Something is stuck in my craw. Rather than pick at it, allow me to coat it in something shiny, like how pearls are made. That is, if chickens (they have craws) made pearls (bivalve mollusks make pearls and are not in any way chickens).
Embrace the App Bubble
Lately, much has been made of the App bubble and the overlying fear of valuable App ideas being lost when the bubble inevitably bursts. Unfortunately, those fears mask the true opportunity this emerging landscape offers.
Exploring the Developing Brain/Internet
First let's explore the metaphor of internet as vast neural network, or "brain". Popular theory views the evolution of information technology much like brain development. This may be a result of who built it - made in the makers image and what not. Digging deeper, it may be because form
- complex network of information transmitting connections and processing constructs - naturally follows function
- gathering, organizing and enacting information. Either way, information technology is often described using terms and concepts borrowed from the lump of gray goo in our heads.
A developing brain goes through a crazy explosion of neuronal growth (synaptogenesis) where way more brain stuff is created than is useful or will survive through adolescence. This gives us the raw materials to try stuff out, firm-up the constructs that work, and cull the constructs that don't. This culling is referred to as pruning. It's the neurological equivalent of rapid iteration - failing fast and failing often. This method is a great way to come in first.
Academically, iterators cross the finish line way ahead of the turd-polishing genius, working alone in their lab late at night, day-after-day, doing only what has been proven successful, paralyzed by the fear of not finishing first (parasitically waiting for the iterators to send back word from the finish line). Both synaptogenesis (pruning) and bubble bursts describe a healthy and natural system for rapid, explosive experimentation and population explosion, followed by a period of selection, and then a stable landscape and ecosystem of proven winners
Back to my craw lump. A healthy, world-beating, design process relies on iterative design - stuffing the problem space with possible solutions and then whacking away at our solution bubble with a machete, a cleaver and eventually a scalpel, until only the healthiest solution remains. Likewise, a healthy emerging market relies on an explosion of possible products and services - flooding the shelves and showrooms with tons of Better Mousetraps, letting consumers decide who got it right. A healthy new medium/media needs inclusive input, allowing the audience to decide which ideas will survive
Meanwhile, Back at the App Bubble
We are still at the dawn of the information age (trite, yes), and we are at the big-bang of mobile and intuitive tools that allow unprecedented contextualized information access and processing power. For the sake of argument, we'll call them "Apps". It is not apocalyptic to acknowledge we're in the bubble stage, so long as we also acknowledge this phase is inevitable. Our job as designers is to surf on that bubble, guide our clients through the expansion, fracture, and consolidation stages, and to make sure their contributions have the best chance to survive the Pruning Shears of Destiny (coming soon to theaters near you).
How Apps are developed, viewed, retained and measured is still evolving. As designers, limiting ourselves based on fear of the bottom falling out, robs us of the healthy phase of new market, product and design exploration.
By creating an App today, we have the opportunity to define the landscape, and be among the battle-(bubble)-tested fittest species of App-builders.