Insights Gained from Yesterday’s “Laws of Software Development” Article

Lightbulb whose filament spells the word “IDEA”

The Small Insights

First, I was reminded that you never know what’s going to connect with people. I wasn’t expecting this article to gain any more attention than the usual number of pageviews and maybe a comment or two. After all, most of the laws, rules and axioms in the list have been around for a while and chances are (especially if your line of work is programming, engineering or tech) that you’ve seen at least a few of them on a web page, poster, t-shirt or mug.

Second: Sometimes all you need is a single link from a site with high readership. This is hardly a revelation; if you’ve read The Tipping Point or books of that ilk or heard the saying that goes “It isn’t what you know, it’s whom you know,” you’ve already internalized this fact. But it’s always good to have an example that you can point to. My thanks to my friend Cory Doctorow for linking to the article and saying such nice things about this site on BoingBoing.

The Not-As-Small Insight

Years ago, I read Paul Fussell’s book BAD or, The Dumbing of America, a critique of that the American tendency to glorify the cheap, schlocky and superficially good and ignore genuinely good things.

One passage that stands out for me is in the chapter about the outright BADness of modern American poetry. At the end, he encouraged people that rather than writing more bad poetry, they should compile tables of easily-observable data, such as the weather every day over several years; that information would certainly be of more use to more people than painful poesy.

I’m going to ignore the cultural snobbery in Fussell’s statement and focus on the idea of compiling easily-observable data into tables because I think there’s a gem in that thought: Take stuff people want and put it a single place that’s easy to understand and navigate.

As with the second insight, as a reader of this blog (I’m assuming most readers either work in tech or follow tech news) chances are that you already knew this, deep down. But it’s such a simple and basic idea that sometimes, like the air we breathe or the high-speed connections that we didn’t have even a mere 10 years ago, we forget about it.

Consider the Laws of Software Development article. I cribbed most of the laws from Phil Haack’s article, 19 Eponymous Laws Of Software Development. My additions were:

  • Displaying the laws in tabular format rather than like an article
  • Adding a few laws by Googling for the ones that weren’t in Phil’s list that I remembered
  • Arranging the laws by name in alphabetical order
  • Linking the name of each law to a page containing its description (or failing that, the most relevant page I could find)
  • Naming the person who gave us the law or the person after whom the law was named and linking to the most relevant page for the person

The article merely had readily-available information, compiled into an easy-to-read format, with convenient links to additional information. And despite not being rocket science, it got a lot of eyeballs and the most comments of any article ever posted here on Global Nerdy.

Allow me to repeat the insight: Take stuff people want and put it a single place that’s easy to understand and navigate.

I’m repeating it at least partially for myself, because it’s a lesson I keep forgetting, even though I keep seeing examples all the frickin’ time:

If you’re trying to come up with a useful and possibly profitable application — hey, I am — and you’re banging your head screaming: “I can’t come up with a new technology!”, remember the insight: Take stuff people want and put it a single place that’s easy to understand and navigate.

I know I will.

Cross-posted to the Tucows Developer Blog

7 replies on “Insights Gained from Yesterday’s “Laws of Software Development” Article”

Yeah, but the bottom line is you took a post by someone, altered it a little bit. Put it up, got a link from BoingBoing and cross-posted it on a high-traffic web site (tucows developer blog).

At least, you gave Phil credit for the original idea AND linked to him. Kudos for that. I see high-traffic blogs post things that are very similar to low-traffic blogs, sometimes within minutes or hours of the original posting.

But it would have been nice for Boing Boing to acknowledge Phil’s original article.

@Jeff Atwood: Can’t argue with that point, hence my quoting the old “It’s not what you know, it’s whom you know” line.

That being said, I still have to do something “Boingworthy” to get the link.

I chatted to Cory Doctorow briefly at the “festival of inappropriate technology” in London some years ago. Had I heard or BoingBoing I might have begged for a link to my blog. ;0)

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