Now the U2 was built by the Lockheed Skunk Works, an elite group of engineers who prided themselves on there work. But still the U2 was not a perfect aircraft. At times the wings would flap like a giant bird, giving pilots something to think about. Another of it's problems was that oil from the engine would spray out onto the windshield. They looked at many different ways of solving the problem, and as most of us look to write elegant code, I'm sure they sought an elegant solution. What they ended up doing however, was to use Kotex to absorb the oil spray before it hit the windshield. A hack, a cheat, and an imperfect solution, but one that kept those pride of the neighborhood fallout shelters from ever seeing any real use.
I got the chance today to talk to a colleague who works at a company I founded five years ago. I left that company two years ago on my own recognizance. He told me that after five years, the company had no product, and that I had fraaked up and tried to get me to admit that I had done wrong. He said some really nasty things. Now during those hectic years when myself and one other engineer worked our tails off and turned on a dime to make deliveries to clients, we used our fair share of Kotex. But at one point the VC who had funded the company told us that it was the best software he had ever seen. And a decision maker in a large organization that we had pitched to told me a few months ago that we had shown him a great product a couple years ago when we had pitched him.
After talking with the guy who currently works there, I became depressed and started to beat myself up. I second guessed the decisions I had made years ago, and silently criticized those I had worked with, those who I walked through fire with me. Did I do everything right? Probably not. There's case studies out there however of companies that did do everything technically right, and they're not around today.
Looking back I wonder if I should have chosen the fallout shelter over the Kotex. I could have taken my time, made sure everything was nice and clean on the inside, and then when stuff started exploding I could have run inside it and known that I wouldn't have to worry about what was going on outside. But if I had done that my colleague probably wouldn't be around today to give me an earful about my use of Kotex