The other night, I was watching TV in the bed with the kids and Mel Brooke’s History of the World Part I came on. This is a classic movie, if for no other reason it shows Mel’s genius. The part we watched was the Spanish Inquisition with Mel as Torquemada.
But the Inquisition’s here and it’s here to-
“Hey Torquemada, walk this way.”
“I just got back from the Auto-de-fe.”
“Auto-de-fe? What’s an Auto-de-fe?”
“It’s what you oughtn’t to do but you do anyway.”
The remainder of the movie isn’t for kids, so we changed the station. But I can’t help but watch something like that and think about how great that movie was and the care and the thought that went into that. The next day, I was listening to the radio and Lola from the Kinks came on. It is a cold day when you hear a modern song like Lola. What makes it so great? If we were going to talk for an hour or so with a couple of beers, I could probably make my point and convince you that it’s one of the greatest songs, but if I have to explain it here, then you probably wouldn’t get it. Anyways, that’s just an aside.
So, at work, I’ve been thinking about Innovation. If you have seen my blog before, you might be aware that I like technology. There are so many things I think are cool to play with and have integrated them into mine and my family’s life. Sometimes, my wife gets frustrated when things don’t work 100% but I wonder what my kids will be like when they are my age. Will they be rushing out to get the latest tech toys or will they try to build their own? Who knows, but I do like to encourage their innovator spirit.
At work, I was writing a document on innovation and some of the challenges our company faces. I referred to an article that Guy Kawasaki wrote for one of recent issues of Entrepreneur magazine. His article really gave me food for thought. One of the most important points that I’ve been wrestling with is that you should make products that make your customers happy.
The best example I can come up with and it really drives it home for me is my wife. We have a Trixbox PBX at home. I love it. But, it doesn’t work 100% of the time; it works 99.9% of the time. And we have to dial “9” to call outside. Me, I’m willing to put up with it. Or rather, it just doesn’t seem like an issue at all for me, but for my wife… it’s a pain in the ass. “Why doesn’t our phone work like everyone else’s?” Heaven forbid if my Mother-in-law tries to use our phone. They ain’t happy!
Until I read Guy’s article, I thought that they were missing the point of having the “wonderful technology” in their lives making things better for them. Nope, I missed it. If the technology makes them happy, then we have a winner. I have a Roku Soundbridge; hands down one of the best and coolest things I ever bought myself. However, my wife is just as happy plugging her iPod Shuffle into the stereo. Her Shuffle, makes her happy.
I get it, now I understand. But there has to be some sort of middle ground, don’t you think? A product can’t be 100% fool-proof and work 100% of the time, can it? Does that mean it has to be simple or just work good? I don’t have the answers yet, but this has been what’s been inside my thoughts as of late. Somewhere in this conundrum, lies the secret sauce.
The thing about cool tech is, are you doing it because you can, or because you are filling a need?
I built a mythtv machine mostly for my own use, even though we already had a perfectly workable ReplayTV. When the Replay stopped working, the “adoption rate” if you will of the mythtv box accelerated. Now we use both fairly equally, because they each bring their own set of nice features to the table and allow better coverage of recordings.
Another example is presented in one of my favorite jwz entries: http://www.jwz.org/doc/groupware.html
In the end, all anyone can do is throw stuff out there and see what gets the bites. Nobody ever saw a Myspace or Twitter come out of high-level design committee and get vetted by focus groups, etc. You do what you think is cool, and if a bunch of other people say “Hey, yeah it is” then you have a winner.
Jason’s article was good and that does seem to be what makes everything spread like crazy. Super simple for everyone to use so they adopt it after using someone elses instance of it.
The netscape history was interesting. I didn’t know any of that except the free explorer part which we all witnessed first hand at early MSPG.
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