Engineering Driven vs. Community Driven (was Re: Ugliness)

Ryan Prior ryanprior at
Mon Apr 28 01:45:34 CEST 2008

A synopsis:

Lowell: "Let's make this project community-driven."
Steve: "Please talk to me about it privately."


On Sun, Apr 27, 2008 at 2:48 PM, steve <steve at> wrote:

>  Lowell,
>   You can send me a personal mail and I will address your concerns.
> You are a valuable asset in the community and I value your opinion.
> Then you can feed that back to people, agreeing or disagreeing as you see
> fit.
>  I'd rather take this offline with you, since the main focus here and now
> is how to get the product that
> is actually built into people's hands.
>  ------------------------------
> *From:* community-bounces at [mailto:
> community-bounces at] *On Behalf Of *Lowell Higley
> *Sent:* Sunday, April 27, 2008 10:16 AM
> *To:* List for Openmoko community discussion
> *Subject:* Engineering Driven vs. Community Driven (was Re: Ugliness)
> On Sat, Apr 26, 2008 at 11:20 AM, Lowell Higley <higleylh at>
> wrote:
> On Sat, Apr 26, 2008 at 5:58 AM, Stroller <linux.luser at>
> wrote:
> >So please don't be offended but saying "I don't like it and neither do my
> friends" is totally irrelevant - come back when you've interviewed a hundred
> different people and >they've scored the Freerunner (alongside several other
> phones) in a range of 1 - 10 on size, colour, design attractiveness,
> comfort-to-hold and so on. You need to establish >with each respondent why
> they chose their last phone - was price a factor? features? You can probably
> rule out everyone who got their phone "free" from their mobile >supplier,
> because the Freerunner's market is those who are prepared to pay a premium
> for the features they want in a phone. Now interview another 100 people,
> those who >are prepared to pay a premium for the features they want in a
> smart- or business-phone - do they find the Freerunner attractive or ugly?
> Do they care?
>  I'm not sure if I agree or disagree with you so I'll just dump my
> thoughts and you decide..
> I have spent the majority of my adult life in hi-tech, and much of that in
> product marketing.  My specialty has been taking "engineering driven"
> projects and turning them into actual market driven products.  I have come
> into multi-million dollar projects and bet the engineering team a month's
> salary that they would sell less than "x" products.  Why? Because they had
> NO clue what the customers wanted.  They just built what THEY wanted.  Each
> time I made that bet, I won.  No, I never collected the money but my point
> was made.
> When I see a product I like and it doesn't seem to have "marketing polish"
> I do a little informal research. I ask various people what they think.
> These people aren't my friends.  Ok, some of them are but not many.  No, it
> isn't a full focus group but I have learned over the years as a professional
> marketer than I can get a pretty good idea of how a product would sell based
> on the feedback I get from my little research projects.  Just informal chats
> with people on their likes and dislikes.  There was a statement someone made
> earlier about us techie types forcing complex phones with unwanted features
> down people's throats.  VERY true statement.  Unfortunately, the FreeRunner
> Consumer Edition will have to fight products like the iPhone head to head.
> Consumers see the "bling" of the iPhone and have very high expectations, all
> based on cosmetcis and the "wow" factor.  To make matters even worse, if you
> can't get the FCE (FreeRunner Consumer Edition) into the phone shops
> (Orange, TMobile, etc.) it will never sell big numbers.  In Europe I think
> there is a better chance of that happening.  In the US, the carriers LOVE
> their closed, crippled phones.  The deck is stacked against Openmoko ever
> making inroads as a major Treo, Blackberry or iPhone alternative.  Maybe
> this niche market it perfect for them?
> To me, FreeRunner has the smell of being an engineering driven project.
> Shawn has put a lot of effort in making it marketing driven but I don't see
> the conclusive results. (Forgive me Shawn)  I do acknowledge at this point
> that we are NOT targeting consumers.  That's ok.  But if we all want this
> product to REALLY succeed, we have to at some point.  Who knows, perhaps
> Shawn has a business case that involves just the niche market of hobbiests
> and developers such as ourselves. At one point I asked on this list how the
> design was derived.  I received no response from the core team but did get a
> heresay response that a company approached FIC to make a prototype, which
> they did.  That company then decided not to go forward, Shawn got a hold of
> the prototype and Openmoko was born.  If that story is true, I don't see any
> overt marketing involved there on FIC's part.
> Marketing is much more than holding focus groups and creating sales copy.
> There is competitive analysis, business cases, marketing requirements,
> "negotiating" with engineering over the final product, schedule.. and the
> list goes on.  My point is, as I look at things and put the picture
> together, I see no strong marketing presence in the FreeRunner.  Where's the
> MRD?  Where's the focus group?  Where's the business case?  I'm not saying
> this to throw dirt on the Openmoko project, just to point out that there is
> a LOT of work involved on the part of marketing.  Most of it we never see
> and perhaps we shouldn't.
> Let's look at this another way.. I have spent most of my professional life
> in Silicon Valley... Home of Apple, Netscape, Google, and Yahoo,  Between
> 1998 and 2001, I received invites almost weekly to interview with some new
> startup.  Sometimes I would accept and go talk to them.  In two years, I
> probably interviewed with 15 companies.  I would always insist on talking
> with the Director of Engineering (or whatever his title was) prior to
> talking offer, etc.  I would always ask the same question.  "Why do you want
> to hire a Marketing Manager?"  The first 14 companies responded with
> something like "Because our venture funding says we have to."  If I pressed
> the issue it would come out that they thought they had the best product and
> technology and it would sell itself. No marketing required. Silicon Valley
> is littered with the remains of companies like that.  We won't talk about
> company 15 because I did go work for them and the did pretty well. :)
> My last statement.  Openmoko and FreeRunner is REALLY cool stuff.... but
> it's not going to sell itself.  Ok, I'm late to my LUG meeting. I'll get off
> my soapbox now.
> Lowell
> So I woke this morning thinking about this.. Yes, I am a sick man.  First,
> I realized I made a mistake.. I spelled Sean's name wrong.  Oops.  My
> apologies.
> Second, I was thinking about "engineering driven" vs. "community driven".
> My impressions thus far is that Openmoko is engineering driven. That is a
> bunch of techie types sitting around and deciding what the product should
> be.  The decisions usually made in an engineering vacuum.  Openmoko is an
> open project.  So a lot of the traditional aspects of defining, developing,
> and releasing a product may not apply in the traditional sense.  They should
> still apply, but definitely in a much different aspect.  I think sometimes
> that is what I have troubles wrapping my mind around.  It makes sense that
> it would come across engineering driven as most people that are involved in
> the community have a technical background.  So for that epiphany, I
> apologize for some of my earlier, possibly strongly worded statements.
> So I spent some time in the wiki and noticed the new main page was
> implemented.  Right on that page is an "Openmoko Roadmap" link which is
> blank with the exception of the telephony piece which is also skimpy on
> content.  So I guess my thoughts transitioned to this morning was how does
> the community take these traditional roles of defining product requirements,
> creating a development specifications, schedule, etc.  From that I had
> several core questions rattling around in the back of my head.  I've stated
> a few of those questions below and referenced items that I found in the
> wiki...
> 1) What is the ultimate goal of Openmoko?
> >From the wiki:
> *Openmoko is an attempt to create the world's first completely open mobile
> phone software stack.*
> Is this the ultimate goal?  Dunno but it seems like an admirable goal..
> just a little short on details.  Here's something else I found (keyword
> search: goal)
> *The long term goal is that phone software won't be tied to any particular
> phone. You can install any OpenMoko software over the whole range of phones,
> and if you upgrade your phone, you don't lose the software. Bugs fixed on
> one phone are fixed on all.*
> Again, admirable goal.  But is this the overarching goal of Openmoko
> project?  I think the above statement is a little out of context but the
> best I could find to answer my question.
> 2) Is there commercialization plans for Openmoko products?  That is, will
> there be an attempt to put it in consumers' hands?
> >From the wiki:
> *OpenMoko, while being an open-source project, cannot flourish and become
> a major milestone in human history without advanced commercialization
> planning. Without an attractive market potential there will be little
> interest for companies to invest resources (funding, production capacity,
> ISV community) to make OpenMoko a true advanced mobile computing platform.
> This section is devoted to the discussion of business-related applications
> of OpenMoko for the purpose of attracting more resources into the
> development of OpenMoko.*
> [edit<>
> ]
> The way I read this is we (the community as well as Openmoko, Inc) want to
> get this device into consumer hands.  We have a lot to do to get there and
> very little time to do it.  Time to market is crucial and I think we've
> already missed the best window.
> 3) Is there a roadmap?
> As discussed above, there is a prominent Roadmap link from the new wiki
> main page. In fact, it is the second link of the first contrasted table (the
> dark colored ones).  But you drill down and pretty much everything is
> blank.  The Telephony team put some good tidbits in there but the details
> (schedule, for example) are still missing.
> 4) Who defines the roadmap and how?
> I really couldn't find much in the wiki about this.  It looks like the
> limited roadmap I did find was created by the Openmoko, Inc. team, probably
> with input from the community.   Are the wish lists that are contained in
> the wiki how we get our requirements to the Openmoko team for inclusion into
> the product/roadmap?
> Well, I think I beat the horse a little too much.  My personal thought is
> the community needs to take some responsibility and initiative to do some of
> these things a typical corporate marketing team would do.  I think a lot of
> us, myself included, thought that the Openmoko, Inc guys were taking care
> most of these tasks.  Maybe they are but if we really want this to be a
> community driven project and our ultimate goal is to get this product to
> consumers, we need to step up to the plate.  We need to do focus groups,
> competitive analysis, requirements definition, etc.  I think this would be a
> lot more productive than people like myself stating "no one is going to buy,
> it's ugly."  Let's organize, gather the needed information and let's get
> this product to the consumers.  I'm tired of sounding whiny and putting
> forth no solutions.  Let's truly make this community driven.
> If I am stepping on someone's toes, please let me know.  Tell me to sit
> down and shut up and I will.  I am willing to help anyway I can.  I'd love
> to hear other people's thoughts.  Ok, I'm off to Europe for the week so I
> need to do some laundry/packing.  Cheers!
> Regards,
> Lowell
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