Greg Smith’s Eight Steps to Build Stuff People Need

Is there a step-by-step process to build good software that solves problems and satisfies users?  Greg Smith identified eight clear steps, which “apply as equally to an open-source project and as a closed-source one.”

    1. Find a real user ready to communicate and work with you.
    2. Line up volunteers and evaluate group skills and time.
    3. Discuss with user the key challenges and pick one or two you want to address.
    4. Come up with a design proposal and validate with users.
    5. Code up a prototype or working example.
    6. Run beta test, refine and gather feedback.
    7. Deliver code and give great support in the early going.
    8. Go back to step 1 or to step 6 and keep at it 🙂

Source: Greg Smith Joins OLPC as Product Manager,

Original source: Email from Greg on Grassroots mailing list

Do you agree with Greg’s process?  How would you improve it?  What is a “real user”?  What is “group time”? Why do we need to evaluate user skills and time?

Have you ever received or witnessed “great [customer] support in the early going”?


Amoral Google: “Do no[t stand up to] evil”

I am disgusted with the frequency and indecency of the content in the Google Apps Content Directory.  My father purchased a domain name for the family.  We use the name and accompanying Google Apps website to host our (private) family blog, calendar, wiki, docs, and more.  It’s great.  But there’s one problem:  it’s unsafe for children.  From the Start Page, there is an attractive link on the right: “Add Stuff.”  One click away, and the child, or user, is viewing pornography.

The disclaimer for the iGoogle “add stuff” page reads:

Most of the content in this directory was developed by Google users. Google makes no representations about its performance, quality, or content. Google doesn’t charge for inclusion in this directory or accept payment for better placement.

Source: Add Gadgets to your Homepage,

For a Google Apps site, it reads:

Much of the content in this directory was developed by other companies or by Google’s users, not by Google. Google makes no promises or representations about its performance, quality, or content. Google doesn’t charge for inclusion in this directory or accept payment for better placement.

Source: Google Apps, “Homepage Content Directory”, URL unavailable

While mostly harmless on the surface, this is unacceptable for a family website.  While Google claims to be amoral and “does no evil,” they must not and cannot continue to peddle such filth and make it easily accessible to children.  As a domain administrator, I need the ability to control the items in the Content Directory.  Or, at very least, apply the same “Strict Filtering” algorithm used in normal web searches to the Content Directory.

Basically, I am asking Google to remove pornography from the Start Page of my neices and nephews, all 20 of whom are less than 15 years of age, including pre-teens and young teenagers who are ripe to be lulled down a dark alley on the Internet through an attractive link.  Two weeks ago, Facebook and MySpace were infected with a virus which injected malicious links into the profiles of users.  (If you have an account with them, you might want to check your profile.)

It’s not that I don’t trust the children; I don’t trust myself.  Just today I noticed two comments in my Akshmi spambox.  I happily read and approved both of them, grateful that Akshmi has stopped over 1,000 pieces of comment spam on this website.  One of the comments disagreed me; the other simply stated, “I agreed with you.”  The link posted as the “website” for the visitor included a rape video and dozens of links to similarly evil webpages.  I marked the comment as spam and then validated the links for all the other comments.

What should Google do?  Should they continue to sell advertising space to those who publish, sell, and promote pornography?  Should they continue their somewhat amoral stance?  Obviously, they cannot embrace pornography, because most people recognize it as evil.

What should I do about it?  Should I boycott the search giant’s products and services?  I have used BackRub for years, and I am a loyal advocate, praising them to family and friends.  But if they refuse to filter the pornography in the Content Directory, then we will have to remove our family website from their servers and find a better hosting solution.  It will be hard, and we would have to give up a great deal, but I would far rather sacrifice a few Web2.0 features than see the children of my siblings suffer from clicking a seemingly-innocent link.

Food Economic Forces

Today I read:

Constant improvements in technology, mechanization, plant breeding and farm chemicals have steadily increased food production per acre, and for the last 30 years led to a world that we assumed would be awash in cheap food.

Yet world prices for wheat, corn, rice, soy, coffee, cotton, dairy products, meats, fruits and vegetables have suddenly reached record levels. Why now?

The answer starts with

  • the half-billion new middle-class consumers in
  • increasingly wish to emulate the rich diet that
  • Westerners take for granted. And
  • they have the cash to buy the food they want
  • on the world market.
  • Despite slowing growth rates, world population
    • is nearing seven billion people and
    • may reach nine billion mouths in less than 40 years.

In addition,

  • increases in the cost of oil have sent
    • diesel fuel,
    • fertilizers and
    • farm chemical
  • prices sky-high. Those added costs are now being passed on to consumers.
  • [Forces] continue to cut back arable acreage[:]
    • Environmental regulations,
    • water scarcities and
    • urban development.
  • Constant improvements in
    • Technology and
    • machinery
  • now only marginally improve on past serial leaps in production.
  • More than one-fifth of the American corn crop is now devoted to ethanol.

In short, the era of cheap food, like the age of cheap gas, may be about over.

The result is a growing revolution in the way we envision the economics of agriculture, and it should be reflected in the efforts of all nations to ensure much freer trade in food.

Source: Op-Ed Contributor – Harvesting Money in a Hungry World – Op-Ed –, content reorganized, esp. paragraphs split into bulleted lists, by jcarroll.

So, what should we do?

LDS Web 2.0:

As seen on the front page:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Meetinghouse LocatorNew Meetinghouse Locator

Whether you are traveling, have moved to a new area, or would like to attend a Church service for the first time, try the Meetinghouse Locator. This upgraded program provides many user-friendly options to help you find a chapel near you.

The locator uses both Google Maps and Microsoft Virtual Earth. I haven’t seen any other website to use both.


Iniquities Spoken upon Housetops

Headline from Today’s New York Times:

If You Run a Red Light, Will Everyone Know?
A new Web site offers free, ad-supported criminal searches, letting people search by name through criminal archives of all 50 states and 3,500 counties in the United States.

The article explains:

Last month, PeopleFinders, … introduced, a free service to satisfy those common impulses. The sitelets people search by name through criminal archives of all 50 states and 3,500 counties in the United States. In the process, it just might upset a sensitive social balance once preserved by the difficulty of obtaining public documents like criminal records.

Source: If You Run a Red Light, Will Everyone Know?, from, emphasis added

This fulfills in part the following scripture:

And the rebellious shall be pierced with much sorrow; for their iniquities shall be spoken upon the housetops, and their secret acts shall be revealed.

Source: Doctrine and Covenants 1:3, (1-7), from