Monday, September 8, 2008

Ideas - Being Heard

I learned something about myself, about job satisfaction today. I learned about my ideas, and how sensitive I am to how they are received. The situation was simple, and the guy who revealed my sensitivity is a great guy, so he'll hopefully forgive me for using him in my example.

We've been talking about doing a team outing/team building exercise. Our CTO, asked for ideas. I felt strongly about our activity being of value to the company, and that it also be fun and socially acceptable for the group. Falling backwards into the group in a trust game wasn't going to cut it for these guys. So I spent a couple of hours on it, now I had a time investment and an emotional investment in this idea generation.

I came up with two, a treasure-hunting service that focused a lot on the team aspects I thought were important, and a cooking class since Adam had suggested dinner as part of the exercise (I figured we'd work together at a common goal - getting fed - and solve our food challenge all at once). I sent the ideas off to Adam, who then forwarded them to the team.

A member of the team responded with "I vote against a cooking class." and then went on to suggest his own activity.

I was devastated. I didn't want to suggest any more ideas. I was done with helping the activity. I was turned off, tuned out, I wanted no part. But I didn't know it. I knew that if you asked me about it I felt poorly, but I didn't understand why or what the extent of the affect was. I thought it was just another email until later, when our CTO asked me to just send those ideas to the group on my own, no reason to make him the bottle neck. What he asked me to do made me think about why I didn't do that in the first place.

As a group, we're young, naive, new, green. We don't know how to talk to each other so that we get our ideas out and heard. In this situation, my idea went out, it was read, but not heard. The recipient dismissed it without really chewing on it, thinking it over, and replying with why it didn't work for him. Was it that he doesn't like classes? Was it that he doesn't like fire? Is he on a specialty diet and doesn't want to impede others? I have no idea. What I do know is that his message implied "Will, your idea is bad, so bad I can't even build on it or respond to it." Ouch. I know the sender didn't mean it that way, but that's how it made me feel.

Now put me in a room, and ask me for an idea. How likely do you think I will be to share my thoughts? If I say something, it'll probably be safe, something that has already been established as accepted by the group. My ability to help the group innovate, to be creative, has been destroyed over time on an unconscious level by experiences like the one above.

But I do still contribute ideas. I do it because it is rewarding to be heard - it's why I like working in small companies where everyone has a voice. And there are people who hear me, like our CTO, like Matt. When I say to them "I have a crazy idea [blah blah blah]!" they listen and say "That is crazy, but I see where you're going, what if we..."

And that's how I know I'm being heard. That's how I know that they're communicating. That's how I know they understand me. And from that point, we could go anywhere.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Chrome Fail

You may have heard the Google released a browser into the market today. Everyone is pumped about it for a myriad of reasons, but it's mostly a new pony with old tricks:
  • "I have a minimalist UI"
  • "I'm faster"
  • "I have a cool UI gimmick you'll love"
  • "My address bar does more than your address bar"
  • "I'm open source because open source is good"
  • "I have better security"
    and so on.

At the end of the day it's deja-FireFox 1.0 all over again. Now that FireFox is hitting v3, it's got add-ins and all kinds of bloat you can tack on to your browser to get it to do the things it could have done out of the box. Awesome, thanks Mozilla. These ideas aren't new, all Google has done is created yet another web page viewer. And I should note that despite their "rigorous testing" it still eats web pages like they're going out of style and poops them out when it renders 'em.

But that's just the thing, it's time for web pages to go out of style. This is where I hoped Chrome would be a champion. I read that it had features tailored to Web Applications and that's where I got my hopes up. Instead of a series of linked web pages, an application that has a state, that makes server calls to update parts of the content. No more does a single URL point to a single resource, but rather an aggregation of all kinds of information. It's what frames tried to do back in the 90's and the iframe tried to do afterwards. It's what Web Services are built for and what AJAX should be able to rock hard if cross-domain issues didn't get in the way.

Chrome does not do anything special for the future of the web. All it does is create shortcuts and strip out the forward/backward buttons and conceal the address bar. "Hold on, let me put on my party hat! ... hey wait! Couldn't we do that already?" The answer is yes. Now we're using the desktop/start menu/quick launch bar as a bookmark folder, neat.

For clarity, it's a decent enough browser. I'm all for the JavaScript virtual machine that should make it less painful on users when I want to write out a thousand list items in a loop, and I like Google products, and I like a lot about the memory management and security. What I don't like is that Chrome aimed to be something really good for the web, and it turned out to be just another player, not a leader.

We need a leader. Matt will sing the praises of architecture like Adobe Air and Silverlight try to accomplish. But they lack adoption. The web is stuck in a page being a page, and not an application. The world is stuck on "navigation" and bookmarks and addresses. It doesn't realize that if it just got out of the way that "Web 2.0" wouldn't be just a buzz word, and that you really wouldn't need software or storage or much of a computer at all to be able to do all of the things you do on a regular basis. Just a network connection, and we'll take care of the rest.