Blog as a Research Tool for a Future Software Product

This blog came to be because of something Dharmesh Shah said about launching a product at the Business of Software 2008 conference.

And because of something Steve Yegge said about blogging.

And because I always wanted to write about something. Web development business stuff, for example. Not just to write, but to start a public conversation, to learn from others, and maybe help create something wonderful and profitable along the way - something like a web application.

I have a simple plan, but first a short story.

Our web development company recently made a quantum leap in the development process. I definitely plan to write about that a lot in the future, but for now, I’ll wrap it up in one sentence:

We used to suck big time at writing good code. We changed stuff, and now we suck a lot less, getting better every day.

Better development process allowed us to concentrate on other areas of our business. Maybe we must change other processes as well to gain even more advantage? It’s no secret that there’s a ton of expensive, time-sucking overhead work lying around all over the company. I knew that for years - I created most of it. A snowflake of overhead is born as soon as the sales rep picks up the phone. It grows and grows until it mutates into an avalanche of information, data and tedious tasks. The simplest human error can fail the whole project. Being the project manager in the company, I am not amused by that.

Luckily, there’s a good chance that a piece of software can solve a lot of our problems with overhead. I was extremely excited by that revelation.

We decided to develop that piece of software in-house. However, months will pass until we have something to show for, so I started wondering:

  • How can we be sure that we are not building the wrong thing that is gonna make our processes even worse?
  • What’s business like in other web dev companies?
  • Is there a market for an application like this?

Back to Dharmesh and his amazing talk. Why not write a blog about writing an app, before it’s done? While I’m writing about that, why not write about the whole web dev business? It’s essential to get any kind of feedback, as soon as possible. I could share my knowledge with my peers, and learn from them. We could make each others’ businesses better. If the end result of all this conversation happens to be an application that others would consider using and buying, we all win.

I can’t promise we are ever going to release this application as a product. Somewhere along the way, we might learn that it’s not even smart to create it, let alone to sell it. I’ll be perfectly happy if this blog saves us weeks and months of hard work on a project that can never be successful. But let’s talk what makes us happy as web development companies, and what makes us miserable. Where can we be more efficient, and where can a piece of software enhance our day-to-day activities? Are there tasks that should never be automated, and why?

So, this is my simple plan:

  • Write about web development business,
  • share my knowledge and hard-learned lessons about our processes, daily routines and development,
  • get early feedback and knowledge from blog readers,
  • implement that feedback into the application,
  • find out if people would want to buy that application,
  • decide whether we want to make it a product or not,
  • have fun!

One final thought for this first post: Blogging in a foreign language is hard, even if you’re good at speaking it.

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