Archive for December 2002

2002/12/11 11 Dec

Lord Palmerston: "The Schleswig-Holstein question is so complicated, only three men in Europe have ever understood it. One was Prince Albert, who is dead. The second was a German professor who became mad. I am the third and I have forgotten all about it." Programming has gotten too hard.

2002/12/24 24 Dec

Planning for 2003

It has gotten supernaturally quiet. Everyone but me is on vacation, for some reason. Here's a look ahead at some of the things that Fog Creek Software, and Joel on Software, will be doing next year.

Programmer's Paradise is one of the largest mail-order retailers of computer software, and they're trying to make their catalog more interesting by including feature articles of interest to software developers. So over the next year, I'll be writing a monthly column for them: the first printed version of Joel on Software. The best way to make sure you don't miss an article is to subscribe to the printed catalog, it's free (unfortunately, they only sell to North America, so the catalog is only available if you have a mailing address in the US or Canada).

Of course, I'll publish articles here too. I think I've already told you everything I know, so most of what I'll write about during 2003 will be rampant speculation, disguised as hard facts! The best way to avoid missing any new articles is to sign up for the mailing list (at the bottom of any page on the site). This results in one or two emails a month when there's significant new content on the site, and zero spam.

I've been working on a second book. The first book I wrote was an expansion on all the user interface design stuff on this site; it consisted of about 50% more material than the site itself. The second book, now under construction, was intended to include all the management stuff (basically, everything else on this site). As I cut and paste articles I'm discovering that I've learned a lot over time and some of the older articles need some revision. So it's taking longer to get this book out than I expected. But I hope it happens in 2003.

Early next year, I'm going to move the Joel on Software web server to a new home. I've ordered a new server from Dell (it will be a 2U rackmount Xeon with dual RAID-1 drives), and the Canadian networking company Peer 1 Networks has graciously offered to provide colocation space and bandwidth for free. If you need colocation or Internet connectivity, consider Peer 1 (and tell them I sent you!). I'll write more about this when I install everything.

The townhouse where Fog Creek has its offices will be undergoing renovation, so we're looking for new office space. Our goals: easy commute to the Upper West Side (of New York City), windowed private offices (not easy to find in this city), and cool. I don't have a technical description of cool. "I know it when I see it." Real estate people keep showing me these interior offices that are completely closed off, without even a view of windows in the distance. I ask them how they would feel about living in an apartment where the bedroom didn't have a window. "You would freak out, right?" And that's for a room you're going to sleep in, at night. For a room where you spend the day it's obviously non-negotiable.

The most important goal for us as a software company next year is to ship a series of new releases of CityDesk. The primary goal is to provide answers to the people who have said to us: "I like CityDesk, but I can't use it for my application because x." For example: "I like CityDesk, but my site appears in Japanese and English, and there are a few places where CityDesk doesn't preserve Unicode properly." Or, "I like CityDesk, but I need more flexibility in scripting so that I can do x, y, and z with my site automatically." Overcoming these x's is the easiest way to improve sales. The great thing about having customers and listening to them is that we get this kind of information, and we don't have to speculate about what features would be neat,
and we don't do things just because some programmer thinks they would be fun. Read Strategy Letter III to see what I mean. (By the way, we've already got a Unicode version of CityDesk "in the lab" which is how I publish all the translations, but it's not quite ready for prime time.)

It's no secret that the direction FogBUGZ is going is to become a better tool for communicating with customers. It's already the best way for a small team or company to handle incoming email, and we're getting more and more non-programming customers who simply use it to make sure customer email gets handled by the right person. But the other thing I'd like to see happen with FogBUGZ is to commoditize our complements. We can do this by making sure it works with more databases, especially open source ones, instead of requiring Microsoft SQL Server, which costs an arm and a leg. (Actually the current version also works with Microsoft Jet, which is free, but can wheeze with large bug databases.) In the other direction, FogBUGZ needs to handle more of the development process: schedules, specs, etc.

Anyway, thanks for reading Joel on Software, and have a great new year.

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