Magento, Shopify, Castle Story, and Five Guys
Though I didn’t intend it, I’ve been away for the past week trying to finish several major projects that all seemed to align at precisely the wrong time. Unfortunately, they are all hard decisions; things that will affect the businesses and our household for many years down the road.
The biggest among them is the re-platforming project for the sporting goods companies. Every single option, vendor, and technology choice has a cost / benefit trade-off that is going to cause some complications. My philosophy in life is to do it right the first time – it saves a lot of effort down the road so you can focus on other things, compounding faster – which means I’m running everything through the gauntlet. I secured around 700 pages of documentation on Magento alone, and have been working my way through it, giving myself a crash course on the software so I feel like I can make an intelligent decision instead of relying on the recommendations of others in isolation. I setup a server up in Michigan and built a fully functioning faux e-commerce site for practice. Absorbed in that, I didn’t think to post here or even go over many investments, at all, other than analyzing some more bonds for a family member who wants to pick up a few corporate securities in the 5-10 year maturity range as a safety net for a larger portfolio.
Intelligence Is Being Able to Solve Complex Problems, Genius Is Making It Simple
I feel like, for all its strength, Magento sums up the basic truism that intelligence is being able to solve complex problems, while genius is making it simple. I wrote about Magento earlier this month. It can do almost anything, but the complexity of the underlying code means that there are multiple “breakpoints”, to borrow a mental model from engineering, that could go wrong. If you read my notes on the dangers of basic probability events, you know why that makes me nervous.
(On that topic, as a side note: I rejected Shopify out of hand for one of our stores because of breakpoints. Our particular needs would have required the addition of about 6 different third-party apps, some of which did the processing off-site on their servers under a subscription model for things that should have been included in the core functionality of the cart system itself. By introducing a risk matrix and looking at even 99% uptime for each active server, it would have led to a very unpleasant customer experience. (I actually liked Shopify otherwise, it just wouldn’t work for complex, configurable products. If I were selling plain t-shirts or jewelry, it would have been in my top three contenders as this problem wouldn’t exist.))
One illustration: In Magento, it’s possible to completely break the live retail store from the administrative panel by slightly altering the “base url” values; the operator will receive no warning and once it happens, the site becomes non-responsive so you can’t even go back in and fix it. You have to crack open the database file directly through phpMyAdmin, find the table amongst the countless information, and manually change it back to the correct value before you can access your administration panel, again! Installing templates requires manually moving FTP file structures like back in the 1990’s. It’s a waste of time and energy to hack something together because it was poorly designed in the first place. It’s been so long, it should be as streamlined as WordPress by this point. In fact, I think if Magento had a Steve Jobs character working on it, it’s entirely possible it could grab 50% of the e-commerce marketshare. It has the most promise.
Meanwhile, that’s going on and I’m facing a similar re-platforming project at a factory where we have a revenue sharing agreement, which is going to be even more of a headache. My About.com contract is sitting on my desk, waiting for my signature to determine if I’ll renew with the network for another twelve months. If I do, it will be my 14th year writing for them. I had some estate planning meetings with my parents. I’m helping several people go over their retirement information (which takes more time since I don’t offer advice or recommendations, I just make myself available to explain what things mean when they bring me the paperwork). I’m at least 100 comments behind on this site.
I don’t like not having my free time. The only personal space I had all week was going to see Mahler at the symphony. My whole life is arranged so I don’t have to go anywhere when I wake up in the morning and can dive into whatever task list I set for myself. Now, I’m being pulled in so many directions I decided not to fly to Florida this weekend to go to Disney World with some members of my family. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to make it out to California this spring, either. No matter how many ways I examine this Rubik’s Cube, I am going to have to be personally involved quite a bit between now and April.
On the Plus Side, Castle Story Is Going Well
There is one upside to all of this though (besides the ultimate dividends it will pay in the end). I’m so pressed for time, I accelerated my kingdom development in Castle Story by purchasing $26 worth of gems. It let me skip ahead quite a bit. I valiantly wield my sword to protect my people from monsters, while construction a rose garden with pink fountains for the ladies to walk through. Now, I’m working on constructing my own palace. It came last; I wanted the funds to go, first, to productive means so we were running a surplus.
I do have to say, though, I find Team Lava’s money policies not only deceitful but something that should probably be regulated by consumer protection given the limited recourse, something that isn’t permitted even if you buy a stick of gum from Wal-Mart. The lack of confirmation on gem spending, the way it handles in-app purchases; do a quick search and you’ll find forums of horrified parents who found their kids had spent $99 or $500+ in a few minutes by pressing a couple of buttons. That shouldn’t be possible. I just wish they’d release a stand-alone castle building sim like this. I’d gladly pay $50 to $100 for it to have unrestricted, SimCity-like build-a-thons.
It’s funny, though … the game sounds like a cult. If you read the official forum, you get posts like this one, which makes perfect sense unless you’ve never played:
I just replaced my last 9 regular chickens with pink ones at $2k per. As jimboser said earlier, lovecupine’s versus fangbeast = Win. I still end up sending out about 1 Valentine’s Feast every 2 weeks or so (whenever I accumulate the absorption crystals from excess mermaid scales), so the chocolate eggs don’t hurt either.
Behold my glorious kingdom. You can visit it if you want if you have an iPad or iPhone (see instructions in image caption).
I’m going back to work. I think we’re going to go to Five Guys for lunch. I’ve never had their cheeseburgers and Aaron wants to try them.