On Schopenhauer and Market-driven code (Was Multimedia)

AGREE at CarltonFields.com AGREE at CarltonFields.com
Wed Mar 15 15:57:46 UTC 2000

> Features added to a product by oneself because one > needed/wanted those features have a guaranteed market of at > least 1.  This is possibly
> better than features added because others complained/asked > for them, since, in the end, the askers/complainers may not > really use the
> features.   When you add them yourself you are sure you want them
> because you woudn't spend the time otherwise.  Compared to > that, complaining or asking is easy :-)

I agree entirely.

While it makes sense, indeed it is foolish not to be, market driven while developing COMMODITY products to serve a marketplace, the ideology of market research driving product isn't a particularly useful vehicle for invention.  Clearly, we all take the "market needs" into account as we focus our individual contributions to society, but at a higher level -- not a feature list that might be garnered from a focus group, but rather as a "what can I be when I grow up" account of how tools can enhance our lives.

Even in the pure market-driven model, it is critical to cull and prioritize from the market research the feature demands -- lest featuritus kill the product entirely.  The market is not a rational beast, but rather like Schopenhauer's Will, it only knows that it wants more.  It is not capable of balancing interests -- it is merely the aggregation of independent needs.  The delivery of an undifferentiated "more" almost always yields less, because the market can never use all of what we deliver, just that of the whole which it can understand.

In this sense, that which the market can use and understand is all that the product will ever be.  Even though you may have delivered more, you get less anyway.  The resources dedicated to satisfying the Market Will were wasted, and could have been better spent finding an elegant way to deliver more with less.  

As engineers, we can always deliver more.  

We can always hack a widget, throw up a plugin, toss out some new functionality.


But as visionaries and product innovators, our job is far tougher.  We must see past the "more" to scry what is the stuff of that "more" that is needed, and then find a way to make that more, always with less.  This can only be accomplished sometimes, because it requires deeper insight and inspiration -- we can only hope someday to be impregnated "with idea."   But sometimes we can make something truly innovative, truly novel and truly more with less.

Then the engineers and marketeers can productize it.  Alan Kay and the host of Squeak Central did that way back when.  It was a privilege and an inspiration to go "back to the future with them."  And it is useful to strip ourselves of the bonds of the market-derived result of that original work, to ask how we can deliver more with less.  How can we do it differently.

Here's the thing: Hypercard already *IS* Hypercard.  Visual Basic already *IS* Visual Basic.  The world doesn't need another -- its already there.  What is the stuff of it that can deliver more with less?  THAT IS WHAT IS WORTHY OF OUR EFFORTS TO ASK.

Squeak doesn't need a market to exist.  In case you hadn't noticed, it has an incredibly talented and dedicated community of people who share a vision, possibly quite different from those of the marketplace.

But it does one thing that I haven't had for a long, long time.  When I started in this business, long before the awards and long before my first company, I had a computer.  I could control everything that computer did, and I could make it sing.  It came straight out of my mind into the keyboard.  It had only a few K RAM, a few dozen K tape storage and a few hundred K floppy, but it was mine.

I have been disconnected since.  Programming the Macintosh in the early days using Lisa Pascal was the start -- all of a sudden, I was back to the bad old days when I no longer felt attached to or part of my code.

Then came Squeak, and once again I am in control of my machine.  And here's what it is: Squeak has made easier, faster and more accurate the process of realizing concept in my mind as software.  I am again connected.  The machine is once again a tool.  I actually feel, palpably, the reduction of friction of the development process.

Of course, I don't know how to express in words with any perspicacity this sense of why Squeak does this, but it does.  I don't expect everyone to understand, least of all a "Hypercard fanatic" (whatever that is).

Perhaps someday I'll be able to articulate this undifferentiated passion more clearly, and then be able to "market" squeak.  In the meanwhile, I'm having so much fun I couldn't care less whether I can.

So to the others, I commend them to join us, but won't be devastated if they don't.  I do recommend it, however.  This is an opportunity to be part of a real, challenging and facinating happening.  Help to make Squeak what it yet isn't (or patiently wait while others do).  This is a journey well worth taking.  Is it worth it?  You bet.

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