Four Pillars: Thinking about Generation M and their approach to software

[A health warning: This is a very provisional post. I haven’t thought through it too deeply, but there’s something about it that compels me to write it now.]

I’ve always been fascinated by collaborative filtering ever since I read the research papers on Firefly sometime in 1998. I got hooked on it by the time I saw what Amazon was able to do with it. Then, when I saw StumbleUpon, as behaviour and ratings merged more seamlessly with preferences and personalisation, I was transfixed. Now I learn from and even iusethis. [An aside: I was incredibly pleased to find that, with the exception of iusethis, an understandable exception, everything else I referred to had a Wikipedia entry….]

For Generation M, collaborative filtering is the norm. Which makes me think about how they will consume software.

The software they use is different from mine. How different? Why different? This is not an exact and scientific analysis, as I said this is a very provisional post.

  • They acquire the software primarily by registration, not disc or download.
  • There is almost never any client install.
  • They don’t care where it resides or runs.
  • They don’t care about its architecture or language or database or modules.
  • They don’t care if it’s called Alpha or Beta or Gamma.
  • But they do care about maintainability, about choice, when it comes to upgrades. They upgrade when they want to, not when they’re told to.
  • They do care about the devices they can use to consume it. Any and all devices. Wired and wireless. Desktop, handheld, palmtop, wearable, not even necessarily something I would recognise as a device.
  • They do care about what it works with. The ecosystem. The liquidity pool of plugins and addons and extensions.
  • They do care about the subscription price. Any colour you like as long as it’s low or zero.
  • They do care about its lose-ability. How easy is it to unplug, decommission? How easy is it to replace, to recreate?
  • They do care about its usability and convenience and look and feel. And signon and portability.
  • They do care about its personalisation-ability. Your skin or mine? Ours?

And they care about something else.

Taste. A hard-to-describe je-ne-sais-quoi set of attributes.

And that makes me think. How do we prepare for them?

Are we going to need to prepare for something else now? Going beyond the Spikesource-like approaches to opensource stacks and hybrid stacks and certification, are we entering a new zone?

One where we really see collaborative filtering applied to Web 2.0 (I know, I know, exceptions prove the rule) software, where the acquisition of stack interoperability information, of “ecosystem” information, comes from a collaboratively-filtered community? People who used this also use. Here are your recommendations based on your preferences and your behaviour. Here are some serendipitous offerings based on what we know about you, what you’ve been prepared to share with us.

One where we even see collaborative filtering lead us to dogs that didn’t bark. We don’t understand how you’re not using any of these bits, how come? What are you doing with the things you have, that lets you avoid these bits? What particular unplanned and unpredictable purpose are you managing to extract from the bits you do have?

Generation M is going to take simplicity and convenience, interoperability and portability, platform and device independence, mobility and ubiquity for granted.

They will move on.

To taste. And from taste to values. Recommendations and intention-signals are nascent arbiters of taste. The gaming and cyberspace communities have already figured this out.

Malcolm remarked in a recent conversation that Steve Jobs jealously guards the Mac OSX boot sequence, he knows it needs to be quick and dialtone. Taste.

If the registration information required is too cumbersome, they will move on. Taste.

If the licence is not short and simple and supportive of opensource, they will move on. Taste.

They will learn about software the way we see them learn about music they like; the way they learn about books and films and devices and blogs-to-read and people to meet and places to go and and and.

They will learn about software from their friends and network and peers and trusted advisors, through collaborative filtering  and preferences and profiling and recommendations and ratings.

They will apply their taste to all that, in terms of look and feel and values and simplicity and convenience and opensourceness.

Exciting times.

3 thoughts on “Four Pillars: Thinking about Generation M and their approach to software”

  1. Geeks of the 50s through 70s built radios. The next generation of geeks only listened to the radio. Delivery and access mechanism tweeking was worth spending the time. Then Radios became cheap/or inner mechanism lost its charm: Content dominated.

    In recent times same is happenning in multimedia with iPod and friends.

    You are predicting an end of geekdom as we know it in the enterprise software scene. Computer geek is dead; Long live the geek!

    BTW what will the Gen M geeks be doing? Solving Poverty, Environmental Issues, etc?

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