The Official Blog of Cogmap, the Org Chart Wiki


Archive for May, 2007


Traditional site design methods don’t work with Ajax

Friday, May 11th, 2007

I would classify the approach to building this site as a good example of 37 Signals “Getting Real” development effort. Did we do requirements? Yeah, we did a few. Did we do wireframes? Yeah, we did those and iterated a few times. Did we do a static build? Yep, we did that and fixed some typos and added buttons. Did all hell break loose once we actually built the mapping engine? Yep.

We changed tons of stuff. Once we saw how interaction actually worked, we changed and changed and changed and changed. Our whole perception of what was valuable and what was not rapidly altered. Pretty exciting! Was it good? Let’s just say that it would have been nice if we knew at the beginning what we know now. From an ease of building perspective, I would have to say that it was just OK. Could we have done it another way and had the same kind of result? Probably not.

Why is that? I would guess that when you are dealing with something so far out on the bleeding edge technology-wise and something where usability is first, second, and third on the list of valuable traits, even some of the most iterative waterfall methodologies are probably not iterative enough.

Our mocked up representation of the business failed to accurately represent what we ended up building and the differences were across essentially both dimensions of difference: We couldn’t build some of the things we wanted to and our brilliant technologists built some things that we never dreamed were possible. So we got both more and less than we expected.

Also, we weren’t able to take a long pause after we did the wireframes and the static build to truly contemplate what we had built. I think if we had taken two weeks off, maybe we would have been rewarded with some of the insight prior to commencing actual development, but it just doesn’t really work like that when you are trying to crank stuff out. The result is mid-stream change, which is painful.

Also, it’s easy to say two weeks now, but you never really know when you have looked at something long enough. Hindsight is 20/20!

Cogmap: The Idea

Thursday, May 10th, 2007

Let me talk a minute about how I came up with the idea for people that are interested in that sort of thing. Everyone loves the idea of user-generated content because it creates value without a lot of overhead. I will write a lot more about that later. I think of myself as a B2B guy, not a consumer guy, so I was trying to think about that specific area. Being kind of a sales guy, I started looking at challenges that sales people face and voila: the idea for CogMap sprang into my head!

Key influences:

  • Evan Lock – A sales guy at IBM that had to keep org charts of his accounts. Hearing his tales of org chart maintenance made me think: “There has to be a better way!”
  • The list market – The bane of my existence. High prices for bad data. Only the big companies get access. What do the entrepreneurs do?
  • Josh Kopelman’s post on reshaping markets: A thoughtful post and a good idea!


Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

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My views do not represent the views, opinions, strategies or anything else of my employer. In fact, my employer frequently, sometimes vehemently, disagrees with most of what I say.

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In fact, if I say something here that might cause one to think something bad should or might happen to me, then I also disagree with me and disclaim that.

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