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Words and Stuff

random ramblings

This week, 37Signals announced a new mobile flavor of BaseCamp for more intelligent smart phones.  This has been a long time coming.  Everyone is pretty pleased that it’s finally available.

Except brytesoftware, the makers of Kompass for BaseCamp.  See they, at the end of last year, started a private beta of the exact same thing as what 37Signals just released — for free.  Kompass was an iPhone app and (I’m assuming) once brytesoftware decided to try and capture the BlackBerry market they realized that supporting multiple, device specific, applications was a bad business model, they went back to the original iPhone app story and started on just building a mobile site/skin for BaseCamp.

It took a long time.  I signed up for the Kompass for BlackBerry last May (or thereabouts).  On December 30th, I got my invite to the new Kompass site.  A month later 37Signals announces their new mobile web UI.  That just has to hurt.  In fact, a post on the Kompass blog (well, on the 37Signals blog that was reposted on the Kompass blog) from last July announces the Kompass product in development — surely 37Signals had this already on their roadmap — or did they just get tired of waiting for Kompass and build it themselves?

The worst part about it for brytesoftware?  Their mobile version is better and faster.  It won’t make a difference.  They’re going to lose.

So if your new product is an enhancement for an existing product (or plugin, etc.), tread lightly.  You don’t control the product.  They do.  And if they add your feature set or remove the functionality that you’re enhancing or change the API that you’re leveraging… you’re stuck with an unsellable product.

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StackExchange/StackOverflow is broke. Real broke.

Have you tried to participate in it?  If so then you know how broke it is.  But for those of you who haven’t sit back and get a view into frustration.

New users are more likely to want to “dip their toe into the water” than to jump into a pool.  In Stack land, this would mean adding a comment to an existing answer.  But you can’t.   You start out with only 1 “rep” which means that you can ask a question or add an answer to an existing question.  So if you’re knowledgeable enough to provide a counterpoint to someone else’s poor answer, you have to post it as a new answer… and then you get down voted (lose rep!) for adding a new answer versus just commenting on the original, flawed answer.

So, the intelligent fellow you are, you decide to try and find a question that you can provide a good answer to so you can get real rep points so that you can contribute all over the place.  So you dig through tags and search, but you quickly realize that every question that’s not some vague, poorly worded, open ended impossibility has already got 10 answers (ranging from wrong/poor to highly thoughtful, correct).  So you start trolling the “New” list hoping to catch a question that you can answer quickly and hopefully get some rep/upvotes so you can actually participate in a useful fashion.

Then you see where Stack is really, really broken.  You see you’re not the only one doing this.  In the time it takes you to write a thoughtful, correctly documented (and heaven help you if you try and write code and then format it in the terrible editor), 6 people have written short, one line answers as placeholders and then they go back and edit their response multiple times, finally building an appropriate reply (hopefully).  So now the question has 7 responses, all in some weird state of edit and your response is lost in the noise and you never get the rep points that you were trying for in the first place (ie. it was all a waste).

So I’m a pretty smart guy and this is why I can’t (and now won’t) participate on StackExchange sites (StackOverflow, OnStartups, etc.).  I don’t have the patience to troll the new question list and fight the unwashed masses to try and get my voice heard in order to get a seat at the big boys table.  I’m sure that I am not the only one making this same decision.

Edit: closing comments since I’m tired of moderating (and I didn’t delete any but the obvious spam).  Thanks for letting me vent.