September 25, 2007

Re: Backpack

Having listened to Jason Fried as he speaks about the process they use at 37signals:

I couldn't agree more to nearly all of his points. Also while listening to it, I had this associaction of the process with nothing but Brownian motion.

See, Jason essentially suggests that you have a small team of positive people in a small and lightweight cart and then allow every single individual product user push it in whichever direction he or she feels appropriate. A single user's push may not matter much, but if many of them push in the same direction, the cart moves. Then, this ease of feedback will also encourage the users to push more.

There are many other fine points in his speech and so I would definetely recommend to listen to it. Anyhow, here is a few other thoughts.

For one, the word "architecture" doesn't come up, but I do believe in architectures. Although architecture wouldn't emerge from the process outlined above, I thought that it would still present at the end, as one of the artifacts Jason calls "embraced constraints". These are restrictions that you enforce on your project in pursuit for optimal solutions. And architecture is just that.

For two, the described process is perfect for exactly this particular niche - web-based collaboration-like projects open for mass public access. It wouldn't work in many other cases, for example, if you build a project which you target towards big companies. Or, if the audience is too few, so that there is not enough user mass to push the cart.

For three, it seems logical to me that such brownian motion wouldn't last forever, the project trajectory would converge to some ideal point. And having such ideal point in mind from day one may be beneficial.

Otherwise, there was may be one thing that I don't agree with, and even that was minor and taken out of the context, it's when Jason says "get rid of boxes and arrows". While he probably meant functional diagrams in the context of the speech, getting rid of my favourite boxes and arrows feels scary. I would never give up such powerful mental instruments as boxes and arrows.

Overall, a great speech.

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