Youtube Enabling Radiant CMS

Posted by Nathaniel on Nov 1st, 2010

As part of an ongoing client project, we needed to pull Youtube videos into a Radiant CMS site. Matthew built a custom extension for it, and we’ve now open sourced it.

We’ve got a lot of Radiant CMS experience on our team, and it just keeps growing. Definitely let us know if you have a Radiant project we can help out with!

Full Stack iPhone

Posted by Nathaniel on May 12th, 2010

Just last week the crew here at Terralien launched Full Stack iPhone and we’re really excited about what it represents. Full Stack iPhone is a total solution we offer in the deep iPhone application space, where we’ve put together a top-notch team of designers, mobile developers and web developers that can deliver the whole stack. Full Stack iPhone showcases our experience in the area, and clearly shows that we can help someone take an iPhone business from idea to App Store success.

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Mind Mapping the Lean Startup

Posted by Nathaniel on Apr 26th, 2010

Last month I had the privilege of kicking off the local Lean Startup Circle meeting by giving an introduction to Lean Startup concepts. It seemed to go really well, and thanks to Dave Bates it was captured on video and is now available for general consumption.

Lean Startup Mind Map from Nathaniel Talbott on Vimeo.

If you’re in the Research Triangle Park area and the ideas sound interesting, please join us at the Lean Startup Circle RTP meetup. And if you have any comments or questions about the presentation, don’t hesitate to sound off in the comments. Thanks!

Asking for Help

Posted by Nathaniel on Jan 19th, 2010

A big part of the Customer Development process laid out in The Four Steps to the Epiphany is doing interviews with real people outside the building, but the question is always, “Where do I find those people?” Typically you know a few, but where should you go from there? While there are various places to look, some of the best leads come from asking your initial set of interviewees for their recommendations. This yields not only possibilities, but pre-qualified possibilities that come with a referral – a potent combination for being able to set up actual interviews.

But how you ask for referrals makes a big difference, and Kevin has an awesome post on his blog – The Magic Word in Customer Development Emails – that supplements the advice from Four Steps really nicely. As per the title, I thought his hard-won experience with using the right words to elicit a response was golden.

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What Makes a Good Estimate?

Posted by Nathaniel on Jan 13th, 2010

We recently got some really high praise from a client:

Thank you for everything you have done so far. Our reception has been very strong from our customer base and we seem to be off to a great start. […] We have a pretty good idea that our next feature will be around X. Right now, I need to know how much money this feature may cost in order to get a better idea of time frames and what we need to do with respect to current customer load and additional funding. […] The original estimate of N hours was almost spot on, and so was most everything else, so an estimate/guesstimate is fine. I’m sure this will generate more questions.

(Emphasis mine)

While the kudos are awesome, what really stuck out to me was the client’s perception that our estimate was spot on. I totally understand that perception: from a happy client’s perspective, a good estimate is in the result, not the process. But if an outside observer were to judge our estimation process for the project by conventional standards, they’d probably conclude that the estimate we put together was pathetic. “What?” you say? Let me explain…

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Gone Nomading

Posted by Nathaniel on Dec 22nd, 2009

The virtual company is pretty new as such things go. The ability to work from anywhere – in particular to collaborate with a whole group of people while working from anywhere – is something that’s only just become possible within the last 10-15 years. As instant messaging, voice chat, video chat, good quality tools for online collaboration, and more have become available, a new way of working has opened up that allows us to stay very connected with a group of people without having to be in the same physical place every day.

I originally conceived Terralien as such a company four years ago, and it remains that way today. We have no physical office, and occasionally when initially working with a new crew member I won’t meet them in person until months after they’re an integral part of the team. It’s not that we’re against physical co-location, it’s just that it involves a set of trade-offs and we prefer the trade-offs of being virtual to the trade-offs of having an office.

But no matter how much we appreciate the flexibility of working from wherever, we still often feel the need to spend some time in the same place with fellow geeks. The wife and kids can only take so many explanations of the latest cool hack we pulled off, and a change of scenery can really help get the creative juices flowing. As with so many other remote workers, we started heading out to a coffee shop on occasion, which was fun, but still didn’t quite cut it.

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Fixed Bid?

Posted by Nathaniel on Dec 15th, 2009

One of the few mailing lists I’m on these days is the Lean Startup Circle – it’s a really smart crowd, and the signal to noise ratio tends to be very high. In response to someone’s question about doing projects fixed bid I decided to go into some detail about my thoughts on fixed bid projects:

What it boils down to is that a software development shop taking on a fixed bid project has a few options: spend ages spec’ing the project to the last detail, pad the project like crazy to handle scope creep, deny (or at least make incredibly difficult) change requests to control costs, or go out of business. I’ve never liked any of those options, which is why I’ve always done my consulting gigs T&M and won’t ever ask contract developers working on my startups to do fixed bid development.

You should definitely read the whole thing – I’m curious to see how the group responds, and would love to hear any thoughts you have in the comments.

Nathaniel at FutureRuby

Posted by Nathaniel on Jul 15th, 2009

I had the opportunity to open up the FutureRuby conference in Toronto, Canada this past weekend. For more details, including the full text of the talk, head over here: Owning the Means of Production.

The Lean Startup Primer

Posted by Nathaniel on Jun 8th, 2009

I’ve been focused on the care and feeding of young businesses for over three years now. It’s my passion. It’s what compels me to run Terralien. It’s what got me interested in the ideas behind Spreedly. It’s one of the skills I’m most excited about passing onto each of my children. It’s something that I’m on a never-ending quest to get better at.

So when an idea comes along that has the potential to make more young businesses successful, I get really excited about it. Sometimes so excited that I have to do something to promulgate it right away. When I ran across the growing Lean Startup meme last week, it intersected with my passion so powerfully that I spent most of the weekend building the Lean Startup Primer.

Now, my interest in Lean Startup concepts didn’t begin last week: I’ve been applying some lean principles for years, mostly under the auspices of Getting Real, and have further been studying lean manufacturing concepts for months seeking ways to help Terralien deliver better value for our clients. As a matter of fact, just this past Tuesday I had a discussion before the Agile RTP meeting about wanting to put on a course about lean principles and how they apply to young software businesses. But I was missing Customer Development, Steve Blank’s excellent methodology for finding out what the market really wants before spending time building the wrong thing.

With a (more) complete picture of how to apply lean principles to formational businesses, I knew it was time to get real and actually teach the material, and thus the Lean Startup Primer was born. The goal is not to teach you everything there is to know about Lean Startups (the mind boggles), but rather to give you an overview of the powerful principles involved and a jumping off point from which to learn more. With a very small class size (12 people max) and hosted at the wonderful Carrboro Creative Coworking, it should be a fantastic experience. If it goes at all well there will be additional events, though the price will go up after this inaugural session.

I’m really, really excited about the Lean Startup Primer, and I hope to see you in Carrboro on June 17th: sign up now!

Five Skills Every Freelancer Must Have

Posted by Nathaniel on Feb 27th, 2009

If there’s one thing I do a lot at Terralien, it’s work with freelancers. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned while working with them, it’s that some freelancers are way better than other freelancers, and the difference usually isn’t technical. Thus I’ve been chewing on the idea of giving a talk about some of the important differences between those who excel and those who struggle, and I got my first chance to do so at RubyRX this past weekend.

I’d appreciate any feedback you have, either in the comments below or at SpeakerRate, as I’m hoping to take this material (and more) and flesh it out in to a course and/or a book.

A little about how this was recorded: I set up my Flip Video Recorder on a little tripod with the expectation that it would run out of space at 60 minutes and I’d have a recording to review for technique and to improve the next talk, but that I wouldn’t capture the whole thing. Well, I was wrong: I got everything except the last 5-10 minutes of questions! I think because the view was stationary that the video compressed well. All in all I captured just over 83 minutes on my 60 minute Flip.

You can still contact Nathaniel at