Loren Brichter says “no”

Loren-brichter There are many apps for Twitter (Seesmic, etc.), but Tweetie is a thing of beauty.  As Brian Chen says,

Tweetie's interface is so clean you would think it came straight out of Apple headquarters.

The Windows world is clamoring for a PC Windows version of Tweetie, but it doesn't look its going to get one.  When Chen ask Loren Brichter about it, he said.

I’m a Mac and iPhone kind of guy, so probably not.  My philosophy has always been to build things that I would use myself.  If I start using Windows,or Linux or Android or the Pre for that matter, on a day-to-day basis, then yes, I’ll absolutely want to bring Tweetie over to those platforms.  Chances look slim though.

I wonder if this is culturally telling.  In another time, a guy like Brichter might be expected to pursue the Windows market.  That was name of the game.  Maximize your audience.  Grow the business.  Scale up.  Cash out. 

It wasn't just the name of the game.  It's the very logic, the deep presumption, of capitalism.  You were in it to win it.  The point of the exercise was to seize and then exploit opportunity.

But Loren sings a different song.  It sounds like he's happy to work to the limit of the world he cares about…and no farther.  He builds things he will use himself…and not otherwise.  It would take an extended interview to capture his motives in full.  (And it may just be that he does want to have to program for the Windows world.  And who could blame him for that?)  But it may be that he doesn't care about growth.  He is not looking for economic triumph.  He is looking for sufficiency. 

Will we see more of this?  I think we might.  We have a generation or two in place who are not much interested in the individualism that is red of tooth and claw.  They are happy to do well, but not less interested in "succeeding wildly."  They are looking perhaps for that sweet spot between too little and too much, between the privations that forces you to live at the bottom of Maslow's hierarchy and the surfeit of wealth that forces you to worry about how big the yacht should be. 

Well, we have had people who entertained this view for many years (and many generations).  I am wondering whether this group is growing.  Is this position less minor and more major?  Does it now have a shot it someday become the majority opinion?  This is where anthropology is obliged to hand things over to sociology.

As people seek intrinsic rewards over extrinsic rewards, this trend must grow.  After all, programming for Windows will take almost all the pleasure out of Brichter's work.  He will make much more money, but the cost will be high.  And that is surely one of the shifts going on here.  People like Brichter are measuring career objectives in a more complicated way, not just by wealth, but by satisfaction, bliss, colorful parachutes and other metrics. 

But there may also be a new idea of scale here.  "Good enough" and "just enough" are ideas we see breaking out all over.  Perhaps they are career and business objectives as well.  There is something happening here.  Or not.  What do you think?

References

Chen, Brian X.  2009.  Hands-on: Tweetie for Mac Shakes up Twitterverse.  Wired.  April 20, 2009.  here.

Acknowledgments

Thanks to Craig Swanson for telling me about Tweetie.

6 thoughts on “Loren Brichter says “no””

  1. You’ll see the same ethos in a lot of smaller clothing brands. There are countless lines started by people who began designing clothes for themselves because they couldn’t find what they wanted in stores. Or so they say.

  2. I think you’re on to something here, Grant. I wonder if there’s a corollary on the consumer side– maybe we’ll shift from Conspicuous Consumption to Comfortable Consumption.

  3. I agree that this attitude is growing. The traditional work ethic of business is ceding some ground to a consumerist, hedonistic imperative of maximizing enjoyment. The split between business and pleasure no longer exists for Brichter; business is pleasure.

    Something is happening, for sure. The book “The New Spirit of Capitalism” by Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello argues that what they call the social critique of capitalism has been disarmed by allowing the artistic critique (authenticity, fulfillment, pleasure) to flourish.

    For that reason, I’m more skeptical, I think these changes only make it harder to address the real problems.

  4. First, the consumer side:

    I remember a piece by John Quelch in the Economist in 2001 called “Too much stuff”; although I couldn’t find a link to it, I do have a PDF, and I’ll use that to summarize: Quelch termed a group of people as “Shedders”, people that 1) perceive they have more stuff than they need, 2) want to collect experiences, not possessions, 3) embarrassed by their collection of stuff and its signals, and 4) have wealth that is so assured that is no longer requires conspicuous display

    In 2001 Quelch noted that this emerging segment of Shedders presented a challenge to marketers; a bubble and bust later, and we find ourselves in 2009, presented by the same issue, the “the middle-aged Simplifier”, the same characteristics, hit by different specifics but dealing with it in the same way: http://blogs.harvardbusiness.org/quelch/2008/10/how_recession_will_accelerate.html (in which he notes that this post was based in part on the “Too much stuff” article).

    He was right in 2001, and he was right in 2008; but what did we see in-between, and what will we see afterward?

    Granted, this is only one segment of society, but segments contain important lessons.

    I’ve seen the idea of a “post-consumer era” crop up lately, and I believe it’s nothing more than a fad; while behaviour has changed over the last year or two, I find it hard to believe that fundamental human nature has changed.

    Secondly, the business / career side:

    Loren (and many more like him) realize that the greatest opportunity *right now* lies outside of the traditional corporate structures and scale. But there is no reason for that to continue forever. If you’re interested in what I believe is the best thinking about this issue right now, check out John Hagel: http://blogs.harvardbusiness.org/bigshift/2009/08/why-we-need-big-organizations.html

    I don’t believe a new majority of “a new idea of scale” is emerging (in consumption, in career objectives, in corporate organization); there is no need for this trend to continue unabated. Cycles, reactions, over-reactions, these are how our systems organize and re-organize.

    I do believe, however, that we are seeing the emergence of a very vocal minority, a minority that has always existed but never been heard to the same degree. The real question is if (and potentially, how) this vocal minority can reshape the outlook and decisions of the majority and rework society’s incentive and reward system along the way.

  5. Without trying to prognosticate too much, the idea of new scale norms may have some historical basis from the turn of the the 20th century. In my estimation, the rise of consumption on the consumer side and concentration on the career side may be both attributed to the same thing: advertising. I think it can be convincingly argued that one thing the Progressive Era did for us to was to create market demand for things we didn’t know we needed. Accordingly, it created career opportunities supplying these things in large factories, focused mainly on efficiency. The demand side of this equation took the form of new media in advertising and the supply side took the form of mass industrialization. The post-consumer era we’re seeing has those identical concepts. Advertising is struggling, at least in its current form, as we’ve transgressed beyond major information asymmetries – at least relative to 100 yrs ago. Mass industrialization is under attack for the reasons you mention along with the effects of globalization.

    I don’t think the question is if this change is permanent; only time will tell. However in the near-term, how can we influence it and capitalize on it. It may be the answer is advertising, again.

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