Business Development

Finding that software designer

In lots of companies software designers and software developers are separate job positions and require different skill sets. Software designers are those individuals who pay special attention to GUI standards, usability and overall system coherence. One of their roles is in a way to act as user's advocates to ensure that the software is designed in a way that the users are able to use it painlessly.

They are then constantly reciting (or questioning?) the opinions and teachings coming from Don Norman, Jacob Nielsen, Bruce Tognazzini, Joel Spolsky and, of course many more. Usability and consistency may be some of their favorite words.

Playing Around with Boutique Software

Looks like it's been a busy week on Codesnipers, and I've missed most of it. In addition to the usual work cycle, I've been hatching plans of my own to join the ranks of so many us here and get my own project going.

There's some... interesting roadblocks in store for me on my way to micro-ISVdom. As people like Paul Graham point out, getting a startup off the ground is a young person's job; or rather, reading the subtext, a manic, no-significant-other-havin', 22-year-old recent graduate from Stanford's job.

Not Stopping

So, you're a programmer?
Well, yeah ...
Some corporate drone, sitting in a sad, dark cube?
Um, no, well, it's not like that ...
What, you don't sit in a cube?
I do when I am in the office. But I have this idea, I am working on at home ...
An idea?
Yeah yeah, and let me tell you, this is gonna be big. Real big. Seriously man, check it out...

And then it's all over. He had to get me started and now he has to listen to it all. His cool composure, the fresh tan and the overall contempt was too much to bear. I want to insist that there's something cool happening in my life, too. My wife tells me later that I had that wild look in my eyes again, as I was explaining myself, gesturing like crazy.

Why *you* need to learn Ruby on Rails

Editor's Note: For those of you who may have missed it, the Pragmatic Programmers have just launched a new series called "Pragmatic Fridays" and their first book was released last week. As an even more interesting note, the first one entitled "Rapid GUI Development with QtRuby" was written by our own Caleb Tennis.

In the movie "The Shawshank Redemption", after the character Brooks Hatlan got out of prison (after being cooped up for a very long time), he opines that: "...The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry". He wasn't able to cope in the outside world after living in prison for so long. He liked his old lifestyle better.

The same thing exists in software/tech world. In order to survive, you've got to stay afloat with knowing something about the latest and greatest happenings. No doubt you know that Microsoft is releasing a new version of Windows next year called "Vista". I'm sure you're aware of lots of the latest gadgets coming out of Steve Jobs' hands.

Well, if you're a web developer, no doubt you've heard of Ruby on Rails. But, more importantly, have you tried it?

Paul Graham's Startup School

So who hasn't heard of Paul Graham?

For those you who don't know of him, he's a bit of a uber-geek in terms of a geek who made it big during the dot-com times, managed to walk away with a bit of cash, and now has a bit of a philanthropic goal of assisting other startups to give it a try. Whenever he writes, it sends ripples through the online world and generally gets on slashdot.

As the owner of a startup, I applied to his upcoming Startup School as a bit of a lark never thinking I would get an invite. I hit "Submit" and then promptly forgot about it and made plans to go to my other conference called Power your Business with PHP which starts three days later.

So I got an invite last night.... whoa.

Now I need to figure out how to close on a new place just outside Washington, DC on the 14th, make it to Boston on the 15th, and then make it to San Francisco on the 17th.... hmmm.

Edit: I just realized that I forgot to point out that I initially came across the Startup School info over at Dane Carlson's Business Opportunities Weblog. - Thanks Dane!

Open Source and Freeware Vs. Paying the Bills

Editor's Note: This is the first posting in our series of items from guest contributors. Since many of our current CodeSnipers are currently running or considering running their own software shop, I hope you find this perspective helpful. If you are interested in contributing to CodeSnipers, please check out the previous posting.

Nothing is totally free. No matter what you're trying to do, there are always going to be expenses. To continue your projects and create new ones, you need to know how your money flows. If you're not sure how your money is spent in relation to producing your release, you're headed for financial trouble.

Execution matters

Many entrepreneurs invest time contemplating great ideas, be it for building a better mouse trap or solving pernicious Information Technology issues, but the investment is often squandered. Put simply, ideas are a dime a dozen, while execution of ideas is a rarity. I draw inspiration from an excellent article in Business Pundit:

If you want to be an entrepreneur, stop believing that ideas matter. That isn't what entrepreneurship is about. Entrepreneurs aren't idea people, everybody and their brother has ideas. Entrepreneurs are people that exploit ideas by matching them to market needs, executing them despite scarce resources and designing a business model that makes the idea profitable.

My office needs an ice cream truck!

Ah yes, summer is coming to an end, but those ice cream trucks still come around sometime in the early afternoon. Yeah, I typically notice them on a weekend, at home, just when I am trying to read a good book. They are loud, their music annoying at best and they tend to hang around for too long, waiting for kids to bring their parents' cash in exchange for some over-priced ice cream. The music keeps going while they wait. It's really just about impossible to focus on anything till that truck has moved on.

I want one of those to stop at the office. Every day!

Alright, alright, someone is clearly losing it here. This is obviously a ridiculous idea. We cannot possibly even think about taking this suggestion seriously. The noise is disruptive and loud, nobody will be able to get any work done. Meetings get interrupted, people will goof off taking their ice cream breaks. I just really don't get, why anyone would even think about - Wait, stop right there.

I realize, it sounds crazy.

Personal Brand Matters

Seth Godin mentions personal brand here, but what does it really mean? Martha Stewart, Oprah, and Tiger Woods could tell you all about the subject. Personal brand has long been something for celebrities, sports stars, and high end consultants to cultivate. As developers, should we be worried about personal brand?

Challenge: Micro ISV Mistake #1

As the distinguished gentleman Gavin pointed out yesterday in Micro ISV Mistake #1 (you might want to read that first), he believes that it's a bad idea "thinking your idea needs to be kept secret". Initially I was fully supportive of this concept - I'm doing it myself - but then I got to thinking about it more as I followed some of the comments.

Ben, Duane, and Chas all pointed out simple scenarios when the oppsite applied. They boiled down to variations of: Prior to your alpha, keep your mouth shut. And I think they're correct.

Everyone knows that execution is everything and that an idea in itself doesn't have much value. This is why patents in the US require a design that *should* work. The concept of the Space Elevator has been around for a century, but only in recent years is it beginning to look feasible. The concepts of human flight, tanks, etc go all the way back to Leonardo Davinci, but it's only been in the last century that these concepts have taken form.

When an idea is embryonic without implemenation, design, or even a fleshed out concept, I believe that it makes perfect sense to keep your mouth shut. Putting your idea out there will give you some early feedback, but it also begins to level the playing field.

In this sort of scenario, I would start discussing my ideas publicly if I had one or more of the following:

  • Personal knowledge, involvement, or connections which would be difficult for another to gain quickly (read: weeks or months).
  • Resources to devote fully and completely to the task very soon.
  • Support and/or endorsement from a large player in my target market or industry (read: if Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, the Pragmatic Programmers, Tim O'Reilly, etc endorsed me, my company, my product, or my idea, I'd make *sure* that you read about it).
  • If being an early mover was huge factor in success, I'd start talking soon and loud.

On the other hand, some things that would make me stay a bit quieter:

  • If I don't have anything besides an idea. Without an execution plan, there's not much value and it would be easier to be duplicated.
  • If all of the pieces or concepts were available and my idea was a new way of putting them together. This might lend itself to fast duplication... which may make it a weak idea anyway.
  • If my idea, code, business was wholely dependent on using information or API's from another group such as Amazon, Google, etc. Asking forgiveness...

Just some food for thought.