The permanence of temporary

I came across this little story about the Gmail logo.

How many times have you been told not to leave something for the last minute, but when you did, it actually turned out better than expected? Well, Gmail’s logo was the product of this situation — it was designed by Dennis Hwang (who’s responsible for most of Google’s doodles at the time) the night before Gmail launched. Former Google designer Kevin Foxtells the story on Quora: “The logo was designed literally the night before the product launched. We were up very late and Sergey and I went down to his cube to watch him make it.”

The last minute bit reminded me of something else.  A few years ago I was involved in a project with a rather hectic release plan.  There was too much work to do, not enough organization, and the deadline appeared much sooner than expected.  The team was in the office pretty much since Friday afternoon and it was already just after 11pm on Sunday night.  Everyone was stressed and exhausted, and we thought that the painful release of the project was just about done.

It was then that we got a report from the support department that something is wrong with our outgoing emails.  And the problem was that they weren’t going out much.  Clients submitted forms and were told to expect activation / verification email with code.  And those emails weren’t coming for a while already.

It was then that we realized that in all the chaos we actually completely forgot to implement that bit functionality.  There was nothing there that was sending emails.  Oops!

I kicked everyone out of the room, locked the door and wrote a very quick Perl script.  I spent not more than 15-20 minutes.  We just needed something really quick to get the mail queue out of the way.  We would rewrite it properly next day, when the dust settles a bit and everyone is rested and thinking clearly.

Can you guess when we actually rewrote it?  One and a half years later!  That’s  right!  Something as temporary as that lasted and did the job for almost two years.  Turned out that the job I wrote it to do on the first night was pretty much the job it would be doing 24×7, and there was no need to even update it.  It supported templates, multiple languages, and pre-configured attachments based on the template and language.  And it was efficient enough, since when I was writing it we already had a few thousand messages in the queue and I wanted to send them out as quick as possible.

Even later, when the rewrite happened, it wasn’t for any new functionality, but for better integration with the rest of the project.  After all, it doesn’t make much sense to have a single standalone Perl script in the project that is completely written PHP.  It was ported almost verbatim.

Every time I tell this story, especially to my Russian friends, I keep hearing the same response: “Nothing is more permanent than temporary“.  You build something to last for years and it gets destroyed, redesigned, and rebuilt every 6 month.  You throw something together to get you through the day and that lasts a century.

The Gmail logo reminded me of that.  Designed on the night before the release, the logo is still here…

Apple

Apple

Looking at this ugly apple, I remembered a joke someone told me recently about the three famous apples in the history of humanity – the one Eve gave to Adam, the one that fell on Isaac Newton, and the one on the logo of the Apple Computers Inc.  Actually, I don’t even remember the joke. I just remember the apples.

Thinking about them, they all must have been quite ugly.  After all, Eve had to promise to Adam that he will get laid if he bytes the fruit.  The other one that fell on the head of a genius must have been ugly by definition.  It also made Isaac think a lot.  If it was a nice looking apple, he would have just eaten it without much thought.  And the last apple sparked the creativity of Steve Jobs.  He must have seen an ugly apple and thought of it as a creative challenge.   A lot of people can take something ugly and make it better.  But how can you take something ugly and make it even uglier?  Steve Jobs took a byte of it. Simple, easy, yet genius as well.

The apple I have in front of me is ugly.  I’m blogging this for historical reasons.  After all there is a small chance that this apple will become the fourth famous apple in the history of the world…

And if that wasn’t enough, I had one more revelation.  If you look at this image in a certain way – with your side vision, and you’ll cover the top part of it – then this apple looks a lot like watermelon.  So there you go.  My ugly apple story ends here.

Money scam via Skype

It’s been a long while since someone tried to scam me online.  But today I got lucky.  Someone knocked at my Skype door and I opened it.  Here is the full transcript of the conversation.  Pardon me for having some fun in the process.

[2:26:57 PM EEST] micheal2455: hello
[2:27:06 PM EEST] micheal2455: how are you

Before, when most of my online friends were technical people, a username with numbers in it pretty much guaranteed that you are talking to a spammer or scammer of some sort.  But in recent years a lot of non-technical people got online and all bets are off.  So, I allowed a person in.

[2:27:09 PM EEST] micheal2455: my name is micheal ofori,a regional manager of almal bank limited i discover a domant account what of 5.6MILLION UNITED STATE DOLLARS.Iam looking for a honest person who can help me to move this money out of were i kept it in self keeping custdy.i agree to give you 20% for your mutual help.i do not want my c0-worker to raise eyebrow toward this fund.

That’s a very standard, direct, to the point, proposition.  That’s all you need to see to know with absolute certainty that you are being scammed.  You have two options from now on.  Either end the discussion immediately and block the person from every talking to you again, or try to scam them back, for fun, and see what they have to say.  I’ve chosen the scam path.

Continue reading “Money scam via Skype”

Why Do All Movie Tickets Cost the Same?

This Slashdot thread raises an interesting question:

Like tens of millions of Americans, I have paid money to see Mission: Impossible, which made $130 million in the last two weeks, and I have not paid any money to see Young Adult, which has made less than $10 million over the same span. Nobody is surprised or impressed by the discrepancy. The real question is: If demand is supposed to move prices, why isn’t seeing Young Adult much cheaper than seeing Mission: Impossible?

For those of us not too versed in economics, the question does sound reasonable.  I am not too good with demand and supply nuances, but I do know that the costs for the movie theater are pretty much the same no matter how many people show up for the show.  This comment confirms that and also touches on the economics bit of the question:

If demand is supposed to move prices…

What a bad place to start your argument. In classical economics, demand shifts affect pricing if supply is a factor. When it comes to movie distribution, supply usually isn’t an issue.

Also, profits of Mission Impossible to to cover the losses of the gamble on Young Adult. Essentially, movie ticket prices are aggregated and normalized across movies to mitigate risk. Do you really want to spend $40/ticket on Mission Impossible so that Young Adult would cost only $3?

The actually hard-costs to the theaters (staff, electricity, rent, etc.) is pretty much the same regardless if 5 people are in the theater or 500, and is relatively minor in their overall operations. They pay back to the studios based on how many watchers they have, which where most of their expenses actually lie. They have to pay back the same amount to the studios regardless how how many tickets they sell, so why would they implement variable pricing?

Day in brief – 2012-01-02

  • @RockCyprus Thanks! Best wishes to you too. Happy New Year! #
  • Just when my body woke up, had some food and beer, it's time to go back to sleep. Work tomorrow. But there is a suprise there. :-) #
  • First time I've heard this expression, sounds funny: Annus horribilis – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://t.co/i8hphMSD #
  • Probably my last check-in here. I've just resigned. (@ FXCC) http://t.co/3klUQOHt #
  • @timdetone Excellent idea, but, no. :) #