Category Archives: Tech

How we reduced bandwidth by 4X

One of the sites I run has been growing a lot lately. Late last year as the traffic grew, page load times started going up. We already had a lot of things optimized, it runs on a server a bit more powerful than my Macbook Air. I had tried Cloudflare in its early days and had complaints from several people that it was very aggressive with its security captchas. I gave Cloudflare another try (with low security settings) and the results were phenomenal. Not just our page speed increased, it just dropped our bandwidth to almost half. Since November we have increased our traffic 2.5X and as you can see bandwidth started increasing back again in February. This is when I setup minimum expire TTL (in Cloudflare settings) to 1 Year and that gave us another drop in the bandwidth usage. This helps with the returning users, not so much with the new users.

We have increased our traffic around 2.5X and reduce the bandwidth to half (perhaps more). If someone is not using Cloudflare’s free CDN and other features like auto minify JS, CSS and HTML they are missing out. No matter what the traffic is, your users and server will thank you.

We have also experimented with Varnish and a few other things, but haven’t been able to set it up with a very high cache rate yet. More on that later.

Kevin Rose's Foundation

Top 4 entrepreneurship podcasts for busy startup founders


One can read several blogs, scan people’s tweets, go to conferences, listen/watch tons of podcasts to learn insights into how other entrepreneurs operated. Who doesn’t like to get free advice from people who have been there done that, but the reality is as a startup founder you always have a shit load of things that you wanted to get done yesterday. Below is list of podcasts that I subscribe to (with my comments on them). Hope it helps you find good content and save time. Continue reading

Stop using “hits”

Back in the days of early web (pre-bubble 1.0) “hits” was a popular metric used to measure popularity of a webpage/site. Technically a hit is “a request for a file from the web server.” Any file – jpg, png, css, js, pdf, html…you get the point.

I am amazed how many people still use “hits” when talking about their website and even tech bloggers use them in their articles. It is not that the hits metrics is wrong, it is useless. It does not tell you anything about the actual usage of a website. I can always increase the number of hits by 10X my blog gets by adding 10 1px by 1px images in the footer. The number will sound really larger, but the usage of the website will be same.

Now that we know that the 2,200 – no – 22,000 hits Zuckerberg got in the movie The Social Network isn’t that impressive, let’s see how should we refer our traffic as.

I believe when most of the people these days talk about hits, they actually mean pageviews. As a tech startup founder or a tech blogger you need to know what is the difference between a pageview and  hits.

I consider “pageviews” as the lowest granular metric that you can talk about a website. It is better than hits, but still doesn’t tell you much about the user retention or engagement.

Here are some of the metrics that do tell something about your website:

  • Visitors
  • Unique Visitors
  • Repeat Visitors
  • Pages Per Visit
  • Time Spent Per Visit
  • Monthly Active Users
  • Daily Active Users

All Tech bloggers and startup founders – Please stop using the word/metrics “hits“.

New Google Analytics

Just got access to latest version of Google Analytics for RightBuy. It looks great, here are things that I like. You may not be able to experience the screenshots as I do, because I have selected the date ranges that don’t have any data on purpose.

Speed

I must say it is blazing fast as compared to current Google Analytics. Looks like they re-did whole infrastructure for it to usa AJAX just like Gmail. Existing Google Analytics took really long for pages to load and reports to generate.

Google Analytics Mysite

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New Dashboard

They have widgetized the new Dashboard, more like iGoogle. They have also added ability to add more dashboards.

Google Analytics Dashboard

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New Menus

I also like the way Google Analytics changed their top and right sidebar menus. They made the labels non-metrics-geeks friendly and has better categorization. I also like that they took out “Intelligence” out of the menu and made it a separate tab. My guess is we’ll see a lot more of the “Intelligence” like features which will help automating the marketing reports and other alerts.

Google Analytics Menu

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Google Analytics Menu

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Motion Charts

I love current GA’s motion charts, but they had them hidden in Google Analytics. That has changed, Motion Charts is now a type of graph that you can choose for some reports!

Google Analytics Motion Charts

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This is why I like Netflix

I didn’t notice if they were down for me, nor was I watching a show on Netflix when they were down. They still sent me this email. I think it is a great thing from a company to acknowledge if something broke (shit happens). I also liked how they wrote

“If you attempted and were unable to instantly watch TV episodes or movies yesterday, click on this account specific link in the next 7 days to apply your 3% credit”

They don’t know who was trying to watch Netflix when they were down. They are showing their trust in the customers to do the right thing – that is take the 3% credit if customer had inconvenience. Am I going to click on that link and get 30 cents or so from them – No, because I didn’t even know about the issue till they send me the email. They would have paid more to users if they applied the 3% credit to all the users. I think that is brilliant from a company’s view.

I’d be curious to know what % of users not claim the 3% credit. I was talking to a Paypal employee at X Innovate and he mentioned that they only charge transaction fee for Paypal-to-Paypal transfer only if there are certain options are picked when paying the money (ones with a business intent). He mentioned that a huge percent of users pick the right options.

Facebook Groups adds more problems than it solves

Mark Zuckerberg and his team launched the new Facebook Groups today. He mentioned that not more than 5% users used the existing friend list features to share information between different groups of their friends. These lists are private to each user and other users can’t see these lists. I am part of that 5% and have almost all my friends put into one or more than one bucket. Although, I rarely use the lists to target my status messages or other content that I share.

The idea behind Groups is to make the friend lists more of public and add the virality to it so that a lot more people be part of these groups even if not more than 5% people create them. They gave a great example about FB photos. Only a few % of users actually upload the pictures, but a lot more are tagged. This is a great analogy, but I don’t think comparing photo tagging with groups is an apples to apples comparison.

First problem I see with the groups as launched is, that even though with virality a lot of people will be part of the groups but they won’t actually use them. I don’t really see my friends using the groups to communicate with the group members. Maybe I am making this claim based on my observations so far and things might change with UI changes and eventual groups adoption. But at this time, I don’t think the groups will be adopted to communicate or shared certain things by most of my friends.

Within 30 minutes of using the product, I have noticed another flaw behind the groups philosophy. Due to the social nature of the groups, I see friends getting offended on why they are not part of certain groups or why some other people are not part of certain groups. If I create a group called “Close Friends” and add a few friends in that, what will others think about it? Yes, I can make the group “secret” so that no one else other than the members can see it. However, the friends in that “Close Friends” group may judge me for not adding those other people who they think are close friends too. This was not a problem with the Friends List, I could label them whatever I liked without thinking about how others will perceive it.

FB Groups - Family

FB Groups - Family

Another problem that I noticed within a few minutes of using the product is that a lot of people are going to have the same names for the groups. This is more of a UI problem and can be resolved with UI enhancements. Yes, I am aware I can change the icon for the group and even upload a profile image for the group, but that is an added step. With all the extended family I have on Facebook I might eventually be part of 4-5 “Family” groups.

I would like to see a product that algorithmically connected me with friends based on a ton of data that Facebook has about me and my actions. It is not an easy task, but I believe it is possible and I look forward to a startup taking a jab at it eventually.

Car Buying Experience 2.0

A couple of weeks ago my car was slammed from back. The car was totalled by the insurance company.

I had several options of buying used or new cars. I finally decided to buy a new car. This was 4th new vehicle that I was buying and had experience with various car sales people and their negotiation techniques.

The last new car I bought was in 2007 and a lot has changed since then. Earlier, a long round of negotiations start once you are sure what car you want to buy. The salesperson will try to convince you that there is no way they can down. He will bring in his manager, play good cop – bad cop and make you spend as much time in the dealership as possible because you are less likely to repeat the same process with any other dealership and buy your car from him.

Fast forward 3 years. Now, you do not need to follow these negotiation processes. There are 2 awesome services that I used to buy my car below the invoice price.

My first encounter with one of these services was while I was reading about Angelgate I somehow landed at Felicis Ventures website and then one of their portfolio companies Carwoo. Carwoo is a website that brings in the negotiation process of buying a new car online and helps you remain anonymous so that you don’t get the pestering sales calls. Currently they have a free basic package and another paid package to get quotes from local car dealers.

I wasn’t confident if this will really work, so chose the free package. I speculated that the “deals” I will get will more like sticker price. Since I wasn’t confident of the results from Carwoo, I was already talking with a dealership to buy the car. The salesman told me there was NO WAY they are going below the MSRP (also known as sticker price) for the 2 week old car (2011 Honda). It had only been 2-3 hours since I posted on Carwoo and did not get any response from any dealer. At the same time I was “negotiating” with the salesperson in the dealership.

I was pretty close to buy the car because I believed that maybe the sticker price is the best deal available. Buying the car wasn’t so urgent, so I postponed it for another day and came back home. Carwoo, still hadn’t sent me any deals. They claimed that generally deals start coming in 2-3 hours. I didn’t have much hope. One of my friends, who is an awesome deal finder mentioned about a website Truecar. I wasn’t aware of the service and checked it out. It shows the actual price that people have paid for the car you are looking for in your area.

It not just shows the best possible deal you can get, also helps you locate the dealers who will match or are very close to that price. The downside (as some may see) of the service is that they forward your information the those dealers. The best price I saw on TrueCar was more than $2,000 less than what I was about to pay a few hours ago. It was too good to believe, but I had an email where it clearly listed 3 dealerships in the area with the exact price they are ready to sell the car for.

Next morning (Sunday) Carwoo proved me wrong. I got 3 deals from nearby dealerships, all way below the sticker price and one of them lower than the invoice price and very close to the best price advertised on TrueCar. I had a lot of good deals in my mailbox, but preferred to buy it from the dealership that spent so much time with me the day before if they matched the price. I called the sales guy and he said that they will match the price if I have a printed quote. When I reached there and showed him the deal I had, he was reluctant and said “this is from a website”. I walked out because I did not want to waste my entire day at the dealership, his boss followed me and in a classic car selling way agreed to the price and we had a deal.

I was happy that I saved a couple grand which I can put into after market accessories for the car. A couple of days after I bought my car, one of the dealerships that sent quote via Carwoo sweetened the deal with yet another discount. A couple hundred less than what I paid. It amazed me how both the websites can help thousands of new car buyers with their negotiation.

Will I use these services again? – Yes, certainly. Will I pay for either of these services – Yes, if spending $100 helps save 2K or more it is a no brainer.

What did BigAdda do to get delisted?

Not sure, if anyone noticed – Google has pretty much bombed BigAdda.com. It has only ~4K pages indexed by Google (Yahoo has ~160K). BigB’s blog is not even in Google’s index anymore.

Not sure if it is an error on Google’s side or an error on BigAdda’s side (like misconfigured robots.txt – They don’t have one actually). Surprisingly, there is no page rank info available for BigAdda.com as well.

Alexa has been messed up since a few days, but Quantcast shows a huge drop in US traffic, which most likely could be because of the delisting.

Bollywood Mantra also saw a drop of 1/3 of the total pages indexed by Google for a last couple of weeks, but that did not affect any traffic and the number is constant since then. The drop of Bollywood Mantra’s index seems to be part of change in Big G’s algorithm change.

If you have any information about BigAdda or have any conspiracy theories please do share in comments!