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fantasy founder - elder interfaces

Continuing an occasional series about products and companies that I’d like to see built, or build.

Over the years, I’ve tried to teach my grandmother to use computers, dumb phones, smart phones and tablets--with no success. She will learn one or two things (command sequences) to get something done for a little while, but nothing sticks.


  • English is her 5th language (depending on how you count subcontinental languages).
  • She hasn’t had much schooling, up to 5th grade maybe.
  • But she’s sharper than most people I know, having cogent conversations about geopolitics and doing relatively complex financial math in her head.
  • Her formative years were in a developing country, traumatized by mob rule, lynchings and the like.
  • Her first personal exposure to computers was in her 40s, and her first attempt at using computers was in her 60s.
  • Recently, she had a stroke and lost some significant English comprehension circuitry.

Desktops, folders, files, that there are different kinds of files, applications, trees of objects, windows, visual controls, input controls, control contexts, focus, local vs remote, online vs offline, different affordances in different mediums, different affordances in different contexts on the same medium, contextual clues built into small variances in visual presentation, the boundaries that separate one object from another, the different kinds of boundaries presented for different kinds of objects in different mediums or contexts—are all bound to and presume a certain cultural context and assume a certain set of preexisting models of how the world is organized and works.

The cultural assumptions built into our interfaces render them incomprehensible.

How we might overcome them:

  • No files: If you didn’t grow up with computers or with desks and file folders, the metaphor doesn’t work. It doesn’t translate into the model which tells you that this thing is an object and the same form of object can have different content, etc. Better would be just apps which find and organize related content, the Apple way — stepping away from having to know how things are made and work to only needing to know what it is you want to do.
  • No exposure of the filesystem: An extension of the last point: no folders, no browsing, no object tree, no files—just actions. That’s what the machine exists for and that’s why we go to it, to do something. Tool and action are fundamental enough concepts to transcend cultural context.
  • Feedback on every action: I noticed that my grandmother would frequently do something on a computer or tablet and not know that she had done it or not believe that it had happend, especially things that are ephemeral like copying text. When you don’t have a model for how the system works, you need explicit feedback that the thing you’re trying to do was done or that you’ve done a thing, period. Strong visual, tactile and/or audio feedback for every action taken to tell you not just that you have actually done it, but that the intent has been registered by the system.
  • Larger tolerances: Because fine motor skills deteriorate with age, getting shaky fingers right on a button is an unreasonable expectation, soclose enough has to be sufficient.
  • Space between things: Corollary to the last point, what defines close enough should be consistent and big enough that it becomes intuitive (as an affordance) and feels easy. Which means sufficient space between all control elements to allow for not getting right on the button — as in, the whole grid square where the button is present is an active control.
  • No menus: Big buttons with big words and/or big icons, all the way; because glaucoma, macular degeneration, etc.
  • Less distractions: Wallpapers with objects in them or that could be confused for objects, window-dressing, flashy-visual-effects that look pretty but don’t help in navigation, orientation, or feedback create noise that makes it harder to adapt to a new environment. It’s like when you’re learning a foreign language—it’s much harder to understand what’s being said in a crowded, noisy cafe than it is in a quiet setting where you can focus on the one signal that matters instead of on trying to filter out the dozens that don’t.
  • Click or no click: The whole overloaded clicking — left, right, middle, double, triple, click+drag, blah blah blah — imposes a significant burden on the user to understand and remember all the things that can be done with a single input element. Pair that with deteriorating fine motor skills, deteriorating sight, and lack of clear feedback on whether or not an action was taken and you have a recipe for confusion. Better: there is just click, or no click.
  • Limit controls and contexts: Even when I would teach my grandmother something successful, frequently how I showed her to do something in one application would not translate at all to a different application or to a different context, like manipulating files. This is challenging in the extreme when you have no way of knowing that the context has even changed because you don’t have a mental model for the thing you’re looking at. The number of controls available in any given app should be stripped to the minimum, so there’s less to remember; the number of contexts (app vs app vs system) stripped to the minimum so there’s less to remember; and the variances between contexts (different control in different contexts) stripped to a minimum so there’s less to remember.
  • Fullscreen everything: That apps need to be opened or closed may even be an unnecessary metaphor. If every app took up the whole screen, was open all the time, and there was an ever-present mechanism to switch between them—then that’s a few more things that don’t have to be remembered. We could reduce the cognitive burden down to: which of these dozen things do I want to do right now/next -> select.

Mobile interfaces are moving in the right direction.

If I put my product hat on and make my grandmother the target user, what she really wants out of a computer comes down to a managed communications experience which empower her to:

  • Get in touch with the family and friends easily. Contacts as actions, the faces of the people she wants to contact as buttons on a screen that get in touch with them via video, phone or text. We, as relatives, need a way to remotely keep those contacts up to date via push to her device or a centralized service that propagates to her device.
  • Keep up with loved ones when we’re not talking. Facebook without the Facebook, a timeline of updates from loved ones, pictures and videos and text, shared directly to her device, in a single app, blown up full screen. A feed that any of us can push content to or that can consume and present content from things like Facebook.
  • Have important information and reminders without having to look for it. Emergency and medical information as collaborative app, pushed to the device by doctors and loved ones for consumption by all parties involved in care, including her for things like “Hey it’s 10am, take the blue pill!”.
  • Let loved ones help. Shared calendar that loved ones and caregivers can push events onto, like appointments and birthdays. Delegation of control for all apps and services so she can say to her banking app that I am designated to make sure her bills get paid. Or, so I can have an Uber pick her up to take her to the airport and have the notifications go to her device instead of mine. Or, so a caregiver cantake over her device and it’s capabilities (like the camera) and show her things on it remotely or check in on her.
  • Stay in touch with the world. News and entertainment, in one of the languages she understands, including: newspapers, streaming tv and movies, and games. The usual stuff that everyone enjoys. ☺

Why this doesn’t exist is beyond me. There’s a fortune to be made for someone with the single-mindedness to build interfaces for people who are older or didn't grow up with computers or lack our cultural metaphors or have zero exposure to computers outside of phones etc. 

unicorns and the language of otherness

Because even in the face of overwhelming evidence, people will come up with excuses for why they should not, will not, can not—learn or change.

Presented at Velocity NY 2014.


This man is albino, which means he has no skin pigmentation.

The red you see is the blood below the skin. His name is Brother Ali. He is a muslim rapper from Minnesota. That makes him different from all of us, in some way. And in all likelihood, we don’t think like him.

Let’s say that I believe the earth is flat. It’s part of my identity. It’s a strong belief. I have convictions around it, decisions that I’ve made around it. I identify as an earth-is-flatter. My identity is invested in the earth being flat. An attack on the idea is an attack on me. If the idea is wrong than I am wrong. Personally. Not just about that one thing, but about my person.

Let’s say you believe something different. You believe that the earth is round. You’re an earth-is-rounder. That makes you apart from me. Not because you have a different idea, but because you have a different identity. I cannot identify with you. If you’re successful in your belief, then maybe my way isn’t the only way. If you’re more successful than I am, then maybe my way isn’t the best way. If you are successful and then I am less successful, then maybe I’m wrong. But I’m not just wrong about the idea, I am wrong as a person.

But, I don’t have to see that. I don’t have to see anything. I have labeled you as something other than me. I cannot identify with you, thus I do not have to see your success. I can ignore it. I can bury my head in the sand. My ingrained belief creates a bias about you that I have. And I rationalize that bias by calling you something else, by putting a label on you. 

There is a saying by our friend, Brother Ali, that we have a “legacy so ingrained in the way that we think that we no longer need chains to be slaves.” He’s taking about racial biases. but any ingrained way of thinking creates a bias. Biases pile up and compound into a kind of psychological debt. It’s like technological debt: you have to refactor it in order to move on. It will eventually slow you down, bog you down, prevent you from seeing things. Prevent you from noticing thing. Prevent you from seeing a thing you might want to learn. 

And what’s true of you as an individual is true of us as groups. Teams can have shared biases created by their entrenched ideas and ways of doing things that create a shared psychological debt that prevent them—not just from learning—but from seeing that they should be learning. And while they are not learning, while we are not learning, there are other people who have learned and through their learning have changed the world around us. 

I was an analyst at Gartner for a couple of years and I heard this all the time: - “These companies are not like us. They do things differently. They have different users. They have different environments. They can do whatever they want. They don’t have the same security concerns we do.” Any litany of excuses that say “we don’t have to learn from them because they are unicorns” and unicorns are different and different people are others. So, eh. It’s ok. 

Turns out that unicorns are just people. And as people, they’re just like us. They’ve just made a different set of decisions in a different context in a different environment. We can make different decisions. We can create a new context. We can pay down our psychological debts. We can even declare bankruptcy like people do with economic debt and start over, throwing out ideas and practices. 

Cause the thing is, if we really want to move forward and expand and learn and grow and change for a changing environment—we have to get past the mess of our past decisions. We have to separate our identities, who we are and who we will be, from who we were, what we have done and what we have been. So that when we encounter something different or see change, or see change in others, that is not a threat to our identity and it doesn’t hurt so much to accept change and to do change. 

I don’t want to be a unicorn. I don’t want to be someone who is apart from you, other than you, does not have to be listened to, can be dismissed. And I don’t want to think of anyone else as something special, apart, different, cannot be learned from, to be dismissed, not part of the same humanity that I’m in. 

Cause, in the beginning and in the end, we are all still people. Thus, mainly in essence the same. The fact that we have some simultaneous differences, that have evolved, that don’t cause us to die out there in the world—suggests that the single strongest signal that you have something to learn is the fact that a difference exists. 

..the single strongest signal that you have something to learn is the fact that a difference exists. 

devops appops infraops all the ops

Donnie Berkholz wrote a great post about what’s actually happening as Dev vs Ops becomes DevOps [I know I know, keep your groaning to a minimum].

This is a conversation I had frequently at Gartner. People would ask what kind of person they need to hire to do DevOps. I would respond with “Well you already have developers. You have some Unix admins hanging around? Yeah, get them.” 

I was once an Irix and Solaris admin. At that time, any good admin was dedicated to automating themselves out of work so they could spend most of the day on IRC, playing games, or reading newsgroups. Automating infrastructure and platforms that get more or less treated like a service by devs was once normal. And now it will be again.

Things don’t go away; the lines just move. Devs own their code through the lifecycle of an application (and it’s constituent services) from dev/test all the way through production and day to day operations. Ops (or IT or platform or whatever) own infrastructure through the lifecycle of an application (and its constituent services) from dev/test all the way through production and day to day operations.

So they have to work together every step of the way. Iterate together. Where exactly the line resides for any given org changes. For example, our "infrastructure" may only go up to the OS image but not all the way up to the runtime. But someone else's could go up to the runtime or not even as far up as the OS image. Regardless of where the line is, we end up having something that’s more like AppOps (AppDevOps!) and InfraOps (InfraDevOps!). InfraOps provides the infra or platform service that the app is built on. AppOps builds and runs the app on that service. They could be the same person, the same team, different people, different teams, generalists or specialists, in-house or outsourced to a cloud provider—it doesn’t really matter.  

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 8.29.15 AM.png

I don't really care about the terms. Neither should you. As many people point out, we end up back at devs and admins. Took bloody long enough. :)



@aneel@dberkholz What about opsing all the devs?

— Dan Turkenkopf (@dturkenk) May 27, 2014

Yes. That too. :)

fantasy founder - identify me

Continuing an occasional series about products and companies that I’d like to build or see built someday.

This is a recurring idea that’s been bouncing around my brain (and written about) since the days of using ICQ plugins to talk to every messaging system there was (irc, usenet, email, aim), more or less consolidating identity into that one application. 

This would only be useful in the case where you want or need to be identified. 

Consider this:

  • Most of us have multiple online identities that don’t serve a purpose, other than there’s no infrastructure to do otherwise in a way that’s satisfactory to everyone who wants to be identified or everyone who wants to identify us
  • Centralized password control exists through things like OnePass, but then we’re dependent on OnePass to stay up, serve our interests etc
  • Services like Facebook let us log in to other things using our FB identity, which is convenient but gives FB ever more data about what we do, where we do it, etc.. all for purposes that aren’t necessarily in our interests
  • What if we could have consolidated virtual identities that all services, including things like Google and FB, used but that were under our control?
  • What if it was completely decentralized and could be run on our phones, with the actual profile itself encrypted and replicated across multiple cloud services (DropBox, Google Drive, S3 bucket, etc) or our own servers (VPS, colo, net-attached-Drobo, etc) for storage?
  • Plus a password or passphrase to decrypt the profile for modifications and an (or any) editor to modify it
  • We could have a standard (extensible) profile format that could be mapped to/from any given service
  • And a way, like with Facebook application security settings, to allow/disallow access to specific parts of the profile on a per-service basis—so maybe Facebook can see your name, birthday, company, home city but LiinkedIn can only see your name and company
  • We could have elements of the profile tagged so one could say something like: name is ok for handing out to social networks but home address only goes to merchants that have to verify credit cards--thus having a mapping or filter by service type
  • Services could request certain profile elements and we could either auto-approve based on the above tagging or individually allow/disallow usage or allow creation of if they don't exist or maybe only send back acceptance of a subset of what was asked for

This would require some kind of protocol for asking for and finding an identity that would route the request to the right place. Something like DNS. We could call it ID-NS!

Amazon, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter’s auth services could work like this. But the problem is that all those services value our identities and the ability to tie actions to those. I want a service who’s single and only utility is to hold and distribute identity per my authorization. 

If such a utility existed and gained mass popularity, I’d bet we as end users wouldn’t have to pay for it. Vendors would pay 1) to access it and 2) to be allowed to tie your actions to it.

I'd call it IdenitfyMe (points if you catch the reference!).

It’s interesting that the SSA hasn’t already built this, given that they more or less serve as the identity clearinghouse for the government.

//Side note: There are plenty of providers that do federated identity for federated authentication (single sign on), though no one talks about it that way. I really don’t think SSO matters. It’s a different problem altogether from having a single virtual identity. Authentication != Identification. How you authenticate someone’s virtual identity to arrange for SSO across multiple services is a related, but distinct, problem with it’s own set of hurdles.

fantasy vc - grand rounds


Continuing a series on startups I'd put a bet on if I could.

A few months ago, my friend James joined Grand Rounds. Most of Silicon Valley spouts a fountain of bullshit claiming change-the-world status. This team actually does it.

Consider this: 

  • It takes a very long time for studied, tested, proven and well known advances in medical and surgical practice to actually become conventional and prevalent—as in, a decade or more
  • The industry, as a whole, is set against advancement because advancement usually means more precise diagnoses and less money due to fewer surgical procedures, even though quality of life improves
  • There is no way to connect those who need information about new discoveries, new test, new procedures with those who lead the field and discovered the advances—people go to the doctors and practitioners they have access to
  • Those PhD/MDs doing the research, creating the studies, going through FDA approvals and fighting to make a better life for all of us want to accelerate the process—they’re desperate to get the life-saving discoveries, tests and procedures they’ve developed adopted by the world
  • What is a second opinion from one of those experts worth?
  • What is it worth to us, as individuals?
  • What is it worth to the companies that fund their own insurance programs (every big one)?
  • What happens when $1M worth of unnecessary procedures and hospital visits are replaced by a $10,000 outpatient visit? How much is that worth across an insured employee base? What if that happened a dozen times a year? A hundred times a year?

10% of the cases drive 66% of the costs for employers, and employers don’t have the right tools for resolving them. Obesity or smoking cessation programs are great, but the reality is that a small number of truly complex and expensive cases emerge in the workforce every year and account for a majority of a company’s overall healthcare spend.

As I’ve said, there are two ways to disruption: either you disrupt by doing something new or you disrupt by changing the supply chain, removing middlemen, disintermediating or consolidating intermediaries. Grand Rounds short-circuits the supply chain of medical information. And by so doing they’ve already saved lives. How many other startups can you say that about?


None of this is to say that they're guaranteed success. Or won't get crushed by entrenched interests. Or even scooped up before they become too successful. Just that I would've placed that bet.

what aws is not

In 2004, SQS and AWIS beta-ed.

In 2005, MT beta-ed.

In 2006, S3 and EC2 beta-ed.

From there, the pace of releases has skyrocketed (something we should put value on). AWS started by turning basic computation services into utilities. They've since done the same to a wide range of technology capabilities--dozens of services, hundreds of options, a combinatorial explosion of capabilities. So far so that we could reproduce all the functions and services provided by any data center anywhere.

That's where AWS is. AWS is not a commodity, though specific AWS services may become commodities. AWS is not basic computation services. AWS is not just for startups or web2.0 or mobile or small shops or transient projects or marketing or unregulated.. etc.

AWS is the successful utility-isation of ever more, and ever more valuable, technology services.

They are building the AWS of next year or further out through utility-ifying whatever it is that their ecosystem (customers included) is telling them (through behavior) is worth paying for. 

To really compete, you'd have to: match the ecosystem play and exert margin pressure. The former you could do through co-option--which would require taking over the service supply chain--or through drawing your own ecosystem to some core differentiation (e.g. live migration on GCE or seamless public/private experience on Azure). The latter can only be afforded by a few organizations (Google and Microsoft).

Hat tip: Most of the thought above is a direct result of, or informed by, Simon Wardley.

fantasy vc - knodes

Continuing a series on startups I'd put a bet on if I could.

At New York Tech Meetup last year I saw a presentation by the founders of Knodes. It got me then and, eight months later, I still think about it.

Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, etc., are utilities [eventually] optimized for advertising revenue. This means they must generate noise to make money from our captured attention. I’ve asked: what if we were paid directly for our attention rather than those middlemen?

Knodes asks: what if we could use those noise generating systems to generate signal?

Put these things together:

  • It’s become a truism that there’s too much information, too much of which is noise and most of which is filtered out automatically by people on social media, in searches, etc
  • Word of mouth, recommendations from friends and trusted advice have the greatest leverage when it comes to commanding high-value attention, the kind that leads to actual action and stickiness
  • "High-value" attention because all attention is not made equal, which is (hopefully) intuitively self-evident
  • The social capital of trusted networks (or whatever)—a friend you know knows a thing or two about something—can turn something from a bit of noise into a bit of signal
  • The demographic, interest and activity profile matching used for ad targeting can (and should) be used by trusted networks to reach each other with greater leverage
  • For example: I don’t know who in my network is really interested in supporting autism research, but some of them must be so instead of hitting all of them with noise—support this because I want to—I can target the ones that care with a signal—support this because they want to—without having to know who they are ahead of time

In generating signal I wrote:


Instead of us filtering out all the noise to find the signal, the signal filters out everyone to whom it is noise. The signal finds you.

Jeff Jonas has been saying this for more than a decade: the data must find the data and the relevance must find the user. Go read him. If you get the chance, talk to him.

That is the promise of Knodes.

Generate signal.


None of this is to say that they're guaranteed success. Or won't get crushed by an incumbent or other party. Or even scooped up before they become too successful. Just that I would've placed that bet.


the web in twenty minus five

My friend Stu tagged me to answer these questions five years ago:

  • How has the Web changed your life?
  • How has the Web changed business and society?
  • What do you think the Web will look like in 20 years?

Here are my answers, with minor edits and some commentary in []'s. The original post is here.


Ok, but 1) I don’t think I have anything unique to say and 2) we’re all wrong about what it’ll look like in [15] years.

How has the Web changed my life?

It’s strange to talk about the web as if it is the internet. I grew up in the late 80’s through the 90’s along with the emergence of the web as the dominant realm of the net. When I first connected, it was all about email, usenet, irc, and bbs’s. “Web” was an afterthought. Overnight, pretty much, it become the primary interface to the net. And then, the primary platform.

It’s the platform part that has impacted us most. My life is enriched by unprecedented access to commerce (amazon! threadless! zappos!), content (youtube! hulu! gutenberg!), people (facebook! twitter! linkedin!), and publishing (blogs! twitter! tumblr!). The last two have mattered most to me.

[I’ve gone from a nobody buried inside of IBM to a very-minor-somebody embroiled in #startuplife.] 

How has the Web changed business and society?

First off, we’re not talking about all businesses or all societies—really only a minority of either that are the majority in most of our spheres. There are plenty of people who could use some very simple, basic necessities that the web can’t supply. [But the internet has had an impact—see M-Pesa.]

So business and society: web as platform for connecting, producing, publishing, consuming, and trading on values. It’s a lever with a positive multiplier effect on reach and a negative multiplier on cost of achieving that reach.

The web has created a whole field of startups that require next-to-nothing to get going. It’s given a whole slew of people who would’ve once just been company (wo)men an alternative.

It has created a way to organize and collaborate that’s enabled everyone (good, bad and ugly) to come together with others along any lines for any reasons with however much anonymity for however long on any terms.

What will the Web look like in [15] years? 

  • It will remain a platform with immense multiplier effects
  • Web/desktop/here/there/os/app/interface lines will [blur for users and] only exist to the technology plumbers and enthusiasts
  • More embedded and ambient devices creating new interaction points
  • More ambient triggers for sensors and sensing
  • Touch and voice as natural interfaces
  • Physically responsive interfaces enter the real world
  • Consolidated [but distributed] virtual identities
  • Won’t solve poverty
  • Won’t solve despots/theocracies/totalitarianism/etc [but It’s certainly thrown a wrench in the works]
  • Won’t solve disease
  • Won’t solve people hell bent on destroying other people
  • Won’t solve exuberant-irrationalism

fantasy founder - beta club

Continuing an occasional series about products and companies that I’d like to build or see built someday.

Tech decision making does not scale. The last mile of commitment always comes at the price of actual use and trial. That’s why we have pilots, proof of concepts, bake-offs.

If that last mile is the part we have to do, then the rest needs to be compressed—both the front end of qualification-to-selection to the back end of implementation-to-operation. Why some companies buy things that take months-to-years to get up and running baffles me. Why some companies spend months to figure out what to try (with generally worthless RFx processes), when ultimately those things may not even work in practice, also baffles me.

Analysts help a little bit. One of the decision support roles they're supposed to serve is answering whether a particular technology or vendor is the right fit for an organization and problem. There are some that do this with startup tech, like 451, Redmonk, Jonah or Lydia. But very few have insight or access to tech before it hits the market. That takes personal networks, connections to investors and the concerted efforts of dedicated people employed for just that.

What if that was taken care of? And you could just join a buyers’ club of sorts?

Something like this:

  • Be dedicated to experimentation and actually trying things, because we’ve accepted that there’s no shortcut
  • Believe that tech is worth investing in, can render a competitive advantage, and want to try new things when they’re new
  • Once a quarter, answer a short questionnaire about 3-4 pressing tech problems that are unserved or underserved by existing vendors
  • Get matched to a startup product, on the market or stealth, released product or pilot/alpha/beta—matching not just for capability, but for technological fit
  • One followup meeting, within a month, to get the best fit and work out details
  • Shortly thereafter, have licenses, code, etc., from the best matches in hand to get cranking in test
  • There could be packages, free to try, support and feedback arrangements, good terms for logos and press releases, etc.

Highly personalized, curated new tech? Something like that. Sounds hipster-tastic, but oh well. 

It could manifest as just a mailing list. It could be blind, so neither the startup nor the member knows who the other party is until things get in the lab—to make it purely about solving the problem.

I’m guessing it would be most useful for non startups, non large financial services, non large tech co’s, non already-big web/social/mobile. Aside from communication, the whole thing would be done manually by someone. thus naturally limiting absolute scale at any given point in time and speed of scaling over time. Which is ok. 

I call it Beta Club

If it provides a steady stream of real, useful pilot opportunities and pre-launch logos—investors and founders would bite. If it provided a steady stream of real, useful early access to game changers—tech buyers would bite.

ooda redux - digging in and keeping context

Putting together some thoughts from a few posts from 2012 on OODA [one, two, three]. For some reason, the idea had been getting a lot of airtime in pop-tech-culture. Like most things that get pop-ified, the details are glossed over—ideas are worthless without execution; relying on the pop version of an idea will handicap any attempt at its execution. 

I’m not an expert. But, I’d wager that Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War is the best read on the subject outside of source material from the military.

OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. It’s a recasting of the cognition<->action cycle central to any organism’s effort to stay alive, focused on a  competitive/combative engagement. 

Get the data (observe). 

Figure out what the world looks like, what’s going on in it, our place in it, our adversary’s place in it (orient).

Project courses of action and decide on one (decide).

Do it (act).

The basic premise is that, in order to best an opponent, we have to move at a faster tempo through the loop. Boyd used a more subtle description—operate inside the adversary’s time scale. 

First: If we traverse the loop before the adversary acts, then whatever they are acting to achieve may not matter because we have changed the environment in some way that nullifies or dulls the effectiveness of their action. They are acting on a model of the world that is outdated

Second: if we traverse the loop before the adversary decides, we may short circuit their process and cause them to jump to the start because new data has come in suggesting the model is wrong

Third: if we traverse the loop at this faster tempo continuously, we frustrate the adversary’s attempt to orient—causing disorientation—changing the environment faster than the adversary can apprehend and comprehend it, much rather act on it. We continue to move further ahead in time while the adversary falls backwards. By operating inside the adversary’s time scale.

Another detail from Boyd—all parts of the loop are not made equal.

Fundamentally, observation and action are physical processes while orientation and decision are mental processes. There are hard limits to the first and no such limits to the second. So, two equally matched adversaries can both conceivably hit equal hard limits on observation and action, but continue outdoing each other on orientation and decision. 

But realistically, adversaries are not equally matched. We don’t observe the same way, using the same means, with the same lens, etc. We don’t act the same way, with the same speed, etc. And being able to collect more data, spend more time orienting, leads to better decisions and actions. Being able to move through different parts of the loop faster, as needed, renders the greatest advantage. Compressing the decision-action sequence gives us a buffer to spend more time observing-orienting. Nailing observation gives us a buffer to spend more time orienting-deciding. We can come up with the best--not the fastest--response and act on it at the optimal--not the fastest--time. Getting a loop or more ahead of our adversary gives us a time buffer for the whole thing. It puts us at a different timescale. It allows us to play a different game, to change the game

Deliberately selecting pacing, timescale, game—strategic game play.

Ops/devops analogs:

  • Observe - instrumentation, monitoring, data collection, etc.
  • Orient - analytics in all its forms, correlation, visualization, etc.
  • Decide - modeling, scenarios, heuristics, etc.
  • Act - provision, develop, deploy, scale, etc.

Startup analogs:

  • Observe - funnel, feedback, objections, churn, engagement, market intel, competitive intel, etc.
  • Orient - analytics in all its forms, correlation, assigning and extracting meaning from metrics, grasping the market map and territory, etc.
  • Decide -  modeling, scenarios, heuristics, etc.
  • Act - prioritize, kill, build, target, partner, pivot, fundraise, etc.

Those are analogs. It’s worth keeping in mind that OODA was developed for the context of one-to-one-fighter-jet-to-fighter-jet combat and not anything else.