DVWA – a nice tool for learning about security for your site

Security is a topic that too short most of the time in software development. Not every engineer learns about the stuff that matters in his education. Also it’s easy to grab information around the topic, but not so easy to try the stuff out to really understand what it’s about (unless you are willing to to do non legal stuff…). So I was extremely happy today to learn about a security tool which is really useful to tackle this:


DVWA – Damn Vulnerable Web Application

What does it do?



The SKOBS Layer – or: why back end systems don’t matter (for the consumer)

What the heck is SKOBS? SKOBS stands for: Some Kind Of Back end Systems.

I came up with the term in a pitch with a client that had an awful lot of back end systems. and since he always had troubles to integrate with new software I wanted to make clear, that the system we developed at CouchCommerce.com do not care about the back end systems a lot. For our platform it’s just important that we get the data we need from somewhere. Why did we go for that approach? The folks behind the platform made a lot of ecommerce projects and therefore know a lot about the pain of integrating with back ends. So one idea of the platform was that it needed an outstanding independence from the back end systems to create an abstraction layer that is able to do all kind of things. That approach has two major advantages. We can act fast and work with data that already exists. And the front end can stay the same even if the customer changes the back end systems down the road.


The future of retail – what fundamentally changed in the last decades

I recently talked at a TEDx salon about the future of retail shopping. In preparation of the talk I was wondering about a very simple question I wanted to answer in the presentation: what was the biggest change for the retail merchants in the last two decades?

Ok, “online” is the obvious, yet easy answer. And I think it’s too simple to answer what happened and will happen with the retail domain. I think what really changed (dramatically) is the playground the merchants act in.

The internet made something possible which wasn’t even imaginable two decades ago. It cracked up a playground that was until then very well defined and slowly moving. The stakes in the high streets and city centres were set and the retailers had their business. Changes of property happened just once in a while. Players entering or leaving the market were pretty rare.


Brick and mortar is not dead yet

I originally posted this article on ecompunk.com back in march 2013. Interestingly the message and facts didn’t change at all. So I thought it’s worth getting it over here and rework it.

Lately there seems to be a lot of discussion around the death of the physical retail store. Some prophets are saying that e-commerce will eat them all.

Sorry, but I don’t agree here. In my opinion e-commerce is “just” another game changer for retail merchants. Ok, a huge and fast one. But back in history there was always some gamechanger in retail and with it always the vision of retail doomsday of some sort. Mailorder was there to destroy local retailers. TV shopping also. Discount as well. The huge malls were the prediction of small shops going down. And so on. Make some research yourself.


The ecommerce innovation dilemma – one step further

I closely followed the interesting conversation between my colleagues Roman Zenner, Alexander Ringsdorff and Björn Schotte about innovations in the ecommerce sphere. I like to add my thoughts here.

First of all: the ecommerce system manufacturers are companies with a product themselves – not only suppliers. So it just doesn’t make any sense that the system manufacturers all say: “The innovation needs to come from the customers’ side.” To go back to the car industry comparison (that was already used in the discussion) it would be like every manufacturer building the same car and expecting the customers to customize it. While I’m writing this – it actually feels a bit like this in the ecommerce industry at the moment. From my last consulting projects, where I screened the existing solutions, it is pretty clear that the distinction between the system is really small by now. Why would you choose one system over the other? If you as a shop system manufacturer are in this state, you are in danger, since your product is pretty replaceable. The only thing that holds the merchants back to switch frequently is the investment in one platform that has been done. Imagine for a second that the switching costs and investment in a new platform would be nearly zero: would the merchants stay with the systems they have right now? And why would they? If you lose the competitive edge on innovating your product it is likely that someone else will come around the corner and eat your lunch. If you do not innovate, you lose the differentiation. All products consolidate over time and the distinction shrinks to a minimum – and so the competitive advantage. If you want to read more about innovation theory, go take a look at the works of Gary Hamel.


The mobile paradoxon – how merchants lose their turnover

I visited some of the German ecommerce trade fairs that take place every year. Lately I spoke on the Meet Magento 2014 in Leipzig about the impact of mobile commerce on ecommerce and commerce in general. You can find my slides an slideshare (in German).

I was amazed by the feedback from the session and talked the whole day to merchants and developers about the future of commerce. And everyone agreed more or less to my opinion, that mobile (smartphone and tablets) are just the beginning.

The really interesting part is that most online merchants are still in what I charted as the past. Most shops are built for desktop computers only. Some try to catch up and optimize for smartphones, even less optimize for tablets. And honestly I don’t get it because every merchant I talked to in the last 12 months has already 20% (or more) visitors coming in via mobile devices. But still the merchants are pretty slow in adopting and optimizing. Imagine you have a brick and mortar store. The situation is like you don’t allow every fifth customer to come inside your store for shopping.