Sunday, April 30, 2006

Why Paul Graham won't release Arc

Paul Graham recently posted some startup lessons he spoke about at the 2006 Startup School. In his writeup, he mentioned:

Perhaps the most important reason to release early, though, is that it makes you work harder. When you're working on something that isn't released, problems are intriguing. In something that's out there, problems are alarming. There is a lot more urgency once you release. And I think that's precisely why people put it off. They know they're going to work a lot harder once they do. [2]

If we look at the footnote, we find:

[2] I know this is why I haven't released Arc. The moment I do, I'll have people nagging me for features.

This tells us a few things right off the bat. First, Arc probably won't be open source. If it were open source, then it could be assumed that Paul's massive following of hackers would jump on it, fix up the rough spots within the first week or two, and proclaim it to be the next best thing since Common Lisp. If it were closed source, then yes indeed, there will be an equally large push to find bugs, during which, there might be some questions raised regarding Paul's hacker status and (in)ability to extinguish bugs quickly. He'd be right to harbor some concerns.

The next logical question is, why closed source? If he releases a buggy product built around well-designed concepts or constructs, then it probably won't take too much effort to implement a similar product in an open-source manner. Open-source products generally arise because their closed-source counterparts are (1) too expensive, (2) too buggy, or (3) both. We can certainly conclude that Arc v1.0 will be buggy, and it's anyone's guess as to whether it comes with a price tag. The interesting thing about open-source is that any price tag is too much.

There's also the question of competition. With the likes of Ruby on Rails in the neighborhood, I too would be concerned about delivering a competitive web-developing product. Even at that, Y-combinator is funding would-be Arc-competitors like Infogami.

Regarding the open-source question, the easiest defense is probably something along the lines of "We're hosting a server that will run (insert name here), so we don't need to release the source code". Certainly, this formula works well for Google and the Y-combinator startups. Steve Pavlina has written extensively about finding your purpose, and for Google and the startups, they have a purpose for keeping a tight lid on their source code. They want to keep their secrets to themselves, and they work hard to make sure their secrets are worthwhile.

What would be the purpose in keeping secret the implementation of Arc? I think it's clear that Paul won't enter "desperate startup mode" and code 12 hours/day to stay on top--not now and not ever again. Thus, any startup-type business model he builds will lack the key element of determination. We can scratch off any plans for making money (read: creating wealth) startup style.

Why can't the implementation of Arc be open-sourced? I don't know. There's nothing magical about server-side code that prevents it from being open sourced; heck, Apache is ALL server-side code, and it's used practically everywhere.

What is the purpose for creating Arc? If it is to enable hackers everywhere to use more powerful development tools, then there is a chance of it catching on if it's open source. If it is to help Paul Graham make more money, then it may never see the light of day.

Paul, if you read this, I hope you're feeling a little deva vu from when you made your "Ask wealthy entrepreneurs for money, but don't ask me." This time, however it's more along the lines of "Release software early, but don't ask me to release mine." Instead of nagging you in detail about it, I'll just say: number one!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Google Notes: New Print Button and Font Size Selection

In response to a few user requests, I've added the ability to resize the font and print the notepad contents. Also, I'm updating my links to use the new "Add to Google" buttons. Don't forget, in addition to decreasing your font size, you can fit more notes in by selecting a larger notepad size. The default one hosted by Google is the medium notepad.

Small Notepad Add to Google
Medium Notepad Add to Google
Large Notepad Add to Google

Finally, I'd like to just say thanks to everyone using Google Notes. It's been fun so far, and I've learned quite a bit in the process of building and maintaining it. It's rewarding to know that so many people are benefitting from it. In fact, the number of accounts (and regular users, in general) has doubled within the last month. I don't know if it's word of mouth, Google making it easier to add modules, or even a "halo effect" from Google Calendar being released this month, but somehow there rate of new users is continuing to increase. Below is a graph showing the lastest usage statistics.