Okay, here’s the story: I’m the new CEO of Fog Creek Software! And we have an awesome new tool called Glitch that just launched today, and you should go try it out and build the app of your dreams in a few minutes.
Want to know more? Okay, there’s more.
If you know me, you might be familiar with Fog Creek Software. Cofounded by Joel Spolsky and Michael Pryor in 2000, it’s one of the most venerable and respected software companies in the world. I’ve known it from its earliest days, as both a customer and a fan, and have gotten to watch excitedly as they launched hugely influential tools like Trello (which Michael is now CEO of as an independent company) and Stack Overflow (also independent, and headed up by Joel as CEO). Fog Creek’s flagship product FogBugz has long been the best tool for helping teams make great software — I know because we used to use it to make Movable Type and TypePad back when I was helping get those products off the ground a decade ago.
Built on Values
But Fog Creek is a lot more to me than just a company that’s made a bunch of hugely popular applications. What first resonated for me was reading Joel’s words in his seminal posts on tech culture, like the Joel Test. Though some of the references to old Windows software are a little bit dated now, the insights in Joel’s writing are so essential and timeless that they’ve become part of the canon that almost every developer is expected to read.
And what I found in these seminal documents of Fog Creek’s culture were a few simple statements of values that could be easily summarized:
- Workers matter, deeply. The things they create, the environment they work in, and the ideas they imagine are worth protecting, respecting and honoring.
- Technology and software are better when they’re accessible to more people. We need to build tools, platforms and organizations that prioritize the thoughtful dissemination of technical information, to stop coding from being an exclusionary priesthood for a small few.
- We can build our values into our software. We aspire to having a point of view and to being thoughtful, and we can build tools that encourage other creations of technology to do the same.
What I found was that I had a chance not just to work with some of the most talented people in the world, but to do so in an environment that was actively countering the worst excesses and abuses of the tech industry. It’s no secret that I’ve become increasingly critical of the conventional tech world’s lack of focus on ethics, humanity, and inclusion.
But at a personal level, I realized I couldn’t in good conscience just criticize from afar. If the best way to criticize software is to make software, then the best way to criticize tech companies is to make a better tech company. And it turns out that one already exists. Even more fortunate, its brilliant and thoughtful founders Michael and Joel were willing to trust me to be the CEO of the company that have so carefully shepherded all these years.
And frankly, after challenges like shutting down ThinkUp earlier this year, I started reckoning a bit with how to be most effective in pushing the tech industry to be a little more thoughtful. This personal inflection point became clearer as the team at Activate released this year’s Activate Outlook — seven years after we’d set out to create the leading strategy consulting company, I realized we’d not just succeeded, but done so to the degree where the team could now run effectively without me being involved day-to-day. Between stepping back to an advisory role at Activate and sharpening the focus of my work for the organizations whose boards I serve on, I was able to bring some clarity to the work in front of me.
I realized that I wanted to fully engage myself with a single, all-encompassing role that would use all my skills, and that Fog Creek’s legacy of leading the industry made it the perfect place to try and push things forward again. So now, I have a simple answer if someone at a cocktail party asks what I do.
What do I do? I’m the CEO of a small software company in downtown Manhattan that’s as influential in the tech world as companies 1000 times our size. And we’re trying to make awesome products that remind people how tech can be creative, thoughtful and humane.
(If that sounds good, we’re hiring. And we welcome you, as you are, to join our team.)
Glitch brings back the fun of the “view source” web
Which brings me to our next chapter: Glitch. Many geeks of my cohort came of age building things on the desktop using HyperCard or Visual Basic, or by using View Source in their browser to tweak HTML pages that they uploaded to Geocities. The web’s gotten a lot more mature and a lot more powerful, but the immediacy of that kind of creation has been lost. Today, even if you’re a skilled developer, the starting point you’re working from is usually a pile of unassembled parts.
Glitch lets you start from a working app (or bot, or site, or whatever) and then remix it into exactly the app of your dreams. If you just want to change a button from blue to green, or add your logo, you can be running instantly. See a fun or smart Alexa skill or Slack bot? You can jump in, edit the responses to be the text you want, and have your own version running in just a few minutes.
For the past several years, I found that the overhead of provisioning servers, or trying to maintain a dev environment, or wrangling with version control took all the fun out of coding for me, to the point where I don’t just hack on things for fun anymore. I can’t imagine how much more intimidating it would be if I hadn’t spent many years coding.
Glitch fixes all that. Really. We’re still just getting started (you might have seen the earlier preview release under the name “HyperDev”) but we’re out in beta today and I think if you have ever edited a spreadsheet or just tweaked the HTML in a blog post, you’ll immediately understand how Gomix can help you create.
I hope you’ll give it a try, and along with the entire amazing team at Fog Creek, we’re excited to see what you create.