Archive for May 2001

2001/05/03 03 May

Ev has a neat idea for an application that he calls Alias Manager. It's a simple way to deal with having a team of people who are responsible for answering emails to one email alias, like the world famous president@whitehouse.gov, or the almost as famous customer-support@fogcreek.com. When I read his idea, I thought, smart Ev! We need that too!

Then I realized that FogBUGZ almost does it, but not quite. It would take about $10,000 of investment to add this feature to FogBUGZ. So I thought I'd ask my readers two questions:

  • have you seen a simple, cheap application that does this?
  • do you need a simple, cheap application that does this?

Postscript: I've gotten tons of replies. There are a lot of expensive CRM packages. That's not what I'm talking about, they are too complicated and too expensive for small business. There are also some open source things, many people mentioned rt.

2001/05/04 04 May

Ooh, someone tried to break into Fog Creek Software while I was here. When Michael came into work he found a window downstairs broken and a screwdriver on the floor. They must have run away when they realized I was here.

Nothing was taken. The police came and searched the place, guns drawn. Very NYPD Blue. (PS: NYC police hate that show). Now we're waiting for the fingerprint people.

From the "Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy" department

Wall Street Journal: SEC Investigates EarthLink's Slatkin
Amid Claims That He Bilked Investors

That company is just all about honesty and integrity.

2001/05/05 05 May

Eating your own dog food is the quaint name that we in the computer industry give to the process of actually using your own product. I had forgotten how well it worked, until a month ago, I took home a build of CityDesk (thinking it was about 3 weeks from shipping) and tried to build a site with it.

What is the Work of Dogs in this Country?

TechInterview

Michael buried four fishermen up to their necks in the sand on the beach at low tide for keeping their fishing spot a secret from him.

2001/05/08 08 May

People seem to think that just because I advocate eating your own dog food, that means that I don't approve of usability testing.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Cheap "hallway" usability testing is one of the 12 requirements of The Joel Test. There's a whole chapter on usability testing, and how to do it the right way, in my upcoming book.

Carl Zetim wrote a critique of my article called "Eat Your Own Dog Food, but Not as a Substitute for Usability". Sorry, you can't read it, he works for Giga and they charge for their ideas. His critique basically said that eating your own dog food is "one of the most pernicious barriers to doing true usability," and then he gives the unlikely example of Microsoft, which actually does tons of usability testing.

Just because I said "eat your own dog food" doesn't mean I don't advocate usability testing. It's just a logical fallacy. They could have said "Eat Your Own Dog Food, but Not If It Means The Dog Will Go Hungry." It just doesn't follow.

2001/05/28 28 May

I've been watching videos from Reboot, a web conference in Denmark. Mark Hurst tells some interesting stories about usability lessons from the web. My favorite: when your checkout screen prompts for a username and password, some newbie users will type in their AOL username and password. Why? They're not reading the text that says "returning customers, type your username and password." More proof that people don't read, but also evidence that people will assume the simplest possible program model -- i.e., that their new AOL password works everywhere -- until they learn otherwise.

(Feel free to fast-forward over the pompous negroponteisms like his slide titled "This is the Age of Bits.") The video is here.

Techinterview: How does one find a loop in a singly linked list in O(n) time using constant memory? You cannot modify the list in any way (and constant memory means the amount of memory required for the solution cannot be a function of n.)

2001/05/29 29 May

Jef Raskin: "On the day I resigned, I made a last attempt to be helpful, suggesting that the CEO use her full name, 'Patti. Hart,' in her email address, because the form she was using had an unfortunate pronunciation. The reply said that my note would not be passed on because Ms. Hart was accepting 'revenue generating messages only.' Until she left to become CEO of ExciteAtHome last month, she still used her old 'phart' email."

By the way, whenever usability experts point to Microsoft Office products as an "example" of horrendous usability, they are usually being disingenuous and just pandering to the crowd. In my opinion they're just attacking the products with the biggest market share because most of their listeners will have experience with some Microsoft UI problem. The dishonest part is that they never seem to offer any specific improvements. Designing UIs for a program as complex as Word or Excel is extremely hard and the very best designs are still often difficult to use, and that applies to any program with a reasonable level of complexity. Before you hand-wave about a bad UI, explain what you would do differently and tell us why that would be easier to use. When Jef says "... everybody knows that Microsoft Word, Excel, and other popular programs can be maddeningly frustrating ..." he reminds me of Scott McNealy telling really stupid jokes about Microsoft at Sun developer conferences because it never fails to win applause. Good for you, children. Now say something interesting without just making fun of the fat boy.

TechInterview

You have 20 blue balls and 14 red balls in a bag...

2001/05/31 31 May

From the Fun Toys Department:

Tomorrow I'm starting on a Windows CE project. For the last 4 years I've been furious every time I try to find something in MSDN, and the bloody WinCE documentation kept getting in the way. After I finally figured out how to delete the WinCE stuff from MSDN, of course, I find myself starting a WinCE development project. Blah.

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