A couple of weeks ago, when I was in Rochester visiting Kat’s family, Kat’s younger brother Michael asked me if you can tell the difference between good coffee and bad coffee. We were on a after dinner trip to Spot, a cafe housed in a very art-deco former Chevrolet dealership. “Is this good coffee?” he asked. “Yeah, it’s pretty good.”
This got me thinking, what is the difference between good coffee and bad coffee. Not necessarily the taste difference, but what is the gap that lies between Deluxe Town Diner coffee and road-stop gas station coffee. I can’t possibly count the cups of coffee I’ve had in my life, or how many different places and carafes this coffee has come from. However, I came to the conclusion, which I shared with Michael, that there’s great coffee and there’s horrible coffee and then there’s the big middle of decent java in between.
The big middle ranges from pretty awful to drinkable to tasty, but it can all be grouped together, because for the most part it is critically indistinguishable. Moreover, the big middle is BIG. Good coffee and undrinkable coffee are exceptions, a small percentage of all coffee, which the majority of is just mediocre.
Thinking more about this, I realized that the big middle applies to more than just coffee. I believe that the big middle applies to anything that requires some sort of skill to create. Food and drink, (e.g. Pizza, Bagels, Mixed Drinks, etc.) can easily be compared with the big middle. I would say that the Arts (fine art, writing, etc.) also have the big middle.
The big middle also means the slim slice of excellence. How many books have you read that were outstanding? How many books are published each year? This is not an insult to the writers out there, just an observation.
Of course, at the end of my train of thought, is my particular station. What about Web applications? or software? user interface? design? The big middle is definitely applicable here. Think about the small handful of applications from this generation of the web that have been bought or IPO’d. Not that monetary success is the sign of excellence, but it is certainly a sign of some sort of recognition or separation from the pack. So where does my work fit in with this? I recently “launched my first public live big time web app,” so I’m thinking about this a lot. How do you get your work into the slim slice of excellence? It’s up to the user to put you there.
So what is my mission? Work for the user. This does not mean be a slave to the user, spending every second fulfilling user requests. It means directing the user, satiating the user, and making the user happy.
Your user should say, “Damn, thats a great cup of web application”.
Coffee Photo Credit: