Author Archives: warwick

Steam

Yesterday I missed a day of blogging.  It’s just a couple days until the end of my 30 day challenge and I feel like I’m running out of steam.

I should probably write something about the Apple Watch, but it’s hard to find the time.  That, and the payments infrastructure is far more interesting, even if the watch is grabbing most of the press attention.

But, as an old boss of mine says, that’s a tomorrow job.

How Long to Clone It?

We’ve recently been putting the finishing touches on a new product at work.  I’ve been taking it around town and chatting about it to friends and founders, seeing what their response is.  I’ve been tuning the story and figuring out reactions.

One of the intriguing questions that people ask me when I demo it is “How long do you thing it’d take for someone to clone it?”

It’s a flattering question, because it implies that we might have created something valuable enough here to be worth ripping off.    It’s also an immensely scary question, because it means that someone might steal our thunder out from under us.  Normally you can push that thought out of your head, but it’s difficult when everyone keeps asking.

“I don’t know,” I say, “Under three months.”

I wish that number was a bit larger.

Rogue Moon

“There’re all kinds of people in this world.  But they break down into two main groups, one big and one smaller.  There’s the people who get moved out of the way or into line, and then there’s the people who do the moving.  It’s safer and a lot more comfortable to go where you’re pushed.  You con’t take any of the responsibility, and if you do what you’re told , every once in a while you get thrown a fish.  Being a mover isn’t safe, because you may be headed for a hole, and it isn’t comfortable because you do a lot of jostling back and forth, and what’s more, it’s up to you to find your own fish.  But it’s a hell of a lot of fun.”

Algis Burdys / Rogue Moon


Getting the Pitch

One of my favourite parts of telling people my side projects is watching their face light up when they really get it.  If you can do it in the first five seconds, you’ve figured out a way to tell the story.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a natural storyteller.  I have to practice and hone a story until I have a good way to tell it.

So you throw the explanation against one person.  Then another.  Another.  You note down when they start to really understand what you’re talking about.  More often than not, I bury the lead so hard that the first few people I talk to are only listening out of politeness.

It’s not just about getting the story down smooth.  You have to mix it up and see if you can grab attention earlier.  You have to find out the hook and move it up front.

Eventually you have a real pitch.  You never really stop fine tuning it, but you’ve got something worth telling.

Specific vs General

Last night I was at the Victoria Startup Meetup.  There was a panel discussion about growing your company.  One of the presenters pointed out that the most important thing to help educate customers was to introduce them to specific examples, right out of the gate.

My partner was an English major in University.  He’s done plenty of analysis of specific pieces of work.  Whenever we talk about them, he gets frustrated, because I tend to look at specific examples and try to extrapolate the general concept.

Generalizations help experts solve problems.

My first instinct in writing marketing copy is to go general.  I know all the use cases, and I’ll try to write something that fits them all.  Instead, to get good marketing copy, I try to fight the urge to generalize and focus on the specifics.

Specifics help people understand.

Check out Pixate

This popped up in my feed today: Pixate.

It’s a cross between a motion design tool and an interaction design tool.  You should check out the video.  It looks excellent, and I can’t wait to give it a try.

We desperately need as many good motion design tools as we can get.  The amount of designers I deal with who still think in terms of static screens is staggering.

What Do You Call Complete?

Sometimes I worry about the level of completion that I’m willing to take before shipping.

On one hand, clients tell me that they love the sense of taste and little details that I bring to a project, but on the other hand I’m always convinced that I’m shipping too early.  That’s not just programmer paranoia either.  We’ve lost clients before by sending a beta that didn’t measure up.  I’m not proud of that, but it’s led us to better ways of testing and of communicating, so I’m not torn up about it either.

Once, six or seven years ago, I had a customer berate me for shipping beta quality software.  It was on the release of a 2.0, and I had a 2.0.1 out the next day for him, but I still feel disappointed in myself for letting that get by me.  Every other email I got on that release raved about the new features, but the one I really remember was the humiliating one.

Developers are great at ensuring code quality, but often we fall down on product quality.  Beta groups, integration testing, PM feedback, all that can only get you so far.  Eventually someone tries something you didn’t see, and now you’ve lost a customer.

I’m sure if I got a better business person in here, we’d talk about the cost tradeoff of quality control vs. keeping a customer.  But that doesn’t sit well with me.  I want to make amazing software, and too often I have to settle on good enough.

How do you measure that software is complete?  I feel like we need a role in the organization that’s just ‘software critic’.  Someone who doesn’t give a damn about what tradeoffs had to be made and where the budget was set.  If we can frustrate that person, then maybe it’s ready to ship.

How do you measure that software is complete?