Scaling is not my thing, but Greg Linden continues to be a great source to poach from. His post on Facebook’s database architecture included a link back to a video presentation of YouTube’s approach to scaling during their buildup.
There’s lots of good info here, but I was struck by a couple of things:
After watching, I was rifling through some of Greg’s past thoughts on scaling and found the nugget above about how often you should push code on the web. We’ve being playing around with an *agile* SCRUM development process at TechSmith, but there is a ton of discussion / disagreement about how frequently our web dev teams should be pushing code. Do you push during the course of the sprint, at the end of the sprint or quarterly?
Lots of questions arise if you’re pushing frequently. How do you ensure quality? Is it worth the risk? How do you market changes and upgrades to the site when change is constant? I’ve waffled a lot on this topic. My web dev roots tell me fast and furious updates, but after 2 1/2 years in the commercial software world I’ve gotten cautious and felt like a web product should only really make major pushes quarterly. It’s hard for the organization’s other pieces (support, marketing, sales) to keep pace when change is so frequent. The question is, have I become tainted by the long cycle feature slogs of desktop development and lost my way?
I was doing a bit of research into my typing speed (turns out I’m average) and the Wikipedia article yielded some surprising additional data (if you’re really a perceptual psychology nerd check out attentional blink and repetition blindness).
And of course there’s Kathy Sierra’s learning theory wisdom.
I’ve got a few questions running around in the ol’ noggin:
More questions than answers which means I need more time to mull things over. If you’ve got insights I’d welcome them.
I’ve got a bit of a man crush on Rands. I witnessed a very entertaining presentation he gave at SXSW and then was overwhelmed by the insight of his handbook and glossary. He seems to be a bigger geek, a better writer and more funny than me — your basic nightmare (it’s the funnier part that really hurts though).
My self-esteem had mostly recovered, but then was dealt a killing blow with his cool revelation that he can hammer out 90 words a minute when typing.
Now when I saw this I figured, “I’m a gifted windbag…urr, writer of long emails, maybe if I take a shot I can get this monkey off my back and get back a little bit of my mojo.”
Hmph–pathetic. However, the test is addictive — I’ve got to get nerd points for admitting that don’t I? Feel free to let me know how badly you kick my ass.
Recently I’ve been discussing communication in terms of passive broadcast and organic distribution, but the paper slices communication into subcategories of passive and participatory.
Edelman notes, communication is moving to the right hand side of the communication quadrant.
Edelman’s conclusion is that change is constant and new “centres of authority” are continually emerging. These new loci are in turn changing how we communicate, identify with and influence each other.
As someone actively engaged in building content creation tools here are my takeaways:
Media content is a communication tool and software developers must identify and enable collaboration via the new loci emerging on the web. To do otherwise is to risk becoming irrelevant within a very short time frame (you can be a dominant force, miss one wave and be forgotten by the time the next wave arrives). Desktop apps are particularly vulnerable if they don’t embrace collaboration with the cloud inside and outside of their stacks.
Content creation apps need to think very carefully about their role in the user’s narrative. This needs to go beyond the user of the desktop app and extend to the content consumer. Everyone who has a brain will be focusing on enabling sharing / collaboration, but the ability to truly add to the narrative will be prized.
It’s not enough to just get content to destination sites. Apps and services must facilitate continued participation / collaboration between content creators, content and consumers. Seamless integration and interoperability will be heavily emphasized. Apps need to be aware of the additional conversation in the cloud (tags, metadata, etc.) and incorporate them.
It must be easy and fast! There’s so much information available from so many different sources that simplicity of content creation and deployment are essential. Another reason I’m so geeked about apps like Jing.
It must be free. Content creation and delivery is dominated by free apps and free hosting — software developers must find business models that fit around this (so far ads and tiered services rule the day).
If you aren’t open and transparent you’re not in the conversation. Again the risk of becoming completely irrelevant overnight is extremely high. It’s not just analysts and journalists that need openness and transparency, but consumers. People crave inclusion — we must build communities / processes that allow consumers to invest in our organization and the tools / services we provide. If we do this there’s an opportunity to create truly passionate users and leverage some of that social surplus everyone’s been talking about lately.
Blended marketing strategies are a must. Finding folks skilled at grass roots marketing and evangelism is critical. Once you’ve found them, everyone in your organization needs to learn from them and get involved in the conversation as both listeners and participants.
I’m looking sideways at Tim Bray. Almost sounds dirty or sneaky, but its actually a reference to one of the most important aspects of communication on the web — the greatest value is often personal and organic. Individuals rather than professional organizations can offer the most credible insights and the message is typically delivered organically via the social networks we’ve established throughout our lives and linked together via the net.
The web is chalk full of information to the point that its overwhelming; which begs the question “where to look”? Do you settle on an aggregator or two or load up on a-listers? Tim is suggesting we “look sideways” instead and seek out credible individuals within the organizations that interest us the most and then rely on our social networks to pass us other meaty bits their unique angles offer up. There’s a safety in this approach that allows us to focus (who can keep up with the Internet news cycle after all) and bypass the misinformation created by eyeball pandering journalists who sometimes deliberately slant or misrepresent and often lack the technical acumen to provide meaningful insights even when they are being their dispassionate best.
As the snapshot from the New York Times above illustrates this phenomena is not confined to the geek class inside the tech industry, but is a broader trend that’s having an impact on how young people in the States are consuming political news. This leaves us with a couple of really big questions:
People are getting their information from all over — a combination of passive delivery via professional broadcast media, organic network references and self-initiated research (search) with the latter two being sourced from both individuals (sideways) and professionals (top-down). How this sourcing pie is sliced up will, of course, vary given the demographic and personal tastes of the individual. However, its clear that there’s a trend towards organic delivery of individual sources — passive broadcast, spin-handling, PR and professional journalists have jumped the shark.
The more interesting question is how do you reach your target audience via the organic information stream? I’m inclined to agree with Guy Kawasaki’s suggestion to target the fat cross-section of moderate influencers rather than the a-list. Its more than a numbers game though — moderate influencers aren’t in it for the eyeballs; they’re both consumers and participants who are more interested in spreading good ideas than self-promotion (see Pistach.io or The Deck for alternate models).
Below are a few of my favorite sideways looks. There are a boatload of others in my aggregator representing companies big and small (more Adobe staffers and community members than I can reveal without blushing). I would love to check out some of your favorites — leave them in the comments!