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September 6, 2007 | WineDirect Products and Services | WineDirect Admin

When Software meets Stemware

I thought it might be fun for everyone to draw some comparisons between building great software and building great wine. Producing software is as much art as it is science. There are countless books and methodologies that preach the “right way” to build software, but the proliferation of competing ideas only goes to show that there is no one right way to do it. Find the method that best fits your goals, your situation and your character, and go with it.

Like wine, great software starts with a vision. That vision is sometimes formed collectively by a group, but often enough it comes from one or two individuals who play the role of software architect. In wine you have the winemaker.

But vision is not enough, you need passion. Not just from the visionaries, but from every member of the production team. Everyone needs to feel that they are working on a great product, whether it ends up in a glass or somewhere in the Internet.

Like wine, great software starts from good DNA. There’s no cloning or genetic engineering in software, but venture capitalists often talk about company culture as the DNA that drives a successful technology startup. (Although sometimes I wish we could clone ourselves to get double the work done.)

Great wine comes from the terroir. Software is built on a solid foundation of tools and technologies. The better your tools, the better your software will grow. Of course, there’s variety of good tools out there. Things like the base programming language and APIs that you choose will greatly impact the flavor of your software.

And then there’s the climate. That’s one thing that you cannot control. The software equivalent of climate is the business climate. Fire drills, changing requirements, emergency support requests and the like are the software equivalent to rain, frost, and shortened growing seasons. Fortunately for us technologists, there are a lot more ways to mitigate climate impact on software development as compared to wine production. That’s where management steps in to plan, anticipate roadblocks, minimize risks, and block and tackle so that the software can continue to grow unmolested.

Then you have your cycles. Wine has an annual cycle dictated by the seasons. At Inertia, we typically have a quarterly release cycle. But because we are largely an e-commerce platform, we are also beholden to the holiday shopping season, which is why we never release new software in the busiest quarter of the year.

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