Some values that have guided our company's evolution.
It's a bit strong to say the customer is always right, but when a company fails to abide its users, it drifts from its mooring. All Alloy products start with a kernel of who they are meant to serve. The only way we've found to build products is to have "the people they're meant to serve" be the same as "the people who are working on them every day."
As a starting point, our products satisfy our company's employees own needs better than any competitor. Once we hit that threshold, then we start incorporating more and more feedback from users who share our goals. One example is the Amplenote FeatureUpvote board
On a long enough time horizon, the truth always wins, even if it appears otherwise in the present. For business, "the truth" is whether we're building products that our customers can't live without.
The key to building products customers can't live without is providing them value and treating them like you'd treat friends. Friends listen when you have a reasonable request. They treat you like an adult in support interactions. And they definitely don't make you call to cancel your subscription. We've made canceling (and exporting all notes) a cinch, as a challenge to keep to ourselves to keep delivering value.
People tend to assume that money is the primary objective of business -- because it almost always is. But that's not a law of nature. Companies could construct incentivizes that lead them to do more good for the world. Why, then, is revenue so obsessed over by CEOs? Because they are chosen by VCs or the stock market, both of which tend to steal short-term focus from the customers themselves.
Revenue is not the primary objective of alloy.dev for those reasons. But we do believe that it conveys signal by way of reflecting product/market fit in a way that nothing else can. When our products are good enough to pay for, that's when we know that we're delivering value that matters.
We prefer to build products with fewer, better people. There are a couple reasons.
The first is that it's too easy to underestimate the costs of communication. Even with the best tools available today, or the best tools that could hypothetically be built, there's still going to be a lot of signal loss when you move from one person's brain to the next. The most efficient business is one that features the least communication, which is inherently lossy.
Second, compensation for developers remains distorted as of 2020. The best developers get 3-5x more done than average developer, and 10x more than a poor developer, as measured by a dev throughput metric such as Line Impact. Meanwhile, the compensation differential for the "best" and "worst" developers currently ranges around 2x. That's a cavernous arbitrage window if one identify and land the type of coworker they seek.
There's something about a small team, constantly fighting for survival against long odds, that begets refreshing levels of focus on the work itself.
This belief is baked into Amplenote as a first-class citizen. What this point addresses is the tendency of companies to tilt toward focusing on whatever features seem new or urgent. It's natural human tendency to focus attention on whatever came up most recently, but it's toxic to making rapid progress on the tasks that are most important.
We define "Important" tasks as those that align with the goals of the person or company. You can read more about our definition of what makes a task urgent vs important vs recent in this essay.
The main "trick" to focusing on important tasks is to live the life less synchronous. The better tasks can be separated from their temporal relevance, the more "timeless" you might say they are, the more confident we can be that they matter. This is the kernel of why urgent/recent tasks bleed so much efficiency.
The first and only "web design" book Bill has read is Don't Make Me Think, by Steve Krug. In it, he introduces the idea of a "mensch." A mensch is a person who desires nothing more than to be a doting assistant. They're always thinking about the experience from your shoes, and finding opportunities to dazzle and amaze without making you think.
Attention is a commodity. It is to be treated as a gift. We have never published an interactive tutorial and we probably never will. Good UX helps the user feel like an overachiever without reading an instruction manual.
The best moments happen when we help customers do something they couldn't before. To the extent we can combine that with not reading instructions, it is the greatest possible triumph.
Another of our "official" company values is "excellence in what matters." It's another way of saying that we try to pick a few features that are most useful, and make those ridiculously good by iterating on them over several versions.
We'll never strive to be "well-rounded." Products that users can't live without tend to have sharp edges.
These are three qualities shared by most every Alloy team member. They hedge against getting carried away thinking that we know more than we do.