30 Days of Getting Real

37signals has a post about how their self-publishing experiment is going with their Getting Real book. They are completely transparent and open, telling people they’ve sold just under 6000 transactions worth (about 10% are 10 copy site licenses). Thus, they have grossed about $130,000 from this in 30 days. If they sold 6K copies in paper in 30 days, that’d be a best-seller of a tech book. Because they didn’t go the traditional route with a publisher and didn’t publish in paper, almost all of that gross take stays with them. With a traditional publisher they’d be at what, $15,000 in royalties or so? Depending on their advance, that probably wouldn’t be at earn out yet.

This has no DRM but does have your name or company stamped inside it, which is fine with me. That’s how AlexLit used to do it on ebooks they sold. Just enough social pressure to make you think twice about sending around copies willy-nilly. If you want to print it out, that’s fine too.

I’m thinking about buying it, and if I do I’ll go site license just so I can send it to nine of my coworkers and colleagues. Years ago, when I was an a team at a startup I went to Powell’s (in the glory days when I could walk 4 blocks over to there) and bought copies of Robert Rodriguez’ Rebel Without a Crew for everyone on my team. I thought (and think) that was a true inspiration for how one should think about life in a startup. I’m looking forward to this book in a similar fashion, but for a specific approach to make life more livable in the startup I’m involved with now.

In the comments to that post, there is this great exchange between a commentor who questions whether this experiment is reproducible for anyone else and Jason Fried.

From Nick D:

It is important to note that not anyone can have this type of sucess selling a pdf. The reason you guys are able to do this (and I know you know this) is because you are number one in the web app space. You have a blog that people trust, great web services that everyone loves and loves to talk about, you (David) invented the wildly successful Ruby on Rails framework, and you (Jason) are a great speaker and it is wonderful that you openly give advice on how to be successful in starting web based business.

Response from Jason Fried:

No one gave us this position, we made it for ourselves. And that’s the message here: You can do it too. That’s why we’re sharing.

Amen, rock on, where’s my credit card?

Seeing and Hearing

Here’s some stuff lately that has interested me, bothered me or amused me in citizen media.

Today’s episode of Rocketboom mostly reruns this thing some guys in Berlin did where they stuck a projector outside a train and showed movies on the subway walls. Although the project is kind of cool, I think the actual execution was grotesquely irresponsible. A train pulls up, this guy sticks a metal case to the outside of a car and then it takes off. I would like to think that had I seen him do this, I’d have at least called 911, tried to keep the train from leaving and/or knocked the mother fucker down and held him for the cops. I can’t believe the crowds of people who just watched him do it. I’m all for dadaist street art, but now is not the time to be affixing suspicious looking gear to commuter trains. These guys could have caused the transit system to get shut down or possibly taken a bullet to the head, depending on whether they ran into sufficiently twitchy cops. The stupidity and creation of pointless risk made me too angry to enjoy the art of it.

I watched the first episode of Robert X. Cringely’s new video thingie, Nerd TV. The interview was with Andy Hertzfeld and was pretty interesting. Is it just me, or does Andy look like he could easily be Bruce Sterling’s brother? It’s licensed under Creative Commons, so I suppose if you wanted to take all these shows and edit them into your own non-commercial documentary you could. Pick one topic and just take out the interviews on that point, for example, and create a 30 minute show out of the whole season. That could be quite interesting. It should be pointed out that Cringely now lives about 90 miles south of me in Charleston SC and that they really really need an enclosure feed for the video. They’ve got them for podcasts of the audio, but not for the video. Why not? Am I going to have to scrape my own?

I’ll mention three shows from IT Conversations, two I loved and one I hated. The two I loved:

One was Jason Fried of 37signals giving a talk about the lessons learned building Basecamp. I agree with a lot of the philosophy about doing things cheap, avoiding the pressures of VC money, iterating often, etc. It sounds like all the good stuff of agile development without the woowoo bits of extreme programming that make me itchy.

The other was Doc Searls who talked to Sig Solares, the guy who kept his data center in New Orleans going through the hurricane and flood. It was fascinating on a technical level and horrifying on a human one.

The one I hated was the Larry Magid interview with George Gilder. I’ve heard multiple podcasts with Gilder recently and he strikes me as one of those pundits that people pay attention to but I’m not exactly sure why. Even though I overlap with his opinions on many points (citizen media being a big one), I find listening to him highly annoying. Mostly, his depth of criticism seems to consist of making up goofily insulting nicknames for the things he doesn’t agree with, like “fool cells.” Thank you, Deep Thought. His shallow dismissals for spurious reasons some technologies makes me nervous when I hear him high on technologies I am also high on. It makes me think that maybe I’m actually wrong, if I’m on the same side as him on that point. I heard him on the Gillmor Gang a few weeks ago and had a similar reaction to that.

Both Benjamen Walker and Bazooka Joe had interviews with Dr. Ben Marble, the infamous “Mr. Cheney, go fuck yourself” guy, on Theory of Everything and Small World (no permalink for that episode that I can find) respectively. Usually I fill with disdain at people who do everything to milk a buck out of their 15 seconds of fame, but the guy just lost everything as hurricane Katrina flattened his home and recording studio in Gulfport MS so I guess I’ll give the poor bastard a break.