(HT to Exit133)
And a bonus from YouTube’s related videos, all outta tune and punked up, courtesy of The Rain City Shwillers:]]>
This is certainly an interesting tactic by Washam in making the allegations public, and some of the comments on a TNT blog post seem to suggest that people are praising him for “transparency”. But here’s the deal: in calling this an “unnamed person’s bogus complaint”, Washam is essentially retaliating against HR’s duty to fully investigate complaints such as this, and by extension belittling the employee in question, who should not be dragged through the mud. EEO allegations need to be taken seriously, and for Washam to not only make a private matter public, but to do so in order to argue about an unrelated matter (namely, the lack of property inspections under his predecessor) goes beyond being in extremely poor taste, it also opens up Pierce County for a big fat lawsuit. I won’t go so far at this moment as to say that Washam needs to be immediately recalled from office, but I’m relatively certain that if he were a county employee rather than an elected official, he would be severely reprimanded if not fired for his handling of the matter.
See also at the TNT.]]>
(From The Seattle Times)
(From Beyond the Best Seat in the House)
Now, this certainly is no panacea. Like any form of participatory government, there is significant risk of, well, lack of participation (or non-representative samples of interested parties) messing up the results. But I think there is some interesting potential to bring new people to the table–whether due to the demographics of Internet users or the availability of citizens to attend meetings–in a way that might promote a more progressive agenda. (And, might I hope, one that looks at whole-city solutions instead of just a bunch of vocal neighborhood groups fighting for speedbumps.)
(via uclahelo@flickr, cc by-nc-nd)
I would be interested to see if Tacoma’s government would ever use such tools to try to bring more people to the table. And for that matter, whether the citizens of Tacoma would step up to the plate and get involved. I think we could get a fascinating diversity of opinion, but with that diversity would come neighborhood-specific knowledge from all around the city. And the tools would allow public access to planning data that was currently only available in proprietary planning tools. Seems worth trying…
A few things I would champion:
Read about it at Wired.
Check out The Open Planning Project.
I’m going to post a link to download “People Got A Lotta Nerve”, the first single from the album, here. Neko and ANTI will donate $5 to the Best Friends Animal Society for my doing so. They get publicity, we get free music, and animals get saved–everybody wins! (And you can help the animals even more by participating too!)
Download an MP3 of People Got A Lotta Nerve.
A little message from Neko:
More info from ANTI.
The beneficiaries, Best Friends Animal Society.
(And for an extra local bonus, if you want to support local animal causes, check out the Dugan Foundation, which is selling a beautiful 2009 wall calendar to support their work…)]]>
Now, what for Tacoma? We’ve got a couple of small tech companies around here, but choosing to locate in Tacoma (rather than, say, Pioneer Square AKA startup central) is the exception to the rule. There’s not a lot of networking between employees at different companies. There’s not “district” where these companies tend to locate. Programming talent is hard to find. (I’m not sure if this last thing is because programmers don’t live here, or because they’re all commuting to their jobs in Seattle/Redmond/wherever…)
But generally, the question is begged, why isn’t there an active startup community in Tacoma. We are within an hour of the Seattle market. There are all sorts of buildings with the cool loft spaces that small software firms like so much. UWT’s Tech Institute is by all indications growing, turning out both undergraduate and graduate software developers. UPS and PLU, both excellent schools, also turn out CS graduates in respectable numbers. Sure, there’s not the sexiness of being in Seattle, and I don’t have any illusions of Tacoma having as broad a tech presence as said neighbor-to-the-north, but it’s hard to see what’s standing in the way of more of a startup presence here.
I wonder if maybe the funding piece of the pie is one of the factors holding us back. Yes, there’s the Tacoma Angel Network (and non-funding-related support from the William Factory Small Business Incubator), but those are a little bit heavy on some of the details that many tech startups tend to scoff at, such as detailed business plans. In all honesty, most of these startups are coming to fruition through the efforts of programmers and designers, not MBAs and marketers, and the value is in the idea (and making it come to fruition), not long term goals and overly-thorough market analysis. Yes, there will be failures, but providing a framework for seed-funding ideas for small companies, without formal business process overhead, simply works for small tech companies. Bay Area venture firm Y Combinator has proven it with companies like Justin.tv, Loopt, and reddit. Curious Office has seen success with Imagekind (acquired by CafePress) and Shelfari (acquired by Amazon). Granted, there’s nothing precluding any of these firms from funding a Tacoma company, but to my knowledge it hasn’t happened yet.
So what if there were a Tacoma tech startup funder/incubator? It could be an extension of the Angel Network or it could be it’s own thing, but the operative thing is that it would provide relatively minimal funding (at least in the venture funding sense), and favor ideas over formal business plans. Picture a shared office of small two-to-three member teams working on a number of projects, each with just enough funding to cover equipment, salaries, and other overhead. An exciting collaborative atmosphere. Tons of new tech jobs for Tacoma residents! If it were connected or closely allied with the UWT Technology Institute (and/or UPS, and/or PLU), even better, because we can tap that talent before it takes jobs elsewhere–a great way to keep one segment of “cultural creatives” in town after they’re done with their degrees. (And the area around the UWT would be great, location-wise, for this…) Now, I don’t have the money to be a part of making this happen, but I really think it would open up some exciting potential for the future of Tacoma, downtown development, commerce, etc.
Hopefully that whets your appetite. Worth watching.
Regarding collecting customer feedback and incorporating it into your software:
People love giving you feedback. Every time you make a mistake they give you feedback. Give people great products and you’ll get feedback… You have to take it all in and then you have to make decisions on behalf of your customers. Decide what they’re actually trying to tell you. You have to be a museum curator and think about what makes sense for the product. An editor, a curator, looks at an entire universe of options and picks a few of em.
An interesting perspective, but probably worth noting that this is coming from a non-developer (Jason is one of the co-founders of 37signals, and has more of a design background than a programming one). I like that his example puts a lot of stock in the customer needs and wants, while also taking a great deal of pride, somewhat of a near-arrogance, in what’s ultimately right for the product. That is right on.
That said, I still like the gardening metaphor better. In both cases (a museum or a garden) you are attempting to create an aesthetic that is pleasing to the visitor, and you are likely to get feedback, some of which you will incorporate. But the museum analogy stops at the choice of whether or not feedback is acknowledged (and ultimately leaves the actual creation of art out of the picture). In gardening, the feedback alters what happens on the ground, in the garden: how the plants are pruned, how all-season interest is maintained, how to attract wildlife, etc.–a truly iterative process that, to me, is a more apt analogy to the actual development of the software.
Maybe from a project management perspective, museum curating is a good approximation of how the customer feedback loop works, but from the trenches, as a programmer, it just feels too simplistic. I’m sticking with the gardening analogy.
Check out notes from Jason Fried’s presentation here. (Lots of other great info about 37signals and their “Getting Real” philosophy, too!)]]>
Melissa recently purchased some fine footwear from Shoes.com, and various aspects of the site left some impressions on me. Mostly positive, though I had a couple of observations of things that could be improved, too…
(more after the jump…)]]>