Good System, Bad System

“I pass six Starbucks every morning on my walk to work. Just to clarify, that’s counting only the Starbucks that are actually on the west side of Eighth Avenue in midtown Manhattan. I think there are some branches on the east side, but that side remains terra incognita for me; for most New Yorkers, micro-optimizing the walk to work is a matter of habit, and I have no reason to cross the street. For all I know, the other side of Eighth Avenue consists of nothing but pachinko parlors and flea circuses. Wouldn’t surprise me one bit.”

From my latest Inc. article: Good System, Bad System

PS: I’ve got a new book out: More Joel on Software is the second collection of articles from the archives of this site.

Pecha Kucha

We’ve already got a great lineup of speakers for the Business of Software conference:

  • Seth Godin
  • Eric Sink
  • Steve Johnson
  • Richard Stallman
  • Paul Kenny
  • Tom Jennings
  • Dharmesh Shah
  • Mike Milinkovich
  • Jessica Livingston
  • Jason Fried
  • and me!

Neil Davidson was looking for a way to bring in a handful of extra interesting speakers for very brief presentations just to keep the conference more dynamic and hear from different corners of the world. I had recently read about Pecha Kucha. The speaker gets 6 minutes and 40 seconds: no more, no less. You submit exactly 20 slides. Each one is shown for exactly 20 seconds and then flips automatically. At the end, even if you’re almost done and just have one more thing, the mic cuts off and you sit down.

It sounded like a good idea. Speakers have to plan very carefully and rehearse repeatedly to make sure their speech is going to synchronize correctly with the slides, which makes for a more polished speech. They have to edit mercilessly to boil their subject matter down to 400 seconds, which makes it more interesting and dynamic. And if they suck, well, you don’t have to wait very long for them to go away!

45 people submitted applications to speak. There were a lot of terrific applications. Somehow, Neil and I narrowed it down to 8 very impressive finalists who will speak in Boston. I can’t wait!

Annual Fog Creek Open House

Here at Fog Creek Software we get a lot of requests for a tour of the office, which we usually have to decline: we have this unusual obsession with giving programmers quiet working conditions.

But once a year, we do have an open house. It’s a rare chance to peek behind the curtains and meet the people behind FogBugz and Copilot.

This year, we’re only a month or so away from moving (to a much larger space downtown) but we didn’t want to skip the annual tradition, so the open house will be held anyway at the old office:

Thursday, July 17
5:00 – 7:00 pm

535 8th Ave. (cross street: 37th)
18th Floor
New York, NY 10018

You’ll get a chance to meet the Dingos (class of ’08 interns), the SMTPs, our new sales department, the developers behind FogBugz, Copilot, and Wasabi, and the rest of the team. Some kind of food-like snack will be served. Tiny cheddar-cheese-flavored crackers in the shape of fish, maybe. Don’t skip lunch.

Don’t hide or disable menu items

A long time ago, it became fashionable, even recommended, to disable menu items when they could not be used.

Don’t do this. Users see the disabled menu item that they want to click on, and are left entirely without a clue of what they are supposed to do to get the menu item to work.

Instead, leave the menu item enabled. If there’s some reason you can’t complete the action, the menu item can display a message telling the user why.