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ASAP’s fables and ETA paradoxes

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What happened?

In the design world, there is a saying: “Quality, speed, cost. Pick any two.”  In our case, cost is already picked for us because we’re a small team; speed means “features” or “front-end” and quality means “infrastructure” or “back-end.” Back in 2004 when it all started we chose speed and quickly built Relenta into the killer app that it is. Our motto was “Put it out there fast, deal with problems later.” Eventually the time had come when simply adding features was no longer sustainable. For example, some of you may recall performance problems we had two years ago, and that was merely tip of the iceberg. Shifting focus to the back-end and freezing feature development for the time being was the only way forward.

Why did it take so long?

What do application development and bank loan payments have in common?

The development of an app of Relenta scale requires completing a seemingly infinite number of steps, which even Greek philosopher Zeno (490 – 430 BC) maintained is a theoretical impossibility as in The Achilles and Tortoise paradox.

Paradoxically, the last couple of years were our most productive ever in terms of sheer output and innovation. Problem is, you can’t see it because it’s all in the code and application architecture. On top of that, the progress didn’t always happen linearly. We had to trash significant pieces of work along the way, setting ourselves back sometimes as far as months at a time and going back to the drawing board.

What are the lessons learned?

In retrospect, we should have implemented a policy against issuing ETAs and other wishful thinking statements such as “coming soon” and “almost there.”  So here goes:

Regular releases instead of empty ETAs

What else? Writing this post a year or two ago wouldn’t have hurt. Oh, and a policy against procrastination also seems like a good idea, when we get around to it.

Written by Dmitri Eroshenko

April 30th, 2012 at 9:26 am

Posted in 2012,uncategorized

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