I just finished watching Aardvark'd: 12 Weeks With Geeks, the movie about the development of Copilot at Joel Spolsky's company, Fog Creek Software.

The DVD came out a while ago, but I hesitated to buy it because most of the reviews I had read were not exactly glowing. Now, I'm a little bit sorry that I didn't buy it sooner, because I really liked it.

It seems that many reviewers didn't like the movie largely because it didn't deliver what they expected: an in-depth look at the software development process within Fog Creek. And while this is true, I still found the movie to be extremely interesting and worthwhile.

What I really loved about the movie was getting to see the people behind Fog Creek in-person. For the last few years, I've been reading Joel's thoughts on how to judge developers and about his excruciating selection criteria for Fog Creek employees. Now, I actually get to see the people who have made it through the gauntlet and what they're actually like. I found that quite thrilling.

As a bonus that I wasn't at all expecting, the movie features interviews with Paul Graham and the founders of Reddit, one of my favorite websites. It was fascinating for me to see these people live and (as stupid as this may seem) hear their voices and how they speak.

I also loved seeing the bionic office in Manhattan and the view out its windows.

In short, watching Aardvark'd was like going backstage and meeting the rockstars in my nerdy world. So if you're like me, and you would consider Joel Spolsky, Paul Graham, and Aaron Swartz rockstars (as pathetic as that is) and Fog Creek's office equivalent to Madison Square Garden, I would wholeheartedly recommend Aardvark'd.

The Real Release Cycle

Someone linked to this in the comments at Joseph Cooney's blog.

I found it hilarious and, unfortunately, very relatable.

Embracing the Constraints of Web UI

Jeff Atwood's recent post on web application UIs reminded me of why I chose to get into web development. This quote, in particular, matches exactly what was going through my mind about one year ago, when I made the decision that I was going to move into web development:

"Eckel sees a world of JavaScript and DHTML that's inappropriate for large applications. I see a world of large applications that are inappropriate for most users. It's high time we scaled down and scaled back. If anything, this is a beneficial side-effect of the limitations inherent to the platform."

What excited me so much about the prospect of web applications was that they gave me an excuse and a vehicle for expressing my minimalist urges and instincts regarding software design.

This mindset has also been popularized to a large extent by the 37signals religion. And while I find it annoying in many ways, I also agree wholeheartedly with some of its tenets, especially embracing constraints and sticking to the essentials.

Instead of focusing on packing feature after feature into our applications that no one cares about anyway, let's embrace the constraints of the web browser as a platform, and keep it simple, stupid!

Software Consulting Companies in Grand Rapids, MI

Updated 4/23/2008

In order to illustrate the relative dearth of shrinkwrap software companies in Grand Rapids, I thought I'd post a list of companies doing custom software consulting in Grand Rapids. I've been cobbling this list together for several years using various sources. Some of the companies on this list are a stretch, as software consulting might be a very minor part of their business. I've tried to keep the "heavy hitters" near the top of the list and the "stretches" near the bottom.

Shrinkwrap Software Companies in Grand Rapids, MI

Updated 3/16/2008

I wanted to put together a list of every company producing shrinkwrap software in Grand Rapids that I could find. I'm using Joel Spolsky's definition of "shrinkwrap," and by "Grand Rapids" I really mean West Michigan.

I'll be adding companies to this list as I become aware of them.

I'm really hoping that people will stumble upon this list and leave comments to let me know of any companies I may have overlooked or mislabeled as shrinkwrap. I'll update the list based on these comments as well.

Here's what I have so far, in no particular order:


This Freebase thing sounds cool but, I mean, come on.


When I first started using Firefox a few years ago, I was quite taken with the Smart Keywords feature. After using Linux pretty heavily in college, I started to really appreciate the power of doing things from a command line. Smart Keywords struck me as a way to bring the spirit and power of the command line into the address bar of Firefox. "You mean I can type 'imdb escape from new york' into the address bar, and the IMDB.com page for Escape From New York will magically appear? What a time to be alive."

I don't recall how much time passed before I stumbled across YubNub, but it was like a revelation. "Holy crap! Someone actually drew this web command line thing out to its logical conclusion. Those clever bastards!" Later I discovered that someone had made a Mycroft search plugin for YubNub. So the Firefox search bar could come into the act, and be fully abused as a command line. Friggin' awesome.

Cut to a few weeks ago, and I'm getting really tired of the standard procedure for getting Jeff Atwood's thoughts on whatever's knocking around inside my head at a particular moment. I had checked the Mycroft site several times before, at intervals of a month or so, to see if someone had gone to the effort of creating a plugin for Jeff's search engine yet. After yet another "no dice", I decided to take the matter into my own hands. As I was feeling far too lazy to create a whole Mycroft plugin myself, I turned to YubNub.

After about five minutes of research, I had unleashed my first YubNub command onto the world: coho. Go ahead...try it...I dare you. Drunk with power, I later came back to get my fix in the form of an ASP.NET Forums search: aspnet.

Now that I've contributed two commands to the "web command line", the sky's the limit. I know, I know...I haven't exactly created vi or grep here, but I'm not gonna let you bring me down from this high.

And so...to wrap up here...I rediscovered the awesomeness that is YubNub, and along with many of the other great things in my life, it's all due to my extraordinary laziness.