CityDesk Users: There's nothing worse than upgrading to a supposed "bug fix" release that makes your stuff stop working...
TechInterview: "I have a black triangle, a white triangle, a black circle and a white circle..."
These classic problems are reported in [Shafir 1994]. Read it if you can get your hands on it. The interesting thing for us as programmers is that certain types of logical thinking are inherently hard. In particular, most people will stop working through a problem when they get to a disjunction, that is, a point on the decision tree where you need more information. This becomes especially interesting when you don't actually need the information because the result would be the same in any case. But there is something that makes most people unwilling to go past uncertainty points in problem solving anyway. Good programmers usually overcome this problem. It's a critical skill in debugging -- we don't want to waste time investigating areas that could not possibly cause the bug. This might be one of those interesting brain-properties that distinguishes great programmers from everyone else.
Shafir, Eldar. (1994): Uncertainty and the difficulty of thinking through disjunctions. Cognition, 50, 403-430. (Reprinted in J. Mehler & S. Franck (Eds.), Cognition on Cognition, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995.)
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Now that ArsDigita is gone, I think we can officially declare the Internet Exuberance era, which opened with Travels with Samantha, officially closed. Even though the tendency is to blame it on the VCs, who replaced an exciting, charismatic and visionary founder with grey, grey, grey, the truth is that the Internet consulting market was totally wiped out more than a year ago and there's no reason for AD to have been exempted. Fog Creek only survived because we started the company late enough in the game that we never had time to build much of a consulting business, and we never open sourced the crown jewels so we had something to sell.
By the way, have you noticed how often companies officially sell themselves off (probably for pennies) rather than simply liquidate? That's just to make the executives' bios look better. They can say on their resume, "I was the CxO of ArsDigita which was later sold to Red Hat" instead of saying "I managed to turn $40 million of VC and a profitable company into a heaping pile of mineral-encrusted fish tanks." Red Hat is a part of the Greylock Keiretsu, too.
And even though nobody ever got the Ferrari, it sure made a big splash, didn't it.
TV: Oops, they forgot to tell me that they actually wanted me to be in San Francisco for this interview. So it will be rescheduled. Whew!
"I don't know what's wrong with my development team," the CEO thinks to himself. "Things were going so well when we started this project. For the first couple of weeks, the team cranked like crazy and got a great prototype working. But since then, things seem to have slowed to a crawl. They're just not working hard any more." He chooses a Callaway Titanium Driver and sends the caddy to fetch an ice-cold lemonade. "Maybe if I fire a couple of laggards that'll light a fire under them!"
Ev reviews UI for Programmers. Thanks!
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