By Keith Blount
First, a thank you to James Fallows for inviting me to act as a guest blogger this week. The reason he has asked me to take part is that he is using our software, Scrivener, to write his book, and he thought readers might be interested in the day-to-day runnings of a software house. The strange thing is, though, that despite Scrivener having sold tens of thousands into dozens of countries, I'm still surprised when I hear Literature & Latte described as a "software house" (even our company name sounds more like a coffee house) -- although we undeniably are a software house -- so I thought I might start by talking about why this is.
A common misconception about software -- albeit one that is perhaps gradually changing -- is that it is generally the product and province of large companies: designed by focus groups, coded by black-clad, Star Trek-quoting ponytails who aren't allowed near the customers, and supported by people who often seem never to have used the software themselves. This idea of the software house as a large enterprise no doubt comes from the companies that most readily spring to mind whenever software is mentioned: Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, Google and their ilk. After all, many computer users -- who just want to get on and do stuff -- don't have the time or inclination to obsess over which software they should be using, or to explore much beyond what they use every day at the office or the programs that come bundled with their machines. They are thus (understandably) barely cognizant of the world of software beyond the major houses. It's an impression compounded by our relationship with technology in general -- our televisions, Blu-Ray players, fridge-freezers and toasters are all made by big, faceless companies, and if something goes wrong or is just badly designed or engineered, we have no real power to tell anyone who can do anything about it: We learn to live with the defects, the quirks, with the way our satellite TV box randomly and arbitrarily forgets to record Castle halfway through each series.