Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Parable of the Drill

About 5 years ago Craig Kanarick, co founder of marketing consultant Razorfish, was interviewed in Wired magazine. (The article was titled "Brattitude Adjustment" and can be found in issue 8.09.) During the interview he recited his "Parable of the Drill" and it jumped out at me. This is what he said:

"Nobody in the world needs a drill.

They need a hole.

So you’re not in the drill business. You’re in the hole business.
And, actually, nobody needs a hole, they need to hang art.
And nobody needs to hang art, they need a better-looking room.
And nobody needs a better-looking room, they need to be happier.
So Black & Decker is in the happy business.
And so is every other company!"

To keep perspective whenever we're considering a new program or computer course, I think about the parable. Does anyone need this course? What will they learn? How will it make their lives better?

I do this by substituting the word "drill" with whatever it is that I'm currently working on. For example, "Nobody in the world needs a blog." Exactly. Nobody needs to read a blog. They need some information. And they need the information to answer a question or they want to stay informed. Getting the answer and staying informed will make their lives better and, consequently, make them happy. Let's bring this right into libraryland; "Nobody needs a book." Again, they need some information to answer a question or they need some entertainment. This will make them happy for the same reasons.

But using only the Parable, we could justify almost anything. Surely someone would be happy with whatever we did. So I combine it with yesterday's post about Joe Janes' "How to Think About Technology".

The library publishes a biweekly e-mail newsletter. Rather than formatting it using html, we decided to make it text-based so that anyone could read it no matter which e-mail program they used. Html newsletters were less secure as well because executable programs could be hidden in them. Recently we debated whether to make the switch. I argued that the usefulness of the newsletter would not be increased by adding graphics and fancy fonts. It makes peoples' lives better and happier just as it is. There was no added benefit to the user that would justify the cost of a system that would produce and distribute the newsletter. Not to mention the increased workload on the newsletter's authors to find and add the graphics. We would also want to allow each subscriber the option of text or html. Then we'd be producing two newsletters! It's also possible that an html newsletter might not display correctly in some e-mail programs, which would make people less happy.

So....our newsletter stays in text and everyone's happy.


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