Design trade-offs, the knee in the price curve, and appropriate solutions

Poor man’s camera stabilizer
http://littlegreatideas.com/steadycam/

This is an important reminder that cheaper does NOT have to mean “radically worse.” This is brilliant; you may well have seen it before, but if you haven’t, go look. If you have…

Consider this. A good low-end, name brand stabilizer (Steadicam ‘Merlin’) is about $900. It’s a LOT nicer than this, won’t tire you out, and is beautiful (really). It buys you credibility if you have to Go Somewhere Important. The big, impressive-as-all-getout rigs for Professional Film cannot be beat…if you are carrying a 15 to 70 lb. camera.

The question, as always, is: what is your application, and what matters? Web video for personal use? $15 + your labor buys you what you need to do a few motion shots without that “hand held, make the audience ill” documentary look.

Now, consider what this means in the context of product evolution. Generally speaking, broader market adoption of products means a reduction in cost and features. When working in product development, it’s tempting to think of this as “sliding down hill” in terms of reducing your beautiful boutique product to least-common-denominator “mass market” stuff that “those people” might use.

This is a trap, and smart product managers know this. Quantity is its own quality. Go ahead, own the high end. But introduce the low-end product. If the high end product is that much better, you can still sell it. (Steadicam comes to mind!). But it’s better to make the low-end product that might cannibalize your high-end sales, before someone else does, if and only if there’s a sufficiently large market for it.

Now, you are thinking, how does this apply to software? And to software engineering?

I’ll give you a hint: amortization of development costs. More later.

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Announcing Dakworks, and doing today’s "idea warmup"

Dakworks is an information technology, software development, editing, and management consultancy. As the principal consultant, I believe that systems and software must be built to make great things possible, to generate new possibilities, and to liberate people from onerous and repetitive tasks.

At present, the purpose of this blog will be occasional commentary, opinion, and links to “things that I found interesting” in the spirit of the new, trendspotting, and nifty uses of leading and trailing edge technologies.

Today’s cool toy spotting (Thanks to Malcolm Stanley at Strategic Thinking and Execution for pointing it out):

This uses the Arduino controller and an add-on sensor package to monitor plant status and post the results on Twitter.

http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2008/02/how_to_make_plants_talk_t.html

The application itself is silly, but think about the implications: Twitter can serve as a personal mash-up dashboard for your home, your car, your pets, your pre-writing kids, and not just your blogosphere and mobile device friends.

For example, imagine an outdoor motion sensor and camera *as a Twitter feed*. Outdoor motion sensor goes off, not worth an alarm…but if you get a call from your alarm company, AND the outdoor motion sensor went off, you’d check your camera and confirm that it’s likely NOT a false alarm. Twitter’s ongoing ‘low quality’ information stream is a great way to moderate and present this data, since it’s redundant, and truly a ‘value add’ rather than a primary source of data.

The key here is to put people in the loop when interpretation is required. This is exactly what Dakworks is all about.

Thanks for reading,
Dak