It takes a good journalist to make software development interesting

Emily (who is best described as the heart of I Can Has Cheezburger) came into my office yesterday and looked around. “KING 5 news is going to be here, so we just want to make sure that there’s nothing offensive up anywhere”

There wasn’t. We used to have a copy of the Hot Chicks With Douchebags book as part of our display library, but that’s missing now. I was displaying my “Wrong-Face Panda” picture, but that’s meant to be disturbing, not offensive. Nonetheless, I tidied up the office a little bit and sat with better-than-normal posture as the news crew visited Ben in his little closet of an office, and then went around, poking their giant camera into different workspaces. They came to my office ,where Ben introduced us as the development team.

The news guy just shrugged and gave a sarcastic “Oh, software development, that’s really interesting” before walking away.

So I yelled back “Yeah, so is local news!”

That’s right, I actually came up with and executed a Winston Churchill-style zinger at the right time, not the day after.   I’m usually not so touchy, but that guy was just being a jerk. Think about it: would you come into some professional’s office and insult what they do?

The truth is, that the story of how we do software development is interesting. Some examples:

Our user activity is massive. We serve six million page views daily. We have a database of over four million funny pictures. A thousand new people register to participate in our community every day. We tally and act on hundreds of thousands of votes every day, in real time.

We’re a small team and we have to generalize and do more with less. We don’t have a dedicated test person, so we make our own robots to test our sites for us. We move quickly (turning around new ideas in days or weeks instead of months or years) yet we have really high stability with fully redundant systems that repair themselves if something goes wrong.  We deploy new code with zero downtime by pulling a server out of service,  upgrading it, and putting it back into service after we’ve tested it.

All of our office infrastructure is virtual. There are no desktop phones or LAN servers. We use Internet-based tools like Skype,  Tokbox, Google Docs, and ReviewBoard to collaborate. Some key members don’t even work from this office, yet they are just as productive as someone who works right here. Our office is essentially paperless, the only time I’ve ever used an office printer was for personal use (sorry).

We have created a public API which opens up our systems to any developer who wants to contribute or use our content in their programs. You can take pictures on your iPhone, drop text on them, and send them directly to us using a program that some guy made for free just because he wanted to.  We’re plugged in to the emergent web ecosystem; we integrate with WordPress and Twitter and YouTube and Digg and Facebook. We’re working on all sorts of new stuff that will be really cool.

We’re living and working in the bright and shiny future of tomorrow, as a profitable Web 2.0 company.   The truth is, I don’t really care if some old-media guy and his ever-shrinking audience doesn’t get it.

5 thoughts on “It takes a good journalist to make software development interesting

  1. LC says:

    What surprised me was that this particular institution of the local airwaves was still in production. Old media is having a hard time producing local content as efficiently as the web. Not only is it cheaper to produce a blog, but it is cheaper to consume the blog time-wise for the reader! The Seattle PI has effectively kicked the bucket. I remember hearing about the local afternoon show on channel 4 shutting down after many, many years. There are probably others, but since I haven’t watched television for the last ten years, I wouldn’t know. NPR (represented in Seattle by KUOW) seems to be doing okay, but they’ve got the time-shifting down with their podcasts and their local content is simple people chatting in the studio 90% of the time, which produces a higher ratio of content to production cost than anything the tv folks can do.

  2. marje says:

    Not everyone who finds a golden ticket wins the cheezburger factory. 😉

  3. Cameron says:

    At least it wasn’t John Curley that tried to insult your job… it was some fill-in “news” magazine host.

  4. Martin Cron says:

    @Cameron. Oddly enough, I did see John Curley having some sort of working meeting at a coffee shop in Ballard. And, true to my word, I didn’t come up to him and insult his job.

  5. Kitty says:

    Ka-pow! NICE!!

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