Too Many Ajax Calendars
The inimitable Joel Spolsky has some stand-up advice for Internet startups. Don't try to sell to one customer.
For the non-techies out there, Ajax is a cool doohicky that lets a web page work like a program. The program in question here is a web-calendar. Joel wants to put his daytimer on his web server so he can get to it from any computer. It's your basic, good idea, and somebody should be doing it by now. He found 4 companies out there who built this very thing, but they didn't do a very good job of it.
As a computer programmer, I have found myself trying to do all sorts of stuff that makes me feel good about having challenged myself, used all the features available within the platform, and built a program that does everything. As a user, though, I find myself frustrated because the program does not do the one thing I really care about.
Spolsky suggests that the key problem is that version 1.0 of any product just isn't worth a dime. When you are racing to sell that program to the one customer you are really targeting, though, it is hard not to oversell version 1.0. The bad thing is that Joel will probably never look at those 4 programs again, and I know I'm that way too.
Spolsky does another masterful job of looking at the problem from the marketing angle. I learn so much from this guy!