(This is a snapshot of my old weblog. New posts and selected republished essays can be found at raganwald.com.)

Thursday, May 01, 2008
  I have a truly marvellous title of this post which this field is too narrow to contain

Management saw this general-purpose mail reader and said, “since this mail reader is popular with normal people, we must now pimp it out to ‘The Enterprise’, call it Groupware, and try to compete with Lotus Notes!”

To do this, they bought a company called Collabra who had tried (and, mostly, failed) to do something similar to what we had accomplished. They bought this company and spliced 4 layers of management in above us. Somehow, Collabra managed to completely take control of Netscape: it was like Netscape had gotten acquired instead of the other way around.

“Groupware” is all about things like “workflow”, which means, “the chairman of the committee has emailed me this checklist, and I’m done with item 3, so I want to check off item 3, so this document must be sent back to my supervisor to approve the fact that item 3 is changing from ‘unchecked’ to ‘checked’, and once he does that, it can be directed back to committee for review.”

Nobody cares about that shit. Nobody you’d want to talk to, anyway
—Jamie Zawinski, Groupware Bad (2005)

The hallmark of an architecture astronaut is that they don’t solve an actual problem.

Groove had some early success selling secure networks to the military-industrial complex, but didn’t make much of a ripple outside that niche. Their real success was in getting bought by Microsoft, which brought Groove’s designer and chief architecture-astronaut Ray Ozzie to the role of “Chief Software Architect” at Microsoft…

Ray Ozzie just can’t stop rewriting this damn app, again and again and again, and taking 5-7 years each time. And the fact that customers never asked for this feature and none of the earlier versions really took off as huge platforms doesn’t stop him.
—Joel Spolsky, Architecture astronauts take over (2008)

And my title?

Buying a company that makes shit that nobody cares about—nobody you’d want to talk to, anyway—just so you can replace your product leadership and vision with theirs and so that you can stop building your products that people actually care about and start building shit that nobody will care about…

Still bad.

Comments on “I have a truly marvellous title of this post which this field is too narrow to contain:
Whatever happened to Hula, anyway?
Awesome. Thanks for the link to the jwz post that I had forgotten about.

I'm currently doing the prep work for a social startup, and his riff on groupware totally captures what's important and what sucks.

"'Social software' is about making it easy for people to do other things that make them happy: meeting, communicating, and hooking up."

Am I losing touch, or is this too abstract?

By "nobody really cares about", did you mean "nobody but the military currently cares about"? Because I think I care about p2p file transfer within a personal space ... I'm not convinced that Microsoft can ever implement something useful there, but I care about the abstract idea.
I figure the last half-century or so of software development has been defined by some counter-productive impulse to re-write the same basic solutions over and over again, without actually solving any new or critical problems. If we were at least learning from the prior incantations it might make sense ...

3D icons and the ability to know how my friends spend their idle time isn't really a leap forward is it?

3D icons

Gievn what Amiga was doing in the frikkin’ eighties last century, I am not going to be impressed by 3D anything until I can move my head and see different perspectives of the icon on the screen/in the field display :-)
you mean something like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jd3-eiid-Uw

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Reg Braithwaite

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