In 1845, the famous American writer Edgar Allan Poe published his masterpiece “The Raven”.
You can read the poem here. A brief extract can give you an idea of the style:
“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil! — prophet still, if bird or devil! —
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted —
On this home by Horror haunted — tell me truly, I implore —
Is there — is there balm in Gilead? — tell me — tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
The poem narrator is a lover who is lamenting the loss of his love, Lenore. It’s one of the most famous poems ever written.
In 1846, Poe published a follow-up essay, “The Philosophy of Composition”. In this text, Poe tell us how he, in a completely cold and analytical fashion, created the poem.
We tend to imagine a poet like a sentimental man that looks at the flowers of the garden while he remembers tender or sad episodes of his love life. In “The Philosophy of Composition”, Poe presents himself much more like a marketer who’s defining the attributes of his product to cause maximum effect on its target audience.
Let’s look at how he defines his product (or poem ) previous to its writing, thinking on the effect he wants to cause.
Target Market: Poe clearly defines who he is targeting:
Let us dismiss, as irrelevant to the poem, per se, the circumstance- or say the necessity- which, in the first place, gave rise to the intention of composing a poem that should suit at once the popular and the critical taste.
The length: the poem must be short enough to be read on one sit and long enough to produce the desired effect:
for it is clear that the brevity must be in direct ratio of the intensity of the intended effect- this, with one proviso- that a certain degree of duration is absolutely requisite for the production of any effect at all
…Holding in view these considerations, as well as that degree of excitement which I deemed not above the popular, while not below the critical taste, I reached at once what I conceived the proper length for my intended poem- a length of about one hundred lines. It is, in fact, a hundred and eight.
The province or domain: after some careful thought, he decides that it will be about beauty.
Now I designate Beauty as the province of the poem, merely because it is an obvious rule of Art that effects should be made to spring from direct causes- that objects should be attained through means best adapted for their attainment- no one as yet having been weak enough to deny that the peculiar elevation alluded to is most readily attained in the poem.
The tone of the poem: it must be Melancholy…
Regarding, then, Beauty as my province, my next question referred to the tone of its highest manifestation- and all experience has shown that this tone is one of sadness. Beauty of whatever kind in its supreme development invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears. Melancholy is thus the most legitimatee of all the poetical tones.
With a similar line of thought, Poe decides that he will select a word or stanza “Nevermore”. He then sets to seek “ a pretext for the continuous use of the one word nevermore”.
In observing the difficulty which I had at once found in inventing a sufficiently plausible reason for its continuous repetition, I did not fail to perceive that this difficulty arose solely from the preassumption that the word was to be so continuously or monotonously spoken by a human being- I did not fail to perceive, in short, that the difficulty lay in the reconciliation of this monotony with the exercise of reason on the part of the creature repeating the word. Here, then, immediately arose the idea of a non-reasoning creature capable of speech, and very naturally, a parrot, in the first instance, suggested itself, but was superseded forthwith by a Raven as equally capable of speech, and infinitely more in keeping with the intended tone.
Well, here we are with “nevermore”, the Raven and a lot of the product attributes defined. Now Poe with a last effort finally selects the central theme of the poem:
I had now gone so far as the conception of a Raven, the bird of ill-omen, monotonously repeating the one word “Nevermore” at the conclusion of each stanza in a poem of melancholy tone, and in length about one hundred lines. Now, never losing sight of the object- supremeness or perfection at all points, I asked myself- “Of all melancholy topics what, according to the universal understanding of mankind, is the most melancholy?” Death, was the obvious reply. “And when,” I said, “is this most melancholy of topics most poetical?” From what I have already explained at some length the answer here also is obvious- “When it most closely allies itself to Beauty: the death then of a beautiful woman is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world, and equally is it beyond doubt that the lips best suited for such topic are those of a bereaved lover.”
The essay follows with many similar ideas and deductions, but the idea is the same, I invite you to read it, it’s interesting.
As you can read here, it is uncertain if Poe really followed the method he describes in “The Philosophy of Composition”. Anyway, as always with Poe, his idea makes one think.
When you decide to make a product, what is your style? do you let your personal tastes and emotions take control? do you “fall in love with the idea”? Or do you use reasoning to select a domain and coldly define a product in the Poe’s style?
Just a follow up about those two iPhone game developers that generously provides their sales info.
MicroCars for iPhone downloads and sales are going down very fast. I would like to understand exactly how it happens. What factors (blogs, IM, news, anything) made the App reach high rankings in the store and what made it go down after?
iLightning is hardly getting a sale a day. I bet Jabavu just forgot about it.
Victor Hugo, French poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, visual artist, statesman, human rights activist and exponent of the Romantic movement in France.
Victor Hugo has two impressive quotes about the way ideas get string and things change.
In his novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, he said “this will kill that“. He talks about the new thing, idea, trend killing the old one.
In another famous quote, Victor Hugo says “You can resist an invading army; you cannot resist an idea whose time has come“.
The killing is normally announced very early, and those destined to death tend to ignore it. Let’s look at two recent examples:
in the first days of internet (1990s?), the death of newspapers was announced. 19 years after, most of them exists yet, but agony of the medium itself is near. Well managed newspaper companies have make a successful evolution into internet based media and other better looking and more profitable business.
the record music industry, in its complete chain, is being defeated by digital music sharing. Again some companies are reconverting but it’s not a simple task.
In both examples, the advent of a new technology changes the basis of an industry. In both cases, as soon as the specific use of the technology is announced, the death of the players as they are known is announced also.
Those two examples aren’t isolated. Information Technology with is innumerable applications can change the way most human activities develop. It’s impact, enormous as it has been, is still in embryo state compared to what comes.
We need no Jules Verne, no Merlin, no magic endowed fortune teller to tell us about some things that will happen soon (in the next 20 or 30 years). All this trends have started, but they will consolidate and replace the older ways.
knowledge related services market turns global.
IT fulfills its basic promise of automating repetitive tasks and enormous quantities of people who actually labors on “human information processing” lost their jobs. Read “clerks” of any type, lots of lawyers accountants.
powerful standards for modeling and storing information enable real data sharing between software artifacts. This reduces or annihilates the cost of changes based business model that today rules IT.
Pure Software development gets cheaper, cheaper, cheaper. New tools make it easier to develop, lots of developers (and damned talented ones) from poor countries enter the world developer pool.
Software artifacts become massive consume goods. and all type of software product gets cheaper, cheaper, cheaper.
costs of managing private IT infrastructure drives forward the cloud and related concepts. As all the information is on the same media, data sharing as a general principle becomes easier.
That’s what we must call the immediate wave. Things that will happen fast and for sure. There’s a second wave also that is far more frightening, but also will happen. I’m a fan of Isaac Asimov. Asimov liked computers. His dreams were about omnipotent and omniscient machines that ruled the word. MULTIVAC as he called his big computer, was an enormous subterranean computer that occupied a complete city. Now it’s obvious that Isaac was wrong, but I still believe some of his dreams will come true. I believe that in a non distant future (less than 100 years, I bet you a beer!) we will have computers smarter than a human being. Computers that will be better computer designers than us. That’s from my viewpoint the real discontinuity: the creation of an artificial intelligence that can make better versions of itself being able to reach an “infinite intelligence”.
The necessary foundations are not here yet. We lack paradigms and building modules to build this first superhuman computer. But lots of brilliant brains are working on it, and now we have the power of super-communication.
Victor Hugo shows us that predicting the future has an easy part and a difficult one:
it’s easy to know the trends i.e. where are we moving to.
it’s difficult to know when the time of each trend or idea will come.
As you will remember for my previous post, MicroCars nice, well written and complex game was close to the sales of iLightning small gadget 2 weeks after launch.
Well, one month and 10 days after its launch, MicroCars has sold 1035 units, more than iLightning performance in 6 months.
What happened?. Simple. Martin launched a “Lite” version of the game, and that free version got damned popular in the store… As I’m writing MicroCars lite is in the 16th place in the category Games->Racing (top free).
Let’s see a simple graph of Martin’s sales. Can you guess when the Lite version was launched?
As you might have guessed, the Lite version was launched near August 5th. The effect is impressive. Before that sales were averaging 12 a day and looking at the graph we can see a downward trend. After the launch of the Lite version, daily sales average jump to 43 a day and, at least to the naked eye, the trend is going upwards.
We are talking of an exceptionally well written game here. The App Store holds near 65.000 apps, most of which must be games. For a game to make the first places on one category, it has to be good.
Anyway, we have a clear morale here. For an iPhone app, the Lite version is a must.
I’m just starting in the shrink wrap software world, so I read a lot of forums and blogs, specially BOS forum. I learn a lot of things, and have a great time
One thing that amazes me is the rigid position of the guys there regarding the price. They all stick to the “price signals quality” way of thinking and seldom consider other points of view.
Many of them are also afraid of special sales, they think that after you make a sale it’s difficult to return your price to the previous tag.
On a recent article on Coding Horror, Jeff Atwood presented the case of Valve, a game producer. They tested the reaction to their holiday sales, with impressive results:
The massive Steam holiday sale was also a big win for Valve and its partners. The following holiday sales data was released, showing the sales breakdown organized by price reduction:
75% sale = 1470% increase in sales
10% sale = 35% increase in sales (real dollars, not units shipped)
25% sale = 245% increase in sales
50% sale = 320% increase in sales
Not all the markets are the same, not all the products are the same. Sales must be carefully designed, planned and communicated to avoid affecting product image. But we must remember that, with all that taken into account, price is a powerful lever to play with!
As this July 15th article says, App Store has served 1,5 billion downloads… and there are 65,000 applications.
“The App Store is like nothing the industry has ever seen before in both scale and quality” said Jobs. Well, at least the scale part is already clear. Something is going on here, a lot of people in obscure corners of the world (greetings from Chile here) are wetting their hands on Objective C and Cocoa to produce enormous quantities of applications.
Lots of the 65.000 apps are no doubt very small gadgets, mostly for a moment of fun. One of those is iLightning by Javabu Adams:
The game is very good. Labour of Love. Even the sound is nice. Hundreds of hours must have gone into it.
Well, the sales on first two weeks were 228. On the first two weeks iLightning sold 216 units.
iLightning started in Feb 09 while MicroCarsIPhone started in July. In the meanwhile the number of apps in the store grew by 3x. One must think that, as the app number grows, it will be more difficult to get noticed.
Humm, I need good stats here, like what was the change in the universe of iPhones + iPod touch…
Anyway, I would like to know how the sales of MicroCars… move. My gut feeling is that simple, one moment gadget apps like iLighting will have a decrease in sales while more stably appealing apps will get reviews, word of mouth and will get growing sales.
Since January I’ve thinking of my first iPhone application… It took a lot of time to sign in the iPhone developer program. As I am in Chile, and te Apple store doesn’t operate here I had to send a fax and the fax at Apple was busy for three or four months… (sad as it sounds).
Now I’m signed, I have my new iMac and my iPod Touch will get here on Saturday. I’m learning objective-C, Cocoa and getting to know the iPhone development environment. So far so good…
But I need an idea to start. Here’s the history of my ideas…
First one: a medication reminder. Sounds good don’t you think?. Sorry. Two problems;
There are already for such apps:
http://dontforgetthepill.com/ (for birth control pill, nice pink interface and discrete warnings!)
The iPhone OS does’nt allow the setting of alarms of timers and your app cannot run in the background, so the user is forced to have your app open in order to get the alarms…
Ok, it seemed a good idea, then I thought about a little stupid but well, maybe that’s the way to go… My new idea, an iPhone insult generator. Orginal, isn’t it. Well, it’s not, at least 10 apps. There even exists a “Shakesperean Insult Generator” Greetings thou botlesss…
Third idea, a wheel that makes decisions for you !! Cool, don’t you think. You write as many options as you want, spin the wheel and the chance decides.
Why program it? it’s easier to buy it on the app store…
A lot of products ideas come to my mind. That’s a blessing/curse I share with a lot of people in the uISV community. A good thing is to get your ideas tested again the reality as soon as possible, in any case, before you invest any considerable amount of time and work in them.
Though obviously it’s an old idea, I like the term Andy Brice coined “Lazy Instantiation Marketing“. The idea is to create a minimal website with some registration features and see how it goes with the people…
This weekend I was haunted by the idea of making a website where people can register, pay and get SMS messages reminding them to take their medications. Following the “Lazy …” idea, I registered a domain and created a simple website. My idea was to use adwords to get some people to the site and test reactions, % of registration, etc.
The “Lazy…” concept worked even before I started. When I got to adwords and tried to register my ad I learnt that you must have an “Online Pharmacy ID” to create any campaign with “Pills” or “Medication” on it. So the “Lazy..” concept saved me a lot of work. Now I know that the idea has an important drawback and that I will have to think about different way to promote it if I finally decide to go on. And I hadn’t yet programmed a single line of code!