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"Everything Starts Out Looking Like a Toy" #56
This week’s toy: a list of strange domain names bought by developers. Who among us has not bought a domain based on an idea, and then didn’t use it? Edition No. 56 of this newsletter is here - it’s August 23, 2021.
The Big Idea
Are you “technical” or not? The answer – and how you approach the question – may be driving important questions about data in your organization. Traditional boundaries for data organizations have set up hard boundaries about the people who build systems (IT, DevOps, Developers) and the people who use them (Analysts, Project Managers, and everyone else). The new data stack is a hybrid of powerful systems that understand how to connect to each other and a user interface that leans strongly toward a no-code or low-code environment.
The World of Data, old school
Why invest in low-code or no-code? Your primary reason to bring the mechanism of ops closer to the everyday operator is supply: there are more of the everyday operator in your organization than the highly specialized resources that build custom software or maintain semi-customized software built on top of platforms like Salesforce.
In the old school of design/code/debug/release, you would spend time waiting for scarce resource to come up before being able to implement your features. In the world of low-code and no-code, you can do it yourself. But there’s a challenge hiding there.
Benn Stencil writes about the data stack and how it’s changing. Primarily, the split split between “technical” and “non-technical” tools has made us take arbitrary choices that don’t help the business.
But because we’ve trained ourselves to think in a language that defines everyone as technical or not, we’ve cut the world in half. Like a city divided by a poorly drawn political boundary, our method for consuming data is split by an arbitrary technical line that makes it extraordinarily difficult to cross a border that we frequently need to cross.
The World of Data, today
What’s an aspiring operator to do if the technical path is hard to assemble in terms of time, talent, and resources and the no-code path might not always get you what you want if you were comparing it directly with a highly technical path? One way to proceed is to focus on benefits for the organization, coupled with the logic and data to achieve those benefits.
Stated in different terms, if your organization has:
Shared definition for important metrics
A sense of how data flows through the organization (with diagrams and labels)
A process for proposing, designing, implementing, and testing improvements
You’ll be ahead of the game in terms of how you implement your data stack and adapt it to the business problems you’re trying to solve. Take bonus points if it’s easy to transform your complicated technical diagrams into easy-to-read procedures your business users can share with each other when they want to know what’s going on.
What’s the takeaway? The core of any successful technology is agreement between stakeholders and written definitions for the problems you are trying to solve. Get these people aligned and the technical solution will be easier to wrangle.
A Thread from This Week
Twitter is an amazing source of long-form writing, and it’s easy to miss the threads people are talking about.
This week’s thread: on the efficacy of vaccines in the face of another wave of the COVID19 epidemic
Links for Reading and Sharing
These are links that caught my eye.
1/ Sounds of Health - What if hospitals and other public spaces engineered a sound landscape to help people thrive? Yoko Sen has imagined this and is working on ways for hospitals to help patients. This would be even cooler to have soundscapes in health care environments that were somewhat personalized for each patient.
2/ Aisle and Aisles of Stuff - lf you want to learn about a community (at least in the United States), one way to really tap into things is to take a trip to the local hardware store. No, we’re not talking about big-box retail here. We’re talking about the kind of place where there are just many aisles of useful things arranged in a way only regulars will understand. We’re talking about a history of usage in physical space. Hardware stores are cool.
3/ What causes delays in projects? - Often, a delay in a project is caused by a poor understanding of related processes. A software project may be delayed by a procurement cycle. A shared resource may be blocked by another task. The construction industry is a great place to look to examine cost overruns and general process design.
On the Reading/Watching List
Spend a little time in Nature with “The Hidden Life of Trees”, a new documentary about the relationships trees have with each other and their environment.
I’m also interested in re-reading BJ Fogg’s excellent book Tiny Habits. Whether you are taking a few days off and trying to solidify a new thing or if you just want to make your everyday routine more effective, Fogg’s model can help. His concept of Anchor (trigger to start a behavior), Behavior (the actual thing you want to do), and Celebration (positive reinforcement for completion) is easy to follow and get quick wins.
What to do next
Hit reply if you’ve got links to share, data stories, or want to say hello.
I’m grateful you read this far. Thank you. If you found this useful, consider sharing with a friend.
The next big thing always starts out being dismissed as a “toy.” - Chris Dixon