Fly on the Wall: “Fire, aim” Matt 29 Jun 2006

14 comments Latest by Rob Sanheim

Some of the activity this week at our internal 37signals Campfire chat room:

Jason started Edward Tufte’s “Beautiful Evidence” and digs the opening Galileo quote:

What was observed by us
is the nature or matter of the Milky Way itself.
Which, with the aid of the spyglass,
may be observed so well that all the disputes
that for so many generations have vexed philosophers
are destroyed by visible certainty,
and we are all liberated from wordy arguments.
-Galileo Galilei

Marcel thinks the new Tufte posters (scroll down to see ‘em) are “so awesome.”

Jamis noted the nice way Sproutit handled a recent a problem with Mailroom. (Related: a similar approach used a while back by Six Apart.)

Sharing cool widgets can be a challenge when people are located in different places. We do a lot of quickie screencasts (usually using SnapzPro) to show each other site usage. This week, Ryan posted clips of a couple of cool widgets (movie 1, movie 2 — 16kb each) from the Farecast UI.

Marcel called RCN several times over the past few days at various times of the day (morning, afternoon, evening) to cancel his account because they don’t provide service at his new address. It didn’t go so well…

Marcel: “each time i call and punch numbers down to the cancelation service…i get put on hold for like 30 minutes…if i punch down to another section they pick up immediately.”
Jamis: “when I went to cancel the DSL service at my in-laws, I was transferred to the ‘loyalty department’…I didn’t know whether to laugh or not when the lady said that’s where she was transferring me :)”
Jason: “Whenever I want to talk to someone I always punch the number for sales. Sales is always overstaffed.”

Ryan posted this quote from Martin Fowler’s RailsConf keynote:

Don’t spend a lot of time aiming. Just fire…In this age of Web 2.0 (TM)… there is this culture of just give the product to the customer. Then see how they use it. Ship the product, then gather the requirements. The opposite of the traditional process. Fire, aim, fire, aim. As long as the bullets are cheap.”

A review of legal documents led David to comment on the peculiarity of legalese: “It’s kind of like programming…They have variables…Which they assign with capitalization.”

I noted the Israeli method of using a warplane flyby to send a message. I wondered if the same tactic could be applied elsewhere: “Next time you need jamis to get on IM you should just buzz some warplanes over his place.” Jason: “if we had them we would! checks ebay

Jason changed the room’s topic to “If a thing can be done adequately by means of one, it is superfluous to do it by means of several; for we observe that nature does not employ two instruments where one suffices” -Thomas Aquinas

Someone cancelled an account in part because our user interface “while sorta nice, isn’t really that sexy in comparison to other ‘Web 2.0’ sites.” Well, you win some, you lose some. At almost the same time we got a note from a customer who is amazed that his technophobic wife has grown attached to Backpack. “Wow, she actually set it up. Then I learned she’s been showing it to friends. Now she’s excited to be able to GET THINGS DONE again. Not because it’s online, not because it’s free, not because it’s super sexy and flashy. No, she likes backpack because it simply allows her to keep track of things she needs to GET DONE. It provides value.”

Along the lines of Jason’s metric of judging a company by how cleanly and easily you can peel off stickers or packaging from their products, Marcel sees a correlation between a company and the music they play when you are on hold: “RCN -> cheesy pseudo jazz — Speakeasy -> The Magnetic Fields”

Hanging out takes on a new meaning at these amazing temples in China.

Jamis went on a T.S. Elliot excerpting binge:

Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;

Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The lot of man is ceaseless labor,
Or ceaseless idleness, which is still harder
I say: take no thought of the harvest,
But only of proper sowing.
And now you live dispersed on ribbon roads,
And no man knows or cares who is his neighbor
Unless his neighbor makes too much disturbance,
But all dash to and fro in motor cars,
Familiar with the roads and settled nowhere.
The lot of man is ceaseless labor,
Or ceaseless idleness, which is still harder

Marcel says The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is “pretty much the best poem ever written.”

14 comments so far (Jump to latest)

brad 29 Jun 06

I have all of Tufte’s books (including Beautiful Evidence, which is lovely even if it repeats some images and ideas from previous books, such as Minard’s map of the French invasion of Russia) and I’m generally a fan, but I tell you, if he says “the dreaded” this or that one more time I’m gonna scream. Someone should count up how many times he says “the dreaded” in all his books. In Beautiful Evidence he refers to “the dreaded mission statement,” and “the dreaded slow reveal” (in PowerPoint), for example. There are probably at least four or five (if not a dozen) other “dreaded” things in the book; I haven’t read it all the way through yet. What bugs me is that he never explains objectively why we’re supposed to “dread” these things; maybe he believes it’s obvious or he’s trying to universalize his personal dislikes, but regardless, it’s very condescending and off-putting.

David 29 Jun 06

In addition to being respectful to customers, the way Spoutit handled this issue will also provide some excellent “marketing” data…

Ben Askins 29 Jun 06

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is a beautiful reflection on mortality. I hadn’t read it since high school. Thanks for the reminder.

“I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker”

ibroadfo 29 Jun 06

“Fire, aim” : isn’t that just using tracer bullets ala pragprog?

SH 29 Jun 06

T.S. Eliot has always been my favorite poet, but I find it increasingly difficult to laud the man after learning of his most feverish political leanings.

Bill P 29 Jun 06

@Brad -
Tufte Condescending - I agree…. but he does know his stuff.

And when you attend a Tufte workshop for only 350ish dollars you walk away with all 4 of his books for free. That’s how you build long-term fans like me…

Rob Cameron 29 Jun 06

$500 for a blurry photo of his dog?

Jough Dempsey 29 Jun 06

Brad Askins: I think today he’s probably write it as “I have seen the moment of my greatness flickr

Jough Dempsey 29 Jun 06

Brad Askins: I think today he’d probably write it as “I have seen the moment of my greatness flickr

FredS 29 Jun 06

Speakeasy is the best. Their tech support is great. You talk to people who know what they’re doing and there’s never much of a wait.

Adam Blinkinsop 30 Jun 06

@ibroadfo: Yep.

Matt Todd 30 Jun 06

I must say that The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock really is fantastic: I connected to it on many levels. T.S. Eliot really was a brilliant writer. And these are very good quotes.

This was a great collection of reflections. Thanks, guys: this is helping me and inspiring me a great deal.


Wilson Miner 03 Jul 06

I’ll have to agree with Marcel on J. Alfred. Best. Poem. Evar.

Rob Sanheim 06 Jul 06

I really want to entire _Beautiful Evidence_ cover as one large print - too bad they only offer the 4 separate pics. It would make a fantastic single poster.