Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Simplicity sells

I'm a copycat. But I love the point being made so I'm repeating it. Simplicy sells.

Joel on Software wrote last week about the "9 ways to turn off" your next version of Windows. Macword wrote about how Microsoft is messing up the Zune because they're making it more complex instead of simple like the iPod.

Good grief - even the economist gets it. The point is, customers don't really give a flip what makes sense to YOU, they care about what is best, easiest, and simple for them. Duh.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Bond, James Bond.

Dean and I have returned from a fun holiday weekend with the family. Grandmammas turkey dinner was yummy as always, the girls beat the boys in charades; and the turkey hash the next day was even yummy again, and Georgia won a nail-biter of a football game over Georgia Tech.

The Thrasher clan also headed out to see Casino Royale. It may be the best Bond film ever. It was certainly the most riveting 144 minutes of movie I've seen in a while. None of that goofy go-go gadget arm invisible cars and such that populated recent films. The Bond girl isn't flat for once (character wise! she still has boobies!); Bond is gritty in a Steve McQueen kinda way; and Daniel Craig dispels any rumors that you need to be a brunette pretty boy to play James Bond. In fact, he's the second sexiest blond I've ever seen! teehee

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Monday, November 20, 2006


Dean and I bribed Gordo and family with half a dozen glazed donuts so we could check out their new Wii. Having now played the Nintendo, I predict the Wii will come out ahead in the console wars. I don't even have to play the PS3 orXbox 360. Despite the goofy name, the Wii is fun, cheap and accessable. Microsoft and Sony may battle it out for the "hard core gamer" crowd (males 18-35), but this Wii thing will be selling to the masses. Lots and lots of masses. And that includes the female masses. First, the Wii includes making your own "Mii", which is remarkably similar to The Sims, an already breakout hit with the ladies. Second, the controller looks just like a remote control - which makes it very accessable to the first time gamer. That and the entire thing is cute! This means the wii is gonna be a hit with just about everyone else under the age of 18 - and probably a few those 18-35 folks too. I mean face it, its just fun to jump around your living room. (though unfortunately, I'm too big to do somersaults on the couch like Ruben and Link.)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Change happens.

Dean and I both have strategy meetings going on this week, so we've both been thinking about corporate vision and strategy. Gordon sent over a great link to Survival is not enough by Seth Godin. I haven't read the book yet, but he makes some great points. Like most business books though, half the points are worthless; the rest are case studies. Good of Mr. Godin to bulletize his to book for me though, saves time.

Here is my even shorter synopsis of his short summary:

  • Change happens. Technology has caused change to happen faster than it used to.
  • Corporations that don't change, get defeated
  • Companies that introduce a different product to market quickly may find that they can create a 'runaway' success
  • People (bosses and employees) fear change. Change is different, and human instinct avoids differences, prefering habit. But not changing is actually worse. (ed note: See "Who Moved My Cheese")
  • Change presents opportunities for individuals, and for companies to grow
  • Companies need to have a culture of "Change equals opportunity" rather than "Change equals death" (or change equals risk?)
  • Companies should try to 'evolve'. Change is constant. Better to create a culture of change than to create a 'change plan'. A change plan is an oxymoron.
  • A company that has a culture of change, attracts individuals that seek change, opportunities, and new capabilities.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I'm published!

So my company now has a corporate blog, and my first article on it just went live! So without further ado, please visit TOWER Software and read my article about the importance of metadata.

Humans are fault tolerant.

Here's an autoblog thought from last night's dinner conversation*:

Dean: You know what most software gets wrong? Its not fault tolerant. Computers need perfection.
Paula: ... but humans are fault tolerant.
Dean: Yeah - exactly. You can flub your words, misspell, whatever, and humans figure it out. This is why people like google. I can type in micsrosoft and it still lists www.microsoft.com at the top of the search results.
Paula: That's also why I like google maps. I can type "Krispe Kreme, Washington DC" and Google finds me the nearest source of hot doughnuts. Mapquest has better directions, but I have to always type the street address... ok now tab to the city text box... crap, VA is at the bottom of the state dropdown box...it's too hard.
Dean: This is where everyone goes wrong in software design. They expect smart users. But people are dumb and lazy. That's why they prefer humans to machines. Humans are fault tolerant - computer software should be too.
* unfortunately, since autoblogger is still run by pet monkeys who type our conversation up, this is heavily paraphrased. Spelling and grammar errors are the fault of the monkey.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Speaking Too Soon

Two weeks ago, Gordon posted the sunniest column about the dreaded developer Death March I've ever read. It offers some great advice about how to survive a ridiculous project with crazy deadlines.

It was also written one day too soon.

My response is three weeks too late.

These facts are related.

Night Owls

I'm not a morning person. Neither is Paula, though she can fake it with enough coffee. A key attraction of our trip to Spain is that the country is populated entirely by night owls.

The daily rhythm of life in Spain apparently goes something like this:

8:00 am      Wake up
9:00 am      Eat breakfast
9:30-ish     Arrive at work
2:00 pm      Eat lunch
4:00 pm      Disappear
7:00 pm      Drinks and tapas
8:00 pm      Shopping
11:00 pm     Dinner
1:00 am      Bed?

So you can plan on four or five small meals scattered throughout the day, all served later than you might expect. This may be partly due to Spain being pretty far back in its time zone. It certainly stayed light very late when we were there in Sepetember.

Note that all times shown above are approximate. One of the striking things about Spain was the absence of clocks. It's hard to picture a British or German town without its large clock tower. In the United States and Canada, practically every bank has a scrolling sign that displays the time and temperature. But in Spain? It's not important. If you listen carefully, you might hear a church bell ringing, but that's done only to signify that time is passing, not what time it actually is.

Most shops don't list hours of operation. You can tell which ones that cater to tourists, because they bother to post small signs saying "Back soon". Don't take it literally. This may mean five minutes or two hours. The sign is just to reassure those with an overdeveloped sense of punctuality. Time, in Spain, just doesn't matter as much.

We found this totally relaxing, especially coming from America's uptight east coast. We're five hours behind London, darn it, which makes us five hours behind. And by golly, we'd better stay three hours ahead of those nuts in California. And that takes work. The planet doesn't turn itself, you know.

Speaking of relaxing, we were never able to figure out why all the shops and restaraunts closed around four or five pm. We used it for naptime. A siesta seemed appropriate, especially if we wanted to go all night. We're Night Owls, but we're a bit out of practice.

Spain is not Mexico

Travel is good mental exercise. It forces you to re-evaluate your assumptions about people and places. It also helps refine the way you look at home when you return.

One of the reasons why Paula and I picked Spain was that we each had a passing familiarity with the language. Of course, when I say "passing familiarity" I mean that we've driven past the endless billboards on Interstate 95. We've also consumed our fair share of tequila and nachos. We figured that we'd at least recognize enough words to get us fed, drunk, and to the nearest washroom.

We knew, of course, that Spain is not Mexico. But as much as we prepared ourselves for that, our brains were still buzzing from cognitive dissonance throughout the trip. Paula has relatives in San Diego and had visited Tijuana. I spent many holidays and an entire summer once with my relatives in Las Cruces, and have vivid impressions of Juarez.

It was worse for me than for Paula, I think. The part of Andalusia we visited reminded me very much of the American Southwest. It was, after all, where they filmed the Spaghetti Westerns. So while the language was similar, and the countryside and climate were familiar, everything else was dramatically different.

We were somewhat prepared for the food. We love tapas. It was one of the main reasons we chose to visit Spain. But it was strange to sit in restaurants, listening to the language and reading the menu, and knowing that there won't be a tortilla in sight. I don't believe we saw a single item containing corn on any menu, anywhere. Corn is native to the Americas, as was the potato, but while the potato was in evidence, corn was shockingly absent.

We were not prepared for the wealth of Spain. Our experience of Mexico is sadly limited to marginal border towns. It's hard to break the link between that and Spain, onetime ruler of the largest empire on earth, gateway to the wealth of the New World, and master of the seas through the Spanish Armada. One look at any of Spain's magnificent Cathedrals shows you that this was once the mightiest nation on earth.

Of course, we're comparing Madrid and Seville, present and former Spanish capitals, to shaky border towns in the hinterlands of Mexico. A comparison between Mexico City and Madrid might be more fair. But that was our experience, and probably one shared by quite a few Americans that visit.