No Such Luck

Reading Steve’s last post was a frustrating experience. Not only did he miss fewer slots than me, he had a good excuse for it. The reasons for my relative lack of posting lately are far from interesting, convincing, or enjoyable.

I'm Not Dead Yet

So goes a famous line from my son's favorite movie, Monty Python's "Quest for the Holy Grail" (I'm sure he'll grow out of it). I realize that I've missed my last three posting slots and thought I'd explain.

European Shareware Conference

This year's European Shareware Conference will be held in Cambridge, UK, on the 4th and 5th of November.

It has already been discussed on the BoS forum here, but I thought I’d extend the conversation to Codesnipers. I’m hoping to go, and based on the forum thread it looks like I’ll get to put faces to a few familiar names.

Are you planning to go? Do you have feedback from previous conferences? Is it worth trying to stick around for the Sunday evening sessions/event?

Why Open Source <> Micro-ISV.

Every so often since my Micro-ISV book came out, I get an email like this:


I'm currently reading your book "Micro-ISV" and am learning a lot from it. However, I have one question about something you said. On page 23 you said, "Open Source may just be the greatest way to create anything, but it's a lousy way to start a small profit-making business..." Could you explain what you meant by this?

I've tried to explain why I believe this to be true, but there's a better real-life example: the Death of NDoc. Kevin Downs, head of the Open Source project is pulling the plug on going to 2.0 and killing it off in a couple of weeks at SourceForge after freeloaders bitched he wasn't working on it enough.

How to develop Micro-ISV software.

If you’re going to successfully fire up your micro-ISV, you need to fire your old ideas about software development, be they UML, RUP, agile, SCRUM, extreme or none: they fit like shoes on fish.

Every single methodology for developing software I’ve heard of in over 20 years in this business assumes you’re part of some vast team of programmers, never a programmer working alone. What’s more, each and every existing software development process assumes someone is going to hand you a nice gift-wrapped definition of the problem you’re going to solve via code. That is exactly what won’t happen when it comes to developing a micro-ISV app or web site.

Today’s software design theories are like using a power drill as an ear cleaner - they can be used, but it’s not a good idea. We need a better approach, one based in the reality of one or maybe two programmers who must also define the problem and its solution and who want to do so before their savings run out.

Don’t underestimate just how hard defining the problem domain is, or just how difficult it is to nail down in the absence of actual customers who will tell you what they want. Unless you plan to take a few years unpaid leave from your life to do intensive market research, endless focus groups and surveys, at best you are only going to have a very approximate idea of who is going to be using your software how to solve exactly which problem in what precise way at least all the way through to your public beta.

MicroIVs - Making Dreams Come True

Hey! Where's the "S" ... that's the all important "Software" part! If you thought I misspelled the title of today's post, I didn't. I'm starting off today talking about "Independent Vendors". Does the same Internet that enables MicroISVs today also support the creation of self-sustaining MicroIVs of different flavors? I believe it does! If you didn't catch the thinly veiled recapitulation of the the title of Bob Walsh's excellent book, "MicroISV - From Vision to Reality", all I can say is "Shame on You" (okay, maybe you're in the wrong place ... you can find Google here). If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, then maybe other businesses can follow the MicroISV leaders. Almost every topic in Bob's book is either directly or indirectly related to every small business.

Planning your virtual future

If you've not been bitten by the Virtual Machine bug yet, it's time to give virtualization, and especially VMware your attention. VMware is out to change a few things in this world, one being how servers serve and the other how developers develop.

Programming Is Like Sex

because...

  • One mistake and you have to support it for the rest of your life. (Michael Sinz)
  • Once you get started, you'll only stop because you're exhausted.
  • It often takes another experienced person to really appreciate what you're doing.
  • Conversely, there's some odd people who pride themselves on their lack of experience.
  • You can do it for money or for fun.
  • If you spend more time doing it than watching TV, people think you're some kind of freak.
  • It's not really an appropriate topic for dinner conversation.
  • There's not enough taught about it in public school.
  • It doesn't make any sense at all if you try to explain it in strictly clinical terms.
  • Some people are just naturally good.
  • But some people will never realize how bad they are, and you're wasting your time trying to tell them.
  • There are a few weirdos with bizarre practices nobody really is
    comfortable with.

Flintstoning Toasters

Flintstones Record Player
I picked up the term "flintstoning" from my visit to Cambrian House. It's the practice of substituting a little human work for functionality until there's enough demand for the feature that it's worth the coder time to implement. Let me give you an example.

You're a web coder for a bank whose promotion this month is a free toaster to everyone who deposits $10,000 to open a new account. The bank realizes that toaster manufacture and delivery is not their core competency, so they outsouce the task the lowest-bidding toaster fufillment processing agency. Your job is to write the code to get toasters to web customers. You have two options:

  • Spend painful hours attempting to reconcile the inconsistencies between the toaster pimp's documentation and their Java-powered full-stack WSDL automated toaster delivery processing gateway until XML angle brackets gouge your eyes out.
  • Show Me the Money

    ... so went the famous line from the movie "Jerry McGuire".  And while it may be appropriate for a sports agent, it really doesn't sound as good when I hear the salepeople in our company say it (fortunately, never directly to the customer).  As a large company (C-COR has over a thousand employees), we are multi-faceted ... we have a hardware division, a software division and several mechanisms for making money via services.  In all these cases, what the sales group really means is "give me some money", with the often unspoken corollary of "and I'll give you something of equal value".  The rest of this article focuses on software businesses and what happens when a customer offers money for something you don't have.