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Dan Cederholm

Download the MP3 (5.17 MB)

Questions and topics we cover in the interview

  1. What’s the story behind Cork’d?
  2. How did you manage to grow your user numbers?
  3. What’s better – working for yourself or working for clients?
  4. What are your plans for the future?

URLS Mentioned

  1. Cork’d
  2. Dan Benjamin’s blog (co-developer of Cork’d)
  3. Flickr
  4. Netflix
  5. SVNOpen source version control software

Full transcription of the interview

RC: We’re here in London with Dan Cederholm and I’m just going to ask him a couple of quick questions. So Dan, why don’t you introduce yourself real quick and then we’ll get started?

DC: Yeah, thanks Ryan. I run a site/business called SimpleBits which is basically myself! I’ve been doing client work for the last couple of years. I enjoy writing about CSS-based design and web standards and all that kind of stuff, and uh, that’s me.

RC: Sounds good. So the first question I have is about Cork’d. You just launched it, can you tell us what it is and why you built it, and the URL?

DC: Yeah, so it’s, which is essentially a wine community site. It originated with a friend of mine, Dan Benjamin, who’s a well-known developer in the Ruby on Rails scene and has a site called Hive Logic that’s been well read over the last few years. So we’ve been chatting back and forth about wine and how we like wine but we’re certainly not wine experts and we’d occasionally trade bottles and say ‘Oh yeah, so what did you have last night?’ and ‘Oh yeah, this was really good’ and maybe using Flickr to post the bottle and make a comment on it and started thinking you could really turn a site into this… Create a site that’s sort of – and this was sort of tongue in cheek at first – sort of like Flickr, that lets people enter wines, keep track of their cellars and make shopping lists like Netflix. And so we had all these community site features that we wanted to apply to wine, which seems almost like silly at first but as we started building it we realised that this is pretty cool and we’re going to use this, so at least two people will use it!

We just wanted to keep track of what we’d tasted and what we thought about it, and as we were building it we thought, this is pretty cool, maybe people will use it, and there’s a lot of different directions we can go with wine. So we took several months on our spare time to build it because it was just the two of us, and we didn’t think of it as a legitimate company per se, but it sort of tuned into this neat thing that a lot of people are using now and sort of opened the doors for the other sites as well, so that’s the quick, or not so quick introduction!

RC: So, how is it going? Do you mind sharing how many users you have and what the revenue model is, and if it’s going to become a pretty big part of your business and life?

DC: So we launched, and in about a month’s time we’ve had 6500 members sign up and about 5000 wines were added by users, which is great. We started with just 1200 wines from, actually, an affiliate thing with them just to see the database but now that users are adding wines there’s tons added each day, and we have a lot of members, so I think that, y’know, the revenue model, there’s a couple of different ways we could go. Right now there’s a lot of vineyards that are contacting us, and wine sites and wine companies and we’ve been on a lot of phone calls with wine people, which is sort of weird because we weren’t in the wine world before this, we like to drink wine but all of a sudden ‘wine people’ are taking notice and saying ‘Wow, this is a cool way of discovering wine’ so there’s some advertising opportunities there.

Because it’s so targeted I think that’s why it’s attractive to all these wine people, so there’s that, we could create a ‘Cork’d Deluxe’, where signing up, having a fee that offers extra features beyond what the free Cork’d does, that’s a possibility. Secretly, or not so secretly I guess, we’ve been thinking about other sites, I won’t go into detail right now, but there are other beverages beside wine, so we’ll see what happens.

RC: So, it’s pretty amazing that you’ve got 6,500 users already, would you say that’s largely because SimpleBits is a popular site, or did you guys do something saucy and magical to make that happen?

DC: I think part of it is the way we were able to announce it and the blog community certainly was helpful in spreading the word about the site when we launched it, but based on the feedback we’re getting from people I think it spread quickly to the wine people – the people that really love wine. You know there’s this whole other world of wine put there that we didn’t really know about, wine blogs and wine podcasts. There’s a strange connection, I think, between wine or maybe alcohol in general and geeks and web people, so I think it helped in that we could announce this on our blogs and knew that the web design community would sort of look at it. But they’re not necessarily the target, so I think somehow we tapped into this other wine world so we hope the sign ups continue.

RC: Sweet. It’s so cool to hear about people like you building, essentially a web app. I know you’re calling it a site, but, you know, a full on app that’s attracting users and I don’t know about you but I came from client work, building sites for people and so on, as we started building web apps for ourselves it was just so much better, so why don’t you talk about that real quick? What’s your preference, working for clients or working for yourself? I think I know the answer but maybe it’s not, and also if that’s the plan for the future?

DC: A really good question. It’s so much more satisfying working on something for yourself. I’m looking forward to and writing about that more. I come from the client world too, working for clients and it was really fun building this with another person, Dan Benjamin, and we use, well he set up Ruby on Rails, and we had something called SVN, which is sort of a code repository and it really allowed us to collaboratively work on this. You can work on your own, commit changes, send a message with that change, I’m totally hooked on this way of working on web apps. Yeah, it’s so much fun working on something of your own. You feel more invested and you don’t feel like you’re on the clock so you put more detail, more attention to detail, and you’re just more excited about it. It’s fun. With a lot of the client work I do, because I’m focused on the UI a lot of times I’m handing off what I did to someone else, they’re implementing it, it usually gets messed up, that’s sort of par for the course and it’s rare when it doesn’t. Working on something yourself with somebody else when you’re both in tune with what this product is, it’s so much fun and it’s far superior.

So in terms of the future, I think largely it depends on how well something like Cork’d does, and if it leads to other sites. I’d love to continue to do that. I think that to pay the bills I’d have to do some client work at this point still. I shouldn’t say I don’t enjoy client work as I need to do that at this point, and it’s fun working with different people and working on cool projects and stuff.

RC: Thanks Dan and thanks so much for taking time. I hope you enjoy your time in London and we look forward to hearing more from you later.

DC: Thanks a lot Ryan. Cheers.

Transcribed by Scott Morris

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