Posts Tagged ‘melanchology’
One of my best kept secrets is that in a previous life, I was involved in the dirty business of journalism. Together with two friends I wrote for and edited the gossip bi/tri-weekly in our primary school class.
Every couple of weeks (we promised it would be every fortnight, but that was too ambitious) for about two years we would gather roughly 5 or 6 paragraphs of gossip, interviews and other interesting tidbits of information, and arrange it neatly on two sheets of A4 paper. After photocopying all of this on the school copier we would then distribute it among our subscribers. A subscription was 25 cents per edition (each page copy was 10 cents, the 5 cents extra per subscriber was used for overhead). The majority of our class was subscribed. Years later we found out that a fair number of parents also read us because their children would bring the paper home.
After a recent evening in the pub together we dug up our archives. It’s amazing to see how much business sense and creativity we had as 11-year-olds. That said, the quality of the writing is appalling, most of the articles are as short as one or two paragraphs and the spelling makes me cry.
The stories we ran were mostly interviews with classmates and teachers, comments on general human behaviour, news related to the school and general gossip about which girls liked which boys and vice verse (unlike most gossip papers we would usually check before publishing something). One of the more daring pieces talks about the legality of one of the games we played in the weekly gym class. Apparently (or so we had heard) it was very dangerous and outlawed, but we didn’t actually bother to check whether that was actually the case.
There it is. Time to call it quits. For more than half a dozen years we did everything we could to make our product a success, to get it some momentum. I sunk tens of thousands of hours into it, and my coworkers did the same.
It was slowly becoming obvious what was happening, demise is a gradual process. It has been frustrating to see one of the competing products thrive and eventually overshadow ours (and others). For a while, we had the hope that we would catch up, that something would turn the tide, but it’s as if the moon can no longer be bothered.
It’s not like we haven’t accomplish anything. We have thousands of happy users, and most of them will probably stay around for awhile yet. But the adoption hasn’t been what we were hoping for. I’m sad about it, and obviously disappointed. But it’s not the end of the world.
We experimented. Sometimes with success, sometimes not. We made mistakes. Some mattered, others did not. I learned heaps. We had a lot of fun. It was a true privilege to work with some amazing people. And hey, at least we tried.
It sounds dramatical, but it’s the end of an era. Time to relax, find new adventures and see if it is possible to make a dent elsewhere.
The technology world is a weird place. Popular technology in a particular (large enough) market can come and go at an amazing pace. What was new, exciting and a possible contender for world domination half a decade ago can look ill-designed, irrelevant and legacy by now. Most things will simmer for a while after they’ve had their peak, but they won’t pick up many new adopters. Software releases go stale almost as quickly as yesterday’s lunch.
Creating a successful product is about so much more than having well-designed technology. Even the free software world is not a meritocracy, though it’s probably closer than the proprietary software world. Perception matters. Timing matters.
I started out in the technology world thinking that I could make the most impact by just writing a lot of great code. Now, having seen the evolution of various free software projects over the last 15 years it all seems very temporary. Like a time lapse, I have seen code being written and then gradually replaced until there is nothing left of the original, effectively replaced by something else entirely. And there is so much more that matters than just the code.
It’s not like we’re only making the same mistakes all over again and again. The world’s overall knowledge is moving ahead bit by bit. Each piece of software is just a another progression, another dent. But it seems now there are so much more ways to be a part of that process than just writing perfect code.
Today I feel a slightly more like a scientist and slightly less like an engineer than I did yesterday.