Even though I want to leave The Grid the benefit of doubt, it's hard not to agree with the author. Besides, I feel like there's quite a few other startups which have the same kind of lofty claims/little to show for it, just not in such an obvious fashion.
Another recent example is TideKit:
I have been too one of the people who signed up for early bird access. After paying 100 USD I have been given a message stating something along the lines of "Thank you for your support. We will contact you when it is your turn." That moment I realised that their entire purchase flow did not say explicitly that purchasing early bird access will give me access to the beta. I did not get a receipt either. I asked for a refund on the grounds that they are unable to provide the receipt (after repeated requests), they are unable to provide estimate when I will get access to the software and their entire purchase flow is misleading advertisement at its best.
However, TideKit soon released (5 months after I made a purchase) a progress page, which showed that some people are getting access to the beta and even included a progress bar showing completeness of the software (think, UI 90%, backend 95%). What do you think happened when the bar reached 100% Everyone got an email stating that due to bad PR the product is cancelled (here is the full email, http://stackoverflow.com/a/31369264/368691). Of course, no one is that naive to believe this.
The think is that as a programmer, you can more or less estimate what is realistically possible in the current time. While TideKit is not absolutely impossible, it is not a task for one developer (which later turned out to be the case with TideKit). Furthermore, existing products in the market (think http://electron.atom.io/ and http://nwjs.io/) are a good indicator of the technical challenges. These programs have a lot smaller scope, have a lot bigger backing, and are struggling with the complexity of the codebase.
How does this relate to the Grid? Well, there is nothing near in the market that compares to what the Grid is promising. The components of which the Grid is supposed to consists (which are well described in the original post) do not exist either, or are at a very early stage of maturity. There are no certain deadlines. You cannot name/find a single person who has used it already. There is a huge PR around it (Do you think you'd really need a huge PR for a fully AI web development software? lol, please.).
At its best, it is going to be drag-and-drop/answer standard set of questions, component driven web CMS. At its worst, it will be shut down in a similar way that TideKit has.
You can read more about the story:
TNW used and reviewed it already, in some way... http://thenextweb.com/dd/2015/07/31/this-is-what-the-grids-ai-website-builder-looks-like/
Notice that the review does not say "AI" anywhere (apart from quoting the Grid). The Grid is just one of many website builders. They have invested a lot into UX and PR. The former makes it a worthwhile investigating tool for building quick websites for non-developers. But lets agree not to call it AI. This is an example of what defines some of the AI capabilities, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-R9bJGNHltQ.
That just read like an advertorial for a squarespace style simple website builder.
Perhaps they use some puffery about the capabilities of their product, but I don't see whats so impossible about what they claim to do. They get some basic information and dynamically choose best practices based on the content you give it. Hard but not impossible at all.
Yes, all they're doing is apply simple design rules with super flexible templates which fill themselves out.
I think the author doesn't know enough about design, and is over valuing the term AI
If anyone is overusing the term "AI" it is the Grid. There is not a pinch of AI in their system. This is false advertising. It is a simple mapping of categories to predefined templates.
AI is over used in general. I love AI and follow AI news weekly. We have programs and algorithms doing complex things, through them the software understands something and does something to it. Even Watson, I believe, is a fancy version of that, albeit with a huge database of information. None of it though is real intelligence of course.
Watson is not "huge database". It is a cognitive system. This article explains it more than just a search engine, http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2014/02/14/watson_is_real_artificial_intelligence_despite_claims_to_the_contrary.html.
Yes, sorry that was an over simplification. What I mean is it has processes to understand its data, understand its input, and give quality output. However, its still not "Intelligent" as people imagine when they hear the word AI.
Well, the intelligence in The Grid is certainly artificial.
I think the author doesn't know enough about design
The line length on the article makes that pretty evident. So hard to read.
How is this relevant to the contents of the article? The author is an engineer. If strong AI (i.e., technical singularity) is ever created, it will be created by an engineer.
they're promising a machine that exhibits general business intelligence and language skills enough to interpret requirements and incorporate them into a website
And thereby misses what The Grid is actually trying to do.
Not general business intelligence: specific metrics that they believe they can do a decent job optimizing: clicks, signups, sales, media plays.
Not language skills! The video says "tell The Grid what you want" and Ben interprets it as "natural language processing." There are lots of ways to tell a computer what I want. I'm doing it right now: each letter I type is telling the computer what letter I want to appear in this box.
I think he watched the vid and imagined that The Grid is trying to replace in-house designers and front-end developers at web companies. That's not their aim: they're shooting for better-than-templates for individuals and businesses that need websites: artists, illustrators, photographers; video producers, graphic designers, personal chefs; bakers, candle makers, restaurants, and dog walkers.
I'm a Grid skeptic in many ways — my gut says that their results will be, for most people and most cases, functionally indistinguishable from templates. But this critique badly misses the point.
I absolutely agree with what Drew has to say. It's not going to be a magic wand(when you read AI). They're just taking website making to the next level. Progressive. And needed. It's next generation of templates I feel.
The author is being too harsh with a skeptic lens.
I don't agree. It is not the author who is being too harsh. It is the Grid thats using obscure terms to describe their product.
The author isn't saying what they're setting out to do is impossible, at all—he's just saying that all signs point to this company not doing it, and saying they are.
"If you're a well-meaning member of the public, this might sound feasible, but you'll have to trust me (or do a lot of independent research) when I say that this technology simply does not exist in the year 2015."
"Given that the thing they've promised is completely impossible with modern technology, this is not surprising."
These are both things said by Ben in the article and your response is "The author isn't saying what they're setting out to do is impossible, at all..." – Am I missing something?
OK, so I exaggerated. He clearly mentions he thinks that. But the bulk of the post (i.e. warning signs 1-4, the conclusion, and a large part of the intro) is basically saying these guys dont seem to be in a position to follow through.
Can't tell if this chap is serious or just uninformed?
Care to expand?
Absolutely man! a very quick google search brings us to https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCu0le3yG8BOIpCyw21nQEcA
This developer, brings some great points to learn from, especially a release schedule. I'm not trying to discredit that, I think there are quite a few awesome points. The few points that brought me to comment what I did, are:
"Scam" <- in the title. It's click-baity and harsh, and in my belief unfair.
Warning Sign 2 it's clear they are making strides to release it. This is a massive undertaking and I know Jon Gold has piped into a few of these threads to defend the company in great form.
Warning Sign 3 This happens day in and day out in the valley, thus making this point void in my opinion. Sometimes you need cash to burn to build something usable. It's just a different approach.
Warning Sign 4 This is looking from the public in, there is 0 knowledge of contractors, so frankly, again void. I agree that it would be awesome to see an AI researcher pipe up and discuss things, but I truly believe it will come.
The other part I look at is the team, there are a ton of top talent guys/gals (not sure if there are gals) cranking on that product hard.
The last part to mention is he is looking at financials all sorts of wrong as well. They clearly have well over 5mil with 27 people tied to the company, in the bay, cranking with top talent and they are on series B... you better bet your toosh that they have investors pushing for a public release before end of the year.
The Grid team is definitely capable of building beautiful websites and even blogging platforms as we know them. But they simply cannot create the CMS they claim with Flow-Based Programming and The Cassowary Linear Arithmetic Constraint Solving Algorithm. Just look at the edge cases.
More here – http://imgur.com/a/ifrPX.
That's an interesting bunch of screenshots. What's the context though? And how does this relate to their CMS?
These are some sites built by The Grid. The source is videos from The Grid channel dated July/August 2015.
Calling out these as evidence that they can't do what they say they can is just bad logic, man. 1. These are development screenshots, not final product screenshots 2. At least some of these are explicitly stated in the videos to be at the extreme ends of what the system can do — they are, as you say, edge cases. That's terrible evidence to use for … anything.
The development version is generally more advanced than the production one. This is what they are showing and discussing after 3 years in production. If they had anything better, they'd show it.
The extreme ends in these particular cases are images and texts which can be anything from users.
They claim the Grid is not a website builder and has no templates, and you talk (by any means) to AI system which makes design decisions for you. With current state of technology, this is practically imposible on a large scale. Therefore, the Grid is built on formulas and empirical methods. This system can be a very helpful assistant. But you still need an ability to manually crop images and select colors and fonts, etc. I just don't see it has been advertised and implemented that way.
It appears that the Grid "AI" is colour blind.
Those screenshots are not what I thought The Grid would be generating. They look decent and are legible, but not what I pictured based on the introduction video.
Lesson #1 – Don't buy something that hasn't been released. Especially if it's from an unknown developer.
If you do (e.g. you want to fund an indie developer to make something awesome), then you better make peace with the fact it may never be released, or match its lofty goals.
Lesson #2 – Don't believe the hype.
Some of their open source work is great, but seems to have bled over into a SaaS hosting model, which is both refreshing, and suspicious. Refreshing because hosting is always seen as a dry technical discipline which lacks design elements and aesthetic and appeals more to devops than designers. Suspicious because companies like Media Temple / Squarespace have already cornered the boutique hosting market, and The Grid better establish themselves quickly if they want to go up against (mt). Also their business model is not remarkable, and doesn't appeal to the poor. If they had a free service that users could run in exchange for a small banner that mentions The Grid, or a sponsored message, then it could gain wide appeal. Otherwise it's just another rich geeks plaything Netizens have no time for.
The author only adds fuel to the fire. Wouldn't be surprised if it was all part of The Grid's marketing.
Then they should fire the people doing marketing.
I have to say even I thought this was a bit too much of a rant, and I hold quite a bit of scepticism about the product.
I've been told a few times that The Grid isn't really AI at all, but merely a complex series of queries. I wish the person who wrote this had taken a more open minded approach at the start though. But I guess it's hard for anyone to look past the lack of communication, delays and overall tone of voice that The Grid is showing.
It feels like they bit off more than they can chew. At least now they're talking more with YouTube videos and interviews.
This blog has absolutely not heard of the ideal length of words/characters per line.
The Grid has excellent presentation, this ranty non-constructive critique is awfully presented.
That says a lot, I think.
This is horrible logic.
You don't need to be a designer to know that a product may be taking you for a ride.
Regardless, I've edited my post somewhat, but I stand by what I said. The Grid at least knows how to present itself nicely and be compelling, I don't think this rant (and I'm quite sure in calling it that) does.
That's completely irrelevant to the point.
It is indeed. I don't think it's worth us saying "The Grid is good" or "The Grid is bad" yet, we haven't been able to try it or even see much of it. So, the only thing I felt I could objectively comment on is this critique's presentation.
Are you sure about this? It still depends on the content and the style.
Don't take the money.
There are no magic tricks when it comes to building websites / CMSs... But there are some ways to reduce the development part. Something big is coming... http://www.xpos.it/
This looks more promising than the grid.
As I haven't seen the link here yet, this "review" might bring a bit more light into this and put the post into perspective: http://thenextweb.com/dd/2015/07/31/this-is-what-the-grids-ai-website-builder-looks-like/
Any founding members here, I have a question: If you are a developer or a designer, what drives you to pay upfront for something that builds website for you, even though you could do so much more with your own skills? As far as I understand, the point of The Grid is that it also designs the website. I don't mean to question your decision to be a founding member, just want to know why.
I'd really like to know this too. It's baffled me so far.
I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, though I have trouble with teams that focus more on vision selling/fundraising than building and demonstrating a product.