Expectation control on deploy or die!

Joi Ito at SIME'08

Somebody pointed me at a piece from Oreilly’s Solid conference. Like most others I would have loved to have gone but to be fair there would have been people I would rather have gone ahead of myself.

Joi ito I have a lot of respect for and I remember meeting him in London over 10 years ago. But I take a little issue with something Joi says

the Media Lab’s emphasis is on projects that go all the way to manufacturing and distributing: moving from “demo or die” to “deploy or die,” as Joi puts it. Projects that deploy can be vastly more impactful than those that just demo — putting thousands of devices into the hands of users rather than just a couple. Plus, the manufacturing process is a crucial source of both constraints and creative possibility. Joi says, “Understanding manufacturing is going to be key to design, just like understanding the Internet has become key to running a company.”

Deploy or die is a nice idea but there’s issues which are associated with deployment. I understand the cost of manufacturing is getting cheaper however you need to be open and honest with the end user. User experience needs to be great otherwise people will simply drop it or kick it to the bin. Whats the point in putting it in peoples hands if they just put it in the bin?

Saying this is a demo, beta or prototype sets the expectation and this is a important stage which you shouldn’t ignore. Its the reason why Gmail had a beta tag for 10 years.

I’m in agreement the prototype shouldn’t be thrown away once you go into production. The prototype should embody as much of the real thing as possible. Its important to remember, someone needs to support the final thing. If you’re a research institute, this is not what you should be doing… This is the kind of thing which gets in the way of progression and researching the next problem/question.

Also I would point out that Joi is mainly talking about physical things which has always had a problem with being open and putting things out there for people to play with. This is something the internet has over the real world… A place to try stuff in the comfort of your own home.

Whats really needed is a safe place where people can play and try new things, which people understand don’t have the complete story or supply chain behind it. That space shouldn’t be a lab tucked away, it should be somewhere neutral like the number of community spaces which are popping up all over the place. In such a space, you can deploy or die to your hearts content. It shouldn’t be a genius bar either, it should be something comfortable and welcoming.

Yes it doesn’t scale too well but I think you will get more qualitative and qualitative feedback as a result

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.

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