It’s nearly time to check in and let you all know where we are in development. But first I thought I’d tackle the thorny issue of a release date and why you can’t rush great art.

The most natural (and usually first) question anyone asks when they hear about ode is: “when’s it coming out then?”

Part of me wants to loudly exclaim that I bet you wouldn’t ask Leonardo Da Vinci when that portrait of the lady with the weird smile is going to be finished. Or that you wouldn’t dare say to Michelangelo as he worked on the Sistine Chapel: “Ottenga un movimento sopra. State lavorando a questo per 4 anni. Avete detto che sareste rifiniti entro la fine settimana.” He was a bit of a misanthrope by all accounts and would likely have chased you through Rome, cursing your impudence.

But, of course, I don’t. Someone is waiting on a return that justifies their investment. It’s no good telling exclaiming “oh, it’ll be out eventually”. You might aswell open their wallet, take out a twenty and light a big cigar with it.

But it needs to be balanced. I strongly believe software design is an art form. It takes love, dedication, artistic tantrums and lots of rubbing out. This is why it sends a shiver up our spines when we are asked which day it will be…grrr…”finished“.

You create something that, if it works, will touch the user in such a way that it hopefully transcends practicality and brings about an emotional connection. Whether you like it or not Myspace’s 100 million users feel an artistic connection to their “space” and how it represents them as part of the greater whole. That’s art to me (even if you couldn’t fit it in a gallery).

The vast majority of 37 Signals’ userbase would consider their unique understanding of their audience has been elevated to an artform. It’s not technology as a mechanical process.

The ipod will be remembered as a perfect peice of design for a long time to come.

Ask any videogame fan to name their best moment in their favourite game and you will see their eyes mist over with an ecstasy comparable with opera fans describing their favourite aria or how an architect might feel when confronted by Sagrada Familia. Is it too much to compare those emotions to the first time you experience Google Earth? I don’t think so.
Now we cannot presume to stand in such august company but creating an original web app is akin to creating art. You start with a big idea (“We want to sell little bits of digital content to educators”) that is like a big block of marble. You can see a beautiful finished product in your minds eye but there’s a lot of marble to chip away to get to it.

Everytime we code a new function or add some new content or make a breakthrough on an idea or receive a brilliant bit of user feedback it chips away a little more, thus making the final shape more distinct.

This analogy runs out of steam at a very specific point: eventually a sculptor will lay down the hammer and chisel and step back to admire thier work. It is done.

For good or ill software is never finished, only improved upon.

But we are the best judges of who to release it to and when (how often?) that should happen.

With software you can always improve and adjust the shape of your application. You must always want to continuously fine tune. So we will release to privately invited beta users at different stages. Then we will open our doors wider to let in more users and so on. We have loads of ideas of what we want to do with ode but they won’t necessarily be there when you use ode for the first time.

As the saying goes: release early and often. ode won’t be “out” and complete on a certain day. It will be out all the time in new and improved ways.

Now go and read the Black Perl.