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March 26, 2006

The Product of One's Labor

Three years ago, I left the world of consulting to join a small start-up. Our 10-12 person company was purchased by 360Commerce a year later, during which I stayed on as a contractor for twelve more months developing the same software (a small piece of a now larger pie) before leaving for another job. Our development team was never greater than 5-6 people, and we worked in a pretty close-knit environment. A few months ago, it was announced that 360Commerce was itself being purchased by Oracle. As goes 360, so does my old team.

Lost in the news of this latest acquisition is the small detail that the software I worked on is no longer considered a strategic piece of the new company's larger pie. Apparently it's being shelved. Even though I am no longer at that company, I still wonder what to make of it all..

A three year investment by 5-6 developers might be a drop in the bucket for a company the size of Oracle, but that investment does not count for the many small successes we had along the way, the discoveries we (as developers tied into the business) made along the way, and the speed with which we were able to extend the software to reflect changing business priorities throughout this period of time.

The news that our old code is effectively being shelved drives home the point that, as far as software development goes, we can not simply describe the product of our labor to be the software we produce-- because as this lesson teaches, its very existence is predicated on the belief that there is an immediate business need. And as that need changes, the software appears, evolves, and in some cases, dies.

It still doesn't take the sting out of hearing such news. For the unwary developer, this feels like destroying a house because the new owner doesn't think the bathroom fixtures are as nice as the ones in his other house.

All this said, I don't believe that the software developer needs to take a back seat to all of this. Even a year later, the core business concepts are still fresh in my mind. I still remember all the false-starts and wrong turns we made along the way-- but will I remember this in three years? Five years? What does it mean that I could write that piece of software all over again, better and faster knowing what I know now?

I don't doubt that three good developers and a single domain expert working a year could build something better than we had before. If I knew it could be sold, I'd be tempted to do it again and again. I'm sure that at some point in the game, I'll feel the same way about the software at my current company. And somewhere in the "doing it again and again" must be the true product of my labor. To distill that set of ideas, that nugget would be to create something which, in the end, drives all (good) software developers forward into another day of changing business requirements, false-starts and takeover bids.

Where is Ivan?

I took a slight turn in the past few weeks, and thanks to some welcome prodding, got myself a new flickr account. All photos will be there, possibly referenced here-- I'm not sure yet what to make of all this.

It might actually work out for the better. The desire to post a few photos on the web (since photography is what I aspire to do in my off hours) overshadowed the original purpose of this site to be about other things. But photos fit in with the short attention span most of us keep on the web, so to keep them off this site would probably be a mistake.

That said, not having photos here for a few weeks has taught me an important lesson about myself-- I'm getting lazy doing non-photo related things outside of work.

March 09, 2006

blue sky, new mexico

EarthandskyPulled from the archives along with a lot of similar photos. No address, but if I had to guess, this was somewhere on the way to the D.H. Lawrence memorial. (F100, 24mm f2.8D, Ektachrome 100)

March 08, 2006

Walnut Room

Walnut Room We walked past the Walnut Room last Saturday right before closing. They were setting up some food around the fountain, presumably for Sunday morning brunch.

Not that you asked, but I'm a fan of the french dip at the Frango Cafe. On a weekend downtown, when all the frou-frou restaurants are full on Michigan avenue, it was always empty. Sure hope it's still around when Marshall Fields becomes Macy's.

March 05, 2006


Janes-1Flower and candle, taken one evening at Jane's. We arrived just before closing, and they were nice enough to seat us. We've been there a few times now and always have a good meal. Recommended.

As a side-note, this was my first time re-acquainting myself with the Nikon FE. Funny story about it-- I had problems loading the film! I took a picture of the candle at our table while winding the film, and noticed that it wasn't advancing. Eventually I remembered that the film spools counter-clockwise, and took this shot again as a test.


Mystery 1996I need some help identifying this one. It comes off a damaged and seriously underexposed negative.

As much as I can tell, I took it around 1996, and it appears on a same roll of film as a few random pictures from my college days. This doesn't look like any place in Champaign I can remember, nor does it look like Chicago. Is that a train in the foreground? Where is this place? Help!

March 03, 2006


Poolside Bolivia-1Work has been all-encompasing this week. I saved this scan a week or so ago for reasons that I can't remember. Photograph most likely taken in 1997 (yet another reason why I like having a film scanner-- being able to make all these old memories available and fresh). From back in Bolivia, behind my family's house. If I recall correctly, I moved an ugly chair out of the way in order to take this picture. The pool (which was new then) was just filled. I wonder if it still looks the same...

More work tomorrow, then a weekend of phone calls and then some. I have three rolls of film sitting in my in-box, two from my weekend with the FE, and one from Vegas.. Although I've been considering holding off on posting pictures for a while and concentrating on other things.