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

Lowell Higley higleylh at
Tue Apr 29 22:12:17 CEST 2008

Hi Matt..

I think I get a sense of where you are coming from.  As an engineer, one
thinks "oh no, here comes these marketing people with their unrealistic
requirements again."  Been there.  Even been on the giving end. :(  On the
flip side, as a marketer one sometimes thinks, "Man, will these guys ever
get a clue, no one wants that feature set."  In a *perfect* world, engineers
and marketers would be equal partners.. I don't think I've actually seen
this work perfectly yet but I know the relationship I built with the
engineering at Unisys was hard earned and it was built on trust (both ways.)
It was a pretty good relationship and took me a few years to build. You have
to treat the other side as part of the team, not the enemy as we have
instincts to do.  I've done it, I know.

Here's how I see the roles working in an open environment...

The marketing team creates a list of features that the product needs to
have.  There is a lot that goes into this I want to keep it simple for now.
They sit down with the engineering team and create a list of agreed upon
features (even suggested features engineering brings to the table) that go
into the next product, prioritized of course.  That list of features is
created based on priority and feasibility of hitting the target completion
date (agreed upon by everyone.. sort of.)  Engineering then makes the magic
happen... when a feature or requirement turns out it can't be met (through
bug or other technical issue) both teams work out either a revised feature
list or target date.  Depends on how important that feature is.  I've been
in situations where I was told 5 days before the target date "oh by the way,
we dumped that must have feature x."

While the engineering team is building the marketing team is working out the
future of the next product and creating the collateral and campaign for the
product in development.  All publicly of course, with the aid of anyone
(including the techie folks) that wants to help.  I have a lot of ideas.  I
was thinking the bug database would be a good place to keep feature
suggestions/submissions... but I couldn't find a bug database in the wiki.
I must be blind.  From that point, it's a big cycle.  Once you get it
going... it's easy to keep on it.  The hard part is building the
collaborative tools/process to do all this in.

I think as an after thought, maybe we don't want to split into teams, just
create a logical process...  Not sure how that would work, though.  People
have definite skills in one are or the other.  Anyways, that's my hair
brained idea... I guess I should talk this out with Steve before I go too
much further down this road.  Thanks for the feedback.  I think I understand
your perspective now.


PS - regarding Open Marketing, I'm a fan.  I've been attempting to load the
framework on my Motorola E680i but not had too much success.  Damn QVGA.
The people in my LUG know I am very interested in this project so I get
questions once a week via IRC on Openmoko.  Far from an expert but they seem
to like my answer.  I know if I had one to show off at a meeting, it would
be a hit.

On Tue, Apr 29, 2008 at 10:22 AM, Crane, Matthew <mcrane03 at>

>  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.
> Matt
>  ------------------------------
> *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. :)  Cheers!
> Lowell
> 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 Stroller
> > Sent: Monday, April 28, 2008 2:01 PM
> > To: List for Openmoko community discussion
> > Subject: Re: Engineering Driven vs. Community Driven (was Re: Ugliness)
> >
> >
> >  On 28 Apr 2008, at 17:54, hank williams wrote:
> >
> > > I have to say my unvoiced thoughts were the same as Ryan's. I was
> > > 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 Ryan's
> > > comments seem on the surface, inappropriate as well.
> >
> >
> > If you read further back in this thread you'll see that the subject
> > 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 complaining
> > "the Freerunner will never sell in the mass-market because me & my
> > friends think it's ugly", and my counterpoint was, "heck, I'm sure
> > 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 wanted
> > to reply to them, but I could have spent hours doing so. Not to argue
> > 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 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?
> >
> > In case you don't speak the business jargon, "competitive analysis"
> > means "how much does the competition sell for, how much will it cost
> > us to make a similar product and how much profit can we make?".
> >
> > "Business cases" and the results of focus groups, say FIC stating
> > that "you & your friends may think it's ugly, but we reckon we can
> > 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 the
> > "goal" of the OpenMoko project, which is ostensibly "the best
> > possible mobile phone software stack" that can be installed over a
> > wide range of phones. But underlying that is the fact that the goal
> > of FIC, in sponsoring OpenMoko, is to sell more phones and (like any
> > 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 see
> > 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 the
> > sort of information that any company will publish casually.
> >
> > Whilst OpenMoko may be interested in public discussion of what we
> > consumers want (colours, features &c), whilst they may be interested
> > in open discussion of ideas and whilst they're obviously prepared to
> > give fuller and more dynamic feedback to us, how much money they're
> > making on each phone is none of our business. I'm sure that Apple
> > don't even tell their shareholders how much each iPod costs to build.
> >
> > When we buy FIC's OpenMoko products we're buying hardware that is
> > guaranteed open-source, so that we can fix it ourselves. We're buying
> > FIC's sponsorship of the programmers contributing to the OpenMoko
> > codebase and we're buying a promise of warranty & support in the
> > future (we obviously hope that FIC will continue to sponsor updated
> > firmware for our phones in the future, and we're pretty confident
> > they're going to do so longer - and provider better feature updates -
> > than Sony Ericson). Just as, in polite company, one doesn't ask one's
> > friends or acquaintances how much they earn, it is likewise none of
> > our business how much FIC makes out of each phone sake, and it seems
> > to me that that's pretty much what the "secrecy" whiners on this
> > thread are asking for (although they may not have actually realised
> > that),
> >
> > 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 unique
> > insight can add value to the discussion of the product.
> >
> > I found Lowell's remarks interesting because he seems to be looking
> > at Freerunner's place in the market from the old closed-development
> > point of view. It seems likely to me that FIC don't need to sell as
> > many phones as Nokia in order to make a profit, at least not all at
> > once - the developing state of OpenMoko will ensure a longer
> > production life-span for the Freerunner than the 6 months or so of
> > the typical mobile phone in the high street store. As the first
> > generation of OpenMoko phone, the whole production span of Freerunner
> > may be a loss-leader to FIC - one might expect the buzz and blogging
> > generated over the course of two years to increase massively the
> > demand for OpenMoko's 2010 (say) product.
> >
> > Stroller.
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
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> >
> >
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> >
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