This kills me… GMail’s much-discussed, much-maligned context-targeted banner ads don’t have a lot of message text to target within my GMail account’s typically empty “Spam” mailbox, so all the ads are for Spam recipes!
Spam sushi, anyone?
One thought was unmistakably on everyone’s mind as they strolled around AT&T’s reception at Web 2.0, with a premium drink in one hand and a plate full of high-concept snacks in the other, like Gazpacho Shrimp Shooters, or Dungeoness Crab Tataki on Nori Chips, or Ahi Tuna Tartare with Ginger and Lime, or Wasabi Mashed Potatoes with Sesame Grilled Salmon, Crispy Leeks, and Black Caviar (served in a martini glass), while Zigaboo Modeliste’s Aahkesstra jammed onstage and the entertainment budget had room not only for a photographer but a flash guy to follow him around.
Robert Kaye of MusicBrainz, eyeing the spread with some amazement, summed it up: “is it just me… or is the Internet boom back?”
The energy at the conference is palpable. New deals are happening every day. Products are getting better. The browser war is being un-lost. Companies are making money. Stock options are — dare I think it?? — emerging from a five-year bath.
I’m not counting my money yet, but I am eating the hell out of the five kinds of Dim Sum at the buffet. And I’m looking forward to the next 12 months.
Jason Fried of 37signals gave an eye-opening presentation at Web 2.0 today: less is more! This was the best, most directly useful presentation I’ve heard so far.
Less is a competitive advantage. Trying to one-up everyone else is a “Cold War” mentality. Instead, try to one-down the competition. Beat them with less.
There are five things software developers need less of:
Taking on a big investment used to be the way businesses would get started. But all that investment gets you is debt. Debt doesn’t make you build better products. Debt doesn’t make your customers happy.
Money used to buy hardware, but now hardware is cheap. It used to buy software, but now software is cheap. Money could never buy time or passion, and passion is the one thing you need in quantity.
The one thing money could buy is salaries, meaning people. But maybe you don’t need those either…
You need only three: a designer, a programmer, and a “sweeper” to do everything else (including marketing).
Don’t scale the team up to fit the vision or the feature set. Instead, scale the vision down to fit the size of the team.
Having less time is a good thing, a huge competitive advantage. Most of the time spent in most companies is wasted: meetings, overbuilding, overanalysing. Having less time forces you to spend it smarter. Spend it only on the important things — building the software.
Just build things. don’t write about them. Don’t draw pictures. And whatever you do, never never never make a “functional spec.” This is the biggest abstraction of all, and there is nothing functional about it. A long text document has nothing to do with a great piece of software.
Functional specs are political documents. They’re “yes documents” — every feature is a bullet point; it’s easy for people to say “yes, add that.” Worst of all, they create the illusion of agreement. You spend three months hammering out the functional spec, but three months later you find that everybody disagrees about what’s in the functional spec, and the finished product (if and when it is ever finished) looks nothing like the functional spec anyway.
Instead, just build the product. Build the UI first. Then wrap that with the technology. Have the technology fill in the back end. Work on the customer experience first; that’s the most important thing. Have the interface screens be the functional spec.
Building software is an iterative process. Iterate over the built product, not the abstractions.
Build less (complex) software. You’ll need less support… less help text… less documentation… less sales effort…
There are a million simple problems that need to be solved. Solve those first — but nail them. You won’t succeed at solving the complex problems anyway.
More of what?
The only thing you want more of is constraints. Less time, less money, fewer people, these are all constraints. They’ll squeeze you. But the result will be a higher-quality product.
Continuing Web 2.0 coverage…
I’m fascinated by Technorati, the original blog search engine, for a couple of reasons:
Technorati’s archive (a retrospective search architecture, btw) is tiered into 3 layers based on recency. They’ve made the assumption that the most recent hits for a search are more interesting than older hits, and of course in many cases that’s true. But the data i/o requirements, of simultaneously pushing new data into the front of each archive while expiring it out the other side (and from there into the next-most-recent archive) would seem to be unmanageable.
I learned this week that the write to read ratio within technorati’s database is 5:1. That presents a horrible scaling problem, because writes are slow and can’t be easily parallelized. Compare to Tribe.net’s write to read ratio: 1:99. Tribe’s is probably an extreme example (in fact I suspect that figure needs to be qualified) but in any case if your write rate is bigger than your read rate, you’ll be hurting under load. E.g., searches will take 30-60 seconds.
Part of Technorati’s problem is volume. Check out these “state of the blogosphere” stats from Dave Sifry:
It’s a big pile of data to read, store, and index.
October 5, 2005 - SAN FRANCISCO - Today, Google announced the launch of Google Ice, an innovative new product in the beverage-cooling market. Google Ice is available exclusively at the Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, but will soon be rolled out within after-hours tech confererence geek lounges nationwide, except perhaps in Redmond.
“Google has already made tremendous strides in making access to information on the web a reality for users across the globe, but we’re still in the Internet’s early innings,” said Google CEO Eric Schmidt. “But at least now you can see what you’re drinking.”
“We hope this product makes quite a… splash,” added Google founder Sergey Brin. “Heh, heh, heh. Heh. Ahem.”
Added Stewart Butterfield, founder of Flickr and employee of Google rival Yahoo, “5000 Ph.D.’s and they come up with this?!”