Entries Tagged 'technology' ↓

Happy Path

I talk about being simple a lot.  I like software to be simple.  It’s not as hard when you keep it that way.  That’s important for a lot of reasons, but for me the most important thing is relating how that software is going to put dollars in your pocket.

The single most overlooked aspect of simplicity in software development is the concept of a “happy path”.  Look around, as tons of companies are doing it.  They’ll call it agile development, or some other silly buzzword, but in its simplest form, its nothing more than coming up with a happy path for how the customer will want to use your product.  Non-software people in your business will understand that and get engaged at a different level.

How does Joe Customer accomplish the problem your trying to solve with your software?  That’s it.  Go build that.  Get that done.  Stop getting hung up on implementing things that don’t matter.  Bite off that simple niche and build it with a limited feature set.  You’ll know when your done building if you need to add a few things here and there to make it work right.  Those few things will have a MUCH smaller development time and complexity curve.  Not to mention it can be offloaded easier because the “guts” are there and you can inject people with less domain knowledge (code monkeys) into the mix because you’ve really defined the “domain”.

Most software projects would just be better off re-written in a year or two anyway because of the speed of the tools evolving around it.  So instead of designing to write large complex systems, stay simple.  Build your first happy path and release it, and if it doesn’t solve your problem (and you’ll know because people won’t pay for it), bolt on another happy path and continue to build that way.

Simple is hard to do, but when done right keeps you moving at the speed of the competition around you.  Happy path software development will help you accomplish simple.

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Beautiful Blue Sky

So, in reality we are all searching for the thing that is going to make us the MOST happy.  Something that will keep our interest.  Something to keep us working hard, honest and feeling rewarded at the end of the day.

Y combinator had a great post HERE about ideas that they would like to fund. I find posts like this interesting, but not for the fact that you might find some blueprint for a business, but just something that will spurn ideas about a particular niche. It makes brainstorming incredibly easy. Send a link to some friends, stir up the pot about your thoughts, and then start conversing about viability of your combined ideas.

That’s what I spent part of my Monday morning doing, expanding on one of those points. I at least have one idea that I think is valid and viable: A niche auction web presence.

The market is huge and there is just so much that is being done wrong. It operates on pure volume in the eBay world domination model. In general I think you could to try to exploit the market of valuables and goods that need to be verified (Think jewelry, antiques, purses, etc) by a third party for authentication. A couple of things make me think there’s a space for this. First,it’s a totally fragmented marketplace made up of small brick and mortar businesses selling higher priced goods and buyers skittish about whether those goods are authentic. Second, there is also a nice healthy trend of eBay selling counterfeit items. Both of these point towards opportunity.

Execution and figuring out the details are of course the hard part, BUT its also super interesting.

You might find my thoughts interesting, or maybe not. It’s irrelevant to the central point. Staying on the sidelines won’t get you anywhere.

Start blue sky’ing your ideas on something you want to do. There are so many things that need to be improved it’s just silly.

Content, the King

I am getting really tired of the endless articles reading about the trials and tribulations of Twitter.  Frankly the assertions that people are making are absurd.  I read a particularly good one today in this article. These guys can talk all they want about developers bailing, but the developers aren’t the ones making twitter GREAT. The quality of the content IS.

I’m an optimist, and I don’t mind a bit of downtime here and there.  Twitter has issues for sure, and needs to stabalize, but the tool doesn’t matter to me.  I am following the content. So until guys like Andy Swan and Howard Lindzon stop posting on twitter and responding to their communities I am sticking right with them. If you really can’t make it without having access for a couple of minutes you have serious issues, and probably could use some medicinal meds.

Content is king and regardless of all the commotion of the technical platform until the producers of the good content start moving to another place, users will stay where they are. Twitter doesn’t need the developers to continue to flourish.  So stop talking about it and start creating good content for me to read.

Twrts – Small, Readable Stock Chart URL’s

I was fiddling around with an idea in my head to write a small website that helped me translate stock charts into nice looking URL’s. Most of the time, when you look at a stock chart and want to share that with someone, the URL is GIGANTIC. It contains all sorts of cool variables, vectors, really everything that the site needs to paint the proper chart. I wanted a way to copy and paste a URL that was MUCH shorter, so that I can use them in systems that limit my character usage. Also, it just gives me a much cleaner URL that can be embedded anywhere you might be linking to charts without having a really crappy looking URL.

Well, with that, I spent last night watching hockey and writing an application, called Twrts (pronounced Tw-arts), with Google’s App Engine. You can check it out here:


It was an exercise mostly in fun, but I did want to see how productive I could be with the limitations of the framework. The main one for me is that you have to write stuff in Python. I have used it before, but its been a while, so I had to use a lot of reference material. I gotta say, the framework is really nice for simple stuff. You can be up and productive in about 15 minutes. Concepts are easy to grasp and without having to really muck with configuration is really, really nice. The deployment is money as well. One click and done. I love that.

My implementation definitely isn’t without flaws. The first glaring one is the size of the URL. Without buying up a shorter domain name, I am stuck with probably 8 extra characters I would like to shave off (twrts.com instead of twrts.appspot.com gets rid of a period and the appspot). Oh well, if anyone actually uses it besides me, then I will look into some forwarding through a smaller domain. I also chose the simplest algorithm possible for producing the generated URL’s, meaning I am limited to only around 14,777,000 url combinations. But since I will probably be the only one using it, it should suffice ;) .

It’s also interesting to note that this is pretty much the same thing that TinyURL and the other millions of services do. With my implementation though, I didn’t want to have to go to the chart’s URL in order to copy and paste it into one of those services. Just eliminates a step or two from the process. Also, I want to build in posting a message to Twitter to simplify the process even more. That should be uber simple with the twitter API.

Check it out when you get a chance.

StockTweet’s. Not the Puffy Things You Eat During Easter

I am a big fan and active user of Twitter, as I have posted about here. People are just starting to scratch the surface on some of the cooler things that we can do with the service. One of the places I think some things can be done is in the world of finance. Markets move quickly, and information quicker. Getting insight from some top notch fund investors, and financial guru’s can help hone your skills and strategies, hopefully making you better at what you do.

The one problem here is the noise. How do you find useful information and distill it into something even more useful on a hourly or daily basis, etc. A problem that a fellow Twitter’er @sorenmacbeth has set out to solve. Hence the birth of StockTweet. You use a special tag that denotes that you are referencing a stock symbol by Prefixing the symbol with $. This essentially aggregates the data from people following the service on Twitter. Opens up a whole world of data warehousing. Cool stuff, and I hope it starts to flourish.

Check out more of what’s cool about the service in this blog post:


Push vs. Pull

A lot of people have asked me about what I am doing on the web, using technologies like Twitter, Facebook, etc.. It’s something that is hard to explain and is a bit nebulous. I use it to help build my social reputation on the web because of the industry I am in, but I also talk about its implications in marketing, and business value. This is where things get a bit dicey for most people. They have a hard time grasping this concept. Most people think of a company having a twitter account that blasts coupons out to people following them. To me that misses the big picture.

Social media is playing an important role in an emerging landscape that is destined to blur lines of what traditional marketing was aiming towards. What does that mean? In a nutshell, things are moving from corporations from “pushing” product ideas to us, to “pulling” them from users and customers and building a community around the product.. This business model flies in the face of what we normally think of with TV ads, newspaper ads, and other forms of traditional media. For a good example of this, take a look at what Threadless.com is doing. Products that are totally built around the community deciding them. This example is a bit to the extreme, though, since they have become established around the last 5 years. So how do big companies use these tools to their advantage? Well, it isn’t pushing coupons through media outlets like I stated above.

Big companies need to get creative. Social web outlets can go a long way to create buzz about your products without “pushing” them. For example, have a your product manager “plugged” into communities you might think your product is designed for. This can be twitter, pownce, or any of the dozens of services out there. Chances are, you will get people to start looking at your product through these media channels. Especially the early adopter types. This will help build a community around what you are selling. From this community, you’re going to hopefully get a lot of ideas to “pull” information from to make your product better. You don’t have to completely abandon your traditional strategies, but incorporating some form of social web strategy is the important part. Start moving your marketing strategy from “push” to “little bits of push, and mostly pull”.

Using this information to hone your product into something your customers want and like, is a helpful recipe to making something people are willing to use and possibly even pay for. The paradigm is shifting, and companies big and small are going to need to recognize it and capitalize.

I gave it a Twhirl

I have been using Twhirl, the popular Adobe Air client for Twitter, on my Powerbook now for about a week. I am trying desperately to figure out why. Twhirl has re-implemented the Twitter online interface giving you a desktop client that is platform independent. So the movement towards online applications that are easy to use with creative interfaces is already receding back to the desktop. For Twitter, I think unnecessarily. Twitter is designed for quick bursts of creativity, with short time spans on interacting with its interface. To me having a desktop client for this functionality seems like unnecessary noise. You aren’t writing long dissertations that require frequent saving, and you usually are getting messages through your phones SMS capabilities.

Thats not to say their totally isn’t a space for the Air platform, because there is. Specifically for handling batch tasks that are network intensive, where the connection can be dropped and re-establish. In particular, uploading photos to popular photo sharing sites. I am a Smugmug devotee, but my 1 beef with them is their client uploader sucks. They could REALLY benefit from having a platform independent framework to develop their client on instead of hacking out some terrible disconnected clients for each of the different platforms.

Chime in if you are using Twhirl in a way that I can justify it as one of my everyday tools. Differentiating the signals from the noise in your everyday toolbox is just as important as it is with information.

Genius of the Wii

I am having my first experience with the Wii this week. I am amazed at how simple the interface is, along with the repeat play value. I love it. I know that tons of people have wrote about this. The biggest thing that gets overlooked with the Wii is the audience that it appeals to. My parents love it. The kids love it. My brothers love it. It has a universal audience.

This is an important concept to its success. I once read Jack Welch’s autobiagraphy and he talked about how one of his companies was stagnating and they were desperately trying to increase market share. They finally found a solution to their problems by expanding what the market was that they were going after. This concept is exactly what Nintendo has established with the Wii. They have expanded the gaming market into not only the gaming household, but to the common household regardless of demographic.  Effectively expanding the market for the product. Combine that with what has to be an artificial decrease in supply, and you have a winner.

Sheer genius from Nintendo.