Scott Rosenberg on software development

Caught author interview with Scott Rosenberg, about his new book about the Chandler project and software development. I like Rosenberg’s writing, but I haven’t read the book yet.
From the interview, Rosenberg sees Chandler’s failure-to-thrive as a cautionary tale about all software development. However, Chandler actually had a distinctively awkward set of initial conditions:
* architecture driven. They had a grand vision of a message-based storage model that they needed to get perfect before they did anything
* clearer vision of architecture than application. Reading Chandler’s material, there was no clearly articulated goal beyond a free clone of Outlook (though that alone wouldn’t have been a bad thing)
* infinite budget. Open source, with a wealthy funder. No economic constraints or time pressure to keep them on the straight and narrow. No personal itch-scratching, unlike the classic open source story.
Plenty of software projects fail because they don’t adhere to the logical set of constraints. Chandler started without the constraints.

It’s a phone

Steve Jobs first big applause line in the iPod speach was “it’s a phone”. The second was “you can hear voicemail in the order you choose.
The “smartphone” trend all about using a phone for everything but making phone calls and listening to voice mail. A naive focus on technology, competitive advantage, or customer requests all leads engineers and marketers to stuff more features into the phone and neglect what the user is really trying to do.
I’d like a version of the iPhone with really big keys with indented numbers so you can dial with fractional attention. Use the keypad to protect that beautiful, fragile-looking screen.
Summary: It looks gorgeous, and I want one:
* when I can add my own software
* after the model gets introduced that doesn’t break in less than 30 days

Blog catchup: Peterme insight

From an October 11 post about a BayCHI event, two interesting insights:

  • There are no good user research methods of emergent behavior. Cross this with Rashmi Sinha’s classic on design patterns for social sharing and I’ll bet you could come up with some handy metrics.
  • What do we deliver in a world of ever-evolving designs?… contemporary systems seem to live in perpetual beta, that they continually release new features, functionality, and interface designs, and, well, what do we do about that?. It’s not just about “endless beta”, the convention for communicating that things might be evolving (good) or buggy (bad). It’s about the spread of agile methods, where services are designed and developed in smaller chunks. Peter acknowledges that the trend poses a challenge for design firms used to working on big bang redesigns and long-cycle product development. This is true in my experience; it’s hard to hire outside consultants unless they are willing to “go native and work closely with the client across the multiple small iterations of a longer design cycle.

Vista late adopter

Shoplifting is a problem for stores. The logical solution? Retail stores require that all clothing and bag makers redesign the pockets, handbags, and backpacks. If you try to steal something, an alarm goes off when you try to leave the store. If someone, somewhere has figured out how to steal using your model of backpack, then your backpack will stop opening til you get it fixed. Want to go shopping? You need to buy a new bag. Is there a bug in the store’s system? You can’t put your hands in your pockets.
This is Microsoft’s approach to DRM. In the interests of protecting content providers, Microsoft requires peripheral vendors to support DRM. This widely discussed essay talks about the various vulnerabilities and anti-features of Vista DRM support. Microsoft can disable or degrade your peripheral if somebody somewhere has compromised your driver. If you want to play DRM content, Vista requires all of your peripherals to support DRM, so you need all new display, speakers, etc. The hardware DRM means a step backward, away from universal drivers toward device-specific drivers In all, it sounds like Vista makes your system unreliable and cumbersome, in the interest of protecting content providers.
Given these risks, I’m not going to get Vista any time soon on my own computers. I’ll wait til the experience of millions of others demonstrates whether it’s as burdensome and flaky as it sounds like it might be.

Helpful egovernment tools

Some pleasant discoveries in a weekend with lots of electronic and physical housekeeping. Travis County, Texas hadn’t figured out that I’d moved to California, and sent a jury duty notice. They also had a nifty online application that lets you tell them you’ve moved and are no longer eligible. Palo Alto’s traffic citation system doesn’t let you pay fines online, but there’s a reasonably sane automated voice system to pay a traffic ticket with a credit card. They charge a very annoying $12 fee to pay the ticket online, but avoiding an hour-long errand is worth it. I don’t mind paying for decent services with taxes or fees; it’s just that the gov’t is probably saving money when citizens do their own data entry.

Georesearch in realtime

Yesterday, I came home after a bike ride and was able to find answers on the internet to my questions about the wildlife and places I saw on the ride. In 1998, the last time I’d gone out (running) in the same landscape, the information wasn’t on the net yet. It would have taken hours of research and travel to find the same information. The internet is a thing of wonder.
Jon Udell fantasizes about being about to have geo-information available immediately, as you experience the landscape. That would be both cool and horrid. The reason I put a blackberry in the drawer is that it intruded into experience. I’d go for a walk on a sunny day and see email, not trees and flowers.
It’s one thing to see mysterious weathered structures in a marsh, and an odd-looking drawbridge that looks like it rotates sideways, and rush-like plants growing at the side of the water, and observe variations in the color of pools, another thing to learn about the abandoned town, and the man who tended the drawbridge, the ecosystem that depends on those plants, the salt concentrations and microorganisms that influence the color of the water. I didn’t need all that information right while cycling, the salty breeze and the landscape was plenty.
Wordsworth defined poetry as emotion recollected in tranquility. A corrolary — you’re not writing the poem while in the midst of the emotion and sensation. I think it would be great to be able to bookmark a landscape, and come back to learn about it later, and not forget. Being able to look the landscape up later is enough cyborg for me.


Dale at O’Reilly is uncomfortable with a “>citation of Make Magazine in an article on status. The article’s hypothesis is that people acquire craft skills in order to show off and be superior to others. Dale feels that creative people make things to please themselves. Both of these miss a third perspective — creativity as a gift. How often do creative people make something in order to please others? Cooking is surely like that. I’m more motivated to undertake a creative project if there’s someone who will enjoy and appreciate it. It’s about making the other person feel happer, not smaller.

Bar Camp: Attention tools

Went to a session on capturing attention stream. There are three ways this could potentially be useful; we talked about two of them; for the individual and for marketers. For the individual, it could be cool, but have the potential to add to synchronous overload (popping up recommendations when you are trying to concentrate) and asynchronous overload (giving you even more things to sift through and file). It would be a gold mine for marketers, but needs a high level of shared consent to avoid yet another dimension of creepiness to the surveillance society.
Looked at tools including Root Vaults and

Movable Type Upgrade

If this entry posts correctly, I’ve upgraded Movable Type. The process isn’t all done yet. The cms templates are somewhat messed up, I need to delete over 10,000 spam comments from the last several weeks, and need to install a new comment utility.
UPDATE: The cms template just needed a shift-refresh, and the spam comments are gone. Woo hoo! If you made a comment in the last six weeks ago, it got caught in a spring cleaning frenzy. Feel free to comment again.