Building software for people

November 6, 2010 | 1 comment

Like most of his posts, Tony Stubblebine’s piece on experiments in software services struck a chord with me:

I want to build useful products. I’m glad I know that about myself. Some programmers want to solve hard problems. That’s not a priority for me. Some programmers want the internals of their code to be beautiful. I consider that just a means to an end. And some other programmers just want to be on the winning team, personal contribution be damned (BTW, the winning team often pays well).

For me, it’s the building of the product and the feedback of how and why it’s useful that matters.

Yes. This. Exactly. All of the types of developers Tony describes are an important part of the process, and sometimes the differences aren’t so clean cut: I knew that, for example, having beautiful internal APIs for Elgg was integral to making a useful product and getting good customer feedback, so I pushed as hard as I could for a simple, consistent programming interface. (Now that I’m long gone, I know Brett Profitt is continuing to strive for this.) Nonetheless, I’m definitely in the “making something useful” camp.

I often bring up my opinion that the Internet is essentially a very large group of people wanting to create, share and communicate. People are why I do what I do; I’m not particularly interested in code, algorithms or logic in themselves. They’re all a means to an end. Professionally, I’m never happier than when batting ideas around with people, figuring out what they need, or getting feedback on a solution I’ve built. It feels meaningful.

The whole post is worth a read. His comments on selling software and providing services ring true to me, and are important points to think about for anyone starting their own business.

Assume there’s value

June 19, 2009 | 1 comment

Tony Stubblebine has written a great post about the lessons he’s learned from Twitter, which was created at Odeo while he was working there. This advice stands out for me:

Have you ever looked at a piece of social software and thought, or worse, blogged, that it was worthless? Here’s a trick for evaluating social software in a way that isn’t going to make you look stupid six months down the road: assume it’s valuable if people are using it. Then try to figure out what value they’re getting.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people be dismissive about Twitter, or Facebook, or another well-loved web tool because they didn’t understand it. I’ve even been guilty of it myself – but it’s not productive. Much better to figure out why people love it and learn from what you discover.