Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Getting Real

I'm on a United flight somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean and just finished reading my copy of Getting Real, the latest book by 37signals.

This book is a must-read for web developers. It explains the 37signals philosophy of building web apps: Stay lean, keep it simple, and start with designing the interface.

Nothing in the book will be surprising or new to people who have been following Signal vs. Noise or have read the team's other books. It just packs their already-known ideas into a single entity and explains them in more detail.

I think many of the companies that have sprung up during Web 2.0 have borrowed from the 37 signals philosophy: Lots of these sites have few features and a simple interface.

For some time, I've been wondering: So if the "Getting Real Method" is, actually, special secret sauce, why is 37signals giving out the recipe? Don't they worry about competitors that may spring up, stealing their customers?

After questioning their motives, I came up with the following explanation. The 37signals wanted opinion leadership, and publishing their ideas has helped them achieved that. In addition, they love the sound of their cash register: This post says the book has already generated $120'000 in revenues.

(Side note: While self-publishing as an e-book is highly profitable, I wasn't really comfortable with the format. With a book designed for screen reading in Acrobat, why do the pages have so much whitespace all around?)

While I didn't agree with all their thoughts, reading the book certainly gave me some good ideas for YourGMap. Recently, I've been very busy with school, so there was little time to tweak the product. "Getting Real" was very energizing, so expect some cool changes soon.

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