New experiences, new products, new office, new ideas

Last week, I travelled to Arizona and attended the remarkable Magnet Nursing Conference — 6000 attendees, 5000 of them RNs, and just under 2000 of those were practicing ‘bedside nurses’.  The conference was not everything I had hoped it to be.  I did not strike up a lot of great conversations and I did not get a single opportunity to demo PasswordRN.  The attendees for this particular conference tend to travel in groups, so at meals and between sessions they mostly get back together to trade notes and compare plans.  Not a lot of loners.  And when they were alone, standing in line or just decompressing on a chair, they tended to be on a cell phone practicing the three Ts:  talking, texting, and twittering.

So the good news is that the nurses are really attached to their phones.  And like to buy accessories for them — I saw cell phone covers in every color and with all sorts of decorations.  (I also saw handbags and shoes in a variety of colors and styles such as I had never seen before.  I clearly do not get out often enough.)  The bad news for casual networking is that the phones allow them to stay inside their own bubbles more.

The other bad news / good news take away I got from the conference:  Nurses are going to be a hard market.  They are busy, stressed, and bombarded by input and opportunities to improve themselves, their skillsets, and their toolsets.  They view new computer applications, which are often forced on them by IT staffs and management, with a lot of distrust.  A lot of traditional marketing approaches (trade shows, advertising, even email) just will not succeed with these people.

But, in the good news column, some of the ‘traditional’ (even if the traditions are all quite new) microISV tools:  organic search, SEO, social media, and old-fashioned word-of-mouth look as if they might just have a chance.  A single satisfied customer willing to say, “Here, this is what I use that makes my life easier” will generate interest in a way no amount of traditional, interrupt-based marketing can ever do.

And I didn’t see anyone else at that show who was developing phone apps for individual nurses.  There were a lot of software companies exhibiting but they were mostly big infrastructure apps where the vendor wants the nurses on board and enthusiastic but the nurses are not the final decision makers.  The one exception was Caring Bridge which was there to build nurse awareness and encourage recommendations to the patients and families who are their users.

I’m still digesting the conference and will be for quite some time but I believe that some of the lessons in ‘nurse culture’ will inform product and design choices we make in the next few months.  (Sneak peak:  We will write the new timer app for Android first, Blackberry second, and think long and hard before doing an iPhone version.)

In other news:

  • When I got back, Hokan and I published the DOT Placards Plus (Android) app.  Hokan’s done a remarkable job in taking this idea of Mark’s and executing on it  The original, free DOT Placards is closing in on the 1000-downloads mark.  Plus, which is ad-free and let’s you keep track of when and where you were when you saw specific placards, has already sold 2 copies.  (You might have to be a software developer — or maybe an author —  to understand how exciting those first 2 users are.  Real people are buying and running our software!)
  • Our application to move into the new Sheridan County Business Incubator has been accepted and we’ve signed a lease.  Our new space is about half-again as big as the two-room office Mark and I have shared since we moved to Sheridan 11 years ago but has four separate offices and is going to allow us to grow.  (Hokan will work full time as soon as we move at the beginning of November.)  Three of the four offices have windows and I get one of them!
  • Mark finished the first Spanish language version of his Splice Data Collector for monitoring field splicing of industrial rubber conveyor belts.  It is a suitcase-sized turnkey system with temperature and pressure sensors, a data logger, and a touch-screen interface.  This particular instance even comes with a companion uninterruptible power supply.  It is altogether a remarkable package.
  • Big Client just released the new version of the product I work on for them, including the many database performance improvements we’ve worked so hard on.  And we’ve already had the formal kick-off meeting for the next version.  I know I’m just a cog in the wheel for this big product but I still get enormous pride when my work can make it work better for its customers or be easier for other developers to work with.
  • I did not get to attend the Business of Software Conference this year which I would really have liked to do.  It was a choice between it and the Magnet conference.  Learning more about on The Customer won out, as it should.  But, since I’ve been back, I’ve spent most of my lunch/break time reading blogs from conference attendees.  As always, Patrick McKenzie’s blog was great.  And it led me to the newly re-organized Peldi personal blog, where I found an entry I hadn’t seen before on Donating Your Software that I found really inspiring.  And that, after a bit of a restless night, led directly to our newly formulated and posted Matching Gifts Policy for PasswordRN.  I will not pretend that I don’t hope the Matching Gifts Policy will help drive traffic to our website and inspire some of those authentic word-of-mouth references that we need.  But I hope/believe that does not make it any less worthwhile to do.  We have always allocated personal money every year to give to charitable causes.  Isn’t it more efficient (at least taxation-wise) and just more direct to take the products we’ve built and just put them in the hands of others who may be able to do a tiny bit more good because they have it than they would be able to do without it?  I think so.

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