Tag Archives: blogging

Friday Squid Blogging: "How the Squid Lost Its Shell"

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/10/friday_squid_bl_597.html

Interesting essay by Danna Staaf, the author of Squid Empire. (I mentioned the book two weeks ago.)

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

How to Compete with Giants

Post Syndicated from Gleb Budman original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/how-to-compete-with-giants/

How to Compete with Giants

This post by Backblaze’s CEO and co-founder Gleb Budman is the sixth in a series about entrepreneurship. You can choose posts in the series from the list below:

  1. How Backblaze got Started: The Problem, The Solution, and the Stuff In-Between
  2. Building a Competitive Moat: Turning Challenges Into Advantages
  3. From Idea to Launch: Getting Your First Customers
  4. How to Get Your First 1,000 Customers
  5. Surviving Your First Year
  6. How to Compete with Giants

Use the Join button above to receive notification of new posts in this series.

Perhaps your business is competing in a brand new space free from established competitors. Most of us, though, start companies that compete with existing offerings from large, established companies. You need to come up with a better mousetrap — not the first mousetrap.

That’s the challenge Backblaze faced. In this post, I’d like to share some of the lessons I learned from that experience.

Backblaze vs. Giants

Competing with established companies that are orders of magnitude larger can be daunting. How can you succeed?

I’ll set the stage by offering a few sets of giants we compete with:

  • When we started Backblaze, we offered online backup in a market where companies had been offering “online backup” for at least a decade, and even the newer entrants had raised tens of millions of dollars.
  • When we built our storage servers, the alternatives were EMC, NetApp, and Dell — each of which had a market cap of over $10 billion.
  • When we introduced our cloud storage offering, B2, our direct competitors were Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. You might have heard of them.

What did we learn by competing with these giants on a bootstrapped budget? Let’s take a look.

Determine What Success Means

For a long time Apple considered Apple TV to be a hobby, not a real product worth focusing on, because it did not generate a billion in revenue. For a $10 billion per year revenue company, a new business that generates $50 million won’t move the needle and often isn’t worth putting focus on. However, for a startup, getting to $50 million in revenue can be the start of a wildly successful business.

Lesson Learned: Don’t let the giants set your success metrics.

The Advantages Startups Have

The giants have a lot of advantages: more money, people, scale, resources, access, etc. Following their playbook and attacking head-on means you’re simply outgunned. Common paths to failure are trying to build more features, enter more markets, outspend on marketing, and other similar approaches where scale and resources are the primary determinants of success.

But being a startup affords many advantages most giants would salivate over. As a nimble startup you can leverage those to succeed. Let’s breakdown nine competitive advantages we’ve used that you can too.

1. Drive Focus

It’s hard to build a $10 billion revenue business doing just one thing, and most giants have a broad portfolio of businesses, numerous products for each, and targeting a variety of customer segments in multiple markets. That adds complexity and distributes management attention.

Startups get the benefit of having everyone in the company be extremely focused, often on a singular mission, product, customer segment, and market. While our competitors sell everything from advertising to Zantac, and are investing in groceries and shipping, Backblaze has focused exclusively on cloud storage. This means all of our best people (i.e. everyone) is focused on our cloud storage business. Where is all of your focus going?

Lesson Learned: Align everyone in your company to a singular focus to dramatically out-perform larger teams.

2. Use Lack-of-Scale as an Advantage

You may have heard Paul Graham say “Do things that don’t scale.” There are a host of things you can do specifically because you don’t have the same scale as the giants. Use that as an advantage.

When we look for data center space, we have more options than our largest competitors because there are simply more spaces available with room for 100 cabinets than for 1,000 cabinets. With some searching, we can find data center space that is better/cheaper.

When a flood in Thailand destroyed factories, causing the world’s supply of hard drives to plummet and prices to triple, we started drive farming. The giants certainly couldn’t. It was a bit crazy, but it let us keep prices unchanged for our customers.

Our Chief Cloud Officer, Tim, used to work at Adobe. Because of their size, any new product needed to always launch in a multitude of languages and in global markets. Once launched, they had scale. But getting any new product launched was incredibly challenging.

Lesson Learned: Use lack-of-scale to exploit opportunities that are closed to giants.

3. Build a Better Product

This one is probably obvious. If you’re going to provide the same product, at the same price, to the same customers — why do it? Remember that better does not always mean more features. Here’s one way we built a better product that didn’t require being a bigger company.

All online backup services required customers to choose what to include in their backup. We found that this was complicated for users since they often didn’t know what needed to be backed up. We flipped the model to back up everything and allow users to exclude if they wanted to, but it was not required. This reduced the number of features/options, while making it easier and better for the user.

This didn’t require the resources of a huge company; it just required understanding customers a bit deeper and thinking about the solution differently. Building a better product is the most classic startup competitive advantage.

Lesson Learned: Dig deep with your customers to understand and deliver a better mousetrap.

4. Provide Better Service

How can you provide better service? Use your advantages. Escalations from your customer care folks to engineering can go through fewer hoops. Fixing an issue and shipping can be quicker. Access to real answers on Twitter or Facebook can be more effective.

A strategic decision we made was to have all customer support people as full-time employees in our headquarters. This ensures they are in close contact to the whole company for feedback to quickly go both ways.

Having a smaller team and fewer layers enables faster internal communication, which increases customer happiness. And the option to do things that don’t scale — such as help a customer in a unique situation — can go a long way in building customer loyalty.

Lesson Learned: Service your customers better by establishing clear internal communications.

5. Remove The Unnecessary

After determining that the industry standard EMC/NetApp/Dell storage servers would be too expensive to build our own cloud storage upon, we decided to build our own infrastructure. Many said we were crazy to compete with these multi-billion dollar companies and that it would be impossible to build a lower cost storage server. However, not only did it prove to not be impossible — it wasn’t even that hard.

One key trick? Remove the unnecessary. While EMC and others built servers to sell to other companies for a wide variety of use cases, Backblaze needed servers that only Backblaze would run, and for a single use case. As a result we could tailor the servers for our needs by removing redundancy from each server (since we would run redundant servers), and using lower-performance components (since we would get high-performance by running parallel servers).

What do your customers and use cases not need? This can trim costs and complexity while often improving the product for your use case.

Lesson Learned: Don’t think “what can we add” to what the giants offer — think “what can we remove.”

6. Be Easy

How many times have you visited a large company website, particularly one that’s not consumer-focused, only to leave saying, “Huh? I don’t understand what you do.” Keeping your website clear, and your product and pricing simple, will dramatically increase conversion and customer satisfaction. If you’re able to make it 2x easier and thus increasing your conversion by 2x, you’ve just allowed yourself to spend ½ as much acquiring a customer.

Providing unlimited data backup wasn’t specifically about providing more storage — it was about making it easier. Since users didn’t know how much data they needed to back up, charging per gigabyte meant they wouldn’t know the cost. Providing unlimited data backup meant they could just relax.

Customers love easy — and being smaller makes easy easier to deliver. Use that as an advantage in your website, marketing materials, pricing, product, and in every other customer interaction.

Lesson Learned: Ease-of-use isn’t a slogan: it’s a competitive advantage. Treat it as seriously as any other feature of your product

7. Don’t Be Afraid of Risk

Obviously unnecessary risks are unnecessary, and some risks aren’t worth taking. However, large companies that have given guidance to Wall Street with a $0.01 range on their earning-per-share are inherently going to be very risk-averse. Use risk-tolerance to open up opportunities, and adjust your tolerance level as you scale. In your first year, there are likely an infinite number of ways your business may vaporize; don’t be too worried about taking a risk that might have a 20% downside when the upside is hockey stick growth.

Using consumer-grade hard drives in our servers may have caused pain and suffering for us years down-the-line, but they were priced at approximately 50% of enterprise drives. Giants wouldn’t have considered the option. Turns out, the consumer drives performed great for us.

Lesson Learned: Use calculated risks as an advantage.

8. Be Open

The larger a company grows, the more it wants to hide information. Some of this is driven by regulatory requirements as a public company. But most of this is cultural. Sharing something might cause a problem, so let’s not. All external communication is treated as a critical press release, with rounds and rounds of editing by multiple teams and approvals. However, customers are often desperate for information. Moreover, sharing information builds trust, understanding, and advocates.

I started blogging at Backblaze before we launched. When we blogged about our Storage Pod and open-sourced the design, many thought we were crazy to share this information. But it was transformative for us, establishing Backblaze as a tech thought leader in storage and giving people a sense of how we were able to provide our service at such a low cost.

Over the years we’ve developed a culture of being open internally and externally, on our blog and with the press, and in communities such as Hacker News and Reddit. Often we’ve been asked, “why would you share that!?” — but it’s the continual openness that builds trust. And that culture of openness is incredibly challenging for the giants.

Lesson Learned: Overshare to build trust and brand where giants won’t.

9. Be Human

As companies scale, typically a smaller percent of founders and executives interact with customers. The people who build the company become more hidden, the language feels “corporate,” and customers start to feel they’re interacting with the cliche “faceless, nameless corporation.” Use your humanity to your advantage. From day one the Backblaze About page listed all the founders, and my email address. While contacting us shouldn’t be the first path for a customer support question, I wanted it to be clear that we stand behind the service we offer; if we’re doing something wrong — I want to know it.

To scale it’s important to have processes and procedures, but sometimes a situation falls outside of a well-established process. While we want our employees to follow processes, they’re still encouraged to be human and “try to do the right thing.” How to you strike this balance? Simon Sinek gives a good talk about it: make your employees feel safe. If employees feel safe they’ll be human.

If your customer is a consumer, they’ll appreciate being treated as a human. Even if your customer is a corporation, the purchasing decision-makers are still people.

Lesson Learned: Being human is the ultimate antithesis to the faceless corporation.

Build Culture to Sustain Your Advantages at Scale

Presumably the goal is not to always be competing with giants, but to one day become a giant. Does this mean you’ll lose all of these advantages? Some, yes — but not all. Some of these advantages are cultural, and if you build these into the culture from the beginning, and fight to keep them as you scale, you can keep them as you become a giant.

Tesla still comes across as human, with Elon Musk frequently interacting with people on Twitter. Apple continues to provide great service through their Genius Bar. And, worst case, if you lose these at scale, you’ll still have the other advantages of being a giant such as money, people, scale, resources, and access.

Of course, some new startup will be gunning for you with grand ambitions, so just be sure not to get complacent. 😉

The post How to Compete with Giants appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Friday Squid Blogging: International Squid Awareness Day

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/10/friday_squid_bl_596.html

It’s International Cephalopod Awareness Days this week, and Tuesday was Squid Day.

I can’t believe I missed it.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

My Blogging

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/10/my_blogging.html

Blog regulars will notice that I haven’t been posting as much lately as I have in the past. There are two reasons. One, it feels harder to find things to write about. So often it’s the same stories over and over. I don’t like repeating myself. Two, I am busy writing a book. The title is still: Click Here to Kill Everybody: Peril and Promise in a Hyper-Connected World. The book is a year late, and as a very different table of contents than it had in 2016. I have been writing steadily since mid-August. The book is due to the publisher at the end of March 2018, and will be published in the beginning of September.

This is the current table of contents:

  • Introduction: Everything is Becoming a Computer
  • Part 1: The Trends
    • 1. Capitalism Continues to Drive the Internet
    • 2. Customer/User Control is Next
    • 3. Government Surveillance and Control is Also Increasing
    • 4. Cybercrime is More Profitable Than Ever
    • 5. Cyberwar is the New Normal
    • 6. Algorithms, Automation, and Autonomy Bring New Dangers
    • 7. What We Know About Computer Security
    • 8. Agile is Failing as a Security Paradigm
    • 9. Authentication and Identification are Getting Harder
    • 10. Risks are Becoming Catastrophic
  • Part 2: The Solutions
    • 11. We Need to Regulate the Internet of Things
    • 12. We Need to Defend Critical Infrastructure
    • 13. We Need to Prioritize Defense Over Offence
    • 14. We Need to Make Smarter Decisions About Connecting
    • 15. What’s Likely to Happen, and What We Can Do in Response
    • 16. Where Policy Can Go Wrong
  • Conclusion: Technology and Policy, Together

So that’s what’s been happening.

Friday Squid Blogging: Squid Empire Is a New Book

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/09/friday_squid_bl_594.html

Regularly I receive mail from people wanting to advertise on, write for, or sponsor posts on my blog. My rule is that I say no to everyone. There is no amount of money or free stuff that will get me to write about your security product or service.

With regard to squid, however, I have no such compunctions. Send me any sort of squid anything, and I am happy to write about it. Earlier this week, for example, I received two — not one — copies of the new book Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of Cephalopods. I haven’t read it yet, but it looks good. It’s the story of prehistoric squid.

Here’s a review by someone who has read it.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

Friday Squid Blogging: Another Giant Squid Caught off the Coast of Kerry

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/09/friday_squid_bl_592.html

The Flannery family have caught four giant squid, two this year.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

Friday Squid Blogging: Using Squid Ink to Detect Gum Disease

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/09/friday_squid_bl_593.html

A new dental imagery method, using squid ink, light, and ultrasound.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

WordPress Reports Surge in ‘Piracy’ Takedown Notices, Rejects 78%

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/wordpress-reports-surge-in-piracy-takedown-notices-rejects-78-170909/

Automattic, the company behind the popular WordPress.com blogging platform, receives thousands of takedown requests from rightsholders.

A few days ago the company published its latest transparency report, showing that it had processed 9,273 requests during the first half of 2017.

This is more than double the amount it received during the same period last year, which is a significant increase. Looking more closely at the numbers, we see that this jump is solely due to an increase in incomplete and abusive requests.

Of all the DMCA notices received, only 22% resulted in the takedown of allegedly infringing content. This translates to 2,040 legitimate requests, which is less than the 2,342 Automattic received during the same period last year.

This logically means that the number of abusive and incomplete DMCA notices has skyrocketed. And indeed, in its most recent report, 78% of all requests were rejected due to missing information or plain abuse. That’s much more than the year before when 42% were rejected.

Automattic’s transparency report (first half of 2017)

WordPress prides itself on carefully reviewing the content of each and every takedown notice, to protect its users. This means checking whether a takedown request is properly formatted but also reviewing the legitimacy of the claims.

“We also may decline to remove content if a notice is abusive. ‘Abusive’ notices may be formally complete, but are directed at fair use of content, material that isn’t copyrightable, or content the complaining party misrepresents ownership of a copyright,” Automattic notes.

During the first half of 2017, a total of 649 takedown requests were categorized as abuse. Some of the most blatant examples go into the “Hall of Shame,” such as a recent case where the Canadian city of Abbotsford tried to censor a parody of its logo, which replaced a pine tree with a turd.

While some abuse cases sound trivial they can have a real impact on website operators, as examples outside of WordPress show. Most recently the operator of Oro Jackson, a community dedicated to the anime series “One Piece,” was targeted with several dubious DMCA requests.

The takedown notices were sent by the German company Comeso and were forwarded through their hosting company Linode. The notices urged the operator to remove various forum threads because they included words of phrases such as “G’day” and “Reveries of the Moonlight,” not actual infringing content.

G’day

Fearing legal repercussions, the operator saw no other option than to censor these seemingly harmless discussions (starting a thread with “G’day”!!), until there’s a final decision on the counter-notice. They remain offline today.

It’s understandable that hosting companies have to be strict sometimes, as reviewing copyright claims is not their core business. However, incidents like these show how valuable the skeptical review process of Automattic is.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Friday Squid Blogging: Bioluminescent Squid

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/09/bioluminescent_.html

There’s a beautiful picture of a tiny squid in this New York Times article on bioluminescence — and a dramatic one of a vampire squid.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

Friday Squid Blogging: Prehistoric Dolphins that Ate Squid

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/08/friday_squid_bl_590.html

Paleontologists have discovered a prehistoric toothless dolphin that fed by vacuuming up squid:

There actually are modern odontocetes that don’t really use their teeth either. Male beaked whales, for example, usually have one pair of teeth that is only used to fight for females, whose teeth stay completely hidden in their gums. Beaked whales, along with pilot whales and sperm whales, also catch squid by sucking them into their mouths. But all of these whales evolved recently. Inermorostrum xenops seems to have evolved its toothless suction-feeding independently and much, much earlier than modern suction-feeding whales. “It’s a highly specialized species but it’s essentially a dead end,” says Boessenecker. Evolution, far from being some linear progression, often works this way, hitting dead ends and retrying failed experiments from millions of years earlier.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

Friday Squid Blogging: Brittle Star Catches a Squid

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/08/friday_squid_bl_589.html

Watch a brittle star catch a squid, and then lose it to another brittle star.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

Friday Squid Blogging: Squid Eyeballs

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/08/friday_squid_bl_588.html

Details on how a squid’s eye corrects for underwater distortion:

Spherical lenses, like the squids’, usually can’t focus the incoming light to one point as it passes through the curved surface, which causes an unclear image. The only way to correct this is by bending each ray of light differently as it falls on each location of the lens’s surface. S-crystallin, the main protein in squid lenses, evolved the ability to do this by behaving as patchy colloids­ — small molecules that have spots of molecular glue that they use to stick together in clusters.

Research paper.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

Friday Squid Blogging: Squid Fake News

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/08/friday_squid_bl_587.html

I never imagined that there would be fake news about squid. (That website lets you write your own stories.)

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

Friday Squid Blogging: Giant Squids Have Small Brains

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/07/friday_squid_bl_586.html

New research:

In this study, the optic lobe of a giant squid (Architeuthis dux, male, mantle length 89 cm), which was caught by local fishermen off the northeastern coast of Taiwan, was scanned using high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging in order to examine its internal structure. It was evident that the volume ratio of the optic lobe to the eye in the giant squid is much smaller than that in the oval squid (Sepioteuthis lessoniana) and the cuttlefish (Sepia pharaonis). Furthermore, the cell density in the cortex of the optic lobe is significantly higher in the giant squid than in oval squids and cuttlefish, with the relative thickness of the cortex being much larger in Architeuthis optic lobe than in cuttlefish. This indicates that the relative size of the medulla of the optic lobe in the giant squid is disproportionally smaller compared with these two cephalopod species.

From the New York Times:

A recent, lucky opportunity to study part of a giant squid brain up close in Taiwan suggests that, compared with cephalopods that live in shallow waters, giant squids have a small optic lobe relative to their eye size.

Furthermore, the region in their optic lobes that integrates visual information with motor tasks is reduced, implying that giant squids don’t rely on visually guided behavior like camouflage and body patterning to communicate with one another, as other cephalopods do.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

Weekly roundup: Juggling games

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/dev/2017/07/18/weekly-roundup-juggling-games/

I now have seven or eight things in-flight, which is way too much, so I’ve decided to make an active effort to spend four hours every day working on some combination of veekun, the potluck game, my book, and Patreon blogging. So far, so good.

Also, the rest of my Fridays and Saturdays have been reserved for working on Chaos Composer. So, uh, yeah.

  • fox flux: More portrait work, which was surprisingly difficult! I forgot that drawing an actual picture with pixels is a little more involved in some ways than drawing it, uh, without pixels? I also designed and drew a new NPC, vastly improved the sprites for a couple critters, and made a pretty good start on some terrain tiles for a new zone.

  • chaos composer: I fixed a long-standing problem (two, actually) with the pixel scaling being slightly off. I’m helping! I also made a completely empty scene and wrote a basic player controller from scratch just to get accustomed, which I’ll now probably throw away because one already exists.

  • veekun: Added support for extracting move flags and Pokémon shapes (which were hell to find). Wrote a move importer and wrote quick effect text for every move, so moves are now in the database, hurrah! I have a Pokémon importer mostly done, so that’s well on its way as well. I’m so close I can taste it, though I expect I’ll find a lot of minor followup work, and I haven’t even touched more complicated stuff like wild Pokémon encounters.

Most of my four-hour blocks have been going to veekun so far. I’d really like to get blog posts out of the way early for once, but both proposed topics are a little vague, and I’m not sure what I want to say about them yet. I also still haven’t spent any time on my book this month, augh, and of course haven’t touched the potluck game in a week now.

Meanwhile, most of my other time went to fox flux, where I’m just taking forever to do the art. I think I’m starting to get better at it, but spriting an entire game is still a hell of a daunting task.

I spent the week working at a pretty good pace, yet this sounds like such little progress? Making stuff just takes a while, I guess.

Friday Squid Blogging: Eyeball Collector Wants a Giant-Squid Eyeball

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/07/friday_squid_bl_584.html

They’re rare:

The one Dubielzig really wants is an eye from a giant squid, which has the biggest eye of any living animal — it’s the size of a dinner plate.

“But there are no intact specimens of giant squid eyes, only rotten specimens that have been beached,” he says.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

Weekly roundup: Out of potluck

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/dev/2017/07/10/weekly-roundup-out-of-potluck/

Spoilers: I didn’t finish the potluck game! I think I bit off a little more than I could chew, since the game necessarily needs a bunch of mechanics and world to actually make use of all the tiles. So I’ll just… keep working on it over time. It’d be nice to finish by the end of the month, but suddenly I have far more stuff than before to be working on, so who knows anything.

  • potluck: I made an inventory, added UI for it, implemented the other colors of locks, made several kinds of projectiles, implemented damage and recoil and i-frames, made a whole menu for customizing gamepad controls, rigged a convoluted thing that tries to adapt the UI to the style of gamepad you’re using, implemented conveyor belts, and did a whole lot of planning. But still, so far to go, sob.

  • fox flux: Started touching up portraits from the first game while watching glip play Zelda. Results thusfar are promising!

  • chaos composer: I have been drafted into working on glip’s game, already in progress in Unity. I just got ahold of the game thusfar, and I’ve never used Unity before, so I’ve mostly been giving myself a crash course by clicking stuff at random to see what happens.

I have no idea what I’ll be doing this next week! I have a lot of things vying for my attention, and somehow the month is already one-third over. I’d like to knock out some low-hanging fruit, so maybe I’ll get blogging out of the way and try to finally finish veekun?