Jeff & Joel are joined this week by Eric Ries, author and expert on The Lean Startup. Topics for the chat include:
Atwood is joining the podcast from his vacation. He has an
announcement! He is having twins! In February! This will bring the total
Atwood Child Count to 3, meaning they will outnumber the adults.
- Talk of children leads to talk of war
which leads to talk of Battlefield 3. The core team spent some time
playing today. It incentivizes working as a team!
- ANYWAY. Eric Ries is our guest today! He's got a new book out called The Lean Startup.
What is a Lean Startup? It's an analogy to lean manufacturing: a system
of management about fast cycle time and building quality in from the
beginning. Lean startups take those techniques and apply them to
startups, where there are a lot more unknowns about the product and the
- Eric wants to convince Jeff and Joel not to batch
deploy anymore. (We deploy multiple times per day. We have at least one
per day, and other than that people can deploy as they see that they
need to.) The discussion about the way the teams deploy changes leads to
a discussion about unit testing.
- Joel's criticism of lean
startups: the combination of Lean Startups and the fact that any startup
can get a huge amount of funding instantly leads to a lot of startups
that seem to "pivot" an awful lot. Color is a classic example of this. Eric reminds us that winter is coming for entrepreneurship, and this might not be a problem much longer.
is a pivot? A change in strategy without a change in vision. The key to
the analogy is that in a pivot, one foot stays planted while you shift
around to a new direction.
- Innovation accounting is Eric's
alternate accounting system that's designed to tell if you're getting
close to product market fit. ROI, profitability, growth rates - all the
traditional accounting metrics don't apply at the really early stages of
- Joel's dream for the Stack Exchange Network is
medical research. The problem is getting a critical mass of people
together to make the site work. Currently, we branch into other
verticals via "overlapping circles" - starting out with programmers who
also have other hobbies.
- Gaming is one of the biggest sites that
has been created out of the "overlapping circles" theory. It's likely
to be an excellent bridge between the existing community of programmers
and civilians who also play games, so we are going to put time and
effort into figuring out how exactly to make Gaming more awesome.
is Mr. Pivot, so let's get back to that: Pivoting is not necessarily a
mistake. It's the realization that a strategy that you used to be
pursuing is working well for a specific customer base, and that you
should pursue the parts of it that work. Gamers tend to pick a certain
game to obsess over for a while, so it makes sense for the Gaming Stack
Exchange to take a more specific approach to games as opposed to the
Stack Overflow generalist approach.
- If you could imagine having
An Encyclopedia Of X, there could be a site about X. (There might not be
an encyclopedia on Call of Duty, but there would be one about all games
in general.) That leads to the generalist approach, which can get
messy, but we allow users to participate in segmenting themselves.
has decided to attack the Stack Overflow moderator flag queue. Some
things he's noticed: There is a tendency to pile flags on people that
don't speak English natively. The mental load on a new moderator can be
very high as they learn the ropes of how to handle particular types of
flags. Handling flags requires a lot of effort and decision from
moderators. Joel has an idea on how to handle this! Discussion on
moderation and flagging ensues.
- Eric's book The Lean Startup, found on Amazon or right on Eric's website, peaked at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list!
Make sure to join us next week (at the usual time of course) when our guest is Mar Russinovich.