Monthly Archives: October 2007

Bay Area Mobile Networks Can’t Handle an Earthquake

Yesterday (October 20th), we here in the South end of the San Francisco Bay Area had a moderate 5.6 earthquake (officially designated by the USGS as event nc40204628). We were fine, even if the kids were a little rattled. (I had to explain to them that earthquakes are part of living in California.)

I tried to call my parents to see if they felt it, but got the dreaded “all circuits are busy” on our standard AT&T line. Not too surprising. What surprised me was that my Sprint mobile was also not working, but rather than a decent message, it would simply hang up after trying to connect for a few seconds.

Today on SFGate.com I finally found some confirmation: Quake calls jammed cell phone networks. I’m sure that mobile networks use the same sort of modeling as traditional phone lines to predict and handle peak loads, but it’s starting to look like their maximum loads are much lower. My AT&T line was useful again in about 10 minutes and I was able to get on a conference call with India for an hour without any dropouts. My Sprint phone, on the other hand, was still dead an hour later. Not a good sign for anyone counting on their mobile in case of an emergency.

Can Features be Removed?

Jeff at Coding Horror has a great topic this week: Why does software spoil?:

In the software industry, the release of newer, better versions is part of the natural order. It’s a relentless march towards perfection that started with the first personal computers, and continues today. We expect software to get larger and more sophisticated over time, to track with the hardware improvements that Moore’s law has provided us for so many years. Rapid evolution is a good thing, and it’s one reason the computer industry is so exciting to work in. If you don’t like the way things are today, just wait five years; everything will be different.

Jeff goes on to talk about software that really grows and gets bloated over time, using PaintShopPro as an example. The point is valid that for a lot of software, the early (older) versions worked just fine and many users would be just fine without upgrades. (In fact, many people resist upgrades and actively pursue older versions from dedicated internet sites.)

In his list of applications (and the referenced PC World article), I was surprised that Yahoo! Messenger wasn’t listed. Each time we released a significant upgrade, there was always feedback (usually quite vocal) about how the client had become bigger, slower to download, and more sluggish.

Whether you’re trying to gain new customers and market share, or just trying to keep the ones you have, almost all commercial software suffers from the feature creep syndrome. What I’d like to know is: if you’re a developer in that position, can you ever remove features? Could you create a “feature in, feature out” mindset where for every new thing that was added, something old was taken out?

Of course if you don’t have a solid understanding of which features your current customers are using, this could be a risky move. The old joke applies: “If you want to find out who’s using a feature, just remove it — they’ll let you know!” I suppose if you have done a good job instrumenting your software, you’d know which features are least popular.

I’m particularly interested in this because one the new mantras for software is to “Build Less” (37Signals). That’s great when you’re starting out, but is there a way to return to that philosophy after your software is old and bloated?

AdMob Publishes Mobile Ads Metrics

AdMob is an up and coming mobile advertising platform, supporting both the advertisers and publishers (including my Mobile Website list). AdMob is in a unique position given they serve millions of ads to mobile devices each day. Today they published a summary report of some metrics from September 2007:

AdMob Mobile Metrics is a new report with market level data. This initial report covers the month of September and includes manufacturer, device and country-specific data on AdMob’s top four markets by impressions served: US, UK, India and South Africa. In the future, we plan to add operator data and incremental data on devices. AdMob plans to release new reports on a monthly basis.

It’s great that AdMob is being this transparent with their data. Granted, they aren’t revealing anything too proprietary like advertising or click-through rates, but the data shown gives a great sense of the actual mobile phones in use today (at least, those that are browsing websites featuring AdMob ads).

A couple years ago I summarized mobile device user agent types accessing my mobile website list. Now I need to update that data and compare to what AdMob is seeing.

See the image below for a snapshot of the worldwide market share, or visit the AdMob Metrics page for all the details.

AdMob Ad Data Graph