Instead of focussing on bells and whistles

The word “simple” has become so cliché that I try not to use it anymore, but ultimately the point is that things are pretty easy and simple until you make them hard and complicated. So we’re always trying to keep them as simple and easy as they naturally are. So if we have a big idea, let’s chop that idea in half. Let’s chop it in half again. Let’s figure out what the core thing is, what like the three things you need to do are, and let’s do those things really, really well. So, instead of focusing on everything and the bells and whistles, it’s more about the basics.
Jason Fried

Jason Fried co-founded the 37signals organisation that creates web-based applications for collaboration, sharing and making decisions such as basecamp (project management) and campfire (group chat).

37signals is not in the OSS industry, not even close. However their approach has parallels that is screaming out to be implemented in the OSS industry. Rather than an arms-race of functionality, how about halving it and halving it again? Focussing on a small number of essential capabilities and doing it exceedingly well?

Obviously this application framework doesn’t suit the traditional CSPs that seek mind-boggling complexity (often unnecessarily but that’s another story), but there is a much bigger market that is screaming out for OSS services that can’t afford the highly customisable solutions available on the market currently.

Think of it as a pyramid. OSS typically cater for the small number of CSPs that are at the top of the pyramid. But lower down the pyramid, the customer base expands and their needs get simpler. A flexible, powerful, yet simple OSS will open up markets that aren’t well serviced yet particularly as their reliance on communications networks become greater.

Is this too idealistic? Do all customers require a level of customisation that can’t be supported by simple? Is “simple” too cliché?


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