No Hack Days at Polyvore

Do Whatever You Want Week

Instead we have: Do Whatever You Want Weeks.

Hack Days are in theory a great idea — let people who otherwise don’t get a chance to quickly prototype projects, showcase their ideas or plain work on something other than their usual work load.

But there are a few problems:

  • A single day is often not enough for realizing a serious idea.
  • People tend to work on whiz-bangy projects that are easy to demo but not very useful.
  • Sometimes, what people need most is not the variety of working on a new project but a complete break from programming.

To fix these problems in our version of Hack Days we created Do Whatever You Want Weeks.

DWYWW’s are exactly what the name suggests — a week of doing whatever you want. We chose a week because we felt it was enough time to get something serious done. People can do literally whatever they want — if someone feels what they need most is a week off, they can take it, no strings attached. If they want to code all week, they can do that too.

In practice, we work at a reasonable pace on stuff we really care about. We work on refactoring code, fixing bugs, mocking up new designs and of course creating new features that our community loves.

In some ways, DWYWW’s are not very different than our regular work weeks. And that is the point. Great companies shouldn’t really need Hack Days to let their staff work on cool stuff, they create an environment where it can happen every day.

Vanishing middle class

The rich grow richer, the poor poorer and the middle class is vanishing.  If it is so, does it make sense to develop products targeted for the middle class?  Or will the world be divided between Walmart and Cartier, Bently and Hyundai, with no Safeway or Toyota in the middle?  

Man vs. Nature

Climate change and its implications for humanity are getting more and more mainstream attention. There will no doubt be all sort of crazy technological “fixes” for dealing with the causes of climate changes and its effects.

What if I told told you that I have invented a machine that:

  • Captures CO2 out of the atmosphere and trap it in solid form
  • Is solar powered and does not require any other energy source
  • Can be cheaply deployed in a wide range of terrains and climates
  • Ships in a tiny package and after installation self-assembles from local materials.
  • Low-maintanence: self-repairs in case it is damaged

Of course, I am talking about plants. It seems to me that we already have the ultimate technology for dealing with parts of the climate change challenge. But I am sure people will try to re-invent the wheel and create an “artificial tree” anyway.

In general, we seem to be locked into a cycle of creating technologies to solve problems created by our previously created technologies.

Safari and iPhone

As one would expect, Safari browser is the main vehicle for extending the iPhone’s functionality. This fits with the general trend of applications migrating from desktop binary applications to ones that run in a browser.

I just hope that Apple decides to expose more of iPhone’s unique functionality as JavaScript objects accessible inside Safari. I know that proprietary browser extensions are frowned upon but I think it is justified in this case. Pages taking advantage of these extension would be exclusively targeted at the iPhone and not intended to run anywhere else to cause cross-browser issues.

So, what is on my wish list of extensions:

img = phone.camera.capture();

light = phone.camera.ambientLightIntensity();

audio = phone.mic.capture();

browsers actually don’t have an native audio representation. so, that is another thing that needs to be added in:

audio.play();

audio.toText(); // wishful thinking

It would be great to have events that expose the phone’s tilt sensors (similar to mouse events).

Also, some kind of off-line storage and computation similar to Google’s Gears would be great for writing more complex applications. Access to the phone book and calendar would not be too shabby either. I guess the list can just go on and on…

Finally, it is ironic that one of the coolest touch sensitive interfaces in existence does not expose any of the touch and drag/drop events into the browser. I think this was put in place for a backward compatible browsing experience for existing web pages, but I wish it would be exposed for applications that want to explicitly take advantage of the touch interface.

The Long Tail of applications

Most people who are interested in web technology have no doubt heard about the long tail. Amongst other things, it describes common usage patterns of content or goods on the web.

I believe that by lowering the barriers to creation of simple applications, Pipes (and similar systems) will contribute to an abundance of available applications. The usage pattern of these creations will closely follow the long tail pattern. There will be a few major hits, but the bulk of the usage will consist of very niche applications that solve very specific problems.

Welcome to the long tail of applications.

ps: It turns out other people have already been there and done that. Too bad the mailing list mentioned on the long tail site appears defunct.