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No more than any version one of something is precluded from becoming complete.

Maybe you think you're making some sort of important point here. Or maybe you realize your comment is inane and you think it's witty. But (perhaps without realizing it) you and the people upvoting you represent one of the worst forces at work in the world. The people who ridicule new things when they first appear in incomplete form are one of the worst drags on innovation.

I think most people agree now that it's valid strategy, particularly in software, to launch a simple version one of something and then iterate rapidly. I'm constantly pushing founders to do that. And you know what's the biggest thing holding them back? The fear that people will make fun of the first thing they launch.




I asked a straightforward question about whether an app that can't be used to create a spreadsheet should be considered a spreadsheet app, and because of that I "represent one of the worst forces at work in the world." I neither ridiculed nor made fun of Grid, as you claim I did; however, you seem to take pleasure in ridiculing and making fun of me. I'm sorry that I didn't heap the app with praise -- from the video I saw, it does look like an impressive beginning. Perhaps if I had, my question would have been met with an answer without such disrespect.


> from the video I saw, it does look like an impressive beginning. Perhaps if I had, my question would have been met with an answer without such disrespect.

One does need to take a bit of care to avoid looking like you're being snide and "witty." Something which is ambiguously a salient point or a bit of snark may be mistaken for snark. (If it might look like snark, it might look like snark?)

Or, one can just not care. If you have interesting things to say, long term you can weather a few dozen downvotes.

I took your comment to be "the elephant in the room." (I've been thinking of a "sub-sub-spreadsheet" app -- one that just totals columns of numbers.)


The reason I interpreted your question as a snarky one is that it seemed such a pointless one otherwise-- like asking, say, whether a boat can be called a boat at a stage so early in its construction that it wouldn't float.

But it sounds from your reply like you really did mean it seriously. Perhaps you believed that the guys who wrote Grid never intended to develop it further, and you were puzzled that they were calling it a spreadsheet. If so I apologize.

I think though that many of the people who upvoted you did realize that this post was an instance of a startup launching an early version one that they plan to develop further, and your innocent question thus became snarky in their hands.


I agree with atacrawl... No one would ship a boat if it didn't float. It's acceptable in todays software to ship a very simple version, especially on mobile devices, and Grid looks awesome. I wouldn't want more feature in it for version 1, but I don't see how it reinvents spreadsheets. It is something new entirely, that seems to be a perfect fit for content creation on touch devices, but it looks closer to a powerpoint/keynote concurrent than a spreadsheet one.


I think the you misinterpreted his question by rushing past the TechCrunch headline.

If you see a headline that says "Dewey Defeats Truman" you expect to read a story explaining that Truman has been defeated. Similarly, if you see a headline that says "Grid Reinvents The Spreadsheet" you expect to read a story that explains that the spreadsheet has been reinvented.

In the story itself, the founders don't pretend that Grid has a reinvented spreadsheet ready to go. They have an interesting proof of concept that they intend to enhance until it reinvents the spreadsheet.

A reader, having been misled by the headline (not misled by the founders) is naturally going to ask atacrawl's question. Any criticism implied in such a question is properly directed at TechCrunch, not at Grid.

In atacrawl's position, I would be distressed at the people "agreeing" with the snark you misread from his question.


Well put. I'm following now, and I agree.

I still maintain that it's pointless to lash out at the snarky commenters... If they ARE being snarky, lashing out isn't going to help, and if they aren't, we'll risk alienating to genuine commenters.

I respect your judgement with regards to the dynamics of the community more than mine, but I'd like to suggest that it may still serve us well to give the benefit of the doubt. I think we're all basically in agreement at this point, however.

Good discussion!


I think if you phrased it as less of a critical question e.g "Does this preclude Grid from being a spreadsheet app right now?" and/or perhaps "Will this feature be added eventually?" -- you may have received a warmer response. I do think the response was a bit sharp but I hope it's understandable.

Paul never said he wanted you to heap praise on the app. A simple rephrasing would have sufficed :)


The gp commenter's feelings were hurt. Understandably so, though that's also not how pg meant his comment. (Note that pg's comment is conditional, therefore speaking directly to the ambiguity.)


You really don't think pg's comment was meant to hurt feelings?

This is pretty freaking harsh, and I imagine would trigger a feeling of defensiveness in almost anyone: "Maybe you think you're making some sort of important point here. Or maybe you realize your comment is inane and you think it's witty. But (perhaps without realizing it) you and the people upvoting you represent one of the worst forces at work in the world."

It's incongruous with the site guidelines, in fact: "... Be civil. Don't say things you wouldn't say in a face to face conversation. When disagreeing, please reply to the argument instead of calling names ..."


I do not think it was intended to be personal, but somehow I find it strange that "feedback" gets bashing. Isn't that what "Show HN" posts are for ? What, you care enough to post your question/impression/opinion about an upcoming app, and you are treated as a member of "worst forces at work in the world", a servant of the Devil or something.

In my book ANY feedback is valuable, even the ones who say your app is crap/irrelevant/missing a key feature. If one if scared of getting feedback, then entrepreneurship is probably not the right occupation for them.


There is no name calling there. He's covering the bases of the commenter's mental state, then explaining the unfortunate circumstance he sees. The "maybe you" phrases could be interpreted as harshness, but I think it's more likely that they're to be taken exactly at face value, and that pg wants to call attention to this circumstance.


I honestly don't believe it's fair to not interpret the maybes as name calling. Even so, the "But you ... represent one of the worst forces at work in the world" cannot possibly be defended as not a personal attack. Come on! I would not say that to someone's face, and it certainly isn't being civil.


Then you admit that the content is okay, but that the wording of the last bit is unfortunate. Looks like an understandable mistake of editing and point of view, not a deliberate attack.


So you're telling me that you would financially back a company that intended to release a photo-sharing application that did not provide an avenue for users to upload photos? Isn't shipping version 1 worthless if what you're actually shipping is version 0.01? (Yes, I realize they haven't released yet.)

I don't think he was being inane, witty, or that he is a part of one of the "worst forces at work in the world." He is simply stating that to advertise your product as spreadsheet software, it should probably include some of the features that users expect to be found in spreadsheet software.

The way I see it, GRID isn't spreadsheet software at all (and doesn't seem to want to be based on the website), and shouldn't be advertising itself as such.


There is a disconnect between what a spreadsheet originally was and all the different layout/calendering/organizational stuff people also use Excel for today. For technical users it's a startling omission, but I don't think a non-technical user is going to see this and its screenshots and immediately wonder where the formulas are.

Is the term misused? Who cares? It looks really cool because it's focused on the non-math use cases (which IMO are much better suited to a tablet anyway, where I wouldn't want to be entering columns of numbers on an on-screen keyboard).


I care. It's a poor choice of wording, and it's apparently a redefinition of the term spreadsheet.

I believe that they are alienating users who might read "spreadsheet" and think "a bunch of formulas that I don't know how to use" rather than "easy to use layout/calendaring/organizational tool." Furthermore, those of us who read "spreadsheet" and think "oh, awesome, tablet optimized spreadsheets!" are sorely disappointed.


>And you know what's the biggest thing holding them back? The fear that people will make fun of the first thing they launch.

Good.

The software world is absolutely flooded with half baked crap backed by expensive marketing. As a software user it's a waste of my time when somebody releases "A Simply Remarkable Spreadsheet" that allows you to "organize and work with them in a whole new intuitive way" and it lacks the basic features I expect from a spreadsheet (I suppose that is indeed remarkable). Worse, it leads to a situation where customers don't trust software developers to provide the things they say they are providing.

What would you have us do? Not criticize massively hyped app releases that are backed by millions of dollars of VC money because we might hurt somebodies feelings? If you are going to make a big fanfare about your new 'spreadsheet' app, then you have to be prepared for the (predictable) negative reaction when it turns out it isn't actually a spreadsheet at all. Don't get pissed off when it gets criticism after you flood all the tech news sites with press releases and submit your site to all the aggregators and email dozens of bloggers.

The people doing this are savvy and know what they are doing, which is basically conning users with false promises. They know it will earn them criticism from people who are paying attention, they don't care, they are in it for the money. Your portrayal of the innocent, uncertain, timid startup CEO is pretty laughable. These are business graduates that decided to go into software startups because they think there is more money in it than investment banking at the moment, many have never written any software themselves.

You can whine all you want but customers are always going to complain when the product does not meet the description. It's really quite simple to avoid this though: stop lying in your marketing.

Edit: I didn't mean to make it sound like I think the Grid folks themselves are actually upset about this criticism, I'm sure they are not. They must have had many meetings trying to decide if they should call it a spreadsheet even though it isn't, and they obviously decided to do it because they feel they will get more attention as a 'mobile spreadsheet' rather than some vaguely defined data organiser. It was a calculated move that seems to be paying off at the initial launch at least, since the app is getting far more attention than most.


a spreadsheet even though it isn't

But it clearly is a spreadsheet. It's moving in a direction spreadsheets haven't gone before, and in order to innovate that way they've made some decisions about which classical features to defer. How could they have done otherwise?

The research literature on spreadsheet users shows that about half of them rely on computation with formulas and half don't. (That data is old and spotty but it's the best we have. Joel Spolsky made a similar point a few months ago.) So a sizeable chunk of spreadsheet users aren't going to mind, or even notice, that computation wasn't prioritized here. Those users probably aren't well represented on HN but they probably are a good fit for a tablet spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet space is remarkable for how little innovation it has seen relative to how massive its user base is. Has there been a fundamental innovation since pivot tables? That was 20 years ago, and even then something of a hack, designed to answer Lotus Improv. I guess collaborative spreadsheets count (Google Docs) but that feels more like adding in a generic modern feature than rethinking spreadsheets per se. We need to see a lot more of the latter. I suppose I should disclose that I'm working on it too, albeit at the computational end.


I'd argue that spreadsheets are applications that allow for organization and analysis of tabular data (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spreadsheet).

This clearly has some limited organizational functionality, but no analysis (that I can tell, at least.)

I think the argument about what is or is not a spreadsheet is pretty much semantics and nothing else, but I think it might be a bad move for Grid to call itself a spreadsheet app (note: I do not know if Grid calls itself a spreadsheet app) since the vast majority of consumers are going to equate that with Excel or Numbers.


I wish I had read your comment before posting mine. While you go a bit far in the polemical direction I find myself strongly reacting to the naked flogging that I am subjected to as this boom advances. In 2007 you could just read about programming and worry about the looming depression.

Now we are all expected to pitch in and enrich everyone around us who can network a little bit.

Let's innovate some ways to get water to the heartland! Whoops too hard, let's innovate javascript.


Another problem is that the HN crowd has been getting inundated with a ton of 'Show HN: AppName v0.001' posts for a while now. There are some obvious benefits to doing this, like getting early feedback from tech-oriented people before chasing the general public's attention, but I wouldn't be surprised if the HN crowd is getting a little weary of wading through the onslaught of such posts.

Note: I actually think Grid's v1 was pretty well put together (based on the demo video). I am mostly referring to the half-backed Bootstrap sites with nothing more than a sign up form.


> The people doing this are savvy and know what they are doing, which is basically conning users with false promises.

Its not the users being conned, but VC "investors".


PG,

You are wrong in this post.

The colloquial definition of a spreadsheet app in about 100% of the world at this time is the ability to do calcs.

This video is fantastic, but what shows is currently purely a layout app (hence the grid nomenclature) - frankly - it is a visual Workflowy.

Also, you know what is a drag on innovation, lack of cordial discussion (I am a perpetrator of this myself - even on HN, I get emotionally involved in something and it takes another HN user's response to give me perspective) - and I think you were harsh in your comment, and rather than foster discussion about this, you attacked the OP.

I am sure all of us agree with: "I think most people agree now that it's valid strategy, particularly in software, to launch a simple version one of something and then iterate rapidly"

But I found nothing snide in the OP at all.


> The colloquial definition of a spreadsheet app in about 100% of the world at this time is the ability to do calcs.

For me Grid got right the essence how and why some people use spreadsheet for non-calc tasks. If people write long text, they start text editor. If they want to add more "structure", they do not implement new DB application, but they start spreadsheet app.

Especially in corporate world: if manager wants to track tasks (issues, progress of documents) - he starts Excel and uses it like the Grid. The most complex Excel I have seen so far was used for tracking wedding - tasks, guests, deadlines etc ;)

There are many ways how people use general concept of spreadsheet. Some might involve complex calculations, some people use it only as a free-form grid. My guess is that the ratio is 1:10 (in favor of free-form grid). That is why I think BinaryThumb hit the sweet spot and will be successful even if they do not implement calculations at all.


I agree with this very much - I was just pointing out though that the term "spreadsheet" to anyone I know is automatically assumed to include the ability to calculate.

I use Excel for most everything (e.g. I do all my patch matrix docs for the DC, MDF, IDF buildouts in excel. Modelling the physical layout of a switch in Excel to show what ports are patched where - and while I am not doing any formulas in these particular docs - sometimes I do (clacing bandwidth, subscription etc...)


Well I guess if they implement arithmetic they will be fine, the average consumer can do without pivot tables and HLOOKUP. And judging from what they already built they should be able to manage that. I hope they don't teach the app to interpret decimal numbers as dates. This ranks as one of the top stupidest feature ideas in the world. Has a 99% miss rate for me.


"... But (perhaps without realizing it) you and the people upvoting you represent one of the worst forces at work in the world. ..."

I feel a disturbance in the force.

"... Be civil. Don't say things you wouldn't say in a face to face conversation. When disagreeing, please reply to the argument instead of calling names ..." ~ http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Founders' emotional reactions to criticism aside, isn't one of the chief benefits of releasing quickly the market input? One can feel sad about that feedback or, after properly weighting it, parse it as the valuable guidance it is.

The markets provide cruel, ruthless feedback in the form of buy/pass behaviour. Getting that feedback as early as possible on one's MVP is insightful, albeit painful. Criticism can be more valuable than atomistically binary market activity by providing insight into why the market is behaving as it is (or will be).

Given the specific case, if the founders are working on a feature to fill the hole discussed, great - they have a bit of validation. If not, they have the opportunity to consider it. Either way, I don't see why there is a reason to get beaten up about it.

Negative feedback is as much a drag on innovation as market rejection. At worst, it should be a non-factor.


Exactly. It didn't seem like ridiculing, and it was certainly a thought I had as well: is the app viable as a spreadsheet without formulas?

I think it is - I like the concept, agree that people use spreadsheet for far more than calculations. But bringing up the discussion of whether they're necessary should help the founders decide if they should focus on adding that before scaling up the marketing or whether it's useful as is...


That's actually Paul Graham that replied, not one of the founders.


I know, but he invoked the founder(s') reactions as a reason negative feedback is a drag on innovation.


I took the comment as questioning the terminology not poking fun or being particularly snarky. I see the comment along the lines of "aren't numerical manipulations an essential property of spreadsheets?"

These days, a spreadsheet that doesn't calculate is an edge case given thirty years of mainstream usage of the term. Though having had the pleasure of revising letters my boss drafted in Lotus 123, I can accept the proposition that calculations are an accidental property.

Disrupting the spreadsheet requires convincing people that "spreadsheet" is not synonymous with "Excel." A task which is probably harder than it should be given that Excel is a reasonably practical tool for preparing Gantt charts or a data table for a mail merge [tasks for which I have used Excel on more than one occasion].

Richard Diehl's Tabulus is another interesting approach in the opposite direction.


The comment wasn't really in the spirit of HN, but it touches on an important point that gets little visibility.

Much of the current and next wave of new apps are aimed at enterprise (as startups move to markets where the money is).

There is a very high MVP threshold for enterprise.

When 37signals released the next version of Basecamp they took a lot of flack for not including time tracking in first rev (even though their metrics showed few people used it).

It is common in Enterprises to have senior players ready to point out any obvious issues in any recommendation. Apps looking to get in to this market have to recognise this feature of the market - it's just not the same as putting out a new social app.


I think the question was very valid. It's like if you describe "an word processing app, but for now it only integrates pictures in the document. Typing function to come later!" - in the same way a spreadsheet is not software that is used to put pictures and tables. Expectations when you see the word "spreadsheet" is being able to run complex, calculations, and maybe macros to accelerate your workflow. Calling this piece of software "spreadsheet" is an abuse of what spreadsheets have been standing for, for a very long time now.


Wouldn't that be only for power users? I am very good at Excel myself but it's not part of my job to work with it so I'd say most of the time I use Excel as a quick storage for data and not as a calculation sheet. Grid sounds great for almost every case where you would fire up Excel but not actually do any complex calculations. It made me think of this article by Joel Spolsky about Trello (and spreadsheets): http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2012/01/06.html


Almost everyone who uses a spreadsheet wants to do basic arithmetic in it, though.

Look at the demo video on the site. There's a list of expenses and dollar costs. But you can't automatically sum them? Anyone familiar with spreadsheets would consider that a pretty fundamental feature.


Sure but we are talking about something not that hard to add to the app. I was talking more about those asking for pivot tables, etc.


Maybe I'm just not familiar with modern usage of the word 'spreadsheet' but when I hear it I instantly think of accounting worksheets, visicalc, excel and the like. If the very core of this app isn't the same as a classic spreadsheet app, why even throw that word around? It's bad marketing.


I think it's excellent marketing - they're clearly targeting people who use the word "spreadsheet" to mean "lists that don't involve math" and it's always easier to keep speaking your target customer's language than to try to teach them a new one.


Words mean things. There's an external cost to society when marketers engage in deceptions that only work for the ignorant. It adds friction to the marketplace; each instance makes it a little bit harder for customers to find the goods and services they're after, and for legitimate vendors to be found.

It's also a missed opportunity to offer those people UIs that fit their tasks, rather than encourage them to continue poor use of the only tool they know.


Those people call "lists that don't involve math" an "Excel". They have never heard the term "spreadsheet".


Maybe you think you're making some sort of important point here. Or maybe you realize your comment is inane and you think it's witty. But (perhaps without realizing it) you and the people upvoting you represent one of the worst forces at work in the world. The people who ridicule new things when they first appear in incomplete form are one of the worst drags on innovation.

Really surprised to see something like this from Paul. Totally not in the spirit of HN.


Maybe you're reading way too much into their comment, and unfairly jumping into a judgement? I didn't sense the same feeling of ridicule. If the founders are on here, how did you take it?

I interpreted it his question as genuinely wondering if "the ability to calculate formulas is a defining characteristic of a spreadsheet." Perhaps it's not, but it's not something to bite his head off for!

Jumping to conclusions and failing to give the benefit of the doubt is another drag on intelligent discourse and innovation!


To me the parent's statement was entirely valid. A spreadsheet has a certain definition to many people. That definition includes doing calculations. While people use programs like excel to do many other things that Grid will be good at, that doesn't make it a spreadsheet app. Also, this is a very rude comment with name calling etc. that clearly doesn't follow the HN guidelines. If somebody other than pg wrote it it would be heavily downvoted by now.


I read it as an honest question, not ridicule.


I think that the fear of ridicule is very healthy. It is one force that acts to discourage us from being inundated with solutions that are incomplete or half-baked, and which might not even be solving the right problem.

I like the data entry technique for the tablet which is at the heart of this demo. But there is no reason to throw around the word "innovation," even when warding off the worst forces at work in the world.

On the desktop, that dead platform, UI designers have been inventing new user controls for many years, and packaging them as products. But no one important comes to their frantic defense when one of these bundles of features is under-appreciated by its intended audience. Perhaps that says something about the current environment? Maybe we should just let these new-ish hardware and software platforms mature without getting breathless or aggressive when contemplating them.


Come on, that was a perfectly reasonable question.

It looks like a really cool app but as soon as they said it can't do spreadsheet calculations just about everybody that has ever used a spreadsheet must have immediately had the same thought, "wait a minute, then, how is it a spreadsheet?"

And asking that question is not ridicule, or making fun of the first thing someone launches.

And IF the question is critical of anything then surely it is of TC misrepresenting the app as "a spreadsheet app for tablets".

Because really, it's quite clear: as long as it doesn't do spreadsheet calculations, it's not a spreadsheet app. Instead, it's a grid. Which is in fact what it's called and it looks great.

And the minute they add spreadsheet calculations to the feature list, it'll ALSO be a spreadsheet. Happy now?

It's funny because I always thought jumping straight at the throats of people that dare to ask questions is one of the worst forces at work in the world.

It's not even a difficult question. Do you seriously think the developers of that app live in FEAR of having to say "yeah right now it's a grid. spreadsheet calculations will be in the next beta soon and then we'll call it a spreadsheet, TC just jumped the gun a bit". Must be absolutely terrifying, having to accurately describe the functionality of your application in its current version.


In general it's a fine balance of what makes a v1. It's a huge challenge to identify those features that are must have vs those that are good to have. A poor v1 experience will chase your early adopters away and I doubt many people give a second try at all. But a delayed product and late or no feedback from users would result in building a product that is tangential to what the user actually wants. No amount of user studies would fill in that gap. In this particular case, however, if I'm listing down all my expenses, I definitely would also want to sum it up and expect that sum to automatically update too. If I and those who think so are in the minority, well and good. For an app so elegant, no one would want or hope it to fail. But if you are releasing the app and not expecting or ready for honest feedback, I can't see a point in releasing it in the first place.


Maybe you think you're making some sort of important point here. Or maybe you realize your comment is inane and you think it's witty. But your ego is showing.




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