Monthly Archives: January 2007

Saying No?

Via Boris I came across a post on Susan Mernit’s blog called the No Patrol. It is supposed to be a defense of saying “no” to things in the product development cycle, but as I read each bullet point it struck me as actually a brilliant summary of why big companies often fail to create anything truly interesting, or put another way, why a product like Yahoo Personals is so impersonal. No one would advocate bloat or cruft in software, but sometimes a little silliness, a little frivolity, a little “novelty outweighs the business impact” is what separates a Youtube from a Google Video. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Sun Followup

In the past few days since I wrote the post on my experience with Sun there has been a lot of interesting discussion spawned, and as much about Jonathan Schwartz’s response as my post. Mr Schwartz rightly got a ton of kudos in the blogosphere for his honest and personable response. Two others shared their experience trying to get boxes from Sun: Alex Muse applied for a different program and was rejected, but it sounds like he got pretty prompt responses on everything; Stephen O’Grady had no problem getting in Startup Essentials, but had a fairly bad experience with their store and suggests that they outsource that functionality to Ebay or Amazon. (I’m fairly surprised I didn’t hear from anyone else in the SE program.) François Schiettecatte shared a story from his experience at Sun while at Feedster, and why they made the decision they did for their systems.

The entry also drew in some interesting comments some of which seemed to conflate the issue I was talking about, namely the disconnect between the promises and follow-up in the Startup Essentials program, and questions of Sun’s financials, direction, technology, and more. To clarify, I have no opinion on the business side of Sun beyond what I’ve dealt with directly, and on the technical side they seem to be kicking butt lately and tackling truly hard problems. Their evangelism of such is the whole reason why I gave my info to the SE program in the first place. (Plus the overwhelmingly positive in-person interaction I’ve had with folks that work at Sun and at Startup Camp.) Their marketing is great — it created the desire — just the fulfillment was frustrating.

At one point in the Scoble interview Jonathan Schwartz says something to the effect of their startup program targets folks with more time than money, where their enterprise customers usually value time over money. I think this might represent a fundamental misunderstanding. While I think this argument could be made for the motivation of some segment of Open Source communities, the situation in startups is even worse — time and money are both scarce.

Where does that leave Automattic now? We just brought 20 new HP/Debian boxes online. David Comay followed up his comment with an email requesting to get together, and since he’s a kernel hacker and not a sales guy I’m very open to that. Likewise with Jeff Barr from Amazon, though their web services are so beautifully self-service I wonder what we’ll chat about. Another chance for Sun? Time will tell. For us it’s a pragmatic issue, not a religious one. If nothing else, I’m hopeful that the discussions spawned will help put Sun’s nascent startup efforts back on track.