Bungee Connect: What I learned about platform evaluations

Catching up on email this Saturday, I got the opportunity to take a survey about my experience evaluating Bungee Connect. Evaluating bungee connect has been something that has popped onto my radar several times. They purport to be an application platform for web applications. They have their own language, their own ui toolkit, their own (browser-based) IDE, and their own code library and source control system. In my day job I create and sell a novel application platform (for streaming applications), so I like to look at new platforms on many levels. I signed up, and was shortly invited into the bungee beta.

Suffice to say the evaluation didn’t go well for me. It isn’t clear that there were any problems with the product. But I kept getting blocked by other things in the evaluation. I had trouble logging in. Trouble figuring out their programming paradigm. Trouble deciding what the tool is good for. And more.

After taking their survey, I decided to capture for myself what I learned about the my own bungee connect evaluation process.

  • Knowing what a tool is good for is non-trivial. It helps to give me good examples of problems I would solve with this tool.
  • Even better is to give me problems I could solve with this tool that will impress other people. Like if I just spent an hour with this on the couch, I should be able to show my wife something. Or my boss.
  • Samples are really good for learning. Especially samples that can be extended into boss-impressing applications.
  • Exercises are also a good thing. They are better than samples for getting me hands-on.
  • Videos are a really slow way to transfer information. I’m an early adopter of programming languages. This means I learn at least one new language per month. I don’t have time to sit through a 5 minute video about hello world. If you can’t explain hello world in a page of text, you have a problem.
  • Rather than a video, give me an exercise and a cheat sheet. The cheat sheat should give me instructions for completing the exercise, in excruciating detail (I can skip the obvious parts, since it is just text).
  • If the exercises are long, or build on one another, give me Julia Child-style opportunities to start with a mostly-complete version of the application.
  • I’m really busy. During the signup, wait for email, click link to confirm cycle, you are almost guaranteed to lose my attention.
  • I’m really busy. Things that timeout are at odds with that. Development environments that timeout in a matter of minutes are basically unusable.
  • Programs are made of files. Anything that tries to hide the files, or make the files too opaque, will make me uncomfortable. Are you listening Smalltalk?
  • Offering hosting is good. But being the only place I can store my software is scary.
  • Web services are cool, but the number of public web services is not yet impressive. And their documentation leaves something to be desired. If your software depends on third-party services, document the heck out of those too.
  • Twenty dollars at Amazon is sufficient incentive to get me to take a survey.

That’s the braindump for now. I’ve already noticed areas where we at StreamBase could be doing better.

1 Comment »

  1. Aaron says:

    I really like your analysis of Bungee Labs. I’d also like to point out my current project, appjet.com, as another platform that I think gets more of your bullets right. It’s still an experimental release, but I thought you might find it another interesting platform example.