Alex Payne is a writer based in Portland, Oregon.

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Liveblogging C4-[2]: Rich Siegel on "Red Meat and Gin"

This is the second talk of the second day of the C4[2] conference. I didn’t blog the first talk because it was my own. The speaker is the founder of Bare Bones Software, and his topic is explaining the longevity of his company in an industry of short-lived businesses and products.

Siegel opens by exploring their lineup of products. Some products (BBEdit, Yojimbo) are keeping on. Others (Mailsmith, Super Get Info) have more or less been discontinued. The challenge is picking non-obvious problems to solve.

Bare Bones aims for a “built to last” engineering approach. They don’t suffer compiler warnings and they mandate code freezes. They encourage the creation of processes to make life easier, and only ship when a product is ready. Siegel asserts like dependability translates into reputation, which translates into a stable business.

The next topic is support. Siegel encourages “writing software that needs as little support as possible”, and to design for “supportability”. Providing good documentation and resources is essential, as is measuring the “support noise” generated by particular bugs and working to reduce that noise. Support is part of the cost of doing business, and can be viewed as a kind of marketing.

Siegel cautions against being driven by the “echo chamber”, particularly when it comes to business issues like software pricing. “Charge what your product is worth,” he says. “I want people to walk away with the message that my product is dependable.”

On the subject of dealing with Apple as an independent developer, Siegel points out that there are effectively two Apples, and the “stock-ticker Apple” cares more about selling iPod socks. Set your own deadlines and don’t get caught up in the hype of developer conferences, MacWorld, etc.

Siegel ends with some simple values: think about the long term in the ways that matter; don’t get locked in or pushed around; never be afraid of adjust or rethink your plans.

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Computing Simplicity, Minimalism, and Trust