One of the things I’ve noticed is that it is easy to think of technology as coming in little boxes: this is an app, this is a web page, this is a video. As engineers and technologists, we become experts at what the names are on the little boxes and how the little boxes fit together.
It doesn’t really have to work that way.
For instance, on my book review site, I got tired of doing reviews for a while, so I wrote a one-page app where startups can enter in a basic business model. (I came up with this idea after seeing several startup death clocks. I wanted something better)
Hang it off the main site, and now it’s just part of the scenery.
If I had defined my hn-books site as “a website to write book reviews” then that’s pretty rigid. It focuses on the “what” instead of the “why”. It’s probably a lot better to focus on the user. How about “some place folks visit to explore new stuff about their startup ideas”
The first concept is a list. The second concept is a theme. A theme that can be expounded upon in all kinds of ways. Once I have my “why” — why is the user there? — then I can be extremely creative in helping him out.
In my opinion, developers need to think of the things they do less in terms of technology and more in terms of art. When I first read “Hackers and Painters” I didn’t get that — my head was so wrapped up in various kinds of buzzwords, platforms, and distribution paradigms that I couldn’t see that startups are an art, not an engineering discipline. When your potential customer comes along to see what you’ve done, unless you’re selling life preservers on the Titanic, they’re looking at your work artistically — does it fulfill my need in a way I find pleasing? After all, there are probably many places that fulfill their need. Regardless of what they might say, they are making a judgment on whether they are emotionally pleased with choosing your work. This is the act of an art patron, not a robot.
You’ll never solve a problem and you’ll always be frustrated if you’re have the wrong model in your head.If you've read this far and you're interested in Agile, you should take my No-frills Agile Tune-up Email Course, and follow me on Twitter.