I often wonder why an app is launched, to great fanfare, and then almost suddenly dies off. It’s an amazing and fascinating phenomenon and until I moved to Los Angeles, I hadn’t clearly understood why.

There is an industry where there are, much like in technology, investors. They invest in ideas that are not yet proven to result in a hopeful return. They invest large sums of capital into the idea. Better teams get more capital, as they often have a track record of proven results. The capital often helps get even more great, and proven, team members to work on the idea. Sometimes the ideas work, sometimes they’re a flop. The gains from the winners usually fund the next round of budding ideas.

It’s the movie industry. The investors are producers, the teams are actors, actresses and directors. The ideas are scripts and the winners are called Blockbusters. Sounds a lot like the tech industry doesn’t it?

It did to me.

Hollywood runs their business on the premise that you get one impression. You get a single chance to make an impact with the product. They don’t base their products on the idea that they’ll release a sequel and it’ll get better and attract more viewers. They build franchises and empires on first impressions. They go all-in every time.

There is a clear difference between the industries, tech and entertainment. In Hollywood, the products (or apps if you will) are movies. Hollywood has figured out a way to make great products. Not all of the time, but quite a few each year that really, really amaze us. That evoke emotion in us. The tech industry, well… doesn’t. In technology, we don’t make mesmerizing products in the quantities that Hollywood does.

Movies, especially great ones, make us feel something. Every time. For example, that intro scene in Pixar’s “Up” makes us immediately understand our unending urge for companionship and what losing it feels like. It’s deep and meaningful.

So how has Hollywood gotten so good at making us feel something when we watch a movie? How have they helped us resonate with a character or think about our own life after watching a movie?

The answer is simple. They care to make a great first product,
they run on the fear of first impressions and they craft.

Each scene is crafted to ensure it elicits emotion, connection to the story and value to the viewer. Countless shots and angels are created. They edit and grade and master. They treat their production like a finely crafted product. Refined in the furnace. Painstaking labor, hours, retakes, again. Again. Again. It’s made with love and it is 100% absolutely obvious.

Recall when Forrest Gump sits by the mailboxes as his son goes off to school for the first time? The feather floats through the air randomly but suggests the connectedness of chance and circumstance. It’s entirely meaningful and profound. How about when Bruce Willis realizes in “The Sixth Sense” that he himself is a ghost. Shyamalan owns us in that moment. It’s beautiful. Paul Thomas Anderson is particularly stunning in his craft. In the film, There Will Be Blood, the whole movie has a chaotic evil ambiance. Every second exudes it. This is how Hollywood amazes us.

The problem with apps, particularly ones that suck, is that we often feel nothing when we use them. They are not refactored and refactored and loved before they are wildly given to the public. They are released as ‘minimum viable products’ and we make pathetic sequels that make the story marginally better and we expect people to come back each time, pay their money and sit for hours and watch. They watch while we flail around and try to get them to use the app, or figure it out. Frankly, it’s embarrassing.

Apps are open and closed, then deleted so often that I imagine if this happened equivocally in theaters it’d be dubbed a spectacle. Walk-outgate. Minimum viable acting. Even apps that people pay for get this treatment and it happens all the time.

There are, of course, grand exceptions to this observation and apps that have made a meaningful impact on people’s lives, evoked our delight and have been obviously crafted. I’m not referring to those apps, those very few apps. I’m talking about the ones that are featured and mean nothing. That are hyped but fail to deliver. I’ve seen how that works first hand. Again, it’s embarrassing.

Wouldn’t it be great if we in the technology industry, in the design industry, in the app industry spent the time that Hollywood does. Spent that same effort that the great minds of Hollywood spend on their films, on our apps. The question the technology industry should be asking is: how do I lose 62lbs for a role. How do I transform my entire life into this ‘character’ so that others might know and feel what it is that I am about.

If those questions were asked more often, what then, would your homescreen look like?


Now read this


Probably the most interesting thing about the Facebook announcement today is that they got AT&T to do a deal with them. Carriers were robbed of $13.9 billion in SMS revenue in 2011 alone. Facebook plays no small part. A friend who... Continue →