Convenience is the killer app: on consumer choices and developer experience

James Governor's Monkchips

Convenience is the killer app: on consumer choices and developer experience

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A couple of weeks ago I gave the closing keynote at the MongoDB Europe conference. I was there to talk about the awesome power of convenience. When we’re making decisions, that hit of dopamine doesn’t just give us a nudge – it grabs us, picks us up and carries us out of the house, puts the seat belt on, and drives us from A to B with breath mints. Who hasn’t ordered something on Amazon Prime they didn’t really need? Ordered takeaway when they had leftovers in the fridge already? Bought something that worked out more expensive but was super easy?

It’s not just consumer services like Amazon, Deliveroo, Spotify, and Uber that win through almost absurd levels of convenience. Developers are certainly not immune to the charms of convenience in choosing platforms.  The LAMP stack won because it was open source and therefore easily accessible, but Ian Murdock’s apt-get packaging system in Debian was the real game changer. Mean time to dopamine took Docker from side project to industry-changing platform. In any technology wave the best packager wins and wins big. The best packager is the one that makes things most convenient.

There is an argument floating around that MongoDB achieved industry preeminence because it spent a ton of money on “good marketing”. I call BS, unless by good marketing you mean giving developers what they want when they want it – an easily accessible document database made for JavaScript Object Notation (JSON). Was it the best platform for consistency? No – but if you want that maybe choose a relational database. MongoDB had great timing and hit the burgeoning wave of Node.js developers perfectly. Now MongoDB is looking to move into adjacent spaces with other services that make things easy – like Stitch. Why did the Parse mobile backend as a service have 500m apps deployed in 4 years? Because it made things easy for developers.

Of course convenience has a cost – you only need to look at the horrific problem of plastics in the ocean to see that. But when it comes to adoption convenience is the killer app. Technology platforms should optimise for it. If you’re interested in some great related talks I highly recommend the videos from Monki Gras 2017, which was all about packaging, starting with Stephen’s.


MongoDB is a client, and I was paid for the talk, but this piece of analysis is not sponsored.

One comment

  1. This is why we at InfluxData trademarked the phrase Time to Awrsome™ Because getting up and running and productive is key. If developers have to spend time tinkering with the tool rather than using it, it’s not a good tool.

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