Ever since the launch of Edge of Net, we’re getting a lot of good comments and suggestions for improvements. Suggestions are coming in for both the appearance, as well as the content. Thank you all so far. Please keep the ideas rolling, hopefully we’ll create a great public good together.
In the spirit of the Edge, we had to prepare the first draft, round it in a coherent whole, and then offer it for people to contribute their thoughts and suggestions for improvements. This is how real collaboration is supposed to function – even though each individual contributes a suggestion or a few, the total sum of feedback is greater than the initial effort in terms of impact and usefulness. (Or however one might call and measure the value of contributions to some work).
It’s this incremental development that leads to quality and truly remarkable results. Yes, breakthroughs do help, yet rarely one gets it 100% right immediately. Usually we get things too complex at first. It is through the process of incremental changes that we reach deeper insight that in turn leads us to simplification and improvement. The idea that is now Edge of Network took seven years to form in the present shape; already today I had a great discussion with someone improving on it.
ICT4D world is plagued with attempts to do things from scratch and “project handover” mentality. Somehow, there’s this idea that one should start a project, give it direction and then “hand it over” and move on to the next thing. Apparently, the excitement lies in starting projects. Or projects get started because someone wants to try out the latest buzz in technology.*
It is very rare in ICT4D to meet someone who understands the value of incremental, of sticking to it and getting it simple and useful. Mostly I hear “Ah yes, we’re thinking of replacing X with something more web2.0 (or whatever buzzword du jour).” Somehow, sticking to it is considered lame and oh so yesterday.
In the world of international development ruled by annual budgets, it’s hard not to fall into this trap. Especially when success is as easy to reach as proclaiming: “We consider this project to be a success.” (An actual email I got the other day).
Guess that’s why don’t see too many lasting and useful software projects in ICT4D. Most of the time people are on the lookout how to get rid of something started by the previous guy, only to meet someone promising the new new thing. And the cycle repeats.
I’m sincerely hoping that the success principles of the Edge collaboration, as we continue to incrementally improve them, will help break the cycle for an increasing number of people.
* To be fair, in large organizations many projects do get started with the intent of sticking to them – as a job-saving ticket.