Doing The Light Handango

I’m getting rather brassed off with hearing the word “Handango“. Not, you understand, because I have a problem with them or their business, though they are in fact rather difficult to do business with. Nor because of any aesthetic judgements and opinions I may have about their site. Not even because of their distinctly American Corporate brand of English… no, my problem is with the word as an answer to a question.

The question to which I refer is: “suppose we develop product X, how would we sell it?” In the world of mobile applications it’s a pretty important consideration when evaluating any idea; arguably more important than “what could we build” or “hey, look at what I coded up last night”. If you can’t sell it, you can’t make money from it, and you’re out of business[0]. Unfortunately, “Handango” is not an answer to the question.

At the time of writing, Handango are proudly advertising 75,000 downloads. Let’s think about that a second; seventy five thousand different things that you might want for your device. They don’t break it down by platform unfortunately (and don’t get me started on the way they use “Symbian” as a platform – as if the average end user knew what that meant or whether they even have a Symbian phone). But let’s say that there are 10,000 applications in the Symbian section. A new application offered for sale there is, therefore, competing for attention with all those thousands of other products. There’s no way to get attention; it’s the same problem as was faced in the early days of the web – unless you promote your site, nobody knows that you’re there.

So putting your product on Handango is really just the very first step in a process of getting it to market. Where will it be advertised? Who will pay for the advertising? Who will write the copy for the adverts (and for the pages on Handango, come to that)? Too often the assumption seems to be that one puts the product on Handango and then starts leafing through the Rolls-Royce brochures whilst waiting for the cheques. In the immortal words of Helen Parr[1], “I don’t think so!”.

[0] Of course, if you’re talking open source, freeware or just-put-it-up-for-vanity-ware, this doesn’t (necessarily) apply. But you still want people to find it, right?
[1] Elastigirl, of course.

The Applicance Of Science

A couple of contacts have become involved with, a “broadband TV channel dedicated to science”. Maybe it’s just me, but everytime I type the word science I hear Magnus Pyke, as sampled in Thomas Dolby’s timeless[0] classic “She Blinded Me With Science”.

Anyway, hand-waving wild-haired boffins apart, they’re soliciting Ideas for Science Programmes. A bit of a wide brief, really. I tend to find myself thinking about this like I do technology product development; don’t start from what can we make? but start from who would we make it for?, or even better, who can we sell it to?. Find the market need first, guys. And there is a market need; as I’ve noted before, the public perception of science and scientists is pretty skewed by people like Dan Brown (on whom may everlasting opprobrium and contempt fall) or even Michael “We’re In The Hands Of Engineers” Crichton. Where are the Bronowskis of today? David Attenborough is hanging up his optimistically white suits after his next series. There’s a need, oh yes.

[0] Timeless in the sense that the 80s classics are all, um, timeless. Which is to say, dated.