is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Vice President of User Experience at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. You can reach him through one of the services below.+
Aza Raskin is one of the smartest people I know, but sadly I have not kept up with his endeavors since before he and some of his colleagues at Humanized joined Mozilla Labs last year. In recent days, he’s popped up on my radar again because his latest product, Ubiquity, has garnered a lot of buzz on the Internets.
While I have great faith in Aza and his team’s talent, and while I’m pretty sure that the product itself is almost certainly worthwhile, I have to be honest: I have no idea what it does. As of this writing, I lack a clear understanding of its function or purpose. This is largely because, though I’ve come across references to it many times, the marketing hasn’t worked for me.
Blow by Blow
By way of illustration, here is a quick recounting of those initial first few minutes of my exposure to Ubiquity.
First, I came across this simple mention of the product in Tina Roth Eisenberg’s Swiss Miss blog. This is actually a great example of how little help a software publisher can expect from a blogger in telling a product’s story, as Tina provides a very pure vessel for communication, typically refraining from commentary on most all of the links she provides. In this case she links to an introductory video for Ubiquity — my first real exposure to the product — and allows it to explain itself.
Or to fend for itself, as the case may be. Notice that the player indicates that the video is six minutes and forty-three seconds long. That’s about five minutes and forty-three seconds longer than I have the time for during the workday. Still, the post had Aza’s name on it, so I watched the first half-minute or so, which unfortunately were spent establishing the rationale for the product, and not explaning what the product does.
Feeling impatient, I clicked through to the Vimeo page, shown below, in hopes that it might provide more information about the product.
While it certainly features more text than the Swiss Miss post, most of the copy above the fold again focuses on establishing the rationale for Ubiquity at the expense of telling me exactly what the product does.
Even clicking on the apparently high-value link that appears on that page and going over to the Mozilla Labs project page yields more of the same.
Here again, there is more sizzle than steak. I’ve already actively clicked through twice in search of a succinct explanation of the product, with little result. And, frankly, at this point my attentions were drawn elsewhere, and I never dug any deeper.
Granted, the amount of time I’ve spent absorbing information about Ubiquity, distributed across a few Web browsing, Twitter and RSS sessions, probably totals less than five minutes. That’s not a lot of time in which to make a pitch… except that it’s all that many products get. I happened to know Aza and so I was predisposed to an interest in his work. But in any other instance in which I would have no personal connection with the people behind a product I doubt I would’ve gotten even as far as I did.
However, here’s the saving grace of missed marketing opportunities: I spotted this Twitter post yesterday afternoon:
That started to rekindle my interest in Ubiquity, and I expect I’ll do a little more digging to learn what this product really does. Marketing isn’t everything. If you build a really good product, people will use it and talk about it.+