by Cesare Rocchi

On Numbers and Happiness

by Cesare Rocchi

With fewer numbers there would probably be way fewer discussions. At the moment I feel to say that “people tend to exploit numbers to be sensationalist”. That especially happens when I read some post exploiting the who-has-a-longer-penis “template”. The keyword in this case is “longer”: when you compare integral dimensions you can say which is greater. That’s ok, but you can assign meaning to numbers, as we do when we code. In code, a compiler or an interpreter will judge those numbers. In blog posts the reader is the jugde.

This reflection started by reading Marco Arment’s post on the seconds taken to sell out WWDC vs Google I/O. I am just worried by the idea that somebody could pick up the numbers in that post, which are meant to make a totally different point, and toss out yet another comparison between Apple and Google. I am really surprised that nobody has written some “Apple is (still) cooler because outsold his conference tickets faster than Google” post. Maybe it’s out there but I feel lucky I didn’t stumble upon that. If it’s not yet published I feel a bit relieved, because it means writers are not (yet) so desperate to pick up any pointless detail to fill a blank page. I know what’s a comparison, I have written one recently, and I know the temptation of being sensational to get more exposure. Yet I think that fair comparisons are pretty rare and I often stumble upon writings that are there just to fill a page that would be blank otherwise, decorated with useless graphs and following the longer-penis template.

For example, if market share were a person, he/she would definitely feel bent over. Everybody can easily hop on the train of people saying “Company 1 is cooler than Company 2 because it has a bigger market share”. Conversely, I have never read something whose gist is: “Customers of Company 1 are happy”. That kind of article would probably be boring and generate fewer visits. As an entrepreneur that’s exactly what I am chasing. I don’t want market share. I want the people that use my product to be happy, even if it’s just one.

I know people that run a business with a limited number of customers, just on one server. When I talk to them they are relaxed, happy, and they tell me their users are happy. They still have to deal with customer support, refunds, bug fixing: that’s part of the game. But “in general” they are happy. I know some other people that are constantly worried about the potential issues of scalability, don’t sleep at night, and they are constantly frustrated because “Techcrunch didn’t post about my company yet”. I am definitely willing to belong to the first class of people, those who care about customers, not brand exposure, and are “in general” happy.

If you chase brand exposure you are focusing on the wrong thing. You shouldn’t build products/services because you want everybody to talk about it. You should build products to make people happy, save them time, solve a real problem, make them look cooler. The rest will come.

My friend runs a restaurant. He never did any advertising, not even when he started. He gathered a group of closer friends and started cooking for them. Now he runs a restaurant and if I, close friend of his, want to make a reservation I have to wait two months. Right, two months, because the restaurant is so great that it’s sold out every evening. The secret? He focuses on the quality of food and the happiness of his customers. Is any of these two aspects related to brand exposure? Not at all. Is any of this inspired by a comparison with other restaurants? No. Has he ever chased notoriety? No. He just wanted people to be happy when they left the table. All the rest (long waiting list, interviews with famous magazines, queue outside the restaurant) was a side effect. You envy my friend, right? I do. What’s to take away from this post? Build something whose brand exposure is just a side effect.