Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Pixar Story

Sitting at home? Unwrapped all your presents, eaten all the food you can eat? I recommend watching The Pixar Story. I love stories of smart people struggling for technological change, and this story certainly delivers. Pixar might seem like an overnight success, but there was plenty of drama: Lasseter got fired from Disney, and had to leave Lucasfilm where George Lucas didn't see the point of what he wanted to do. Even Toy Story almost got killed multiple times.

Chances are you won't even have to buy this: The Pixar Story is included on most Wall-E DVDs, and most Netflix members can watch it online here. Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Early Stage Spaceship

In our pre-release startup, it feels like we’re on a spaceship sometimes, trying to reach a distant planet.

Picking a Planet

With that little ship, and planets that are far away and far apart, you want to make darn sure you're flying to a nice one:
  • You don’t want to find yourself on a planet that doesn't seem to support life, like the Facebook app planet.
  • Or one that is as unwelcoming like the music planet, where you will find a great beast called the RIAA.
  • You'd also want to steer clear of wanting to fly to the operating systems planet: It takes too long to get there and is inhabited by John Hodgman and that annoying Justin Long kid you kind of want to smack in the face.
Oh, you also don't want to pick a planet to which another, bigger spaceship, is already on its way. For example, when Microsoft flies to a planet (for example, video game consoles), their spaceship looks like this:

We looked at various planets through a telescope, and found one that seems pretty appealing and is not too far away. So how do we get there?

Thrust vs. Stabilizers

We're pretty fast already, but are thinking about adding more thrust and stabilizers.

Thrust, in this metaphor, are more engineers/coders/designers who accelerate development and help us get there faster. Adding too much uncontrolled thrust, can lead to veering off course. We could add stabilizers, product and project managers who can keep us on track, but also don't directly add to getting there. We're still debating the right balance.

We’re on Our Way

Please remain seated with your seatbelts buckled. The captain will have some weather updates for you when we’re closer to our destination.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Revisiting Google’s Python Style Guide

I like code style guidelines. When properly done, it just gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling of consistency. We’ve been working with Python here, but each of us has been hacking in a slightly different style.

Subconsciously, I've been longing for Google's internal python style guide. I remembered it as a good balance of dos and donts. It errs on the side of readable code, fewer power features, and promotes a nice naming scheme. It covers more ground than PEP-8. Thus, instead of trying to make up my own, I searched the Internets and found this gem here. It’s essentially a copy of Google’s Python style guidelines, slightly modified for one of the Summer of Code projects!

In my previous job, people sometimes accused me of trying to clone Google processes. I always saw that as a compliment. Still, I adjusted the guidelines to what we’re building. One thing about that guide annoyed me in particular: 80 chars per line!? It's 2008, people have widescreen monitors! We upped the ante on that one.