1. December, 2004 - tick tock

Another month ticks away. Holiday stuff looms. It’s generally the first of the month when I notice time passing, and December and January are right up there for noticing it (along with birthdays). The clock ticks inexorably on, and I find myself wondering where the last week / month / year / decade went.

But enough of the philosophizing. Today’s links aren’t the freshest, since I didn’t find anything interesting this morning, but what the heck. I’ve still got some links piled up from earlier in the week, including a fairly long rant.

A friend pointed me to Software Engineering for Internet Applications, a book that’s online. This is one of those very frustrating books for me. I’m pretty sure there’s some good stuff in there that I’d like to read–for that matter, the introduction had me stopping to ponder for a half-hour. But the problem is that I think there are faulty assumptions out of the gate. An example from the introduction:

Amazon is the best known example. In 1995 there were dozens of online bookstores with comprehensive catalogs. Amazon had a catalog but, with its reader review facility, Amazon also had a mechanism for users to communicate with each other. Thus did the programmers at Amazon crush their competition.

Well, no. There may have been dozens of online bookstores with comprehensive catalogs, but I sure couldn’t find them back then. I remember Amazon, Powell’s, Stacey’s, and Computer Literacy being the bookstores I shopped online. Computer Literacy became Fatbrain, which got swallowed by Barnes and Noble. Powell’s is still out there, but isn’t quite comprehensive. Stacey’s has closed up a couple locations, and is nothing like comprehensive anymore.

All along, Amazon was the most comprehensive, and simplest to use. It also had the best item descriptions, and not from users, but editorial descriptions. At amazon, there was a good way to put in an ISBN and get taken straight to the book. Most of the other stores obscured that behind some big ugly web application. And finally, while I often use isbn.nu for my online book shopping, because you can put in an ISBN and get the cheapest price, I frequently end up going to Amazon to see more about the item, and then discover that while Amazon may not have the cheapest price on any one book I want, if I order two or three books, Amazon has all of them, and I save enough on shipping by buying them all from the same place to make up for the fact that they’re not the cheapest place.

So I think the three big factors for Amazon were a comprehensive selection; good, non-user-generated descriptions of things; cheap prices, even if they’re not the absolute cheapest; and a simple interface that always worked on my Mac, which other bookstores often failed at. The user reviews are nice, but they’re not what brings me back there.

So anyway, back to the book, I find it awfully hard to decide to spend time reading a book like this one when right out of the gate I find something that just isn’t true in my experience. It’s not the community. It’s the not-sucking that matters.

Copyright 2009, Dave Polaschek. Last updated on Mon, 15 Feb 2010 13:57:55.