Duplication Duplication

I came across Tristan Rhodes’ blog today while browsing through some recent posts on Planet Ubuntu, and his recent post about the benefit of open source seemed quite timely (at least in my life!). Specifically Tristan’s comments here were noteworthy:

“I believe that the open source development model is the most efficient way to create software. In the traditional software development model, each software company creates an isolated software silo. Meanwhile, their competitors are spending resources to create software that does almost the exact same function! Compare that to the open source model, where worldwide resources can be shared to develop an application.”

In this case Tristan is speaking specifically about duplication of effort between competitors, though I would argue that this is just as likely to happen between two companies working together. Of course whenever you run across this it definitely makes you look to the open development and free code re-use that is ubiquitous in the open source community as a model of how things really should work to avoid such pointless re-inventing of the wheel. After all, companies the world over are already re-using code (anyone who needs a database in their application is not recreating it everytime!). My suspicion is that there is often uncertainty within an organization regarding what components of their development projects need to be developed entirely on their own vs those for which it is better to give up some control and work on them in a more collaborative way – whether that be with competitors, partners, or the open source community. Those pieces of a project which do not provide any long term strategic advantage (a database for example) but which merely support getting to the end result would be a great place to start for many companies.

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More on Indigo

My sister, over at Megoagain, has provided some further discussion around the Indigo Experience and more generally about how technology has changed the way we do things like buy books. I would definitely agree with her point that things like shopping methods have changed with the advent of the web and even moreso as a result of so much user generated content. I know for me personally (to the occasional frustration of my wife!) I find it difficult to go ahead and buy anything without first performing extensive research on the web to get the opinions of the community at large on products as varied as books, stereo equipment, travel destinations and much more.

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The Indigo Experience

I couldn’t help but notice at Indigo Books & Music the other day that they seem to have gone out of their way to make it difficult to enter the store.

I went in the main entrance of the Yonge and Bloor store and it was so jammed full of book displays, tables of books on special, and the checkout counter, that it was quite literally difficult to get in. If even one person stops to gaze at one of the stands they completely block inward traffic to the store. Albeit this probably seemed to me more frustrating than it really was since I was in a rush, but I still have to wonder if cramming all that stuff into the entrance is a great plan in terms of making it an inviting store to visit.

One other quick note from my Indigo experience – Why is it so hard to find a book?

In order to do so you need five pieces of information:

  1. Name of the book.
  2. Author of the book.
  3. Bookstore that has the book.
  4. Section in the bookstore.
  5. Knowledge of the sorting mechanism on the shelf.

If you are looking for a particular book you obviously already know 1 and/or 2, 3 is easily obtained from the Indigo website, but 4 and 5 are comparatively confusing. You can obtain 4 from a person in the store obviously, but for some reason this information is not available on the public Indigo website. Oddly enough however if you go to one of the Book Search PC’s (if you can find one!) in the store (which seem to use a slightly different version of the same web site available outside the store) you can actually obtain the section information if you look close enough on your search result page. Why isn’t this same information available outside the store? Now, once you have the section you aren’t really done yet as you still need to find the book within the section and there is seemingly no information identifying that the shelves and sections are sorted by Author name vs Title vs some other method, and further you have no idea where the alphabetical listing starts and ends. Of course these things are easy enough to deduce but everytime you go to the store you need to follow this algorithmic process to simply find a book, why??

Here are my quick recommendations to Indigo:

  1. Increase the number of ‘Book Search’ PC’s at the store.
  2. In the Book search results section make it clearer how you can find the book, don’t just hide the section away in a little corner on the screen. Information on how the books are sorted on the shelf should be included as well as the section name that will match with the section signs posted throughout the store.
  3. Provide all the information on how to find the book on the public website so that one can know where to find the book before coming into the store.
  4. Identify where the sorting mechanism on the shelf starts/ends, intermediary markers would be useful as well such as (A, B, C, etc).
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