5 years ago

5 years ago in August I was working at a WPP company, doing an internship. 

4 years ago in August I had just started a new job

3 years ago in August I had a year’s worth of branding consultancy experience design under my belt and was looking forward to my birthday and that nice guy

2 years ago in August I had started a new job, was laid off in a massive round of lay-offs, got together with the cute guy, found a new job which I was just about getting into the swing of. 

1 year ago in August cracks started to appear in that new job and I was about to start on my final 3 months of my design degree.

This year I’m planning my wedding to cute guy, and still trying to figure out life. 

On speed and keeping users happy

Right, this might become a bit rant-y. I discovered this week, to my own great surprise I’ll admit, that I became an old lady. Ranting about how things used to be better in the olden days. Before they started messing around with, after email, twitter and google reader, is probably the online utility I use most: delicious. 

I was super happy when Delicious got bought (though to make sure they wouldn’t screw up my collection of almost 9,000 links I did set up a pinboard account) from Yahoo. It’d been lingering in a state of comatose staid-ness for a while and it’s good that someone came along and is kissing it back to life. 

However, there’s ways of bringing back things to life (or relaunching as techies like to call it) which are slightly better than others. And far be it for me to claim to know how hard it is to de-cobweb Delicious and move forward, but I fundamentally both agree and disagree with this statement of one of the new owners:

“We’ve been focused on making the transition from Yahoo happen as fast as possible. Because of this, we needed to reduce some functionality in the short term and introduce a basic set of new features to get the site out the door. From our standpoint, it’s a competitive market and we’re going to err on the side of speed versus perfection to hopefully build a larger, more compelling experience. We’ll always be listening to the community and will literally be updating the product on a daily basis.” (source: AllThingsD)

I agree that speed is a good thing, and I understand that you might need to reduce some little used current functionality, but what you can’t do is take the basics away in order to make new shiny things to attract new shiny users. 

The basics need to continue working, in the short term you’re not going to attract hordes of new users, but you want to make sure that you don’t lose your current super users. The basic stuff needs to keep going to keep them happy (don’t care too much about occasional users, you’ve probably lost those anyway). And you can have a slightly crippled version for a little while, but damnit, basic stuff such as how long it takes to save a link, how easy it is needs to either stay the same or become better. And it hasn’t. It has become worse, takes longer with more frustration and it makes me feel like I’m stupid, which is not good. 

In short: I love Delicious, it’s a big part of my online habits, I’ve collected years worth of links on there, and I don’t want to use something else. But you guys have to work with me: don’t make my life harder, show a bit of love for the superusers, and then start chasing new prospects. Make me feel loved. I’ve been loyal all these years. And you can go after all the new shiny features and users as soon as you have kept the basics. But love me a little too, will you? 

End of rant from what is now officially an old lady. 


The reason big new things sneak by incumbents is that the next big thing always starts out being dismissed as a toy. This is one of the main insights of Clay Christensen’s “disruptive technology” theory, which has been widely studied but I think is still rarely applied because it is so counter-intuitive to conventional management practices.

Disruptive technologies are dismissed as toys because when they are first launched they “undershoot” their users’ needs. The first telephone could only carry voices a mile or two. The leading incumbent of the time, Western Union, chose not to acquire telephone technology because they didn’t see how it could be useful to businesses and railroads – their best customers. What they failed to anticipate was how rapidly telephone technology and infrastructure would improve. The same was true of how mainframe companies viewed the PC, and how modern telecom companies viewed Skype.

The list of top internet companies in 10 years will look very different than that same list does today. And the new ones on the list will be companies that snuck by the incumbents because people dismissed them as toys.

Chris Dixon, via Alexis Ohanian on his blog

What I’m reading this week (Sept 29th)

[originally intended as an email, hence the laziness in the links]

Google Quarterly
Google bring out a people focussed issue of their magazine Quarterly. As per always, it should be an interesting read. And people… Yep, that is Google talking about people, not algorithms. And that hot on the heels of them buying Zagat, the people powered restaurant review guides. Interesting to see where they’ll take this people-focus next. Google Quarterly: http://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/quarterly/people/note.html and check out in particular the article on Kickstarter and Making Things.

Kindle Fire
Kindle releases the Kindle Fire, at a lower price point than the iPad. This is probably the first real contender to rival the iPad, it runs Android, and is cheap! No news yet on when it’ll launch in the UK or for how much. A good overview of the new Fire is here: http://www.the-imagazine.com/in/index.php/2011/09/28/kindle-fire-amazon-cloud-table-ipad-music-movie-newstand/ and a good commentary of what the Kindle Fire might mean for the tablet industry is here: http://elliotjaystocks.com/blog/the-kindle-fire/. Even the Apple fan blogs are loving it! http://www.cultofmac.com/116164/not-only-is-the-kindle-fire-the-first-real-alternative-to-ipad-it-foretells-the-ipad-mini-opinion/

Iphone 5
Get your seatbelts on for another big product announcement: Apple will announce their new iPhone 5 (at least, those are the rumours) on October 4th.

And another piece of note from Google: they host an irregular series of provocations/talks called Firestarters, which are curated by Neil Perkin. They’re gatherings of planners, strategists, thinkers on topics such as design thinking and new operating systems for agencies. Firestarters #3 happened earlier this week, and for more, check out the #firestarters on twitter here: http://twitter.com/#!/search/%23firestarters which contains links to people’s presentations, quotes from the presentations etc and a handy blogpost summarising and giving links

[edit on Oct 3: Neil’s written up a nice blogpost capturing thoughts, presentations and in general giving a good overview.]

Power of Making at the V&A
Exhibition not to miss: Power of Making at the V&A, free exhibition about how people make things. Brilliant stuff, on til the end of the year. Brilliant and inspiring catalogue too: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/power-of-making/ (and coincedentally, this forms part of a much bigger trend, heck, even in the Google Quarterly mentioned above one of the pieces is about making things).

Wolff Olins’ new website
Website to check out: Wolff Olinshave redeveloped their website, and no prizes for guessing where they got their inspiration from: http://www.wolffolins.com/

Blogpost of the week
And finally, if you only read one blogpost this week, let it be this about Minimum Viable Personality: http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2011/09/minimum-viable-personality.html  which boils down pretty well why personality matters:










On the Power of Making things

I love the V&A in London. I love everything about it: the building, the galleries, the fact that at times it feels ultra-modern and at other times it feels like someone’s attic. And I love their exhibitions. There’s a really good one on now (and the Dutch side of me can’t but help mention it’s free) called Power of Making. In collaboration with the Crafts Council, the curator of the exhibition Daniel Charny has collected a whole bunch of artefacts that represent the current practice of craft and making things and I was super-inspired. Literally wanted to run out and make something. The catalogue is pretty nice too. 

Hurray for making! 

Just started reading Little Bets by Peter Sims

And though I’m only on page 32, I’m hooked already. Will keep you posted on any interesting nuggets. 

Here’s a little bit of what it’s about (p13/14):

Fundamental to the little bets approach is that we:

  • Experiment
  • Play
  • Immerse
  • Define
  • Reorient
  • Iterate

And a little further on:

There is much less emphasis [in education] on developing our creative thinking abilities, our abilities to let our minds run imaginatively and to discover things on our own. We are given very little opportunity, for example, to perform our own, original experiments, and there is also little or no margin for failure or mistakes. We are graded primarily on gettings answers right. 

Thought You Should See This: Flipping Orthodoxies: Overcoming Insidious Obstacles to Innovation


Thought You Should See This: Flipping Orthodoxies: Overcoming Insidious Obstacles to Innovation