Joined: 23 Mar 2004
|Posted: Sun May 13, 2007 11:00 pm Post subject: The day I nearly gave up.
Issue 136: May 13, 2007
Harvey Segal, Editor
Hello SuperTips readers,
The day I nearly gave up.
A Sunday night in October 2005.
With some useful tips thrown in.
It was the culmination of the tedious job which I had to
perform every Sunday to meet the midnight deadline.
It was having to post up the paid ads supplied by
advertisers at my forum.
If you have been to the ClickBank Success Forum
you will have seen the ads posted around the borders -
the Gold and Silver ads on the right , the Featured ads
at top and bottom.
By itself that was a fiddly job involving the insertion
of the ad components in the forum code.
But it was the administration involved in getting to
that point every week which proved the breaking point.
Maintaining a schedule of available ad slots, reminding
advertisers that payment was due, deciding whether to
cancel if payment had not been sent and another person
was ready with their ad, sorting out wrong payment
amounts, handling cancellations, obliging an advertiser
by changing his ad halfway through .. and so on.
And on a separate negative note ...
Because of the overhead in posting a single ad it was
impractical to allow new ads every day so I made ad
slots of 1 week and 2 weeks duration going live each
Sunday midnight. But this meant that I had to refuse
customers ready to start an ad in mid week, leaving
vacant gaps in the slots and loss of income.
On that fateful Sunday I emailed my partner Adrian Ling
co-owner at the forum and said "That's it, I've had
enough. You are welcome to take over the ads yourself
and keep all the profit".
"Hold on" Adrian replied "I have an idea. We'll get a
program to do all this for us.".
"Crazy, I can't see how this can possibly work" I
countered "How can a program handle the scheduling,
booking, payments, ad posting and so on ?"
I pulled rank and overruled him.
The next day we began work on the program specification.
When we had finished the specification we searched
around for a programming outfit at the various
outsourcing sites (Rentacoder, Scriptlance etc) but
unfortunately made a bad choice.
The system we required was a very complex one to code
and the programmers were not capable of handling it.
The work went on for 5 months. At times we seemed to be
going backwards as features which worked before now no
longer worked. Until finally - they gave up. They quit
saying "We can't do it. Sorry - no need to pay us
Disillusioned by the effort we had put in we lost our
motivation and the project lapsed for about 6 months
while we looked for a suitable programming team.
We did find one and finally after many months work we
completed the project and installed the system at our
Then came the moment which I rank the same as when I
made my first ever sale on the Internet.
A Paypal sale notification arrived together with an
email from the system saying that an ad had been booked,
with all the details enclosed.
What made this really memorable was that I then sat
thinking - don't I need to do something now ? Shouldn't
I be making a note in my paper files or updating a
spreadsheet, or sending out an email ?
But no. There was nothing more I had to do. The system
was working on automation as planned.
It would post that ad on the required day and remove it
when its time was up. It would even let the advertiser
make changes to it.
And then came another great find.
Our advertising income rocketed. From approximately $300
per month to exactly $966 in the first full month
I say 'approximately' because I would have to burrow
through a stack of spreadsheets on the old manual system
to calculate an average figure.
I say 'exactly' because the system gives me the exact
figures for each month along with other useful stats
such as the split between Gold, Silver and Featured ads,
the percentage of occupied slots, and the grand total
The reason for such an increase ?
It was because advertisers could now see the
availability of ad slots at a glance, they could fill
gaps with short duration ads such as 1 or 2 days, and
they could do this all online without the need to
correspond with us.
And so with renewed enthusiasm we started the next stage
of development. The program had been built specifically
for our own forum but now we wanted to generalise it so
that it could be used by other phpBB forum owners. In
particular we wanted to include all the feedback from
our advertisers and our own wish list which we built up
while administering the system.
Finally we launched Forum AdManager - details coming up
but first here are the tips I promised you
1. If you see a need for automating a particular task
that you manually perform in your own work then others
may have the same need. Consider getting software
developed to provide a solution.
The fact that it fulfils a real practical need,
something that you can demonstrate that you personally
use as opposed to an idea on paper, will enhance its
2. When you outsource work to a software development
team insist on regular status reports and agree in
advance any compensation due to failure in meeting
3. When testing the program I often needed to take two
roles - one as the Admin and one as an Advertiser -
which required two Windows on my PC. I found this task
immeasurably simplified by using a dual monitor system
which I mentioned in Issue 131 of this newsletter. See
4. When actually using a new system you think of
enhancements that you can never envisage when composing
a specification on paper. So include in your plans the
need for a future revision of your program before it
launches, to include your 'wish' list.
Forum AdManager was finally completed in April 2007.
As we started in Oct 2005 I could claim it took three
years to develop couldn't I ?
However I don't need to hype it up.
Just tell it straight ...
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