More with Less
I read Why did the metaverse die? Because Silicon Valley doesn’t understand the concept of fun yesterday. As the title suggests, it primarily talks to the failure of the metaverse due to its inability to find “fun” reasons to use it. But it also talks about how Silicon Valley is so obsessed with “productivity”. If you’ve ever moved from Notion to Asana to Airtable to Monday to Jira to Trello and back, or used a combination of more than one of those on the same day, you’d probably understand why I put quote marks around the word productivity. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of those apps, but I doubt they’d ever add a feature that shows you some objective increase in productivity / spend metric compared to not using them.
It did have me thinking about how I previously worked alongside a team that ran all of their standups in front of a wall, with their sprint tasks on notecards in a simple three column To Do, Doing, Done arrangement. There’s a lot to be said for this: if someone wanted to change the current sprint, they had to walk to the wall, in front of all of their teammates, and move or remove or replace the card. If you wanted me to argue for in-office work, this is an example of it. People meeting in a physical space with physical entities. Their system did not scale, you couldn’t offshore it, management couldn’t query their past results and look at sprint velocity or how many points a specific developer delivered. On the other hand it cost about $20 in notecards and tape per year (for the whole team, not per user!). And for the people involved there was some actual excitement in moving something to the done column, instead of the empty experience of dragging a Jira ticket, or worse, having automation move it for you.
All of this to say the obvious: you should ask if any new thing solves any problems for you. But Silicon Valley is often an Ouroboros of not-solving-problem companies adopting not-solving-problem-solutions at scale with lots of money, and trickling down these not-solving-problem ideas to the rest of us.
Posted: November 2023