Project Post-mortems

Post-mortem (noun) – what a good programmer writes after he’s released a product. Also known as project retrospective or after-development report.

Here’s some thoughts on the post-mortems by Gus on VoodooPad 2.0 and Brent on MarsEdit 1.0 (which was spun off from NetNewsWire):

As a user of these apps, I find post-mortems nice because I see that they have learned good lessons which they will apply to improving their products and also get a feel for where they’re going. It is also interesting to see some back-story to give the apps more of a personal feel. It is like the equivalent of a DVD extra, but for apps.

As a programmer myself, I find post-mortems invaluable for my team and myself. Post-mortems from fellow programmers are a huge bonus. If you realize that you are not perfect and have room to grow, you can learn a lot from the lessons contained within them. Also, if you’re already doing some of these practices, like having automated builds, it reinforces that habit when you see that other successful developers are doing the same practice as well.

This is one of the big benefits of going to a conference as well: you don’t just learn from the speakers, but you learn also from your peers. I’ve found also that the smaller the conference, the better this camaraderie works.

Brent said that “most people don’t care about outliners.” This was pretty surprising to me, as I had always wanted an outliner on Windows, but never got a good one. Microsoft Word may be many things, but it is not a good outliner. So when I switched to the Mac, I was pleasantly surprised to have OmniOutliner 2.0 pre-installed. I use it frequently, although Brent has me thinking that the experience could be better.
It seems like there is a market for outliners, at least on the Mac. Especially if people are still missing MORE. Perhaps I’m just thinking as a power user here?
BTW, I’m not that big into the media features of outliners either. Not sure why I would nest an entire Quicktime movie into an outline. Seems like it defeats the idea of an outline. Maybe most people, if they don’t care about outlines, do care about To Do lists, however…

Dave Winer commented on the two post-mortems and he has put it out there that he wants to eventually ship an open source outliner for Mac and Windows.

Gus talks about how he moved to Subversion and realizes how bad life was with CVS. I’d like to hear about this a bit more, especially in regard to Xcode. Xcode 1.5 has built-in integration with Subversion, though I’m hoping that Subversion itself will ship with OS X Tiger. It seems like all the Apache projects are moving slowly but surely over to Subversion. I wonder if Eclipse will eventually head there as well? Eclipse seems pretty tied to CVS for the short term. Note to self: Try Subversion.

One last thought… Brent talks about “lightness” and “maximum elegance”, balanced against the possible perception of “slightness” (not enough features.) I think that developers and users tend to add as many features into a product as possible. That’s just the way the world works. This usually results in making the UI way too crowded with all those features or even worse, hiding features (which have to be maintained) in some deeply nested menu or dialog box where they rot and go unused. With this in mind, I think its great (and necessary) to have a guideline like “maximum elegance” to keep you focused on what your app truly needs to deliver.

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