What’s In a Version Number?

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Just saw a post that Firefox 7 was released today as part of the “rapid release” strategy and I thought it was worth a few minutes to type a little blog for this.

Firefox has basically adopted 2 things here.  One is the Google-sque version numbering convention for just updating it quickly for no apparent reason other than there is a new sprint, the other is  what essentially amounts to the agile software development cycle.

Realistically Firefox can call their browser what ever they want and give it what ever number they want…3.0, 3.5, 3.6, 4.0, etc, etc, etc.  However what people are basically losing sight of is what that number means to people.  As somebody in the industry when I see a major or minor version number change like the ones above, I am trained to expect is problems.  It means that somewhere in the system someone has made a change that might or might not affect my application.  This is where the Firefox strategy starts to fall down badly.  Arguably the changes are minor that are happening, but as this post explains “we might break something” so you need to test.  As a corporation running internal types of tooling, this just doesn’t work.  I have no real need to be updating everything every 6 weeks and retesting so that I ensure that everyone of my 100+ applications still work with the new version.  In reality, 99% of them will be fine, but that 1% creates havoc since now I can’t update the browser, which might mean I can’t update the OS and invariably at some point I will get a newer application that won’t work on the old version…havoc ensues.

What the browser companies need to do a much better job of is what MS actually does a pretty good job of and that is backwards compatibility.  It is fine to do releases every 6 weeks, it is fine to add features to those releases, but you need to achieve the goal of giving people a stable platform that won’t necessarily break every time you turn around.



Markets are People

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As with most people out there I find myself continually drawn to certain subjects and being in IT as a career many of those subjects center around computers.  However, one subject that I continually find myself drawn to is basically human nature and more specifically how it is combining with our current technological advancement.

For one of the few times in human history it is notable that our current level of technology (not just computers and the internet, but medicine, food production, chemicals) is far superior to our cultural ability to absorb these items, understand them, and embed them into the culture in a way that is “good”.

Having been involved in the Sales cycle for software many times I always find it interesting how buyers/users view the world.  In my own way I almost always bucket people into 3 groups.  The ones who want change, those who don’t really care, and those who resist change.  During the sales cycle this generally crops up as, the group who are constantly pointing out the inadequacies of the current solution (whether it be software or manual), those who feel most any solution will do what they need it to do (just tell them how), and those than feel the currently solution is perfectly fine (if not awesome).

In the attached blog post he talks about the “9x Effect”, this being the fact that companies will try to over sell the product and the consumers overall will be skeptical about the benefits (the bottom 2/3s from above) as well as how we are always making “relative evaluations”.  I point this out because of 2 things.

1. Above I mention the top 1/3 who always want change, and as such they will point out the things they don’t like about something and it will give them a “relative” what is better about the new solution attitude.  Eventually they will notice that all is not sunshine and lollypops, but some issues will be solved for them.

2. I believe this is why a “new generation” is required for great leaps in culture (and also why that is not possible in our currently aging society).  A younger person/generation has not vested interest in the current technology, they don’t own it, didn’t grow up with it and since they didn’t do either of these things, see no value in it.

Youth tend to look at the new tech almost like companies do, they see value even if it doesn’t exist and they have both the time and energy to experience it.  Eventually most people are like the rest, as we age we become vested in a specific set of items and are convinced they are the best and that we don’t need the new stuff.

As such, the bulk of the consumer market is normally very “skeptical” about new items and are very quick to disregard the solution.  At face value you can look at new technologies/products which strictly speaking where not that new, but captured the market with the right time, marketing, location, price, features, etc that they very quickly established themselves as the the defacto standard.

  • The iPhone is simply a phone with contacts and email, what pulled it above the fray?
  • Facebook is not significantly different from other offering before it.  Yet, it is now the #1 site on the internet.

As often as not, we can look back as the Monday Morning Quarterback and say what went right or wrong, but doing it with foresight is an entirely different problem.

Answer the 9x question and be a billionaire…….