I received an email a few days ago from the founder and CEO of a new analytics software company that led to an interesting revelation. In his email, this fellow thanked me for sharing my insights regarding data visualization and shared that he has acquired several of my books, which are “nearing the top” of his queue. He went on to provide a link to his website where I could see his attempts to incorporate visual analytics into his product. After taking a quick look at his website and noting its poor data visualization practices, I wrote him back and suggested that he make time to read my books soon. It was in his subsequent response that he revealed what I found most interesting. In response to my concern about the poor data visualization practices that I observed on his website he wrote, “The site content has been delivered with a minimally viable product mindset.” My jaw hit the floor.
This fellow apparently misunderstands the concept of a minimal viable product (MVP). According to Wikipedia, “a minimal viable product is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, and to provide feedback for future product development.” When you initially introduce a new product, it doesn’t make sense to address every possible feature. Instead, it usually makes sense to provide enough features to make the product useful and put it on a trajectory, through feedback from customers, to become in time a product that is fully viable.
This misunderstanding reminds me of the way that product companies have sometimes misapplied the Pareto Principle (a.k.a., the 80/20 rule). Years ago when I worked for a business intelligence software company, it was common practice for managers in that company to encourage designers and developers to create products that only satisfied 80% of the customers’ needs, which they justified as the 80/20 rule. This has nothing to do with the Vilfredo Pareto’s observation that 80% of the property in Italy was owned by 20% of the people in Italy, a ratio that he went on to observe in the relative distribution of several other things as well. Pareto never promoted this ratio as a goal. It’s amazing how concepts and principles can be perverted in silly and harmful ways.
The concern that I expressed to this fellow about his fledgling product was not a lack in the number of features but a lack in the quality of the features that he included. Shooting for minimally viable quality is not a rational, ethical, or productive goal.
My exchange with this fellow continued. I pointed out that “the analytics space is filled with minimally viable products.” This was not a compliment. To this, however, he enthusiastically responded:
Certainly, agreed – which is one reason we believe we can be successful. I’m using MVP in the context of product development; the quicker we deliver functional capabilities the more quickly we receive feedback and iterate through enhancements. In terms of mature client solutions we stand for, and strive to deliver, an exceptional standard of quality – rare in the analytics space.
The notion that quick iterations can make up for sloppy and inexpert development is nonsense, but this philosophy has nevertheless become enshrined in many software companies. Is it any wonder that most analytics products function so poorly?
There is absolutely no justification for producing an analytics application that at any stage during the development process chooses inappropriate data visualizations and designs them poorly. Best practices can be incorporated into each stage of development process without undue or wasted effort. Not only are ineffective data visualization practices at any stage in the process inexcusable, they do harm, for they expose and thereby promote those bad practices.
This fellow used the “minimally viable product mindset” as a justification for the fact that his team doesn’t understand data visualization. This is all too familiar. To complete the story, here is my final response to this fellow’s mindset:
You are not exhibiting the “exceptional standard of quality” that you claim as your goal. Every single player in the analytics space claims to strive for “exceptional quality,” but none exhibit a genuine commitment to this goal. To seriously strive for this goal, you must develop the required expertise before beginning to develop solutions. Slow down and take time to get it right. The world doesn’t need any more “minimally viable” products.
What are the chances that he will accept and follow my advice? My experience suggests that odds aren’t good, but I’d be happy for this fellow to become an outlier. We don’t need more bad analytics products. A few that are well designed are all that we need.
You just completed a tiring day at work. This was the first time you had been exposed to a task which made you stand and roam around, sorting out brochures for the new employees. You make the walk to the nearest bus station. In dismay, you see the bus leaving the station. However, you felt slightly relieved as that bus was extremely crowded, making it uncomfortable to stand, leave alone find a place to sit. For you, time doesn’t matter much. You need sufficient place to stand. You don’t want to get squeezed by people. Comfort is a bigger priority than time.
You walk to the next station and embark on a bus that is less crowded than the previous one. The bus you embarked on had the word “Ecole”, meaning school in French. Obviously, most of the bus is filled with school students, with the majority of them in high school. There are some boys with their girlfriends, and there are some group of friends. You stand near the exit, awaiting your station. The bus reaches the station that leads you to the metro’s orange line.
At the metro station, you stroll towards the train. You see one train waiting to pick up passengers. Many people are running like hungry dogs to entrain before this train leaves the station. You don’t understand why they are in such a hurry, like as if they are going to die if they lose three minutes of their time waiting for the next train. You wait for the next train. Along with you is a high school couple talking and laughing. Holding hands and hugging, they seem to be having fun and are content. Also, you see a couple of friends laughing about and having fun. They seemed to be around thirteen years old.
This is a common sight for you no matter which place you live in. These sights always remind you of empty school memories of the last 7 years. If someone asked you to explain about your school memories, what would you tell him? Well, apart from the academic achievements that you received, most of which are of no value now, you won’t be able to tell a unique story. Your farewell depressed you. It made you cry, and no one was there to comfort you. You had to hold back the tears to avoid anyone noticing. You never went to any field trip, apart from one which was an educational trip to a dairy factory on the outskirts of Dubai.
You had a couple of class parties that didn’t deserve to be categorized as parties due to your classmates’ lack of interest. You never went to the waterpark trips that they hosted. Your parents never allowed you, despite a large chunk of your classmates being allowed to. Their reason would be that you would end up terribly sick, and your exams could get affected. As much as you like studies, you know that it also had a negative effect on your overall personality and the amount of fun you had. You have no pictures on your album or on your phone to show off, unlike most of the other people you know.
Most of your classmates between 8th and 10th grade didn’t understand you properly. They would mock your gas problem and would only use you if they need help in completing notes or in solving mathematical problems. You have elaborated this earlier. You would say nothing if they bullied or have someone touch your private part (There was one guy who used to do it to some guys in school). You would fight back if someone did that to you right now, but why didn’t you back then? How could you let go of all this by just doing nothing and not feeling anything?
Seeing other people’s pictures when they occasionally post on Instagram or Facebook depresses you. It makes you regret the type of person you were. As far as friends go, you can only remind yourself of three close friends you have had back in school. A few other friends either became acquaintances or became “somebodies that you used to know”. You were never into any sports or extracurricular activities, as you mentioned earlier. You tried basketball and squash coaching, but you left soon after. This is something you regret a lot. What if you ended up being a professional squash player? Nothing was impossible.
Those 5 years (between 6th grade and 10th grade) were empty. You might have gone to several vacations with your parents. But what have you done to improve your overall self? All you did was studying (which of course you had to do) and play continuously on your PSP. Occasionally, you would go down to play football (and rarely, cricket) with friends, where despite being the eldest, you would be treated like junk and be ordered to do what they tell you, without you having a say.
This makes you feel numb, empty and confused. Like a black hole, it sucks the excitement and interest in life away. It spaghettifies you through the void of confusion, not knowing what to do. You can’t focus on what you are doing. Your mind might be inclined towards the goals you want to achieve soon, but these thoughts act like obstacles, blocking your path. You try to get rid of them, but like a boomerang, it springs back to your mind.
You act weird when you are all alone. You walk at different speeds in your room. You talk to yourself loudly for an hour or two, like telling the walls how you feel. Your WhatsApp is dead most of the time. People don’t chat with you very often, and that kills you from the inside. Your parents used to call you materialistic since you continuously used your phone, but in all honesty, you aren’t. You wanted people, and since there was hardly anyone to roam around often, you would resort to playing games or listening to music on your phone most of the time. More awkwardly, you feel hyped up between 1 o’clock and 9 o’clock during the day, but otherwise, your mood is low and depressed.
You hardly listen to the latest music. You delve into the old music of The Weeknd and scroll through old pictures and screenshots of your friends and you, reminiscing the good old days of 2014 and 2015. Those days you had the maximum number of good friends, and all of them were close and showed importance to you. You miss how your close friends were back then. The feeling of whether someone is considering you important came when one of your best friends indirectly told you that you weren’t important to her anymore.
You know you won’t get that period anymore. People change over time, and it’s impossible for you to get over that change. You want your close friends to remain the same. Their change negatively affects you. You feel they are slowly drifting away from you. It is true, indeed. You can’t expect people to remain the same, and you know that feeling hurts. You love them when they are close to you. One guy who was your best friend at the start of 2015 is not that close as he was back then. Everyday chats became sporadic chats. You miss him a lot, but it’s hard for you to get him to chat with you every day as he doesn’t reply to your messages at times. You know that he might be busy with studies, but your thoughts run somewhere else. You may feel that he isn’t giving much importance to you, which may not be true. He is not that type of person who will let go of you. Same goes for a few other friends whom you used to talk to every day back in 2015. You may not sure that madness when someone ignores your messages, since you don’t want to get mad at someone who means a lot to you. All you want is that closeness, nothing more. Also, you don’t want to cross the line and say something that could leave permanent scars on your friendships. You might feel that even a small argument could end a precious friendship.
While sleeping, you look at random objects or cuddle your pillow. That incites sadness, making you cry. You don’t know what you are crying for at times, but it feels so good after the cry. You might be plagued by past mistakes and how good everything used to be back in the day, but it is at this point you feel nothing. That nothingness helps you get to sleep, and you wake up fresh the next morning.
The void makes you lose satisfaction in life. That doesn’t mean you no longer want to live anymore. Why would your past mistakes drive you to suicide? However, you feel slightly useless and felt that you could have been a much better person who has memories to tell. Sometimes, you have thoughts that something tragic might happen to you in the far future. You lose all that optimism you once had. Pessimism creeps in, and it slowly controls you.
One or two times you have imagined a situation where you attempted to end it all, and assuming how your close friends and family would react. You imagine yourself talking to someone in person, pouring out everything and breaking down. That person hugs you. That hug could permanently heal all your wounds. However, it is extremely difficult for you to tell all this in person. You stammer and most of the thoughts you have right now would be absent from your mind at that moment.
You hate being lonely, despite being an introvert. You look everywhere as if you are frantically searching for something. Your gym plan has failed, and you have become fat. You want to lose weight, but you have lost all that strength and stamina you once had. You need to regain it back, and that will take months.
You might get angry when your mom cries while your parents return to Dubai. You don’t want to see her cry. Firstly, you would want her to feel happy that her baby boy is all grown up and living on his own. Secondly, you are drowned in your own thoughts and the relapses of feeling lonely, which have already made you sad and depressed.
You didn’t shed a tear when your grandmother passed away three years back. It wasn’t that you were completely emotionless. For her, you were the world to her. She loved you as much as she loved God. That springs up another thought. Back in March 2013, you would get scared sleeping alone as your grandmother would repeatedly call out your mom for help. She had dementia. That traumatized you, and you couldn’t sleep alone till the onset of 2015. You weren’t a chicken. If you had told that you were sleeping in your parents’ room until the age of 15 without telling them the reason, you would be bullied to an extreme level. It’s weird that all this starts to come across your mind a few years after it actually happened.
It’s only now that you realize how important your loved ones are to you. You might have become slightly over sensitive and emotional, but that’s better than not showing any emotion and being completely heartless.
You might be blurting out similar thoughts in every post. You do that to tell everything about what’s going on. It is a sort of relief. If you had kept them stuck in your head, God knows what would have happened to you. All you wish for is to turn back time to undo the wrongs and make a few memories, so you don’t have to worry about regrets. You could initiate hangouts with your close friends, showing them that they are still important to you and that they could return the favor.
(These are all a mix of thoughts in this post. Sorry for that. These were needed to be told.)
Sugar has taken over every meal of the day; juice and blueberry muffins for breakfast, jelly and peanut butter sandwich accompanied by Oreos and fruit punch for lunch, cupcakes at the school party, and finished off with ice cream for dinner. Globally, everyone is consuming too much sugar each day, and your kids are no […]