Soft at Heart


I’ve managed to spend most of my evenings offline of late, cradling my Kindle or a paper book (the latest batch of which I’ve yet to go all the way through), and it’s been a welcome trend even though a small part of me has been itching to weigh in on industry follies of various kinds.

The Nokia Gambit

Distant as I may currently be from such things, I nevertheless feel that Nokia has made a mistake. One that is undoubtedly theirs to make, but even if we call it a gamble and assume that Microsoft is (at least statistically) due a break in their successive attempts at making one of their mobile platforms stick, it doesn’t look good.

I will cheerily admit being biased where it regards Microsoft, not due to any Apple taint, but rather to my moderately traumatizing exposure to one of the waves of ex-‘softies that left the company a few years back and stationed themselves in the European mobile industry. I actually think of it as an interesting place, and (full disclosure) even considered joining Microsoft a couple of times over the last decade, since it is one of the few companies where I’ve always believed I could learn something new - but definitely not in the mobile industry.

I suppose the tinfoil hat crowd would love to see in this some sort of “sleeper” strategy on their part, with folk being sent out to colonize other companies and bend them to Redmond’s whim, but I see it more as sort of a set of cultural and corporate memes that people in the technology industry equate with success and strategic vision - for those seem to be the positions where I’ve mostly come across ex-‘softies.

The thing is, I’ve seen those people tank products and services like there was no tomorrow, and I honestly don’t fully get why - all I know is that I saw most of the WM6 licensees give up, watched as the Smartphone Edition failed spectacularly, had a front-row seat for the (aborted) European Kin launch, and (last but not least) spent a good while working on a massive mobile project spearheaded by an ex-‘softie (a guy whom I met and respect, by the way) that went nowhere.

I’ve never written about that, but it was that project (and the fact that I had to join it despite my disagreement with both strategy and execution) that prompted me to change jobs - hence my bias, for it’s as if they’re jinxed or have some quintessential anti-mobile blind spot created by either their approaches at problem-solving or their strategy cookbooks…

And Nokia, with their monolithic, tasteless approach at churning out product by tweaking casings, features and packaging (both box and promotional) just enough to make things seem “newer” without actually fixing anything (yeah, that link is nearly four years old now…), doesn’t strike me as a discerning mate, either. They might have the mobile industry’s most awe-inspiring logistics organization and massive footprint, but they’ve spent years dithering about what to do with Symbian and shipping what amount to limited edition collectors’ items, one for each alternate platform.

So I’ll be dumbstruck if Nokia actually manages to turn around on Microsoft’s dime (as it were).

Other Pursuits

I’ve had remarkably little time for coding more than a few little scripts of late, and find myself avoiding Xcode 4’s disk image (the elephant in my Downloads folder) so that I don’t feel tempted to go off into Cocoa land instead of doing staff evals, playing calendar battleships or hammering out e-mails.

But last week, during a frenzy of VM installs and tool testing, I cloned this site’s source code and stuck it inside a bunch of source code control and analysis tools that I want to fool around with, on the rather spurious notion that Yaki is the largest codebase that I’ve managed to keep in my head over time and that it would be great to to use for testing.

So it may well be that some good will come of that, if only because I’ll be staring at it in several kinds of tools and knowing myself, I won’t be able to resist shaving a few bits of yak here and there. In the meantime, I keep finding interesting stuff on github, and whatever pet projects I may be able to nurse will pop up there - foremost on my mind is the notion of taking QSB, paring it down to bare essentials, and see what can be done from there - Alfred, the new kid on the block, just isn’t good (or clever) enough for me.

Next up, there are a bunch of micro-projects I’m keen on doing at the office if I ever find a way to stop people from popping in every 15 minutes. After a decade of working in open-space offices, I can say for a fact that they’re more productive for the following reasons:

  • When people open the door to your office (regardless of knocking habits, or lack thereof), your train of thought evaporates immediately
  • People stay longer, because your office is nice and quiet and they feel comfy
  • People will invariably open the door to peek in even if you’re already entertaining a visitor
  • People in open-space offices can send you an e-mail and glance at your desk to estimate when you’ll read it instead of popping in every half hour asking if you did so already
  • And, finally, in an open-space office you can spot nuisances homing in on you and take evasive action

Nevertheless, I really like it when things are quiet. I can get a tremendous amount of stuff done by simply shunting mail and IM to a different virtual desktop, since those are the only interruptions that make it through the walls.

Oh, and through locked doors.