Not-Invented-Here, loyal customers & design inspiration

Welcome to the ninth edition of Growing the Stack!

This week we have a 19-year old article about the “Not-Invented-Here” syndrome, a rant about how to treat your loyal customers, and design inspiration.


💡 In Defense of Not-Invented-Here Syndrome

This article is almost 19 years old, but still relevant today. Joel Spolsky used to work at Microsoft, and the Excel team was notorious for eliminating as all dependencies from their code.

“Find the dependencies — and eliminate them.” When you’re working on a really, really good team with great programmers, everybody else’s code, frankly, is bug-infested garbage, and nobody else knows how to ship on time. When you’re a cordon bleu chef and you need fresh lavender, you grow it yourself instead of buying it in the farmers’ market, because sometimes they don’t have fresh lavender or they have old lavender which they pass off as fresh.

While “Not-Invented-Here” is considered a bad idea, it enabled the Excel team to consistently ship high-quality software, more than other teams.

The Excel team’s ruggedly independent mentality also meant that they always shipped on time, their code was of uniformly high quality, and they had a compiler which, back in the 1980s, generated pcode and could therefore run unmodified on Macintosh’s 68000 chip as well as Intel PCs. The pcode also made the executable file about half the size that Intel binaries would have been, which loaded faster from floppy disks and required less RAM.

🗞 Refer This

While we focus on how to onboard new users and how to grow our user base, it’s important to keep our loyal customers in mind.

John Gruber tells his story about how the New York Times pesters him to refer friends to create a new account for less money than he’s been paying the past ten years–a double slap in the face.

Imagine frequenting a restaurant whose food you love. You’re friendly with the staff, easy to please, and tip well. You’ve become, and enjoy being, a regular. After years of good service, suddenly, upon being sat at your table, your waiter greets you by asking if you’d like to take a card to give to a friend offering them a discount at the restaurant. You say no thanks. (The discount offer on the card is only for new customers — you, the regular, do not qualify and whether you take the card or not must pay full price for all items on the menu.) When the waiter arrives with your appetizers, before giving you your food, he asks you again if you’d like to take a referral card for a friend or perhaps family member. You decline again. Same thing with your entrees. And again with your dessert or after-dinner drinks. And then it just starts all over again the next time you visit the restaurant.

This analogy only goes so far. No sane restaurant would ever do this. If they did do it, I’d tell the waiter to stop asking after the second ask, using polite words but with a tone of voice that made clear I found it rather insulting to need to decline this annoyance a second time. If it happened a third time, I’d ask for a manager. I am not a speak-to-the-manager type. I honestly can’t remember the last time I asked to speak to a manager in a restaurant regarding a complaint. But enough would be enough.

🛩 Design inspiration: Cultured Code’s status board

No reading here, just a beautifully designed status page. The “Arrivals” analogy works great, and the skeuomorphic design is beautifully executed.


To close this weeks newsletter, this cartoon by @nasser_junior put a smile on my face last week.