Announcing the OnStartups Forums: An Alternative to Business Of Software (BoS)

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Announcing the OnStartups Forums: An Alternative to Business Of Software (BoS)


To the software entrepreneurs of the world:


Like many of you, I’m an avid reader and participant in the Business Of Software (BoS) forum.  If you have not checked it out, I encourage you to do so.  Some great discussion on many topics related to the business of software.  Also, the hosts of the forum (Eric Sink and Bob Walsh) are great guys with lots of good ideas and insights.


However, for many months, I’ve been getting increasingly frustrated with some aspects of the BoS forum.  Having given this some thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that most of my frustrations are not because there’s anything wrong with the BoS forum, just that I have certain needs that it was not designed to meet.  This is completely understandable.

So, in the classic “scratch my itch” model of software entrepreneurism, I’ve decided to do something about it.  I am officially launching the “OnStartups Forums” on this site.  For those that are wondering whether the world needs an alternative to BoS, I will attempt to provide some rationale (using BoS as a point of comparison) and tell you how I’m hoping to create something different:


  1. Closed vs. Open:  The BoS forum is completely open.  Anyone can post, and though the forum is moderated, most posts that are not egregious will be left alone.  The OnStartups Forums (OSf) on the other hand will be only semi-open.  Anyone can register to participate in the forums, but I will personally approve all members (via email).  Not trying to be elitist, just planning to play a different game.  


  1. No Anonymous Posting:  All posts to the forums will be by real people with real identities.  Names are disclosed (but emails are not).  This way, the forum members can get to know each other and place advice, guidance and questions “in context”.  The idea is to build relationships to get increased value over time.


  1. Focus on Software Startups:  Instead of being more generally focused on the “business of software”, we’ll focus instead specifically on the challenges of software startups.  Would love to see some deep discussions on issues of strategy, competition, acquisition, financing, partnerships, sales/distribution, etc.


  1. No Outside Search:  The forums will be behind a signon and so not easily searched by Google and others.  This provides some comfort to the members that their posts are not going to be picked up by Google and cached for all eternity.  Further, forum members will have option to request prior posts to be deleted.  Though permanency can often be a good thing, I think it can in some cases stifle communication and candor.


  1. Improved Functionality:  BoS is evidently using a subset of FogCreek’s “FogBugz”, which has very limited functionality  I’ll be using more “sophisticated” forums software so as to hopefully make it more usable for the forum members here and give you capabilities that you’ve likely come to expect from forums.  (Candidly, I’m surprised that BoS is still as simple as it is).  I’m all for simple, but the lack of certain basic features (like subscribing to future comments to a post) are irritating.


My hope is that a combination of the above factors will lead to a different set of discussions on the OnStartups Forums (OSf).  It’s often hard to find really big issues on important startup topics on Joel’s BoS.  I’ll be nudging some of my own personal contacts (across all of those topic areas) to participate in the forums so that we have a healthy mix of experienced entrepreneurs with insightful things to say and aspiring entrepreneurs that are looking for guidance.


Of course, it’s possible that the world doesn’t need an alternative to BoS and only a few friends and colleagues will register for the forums.  Though I’ll be a little disappointed if this happens, I will comfort myself with the notion that “nothing ventured, nothing gained…”.  Much of what I’ve done in life (including this blog) started as an experiment.  Let’s see what happens.  To register for the forums, simply click on the “Register” link in the upper right corner.


Look forward to interacting with you.





Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Mon, May 01, 2006


Funny thing is that, despite I have your RSS feed in Netvibes (which I check regularly) I have first seen your announcement in the comments to the Ian Landsman's blog. And just as I registered for your site, I found this post. :)

posted on Monday, May 01, 2006 at 3:42 PM by

Funny, after filling out all the fields I found out I was already registered ....

Two remarks:
I am not sure if #4 - not having outside search is a good idea. Visibility always helps - unless you want to keep this a tight club... which also has its own merits. (See Nick Carr's Numbskulls post:-) )

The registration form asks for way to much personal data - street address, cellphone ..etc are highly unusual. I think a generally good privacy principle is to never ask for more data than you need and is reasonable. Again, if you expect large participation, this will be detrimental, if you expect a club of those who know you, no problem.
Personally, I don't ever sign up for sites asking that much information. The only reason I did not quit the form is that it's not some unknown company but you... but is that the right approach?

posted on Monday, May 01, 2006 at 11:21 PM by

Zoli, welcome aboard:

1. Agreed on the need to minimze data requested. This is now fixed.

2. We are debating whether to open the forums up to search engine indexing. Chances are, we'll leave it closed as this provides stronger controls and more comfort to the community members.

posted on Tuesday, May 02, 2006 at 11:28 AM by

I vote to keep it closed to search engines. That is what has got me the most interested in this new forum. I cringe at some of the converstation at Bos that has been picked up by google.

posted on Tuesday, May 02, 2006 at 12:26 PM by Leroy

This will be very interesting. I agree with everything you said about the JoS forum software limitations. Joel felt early on that SIMPLICITY of the interface was an advantage. I disagree, but the JoS forums are very interesting. I've always wondered if that was a function of the SIMPLICITY of the forum or of joel's artiicles pulling in a good crowd.

Your forum may give us an opportunity to test the above.

posted on Sunday, May 07, 2006 at 5:29 PM by Mr Analogy

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