The Mine! Project

open source project for online data and relationships logistics

A small lesson on user adoption

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Whenever people ask me: And how are you going to drive adoption of Mine!? My answer is: by not driving it… but by tapping into the kind of things people already do and are used to doing more and more. So a conclusion from a McKinsey article by Scott Griffith, CEO of Zipcar, describing how web and communications technologies gave rise to his company’s innovative business model, resonated with me:

Despite the advances that Zipcar has been able to make by leveraging technology, none of this would be relevant without the preexisting level of comfort with and use of technology by consumers and businesses. People are ready to try a self-serve car because they have become comfortable with self-service banking and self-serve checkouts. I doubt people would be comfortable reserving and paying for the use of a car on the Web if they hadn’t already done similar e-commerce transactions, like having DVDs delivered by Netflix or buying an airline ticket online that allows them to check in at a self-service kiosk. And when it comes to FastFleet, I doubt whether businesses and governments would consider outsourcing fleet-management systems if they hadn’t already outsourced e-mail, Web hosting, and other mission-critical applications.

So we are designing for the few who needs Mine!, not the ‘most people’, ‘my granny’, ‘the great unwashed’, ‘demographic of your choice’. That starts with me – I want it, I need it, I can’t wait to use it. Preferrably by yesterday! Along the way, a few other people have seen the point and want the same. If all of them start using Mine! for their purposes and it works for them, it’s a success, because their use will improve it for the next level of users who don’t need to understand or subscribe to the whole vision and philosophical underpinnings of the Mine! project. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I prefer to think of adoption as something that happens from an epicenter in a style of a heatwave or, more gently, a stone dropped into water. In networks, this works much better than driven adoption that often misses its target.

Heatwave

Heatwave

Stone in water

Timeless mind

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By ‘augmenting human intellect’ we mean increasing the capability of a man to approach a complex problem situation, to gain comprehension to suit his particular needs, and to derive solutions to problems. Increased capability in this respect is taken to mean a mixture of the following: more-rapid comprehension, better comprehension, the possibility of gaining a useful degree of comprehension in a situation that previously was too complex, speedier solutions, better solutions, and the possibility of finding solutions to problems that before seemed insoluble. And by ‘complex situations’ we include the professional problems of diplomats, executives, social scientists, life scientists, physical scientists, attorneys, designers – whether the problem exists for twenty minutes or twenty years. We do not speak of isolated clever tricks that help in particular situations. We refer to a way of life in an integrated domain where hunches, cut-and-try, intangibles, and the human ‘feel for a situation’ usefully co-exist with powerful concepts, streamlined terminology and notation, sophisticated methods, and high-powered electronic aids.

Opening paragraph of Doug Engelbart’s paper: Augmenting Human Intellect: A conceptual framework

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