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

Written By: Dharmesh Shah May 1, 2006

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.





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