Monday, January 31, 2005

Import your iTunes into Library



Pierre Ch√Ętel is developing a free application that catalogs your iTunes music in Delicious Library. It's still early in development at version 0.2, but currently it imports album, artist, and track information. With one click, DeliciTunes scans the iTunes playlist of your choice and groups together songs that you own on the same CDs and adds those CDs to your library, all in a matter of seconds. You can learn more and download the application here.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Saturday! Saturday! Saturday!



One day only! Delicious Monster ROCKS The Apple Store Seattle! You'll purchase the whole seat, but you'll only use THE EDGE!

Ok, so Mike wanted me to tell the tens of people who read this Blog that we're going to hanging out by machines at The Apple Store (University Village) on Saturday giving demos to people. We're not going to take over the theatre (yes, I spent a couple years in Canada, thanks for asking); we're just going to hang out by some machines and a stack of iSights and see if we can get some people excited.

Also, every hour, on the hour, SOMEONE will win a BRAND NEW LOTUS ELISE!

No, that's not true. We can't really afford that, but, believe me, we'd buy each and every one of you a Lotus if we could. You guys are great. Also, they're really nice cars, so check them out.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

IMDB: No in 1.5.

Ok, after investigation, I can say that, short of a miracle, this sentence will never end, and, also, we aren't going to get IMDB in 1.5.

Why not? Well, turns out:

[http://imdb.com/help/licensing/contact]
We offer licensing packages that start at US$10,000 per year.

Ouch! Ok, but maybe that's worth it, but...

[http://imdb.com/Licensing/FAQ.html]
Q: How will the data be transferred?
A:While we are flexible, we supply the majority of our partners with XML data files, retrievable at an ftp site.

Ok, we have to set up our OWN web site to dole out the content to our users. Maybe I can do that, although that would be hard to do in the next month before 1.5. But what's this?

Q: Do you license the entire IMDb?
A: We will not license the entire database, though hundreds of thousands of titles is over-kill for most uses.

Uh, yah. If I'm spending $10,000 a year, I'm thinking I'd like for my users to be able to get data on ALL their movies. I'm not even sure how they divide up the data.

So, we're going to start negotiations with them, but I am NOT promising anything.

We're going to investigate Library of Congress, but I think Amazon has already sucked a bunch of data from them (or used the same source they do), so I'm not sure it'll make things richer. (The books I tested had the EXACT same description text on LoC and Amazon; although, now that I think about it, I think it was provided by the publisher.)

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Back(?) at work.

Ok, so we're back from Macworld. Well, I'm not actually "back," as I've discussed at length. But Tim and Drew and Mike are.

Tim and Mike got deathly ill after a week of running around and partying non-stop. I guess I should feel bad for them, but I've really having trouble generating the necessary amounts of pity. Tim's still out sick, so he hasn't resumed work on v1.5 yet, but he got a great start on it back in December (before we got distracted getting some Tiger demos ready). Right now it'll hit a bunch of servers automatically, but it does NOT yet go to the 'correct' server first (based on the EAN) not does it yet have the ability to add in data from auxiliary servers when a primary server returns 'partial' results. (Eg, hitting IMDB after hitting Amazon for movies, to get more complete star names.) For IMDB in particular, there's an extra problem -- their stuff isn't free. We're going to have to license it to use it. I know lots of other apps use IMDB anyways, but we're popular enough now that we're a huge target; if they sued us we'd be in BIG trouble, having knowingly infringed on a copyright.

Hey, here's a thought: since Amazon owns IMDB, why doesn't Amazon update its database to contain the information from IMDB? (Answer: Who knows? But our Amazon support guy is really great, so we'll be pinging him about this over the next couple months.)

Right now Mike's working on a new version of our embedded store that will allow people to buy scanners AFTER they buy a license (revolutionary!) and will allow us to offer "family packs," while at the same time being even simpler than the current store. He's really anxious to start Delicious Library 2.0 and Delicious Secret Squirrel 1.0 (not its real name), because in 1.5 he doesn't have much to do. His input into 1.5: "Hey, can you make it so it just figures out in which country it should look up items without involving any UI? Ok, great. Let's see... now I have no UI to design, so I think I'll sit here and eat chips."

No, that's not true; Mike almost never eats chips. You should see him tear through fried tofu, though. He's like that tasmanian devil from the old Warner's cartoons.

The new store should be in 1.5. This store is NOT going to have the competitive upgrade licenses any more, so if you still want them (yes, I'm talking to both of you out there), get 'em now. Or, really, sometime before mid-February.

--

Mike and I have talked a lot about Delicious Library 2.0 on wired.com and slashdot.com, respectively. I'd like to weasel a bit here and point out that although we have a ton of lofty goals that we're calling "2.0," not all of them will actually be in "2.0" the product. We'd love it if they were, but PLEASE don't buy the app based how cool you think 2.0 might be. If you like what 1.0 does, buy it now, and if you think 2.0 sounds like the first version that will be useful to you, then go ahead and wait. We have enough money now to fund 2.0's development, so (barring unforeseen circumstances lawyer talk blah blah blah) you're gonna see a 2.0. Even if I die tomorrow, Tim's so on the ball that he could do 2.0 by himself and it'd be pretty darn good. Actually, he'd probably end up making a lot more money that way, too, so this whole "me dying" thing would really work out for him.

--

Drew started answering support e-mail in earnest again, so if you wrote us over Macworld or shortly before, don't despair. Remember, we're a tiny company, but we have lots of heart.

I worked all weekend and yesterday merging in Tim's changes to 1.5 to the stuff he fixed for 1.1, so when we release 1.5 it won't be a big step backwards, bug-wise. (I've been working on the store, so you guys haven't really seen much from me. Except for the link-to-Amazon buttons in the table view -- those are mine.) So, now the code's all ready for him to go, when he's un-sick again. He claims he'll be ready by tomorrow. I told him, "Look, just concentrate on getting better, because the most important thing is that if you don't check in some code by Wednesday at noon I'll fire your butt." That's just the kind of boss I am!

I've got another day or so of doing store back-end maintenance, then I'm working on 1.5 full-time with Tim. This'll be the first time both of us are working full-time on the same project, so I think we'll get a ton done in the next month. Or, we'll kill each other. I hope the former. I really want 1.5 to be the halo release for the 1.x series, but that means it has to be really solid.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Mike's mad press junket!

Mike talked to a Wired reporter for a long time on Thursday, and was really excited about the interview -- he felt like the guy really understood that fundamental things we were trying to do with Library, and was asking exactly kinds of questions that indicated he really _got_ it. You can judge for yourself; I think it's a great article, and does hint at how we want to knock everyone's socks off with the 2.0 version:

Wired: Monster Fueled by Caffeine



Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Macworld, day 2.

Drew, our support engineer, has some photos his Dad took of our booth and the crowd around it. Apparently it's a zoo.

http://www.drewhamlin.com/photos/delicious-expo-2005/

Not pictured: Halle Berry, propositioning Mike.

Drew says Ed Catmull of Pixar came by our booth today. Now, you're forgiven if you don't know his name, but at the University of Washington 15 years ago, we studied Catmull-Rom splines. Imagine having a spline named after you! (Also, for bonus points, my student advisor was Tony DeRose.) Anyways, Drew got to talk to Ed Catmull, I guess. Me, not so much. Not that I'm roiling in a sea of my own bile and bitterness here in Seattle. I'm a bigger man than that.

Macworld: Better than expected!

Mike had a single VIP pass to the keynote yesterday; he ended up sitting directly behind Al Gore. He leads a charmed life like that. He IMed me and I asked him to tell Mr. Gore how much I admire his politics. (If this loses us any customers, so be it.)

He later gave Al (I think it's OK if I call him Al now) his business card and offered him a free copy of Delicious Library. Before our customers revolt, I'd like to say that if any of you win a presidential election, we'll give you a free license, too. (Hear that, Clinton? I'm talking to you, buddy.)

On the escalator out he was beside Robin Williams. No, not Robin Williams the author of Mac books (who was also there), but Robin Williams the voice of the genie. Of course, being Mike, he chatted him up and offered him a free license, as well. (And, uh, if any of you make a movie with Matt Damon, you also get a free license. I'm talking to you, Gwenneth.)

So Robin sends a friend of his by our booth, who turns out to have a program on the Sirius satellite radio network. The friend (I'm afraid Mike didn't tell me the guy's name; no disrespect intended Mr. Satellite Friend) asks Mike to appear on his radio program the next day (that being today), which Mike did.

BOY, I'M SO GLAD I DECIDED TO STAY HOME. NOTHING GOING ON AT THIS CONFERENCE. SO BORING.

I don't know if Mike gave him a free license as well, but, for the last time, if any of you have a satellite radio program, you get a free license, also.

I called Mike later in the day, and he's at some bar (yes, he's 18 -- I don't know) at a book-signing party thrown by "Andy... somebody... some Mac guy... " I'm like, "Uh, Andy Stone, of Stone Design? He's an old friend, and he likes to throw parties" Mike: "No, he's like, some old Mac guy, writing about the early days." "Andy HERTZFELD?" Mike:"Oh, yah, that sounds right."

Now, you can't blame him, because he wasn't BORN in 1984, but, still, at this point I'm REALLY MAD THAT I DID NOT GO.

Mike's all, "Yah, a lot of the original Mac guys are here, and they're just handing out the book, so I got it signed by all the original Mac engineers."

At this point I AM COMPLETELY BESIDE MYSELF THAT I AM NOT AT THIS STINKING PRIVATE PARTY WITH ALL THE ORIGINAL MAC ENGINEERS LIKE I HAVE DREAMED ABOUT ALL MY LIFE.

Mike's all, "Yah, I just talked to Steve Wozniak -- he's a really nice guy. He's over at the bar."

Now, I should explain that Steve Wozniak has always been my hero. Although many people feel I'm more like Steve Jobs in terms of personality, Woz is the most amazing engineer who ever lived, and I literally learned to code by reading his hand-tuned monitor ROM listings for the original Apple //. I said one sentence to Mr. Wozniak when I was 14 and I went to see him give a talk at a computer show in Canada, and he acknowledged me, and I've treasured that moment my whole life.

At this point, I'm going to bust. "Hey, Mike, can you just hand your cell phone to Mr. Wozniak? Seriously?" (I figure Woz would know how to use a a Sidekick since he, uh, HELPED INVENTED THEM.) I hear Mike, distantly, saying to someone, "This is kind of weird, but could you talk to my business partner on the phone?"

[This is a paraphrase, but I've caught the sense of the conversation...]

"Hello, this is Steve... Who is this?"
Me: "Hi Mr. Wozniak; my name's Wil Shipley and I'm the CEO of Delicious Monster..."
"Oh, yes, I just bought your product a couple days ago, it's great. You must have seen."
Me: "I just heard. Thank you so much. You also bought licenses of OmniWeb when it first came out, and that meant a lot to us."
"Oh, yes, my son likes the Mac. He's smarter than me, so he's the boss."
Me: "I just wanted to tell you, I learned programming from you, even though you don't know it."
"Oh, that's great! That's what we were trying to do. [name forgotten, early Apple employee] and I were trying to use the Apple as a way to train the next generation of programmers."
Me: "Well, it worked. I know you get this a lot, but you've always been my hero, and I can't tell you what it means for someone I respect so much to buy a product I've made.
"Well, that's great. You know, I buy your stuff, Apple makes the code, we enable you to write the next generation of software, and we build on each other's work. [...]"
Me: "Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me, Mr. Wozniak."

[Ok, this is completely true, he then says:]

"Well, I wish you were here!"

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

---

Today, I'm assuming Halle Berry came by the booth and told Mike how she wanted to have his children. It only makes sense.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Macworld Expo is nigh.

It turns out that Macworld is spelled "Macworld" and not "MacWorld." This was a Very Important Issue brought up by our support guy, Drew, many times in the last week, as we attempted to modify our store and/or issue press releases.

Mike and Tim set up our booth today at Macworld; they're very proud of it. It's made of real wood! If you can find a booth with more wood in it at Macworld SF, I encourage you to buy their products!

I won't personally be at Macworld this year; I don't really like to travel much, so WWDC and O'Reilly are enough for me. Mike loves it, so he's down there with Tim, our new engineer. Stop by and say hi if you're there. They're good people. Also, they are both twelve years old. Seriously, you won't find a booth with younger people in it. Offer Mike or Tim a drink: it's funny.

Tim kicked some serious booty on 1.1, and I'm pretty proud of the release. 1.5 will be the big international release that a lot of people are waiting for, but I think 1.1 was pretty good for the amount of time we had to get it together. We got some new features, we got some speed-ups, and we got some bug fixes, all for FREE FREE FREE.

Sales are actually increasing every week, for the last four weeks. That hasn't happened on any product I've ever been a part of. Usually sales gradually fall off from the introductory week, which is like 50% of your sales for the whole year. We had a HUGE intro week, but after two weeks of falling after that, sales started going up again and haven't stopped.

I'm not sure what to do with this new data. At heart, I'm a pessimist, so when I run projections on this new company I think, "Naw, that's CRAZY TALK." I always assume we'll be broke and homeless in a couple months. The idea of making more money than I've ever made before scares the crud out of me.

We're going to work really hard on 1.5, and our HOPEFUL date for it is February 15th. The big, big goal for this release is: you should be able to scan an item you bought anywhere in the world, and if it's in some Amazon database somewhere, it'll be found automatically. We'll see if we can do it.

After that, we're starting on 2.0, with lots of AMAZING features that will COMPLETELY DESTROY YOUR SENSE OF EQUILIBRIUM. Also, Mike's very eager to start research on our new project, which is SUPER-SECRET except that WE'VE TOLD LIKE FORTY PEOPLE WHAT IT IS SO FAR. If you think can beat the secret out of my mom or John Geylense you're welcome to it: I've got to tell you that I suspect John would crack under torture long before my mom would.

I honestly don't know if this new project will even prove to be technically feasible. That's exciting for me. It's like when I started writing the video barcode scanning code: no one had ever done it before, and I had no idea if it was even possible, much less something that I, personally, could do.

Turned out it was. There aren't a lot of times in programming you get to do that kind of thing. I'm glad I'm partnered up with Mike, who has no concept of what's possible and what's not, so I can continue to be challenged. (And I'm thankful to all of our customers for supporting us to the point that we can do risky things and not worry about losing our houses.)

And, while I'm at it, I'm glad we have Tim -- he's a smart guy and is the most freakishly fast typist I've ever seen. (He never copy-and-pastes because it's actually faster for him to type stuff!) And I'm happy we have Drew, who is completely pedantic to the point that I smack him several times a day, but, honestly, what more could you ask in a support guy?

I've honestly never been so happy in my work situation. I hope it shows in my work.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Version number MADNESS.

Mike has decided he wants to call the version we're releasing on Monday "1.1" instead of "1.0.7", because we've made some big changes and we seriously want everyone to upgrade. I said, "But I told everyone that 1.1 would have international support!" and he said, "Well, just post in the blog that we renamed the versions and it'll be great."

Suuuure it will.

Ok, so, the release on Monday is going to be 1.1, and is going to have some important bug fixes in printing, importing, exporting, and searching, and just a smidgeon of new fun features, including the incredibly cool auto-update feature (that you can disable, yes).

Flames to /dev/mike.

-W