E-Scribe : a programmer’s blog

About Me

PBX I'm Paul Bissex. I build web applications using open source software, especially Django. Started my career doing graphic design for newspapers and magazines in the '90s. Then wrote tech commentary and reviews for Wired, Salon, Chicago Tribune, and others you never heard of. Then I built operations software at a photography school. Then I helped big media serve 40 million pages a day. Then I worked on a translation services API doing millions of dollars of business. Now I'm building the core platform of a global startup accelerator. Feel free to email me.

Book

I co-wrote "Python Web Development with Django". It was the first book to cover the long-awaited Django 1.0. Published by Addison-Wesley and still in print!

Colophon

Built using Django, served with gunicorn and nginx. The database is SQLite. Hosted on a FreeBSD VPS at Johncompanies.com. Comment-spam protection by Akismet.

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Stuff I Use

bitbucket, Django, Emacs, FreeBSD, Git, jQuery, LaunchBar, Markdown, Mercurial, OS X, Python, Review Board, S3, SQLite, Sublime Text, Ubuntu Linux

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At least 236509 pieces of comment spam killed since 2008, mostly via Akismet.

Blogging as R&D

Journalist and author David Kline, who I know from the Well, has launched a new blog, Blogrevolt, hot on the heels of his new book, blog! (which I'm betting has something to do with blogging). He's wondering about companies using blogs to solicit ideas for products:

Which companies are already experimenting with "product definition" blogging? What are the results so far, and how are these firms dealing with the potential confidentiality and competitiveness issues that R&D blogging entails?

In an e-mail conversation, I mentioned the Adobe Blogs to David, explaining that what brought them to mind was:

... the contrast between Adobe's generally close-to-the-chest style and the candor of some of the bloggers. Bill McCoy struck me most, though his target audience is really developers, not consumers.

I just can't help but imagine that openness in what comes out (e.g. admitting that Adobe's first stab at e-books was a flop) will end up correlating with some openness about what comes in. I also suspect that feedback on the blogs will have a higher signal-to-noise ratio than the Adobe forums when it comes to product ideas and suggestions, since the "please help me how do I fix this" people aren't as likely to be posting there. So it stands a chance of being a more respected channel internally.

This is probably not nearly as radical as the stuff you're looking for -- just a tendency I'm seeing (or think I'm seeing, or perhaps just want to see) in a company that is a very big part of my professional life at the moment.

If you've got any ideas for David, read his post and let him know.

One thing that belatedly occurred to me is that the problems with focus groups so lucidly described by Malcolm Gladwell in Blink would also seem to apply to blog-solicited-feedback -- people don't always know what they want, so asking them isn't always going to lead you in the right direction. Sometimes quite the opposite.

Wednesday, September 14th, 2005

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