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Myspace, Agile, and Murdoch's Internet

A friend sent over this link about MySpace from Kathy “Creating Passionate Users” Sierra. I’m fascinated with MySpace. While, I don’t like using it — I find it a tedious and ugly roach motel — I’m interested in how other people use it and what that use says about technology and the internet in peoples lives…and not just their 9-to-5 lives.

Much of what I see people doing in MySpace is the realization of the abstract “cyberspace” think from the early 90’s. Sure, it doesn’t look anything like the cyberpunk vision that Mondo 2000 and Fringeware bet on, but who had time for all style anyhow?

But, how about another whacky connection between MySpace and enterprise/comercial software?

Iterative Development

One of the concerns in Enterprise Agile is that customer’s don’t want lots of releases. This is definitely the case now. It comes up all the time: Brandon and I were just talking about that over lunch.

But, that could change as the next generations of IT decision makes expect rapid delivery. It’s what they’re (I should probably say “we’re”) used to and like:

She said [MySpace] responds to feedback, “As soon as you think of something, it’s in there.”

She said, “It’s always evolving. It changes constantly. There’s always something new.”

I asked if these changes were disruptive or made it harder to use when nothing stays the same, and she gave me that teenage-attitude-eye-rolling-what-a-lame-question look.

The current enterprise software market fears rapid release cycles. Rightly so: it usually doesn’t work. Technologies like MySpace will erode that fear as new people enter and change the culture of the enterprise world. In addition to this cultural hurdle, the major technological hurdle is providing software as a hosted service, or even a net-desktop hybrid (think Windows and OS X update for everything), instead of millions of desktop installs.

This discussion is another example from one my favorite topics: consumer software driving enterprise software. In the case of MySpace, consumer software development process will be driving enterprise software development process.

Which is a good data point in the more abstract conversation about the term “enterprise software” loosing it’s meaning. Next week, you can get even more discussion on that topic in episode 02 of RedMonk Radio.

The Micro-Internet

I didn’t quite call it out in my previous post on MySpace, so I thought I would here: MySpace is a microcosm of the Internet. In that sense, it’s a highly customized and normalized version of the net. This aspect of MySpace is what drives “old” ‘net people like me crazy: I already have blogs, flickr,, static pages, an IM client, an aggregator, and everything else. Why do I need to spend time in a roach motel to do all that?

But all those people who don’t have those things or don’t want to put in the time and effort to get them can just go to MySpace. You can live in MySpace, and many of the people I know do that. They even use the crude IM’ing available in it instead of a more mature, elegant IM. MySpace is good enough software at it’s finest: it sucks, but everyone loves it. And it makes money.

As my colleagues would be quick to chime in, MySpace’s prime feature is the people, the community that exists in MySpace: everyone is in there so you need to be in there. That’s the feature that makes it easier to deal MySpace’s craptaculousness. Otherwise you’d be off at TagWorld, FaceBook, or any number of other sites…or just on the web with us old foggies.

(Word to those enterprise readers following along: do you spend enough time making sure your users have such good reasons to use your software that the usability quality could be low? And then what if you not only gave them reasons, but high usability quality? That’s what’s worth paying for.)

The $580 million Internet

With that model in mind, you realize that Rupert bought his own Internet. $580 million ain’t a bad price for your own web. That dude seems to get it in a way we’ve wanted traditional media to get it for a long time. (Yeah: and that’s me, a nut-wing-liberal, Austinite praising Rupert Murdoch. I know! Weird.)

One last note: MySpace already has their own cellphones…what if they had their own web browser? While we’re busy freaking out about telcos trying to charge extra money for net bias, the MySpace camp might actually figure out how to exploit the stupid network instead of fight against it. If you owned the content and the browser, you’d be set pretty well, and that $580 million would seem like an even better deal.

Categories: Agile, Community, Social Software, The New Thing.

Comment Feed

7 Responses

  1. “One of the concerns in Enterprise Agile is that customer’s don’t want lots of releases.”

    Yes, but as you touch on later, that’s not the root of their issue. Why don’t they want lots of releases? They don’t want all of the issues associated with deploying them. Instead of worrying about frequent releases, figure out how to make enterprise releases painless. Offsite hosting is but one possible solution.

  2. I was going to make a similar point, Roger – that one of the reasons enterprise software upgrades are so unpleasant is that they are monolithic and tightly-coupled. With a service-based system that is modular and loosely-coupled, you don’t have the same problems

  3. Another quote from a MySpace article:

    Skyler said she’s seen things break on myspace, but nobody seems to care much since they know it’ll probably be fixed tomorrow.

    I can guarantee you that will not be true in an enterprise application.

    Another thing to keep in mind; many users of enterprise apps are NOT computer literate. We're talking people who've done the same job for 20 years. Change is scary to them. Many of them only know how the application works by rote; they have no real intuitive idea of what's going on behind the scenes.

    We're talking about people who need and want training to move from, say, Office XP to 2003. I won't say they can't possibly adapt to this kind of environment, but I don't think it's safe to assume that they will.

  4. Ric,

    I think you can turn that around, and say one of the reasons that enterprise software is monolithic and tightly coupled is that upgrades are so unpleasant.

    Having a single platform lets you test, deploy, and bed down that system down once every few years, instead of managing continual integration of independantly evolving services.

  5. Roger, Ric, and Jonno: you’re right that the technological space for doing frequent releases is up for grabs. The current way we deploy/install/upgrade software drives the fear of frequent releases. On the other hand, there is a pessimistic thought in my head that goes “if we haven’t solved it yet, will we ever?”

    Kevin: that’s a great cultural point. I’m excited to see how the next generation(s) of workers either change or don’t change what you’re talking about. The current crop of info-workers (myself included) had computers since birth, and that will surely accelerate over the next 10-15 years. I wonder if phones, cars, air-travel, and electricity are a good analog for that trend?

  6. MySpace: AOL 2.0

  7. We've basically got a net inside a net. The diehard techies have our internet where we slave away providing the foundation. Myspace makes it easy for the average person to get in touch with all the tools. Now if there were just a version for the older crowd.