A couple of days ago, John Brownlee posted to the web site “Cult of Mac” what was an interesting picture. On the left, we see what cell phones looked like and were available prior to the development and the release of the iPhone. On the right, it shows what phones looked like after the iPhone was released.
Do you notice anything interesting? The first being that, in the first picture, there is a cacophony of different styles and formats for phones. Lots of different styles and features, many of which may be familiar to some and not so familiar to others. There is no question that many different varieties were to be seen and to be had. In the second picture, almost every phone looks as though it were styled and shaped like an iPhone.
What happened was that tech had a “watershed moment” with the release of the iPhone, and the rules of the game were changed. Yes, there were smart phones before, but no where near the sophistication of the iPhone at the time, and many other companies followed suit. The various Android phone manufacturers took many styling and design cues from the iPhone and made a system that was similar if not exactly the same. Even knock off phones not related to the iPhone or Android systems are following their design cues (I know, I have one).
In some ways, watershed moments are good, they show a definitive marker where things change, tastes align, and the world goes on a slightly different tangent than before. One needs just look at music to see similar examples through the years. Sinatra defined his era as clearly as Elvis defined his, The Beatles defined theirs and Led Zeppelin theirs. Add in Guns & Roses, Nirvana and later groups and you see what I mean. Oftentimes, those watershed moments obliterate all that has gone before… and frankly, that’s a little bit sad.
As I’ve been thinking of testing these past couple of years, I’ve been able to look back and see some watershed moments as well. The ISO movement, and its brothers CMMI and Six Sigma. In the software world, the arrival of the record and playback tools, and perhaps today we could be seeing certification as a potential watershed moment in some places. My concern is not that these happen. If ideas are good and people embrace them, then there is nothing that’s going to stop them and they will be adopted of their own accord. My fear is that much is being discarded that really shouldn’t be. It’s no secret that I consider the phrase “best practices” to be a terrible combination of words. I don’t believe in them, but I do believe in various good practices that have their time and place. The danger with watershed moments is that they tend to sweep out many good practices because they no longer fit the fashionable “time and place” we are currently experiencing.
In short, not everyone wants to move on from Elvis. Not everyone wants a big screen cell phone. And not everyone wants to have tools that make elaborate promises of “best practices” but don’t really deliver. We want to be able to choose what works for us, whether they are fashionable or not.