Haircut VS. Software Customization

Coming back from vacation in Disney World, I went to a local barber shop to have a haircut.

During the hair cutting, I chatted with the lady barber. I mentioned that I might ask her to cut the hair for my 6-year daughter. She then told me some stories of her younger clients.

“Cutting hair for children and teenagers is very challenging.” She began.

“Some little girls are very particular about their hair style. Many of them are not used to see big changes. Too much change (shorter hair) might bring them to tears. I have seen some young girls doing that."

“Many teenagers are very creative. They bring the pictures from magazine and ask me to do a similar design. Other talented may even draw the images from cartoon series and ask for the same style.  Still others, when accompanied by parents, may have disagreements on the way his or her hair should look like.  When discussion got heated, parents finally showed the card: if I pay for the hair cut, it needs to be on my way, unless you pay for it.”

Hearing the little stories of hers, I could not help laughing out and thinking about the similar situation we have encountered in the past.

We develop drilling software for petroleum industry. Normally, we sell our designed software to both operators and service companies. They buy what we have. However, some clients occasionally specify the function and design. We end up building customized software packages for them.

Economically speaking, selling pre-designed software is better than software customization.  But through customization development, we learnt new things and experienced more how the users feel about the software.

Alan Cooper, widely recognized as the “Father of Visual Basic" once said: "If we want users to like our software, we should design it to behave like a likeable person." Frequent interfacing with the users during the software customization brings us out of “Closet Developers”.

So, when the lady barber finally concluded with a sigh: “Cutting hair for children and teenagers is very challenging, but we do learn some new tricks!”, I smiled to her: “Amen to that, ma’am!"

Finding Nemo and Finding Oil

My family just spent 4 days around Christmas in 2011 in Disney World in Orlando. We did so at the same time in 2010. It will probably become a family tradition the way my daughter likes Disney. I do not know if I should feel happy or sad that I myself become a fan of it, too.

We visited all 4 parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios.

Finding NemoMy favorite is Epcot.  Animal Kingdom is the 2nd best in my list because I like the Finding Nemo – The Musical so much. I'm ashamed to admit that I was in tears toward the end of the performance, touched not only by the story, but also the lighting, sound, and stunning theatrical puppets, all those careful little details, which create a great show. I know those guys behind the show put their efforts just like the Nemo and his own new friends who inspire him to do whatever it takes to see his father again. No wonder Disney World continues to attract huge crowds.

Here are the data from the attendance report for the June 2011:

  • Magic Kingdom, 16.97 million visits (# 1 worldwide)
  • Epcot, 10.83 million visits (# 5)
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom, 9.87 million visits (# 7)
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios, 9.60 million visits (# 8 )

No matter we like it or not, Disney has successfully found a way of attracting children’s and their parents’ heart and created a pop-culture superpower to make billions. Disney World earned their success.

I see a rough analogy with finding oil in petroleum industry.

In October 2011, I attended a conference in Houston, one of the keynote speakers mentioned that in North America alone, we have drilled more than 4 million wells. Being in drilling software business, we help drilling and obtaining the natural resource more efficiently together with thousands of other service companies. People do not reserve much effort to find oil and gas under the earth’s surface.

I guess that we need to find Nemo as well as oil. That is the way the world works: laughter vs. bread, emotions vs. physical, service vs. resource: the pairs go on ...