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Recipe for the Most Successful Authoring Tool

It's been a while since I've seen Sasser Dotal (or his brother Anec, for that matter). He's one of the old hands in the computer industry, been around since the days of transistors. He's been around the block -- in fact, he went around the block several times trying to find the VRMLSite offices. The Folsom Street Fair had blocked off the road outside, so that didn't help either.

Sasser is the marketing consultant's consultant, adept at jumping in at the right point, dropping the right name on the right rug, and bowing out before the creditors start calling. He's truly a legend in his own mind, having invented the spreadsheet, the World Wide Web, not to mention Virtual Reality Modeling Language several years before anybody called it that.

Venture Capitalists may start getting rashes when he's nearby, but he still has his value in the food chain. And here he was, dropping by to see me to talk about VRML authoring tools. When Sasser enters the room, everyone knows it -- most likely because he's just off the golf course with fresh sweatstains that have people running to the window. His leathery golf-course/tennis court skin reflects light (shininess 1). You could imagine marks on his stomach where his gut rubs against the golf cart steering wheel.

Adrian: What are you up to these days?

Sasser: Well, as you know, the company I was helping out previously -- ContinentiaSoft -- we just managed to sell it to Nokia. So I'm taking a little time off, doing the saunas, hitting some tennis, and prowling around for the next big thing -- and -- Eureka -- I've Found IT!

Adrian: Well, like, don't keep me in suspense.

Sasser: It's VRML Authoring Tools -- building tools to create a seamless virtual reality on top of the Internet.

Adrian: Hmm... so why are you telling me this?

Sasser: I thought it might add value to your readership and help you, Adrian, [Note: this guy must have been to a Dale Carnegie course] extend VRMLSite's value chain by talking about how to capture the VRML authoring tools market.

Adrian: Gee... well, if you know that, then I bet there are a lot of companies that would pay you a lot of money for that information. Why are you giving it out for free?

Sasser: Well, you know Adrian, advice is worth exactly what you pay for it. So, if you pay nothing, it's worth nothing to you. That's because if I give you free advice, you won't have the emotional investment in the advice that will make you follow through on the advice. And yet, there's no such thing as a free lunch, so this advice actually isn't worth nothing to you.

Adrian: I'm not sure I understand.

Sasser: When you publish this HOT info I'm about to give you, VRML authoring tool companies will come crawling, begging me to do some consulting with them. Then I can give them the same advice I'm giving you today, but charge them like $150,000 for it. And it'll be worth every penny to them -- in fact even more, because they'll easily be able to increase their company's value by at least $10 million.

Adrian: Hmmm... I'm not totally convinced. What is this "HOT" info anyway?

Sasser: Well Adrian, I have a 5-point plan for achieving dominance in the VRML authoring tool market.

Adrian: Just five things? It can't be that simple.

Sasser: Actually it is, and I'll also detail our 3-point daily Market DominanceTM exercises for employees. The keys points to achieving market dominance are:

  • Marvelous Extensions
  • Fast Betas
  • Celebrity Appeal
  • Reciprocal Links
  • Carpet-bombing E-mail

Oh, yah and there's a sixth one, advertising in VRMLSite magazine. [his teeth sparkle]

Adrian: Wow! You're the first person I've met who can speak using bullets. Can you explain a bit more though?

Sasser: Well, the first two -- Marvelous Extensions and Fast Betas -- go hand in hand. Basically you pump out a new beta every month. With each beta you add the capability to author new Netscape extensions, whether it's Spin node, Mirror node, or what have you. The betas don't need to be stable because they're called betas. It's the product marketing equivalent of washing your hands.

The UI doesn't need to be intuitive -- it's all 3D, so we can just say it's more intuitive than 2D because the world is 3D. You see, it all boils down to being able to sell CEOs on this tech. And nothing sells better than spinning logos. Now we can do spinning logos with sound, spinning logos that blink. Spinning logos, logos, spinning, spinning logos.

Celebrity Appeal is easy, you get Michael Jordan to say he likes using your software to create virtual worlds. People figure, gee, if a basketball player can make virtual worlds, so can I. And, if THE Michael Jordan isn't available, you can find someone on your e-list who has the same name. Then you paste Michael Jordan's face all over your Web site, like as the background home page texture. Doesn't really matter whether or not people can read the text or have a computer, you just sell that Celebrity Appeal. You can also have a sound file of Marc Andreeson saying he likes it too. "All us tall folks with deep voices who used to work at NCSA like virtual world creatifier."

Adrian: Which leaves Reciprocal Links and Carpet-Bombing E-mail...

Sasser: Just like the first two, these two go hand in hand. You grab like every e-mail address you can find in the world and ask them to make a reciprocal link to you. However, you gotta be smart. People would be a bit annoyed if you just sent them a junk e-mail. So you personalize it with their name, oh, and you say the e-mail is from someone else. You make up some fake organization so that your company only gets benefit, and not blame from the spam. There's a few other things, but that's the idea.

Adrian: Wow, that does sound good.

Sasser: Remember kid, Spinning Logos. Logos that spin, logos that spin with sound, logos that spin when you click on them, logos that spin and turn into your mother.

Adrian: So you think spinning logos are the killer app for VRML.

Sasser: VRML, Schmermal -- spinning logo authoring tools are the killer app for the INTERNET.

Adrian: So how about your three-point exercise plan.

Sasser: Speaking of exercise, you know, I'm late for my next appointment. But I'll drop by and explain it to you the next time I'm in the area.

Adrian Scott,, is CEO of Aereal Inc. He missed his calling as an infomercial host.

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