Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Telephone's Long Tail

Had a wonderful time last night before the Gigantes game doing a podcast with Narendra from 30 boxes. (I'll post it when I get back home next week) I met with Nerendra a couple of weeks ago at the Web 2.0 show in San Francisco, and I had this lingering thought about Web 2.0 culture... the attitudes and the approach. 30boxes is an online calendaring service, that's trying to be more Mac than Mac. It's very simple, straightforward design - built for people who aren't Outlook power users.

In a completely parallel thought, I've been learning Ruby on the side. I absolutely love Ruby, and it's good for this old DSP programmer to dive so deep into a very different world. Ruby is the language of choice for cutting edge Web applications designers these days, and breaks so many ingrained rules of design that it makes my head spin. (Excellent.) Ruby is opinionated software, and quite proud it. By opinionated, we mean that Ruby language designers and implementers make decisions that optimize their own personal productivity at the cost of generalization. From a recent interview on O'Reilly Radar, Ruby on Rails creator David Hansson, explains:

But let's focus on just one of the keys: Rails is opinionated software. It eschews placing the old ideals of software in a primary position. One of those ideals is flexibility—the notion that we should try to accommodate as many approaches as possible, that we shouldn't pass judgement on one form of development over another. Well, Rails does, and I believe that's why it works.

With Rails, you trade flexibility at the infrastructure level to gain flexibility at the application level. If you are happy to work along the golden path that I've embedded in Rails, you gain an immense reward in terms of productivity that allows you to do more, sooner, and better at the application level.

Isn't this interesting for the telecom industry? What sorts of decisions have we made about passing judgement on communications methods, products and services? If we could break the rules, and make radical decisions about how telephones are integrated into other technologies and processes, what new gains could we make?

One beautiful thing about the long tail is that, due to the radical lowering of barriers to entry for new services and to the widening of delivery mechanism, it doesn't take as many subscribers before a new service makes economic sense. You could indeed have a service that only 20,000 subscribers would pay for, but that might be a million dollar a month business, which would more than pay for three geeks in a room. And in this world of a billion cell phones, there aren't 20,000 who would pay for it? Yes, there probably are. Get opinionated. Somebody will agree with you, somewhere, and they'll see and pay for that value.

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