TITLE: The Long Tail as Software Designer AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: December 20, 2006 5:16 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Almost every day I am reminded of how the way the world works is changing all around us. For example, Philip Windley writes of the day, coming soon, when MP3 player are like pens -- "everywhere, given away, easily abandoned, even disposable". (I almost wrote "ballpoint pens", but that would betray my ever more apparent state of being a dinosaur.) Then I learned about My Dream App, which lies at the convergence of American Idol, the web, and the independent software world:
My Dream App is a grand experiment to see what happens when you combine the expertise of some of the best talents in the software and tech world with great ideas and feedback from everyone else.
Like Idol, My Dream App had open tryouts to get into the pool of contestants and then judging by a panel of experts as the apps were winnowed through a series of rounds. However, My Dream App's panel of experts puts Idol's to shame! At the end, the viewing public selected winners by voting on-line. At stake was not a recording contract but a contract to have the idea implemented by a crack team of Mac developers, with royalties for life. The coding team has some great developers, including one of the guys behind SubEthaEdit. Simon (Cowell) says: thumbs down! Steve Wozniak While I'm not all that enamored by most of the apps that finished at the top of the pile, with perhaps one exception, I think that this is a great idea. It exploits the power of a large number of people to brainstorm ideas and then allows them to participate in a selection process that is guided by informed folks who can provide a more focused perspective. And the allure of having Woz act as Simon Cowell must surely have attracted a few people to take their shot at submitting an idea. "That's the most pathetic feature I've seen since Bill Atkinson wanted to prevent users from specifying their own desktop patterns on the original Mac." This is a new variation in the space of idea generation that I have written about before. On one end of a continuum is the great solo creator like Steve Jobs, who seems to have an innate sense of what of is good; at the other end is Howard Moskowitz, who produces an insanely large set of possibilities, including strange ones that we think no one might like, and then lets people discover what they like. My Dream App is more in the Moskowitz vein, but with a twist -- let everyone with an internet connection build your set of possibilities for you, and then let the crowd work with informed guides to winnow the set. The ubiquity of the web makes possible a collaborative process that would have been unwieldy at best in earlier times. I wonder long it will be before a mainstream producer -- say, an automobile manufacturer -- uses this sort of approach to design a mainstream product. Just imagine... the 2009 Long Tail coupe, original idea by a insurance executive in Hawarden, Iowa, refined by the masses under the watchful eye of Lee Iacocca. Many auto manufacturers do worse on their own. When harnessed in the right sort of process, the wisdom of the crowd is a powerful force. -----