Carts Before Horses & Digital Strategists’ Love of Platforms

Filmmaker James Gunn of Guardians of the Galaxy fame posted on Facebook:

CARTS BEFORE HORSES & HOLLYWOOD’S NEW LOVE OF SHARED UNIVERSES

Listen, I love big ass shared universes in movies, as well as huge franchises. But I’m a little worried about the numerous shared universes being planned by the studios, without having a strong base film to grow from – or in some cases, NO base film to grow from. Star Wars had the original Star Wars, the Marvel Universe had the original Iron Man, the Dark Knight series had Batman Begins, even movies like Transformers and Twilight – these were movies audiences loved, and the audiences demanded more from these characters. But these days studios are trying to grow trees without a strong seed. Execs and producers and sometimes even directors are focused on the big picture, without perfecting the task directly in front of them – making a great movie. And studios are trying to grow franchises from non-existent films or middling successes. It’s like they aren’t taking audiences into account at all anymore.

I know George Lucas, Kevin Feige, John Favreau, etc, had ideas where their films would potentially lead in the face of success. But I don’t think it ever got in the way of making that first movie count as if it was the last, of making it something wonderful that people would love whether it led to other films or not.

In short, I think this new business model is flawed. I think filmmakers and studios should be prepared for the big picture, but never, ever let it get in the way of making a single great film. Be a little more experimental and see what works as opposed to trying to force success. And mostly, remember that we as an industry exist to serve the audiences, to communicate with them – they have a voice in what we create as well. We are not here to dictate what they want to see, mostly because that’s simply not possible.

He’s right about Hollywood, and the thought underlying all of this is true of the tech industry’s obsession with planning for platforms before a successful product even exists.

All too often I encounter “big picture” thinking that is divorced from reality. I’m paid to think longterm for my clients, but never at the expense of the present. A vision is great. You need one, but acting like that vision will become a reality before you even have a successful and profitable product is a serious miscalculation.

Want to see something cool pathetic?

Bold = my tech word substitutions, everything else is Mr. Gunn’s.

Listen, I love big ass systems on the web, as well as huge platforms. But I’m a little worried about the numerous shared platforms being planned by companies large and small, without having a strong base product to grow from – or in some cases, NO base product to grow from. Google had the original Google Search, Apple had the original Mac, Amazon’s series of ventures had their original store, even products like Facebook and Twitter – these were products users loved, and the users demanded more from these companies. But these days companies are trying to grow trees without a strong seed. Execs and developers and sometimes even designers are focused on the big picture, without perfecting the task directly in front of them – making a great product. And companies are trying to grow platforms from non-existent products or middling successes. It’s like they aren’t taking users into account at all anymore.

I know Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, etc, had ideas where their products would potentially lead in the face of success. But I don’t think it ever got in the way of making that first product count as if it was the last, of making it something wonderful that people would love whether it led to other products or not.

In short, I think this new business model is flawed. I think designers and companies should be prepared for the big picture, but never, ever let it get in the way of making a single great product. Be a little more experimental and see what works as opposed to trying to force success. And mostly, remember that we as an industry exist to serve the users, to communicate with them – they have a voice in what we create as well. We are not here to dictate what they want to use, mostly because that’s simply not possible.

If you’re designing a platform, stop and think about the product. Think about your user. Design something with some empathy, logic, and creativity. Prove that you have a product that works.

If you manage to do that, you’re ahead of most. Then, and only then should you have the audacity to start talking about a platform.

Grow trees with a strong seeds
Grow trees with a strong seeds

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