Archive for January 2006

Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality 11 Jan

Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality“Don’t start a business if you can’t explain what pain it solves, for whom, and why your product will eliminate this pain, and how the customer will pay to solve this pain. The other day I went to a presentation of six high tech startups and not one of them had a clear idea for what pain they were proposing to solve.”

From my foreword to Bob Walsh's new book, Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality.

Jolt Award Finalists for 2006 20 Jan

Q: What do Fog Creek Copilot, FogBugz, and The Best Software Writing I have in common?

A: They're all finalists for the 2006 Jolt Awards.

News, and, the end of ?off 25 Jan

Oh, man, I'm gonna be Platinum Elite on Continental this year. There's no avoiding it.

The trouble is, well, I have trouble saying "no" to speaking invitations (see upper-right-hand corner).

In the meantime, a little news.

Construction began today on the Fog Creek expansion. I think we have a much better contractor this time. The last contractor we had was so bad we had a different theory every day as to what his problem was. Depression? Liquidity crunch? Incompetence? Planning to steal the money and flee the country? So far the new contractor seems a heck of a lot better.

Summer internship applications are due February 1st. Students, get on it! We do not have any reason to even look at applications received after that date.

The Project Aardvark documentary, Aardvark'd, is currently featured on the Google Video home page! It tells the story of last summer's interns, who build Fog Creek Copilot from scratch in one summer.

If you have a high bandwidth connection, Google Video lets you purchase and watch it online for about seven dollars. For a higher resolution experience, you can still buy the DVD from us, but that's about $20.

Finally, an announcement. I used to have, hidden so deeply that almost nobody found it, a discussion forum on this site colloquially called ?off. It was the official off-topic forum and was virtually uncensored. It was foul, free-wheeling, and Not Safe For Work. It generated quite a few severely antisocial posts, which were sometimes funny. There was a core community of probably ten people who regularly participated, and occasionally someone would wander in by accident and be shocked, but there was a small but real community of virtual friends hanging out there.

Anyway, it wasn't really appropriate. It didn't have anything to do with software, I didn't participate, and there was no compelling reason to host it on my servers. Over time, the number of reasons to shut it down increased. Today, the last straw was broken when one of my actual friends (you know, a real-life person) told me that the discussion group was getting downright disturbing. Some of the participants in the group had probably crossed the line from common obnoxious online behavior to downright psychopathic behavior. In a discussion group which prides itself on "anything goes," this was impossible to control.

At 6 pm today, I closed that discussion group, having learned an important lesson about anarchy.

Introduction to Great Design 25 Jan

“Here's why I'm afraid to turn off my cell phone: because I can't always seem to muster the brain cells necessary to turn it back on.

“It has two buttons on it, a happy green button and a scary red button. They have funny icons on them that don't mean very much to me.

“You might think that the green button turns it on. Green means go, right?

“Wrong.”

The first draft of Introduction to Great Design is up.

What is "Design"? 26 Jan

Brownstones in New York City“You know those gorgeous old brownstones in New York City? With the elaborate carvings, gargoyles, and beautiful iron fences? Well, if you dig up the old architectural plans, the architect would often just write something like "beautiful fretwork" on the drawing, and leave it up to the artisan, the old craftsman from Italy to come up with something, fully expecting that it will be beautiful.

“That's not design. That's decoration.”

Great Design: What is Design? (First draft).

Translations 27 Jan

A few years ago, a few hundred volunteers graciously offered their time to make Joel on Software available in over 30 languages. You can see the extraordinary results of their hard work here. I'm extremely grateful.

Just managing that translation project was a huge effort. I did as much as I could, then I turned it over to a brilliant and talented part time staffer, a student from Austria living in New York. Coordinating all the manuscripts, converting from Word to HTML, getting the hyperlinks to work -- it took a lot of manual labor, and was costing quite a lot of money.

Since then, I'm still receiving a trickle of translations, and of course, there are many articles, old and new, that have never been translated. The translated versions of Joel on Software were static, in fact, they were more or less stuck because I simply don't have time to post new manuscripts.

And there are always three ways to translate any one item, so I end up getting endless requests to change a phrase in, say, Dutch. Speakers of the Flemish dialect ask me to change it one way, then speakers of Netherlands Dutch suggest putting it back, and I have no idea what they're talking about!

Sadly, I fell down in face of the effort needed to maintain 30-odd local language versions. Such a job can't be coordinated by one person, especially when that person is me.

Luckily, in the time since 2002, the Wiki has been invented.

Well, OK, it was invented before that, but nobody thought it would work.

Well, actually, most people thought it would work, but I was too stupid to see it. I kept saying, "Wikis? Those will never work. Anyone can change the definition of, say, Podcasting, to 'fart fart fart,' and then what happens?"

Lo and behold, I was wrong, Wrong, WRONG.

Wikis work great.

So, I'm going to use a Wiki for the Joel on Software translations.

It's all set up and ready to go. Blank as the day it was born.

If you speak any language fluently, you can help.

If you don't speak any language other than English, but know how wikis work, you can help by organizing the new wiki, setting up tables of contents, copying over the old translations, and helping translators upload their translations to the wiki and get them formatted.

If you have a lot of time, you can translate something. Anything. A page from Joel on Software that you liked, a page from Joel on Software that you didn't like, a whole article, the whole dang UI book.

If you're feeling naughty, add some fart jokes to somebody's excellent translation. We'll see if the community spots it and fixes it.

If you have a little bit of time, look at the articles that were already translated. Find mistakes. Fix them. Find some jokes that got translated badly, and translate them better. Look for hyperlinks in the Klingon translation that go to the English version when there's now a Klingon translation of the linked article you can point to, and fix it.

Help set policies and guidelines. Collate people's collective knowledge of what obscure jokes mean, and how best to translate them. Create tables of contents, indexes, and cross references. Create local communities.

Don't wait for me. It's all set up and ready to go. Blank as the day it was born.

Conferences 30 Jan

Jeff Jarvis: “Too many conferences suck.”

Robert Scoble: “But, wanna do a 1,000 attendee conference? Costs per attendee start going up exponentially.” Apparently the problem is that the big convention centers rip you off, charging $1000 for an urn of coffee.

What Makes It Great? 30 Jan

“Just about every product category has its blue-chip, gold-plated stars. Movie stars? Brad Pitt. Best rock song of all time? Sweet Home, Alabama, of course. Office chairs? The Herman Miller Aeron. Portable MP3 players? Clearly the Apple iPod.

“What do these products have in common?”

What Makes It Great?, first draft, is the third and final part of the introduction to Great Design.

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Historical Archive

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