This is the title of a keynote presentation by Neil Chue Hong (Director of the UK’s Software Sustainability Institute) at the International Symposium on Grids and Clouds 2015 in Taipei, Taiwan (March 15-20, 2015). Neil emphasizes the crucial point that startups and software research have many survival rules in common, but one of these surpasses others in importance, and that is: understand your users. He describes in detail four stages making software sustainable by understanding users, and gives real world case studies for each:
- Discovery – is the problems you are solving of interest to others?
- Validation – have you implemented core features others want? This is the phase where you start giving demonstrations and presentation.
- Efficiency – can you support new users by refining your processes? This is where user support processes are put in place.
- Scale – are you ready to drive the growth in users, and reengineer code as needed?
[See also the transcript of the talk at at http://www.slideshare.net/npch/why-developing-research-software-is-like-a-startup-and-why-this-matters]
A related issue is that scientific research is all about reaching researchers. Software needs a user base to support funding proposals and to encourage contributions. While the above two statements may be obvious, they impose conditions on software providers to make this happen. Neil calls these conditions the four Golden Rules:
- Act amiably
- Breakdown barriers
- Cultivate Contributions
- Dispora and Dispersion.