Instrumentation is Developer Crack

Kevin Merritt over at blist has a post up on software instrumentation — aka “developer crack” because most developers LOVE to write these types of applications. I know I do. I could create these types of dashboards till the elves return from the Undying Lands.

However, as my friend Damon notes in his post Perfect is the Enemy of the Good, when you’re developing a new product in a hot market there’s a natural tension between engineering too much into the product vs. getting something out the door for customers to actually start using. Using Kevin’s example, why spend the time developing the geeky analytics for the CSV upload tool if your first three prospective customers say they hate that feature and never will use it? Cut it and move on.

This is sort of ironic for me to be writing, because I do see the value of instrumentation, and have personally forestalled several major catastrophes when I got early warning from home-grown instrumentation software I’ve written.  But as NFL scouts will tell you, speed kills!

p.s. I found out something at Startup Drinks Seattle a few days ago that had been bugging me:  How do you pronounce “blist”?  I thought it was “bee-list” but its actually rhymes with the Canadian adjective for drunk.


2 Responses to “Instrumentation is Developer Crack”

  1. 1 Kevin Merritt April 1, 2008 at 12:26 pm


    Thanks for commenting on my post. I too am a huge fan of “Perfect is the enemy of Good.” I’d like to address a couple of your points:

    1) We launched at the end of January without CSV import. We asked our customers what was the #1 missing feature? Guess what? By a landslide it was CSV import. That’s why we added it.

    2) I totally agree you can go hog wild on over instrumenting the app, bogging it down, measuring useless data. That’s why its critical to instrument iteratively, which software delivered as a service affords (compared to shrink wrapped software, where you only get an opportunity to update every once in a long while).

    When given the choice of speed over instrumentation, I’ll take speed too. The value of instrumentation is that it provides unbiased, accurate data without having to ask our customers things we can easily figure out.

    And yep, when pronouncing our name, blist is to web list as blog is to web log. Say “web list” real fast 3 or 4 times and it will become natural to say blist.

  2. 2 Anthony Stevens April 1, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Kevin: You make perfect sense. I totally agree with your iterative instrumentation strategy based on customer-generated needs. Sounds like you guys are doing a lot of the right things over there at blist!

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