January 29th, 2004

Zane, Art and the Structure of Corporate America

Today, I return from a two week trip to Japan. As I was leaving, I was somewhat surprised to discover that unlike US airports, the people who feel you up for security reasons don't need to be the same gender as you in Japan. Not surprisingly, they are very polite about the whole process. But this isn't about Japan, or leaving Japan; it is about a conversation I had with Zane while in Austin.

Zane has been starting a company called Liquid Labs. The concept is fairly similar to what Chuck, Arley and I are trying to do with Netzah. He wants to build up a library of software and software frameworks and to use them to develop products. I had believed there was a significant management style difference that might make it hard for us to work together should our paths cross.

There is somewhat of a difference. However are approaches to the problem are very similar. Both of us view software as an artistic process with engineering components. We both seem drawn to the artistic aspects of the problem and enjoy framework architecture.

The difference is that Zane believes you need a single individual guiding the artistic integrity of the project while I want a team to balance out the bad decisions an individual will make from time to time. Collapse )

I look forward to seeing how my thoughts on these issues evolve. The goals are now clear. I want to create software engineering art with strong technical unity. I also want to find ways of involving many first-rate designers and programmers in the same project. It's frustrating how few of my friends manage to work on the same projects. Part of this is economic; as my friends become more skilled their price goes up and it is harder to afford a lot of them. But even if you could afford all the good software people I know, how many of them would actually work well together? Having a peer group of similarly skilled engineers working on the same project has been the best experience of my life. So it's not surprising that I'm looking for processes and methods that at least for similarly minded engineers can increase the likelihood that we could successfully work together.
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