I agree with everything here, the latest weeknote from Drew Stock, an acquaintance who’s documenting his creation of Bellow, ‘a new way to call each other’. Since joining Podio I’ve struggled at times to come to terms with the overwhelming rationality of life at a tech company. Test, learn, measure, improve. Repeat. What place is there for intuition and vision in an environment where every idea has to be quickly validated?
Drew eloquently teases out the limitations inherent in the orthodoxy that permeates start-up culture:
A grad-school instructor once told me products that attempt to prioritize cultural invention over problem solving, no matter how delightful, cute, or mind-expanding, would always result in flash-in-the-pan novelties with no enduring power. Better to start from a place of real user need — at least that was the kind of ambiguity that could be managed and de-risked with best practices. I internalized this as a challenge to find (and maybe create?) examples that would tell a different story.
And, using Snapchat and its confusing UI to exemplify his argument, he makes the case for seeking out new vistas over and above the solving of problems. Inventionism over utilitarianism:
It’s funny, whenever someone points to an example of a company like this that fumbled their way into success, vocal parties will tell you to ignore whatever they did because it was a fluke. There’s no use searching for patterns between all such anomalies because whatever they did is not reproducible. Instead, you’re supposed to follow the recipe. Keep your focus narrow, your purpose clear. Make sure your hypotheses are tight, your users well-researched, and avoid noodling…
One more thing about Snapchat: to me, their contribution is as much cultural as it is utilitarian. Sure, ephemerality has become a buzzword, but it’s an important counterpoint to the permanence we assumed inherent to the internet. Not only that, but the app has introduced video as an easily capturable and manipulatable element of collage, resulting in a high-low aesthetic that celebrates authors, yet remains distinctly Snapchat. Other vistas, basically.