Crossderry Podcast #1 — 11 November 2014

Here is the first Crossderry podcast. I plan to do this roughly once a week. The topics are: Apple Watch as threat to Swiss watch industry, Quick hitter tweet review: Team size, platform category errors, and salespeople who do not know anything about their customers.



The Apple 8.0.1 Debacle: Whom to blame?

Marc Andreessen drew my attention to a Bloomberg article that laid out what it purported to be “links” with the failed Maps launch. @pmarca was properly skeptical of the article:

And indeed, the piece starts in on the leader of the quality assurance effort, noting that:

The same person at Apple was in charge of catching problems before both products were released. Josh Williams, the mid-level manager overseeing quality assurance for Apple’s iOS mobile-software group, was also in charge of quality control for maps, according to people familiar with Apple’s management structure.

If you didn’t read any further, you’d think the problem was solved. Some guy wasn’t doing his job. Case closed.

But are quality problems ever so simple? After all, Isn’t quality supposed to be built into a product? If this guy was the problem, then why was Apple leaning so heavily on him to lead its bug-finding QA group?

Well, reading on is rewarding, for it becomes clear that the quality problems at Apple run deeper than a bad QA leader. For example, turf wars and secrecy within Apple make it so:

Another challenge is that the engineers who test the newest software versions often don’t get their hands on the latest iPhones until the same time that they arrive with customers, resulting in updates that may not get tested as much on the latest handsets. Cook has clamped down on the use of unreleased iPhones and only senior managers are allowed access to the products without special permission, two people said.

Even worse, integration testing is not routinely done before an OS feature gets to QA:

Teams responsible for testing cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity will sometimes sign off on a product release, then Williams’ team will discover later that it’s not compatible with another feature, the person said.

So all you Apple fans, just remember the joke we used to make late in a project: “What’s another name for the release milestone? User Acceptance Testing begins!”

The real innovators and revolutionaries

Spock builds a WYSIWIG word processor with stone knives and bear skins.

Spock builds a WYSIWIG word processor out of stone knives and bear skins.

Folks in the software business love to the don the cloak of “innovator”, or “revolutionary”, or “pathfinder”.  The dirty secret of our industry, however, is that much of what passes for innovation is simply porting and popularizing (e.g., GUI work done by Xerox PARC shows up in Apple Mac, evolution of spreadsheets from mainframe, to Visicalc, then Lotus 123, finally Excel). 

Those are achievements, no doubt.  But they’re incremental achievements: building on, adapting, leveraging, etc. the work of others.

Now, if you want to see something closer to revolution, check out what these dudes were up to in 1968.  Doug Engelbart and crew’s “Mother of all Demos” is astounding (here).  It will take a while — and the Flash files are quite hinky — but it is worth the time.

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