Wednesday, October 22

Oopsla 2008: Designed as Designer

Eassy by Richard P. Gabriel, it is as controversial as usual but also the most intriguing presentation of the day at least from my point of view. The essay is almost a follow up of Fred Brook's speech on Oopsla 2007 around the central argument of that conceptual integrity arises not (simply) from one mind or small number of agreeing resonant minds, but from sometimes hidden co-authors and the thing designed itself. A few points I took away from this presentation as well as the interesting Q&A session:

  • "First to the market wins" is merely a myth
  • Worse is Better - ship the rough product earlier to allow user to contribute and generate the real requirement. Perfection is the enemy of good.
  • People are often judged by their reward instead of their skills, and that's why CEO in successful (sometimes even failing) company are usually rewarded the most even when they have little impact on the success.
  • Software is implemented by the compiler and machine, every single line of code is a practice of design
  • The first draft of design is usually just a collaboration enabler so others can contribute with certain degree of conceptual integrity
  • By refusing fully knowing the world when you design you open the door for new insights and let the product itself to lead you to the truth
  • Facts are not truth. Simply because you customer is describing a certain feature to you does not mean that is what they really want or need.

Oopsla 2008: Comunity-Based Innovation: from Sports Equipment to Software

This presentation was given by Sonali Shah of University of Washington Business School. The speaker shared many of her research findings and insights into how community-based innovation is reshaping the business world today from sports equipment industry to cloth design and manufacturing to software. One really interesting point raised by this research as a by-product was that it found the most committed and innovative long-term open source developers all have a full time day-job but found their day-job is either not challenge enough or too restritive or both for them to innovate therefore they would rather spend their spare time to work on something else. At this age of uncertainty when many economists predict that the only way for North America to maintain the competitive edge is innovation, its puzzling to see that many of the companies out there fail to recognize that.

See Clay Shirky's excellent presentation at TED from a different angle on this topic, and my post "What can we learn from the Open Source community" in 2006 on how I think the companies can harvest this kind of passion and innovation.

Oopsla 2008: Social Programming A Pyramid, and possibly other lar

Very interesting presentation given by Mark Lehner on how ancient Egyptian managed to organize almost humanly impossible effort building those gigantic pyramids both physically and socially for the most part of their 3000 years of history. The speaker also drawn some, although sometime a bit far fetched, analogies from this type of massively labor-intensive undertaking to how software itself and project is being organized nowadays. One really interesting point I took from this presentation was that although the social organization contains highly modularized units, the final product of eternity (Pyramids) does not necessarily resemble any strict modularity but rather simply and straight replication. Which says something does it? Or maybe we are all trying too hard to find similarity, the proof or disproof of what we do and the way we are doing it.