Read my latest article: 8 things I look for in a Ruby on Rails app (posted Thu, 06 Jul 2017 16:59:00 GMT)

Building a prototype? Bring some rope.

Posted by Thu, 09 Apr 2009 19:57:00 GMT

While scanning through Allison’s copy of Designing for the Digital Age: How to Create Human-Centered Products and Services, I came across this nugget.

The problem with software prototypes

It seems to be widely understood that industrial design and mechanical engineering prototypes—from paperclips and tape to polished appearance models—are disposable learning tools. Prototyping is clearly distinct from manufacturing, so it would be ludicrous to think that even a late-stage prototype could be reused as part of the final product. In software, however, the tools used for anything other than paper prototyping are generally the same tools used for “manufacturing” (i.e., writing production code). For this reason, many stakeholders can’t see why a detailed prototype that appears functional is still many months away from completion.

It immediately reminded me of a few posts that I had written about three years ago on the topic of developing prototypes and NOT keeping them.

The author continues with…

It’s important to educate stakeholders that prototype code is kind of like the illusion of automatic doors on Star Trek—it looks like it’s working, but it’s really a guy standing behind the wall pulling a rope.

I completely agree that education is the most important aspect to managing client expectations. With regard to the amount of work that you put into a prototype, we need to be careful on how much time and energy is put into them. If we can get away with a guy (or some quick Javascript hacks) to demonstrate possible functionality, make sure we aren’t using much more than rope. Rope is cheap. Prototypes should be too.

Related Posts

Don't Over Promise

Posted by Sun, 19 Nov 2006 02:02:00 GMT

This was from a discussion a few weeks ago on the Dialogue-Driven Development mailing list.

Bob listed five things that promotes dialogue.

  1. Active Listening
  2. Agenda Control
  3. Trust
  4. Follow-Up/Follow-Through
  5. Don’t Over Promise

“Don’t Over Promise; In business, it seems about half wait until the last minute and the other half hasn’t a clue about what’s really involved in making any sort of quality effort at something (look at the dismal record on software project performance in the CHAOS report and others). If you overpromise/underdeliver against expectations; you’ll damage both trust and future dialogue. Don’t commit to situations where there’s any doubt in your mind regarding your ability to perform. It doesn’t matter as much about capability (since we all like the challenge) as much as it does about raw capacity (in terms of time) to perform within the established timeframe.”

The list has been about as dormant as my blog has the past several weeks. I’m currently reading through King Arthur’s Round Table, by David Perkins, which focuses on different conversation styles and Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together, by William Isaacs. I hope to share some of what I learn on my blog and with the list. :-)

Knowing Me, Knowing You, part 2

Posted by Wed, 30 Aug 2006 00:16:00 GMT

12 comments Latest by Robert Treat Wed, 30 Aug 2006 19:47:23 GMT

Earlier this month, I posted the first in the series of Knowing Me, Knowing You. In this second post, I would like to take you inside the PLANET ARGON office. More specifically… I would like to list all the books that I found on peoples desks. These aren’t books that are sitting on the bookshelves… but books that are sitting within arms reach of the employees at PLANET ARGON.

Here goes with some links to our favorite Independent bookstore, Powells.

Care to take a guess at who is reading what?

Your Turn

Take a look around your workspace... which books are within arms reach. Right now. :-)

Go Ruby Go!

Posted by Wed, 02 Aug 2006 23:14:00 GMT

2 comments Latest by Thomas Lockney Thu, 03 Aug 2006 01:48:10 GMT

Allison Beckwith forwarded me an email that she got from (our favorite independent bookstore)... check out their top technical books right now!


  1. “The Ruby Cookbook” by Lucas Carlson (Computer Languages)
  2. “Agile Web Development with Rails” by Dave Thomas (Computer Languages)
  3. “Ubuntu Hacks” by Jonathan Oxer (Unix)
  4. “Programming Ruby” by Dave Thomas (Computer Languages)
  5. “Rails Recipes” by Chad Fowler (Computer Languages)
  6. “Perl Hacks” by chromatic (Computer Languages)
  7. “Higher-Order Perl” by Mark Jason Dominus (Computer Languages)
  8. “Mind Performance Hacks” by Ron Hale-Evans (Popular Science)
  9. “Mind Hacks” by Tom Stafford (Popular Science)
  10. “Ajax Design Patterns” by Michael Mahemoff (Internet)

This includes both online and in-store purchases. We’re lucky at PLANET ARGON as we’re only about 4 blocks from their technical book store. ;-)

You’ll also notice that the Ruby books are selling more than the Perl books… Tim O’Reilly “blogged about this the other day.

Congrats on hitting #1 Lucas!

  • mental note: ...better hurry and finish my book!

Code Complete

Posted by Thu, 08 Jun 2006 15:11:00 GMT

8 comments Latest by Robby Russell Fri, 09 Jun 2006 15:44:12 GMT

I came across a review of Code Complete, 2nd Ed. last night… and saw the following quotes.

””People have already made all the mistakes that you’re making now, and unless you’re a glutton for punishment, you’ll prefer reading their books and avoiding their mistakes to inventing new versions of old problems.” “


””Once a programmer realizes that programming principles transcend the syntax of any specific language, the doors swing open to knowledge that truly makes a difference in quality and productivity.”“

I’m sold and with 900+ pages… I’m sure I have a few things to learn. I’m going to go pick it up shortly at Powell’s Technical. :-)

Go Ruby Go!

Posted by Thu, 08 Dec 2005 00:52:00 GMT

DHH wrote that Tim O’Reilly wrote on O’Reilly Radar, Ruby Book Sales Surpass Python.

While I was looking at the data, though, I noticed something perhaps more newsworthy: in the same period, Ruby book sales surpassed Python book sales for the first time. Python is up 20% vs. the same period last year, but Ruby is up 1552%! (Perl is down 3%.)