Innovation through the destruction

NO DUMPINGI’ve been thinking a lot about innovation and actually trying to do some of it myself lately, while developing reBlogger. What just struck me the other day is that most people think about innovation as making more and more stuff. On the web it translates in building more features.

Now, what if we reverse this process? It’s something that’s been done for decades by your high school literature teachers. Remember those essays you wrote and the teacher was just nodding and crossing whole sentences with red pen? “This is unnecessary…”, “make this sentence shorter/simpler…”, “good point, but cut to the chase…” This is also something preached by marketing gurus. These guys can’t stop repeating: Focus! Focus! Focus damn it!

So what I’m suggesting here is, instead of looking at the web application and trying to think what “cool” features could you slap on it, try to see what is really the main thing that application does, than isolate that and remove all the clutter. Think of how someone simplified 90’s style personal website and reduced them to what they really are about : content, regular content. So now we have blogs… Most of you probably still remember Tripod. Remember all that junk you could put on your web site : polls, forums, email forms, the ever popular random images, add to favourites, tell a friend…. So turns out, all people really care about is what you have to say. To be fair, Tripod today is trying to catch up so they offer you to make a website or “tell-all blog” whatever that may be. They don’t brag on the homepage with the huge variety of junk you can use to clutter your personal web site.

So basically, time is money, time is expensive… perhaps people care a lot more about saving themselves 30 mins while working with your application, than they care about the vast number of features. Here is my personal experience : Outlook had TO DO feature longer then I had facial hair, so they should be able and experienced to make a to do app, right? On the other hand I use TADA list… because I don’t need email client, I don’t need a calendar, and I definetly don’t need clippy – or whatever the name was of that annoying cartoon that appeared whenever you turned on office!

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Today I’ve started to use Technorati!

No, it’s not that it’s the first time I’ve stumbled accross Technorati, but as I said I started to use it today. A large chunk of my daily work is tightly connected to blogs, but the previous Technorati design / layout / information display call it whatever you like, always made me nervous. The feeling was quite similar to that one you have if you jaywalk the streets of Istanbul. So many things to look at… It’s 7 am, I’ve just managed to make the first cup of coffee and want to read stuff… I don’t want to think, nor do I want to make decesions.

So anyway, today I wanted to write a post about terrible design, so I went over to technorati to get some inspiration, and found a new design. whoaaaah! Simple, cool, great…

So, few things to learn from this. Technorati did not become any more powerful than it used to be (“currently tracking 49.4 million blogs”), it did not introduce some cool new features (it actually cut some if I remember correctly), it ditched tons of content that used to be there… and got at least one new user, though I presume bunch of people will like it very much.

I know it’s a phrase, but really… keep it simple. People are too tired from their own work, their problems, sleep of deprivation. The last thing they want is to read the manual for your web application or site.

Now, this is something to keep in mind while going back to code some more of reBlogger 4 🙂

The Sorrows of Young Werther

So, after spending a great deal of time on reBlogger 4 development, it’s time to do a little recap.

When we decided we’ll make this RB 4.0 and use the full potential of asp.net 2.0 we found that it’s hard to make only one little thing and then release it because it needs 20 other things before it to be done. For example if we want people to give ability to drag and drop stuff, we need web parts, if we want web parts, we need .net 2 membership provider and so on…

The ambitious plan to create a social news software that can be modified by almost anyone (with no programming knowledge) proved to be even harder than it sounds…

We had a tons of problems with making themes, web parts, master pages and atlas work together nicely and in a civilized manner. But that’s coming along… and we’ve learned a whole lot about all this stuff.

In case, you’d like to read about our discoveries while developing, please read the codingatlas.wordpress.com

We’ve made bunch of prototype features along the way sitting on our hard drives, so I hope at some point in the time that we’ll become part of reBlogger as well (hover comment system, to name one).

However, I’m proud to announce that we will have an alpha version done in next 10 days, and from then we’ll be stabilising the system.