Monday, December 31, 2012

Random Thoughts on Recent Products

Something got me thinking about products recently and how they have changed the world.  It's quite sad when you think of how much we as a society have changed in just the last 10 years with all our modern technology that feels so different than what we used to use.  The reason it's sad is because what really has changed about us?  I still see the same lifestyle before as after.  Nothing has really gripped us in a way that changed everything; the most grandiose and recent I can think of is the Internet itself.  Recent products come down to fads or stupid ways to do something slightly simpler or faster than before, but nothing that has really changed the world.  There is always a bottom line, so perhaps that has something to do with it; a quick way to make a buck and move on.

The more I think about various products and their impact on life, I realize there has to be a key to getting it just right.  You see so many social networks all trying to accomplish the same thing, magazines and news stations all repeating the same news, and watches that all tell you how to numerically represent "now", all just with their own flair.  But how do you truly design something to make people think differently upon life? Going back to the internet, it is the fabric that made people realize that a pulp and ink medium needed to be translated into an electronic medium; every atom needed to become a bit.  The key was sharing, because of how easy it is to share a byte versus a sheet of paper.  This new idea of sharing sparked a revolution in computing and now everyone has a computer on their desk, in their pocket or purse, and probably on their couch. Sure, being the next "internet moment" sounds crazy, but I think products lack luster because they aren't really doing anything valuable to the human race.

When I decided to start meddling around with the iPhone a few years ago, I decided that whatever I was going to do would be free to use.  The barrier to entry is small, and you can sell a million 99 cent apps and become a millionaire, but that wasn't my goal.  Instead, I wanted to create something that really didn't have much visibility, but simply attempted to solve a problem by exposing it.  My first app on the App Store called Dairy Ping simply exposed the federal solution to tracking dairy to their source.  The FDA decided to label dairy plants with a alphanumeric code (not even a barcode) and then require the code to be printed somewhere on every dairy product.  All the codes are in a list on a random federal website, without much guidance to the consumer.  My solution helps consumers locate their dairy, but the main goal of my app is to give people that WTF moment.  I watch the thousands of downloads, people trying it out a few times, and eventually forgetting about it and getting rid of it, and that is exactly the point of my app.  Unknown to me, I am striking a cord with random people whom consume dairy products in North America: "Who the hell decided this was the best way to do this?"

Its a different way to look at the puzzle, but changing the world requires you to go outside the box. Once you get the right people looking at the puzzle a new way is how you actually start the revolution. If I had to give it a name, I guess I would call it an open-source product.

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