On relativity

ctodx
24 September 2007

I read this hilarious piece the other day on explaining Einstein's theory of relativity using words of four letters or less. That, and a couple of posts I made in our forums about XPO, got me thinking about our customers' perceptions of how we improve and maintain our products.

So in the spirit of Einstein's thought experiments on relativity, imagine this. Suppose our products are large cubes, say some ten feet (3 meters) to a side, dotted around on a plain. You are strolling through this landscape of cubes. Obviously changes to a cube to which you're closest will be more noticeable than changes to a cube that is further away or even blocked by another. In fact, to stress this thought experiment even further, you don't know if changes to cubes that you don't even see are even happening ("if a tree falls in a forest and there's no one to hear it, does it make a sound?").

Yeah, I know, I'm stretching this metaphor beyond recognition.

The cubes closest to you are the products you use every day. Because they're close to you, you see every change, you are very aware of new work that is about to start on these products. You may even tape up some notes on the cubes to help the builders and renovators. The other products you don't use (the cubes further away) are not in your thoughts. You're aware that changes are probably being made to them but you don't really know or particularly care. You want and like changes to the cube closest to you.

Now imagine that the landscape is full of people strolling around. They're all thinking much like you: "I want changes to 'my' cube, not that cube over there, thank you very much." But there are a lot of people and a lot of cubes.

And, of course, we're the people fiddling around with the cubes. The deities, the manipulators, the watchers, call us what you will. We're a smallish bunch of people and we can't improve all the cubes all the time, so we have to partition our resources where we can best make a difference. But, just because there are no perceptible changes to the particular cube nearest to you doesn't mean that we deities aren't planning on making some changes to it in the near future.

So if you think nothing's happened to your cube for a while, bear with us: we're making our next set of plans for the 2008 roadmap. Lots of changes to lots of cubes, and, yes, XPO is one of them. It's just that we can't make changes to all of them all at once.

(OK, I wrote this on a whim just so I could call us "deities".)

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