AEA Chicago 2009: Building Stuff Fast–And Getting It Approved

Simon Willison talked about how some ways to speed up the development timeline in Session 9 of An Event Apart Chicago 2009

  • knock something out as fast as you can and hope it doesn’t suck too bad
  • cheaper to build than to have the meetings to determine what to build

Interactive development

  • use console tab in firebug as a learning tool
  • phpsh – interactive php!
  • massively speeds up dev time (no more compiling, uploading)

Client-side prototyping

  • JSON-P with padding – allows callback to defeat same origin policy
  • YQL: SQL queries against APIs

“Beware the Phantom Web”

  • Phantom Web: view source = JavaScript tag only
  • use JS-only for prototyping, but don’t leave it
  • frameworks purpose: eliminate boilerplate, DRY (don’t repeat yourself)

Rapid development in a group

  • rent a fort!
  • pair programming
    • more than doubles productivity
    • keeps focused/accountable
    • constant peer review
  • KJ Method
    • achieving consensus
  • Great for learning, not as good for shipping a product

Making your organization more hackable

  • “Innovation” – use it to get away with anything
  • Hack days
    • only rule: build something and demo it to your peers
    • keep rules to a minimum
    • drop constraints & build quickly


  • screen scraping APIs
  • with YQL, select CSS selectors

Open Source

  • not “coding communism,” an ecosystem
  • too much effort to release your own code
    • use github where you don’t have to maintain the project
    • file-and-forget


How does rapid building affect pricing?
depends how honest you are 🙂
can be a selling point, too