anyway, and most designers wouldn’t want them as clients. For a vigorous back-and-forth with the community on these issues, see this discussion on the 37signals blog with one of the co-founders.

How much does it cost?

They take another 15% of the project price from the buyer. So a $300 logo job costs you $345.


Reviewed by Carson McComas

Permalink | | Comments (10)

Twitter (for entrepreneurs)

January 19, 2009 in 5 out of 5 stars, Twitter

What is it?

Twitter: A means of being part of The Conversation. The fourth leg on the internet communication stool (yes, the stool has four legs now). Email, Blogging, IM, Twitter. (I know, I know. Bear with me.)

A note: this post is for those of you who have never heard of Twitter, or who don’t “get it.” See the rest of you back here for tomorrow’s post!


Who makes it?

Those smarties who changed the world by creating Blogger – Evan Williams (@ev) and company. Could they really be responsible for pioneering two of the four most important internet communication methods? Turns out that yes, yes they could. And they have.

Hard to believe? Read on.

Why is it the killerest?

Well, let me start by saying that only because of the pedigree of this service, I reluctantly signed up back in 2006.

Then promptly rolled my eyes.

I figured it was one more shiny object the internet kids were chasing. So I largely ignored it. But instead of fading away like a fad, the noise only great louder, the adoption more widespread, and finally, I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I think it was when Shaq  (@THE_REAL_SHAQ) started using Twitter seriously. I mean, if Shaq gets Twitter?

So I decided to invest a little time to see if I could “get it.” And get it, I did. Bear with me, and you might get it too. And yes, this is extremely relevant for entrepreneurs. Chances are, you want to get it.

First, a quick description. Twitter is about communication. It’s kind of like micro-blogging. You make a “post” (called a “tweet”), of 140 characters or less in length, and anyone who “follows” you, can see your post/tweet. Most will just see it, anyone can reply to it if they want, and you both move on. It’s that simple.

At first I thought: what do I care if someone just ate breakfast? I have to admit, that following someone you don’t know, or know of – and hearing about them eating breakfast has pretty limited personal appeal, at least for me. That said, one of the uses of Twitter, is to connect with your friends and family who do care that you just ate breakfast, and this is a way to share that, without sending out an email, or making a blog post, or saying something on IM which expects a response.

But Twitter is about more than that. And you as an entrepreneur need to know what that more is.

First step, you need a tool. Not the website. You go there to sign up, and you go there to find new people to follow, but you don’t go there to use Twitter to communicate. This is important to know. The moment that I “got” Twitter, was when I started using TweetDeck. Now, there are a couple bazillion similar products, I happened to choose this one first after a little research, and about 24 hours after starting to use it, I suddenly “got” Twitter. TweetDeck gave me an interface where I could easily watch, and be part of the conversation. This is key. I can’t imagine deriving the real value from Twitter just relying on the web site to stay connected to it.

For those of you who aren’t in front of your computers all day – Twitter was also (perhaps originally?) created for you. You can do everything I discuss via your phone with text messages and apps for your iPhone or similar phone. This is a whole huge aspect of Twitter that I haven’t dived into yet, but if you’ve got a phone with texting, you can be part of the The Conversation too.

Ok, so the key understanding Twitter, as I elude to in my intro, is to understand that Twitter helps you be part of The Conversation. What’s funny is that starting to use Twitter, was like putting on special hearing aids that allowed me to hear a new frequency. Suddenly I became aware that there is indeed a conversation going on that I had no idea about. Now that I’m using Twitter, I’m part of the conversation. I think for most entrepreneurs, being part of the conversation is exactly what you want to do. No matter what your market segment it, chances are that segment is having a conversation on Twitter. Do you want to be part of it?

So here’s how you get started:

  1. Go to Twitter and sign up. It’s quick, easy, secure, and they don’t spam.
  2. Download TweetDeck, or any number of the other options out there, or get it set up on your phone
  3. Find some people to follow. You can search for them, or everyone has a public list of the people they follow, look through a few of those lists and you’re sure to find someone that interests you.
  4. Sit back and watch the conversation.
  5. Jump in and participate.

It’s that easy, so give it a try.

Some ideas on how to be part of the conversation:

  1. Provide your followers what they are looking for. If you follow me, for example (@Carson), I’ll be posting ideas, stats, news bits, links, and other items of interest related to my interests (entrepreneurism, business, marketing, SEO/SEM, photography, etc.). Plus I do micro-reviews of everything I review here, with a link back to the full review. So it’s another way to keep up with
  2. Use it to interact with your market.
    1. Chase Jarvis (@chasejarvis) uses it to connect to fellow photographers, clients, and prospects.
    2. Comcast (@comcastcares) uses it to (primarily) field gripes and respond to frustrated customer’s questions and comments.
    3. Guy Kawasaki (@guykawasaki) uses it to spam his stuff, and offer interesting links and commentary, and communicate with his followers directly.
    4. The CEO of Zappos (@zappos) uses it to talk to customers and admirers of his company.
    5. Lance Armstrong (@lancearmstrong) uses it to promote his work with charity, and keep fans updated on his training.
    6. Barack Obama (@BarackObama) used it to help campaign.
    7. Karl Rove (@KarlRove) uses it to bring balance to the force.
    8. Or maybe that’s just Darth Vader’s job (@darthvader).
    9. Twitter (@twitter) uses it to keep you updated on the news, health, and the status of

      You get the idea.  
  3. Be real. Be human. It’s expected that Twitter is fairly personal. Use the common rules of decency and courtesy, of course. But telling us about what you had for breakfast on occasion, is probably ok. Let the real you come out. Part of the fun of Twitter is allowing us all to have a less formal conversation. So go ahead, let your hair down.
  4. Talk back. Part of the fun of Twitter is that it’s a one-to-many, “two-way” conversation. If someone says something you want to respond to, you can reply by starting your tweet with the at symbol (@) and their Twitter name, then post your tweet. The recipient will get a special notification in their “replies” area of what you said. For example, one of my favorites on Twitter is John Hodgman (@hodgman). He’s the comedian who plays “The PC” on the famous Apple Computer TV commercials.  John affectionately refers to his Twitter followers as “the hive mind.” And he regularly interacts with them. He’ll post a question. And his followers respond.
  5. Let people know they can find you on Twitter. Put a link on your site/blog (I have one on my sidebar). Depending on what your purpose is in using Twitter, you might want to somehow let your clients/prospects/customers know they can find you there. Don’t be obnoxious of course – but let anyone who cares know where to find you. The more people who follow you, the greater your ability to participate in The Conversation.

A few pitfalls to keep in mind.

  1. Don’t be overly commercial/spammy. This isn’t a marketing email. Save that stuff for your… well, marketing emails. I mean, if I’m following Adam Savage (@donttrythis) (he’s the guy on the US show Myth Busters who doesn’t wear the beret) I don’t want him jamming his show down my throat, telling me to watch, etc. What I want is the inside scoop, the personal connection – what he might share if we were buds. And that’s exactly what he gives. Perfect.
  2. Go easy on the volume. I love @guykawasaki, but he is so prolific I had to unfollow him and resolve to keep up with him by checking his Twitter page periodically instead. Because I like to actively monitor the conversation, I prefer not to have someone who dominates the conversation. 
  3. If you ask a question and get an answer – share the answer with everyone. Many times your followers will have a similar question, and be anxious to hear the response as well. Remember, your followers don't get the replies you get.

You can start slow – I am (I really only started a couple weeks go). Start by listening. Spend a few days observing, and picking up on the culture, the chatter, the general feel of the conversation – then when you feel comfortable, wade on in. 

Now that I understand Twitter, I have to tell you that I’m completely floored by it. And I was the biggest skeptic on earth. I made fun of it for years. Scoffed at my friends who used it. Invited them to get a life. Suggested they were probably real big fans of MySpace too. But I was wrong. First – it’s a whole lot of fun. But second – it’s useful. It’s a new way to communicate. It fills a gap that email and blogging and IM just don’t meet. You may not feel like you have that gap, but I invite you to give it a try for a week and then let me know where you stand.

What could be improved?

Frankly, I hope they don’t do much. They have an API which allows outside parties to extend them (like TweetDeck does), and I believe they should leave that to them. They’re more like a protocol at this point, and I think that’s exactly where they should be.

How much does it cost?

Just a whole lotta your time, if you're not careful.


Reviewed by Carson McComas

p.s. This presentation isn’t catered to how the entrepreneur might use Twitter, but it does describe how it works, and where it fits in communication picture.

p.p.s. Darren Rowse of Problogger fame (@problogger) has a site dedicated to Twitter Tips. It has some good ideas and things to think about as you're getting your feet wet.

Permalink | | Comments (5)

Help a Reporter Out

January 14, 2009 in 5 out of 5 stars, PR and Publicity

What is it?

Help a Reporter Out - Logo Help a Reporter Out: An email list you can join, which sends out several emails a day with notices of stories for which reporters need a source. You can then respond, and potentially be used, linked to, or otherwise publicized in the news piece.

Who makes it?

Peter Shankman

Why is it the killerest?

It has great potential to help you get press, and establish yourself as a source, and authority in your area of expertise.

Some queries are interested in products, services, or just expertise in a given area.

Some of the queries come from large news organizations like MSNBC and FoxNews, magazines like Redbook Magazine and Popular Mechanics, newspapers like The New York Times, and bloggers and podcasters looking for content.

If you’re serious about PR (and if you’re an entrepreneur, why wouldn't you be?) then this can be a great resource.

What could be improved?

This is not a list of the feint of heart. You get about three emails a day, packed full of queries, roughly organized. The potential upside is quite large, but it may take a good week of sifting through these before you find something you really can respond to with authority.

With the growing popularity of the list, there’s no guarantee that responding will get you ink.

How much does it cost?

Free for all parties (sources, and journalists). You just get a big ad at the top of the email to help Peter pay for it all.


See a screenshot below from part of an email sent out this morning.

HARO screenshot

Permalink | | Comments (9)

January 7, 2009 in 5 out of 5 stars, A service, File uploading services

What is it? A gloriously clean and simple file-sharing tool. It's amazing that with all the solutions to this already out there, none have done it this well. If you need to share a too-big-to-email* file (or set of files) with someone, or share the same large-ish file(s) with multiple people, this is the best solution I've found. (Plus, knowledge of FTP soup: Not required.)

*For easy emailing of files, also see, built on top of Who makes it? (these guys)

Why is it the killerest?

Because it's so simple all my clients and family can use it without a personal education session with me first. And it works. Well.

No signup required, it takes literally a few seconds (plus upload time) to share a file.

You can pick your own url suffix (provided it's available). So, or, for example.

You can easily password protect the upload, and expire the upload as soon as 1 day later, up to as late as a year later.

Once shared, you can track how many times the drop has been accessed.

Somewhat helpfully, each “drop” comes with an email address you can send files to, which will make them available for download.

Somewhat amusingly, each “drop” comes with a voice mail number you can call to add an mp3 of yourself to the drop (it also offers a full enclosures RSS feed of anything added - poor man’s podcasting tool?) plus, a private conference call number for meetings (I guess so you can share files, and chat about them).

An extra nifty feature is the ability to set up a pay wall so you can sell downloads through Selling art? Photos? Music? An ebook? This might be a good solution. It can be pay per use, or a subscription. Pretty killer.

Premium users can send faxes with it. Anyone can receive faxes – but it’s clunky.

And there’s a lot more too, all without an overwhelming UI. It’s impressive.

They also have an API allowing brilliant solutions like

What could be improved?

The premium code prominence on the upload page feels obtrusive and mildly confusing.

100MB limit per file (for free) might be a bit skimpy for some.

The help disappoints.

The faxing functionality is just too clunky, and while the help claimed it exists, I couldn’t see where or how.

It utilizes the right-click in a few places, which no one expects in a web app.

How much does it cost?

Free for 100MB per drop. Upgrade for $10 per year per extra GB.


Reviewed by Carson McComas

Permalink | | Comments (8)

The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)

June 19, 2008 in 5 out of 5 stars, A book

What is it?

The Dip: A book dedicated to a simple, but powerful and inspiring idea. I'm struggling to decide if it's Seth's best or not. It's certainly a contender.


Who makes it?

Seth Godin

Why is it the killerest?

First of all - it's short (80 pages). And as anyone who writes can tell you, shorter is harder. And in this case, it's also better. The writing is focused, the idea is well developed, and the impact, at least for me, was very, very powerful.

A buddy of mine and I were whining the other day about how hard it was to invest significantly in creating something that should be great, but realize that creating it was not enough. Not nearly enough. We thought it would be hard to go from concept to reality, and it was. But how surprising it was to realize that the really hard part had just begun. Taking that reality, and becoming a market leader, taking that hard-won reality, and turning it into the success we dreamed about when we started, that was the hard part. The really hard part.

And boy, those early dream-filled days were great. That dream motivated us to tear into our projects with vigor and excitement. It was novel, and fun, and a fresh start, and endless opportunity. And that dream pushed us on in that way only the entrepreneurially-minded can appreciate. Past hurdles, and challenges, and finally our hard work and investment bore fruit.

And there we stood at the great unveiling, the shroud lifted from our creation, and the response? Awkward and empty silence. Because while creating the thing is required (you can't get anywhere without doing that) it's not enough. It's not nearly enough. Because many have done that. But only a few — a very successful few — have pushed through the next stage to actually realize The Dream.

And then I remembered that Seth had named this period we were starting to push through, he called it "The Dip." And suddenly the genius of the premise of his book struck me. I hadn't read it yet, only read about it. So I started here, my appetite was whetted. The idea had taken root, and then I bought the book and read it carefully. Letting his persistent presentation of the idea seep into me deep enough to last. And then I closed the book, carefully inventoried my situation, and made some drastic changes.

I don't want to oversell this, because your experience may be different from mine. But I can honestly say that this book, perhaps because of the timing of when I read it, has had a dramatic and positive impact on me. 

In it, Seth defines "The Dip." He discussed the value of pushing through it (because so few are willing to do it, the competition at the other end is thin, and the rewards are enormous), how to do it (over-invest, quit everything else taking your energies), why we don't do it (his list of excuses stung with familiarity!), how you can quit a tactic, but retain a strategy, and how to recognize when you're not actually in a dip, but just think you are.

Oh, and inspiration. Did I mention it was inspiring? There were sections of this book that had me clenching my fist in determination to make it through.   

And he ends with some probing and through-provoking questions. Like this gem: "If I'm going to quit anyway, is there something dramatic I can do instead that might change the game?"

So I finished the book a few weeks ago, and now I have a new perspective. I see with new eyes those around me who have pushed through The Dip.

Here are a couple examples:

Ira Glass - world-class host of This American Life. Here he talks about pushing through the dip. He doesn't call it that, but that's exactly what he's talking about.

And Dean Kamen. Is there any question that he pushed (and pushes) through The Dip? Sure the Segway was a joke, but you watch this and tell me he isn't one of the greatest examples in the world for pushing though the dip. When the Dept. of Defense needed the best in the world to tackle the most difficult of jobs, I suspect the list was pretty short, and now Dean is truly changing the world. (And don't forget this awesomeness too). 

And there are more. Just from this week's news: Tim Russert and Tiger Woods.

And someday, maybe, you. And me.

How much does it cost?



Reviewed by Carson McComas

Permalink | | Comments (11)


June 11, 2008 in 5 out of 5 stars, A piece of software, Hosted software, Issue trackers, Project management

What is it?

FogBugz: They say it's project management software, which it is — but its real strength (and reputation) is issue/bug tracking. They have hosted, and installable versions of the software. I use their hosted version (dubbed FogBugz on Demand).

Fogbugzlogo Who makes it?

Fog Creek Software

Why is it the killerest?

I like and use Basecamp, but on a current large project I found myself heavily using Basecamp's ToDo lists for issue tracking, and they weren't sufficient. So several months ago I signed up for FogBugz.

FogBugz didn't give me that instant love-at-first-site experience I've had with other software. But as I've begun to use it heavily, I have grown to adore this software, and I now completely rely on it to manage my projects.

Its genius is in its maturity. It is mature, seasoned, and polished software that makes tracking multiple issues with difficult sticky elements not just easy, but enjoyable. You know software is great if you still love it, and use it heavily after several months. Now I can't live without it.

It allows me to constantly keep on top of the hundreds of issues currently at play with my project, tracking them by sub-project, by team member, priority, and time. I have to say, it has also trained me to work more efficiently in managing my projects.

Because it is easy to use, we use it comprehensively, and because of that, it has helped us improve the quality of our software.

There are only four of us on our team, I'm sure it would really come into its own with much larger teams, and still be helpful for even smaller teams.

What could be improved?

My only real complaint is that it's packed with additional features, but they aren't real approachable. The usability, once you get the hang of the features you need, is solid, and even claravoiyant, but beyond that, the other features and capabilities of the software requires some hunting, digging and experimenting to get rolling.

How much does it cost?

Hosted: free for 2 users, or $25/user, per month

Installed: $199/user or less


Reviewed by Carson McComas

Permalink | | Comments (3)