Why is it that we humans always seem to fall into the same traps and make the same mistakes? Is it simply that “to err is human”? If so, it is of some comfort that “to forgive is divine”, but it is nevertheless very frustrating!
I have been trying to set up a social network for the city I now call home, Lleida, in Catalonia, northern Spain, for quite some time now. Using the latest technology is always complicated, and I have too often been at the “bleeding edge” – that point beyond cutting edge that can so often cause projects to fail, either because they are ahead of their time, or simply because the technology is not sufficiently tested, supported, stable or whatever. This is especially true of Open Source software, where people willingly put in their time for nothing for the common good, hoping their efforts will be rewarded, through modest donations and/or offers of work. I have long been a supporter, user and indeed instigator of open source, and it has enabled the world to compete with the big boys and earn a living, in some cases to spectacular heights. For me personally, the driving force of using one of the top open source platforms in the world – WordPress (which powers this site) – has been to replace expensive in-house developers, and indeed outsourced developers, with something I can manage myself, and therefore create things almost entirely within my own control. There will always be a place in my internet ventures for professional developers, to develop those products that deliver functionality which standard systems, by definition, cannot. But having tried many different models of software development, I am convinced that the most likely way I will achieve the quickest – and possibly biggest – success, is to rely on no-one but myself to put in the 90% effort required to make my project successful.
All of this is by way of a longwinded introduction to the main subject of this post: KISS. No, it’s not because I am single again and am pining for physical contact! I was first introduced to the acronym over 17 years ago at university by a marketing lecturer. While at the time I was more than a little miffed, given my project was based on real-life case studies gleamed from working with my consultant father, she was probably right, and definitely right to use the more direct version than the now more common Keep It Short and Concise, which I feel itself dilutes the message, not least because it adds a whole word in the middle! I use the original in my teaching, a brave move, used only with students with whom I have a very good and robust relationship (perhaps easier here in Spain than in more sensitive cultures). But an effective one, as this very article proves as I continually return to it after so many years.
The value of simplicity can never be underestimated, whether talking about changing your diet or exercise regime, or the long-term goals of a large multi-national. Yet we (ok, some more than others!) so often get distracted by the excitement of new ideas, technology or indeed ingredients, that we forget that so often “the best is the enemy of the good”, another lesson I learned a long time ago, from my father, this time, which I seem to forget just as often. It’s one of the reasons I decided to just write this article, rather than spend ages doing keyword research first, which as important as that is, is not as important as simply writing, and I have enough keyword research done for now to keep me writing for the foreseeable future!
It was my daughter who last “KISS”ed me. Actually, that’s literally true, she just came back from summer camp! Back in the early Spring, however, as I was struggling with not-quite-finished programmes required to build my multi-lingual social network, that she suddenly said, as children are so wont to do, and bless them for it – “Dad, why do you make things so complicated?” It was like a lightening bolt and I was ground zero. For all my dreams and desires to create the best thing since local people discovered how delicious snails could be, it was preventing me actually doing anything. So I stopped, went back to the drawing board, and kicked things off with a magazine-style network, and started writing restaurant reviews to create the initial content.
Of course, what happened (apart from life, which, of course happens while you’re busy making other plans, as John Lennon said)? The multilingual plugin (software extension) to the social network platfrom (Buddypress) was finished and I was able to resurrect my original plan. That was ok, and buying a commercial licence came with the piece of mind that it actually worked and was supported and updated regularly. Trouble is, I then started dreaming again of a “network of networks” in which I would create not one but an unlimited number of social networks, and even allow everyone else to do the same – spreading the benefits of open source to provincial Catalonia! Imagine my joy when I discovered someone had actually done this with a small but beautifully-formed extension of an extension of an extension…
This may not, to be fair, be the whole reason I hit a rock again, after asking my students to start posting in the English network, then discovering the key forum part had broken – while trying to kick things off with a debate about excess tourism in Barcelona. But it’s so new that most professionals in this field haven’t touched it yet. My gut, of course, says “EXACTLY” – it’s your chance to get in their first and work magic, creating a world first right here in Lleida! But having been badly wounded once again by the knife of bleeding edge technology, I’ve taken another step back, and written this now long article to tell myself and the world to LEARN THE LESSON ALREADY! to use an American turn of phrase.
I don’t need a network of networks to create incredible value for the local market. And nor do you need that elusive and expensive Shri Lankan smoked paprika to create your exquisite fusion curry dish. Or to build a complete home studio to start recording your gardening tips videos. Or to have sold your first 500 new custom jewelry products before creating a sophisticated cross-pollenating social media campaign (get that simple facebook page up NOW and start sharing yourself and your wares with the world!)
So, yes. Keep It Simple Stupid. I urge the world to start KISSing and never stop – and please share the love!! Ok, there are already a number of facebook groups dedicated to the subject, and although most appear to be moribund, I will resist the temptation to set one up myself!!