Learning from Second Amendment defenders
The IT industry in the USA depends on the First
Amendment and Fourth
Amendment just as much as the
firearms and ammunition industry here depends on the Second.
Today, though, Second
Amendment rights in the USA are in much better
shape than First or Fourth Amendment rights, and the
collapse of the First and Fourth is
now a high-profile problem for
the nation's IT business. We're
Gun Nuts have
been succeeding for decades. What are Second
Amendment-based companies getting right that First
and Fourth Amendment-based companies are getting so terribly
When a First/Fourth-hostile
regime comes into effect, companies have
to comply, just as firearms manufacturers
have to comply with Second-violating laws when
those pass. But every industry in the
USA basically writes the laws that apply to it. Petroleum
products cannot be
hazardous waste, by definition. The
Pillsbury Doughboy collects a government paycheck.
don't need me to go on here. Lobbyists tell Congress,
"If you could pass this set of laws to cover our
industry, that would be super helpful, mmmkay?"
and Congress says,
So why have we as an industry failed on First and Fourth Amendment protections? Because we're not doing some basic political tasks that the Second Amendment crew is doing right.
Fan-friendly vintage products
Firearms sellers understand and use the endowment
effect. For example, users
are happily keeping and using M1911
pistols, based on a century-old design by John
Browning. And even buying newly manufactured
ones. When Grandpa goes to the store for a vintage
product like he's used to, he can get one, not a forced
Should IT companies devote valuable staff to
maintaining vintage versions? Not necessarily. The largest
producer of M1911 pistols is a company called
Kimber, founded more than 50 years
after Browning's death.
It's hard to imagine a IT company throwing an old
product over the wall instead of killing it. The
conventional wisdom is to do everything possible to
prevent competition with old versions. But now that
the market is mature, we can reconsider that.
Keep the fangirls and fanboys happy, and they'll be writing letters
to Congress instead of
THIS NEW VERSION
Stick together on the basics Ever see a revolver manufacturer come out for a ban on semiautomatics? Or a manufacturer of long-barrelled firearms come out for a ban on short-barrelled ones? Manufacturers treat policy debates as off limits when seeking competitive advantages. One exception, the case of a CEO who wrote one letter to Congress supporting a magazine capacity limit in 1989, was controversial at the time and provokes boycott discussions even today. The Second Amendment scene understands divide et impera pretty well by now. Meanwhile, IT vendors will throw each other, or users, under the bus for a short-term advantage over some other vendor. And incumbent vendors cheerfully support laws that lock out new startups.
The results of that quarter-to-quarter thinking are coming home to roost. Pursuit of lock-in can be great for sales, short-term, but locked-in users can't switch vendors as fast, which makes every vendor's OODA loop unnecessarily slow. Thanks to the decision to pursue lock-in, we've gone from innovation to stagnation and squabbling, and just making everyone rebuild their stuff over and over for different platforms. Meanwhile, the firearms business is letting users swap in independently developed parts while keeping their platform investments. It's news when an IT person makes noise about We do not break userspace! but mature markets take that for granted. <pullquote>The IT industry isn't a baby any more. So it's time to stop raising it on the steroids of forced upgrades and the crack of lock-in, and move it up to the whole-wheat goodness of sustained customer value.</pullquote> Worst pull quote ever. You're basically saying that you'd give steroids and crack to a baby. Also, gluten moms. —Ed.
Product-membership bundling The Second Amendment industries have the NRA, and we've got the EFF. Even accounting for the fact that the NRA is a century older, the EFF is relatively small compared to the user population it serves.
A key part of the NRA's success is vendor cooperation
on membership drives. Just one example: REDRING
Offers 5-Year NRA Membership & Redring Shotgun Sight
Package at 2013 NRA Show.
I have also seen an NRA membership deal at a company that offers ammunition reloading supplies. Powder, add to cart, primers, add to cart, a year of NRA membership, add to cart. Simple.
IT vendors could easily add EFF membership to product
and service bundles. Yes, the EFF does call out
some vendors on problematic programs, but see
together on the basics above. As the industry grows
up, we'll be putting less and less importance on
infighting, and more on staying in business for the
Conclusion With the Second Amendment safe for the foreseeable future, and firearms vendors sitting on more orders than they can fill, (thanks largely to NRA publicity—that product-membership bundling was worth it, wasn't it?) a lot of Marketing and Public Policy people there are probably getting a little bored. Time for the IT business to hire some.
(photo: Jan Hrdonka for Wikimedia Commons.)