It’s hardly insightful to suggest that the current cohort of school and university leavers are likely to enter a world of work that will be dramatically different to the one experienced by their parents. They’ll most likely be the willing or possibly unwilling recipients of parental advice based on a working world that didn’t have to cope with climate change or the full force of emerging market competition across the spectrum from low skilled occupations to the highest of high technology. We all tend to fall back on our own experience at one time or another, most likely because it’s the easiest option, but anyone with a genuine eye on the well being of today’s ‘education leavers’ would be well advised to read the recent report from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. The report looks at the world of work in 2030 and suggests certain scenarios as to what the world may look like when today’s university leavers are in the early peak of their careers. It makes for fairly grim reading and under all possible scenarios can best be summarised as ‘get skilled or get used to insecurity’.
I won’t bother adding a link, because (annoyingly) unless you have a subscription to the FT Online, it won’t be of any use to you. However, reading the old fashioned paper version of the FT at the weekend, I was amused to see a review of three books all relating to the same subject: the power struggle between parents and adolescents over privacy. All three books were adequately reviewed, but one, “It’s complicated: the social lives of networked teens” by media scholar Danah Boyd stood out from crowd simply because it’s based on sound research as opposed to subjection.
I originally started reading the article because I thought there’d be some interesting insights, which there were, but one phrase really struck a chord. Boyd suggest that, “limiting access to meaning can be a much more powerful tool for achieving privacy than trying to limit access to the content itself”. In this instance she’s talking about the use of text speak to exclude parents from the conversation, but it occurs to me that it’s a weapon of power that we all use. “Inside talk” excludes those not in the know. Doctors use it, policemen use it, Planet Geek uses it; it’s a weapon of power. If we limit access to meaning through the use of uncommon phrases, words or uncommon use of words, we exclude others.
We are not being exact, we are being exclusive.
The technology industry has evolved a language all of it’s own. One of the phrases you rarely, if ever, hear on Planet Normal is minimum viable product. It’s such a mainstream concept now in the world of software that it goes almost completely unchallenged and given that software has such a high profile these days, I’m starting to worry that the concept might stretch it’s legs and wander off into the medical industry, car industry or even bridge building. Come to think of it, Tesla Motors (run by a tech guy) had a distinctly mvp feel about it until very recently. It’s not as if it originated in the tech industry, I’m pretty sure that during the second world war, plenty of that new military hardware had to be rushed out the door before as soon as it reach mvp.
One of the downsides of the concept being so mainstream is that no one challenges it. I mean, what happened to the idea of a product being really good, the sort of thing you’d want to show your Mum or claim credit for it when your first girlfriend said, ‘that’s a neat idea’. Everything is becoming so process oriented (blame Steve Blank) that maybe we’ve lost some of the art. I’m willing to bet that Rodin didn’t have minimum viable product, although maybe Damian Hirst does.
We are past mvp with Tutorhub, but we can still can do better. The minute you lose that desire to make the product really good is the time to go home, but I can’t really see really good product displacing minimum viable product in the tech lexicon anytime soon.
On the 17th February, I began my one week long experiment to jettison Google in favour of Bing as my ‘search engine of choice’ (if there is such a thing). Given that it’s now Feb 27th and I’m still going with Bing, you might surmise that things aren’t going too badly. In fact, I have bad news for Google: I haven’t noticed the difference and it was only today that I realised I was running a ‘trial’. Does this mean that there are others out there who only use Google out of habit? A happy habit if you’re Sergey or Larry, but it does suggest that search engines aren’t really where it’s at any more.