Monthly Archives: December 2011

Taking Time to Create Something Good: Now Support It

In my first blog post on this topic, I gave some background on my own views of creating things and shared that we should slow down a bit more to make sure we do it right the first time. So now that we’ve created something good, what do we do with it?

“Which product are you talking about? Oh, we stopped making that version yesterday.”

The consumer electronics industry is the biggest offender of creating products, some that are quite amazing in their own right, only to let them drift into the background sometimes only a few months later. Cell phones are replaced with new models that only have incremental improvements. TV’s are released in a dizzying array of options that are only slightly different from each other, again with specs that barely improve upon the previous edition. Computers, especially laptops, have so many build configuration options you don’t know how to tell one apart from the other.

What’s the problem with this? Support. I empathize with the people needing to know and react to questions. “Which model of laptop do you have? The 3000NX -3 or 3100DX-3? Oh, do you have the TV model with a 45″ screen and 4 HDMI inputs or the 46″ version with 3 HDMI inputs but WiFi built in? Oh, what is your phone OS? 2.2, 2.3, or 2.3.3?” I can only imagine what the hardware supply chain must look like for these manufacturers. Trying to figure how many of each type of part to keep on hand must be an incredibly time consuming job for someone.

Then there’s the side of figuring out how long to keep people on a team to support a product. I’ll pick on smartphones and Samsung in particular, though others are certainly guilty as well. Samsung is notorious for releasing many, many iterations of devices with the slightest of variations and most ridiculous of names to differentiate them in the market. (Seriously, the “Fascinate” or “Mesmerize”? My phone doesn’t need to do either of these for me. And don’t get me started on car model names.) Then 8 months later they release the new version of the phone and completely fail to say or do much of anything when it comes to software upgrades and support for the original device. Wouldn’t it be more affordable for you to keep supporting existing hardware with new software updates instead of continuously manufacturing new stuff, along with new software that’s just different enough from the original? I will say Apple has done well here with limited product lines and mostly longer support on the software side.

It’s like consumer electronics companies have commitment issues.

OK, I get it. Technology moves too fast for our own good. What’s the point of all this?

I’m glad you asked. I see the lack of support of products by companies as 1) their way of getting us to keep buying new stuff and upgrade often and 2) symptomatic of our culture’s inability to sit still and be content with what we have. We’re jumpy and move from one shiny thing to another before the first shiny thing even had a chance to go dull. Once that initial luster is gone, we grow bored and want to move on. This mentality burns us out in all aspects of our lives. Once we find that phone “outdated” even though it does everything you need it to, we start to look around. That friendship that once so easily brought laughs and enjoyment now seems to require more effort simply because life has changed where you are? We start wondering if that person is worth expending energy on. That group you’re in, doesn’t bring that “new shiny” joy it did when you first joined or started it? You wonder if “it’s for you” anymore.

I gravitate towards people and organizations that have proven or are committing to standing behind who they are or what they create. If I buy this TV, I want to know that company will be there if I need support for it. If I buy a phone, I want to know I’ll get software updates for that 2 year contract US carriers push us to sign. I want to know that if I invest myself into a friendship, they are willing to do the same in return. My friends know that if I’m investing my time and life into theirs, I’m in it for the long haul. I am choosy about my closer friends because I know it takes effort and I don’t take friendships lightly.

OK, I’ll ask again: what’s the point?

When you create something, 1) make it good and 2) be ready to support it for a while. Anything worth making should be worth putting your name and reputation behind it. I want to commit to this more regularly in what I do. Who’s with me?