Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Time Management Part II

I'm watching a recorded NC State video on entrepreneurship, by a guy named Doug Kaufman. He mentions that he used to work at Blackboard as the Director of Product Development. I'm interested to learn that he has a PhD in psychology, which makes sense given the social and individual dynamics of the services being offered in that market.

Kaufman also mentions that while at Blackboard, customers made him aware of various problems, one of which was that people had to continuously check back to see if their grades had been posted. His take on a solution was phone-based text messaging, which certainly could have some appeal to the masses of text-messaging teens.
The response by Blackboard developers to such requests in general, he indicates, was, "it isn't possible". This is the normal give-and-take. (between idealistic or ignorant product management and developers in a recalcitrant and reactionary development team?) I'm not so sure I'd want to have my school spamming me with text-messages when they cost me money, but certainly Blackboard had other options, and many more now, including email and ATOM/RSS feeds. The Blackboard issues I discussed in the earlier post are there by neglect. Blackboard doesn't "get it".

So now he's talking about exploratory work and prioritizing, and the drop-dead requirement stated by clients to customize -- which then nobody used. In other words, they did big-up-front development instead of incremental refinment in an iterative feedback loop; Kaufman's thought is that they simply should have said "no", implicitly taking the boolean decision premise of big-up-front development. Yet he goes on to observe that you need to deliver something despite imperfections, because feedback and iteration with a real product is critical. Kaufman gets it.

But I'm an older student, and text-messaging isn't really my thing. For one thing, I just don't like paying a network company these one-off charges for services -- basic cell service is enough and I want my monthly cost to be the absolute minimum. Also, I like "audit-ability", or the ability to go back and store stuff for review later, and with regard to the phone services their whole point is to encapsulate your information in their device and to export it from their services costs money and effort. That, to me, is worse than having to go to a PC to access email or browser to communicate. I want to see generic hardware using an undifferentiated network, with the software providing the differentiation. I'd rather have my phone be mostly a Star-Trek communicator style device (instant talk to people I know) with some of the other core features of cell phones.

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