Tag Archives: coding horror

Are You a Marketing Weasel? Am I?

I just bought Predictably Irrational. I haven’t read it yet, but I had to buy it because I just read Jeff Atwood’s 9 Ways Marketing Weasels Will Try to Manipulate You on Coding Horror. Jeff relates his post and the nine ways to that book. Jeff says:

In fact, it’s already happening. Witness 10 Irrational Human Behaviors and How to Leverage Them to Improve Web Marketing. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

What the book talks about, according to these posts, is our craziness as consumers with pricing, supply and demand, and behaviors that don’t really make sense, but happen all the time.

  • There is a cost to free, for example. When a truffle costs 15 cents and a chocolate kiss only 1 cent, 73 percent of us choose the truffle, and only 27 percent the kiss. When the kiss is free and the truffle 14 cents, 69 percent of us choose the kiss.
  • Most of us will go out of our way to save $7.00 on a $25 pen, by driving to another store for instance. But almost nobody will drive to a different store to save $7.00 on a $455 suit. Why not? It’s the same $7? (And this one bugs me, because I absolutely know I follow that pattern, and it makes sense to me.).
  • We’re much more likely to do something altruistically, for the public good, than if somebody pays us.
  • We can be manipulated by expectations. Tell us the meal is gourmet, make it expensive, and we’re more likely to think it’s good than if we say it’s cheap but convenient.

And the conclusion, which makes Jeff Atwood uncomfortable, is the sense of “marketing weasels” manipulating us. Or, the less aggressive sense of it, how marketers can capitalize on consumers’ irrational behavior. I have trouble with all this, because it seems like really good stuff for running a business, but I don’t want to see a weasel when I look in the mirror.

What’s In a Name? Lots.

Blog names and titles: do you agree that some are better than others? Lots of blogs have succeeded with titles that are merely descriptive, not remarkable: Seth’s blog, Small Business Technology, Escape from Cubicle Nation, and many others.

Browsing around the other day, I discovered a Jay White who calls his blog “Dumb Little Man.” That’s a great example of a creative title that’s very easy to remember, recognize, and not misspell. It’s at dumblittleman.com of course. I liked him even before I started reading the blog.

I posted last January about Gardening Nude, a good blog with undeniable search engine power. And Jeff Atwood’s Coding Horror, obviously for programmers. Freakonomics, Women 2.0, Duct Tape Marketing, and Lifehack, to mention some more. These aren’t just good blogs, they’re remarkably good names for blogs.

What amazes me is how these blogs with great names beat the chicken and egg problem: a blog isn’t really taken seriously until it has a few hundred posts, but it can’t have the posts first and then figure out the name. With some rare exceptions (Freakonomics, for example, was moved to a different Web address when it moved to the New York Times) the name, including the domain name, has to come first. In some cases (as with Escape from Cubicle Nation, Duct Tape Marketing) it either starts with a book or becomes a book. In any case, my congratulations for doing it right.

This is a good reminder about a lot of names in business: business names, product names, for example: they’re tough to change, once you’ve started; but hard to get a really good one to start.

(Image: tkemot/shutterstock)

Is Software Management Doomed?

Committees don’t make great software. It takes a single person, an author. Maybe he gets some help. Teams don’t do it. Nobody sees the whole elephant.

I’m pretty sure I heard that basic sentiment first in about 1986, from Dave Winer, who was then the author of a Macintosh outlining program named More (now he’s better known as the de-facto father of blogging).

What reminded me of this over the weekend was my son emailing me about Jeff Atwood’s Software Engineering: Dead post on Coding Horror. In his post, Jeff’s looking at this article by Tom DeMarco, author of Controlling Software Projects, a software management classic.

Creative Programming

What DeMarco seems to be saying — and, at least, what I am definitely saying — is that control is ultimately illusory on software development projects. If you want to move your project forward, the only reliable way to do that is to cultivate a deep sense of software craftsmanship and professionalism around it.

The guys and gals who show up every day eager to hone their craft, who are passionate about building stuff that matters to them, and perhaps in some small way, to the rest of the world — those are the people and projects that will ultimately succeed.

That sounds to me a lot like what Dave Winer was getting at about 25 years ago. And if it takes a single user, someone writing code and working the application because he or she wants to use it, then that’s hard to manage.

And if you’re interested in software quality, creativity, and management, you might want to look at an exchange between user interface designerDustin Curtis and an interface designer at American Airlines. It starts here with Justin’s rant about the hostile interface on the AA website; and gets more interesting here with an AA interface designer’s answer.

However, there are large exceptions. For example, our Interactive Marketing group designs and implements fare sales and specials (and doesn’t go through us to do it), and the Publishing group pushes content without much interaction with us… Oh, and don’t forget the AAdvantage team (which for some reason, runs its own little corner of the site) or the international sites (which have a lot of autonomy in how their domains are run)… Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is that AA.com is a huge corporate undertaking with a lot of tentacles that reach into a lot of interests. It’s not small, by any means.

And apparently frustration was had by all.

And it certainly won’t make you wish you had a creative or design oriented position in a large company.

Two guys wrote the original spreadsheet (VisiCalc), one, Paul Brainard, wrote the main part of the first page layout program (Pagemaker). One of the more interesting facets of a lot of Web 2.0 work is that the programs are smaller, written more by authors, less by teams.