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Speak With Your Feet
Why actions are louder than words
Vocal Minority vs. Mobile Minority
Two types of minority groups could drive majority change: one that exhibits perceived change and one that creates actual change.
The Vocal Minority is the loud voice, like angry people on Twitter. They talk incessantly and pollute your feed with extremist content—making you perceive their views as commonplace when they’re mostly noise. Imagine a Vocal Minority of weirdos who claim to eat dirt. They complain incessantly about “dirtest” restaurants that don’t offer dirt-friendly dishes. These mere 600 people tweet sixty-two times per day each, yelling at McDonald’s and Wendy’s for not offering fresh dirt on their burgers, making it seem like everyone wants to buy and eat dirt burgers. Ignore these people.
The Mobile Minority is the silent few who speak with their feet. Instead of talking about their ideas, they walk the walk. Imagine discovering an online forum called the “Dirt Diet,” where crafty dirt-eaters share recipes for cooking with sand, mud, and gravel. They post pictures of well-plated dirt dishes and ask for tips about how to blend different dirt flavors. They’ve invented crude ways of grinding gravel. If you could build a durable gravel grinder, these people would buy it in a heartbeat.
Whether in policy, business, or personal relationships: Don’t listen to people talking about dirt. Find the folks eating it.
In the 2000 film How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Jim Carrey recited his to-do list, and one item was especially salient: “Solve world hunger, tell no one.” What a concept! Only someone with a heart two sizes too small could create a beautiful and necessary thing and then deprive the world of its value!
Creators owe it to the world to share the things they make—meals, songs, products—yet they struggle to launch their work. Be it perfectionism, avoidance of criticism, or deep-seated self-sabotage, many creators fall into the Localhost Trap.
Like a writer who types into a text editor before submitting an article to his publisher, a software developer builds applications “offline” on her laptop. She writes code and tests it on a “localhost.” Working in private is part of the creative process, but it’s easy to tinker away in private forever.
What’s the good in writing the next great American novel if you leave it in your desk drawer, never to see the light of day? I’ve done this countless times (albeit with not-so-great stories).
How could we reduce the “time to daylight” for creative work? Like the song “This Little Light of Mine”—don’t hide your creation under a bushel. Give it some light! Decent in public is better than perfect in private, so don’t feel embarrassed or guilty for sharing a half-baked project. At worst, nobody will care. But, more likely, someone will find value.
Dog food is a $56B industry, only $11B short of the $67B baby food industry. Given declining birth rates and an ever-growing preference for dogs over people, it’s not hard to imagine dog food outgrowing the baby food industry in coming years. Pretty wild, considering dog food was hardly a business until World War II.
Clement L. Hirsch—an eccentric businessman and dog-lover—founded Kal Kan Foods in 1936 to supply dog food to serving canines. Most dog foods were either made from soy protein or low-grade meat—which stunk horribly and weren’t very nutritious or filling. Hirsch made dog food from real meat that was good enough for human consumption.
Legend has it that Hirsch ate his own dog food in board meetings to prove his confidence in the product.
Tech companies adopted this “dogfooding” ethos, leading to many of today’s innovations, such as the iPhone screen design and Office 365.
Dogfooding can promote a culture of inaccessibility because creators become conceited in their understanding of the product and don’t seek diverse user feedback. Although user research is critically important, it need not replace dogfooding when it can coexist.
As a consumer, beware of any entity not using their product—whether a chef who doesn’t eat her food or a podcaster who doesn’t use the products he promotes.
As a creator, use what you make. Living with your product will make you feel your users’ pain and inspire you to improve it.
I’ve launched a new side project: The Highpoint Guide. To prove that I’m eating my own dog food, I applied many ideas shared in this newsletter:
I followed the Tokyo Effect by building something niche: A one-stop-shop for climbers of U.S. highpoints.
I carefully considered the tech stack (Gatsby.js), a One-Way Door decision that’s hard to reverse. (The UI design is a Two-Way Door that I can easily update if people find it ugly).
I used a Stonecutter and Mechanic mentality to build the site: Persistence to write fifty guides and tenacity to make reusable components.
I set an Appetite of three months and worked backward, which helped reduce the scope and make execution less stressful.
Most importantly, I got off Localhost 😇
Warning: The app’s not mobile-friendly yet, so I recommend viewing it on a desktop. All feedback is welcome!