Archive for April 2008

Fire and motion, small business edition 09 Apr

“If the flight attendants on the JAL 747 from Tokyo I'm on right now were to, in a remarkable lapse of Japanese standards of service, throw me off the plane with a parachute, I could do a pretty nice roll when I hit the ground.”

From my Inc. Magazine column for April (subscribe here). And with that, I promise to stop telling shaggy dog stories about my days in the army.

First Joel on Software conference 14 Apr

Registration is now open for Business of Software 2008 (the first ever Joel on Software conference). Neil has lined up great speakers:

  1. Seth Godin, Business Week's "Ultimate Entrepreneur for the Information Age", is the best-selling author of 7 books (including Permission Marketing and Purple Cow) as well as the most popular eBook of all time.
  2. Eric Sink, founder of SourceGear, author of "Eric Sink on the Business of Software" and the person who coined the term "Micro ISV"
  3. Steve Johnson of Pragmatic Marketing and winner of last year's Software Idol competition
  4. Richard Stallman launched the development of the GNU operating system, now used on tens of millions of computers today. Stallman has received the ACM Grace Hopper Award, a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Pioneer award, and the the Takeda Award for Social/Economic Betterment
  5. Paul Kenny is one of the UK's top sales trainers, consultants and speakers. He has worked with many customers in three continents, including IBM, Perot Systems, The Guardian and tens of others.
  6. Dharmesh Shah is a geek, serial entrepreneur, founder of HubSpot and blogger at OnStartups.com
  7. Jessica Livingston is author of Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days and a founder of Y Combinator
  8. Jason Fried is founder of 37signals (developers of Basecamp and Ruby on Rails) and Signal vs Noise blogger
  9. Joel Spolsky, aka, "me," noted DJ, has over 600 karma points on the social news site "Reddit."

BoS2008 is in BOSton, September 3-4. Boston is absolutely beautiful in September. The weather is usually perfect. You can go kayaking on the Charles or take the duck tour if you're unambitious. Over 250,000 college students have just arrived, full of completely unjustifiable hope and optimism. The summer tourist crowd has mostly gone home so you can get into museums and historical sites. There are plenty of coffee shops that aren't NASDAQ-listed.

stackoverflow.com 16 Apr

What is stackoverflow.com?

Nothing, yet.

But here's the concept:

Programmers seem to have stopped reading books. The market for books on programming topics is miniscule compared to the number of working programmers.

Instead, they happily program away, using trial-and-error. When they can't figure something out, they type a question into Google.

And sometimes, the first result looks like it's going to have the answer to their exact question, and they are excited, until they click on the link, and discover that it's a pay site, and the answer is cloaked or hidden or behind a pay-wall, and you have to buy a membership.

And you won't even get an expert answer. You'll get a bunch of responses typed by other programmers like you. Some of the responses will be wrong, some will be right, some may be out of date, and it's hard to imagine that with the cooperative spirit of the internet this is the best thing we programmers have come up with.

Jeff Atwood and I decided to do something about it. We're starting to build a programming Q&A site that's free. Free to ask questions, free to answer questions, free to read, free to index, built with plain old HTML, no fake rot13 text on the home page, no scammy google-cloaking tactics, no salespeople, no JavaScript windows dropping down in front of the answer asking for $12.95 to go away. You can register if you want to collect karma and win valuable flair that will appear next to your name, but otherwise, it's just free.

When I'm building a new product, my policy has always been to keep quiet about it until I have something to ship. But this isn't really a product. This is a free new community site for programmers around the world and we need your help to design it, to program it, and to build it. We want to hear your suggestions, hear your ideas, and we're going to build it right in front of your eyes. Thus, the vaporware announcement.

Every week, Jeff and I talk by phone (he's in California, I'm in New York), and we're going to record those phone calls and throw them up on the web for you to listen in on, and call it a podcast. We have a lot of trouble keeping on topic, so the podcast may be interesting to you even if you don't want to hear about stackoverflow.com. The first episode is up right now. Eventually I imagine we'll figure out this newfangled "RSS" technology and you'll be able to actually subscribe and get fresh episodes delivered into your ears automatically. All in good time.

Jeff's Announcement

PS I'm still CEO of Fog Creek full time. StackOverflow.com is a joint venture between Fog Creek and Jeff Atwood. He's the full time CEO which means he's calling the shots. I'm sort of a consultant on this one.

Stack Overflow Podcast #2 22 Apr

The next podcast is up. Today we talked about why we're doing a podcast in the first place, took some questions/suggestions from listeners, and got into a fight over whether programmers should learn C. Guess which side I took.

There are some improvements, already.

First, there's an RSS feed, so you can subscribe and get each weekly podcast pushed to you. Here's how you would subscribe using Apple iTunes, for example:

  1. Run iTunes
  2. Choose Advanced | Subscribe to Podcast
  3. Paste in this URL: http://blog.stackoverflow.com/index.php?feed=podcast
  4. There is no step 4.

Now, depending on your settings (under Podcasts in Preferences), iTunes will download the latest podcasts and put them on your iPod when you dock it. You don't have to do anything special. I'm not going to post here every time there's a new podcast; you'll have to subscribe.

A couple of people volunteered to help by typing up transcripts for the hearing-impaired, the pressed-for-time, and search engines. That's a great idea! I opened up a wiki where anyone can contribute to the weekly transcript. If you can spare a few minutes to transcribe even a part of the podcast, that would be greatly appreciated by the many readers for whom an audio podcast is inaccessible.

Jeff has a new blog for the podcast at http://blog.stackoverflow.com/ where the podcasts are posted. You can subscribe to that using a normal RSS reader and see the show notes, links to things we mentioned during the podcast, and there will be comments links for discussion.

If you have any comments, ideas, or suggestions record a short MP3 and email it to podcast@stackoverflow.com. If you don't have the equipment to record an MP3, check out blogtalkradio to find a shockingly easy way to do it with a phone.

I've been working on a way to improve the audio quality. I don't want to make any promises, but next week we'll try to do the show using Skype to get better-than-POTS voice quality.

 

 

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