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Shootin’ Hoops

The hoop thrummed its complaint as Stan’s shot rebounded away, missing the target. Brody grabbed the ball and headed back to half-court, thinking about Janice’s project as he and Stan faced each other in their daily lunchtime ritual. Brody dribbled the ball, contemplating game strategy and the job they had just finished.

“So why do you think Janice’s project went so well?” Brody asked Stan.

“Mainly because we handled it completely differently from anything we’ve done before. It’s Fusebox, dude,” remarked Stan. Brody took the opportunity to lunge past Stan, heading straight in for a clean lay-up. He tossed the ball and a question to Stan.

“You really think Fusebox made that much difference? I mean, sure it was great to get all the design stuff worked out up front, but it seemed like Janice was just a lot easier to deal with than other clients we’ve had.”

“Brody, before we started using Fusebox, how did we handle a project?” Stan kept an eye on Brody, trying to decide how he might find a path through the key.

“Whaddya mean? We just did it. We know what we’re doing.” Brody knew Stan was trying to distract him from the game, but it wasn’t working. He hadn’t lost to Stan yet, and he didn’t intend to start now.

“That’s just it, though. We just did it. We started out talking to the client, played it by ear as we went along, and just hoped everything would work out.” Stan feinted for the hoop, and then pulled up and launched a long, high-arcing airball. Brody snickered under his breath and chased the ball.

“Yeah,” said Stan, “I guess it was sort of like your shooting—aim for the hole and pray.”

“Thanks,” Brody muttered sarcastically.

“Any time,” said Stan with satisfaction.

“Seriously, Brody, when we decided to use Fusebox on Janice’s project, it was like opening up a playbook for the project. We knew everything we were going to do before we even started.”

“And you think that made a difference in the way Janice acted toward us?” questioned Brody.

“Of course it did. We were able to talk about the whole process like we knew exactly what to expect. We came off looking like pros, instead of like we were just feeling our way along. That had to make her feel more comfortable trusting us with the work. Hey!” Stan jumped to cut off Brody, who had slid past the lecturing Stan and headed down the half court. As usual, Stan was a half-step slower and could do nothing but watch as Brody sunk another well-practiced two-pointer.

“No fair! You got me thinking about the project,” Stan complained.

“Too bad, man. Besides, I’ve put that move past you a thousand times. You should have seen it coming.” Brody’s well-placed bounce pass slipped through Stan’s fingers and caught him in the stomach.

“Kind of like FLiP, huh? You always know what comes next.” Stan was having a hard time concentrating on the game. His mind kept returning to the way the Third Wheel Bikes site seemed to just grow by itself.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. It was really nice to know what was going to happen after I finished doing the prototype,” Brody replied, once again setting up his defense.

“But it’s more than just the prototyping. Sure, that’s the part you like, but you’re the designer. But FLiP made the whole project easier for everybody.” Stan stood at half court with his hands on his knees, catching his breath.

“Even Janice?” asked Brody.

“Especially Janice.” Stan started a slow walking dribble down court.

“Why ‘especially’ her? We did all the work.”

“Sure, but think about it. Our clients in the days before Fusebox had to take our word for what was going on after the initial requirements gathering. Unless we made special efforts to tell the clients what was going on, they didn’t really have a clue. They just hoped that when the deadline rolled around, we would have their site ready.” Stan reversed course and started back toward half court, considering his next move.

“But Janice knew what we were going to do next because we told her up front how FLiP works.” Brody followed, keeping a careful eye on Stan.

“Right. Starting from the first wireframing session, she could see the project take shape and make progress.” Stan paused, changed course again, and headed for the basket.

“She really liked seeing my prototype, too.” Brody neatly matched strides with Stan, waiting for him to make his move.

“Of course she did. That’s the part that makes it really come alive. And even though she took a while to make up her mind about some of the appearance issues, none of it impacted me while you two were working it out. I finished the coding on two other projects while you were finalizing the prototype.” Stan put up another high arcing shot, this time narrowly missing his target. The rebound favored him, though, and he stepped back with the ball, trying to find a line past Brody.

“I was really worried that after we had the prototype frozen, she would think everything was done. I really liked your idea to render the whole thing in shades of gray and turn their colors on as the coding was completed for each feature. That was an excellent way to let her see the coding progress.” Brody liked working with Stan because of considerate notions like this.

“I read about doing that on a mail list. I thought it would work for us, and because you base everything on style sheets anyway, I figured it would be pretty easy to do.” Stan decided on the direct route, and charged the basket. His lay-up didn’t exactly have style, but it went in. Brody took the ball out and checked it to Stan. With the ball back in his hands, Brody planned his partner’s demise.

“Definitely cool. Janice really liked checking in every day to see what else was ‘colorized.’ I did, too, because I was working on that other project and it let me see how you were doing on my site.” Brody took three long strides and launched himself into the air, ending his flight with a resounding jam.

“Slam-dunk! Just like coding with Fusedocs,” cheered Stan. Defeat at Brody’s hands was a daily occurrence, and Stan didn’t mind as long as Brody showed him a trick or two.

“Fusedocs?! What’s that got to do with slammin’?” Brody tossed Stan the ball and stood on the court, waiting for Stan to explain his point.

“Everything. Because of Fusedocs, I could architect the site based on your prototype and then work on slammin’ out the code. After all the fuses were documented, the big e-picture thinking was done, and I could just tune out the world and concentrate on writing awesome code.” Stan’s analogy had temporarily distracted Brody, allowing Stan a quick jog to the net. He didn’t have enough vertical jump to slam like Brody, but the points counted just the same. Brody was a little confused. “I thought Fusedocs were supposed to help if you had a bunch of coders working on the project. You mean they helped you even though you did all the coding?”

“Sure. With everything I needed to know for each fuse already packaged in its Fusedoc, I didn’t need to go anywhere else for information while I was coding. I could focus on each fuse and not worry about anything else. It’s really cool—kind of like being ‘in the zone’ when you’re playing—nothing to worry about except the game.”

“I hear ya. I love it when I can do my thing without getting distracted.”

As if on cue, Brody loped under the backboard, leapt, and turned in mid-air, executing a reverse lay-up that made Stan wish he could jump.

“Yep. Nothing like leaving the distractions behind,” Stan grinned, realizing his focus had once again wandered from the game, this time to memories of coding ThirdWheelBikes.com.

“How did you know what fuses to write Fusedocs for in the first place?” Brody wondered aloud as he tossed the ball to Stan.

“It’s not like my prototype told you any of that.”

“Well, not in so many words,” Stan admitted, “but it was all there just the same. All I had to do was go over each page of the frozen prototype looking for exit points. That gave me a good idea of all the things the application had to do. Then I just started organizing exit points and page contents into logical groups. That gave me ideas for fuseactions and circuits. After I had the circuits and fuseactions figured out, I could decide what fuses I would need for each fuseaction.”

“So every Fusebox architect would have come up with that design, huh?” asked Brody.

“No way. No two architects would come up with the same design,” explained Stan.

“Even using the same prototype?” Brody wondered.

“Even using the same prototype. We all think a little bit differently and organize circuits a little differently. That’s one of the great things about Fusebox, though. It lets the architect decide how to structure the application and doesn’t restrict you solely on an organizational basis. I’m sure that if Hal Helms or Steve Nelson designed Third Wheel from your prototype, they’d each come up with a different design.” Stan was warming to his subject now, as was always the case when someone showed interest in his work.

“But all three would still look and work the way Janice decided she wanted it to work in the prototype?” asked Brody.

“Yep,” Stan said. “That’s the test they would all need to pass.” Brody was impressed. “That is so cool. I guess it’s kind of like when some of my web design friends get together and talk about style sheets and things. We each have our favorite methods for achieving a certain appearance. They’re all different, but they all work. Come on, you gonna play or talk?”

“Keep your shirt on.” Stan generally spent more time thinking about playing than actually playing. “Sure, everybody has his own way of working. We’re always more concerned with what we’re supposed to do, not how we’re going to do it.”

“Yeah,” remarked Brody. “I’ve noticed you saying that repeatedly over the past few weeks. I thought maybe you’d joined a cult or something…”

“Well, it’s true,” Stan went on. When you’re not so worried about the how, the what becomes really easy to figure out. Just then, a sporty Honda two-door appeared at the corner. Janice pulled into the parking lot adjacent to the court and stepped out of her car. She walked toward Stan and Brody, thinking how nice it must be to have your own outdoor gym right next door to the office.

“Hi, guys!” Janice waved as she approached.

“Janice! Hi!” Stan and Brody met her halfway.

“What brings you by?” asked Stan.

“I just thought I’d drop off the last payment for ThirdWheelBikes.com. Thanks again, guys.”

“Oh, no problem. We had a ball working with you.” Stan quipped, tossing the basketball to Brody.

“Stan, you’re sick, you know it?” Brody said, shaking his head at his partner’s pun. “It’s true, though, Janice. We really did have a great time working with you. It’s been one of our best projects ever.”

“Well, thanks. I was worried about how it was going to go, but you guys made it seem easy. Every step of the way, you knew exactly what was going on.”

Stan exchanged an “I told you so” glance with Brody, glad to see his theory proven.

“Brody and I were just talking about the project and how well it went. We’re really glad you feel the same way.”

“Oh, definitely. I wish all the business dealings I have would go as well.”

“What was the best part about the project, in your opinion?” Stan inquired.

Janice responded, “I really liked the way you built the front end along with me, helping me make decisions about everything. I’m still not sure I entirely understand what happened after the front end was done, when you were doing the daily work that made it change from grays back to full color, but I really enjoyed watching that happen. I felt like I could always go look and see what was happening, without making you guys feel like I was always checking up on you.”

Stan agreed. “Yeah, it was nice to be able to work like that. I really enjoyed the final delivery date. Seeing the site go live as ThirdWheelBikes.com was really cool.”

“I suppose so,” replied Janice, “but it didn’t seem like such a big deal to me. After all, it was just the same stuff you’d been showing me all along. No big deal.”

“Yeah, no big deal,” Brody said. He and Stan couldn’t help thinking about some of their past projects where final delivery had been a huge, painful, costly deal.

“Anyway, thanks again, guys. I’ll give you a call when I need more help. Oh, and I have a friend who owns a department store downtown. He’s interested in looking into a web site with online sales. I told him to give you a call.” Janice returned to her car and drove off, leaving Stan and Brody grinning like idiots.

“All right! Referral business!” Stan put his hand up for the well-deserved high-five.

“This Fusebox thing was definitely the ticket, Stan.”

“Don’t I know it, Bro,” Stan agreed.

“So what do we do now? Is there more to do, or learn, or what?” Brody was anxious to get going on more projects if they were going to follow the pattern set by Third Wheel.

“Well, I go onto the Fusebox mailing lists. They’re a big help, and…” Stan started.

“How hard is that?” interrupted Brody, “Getting on the mailing lists, I mean.”

“Oh, it’s a piece of cake,” Stan explained. “You just send an email to the address for the list you want. It’s subscribefusebox@topica.com for the Fusebox list, subscribefbcommunity@topica.com for the Fusebox Community list, and subscribe-SteerFB@topica.com for the Steering list. Easy.”

“Excellent. And what do you get there?” Brody hadn’t had much experience with email lists, but he was curious.

“Whatever discussion happens each day,” said Stan. “You can start your own discussions, too. Everybody’s there, too—all the members of the Fusebox Council, and Fuseboxers from all over the world.”

“Cool. You mean you can actually ask Hal Helms a question and he’ll answer you?” Brody imagined this to be somewhat akin to asking for fashion tips from Tommy Hilfiger.

“Sure.” Stan was nonchalant. “He and Steve and the rest of ‘em are always answering questions.”

“So when do you get to be one of the bigwigs?” Brody enjoyed teasing Stan.

“Maybe in time…” Stan had thought about this before. I’m not ready to run for the Steering Committee or anything, but one of these days I might think about it.”

“They let you do that?” Brody asked with awe. I mean, you can decide what’s going to be in Fusebox in future versions?”

“Sort of, yeah.” Stan went on, “Everybody’s encouraged to explore and try new ideas. That’s a big part of what Fusebox is all about.”

“Sounds good to me!” exclaimed Brody.

“Yeah,” agreed Stan, “and I just heard about a new book that’s coming out. It’s supposed to be all about Fusebox and FLiP, and it features a fictitious development team with an architect-coder and a designer. The book follows them through building a web app.”

“Cool. Sounds kind of like us,” thought Brody.

“Yeah, but I’ll bet they’re a lot cooler than us,” said Stan.

“Probably. Hey, what’s the score?” Brody tossed Stan the ball and headed back for the court.

“13-0, my lead.” Stan tossed out his usual “We now return to the game already in progress” score.

“In your dreams, programmer geek!” teased Brody.

“Yeah, okay, designer dude. Watch this!” Stan pulled back and launched a one-armed three-point attempt from half-court. He and Brody both watched slack-jawed as it hurtled through the cool afternoon air and swished through the hoop, “Nothin’ but net.”



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