40 comments

  • Jeff EscalanteJeff Escalante, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

    So let me get this straight. He is saying that you shouldn't be an "design elitist", then at the end signs off by saying that Yo is a piece of crap and that at least he and Dropbox are solving real problems and will just be scoffing at all the fakers when the "bubble bursts"?

    I feel like a lot of pains were gone through in order to make this read like an elegant and high-minded piece, from the tone to the vocabulary to fonts and design of the page. But when you cut to the core of what it's actually saying, it's essentially "I'm slaving away at a company doing work I believe is important but for some reason am still butthurt that a silly app built in 8 hours got a bunch of funding." If you are really happy doing the work your doing, and really believe it's important, you would not be mad about the Yo app. In fact, you wouldn't care, and/or would think it was funny. The only reason you'd write something like this is if you feel like you "got on the wrong train" and are trying to justify to yourself that you didn't.

    So in a perhaps overly psycho-analytic conclusion , I'm of the opinion that rather than the high-minded rant about doing "important work" that he wanted this to come off as, this is actually a extraordinarily indirect way for Dan to admit that he is not quite satisfied with the work he is doing. I guess only time will tell whether I'm right or not.

    61 points
    • Daniel EdenDaniel Eden, almost 7 years ago

      Fair comment. It is, as I noted toward the end, a bit of a petty thinking-out-loud post. But I am deeply satisfied with my work and the problems I’m solving.

      Yo isn’t an isolated case—but it’s certainly the freshest and most provocative—of tech-bubble money madness, prescriptive to many startup stories. My observation is simply that many designers are working hard at solving incomprehensible problems that affect the lives of generations of people, but that media coverage glamorises get-rich-quick gimmicky startup culture, thanks to the magnitude of its investments.

      In short, I do think it’s funny, but that doesn’t make it any less irritating. I merely wanted to put into words the situation as I see it, as I quite often do on my blog.

      9 points
      • Tor Løvskogen BollingmoTor Løvskogen Bollingmo, almost 7 years ago

        Mainstream media coverage is always as shallow as possible. And not just for tech.

        2 points
        • Jeff EscalanteJeff Escalante, almost 7 years ago

          Absolutely true Tor - this is happening quickly with all media. As a prime example, Buzzfeed is considered a major media outlet, competition for NYT (they said this themselves!). This is just life, unfortunately. Almost ironically, Anchorman 2 takes a huge stab at this concept by pointing out that vapid entertainment is actually most popular, regardless of quality. I don't think that movie got very good ratings, but if you saw it you'll know what I mean.

          On the flip side, for those looking for quality media coverage, while potentially not the most popular, it's always to be found somewhere. People who find this out tend to do one of two things, the posers loudly proclaim their own intellectual superiority and complain about the downfall of mainstream news, and those who have other things that are more important just quietly stick to what they enjoy and continue on with their lives.

          3 points
    • Eduardo NunesEduardo Nunes, almost 7 years ago

      Isn't it unfair to attribute someone calling out bullshit on something he sees as negatively impacting his own craft to the fact that he's butthurt or unhappy with his own life, though?

      If you're a fair and responsible news anchor, and you believe newsmen have a moral obligation to their viewers, are you not entitled to be enraged by someone doing otherwise? Or does the fact that there are people willing to throw money at whatever transvestite News Corporation decides to break this moral code make it all ok?

      3 points
    • Luke JonesLuke Jones, almost 7 years ago

      You cannot understand how many times I want to upvote this.

      Dan is an excellent writer, but what he’s written is steeped in irony.

      4 points
    • Floyd WilliamsonFloyd Williamson, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

      Talk about being overly psychoanalytic...

      0 points
      • Jeff EscalanteJeff Escalante, almost 7 years ago

        hahah fair callout, i knew the last paragraph was going pretty far with the speculative analysis (and I did note this actually in the comment) but as Drake once said, "yolo", so I just went for it.

        0 points
  • Christopher MoodyChristopher Moody, almost 7 years ago

    Addressing the use of Yo in this opinion piece-

    We know what Yo is, we don't know what it will be.

    In other words, we know what the team behind Yo released, and we know how popular that became. What we don't know is what that same team pitched to investors.

    Imagine a pitch that goes something like this:

    "We've proven that there is a hole in the market for a radically simple, context based pinging system. That given the timing and sender of a ping, context can be derived from the end user. Now imagine a giant game of 'Marco Polo' with any connected device in your life. A systems administrator can go out to dinner with his team, and at any time send 'Marco' to his server bank. As long as it responds with 'Polo', he knows everything is ok."

    Investors never look at what software is. They look at what it could become.

    29 points
    • Sacha GreifSacha Greif, almost 7 years ago

      It's simple: would you rather invest in A) a team that's working on an innovative app but has no traction, or B) one that has already demonstrated they can make even the stupidest concept go viral?

      The answer is B), because that team will hopefully be able to apply the same skills to a better concept, and make that successful too.

      12 points
      • Eduardo NunesEduardo Nunes, almost 7 years ago

        That's an interesting point, but one could just as well argue that making something go viral doesn't necessarily prove you have what it takes to keep it going for longer than its 15 minutes of fame. Isn't that what building a solid product's all about?

        I feel like that was pretty much the point of Dan's post: that celebrating ideas for their ability to generate short bursts of media frenzy may be skewing our perception of actual value — for users, not investors.

        1 point
      • Ed LeaEd Lea, almost 7 years ago

        That's a false dichotomy. Your choices should be:

        A) a team that's working on an innovative app but has no traction B) a team that's working on an innovative app but has traction

        YO is innovative. Just because something is simple doesn't mean it's stupid.

        0 points
  • Edouard U.Edouard U., almost 7 years ago

    What of the designers making it easier for people to pay their taxes? The designers making the lives of those less fortunate than ourselves just a little more enriched and fulfilling through intelligent product design?

    It's fascinating to me how so much (digital) product design being output these days is the kind of material that will accrue little to no societal value in the long run. Whatever happened to pushing the human state forward?

    Just a question for all ya'll out there — are you fully aware that the products you design often rest within massive server infrastructures that waste huge amounts of energy/physical resources? Energy that could be used for purposes other than the Nth messaging platform that's going to "change it all"?

    There are so many societal sufferings caused indirectly by the type of work we all commit ourselves to day-to-day, and it's sometimes hard to reconcile the work I love with the pain that is brought upon the world as a result of it. The redesign of mass enterprise tools IBM has been pursuing recently isn't the sexiest work, but it makes me happy to know i'm affecting the shitty existence of cubicle workers in faceless buildings for the better. There's that at least.

    Responsible industrial designers are by nature aware of the supply chain and materiality of the work they put out into the world, but I find it incredibly rare to find digital product designers who fully grasp the nature of the semiotic waste they put out into the world.

    No matter what type of designer you are, always be aware of the shit you put out into the world and how it will affect millions of people in this increasingly interconnected world.

    /rant

    16 points
    • Ryan GloverRyan Glover, almost 7 years ago

      Not easy to live up to but damn is this a great thing to think about:

      Just a question for all ya'll out there — are you fully aware that the products you design often rest within massive server infrastructures that waste huge amounts of energy/physical resources? Energy that could be used for purposes other than the Nth messaging platform that's going to "change it all"?

      0 points
  • Taylor LeCroyTaylor LeCroy, almost 7 years ago

    Can someone please define "Tech Bro" for me? If I was once in a fraternity and now write code, am I a Tech Bro? If I have a beard? Shoot NERF guns at work? Don't solve 'big enough' problems?

    It's confusing to see this term used all the time from people who claim to be furious about the lack of inclusion in tech, usually without any hint of irony.

    13 points
  • Antonio PratasAntonio Pratas, almost 7 years ago

    To be honest and really blunt, I never really enjoyed Daniel's attitude in the way he writes. It always come out as a... elitist? Extremely happy that he "grew" so quickly and ended up in a famous/good company, but personally I like to see people being more modest about their achievements and opinions, so that pretty much breaks the whole post right here and there, having an elitist communication about design elitism?

    Anyway.. If the last couple of years in and watching tech/startups taught me something, is that there's never a stupid business idea. You'll never know what is the next big random #wtfisthis thing, and you'll only find out when people gather around it and start spreading like disease, so focus on trying out quickly ideas and failing fast, and see what might be of interest to the market. It works out just as a brainstorm, don't say "this is stupid", because that right there hinders all innovation.

    So,Yo. Stupid? Probably, yes. Useless? I guess so.. Does it have potential? Shitloads of it, as it went viral like nuts. Now that they gathered the user base and money, they can probably transform it into a proper business and service.

    10 points
  • Mr FannybatterMr Fannybatter, almost 7 years ago

    I'd be more concerned about the ethics of working for a war criminal than what funding other products receive.

    http://www.drop-dropbox.com

    10 points
  • Pasquale D'SilvaPasquale D'Silva, almost 7 years ago

    That was a frustratingly, long-winded read.

    7 points
  • Daniel EdenDaniel Eden, almost 7 years ago

    Well, thanks for the feedback, everyone. I'm disappointed to learn that many people whose opinions matter to me found the post disagreeable.

    The observations may be "wrong," but they are my own. The post was meant not to spur on change, but to provoke thought and allow me to solidify suspicions. I hope this is permissible, regardless of the ferocity of some of the comments this post has raised.

    Thanks to those who constructively criticized my work.

    5 points
    • Art VandelayArt Vandelay, almost 7 years ago

      The great thing about the Internet, you can write whatever you want. While I'm only 25, I do know you're younger than me and that you'll learn and grow. As will I.

      0 points
  • Ryan MurphyRyan Murphy, almost 7 years ago

    You think impressionist artists had the same conversations about cubism?

    Look at them, unable to really capture the moment with their work. Hanging out in fancy spanish coffee shops drawing funny shapes. When will people realise that true craftsmanship comes in creating what I like, what I do. If it isn't something aligned with my, holier-than-thou craft, then I'm afraid it falls short in the realms of design.


    High horse, off.

    5 points
  • Diego LafuenteDiego Lafuente, almost 7 years ago

    Investors invest in short terms. A typography isn't something an investor will drop 1 million dollar off.

    5 points
  • Sacha GreifSacha Greif, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

    I think this argument just doesn't work because of a major counter-example: Twitter.

    Twitter is the exact same kind of stupid toy app as Yo. Your app lets you send 140 character messages to tell people what you're eating? Why don't you go work on better-designed tax forms instead!

    Yet look at what Twitter has become: a major social network, a new form of communication, a new way of sharing news and meeting people…

    Will Yo become the next Twitter? Who knows, but stranger things have happened.

    4 points
    • Clay MacTavishClay MacTavish, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

      Um...what?

      Twitter garners enormous utility through connecting people with common interests. Do I need to even...

      ...I'm not sure you're serious with that comparison.

      3 points
    • Mike MaiMike Mai, almost 7 years ago

      Great comparison! I (and lots of other people, I assume) thought Twitter was super stupid when it first came out. Now I use it everyday.

      Facebook was essentially a college hot or not app when it first came out, look at its impact on our society now.

      Just as Sacha said, " stranger things have happened."

      0 points
  • Clay MacTavishClay MacTavish, almost 7 years ago

    Someone needs a vacation.

    4 points
  • Lewis FludeLewis Flude, almost 7 years ago

    This is obviously an opinion piece, and I believe these opinions to be wrong. The work being done at Dropbox is no less superficial than Yo. I don't believe there's a way of framing this in an objective way.

    Not to mention that talking of 1m as if it was money earned is fundamentally wrong (think of VC funding as a big loan, not profit). Not to mention, it shows a complete lack of awareness as to how investment works.

    However, I can feel the frustration in-between the lines and I'd like to ask Dan, what would a solution look like? What can I do to help with drawing more attention to big, disruptive ideas.

    2 points
  • Tor Løvskogen BollingmoTor Løvskogen Bollingmo, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

    Type designers don't get funding because a typeface isnt really for mainstream consumption and have a hard time seeing the rapid sales growth that investors wants to capitalize on.

    2 points
  • Diego LafuenteDiego Lafuente, almost 7 years ago

    I bet without the tasty 1M investment, YO would be another crap app with no news coverage.

    I've read many articles, they all go to the same point: it's an app that received 1M, so it may be "amazing", "disruptive".

    Internet is the LOLZ.

    1 point
  • Jim SilvermanJim Silverman, almost 7 years ago

    the investors seem to have become blind to the temporal nature of the virality of these things.

    i think that's the core of the "Yo" phenomenon. i don't think these investors gave a hoot that the app is well-designed (though, i don't think it is). all some investors see is an astronomical download count and growth; not the complete lack of purpose and immediate uninstalls.

    1 point
  • Ben HowdleBen Howdle, almost 7 years ago

    My biggest gripe with this, is that I know Dan is from Manchester, England, yet uses the word "diapers".

    I'm out.

    0 points
  • Elliott PayneElliott Payne, almost 7 years ago

    I think this opinion piece is approximating the right message, but is coming from a the wrong messenger.

    Dan: As a designer at Drop Box, you're an elite independent of your thoughts or world view. So the argument becomes internally incoherent coming from your mouth. I think that's the main source of most of your criticism.

    But, I'm going to go out on a limb and say I agree with your argument. I'm a mechanical engineer by training and started my career in manufacturing. There are a crazy amount of resources and accumulated wisdom needed to manifest ideas in the physical world. I know that there should be an expectation of efficiency in creating software vs. hardware, but you can't tell me in your heart of hearts that anything you can do in 8 hours should be worth $1M in funding (yes, I know how VC works — $1M = X% of the company @ $Y valuation based on rev/user growth by year 5 + assumption_N).

    But there is fundamentally a bubble happening in this industry. I was just commenting about the direction the wordpress theme market went in another thread (in reference to the UI8 bundle sale). When you can buy a theme for $30 or build an app in 8 hours, the bottom is eventually going to drop out of the market. Wired did some really good reporting on this that's worth reading.

    But more importantly, no one has found a business model for the consumer internet outside of advertising. Google and Facebook (maybe twitter) have captured the market for online advertising, and nearly every successful exit in the valley has been a function of growing a user base and selling to one of the companies above or being acquihired (eyeroll :p).

    0 points
  • Art VandelayArt Vandelay, almost 7 years ago

    The only question I really have: what 'problems' are we solving in design/development? Are they really problems or new challenges?

    Yes, there is a difference between a "problem" and "challenge"

    0 points
  • Floyd WilliamsonFloyd Williamson, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

    I thought the article was pretty good. It is true that there are a lot of meaningless apps in the world (and yes, Yo is one them). The author expressed frustration at the fact so many of these pointless and unsustainable ideas get a massive amount of coverage and funding, and I think he has the right to.

    I have noticed most of the comments bashing Dan are ad hominems that don't even address the point he made (in fact they completely miss it). I found that Edouard U's comment addressed Dan's point perhaps even better than Dan himself.

    0 points
  • Jake ChapmanJake Chapman, almost 7 years ago

    I still vote for thenothingapp.com :D

    0 points