Suboptimal Voluntary Software

May 12, 2008

For most of us software can be broken down into two rough categories; software we have to use and software we choose to use.

I’ll leave software we choose to use for another time. But when you look at the software you have to use it becomes apparent that there is a whole spectrum of quality and, possibly, room for some innovation.
There are lots of reasons we have to use certain software. Often it’s part of our job and the software, at best, does something boring but does it well. But more likely it does something boring very very badly. This kind of software could be home-grown or built by the CEO’s golf partner’s hair-dresser’s software consultancy. If this type of software is a large part of you work day; despair!
Achievement eh?
Other times we’re tied into something like iTunes or Hotmail. There may be better alternatives out there buy the hassle/danger of changing is too great so we just stick with something that ‘does the job’. This type of software benefits from an incumbent bias which can give it clout long after it has gone stale.
But the most interesting category (if you’re looking to build a start-up anyway!) is the type of software that falls short but does not deliver. Lets call it Suboptimal Voluntary Software (SVS). The First S could stand for something else too. There are obvious examples of SVS like flight booking sites, food ordering sites, your bank’s online banking site (which doesn’t have RSS) etc.
There are companies moving into the example areas but the category of SVS is vast. Often innovation in this area is tarred with the “build a better mouse-trap” brush. But there is a lot more to it than that; often replacing the existing mouse-trap is not possible, not enough people are ready for change or the technology is too fiddly. An elegant example of a clever innovator in this space is TripIt. Check ’em out!

…anyhoo, if you’re a programmer and want to be an entrepenuer, try and improve the SVS you have to use.