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Fri 29 Oct 2004

The Developer's Mac

Category : Technology/devTalk.txt

"Time is a jet plane, it moves too fast". So sang Bob Dylan on Blood On The Tracks. And I've got blood splattered all over my brain reading Mark Bowden's un-put-downable "Black Hawk Down", which I've reluctantly set aside just to get some work done.

Last week, at this time, I was wrapping up my stuff after doing the presentation at Apple WWDR (Asia)'s Mac OS X Development Seminar.

Leon Chen's put the photos from the seminar up on his .Mac page. It was pretty warm where I was standing and I think I looked a wreck. But I enjoyed it all the same. To think that I was once so shy, I'd die every time I had to get up and say something in class. But I was forced to overcome it when I was made an instructor while in the Army, and that was the best thing I ever got out of doing National Service.

Just one thing I forgot to mention during the talk, and I'd like to address it here. I was showing a series of demos based on the hostel system that we did, below, and I covered the variety of technologies that we exploited:

And the thing that may have crossed a person's mind, who's currently doing the same on the PC, is "So what?". And I wished I had stopped a while to address that.

I think the point I'd like to make is that we're really in the business of helping people understand information. That was the point of the demo - that we could tell a story from the point of view of a person booking a hostel bed, and of the person whose job is to operate the hostel, and of the owner of the hostel. The system proceeds to provide information from all three angles, so that the work could be coordinated. And that's why we have a system - to help people work better.

Now, it's very difficult to go a person, whose head is stuck in DLL hell, and ask, "Say, do you know what business we're in? Like, you know, the way Revlon knows that it's not simply in the business of making cosmetics" What business are we really in? It's like having someone coming to you and ask, "Do you know the true meaning of Christmas?" You'll say, "Go away, I've got to get this machine fixed and get back to doing some coding".

Now, if you could provide your programmers with tools that will just snap on and work, like the Mac, then you could go, "Now, do I have your attention? What else do you really need to do? So can I ask now, what's really going on here? What story are you telling your users? Can they understand it? And why does it matter?"

The tools that we use do shape what we are, what our priorities are, and what we care for. If we want to work like a craftsman, where we're told people enjoy using our products, then we've got to choose our tools carefully, and make sure we understand what we're really doing. And why we're doing it.

We're really in the business of helping people understand information better, through cutting away at complexity, and making the difficult things understandable. But we can't do that if we're always quarelling with our tools, or spending most of our time feeding it, or worse, intentionally complexifying things in the hope that that will protect our "marketability". In our age of the Internet, the truth will come out sooner rather than later.

Posted at 11:11AM UTC | permalink


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