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

Crane, Matthew mcrane03 at
Tue Apr 29 19:22:58 CEST 2008

I understand what you're saying about engineers tossing a product over
the wall being a throw back.  *Of course* there's back and forth and
both marketing and rnd contributing to each other..  
But I think it is typical for engineers to yearn for a larger role in
marketing decisions and, less so, marketing to overstate their role in
product engineering.   Both groups have strong investments in the
product dev process in different ways.   I think engineering tends to be
more of a group development effort, where marketing relies more on the
strength of individuals, all with very good reasons. 
If the concerns are too overlapped, or if there is no seperation and
specialization, I don't think that works well generally.  I think
there's very high value wrt role seperation and specialization.   I
don't think it was suggested that there was some kind of wall in the
middle, that's ridiculous.  But the best products come from a respect
for the others roles and intense focus on what people are good at.

From: community-bounces at
[mailto:community-bounces at] On Behalf Of Lowell Higley
Sent: Tuesday, April 29, 2008 12:11 PM
To: List for Openmoko community discussion
Subject: Re: Engineering Driven vs. Community Driven (was Re: Ugliness)

Ok.. I'm severely jet lagged but I will try to throw some closure on
this and hope it is coherent.   Steve has been very cordial and
enlightening in his mails to me.  The last I have yet to digest and
respond to but overall it is good, constructive stuff. After reading the
diaglogue that has ensued, I totally understand why he wanted to take
the conversation private.  We'll has some things and go from there.
Sorry for starting a firestorm.

I want to let everyone know I don't intend to be negative and that was
why I sent that last message.  If I see problems, I want to offer
solutions.  I also want to thank Stroller for his phenomenal job for
capturing (and translating) what I was trying to say.

There was one statement made that I want to comment on...

>I mean marketing is really just "how to sell"....<SNIP>

That statement could not be farther from the truth, IMHO.  I think any
Tech CEO worth his salt would tell you the same.   That very statement
and belief is why so many startups in Silicon Valley (and probably
worldwide) with very amazing products have gone bankrupt. I have friends
that lived through that nightmare.  That mindset is the very essence of
the problem my original e-mail was trying to address.  I couldn't have
summed it better myself.  It makes it sound like engineering comes up
with a product all on it's own, throws it over a wall and to Marketing
and says "here, sell it". Kind of like a hot potato. That was the case
once... in the 60's, I believe.  

Today, any company that had that mindset would not last long unless they
had very deep pockets. Yes, I have a specific company in mind.  My
thought is let's roll that marketing effort over to this project from a
community perspective.  A lot of Open Source projects already do it..
Open Office is the first one that comes to mind.  One of the thing I
want to do with Steve is draw some boundaries... What is in Openmoko's
court, and what is in the community's court regarding marketing... etc.

In the meantime, let's roll out the FreeRunner and once it's out, well
attack the next project publicly.  Ok.. I'm going to sleep now. :)


On Mon, Apr 28, 2008 at 6:58 PM, steve <steve at> wrote:

	 thanks for explaining that to folks

	-----Original Message-----
	From: community-bounces at
	[mailto:community-bounces at] On Behalf Of
	Sent: Monday, April 28, 2008 2:01 PM
	To: List for Openmoko community discussion
	Subject: Re: Engineering Driven vs. Community Driven (was Re:
	On 28 Apr 2008, at 17:54, hank williams wrote:
	> I have to say my unvoiced thoughts were the same as Ryan's. I
	> not at all clear why a call for the community to help figure
	> marketing stuff out would be met by a request to take the
	> discussion off list as though it was somehow inappropriate for
	> public discussion. It seemed like a very strange response. Now
	> reading the responses to Ryan's comments seem even more
strange. I
	> feel like I am missing something because the responses to
	> comments seem on the surface, inappropriate as well.
	If you read further back in this thread you'll see that the
	changed in reply to my message, "Re: Ugliness"  (26 April 2008
	13:58:04 BST).
	If you read back you'll see that before that someone was
	"the Freerunner will never sell in the mass-market because me &
	friends think it's ugly", and my counterpoint was, "heck, I'm
	FIC have done some market research (focus groups &c)".
	Lowell Higley obviously knows his stuff regarding selling tech
	products, and he raises some interesting points. I immediately
	to reply to them, but I could have spent hours doing so. Not to
	with him, just to purse interesting avenues of discussion.
	But Lowell's insights are far more in depth than your average
Xbox vs
	Playstation, who's-winning-the-format-war, fanbois' forum
thread. As
	Lowell says:
	  Marketing is much more than holding focus groups and creating
	  copy.  There is competitive analysis, business cases,
	  requirements, "negotiating" with engineering over the final
	  schedule.. and the list goes on.  My point is, as I look at
	  and put the picture together, I see no strong marketing
	  in the FreeRunner.  Where's the MRD?  Where's the focus group?
	  Where's the business case?
	In case you don't speak the business jargon, "competitive
	means "how much does the competition sell for, how much will it
	us to make a similar product and how much profit can we make?".
	"Business cases" and the results of focus groups, say FIC
	that "you & your friends may think it's ugly, but we reckon we
	sell XX thousand units and make $yyyyyyy profit" aren't really
any of
	our business.
	In his second message (27 April 2008 18:16:11 BST) Lowell raises
	"goal" of the OpenMoko project, which is ostensibly "the best
	possible mobile phone software stack" that can be installed over
	wide range of phones. But underlying that is the fact that the
	of FIC, in sponsoring OpenMoko, is to sell more phones and (like
	business) make more profit.
	For any company this sort of information - the anticipated
number of
	units sold, market breakdown &c - is a trade secret, and I don't
	why OpenMoko should be any different. In many cases this sort of
	information may be available to someone with experience in the
	industry (or reasonably estimable by them), but it may not be
	sort of information that any company will publish casually.
	Whilst OpenMoko may be interested in public discussion of what
	consumers want (colours, features &c), whilst they may be
	in open discussion of ideas and whilst they're obviously
prepared to
	give fuller and more dynamic feedback to us, how much money
	making on each phone is none of our business. I'm sure that
	don't even tell their shareholders how much each iPod costs to
	When we buy FIC's OpenMoko products we're buying hardware that
	guaranteed open-source, so that we can fix it ourselves. We're
	FIC's sponsorship of the programmers contributing to the
	codebase and we're buying a promise of warranty & support in the
	future (we obviously hope that FIC will continue to sponsor
	firmware for our phones in the future, and we're pretty
	they're going to do so longer - and provider better feature
updates -
	than Sony Ericson). Just as, in polite company, one doesn't ask
	friends or acquaintances how much they earn, it is likewise none
	our business how much FIC makes out of each phone sake, and it
	to me that that's pretty much what the "secrecy" whiners on this
	thread are asking for (although they may not have actually
	Any company will provide "inside information" to the trade press
	perhaps if you're able to demonstrate such informed questions as
	Lowell has then FIC'll invite you, too, to their opening
	presentations. You'll maybe have to sign an NDA, but you'll
still be
	able to make oblique tips to your readers based on your improved
	vision of the mobile phone market place. What you have to do
first is
	demonstrate that you're not a whining fanboi, but that your
	insight can add value to the discussion of the product.
	I found Lowell's remarks interesting because he seems to be
	at Freerunner's place in the market from the old
	point of view. It seems likely to me that FIC don't need to sell
	many phones as Nokia in order to make a profit, at least not all
	once - the developing state of OpenMoko will ensure a longer
	production life-span for the Freerunner than the 6 months or so
	the typical mobile phone in the high street store. As the first
	generation of OpenMoko phone, the whole production span of
	may be a loss-leader to FIC - one might expect the buzz and
	generated over the course of two years to increase massively the
	demand for OpenMoko's 2010 (say) product.
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