Of Chasms and Chaords

2003-03-23

Today I've been reading up on high-tech marketing (Geoffrey Moore's book Crossing the Chasm) and organizational structure (the story of Dee Hock's vision for VISA). I haven't finished absorbing either yet, but I think there are important lessons here.

From Moore, I'm gaining a better sense of what it might take Jabber to move beyond the innovators, visionaries, and other early adopters to which it has so far catered, and to meet the needs of mainstream market segments, which are more conservative in their decision-making. For instance, the mainstream is more focused on following the leaders and prefers to make a safe decision; thus the importance of emphasizing things like Jabber's large installed base, imminent standardization, low cost of ownership, security, lack of vendor lock-in, and gateways to legacy IM systems. It might also be good to present Jabber in a familiar light (in this regard I've always liked the phrase "Jabber is the Linux of instant messaging" -- simplified, perhaps, but something people can grasp immediately).

From Hock, I'm learning more about what he calls "chaords" -- flexible combinations of ordering principles and chaotic evolution, of intense collaboration and intense competition, of cohesive agreement on central protocols and uncoordinated, competing objectives in more peripheral areas. It's a model that I think applies especially well to Jabber, where it's critically important that everyone in the community agree on the core protocol but where all community members are free to innovate and diverge on top of the protocol. I need to learn more about chaords, perhaps even to apply chaordic principles in how the Jabber Software Foundation is organized (though I doubt we'd make changes anytime soon).

A lot to chew on here....


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