Software slogans

Joi Ito tells the story of how the MIT Media Lab’s slogan, Demo Or Die, derived from the traditional academic motto, Publish or Perish, evolved first to Deploy or Die, and then just to Deploy.

  1. Imho, there’s too much emphasis in tech on inanimate things dying, but this is worse, they’re talking about people dying! And it’s not true, never was, that you either demo’d or died. And it takes all the fun out of it if the stakes are seen as that high, without throwing a little humor into it. Demo or die is not, in any way that I can see, funny.
  2. At my first company, Living Videotext, started in the 80s, when there were all kinds of new styles of management, we invented Management By Shipping. That was the value of the company. Getting product into the hands of users so they could kick ass with it.
  3. I also practiced Management By Walking Around. As the CEO, being accessible to everyone in the company was also a major value. I wanted to understand how my company worked, and understood that the people doing the work were in the best position to show me.
  4. It makes sense that Joi would bring Deploy! to academia. He came from the blogosphere, he’s one of our champions, where the focus was always on the people who use the stuff. Ideas are great, but until they are deployed they aren’t helping anyone.
  5. Academia is very much about publishing and demos, and not so much about deploying.
  6. In the blogosphere the focus was so much on the users (a good thing) that the software that made it possible sort of fades into the background (as all software should).
  7. A popular slogan at my second company, UserLand, and on my own blog was Let’s Have Fun! Although it may not seem so at first it has a dark side. There was a line in a movie with John Travolta and Christian Slater about high powered nuclear missiles. Slater has this great line at the beginning of the movie where he’s showing Travolta a new weapon and says “it’s a real crowd pleaser.” That means of course it kills a lot of people. Let’s Have Fun! was like that. Along the lines of the Chinese curse — May you live in interesting times. Our culture was that we enjoyed our work, even when it felt like a death march. ;-)
  8. One more software slogan, when someone reports a bug, a bad one, think to yourself “It’s even worse than it appears.” That’ll give you something to laugh about while you’re investigating.
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