Four years ago, when I first joined my current employer – the one that is probably about to downsize me, that is – a new colleague, Douglas, told me that ‘we get paid above market rates and the pension plan is fantastic. In fact, it’s considered a very prestigous company to work for in Scotland. We are very very strong company and staff turnover is very low’. … sounds good so far … ‘But’, he continued, ‘the downside is that, since no one ever leaves, it’s a difficult place to be ambitious because promotion is usually into dead mans shoes. They don’t ask much of you so don’t offer too much’. ‘Basically’, he said, ‘its a great job to retire from, but don’t expect too much in between’.
I think not, baby puppy
I have two GMail invitations. Is anyone craving for one?
I’m no pop-culture hipster, so I have no idea who Brandon Bird is, but
this painting is awesome.
What’s going on is that without some kind of direct experience to use as a touchstone, people don’t have the context that gives them a place in their minds to put the things you are telling them. The things you say often don’t stick, and the few things that do stick are often distorted. Also, most people aren’t very good at visualizing hypotheticals, at imagining what something they haven’t experienced might be like, or even what something they have experienced might be like if it were somewhat different.
When people ask me about my life’s ambitions, I often joke that my goal is to become independently wealthy so that I can afford to get some work done. Mainly that’s about being able to do things without having to explain them first, so that the finished product can be the explanation. I think this will be a major labor saving improvement.
Tell me about your frustrations with commercial software. What drives you crazy about the way the software industry works?
The fact is that IT has become part of the DNA of organizations now. We run our companies on this commercial software and it is a sort of perilous position to be in because the very thing that you run your company on is largely out of your control.
For example, something as simple as an upgrade on one of your applications. You are forced to upgrade when your vendor drops support on something. But it could be that you have got something more important going on that year, like a strategic investment in customer relationship management (programs) that you would rather be devoting your resources to. But you are often forced to upgrade to a newer version of software.
Worse yet, if you have committed some portion of your company to run on a piece of software and that vendor changes direction, you are suddenly kind of out in the dark and, again, forced to go through, in this case, a re-platform, not even an upgrade. You are going to be forced to move and it just might not be your strategic priority at that time.
The City of Austin Community Technology Initiative has a weblog, with an RSS feed. The content is kind of PR’y, but, hell, it’s always exciting to see weblogs and syndication being used by more mainstream orginizations than the usual suspects.
Even more interesting is a comment from the creator of the weblog (on the site I found the link from):
Seriously, the TARA folks mentioned up front they wanted RSS. That’s one of the items of feedback they got when shopping the proposal around.
Matt Ray sends us this excellent want ad, e.g.,
“grep” is a slightly more delicate subject. It’s a very complex and powerful search tool that I don’t much feel like getting into here. Which is exactly why we need Unix Specialists to not explain things to you. Here’s a tip: next time you’re using Linux, and you’re stuck on a problem and don’t know what to do, don’t go to one of the online Linux forums and say “Hey, can you guys help me with this?” because Im telling you, it ain’t gonna happen. What you need to do is go on and say “Hey! Linux is a pile of crap because it cant do this!” and youll have people falling over themselves to get in there and prove you wrong with about a million different solutions for doing that one thing. That’s a little tip I’m giving you for free.
And, this is a want ad.
On another note, I think I’m having one of those days.
So, that in a nutshell is the Microsoft method. Understand the market, and the customers, and then go pedal to the metal, with release after release focused on what the customers need, incorporating their feedback. That puts the competition into reaction mode. And of course it helps if they also make a strategic error because they are under so much pressure.
Chris Pratley has an interesting post about his time at Microsoft and the evolution of Japanese Word and, later, Word as a whole. There’s lots of interesting little, uh, “product development” type anecdotes too, e.g.,
Word 6.0 for Japanese was already in the bag, so our main focus was on Word95 (Word 7). We decided to work on the biggest problem, which was that Japanese documents used a lot of really complex tables – in effect their documents were more like forms than memos. So we built the Table Drawing tool (you can see this in Word today in all languages). We did a few other things that Japanese users expected, and released the product.
There are really no new ideas in the computer business. The basic fundamentals were worked out a long time ago, and what happens in IT is that ideas get rediscovered and modified to fit a slightly different set of circumstances. The underlying components of IT change all the time, but the ideas keep coming around again and again.
It was interesting to me that you did finally hit on the word
conversation [for “threads” in Gmail]. It seems to me that
there’s a synergy between the elements of the conversation in the RSS
space and what you’re doing in the e-mail space.
I think that’s very true. Part of the things we’ve seen why blogs and
RSS feeds are such a success is that you can actually read it–you
don’t have to stop, click back and forth, collect bits and pieces here
and there–but it is all presented to you as one.
And that’s what we’ve aimed for in the conversations as well, because
I don’t want to have to hunt and peck around to get the different
pieces of the same conversation. I want to be able to see it all at