Thursday, October 07, 2004

Scoble Gets Bashed for Asking a valuable Question

Once again proving that the biggest barn in the yard gets the most crap thrown at it, Scoble asks a very basic question "What's your product's philosophy?" and the comments thrown back at him are almost like flame wars on old bulletin boards.

Hey - Scoble's job is as evangelist and he carries it off well. But his blog is his own opinion.

I'm sure asking the philosophy question stumps a lot of product groups. If it's happening at MS, that's frightening because it shows how few of them are still practicing MSF (where's Jim McCarthy when you need him?)

The founding premise of MSF is that when you start a project, you identify a VISION for it. Guess what? That Vision should form the philosophy behind it. It drives everything about the product and makes it very easy to separate what's critical for the product and what's not.

While I'm sure many people will find humour in some "versions" of MS Product philosophies - IE's philosophy (from one commenter) must be (paraphrased) - "screw the standards".

But I think in comparison to Excel's original philosophy ("to build the best spreadsheet ever"), there is a lack of direction in some of MS' products.

The down side of asking that question is that it requires a lot of self-reflection and honestly, too much self-reflection can be a bad thing. One company I work with has had more than three "reflection" type meetings in a period of 5 years. Hey - if you have to think about and define the "focus" of the company 3 times in 5 years, someone needs to start leading the company, instead of letting it drift aimlessly.

The Wiki has a very straight forward direction as espoused at the bottom of the page: a low-impedance, fat-free VisualFoxPro site. Is that its philosophy? Probably not - but that one guiding direction helps direct what is on the site. Steve Black (and his merry band of editors) have done a great job ensuring that the focus stays on.

Call it philosophy, call it vision, call it whatever. If your product (or company) doesn't have one that everyone can rally behind - then either GET ONE or doom yourself to eventual failure. Personally, I think every VERSION of a product should have its underlying goal as well that fits in with the version.

Consider Visual FoxPro.
Version 3.0 of Visual FoxPro might have been "let's get excited about OOP".
Version 5.0 could have been "Use n-tier".
Version 6 - "better tools for building better applications"
Version 7 (when Intellisense came in) was "let's play leapfrog with existing concepts".
Version 8.0 - "Better interoperability"
Now with VFP 9, as Drew Speedie paraphrased in the new issue of FoxPro advisor- "let's blow the lid off extensibility"

Maybe it's me but I think Robert would do well to promote internally that product groups actually publicly state their Vision. They might get criticized publicly for them but I have to say - once you have made the goal public, it becomes much easier to defend decisions and to focus attention.

Scoble Gets Bashed for Asking Basic Question

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