8 Answers to the Question: Why do you bother?

I liked Andrew Garrett’s post¬†8 Answers to the Question: Why do you bother? I absolutely agree with his points, but wanted to add a couple of my own (only slightly serious):

  1. It gives me a chance to write (with words and everything), something I do not get to do as much as I would like in my “real” job. Writing is like anything else, if you do not do it often, does it ever get hard to do!
  2. Ego. I have opinions, thoughts, ideas. I have lots of them, on just about every subject. And of course I believe everyone should have the opportunity to hear them ūüôā .
  3. It gives me a place to write things so that I will not lose them. My stuff is all right there, and hopefully will stay there as long as I need it. I am notorious for writing down ideas and losing them (or not writing them down, and still losing them).
  4. It gives me a place to say things, when I cannot find anyone else to listen – and it does not creep people out as much as when I sit and talk to myself!
  5. It gives me a place to indulge my obsession with numbers and statistics, as I watch the counter move (ok, slowly), and try to find a correlation between tags and reader count.
  6. And finally, because it is still fun!.

Why No One Plays on CodePlex

In response to the post Microsoft’s Open Source Software is Junk? and the article which triggered it, I would like to offer a few comments:

  1. CodePlex is not “Microsoft’s Open Source Software”. CodePlex is a sandbox where¬†others can create open source software based on the¬†Microsoft platform(s).¬†
  2. To say there are no interesting projects on CodePlex¬†is something of an exaggeration. To say that¬†it is “all junk” is just a sensationalistic headline trying to suck in readers.¬†That said, much of the more interesting stuff actually comes from Microsoft’s Patterns and Practices group (such as the Enterprise Library), and so open source zealots do not recognize it. I would agree that there are few, if any, mature projects there which did not originate inside Microsoft.
  3. Do people not enjoy developing in .NET? Well, given the number of people using it, I would say many do enjoy developing using .NET (and no, they are not all Microsoft cronies, and they are not all forced to by evil, imperialistic employers). 
  4. While there are few mature .NET projects on CodePlex, that does NOT mean open source project based on .NET do not exist. Look around SourceForge. There are a lot of successful, valuable projects there based on the .NET platform.
  5. Look at the profile of the typical open source developer. Typically, they are coming from a very anti-Microsoft state of mind. Given that, they are not likely to develop their great idea on the .NET platform (even if it would be an ideal platform for it – they are making emotional and philosophical decisions, not technical ones). Even if they can bring themselves to use a Microsoft platform, they are definitely not going to host that project on a Microsoft-controlled site, where the evil empire could steal their radically brilliant work.
  6. Until relatively recently, there were no Microsoft-supplied free tools to develop on .NET (there have been a couple of open source tools, such as #develop, which is of course hosted on SourceForge). Open source developers are even less likely to pay Microsoft for the privilege of developing on .NET.
  7. Look at the life cycle of “successful” open source projects. Apache and Linux have been around for a very long time. Of course they are going to be much more mature than anything on the .NET side (though I am not sure many open source projects in any context will have the level of success these have had). FireFox hardly started from scratch, but from a large code-base of pre-existing code. A significant advantage. If Microsoft were to open source IE, you might see a big jump in open source browser development over top of it (though I doubt it, given point (4)).
  8. The existence of successful open source projects (again, leaving aside Apache and Linux) is largely a by product of having lots of open source projects. It is like ideas, the more you have of them, the more likely you might have a good one. There are not enough open source projects on .NET to have that “critical mass”, and given point (4), there may never be.

Microsoft Unveils New Linux Hate Site?

The post Microsoft Unveils New Linux Hate Site,¬†refers to¬†Microsoft’s replacement for their “Get the Facts” site as a “Linux Hate¬†Site”. I saw the same comment on Digg a couple of days ago.

What are these people smoking? Where on that site is there anything “hateful” about Linux. Microsoft¬†is a commercial software organization. They sell operating system software, including¬†some for servers. They consider Linux to be competition. Hence, they have content which compares their products to their competition (Linux, mainframes, etc.). In¬†typical marketing fashion, their site shows that their products are better than the competition. It would be sort of stupid to do otherwise.

How is this different than the marketing efforts of pretty much every other commercial organization in the world?

I also noticed a rant¬†in a comment on Digg about how badly designed the page was, because the person making the comment could not find the so-called “comparison”. I think¬†the tabs along the top point to the comparison pretty clearly, as does the big piece of white text on bright orange background that says “Find out how Windows Server compares to Linux ->”.

The point I am trying to make here is that the Linux community damages its own cause by making meaningless, fact-deprived statements. Stop ranting about MS and do something useful.   

Snipping Tool in Vista

This is a nice post about the Snipping Tool in Vista. I really, really liked the design of the snipping tool that was pat of the Tablet PC Experience Pack on Windows XP. Unfortunately, I cannot show a picture, because I am not running Windows XP anywhere, but the UI while in snipping mode was very nice, with a semi-circular menu docked to the bottom of the sceen with you snipping options.

Oh well – nice post anyway.

But I want to be Disruptive!

I have spent a great deal of time over the last couple of years thinking about the process of innovation, different types of innovation, and how to innovate in a small but established organization versus a startup organization. I was reading Innovator‚Äôs Dilemmas: Do You Really Need To Be Disruptive?¬†over on consultaglobal¬†this weekend, and got to comparing some of¬†Jose’s thoughts with work I have done in the last year.

As Jose says in that post, he is more interested in the process of defining a product roadmap in terms of gradual innovation, and in managing product portfolios. We have been very successful with this type of innovation, having a strong product management process for our existing product suite. In my role, I have been more interested in how we do larger scale innovation – how do we come up with the innovations now which are going to drive our growth 2+ years from now?

I have defined an innovation cycle as shown below.

image

Recognizing that disruptive innovation is, well, disruptive, as this cycle is traveled counter-clockwise starting from the upper right, we go from a high-chaos, low-process environment to progressively higher process and lower chaos.

In this model, the upper right quadrant represents what we are really good at, evolutionary innovation driven by product management.  The upper right quadrant represents the starting point Рthe idea generation engine. This is traditionally a hit and miss process of collecting ideas from various parts of the organization (or just a few people), and trying to pick which ones to invest time and money in. It is my belief that this activity can be wrapped in a process without destroying the creativity needed to really come up with ideas. Among the activities I consider important in this quadrant are:

  • Establish some context for innovation (see this earlier post)
  • Get ideas from everybody, not just R&D or Product Management
  • Get out and talk to customers
  • Involve your staff who are in front of customers, especially professional services people if you have them
  • Engage in structured/facilitated brainstorming with groups from various cross-sections of your company
  • Know how you are going evaluate ideas and decide which ones to investigate more deeply

The last point is important Рit is no use having lots of ideas if you have no way to evaluate them. No organization can go deep on all the ideas generated, and a small organization can only really attack a couple. See this earlier post for my thoughts on using the Needs, Approach, Benefits, Competition (NABC) approach. At the end of this stage, and ideas should have a reasonable Needs definition, with a rough indication of the other three categories.

The next quadrant is what I have called Play. This is where ideas which survive the evaluation in the Ideas stage and start to play with them, flesh them out, create prototypes, and generally move the NABC definition forward. Early in this phase, the Approach needs to be clarified, while the Needs are evaluated more deeply.  Later in this stage, if a viable Approach is identified, and the Needs continue to make sense, then the Benefits and Competition need to be addressed (note that in reality, it is never anywhere near this linear, but this is for the benefit of description). By the end of this stage, we should be able to present a fairly strong value proposition for those ideas which have survived the process.

The next stage is to Build the products (ok, probably only one) for which the value proposition seems best. I will not get into the build process, except to say that the NABC analysis should be kept at the forefront throughout the process, and not be afraid to make hard decisions if things stop making sense.

The final stage is the Evolution stage, where the product moves into the incremental, evolutionary development cycle of a completed product. Note that for a new product, there may be some iteration between Build and Evolve.

Finally, the cycle is closed by having ideas from ongoing product evolution feed back into the Ideas stage.

So, is it ever this neat and clean and linear? Well, no. But that does not mean it is not valuable to have a model which you at least pretend you are following!

GigaOM Web Innovators Group: Boston Startups Come Out & Present ¬ę

I noticed this over on GigaOM GigaOM Web Innovators Group: Boston Startups Come Out & Present ¬ę. I noticed that a company called frevvo. This company was founded by a gorup of people I have worked with in the past. They have some cool technology that is worth checking out (I would describe it, but hey, go look for yourself!)