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Posted on: Friday, 24 December 2010 by Rajiv Popat

A few friends and I have been working on a little free service which will allow a few like minded people to connect on a completely different level. I'm not going to talk about the service yet. Not because it's a secret. Actually, it's not. My idea is probably out there. Besides, Ideas are a dime a dozen and you should continue building your product even if your idea is taken. I am not going to talk about the service yet because we have no plans of making it public till March. We expect to be in private Beta by end of January.

What I want to do however, is share a few life lessons that I picked up while working on this product and that is what this series of posts is all about.

General User Applications And Services: A Completely Different Form Of Workout.

The folks at 37Signals have wise advice for young startups and individuals on their way to building their first product. The advice: Build a product that is Half, Not Half Assed.

With this in mind, once you start looking at every single enterprise project that you have worked on in the past, you realize that most of them have been half assed in one way or the other. No, seriously.  I have gone so far as saying that most consulting companies use "enterprise software" as an excuse for being lame and boring. Others just bitch about Enterprise Applications.

What's your top most priority when you are working on your project?

Sticking to the specifications? Getting to a feature complete state by the deadline? Completing a successful UAT? None of these needs will push you or your business to spend countless hours so that you can reduce the number of post backs on your page and provide your end user with an enjoyable experience. None of these needs are going to nudge you or your business to build a simple sexy likable lovable user interface. Every single feature that can make a product kick-ass is going to be move to the "Nice to have" list in some meeting somewhere and eventually never ever get built.

Lets face it, unless you work with hugely passionate clients, your enterprise clients probably pay for features not for how a product "feels". Unless your business is a Google or a 37Signals, your business is probably going to evaluate you on how quickly you delivered stuff which was "good enough" for the client to pay for. If you are a consulting house, the general standard of this "good enough" is going to be even lower and is going to be measured by purely economic factors and matrices.

Once you step out of the world of enterprise and start building for the general audience, you are likely to discover that the demands and expectations from your applications are going to be very different than the kinds of demands or expectations you are used to.  All the Visio you know it utterly useless in this world. Your ability to think in terms of use-cases and actors can give your product a quick premature setback. Even some of your design patterns will dig you a big fat hole on a cheap hosting account. You might discover that the world is suddenly judging your work on the strangest of factors that you did not even think were important.

And even though this world of general user applications and services is hugely different, brutal and unforgiving,, I would encourage every developer out there to spend at least a couple of hours every weekend, to weave a small remarkable story and release it out there. Because, that is your only way to find out how messed up your priorities had been all along and how mediocre the world of enterprise development is.

In the fitness world they have a theory. As you continue working out, your body starts getting used to the exercises you do regularly and their impact on your mussels start diminishing over time. Fitness experts around the world will tell you that doing the same exercise every day is stupid. No one ever gets smarter by solving the same math problem every day and no one gets leaner or stronger by doing the same exercise every day. Every now and then your mussels need a sudden shock of a new exercise. That's how they grow stronger. That's how you get out of your fitness plateau.

A few years into enterprise development and if you are a smart developer you are going to realize that you are doing the same exercise every day when it comes to your professional life. You are just building CRUD screens and completing tasks.

You cannot expect clients and businesses to change overnight. But what you can do is shock your mind with a completely brutal and unforgiving world of end user applications and services where people will love you if you get your priorities and work right or give you a cold shoulder of ignorance if you don't.  Either way, you would have shocked your mind and made it stronger, even if you just do it a few hours every week.

What are you doing this weekend? How about starting a small application or service for us and letting us try it out for free when you are done for a few months? Huh? Huh? Huh? Try it! It will not make you an accidental millionaire but it will make you a way better programmer than you already are.

I wish you good luck.

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