Keep your eyes on the goal.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The tech world presented me with two life lessons related to meeting the expectations of customers today. I'd summarize these as "manage expectations" and "work smart".

Regarding the management of expectations, Farhad Manjoo notes the following in a comparison he made between Apple's Siri voice assistant and Google's voice search iOS app, upon learning that the latter had trounced the former head-to-head:

Google achieves this in a few ways. First, it lowers the bar for success. Google's voice feature is called Voice Search because, unlike Siri, it doesn't promise to become your robo-secretary. Google Voice Search will not make appointments for you. What it will do is answer questions about the world--when you need anything that you might otherwise find with Google's Web search, you can use Google Voice Search if you so choose. These limitations aren't exactly by design; on the iPhone, Apple's restrictions in third-party apps make it technically difficult for Google to do everything Siri does. But they work out in Google's favor: This app meets and sometimes exceeds your limited expectations.
That's not the whole story, of course, but it is easy to see how a customer would be happier with an app that met realistic expectations than with one that did the same thing (which Siri doesn't), but had promised much more.

Regarding working smart, John Cook makes a good case that the names "strict" and "lazy" for two broad types of functional programming languages are somewhat off-base:
Lazy languages are called lazy because they avoid doing work. Or rather they avoid doing unnecessary work. People who avoid doing unnecessary work are sometimes called lazy, too, though unfairly so. In both cases, the term "lazy" can be misleading


A person who approaches life like a strict programming language is not very smart, and even lazy in the sense of not exercising judgment. Conversely, someone who bypasses an unnecessary task to move on to necessary one, maybe one more difficult than the one skipped over, should hardly be called lazy. [bold added]
Managing expectations and performing the work necessary to meeting them both involve having a clear idea of one's purpose. Manjoo notes that Google's business is much closer to the heart of what a digital assistant would do than Apple's, and this shows in ways other than what each tells the market it has for sale. Likewise, "lazy" programs don't waste time There is no virtue in promising what one can't deliver and doing chores is not a virtue in itself.

-- CAV


Today: (1) Corrected use of former and latter in a sentence. (2) Corrected a formatting error.


Steve D said...

'learning that the former had trounced the latter head-to-head'

Did you mean the exact opposite?

Ben W. said...

Re Siri and Google's voice search, I think you meant to say the latter trounced the former?

Gideon said...

You write: a comparison he made between Apple's Siri voice assistant and Google's voice search iOS app, upon learning that the former had trounced the latter head-to-head....

But the quote you show suggests that it was Google (the latter) that trounced Apple (the former).

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks, everyone, for pointing that out.

And no, this was not expectation management on my part: I was rushed this morning because the daughter has been having trouble sleeping due to a cold she's getting over.