Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Trouble with Dog Food

Eating your own dog food is a popular practice in the software industry. It's a good idea, but like all good ideas it can be taken to harmful extremes. With that in mind, a few thoughts about the dark side of dog food:
  • The more a developer uses the product the more comfortable they'll make that product for themselves. This is great if the developer is representative of the target user, but a problem if they're not. The thing is, they're more often not.
  • Extreme dogfooding, where you use your own products to the exclusion of all others, gives you a warped perspective on the market. You should be familiar with all of the products in your space, and you should use the ones you like the best. . . After all, that's what your customers will do. Anything else is just lying to yourself. There's a fine line between eating your own dog food and drinking your own Kool-Aid.
  • In a large company with multiple teams, remember it's only eating your own dog food when it's the product you're working on. When you're not in control of the product in question, then all you're doing is beta testing.
So go ahead and eat your own dog food, but make sure it's part of a balanced meal, and remember that it's no substitute for actually paying attention to your real users.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Movie Tagging

So, while watching the video stream on FireAnt I ran across this version of the original Planet of the Apes with everything cut out except Charlton Heston talking. Turns out that makes the movie only 15 minutes long, an interesting snapshot of a classic film I'd heard plenty about but never actually seen. As a bonus, now I know where the quotes in Transglobal Underground's "Thousand Year Heat" come from.

Anyway, it got me to thinking it would be neat to be able to do that with any movie - zero in on a particular actor or type of content. It would be easy enough to make a movie player that could do so, given the right data. All we need is a file format (presumably XML-based) that allows one to attach tags to times and specify what movie it's for. Create a database for these files and let people have at it, Wikipedia-style. In addition to chopping movies up, these new data tracks could be used for all sorts of things: subtitles, trivia, where-to-buy information for all that darn product placement, etc. It's like the whole DIY movie commentary thing but, like, more so.

Now we just need someone to build it.

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And the race is on!

Sweden plans to be off oil by 2020, 30 years ahead of Iceland. Let's see what country can top that!

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Renewable Energy Race

In response to my previous post, Richard says:
How about mounting a national/international effort on the scale of the Space Race, Marshall Plan, etc to apply the latest technology to drilling large tunnels into the mantle and tapping this resource? In places along the Cascadia Zone and others where there are live volcanos, one wouldn't even need to go that far down. I'd think that a modest capital investment, say on the order of 10% of the US military budget, might be sufficient to create a breakthrough and prime such a new energy marketplace. Now that I mention it, I can't imagine any more effective defensive use of the "defense" budget...
Indeed, it's serious business. . . Countries with reliable renewable energy sources (geothermal or otherwise) are going to have a major economic advantage over everyone else when the oil runs out. That's got to be worth something!