The Voice Behind the Code

I recently listened to The Changelog episode about a static site generator called Middleman (as an aside – The Changelog is an amazing podcast about all kinds of open source software – kudos to Adam Stacoviak). Now I’m not a user of Ruby (haven’t had time to play with Ruby nor Rails) but after listening to this episode I really want to try out Middleman and in fact I put it on my list of projects to play with when I have time.

Why? Because I liked how Thomas Reynold presented himself on The Changelog, I like his philosophy in developing and managing Middleman. It’s a side project that he’s been maintaining for a long time and he’s committed to maintaing it for a long time still. Furthermore, his technical decisions and evolution of Middleman shows me that he’s someone who’s willing to evolve his software rather than let it fade away in a morass of old crufty code.

My immediate reaction of putting Middleman on my project playlist made me consider my own approach for selecting software. I used to look at software based on popularity as measured by techie blogs and the latest fad. Somewhere along the line I changed my approach and how I purchase software. Somewhere along the line, I started paying attention to the the voice behind the code.

These days – when I come across an interesting product – I start reading the blog of the developer (or company), and then I move onto any podcasts that the developer has participated in. It’s an oddly personal path to a product. I suppose that marketeers will call it ‘personalization’ or some such thing.

When did this start for me? When did I change from a blind purchaser of software to a more reflective one? (I think this is more applicable to Mac software purchases than iOS products where I’ve bought lots of crap before stopping my purchases for the most part)

I think it started with the Build and Analyze (B&A) podcast where I heard Marco Arment talk about software development. I found out about B&A from a Merlin Mann podcast called Back to Work.

I bought Marco’s Instapaper app because of B&A. Here was an opinionated developer that wasn’t afraid to tell why he did or didn’t do certain things when it came to Instapaper. I liked the guy’s honesty, hard headedness and general East Coast demeanor. Marco sold Instapaper in 2013 and I thought that Instapaper was doomed to take a long slow nosedive into oblivion. But I was wrong because Marco entrusted his software baby to a great steward for his product.

He moved on from B&A to the Accidental Tech Podcast. He also created The Magazine but I didn’t buy it because it was not my cup-of-tea as a product (Apple’s Newstand never seemed right to me so I never bought anything in it).

He recently created a fantastic podcast client which I’ve been enjoying since day one of its launch. Overcast embodies Marco’s sensibilities and his choices fit the checkboxes that I have for a podcast client.

It’s funny how all of this started because of a podcast and listening to some anonymous guy passionately talk about his software and why he made certain choices when designing that software.

I have yet to be disappointed by a product purchase that is based on the voice behind the code. I’m not sure if this is a great approach to purchasing software but it works for me.

Voices that I’ve liked: