The importance of not knowing what isn’t possible

A Microsoft quote from an NY Times article I’ve already cited has been bugging the crap out of me. It bugged me when I first blogged about this article and it bugged me as I wandered around B&N last night doing the last of my xmass shopping. I wound up in the management section and picked up a book on the top 10 mistakes leaders make. Staring at me as I flipped open chapter 5 was confirmation that I wasn’t nuts.

Here’s the quote that bugged me:

“I’m happy that by hiring a bunch of old hands, who have been through these wars for 10 or 20 years, we at least have a nucleus of people who kind of know what’s possible and what isn’t,”

I’ve lost count of how many times as a software developer I’ve sat down and said “I wonder if this is possible?”. When I created WorkZoo I wondered if it was possible to aggregate all the worlds jobs into a single database – and I got pretty darn close. When I created Geojoey I wondered if it was possible to have a rich pure Ajax application with a client-side MVC model – and it was. When I created LineBuzz I wondered if it was possible to post inline comments on arbitrary text on any web page – yes it’s possible. When I created Feedjit I wondered if it was possible to scale to serve real-time traffic data in a widget. We’re serving almost 100 Million real-time widgets per month now.

I started coding on an Apple IIe and later moved to IBM PC’s so in my youth Apple and Microsoft were symbols of innovation and I wanted to innovate the way they did. Apple’s still doing a great job, but it breaks my heart to see MS floundering like a fish out of water in the new world of broadband, browser standards, open source and dynamic web applications.

Come on guys. Get it together already!! Fire those know-it-alls, hire some new blood and pretend for a moment that the past doesn’t matter and that anything is possible.