Archive for March, 2010

I’m going to admit something here. I often take the road more traveled, and I don’t like that about myself. I seek the path of least resistance; it feels like giving in, but I cannot fight it. I have a short attention span; and like any handicapped individual, I do the best I can to compensate with other strengths.

We are supposed to teach our kids to be hardworking and focused, but I am easily distracted and desirous of down time. I think about things a lot.

My career is in building things for people like me. I’m passionate about having computers make my life easier. As my friend, industrial designer Lisa Krohn once taught me, the computer is a prosthetic device — it makes me from a poor speller, slow writer, bad drawer, lazy designer, marginal film editor — into something quite different, and apparently capable. I want to help people like me. I don’t make games. I’m more of a toolmaker: tools to make work easier. I like easy.

Easy is hard to do. It takes work — it’s sculpture as much as data. When I edited movies I was apprenticed for a time to the great filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci and his film editor Gabriella Cristiani. They shot maybe forty hours of film to make The Sheltering Sky. After many months of work they elegantly demonstrated to me that editing a movie isn’t about throwing out the bad material. It’s about throwing out the good material to make the remaining material better. This is the essence of product design.

Netflix has millions of customers from which they can analyze data to improve their website. It’s consumer science. Even with numbers it’s still hard to do well, and few do it as well as they do. A start-up, my start-up, however, doesn’t have enough users yet to allow anyone to make statistically relevant decisions about product features. So over the next few months, my work is to systematically cut and shape the product into its essence, some kind of delightful simplicity and clear function. Today it is still 40 hours of film, a block of marble, chopped ingredients on the counter. Next comes the fun part.