(2011-09-22) Rao Milo Criterion Slow Marketing Vs Lean Startup

Venkatesh Rao suggets the "MiloCriterion" as a limiting factor in user acceptance of software change/disruption (products must mature no faster than the rate at which users can adapt) (Adoption Life Cycle). He's Framing this as Slow Marketing, and contrasting it to Lean Startup theory.

Modern air travel, which has evolved over nearly a century, is a very different complex of behaviors that has drifted far from bus and train travel... (lists behavior changes that come along with using air travel) (this is consistent with talking about the Culture changes that become necessary in Technological Revolutions And Financial Capital)

Thanks to the lack of physical constraints, Web products can go from paper napkin to fully realized vision in months rather than decades. They can evolve at rates that far exceed the Milo rate... Successful Web products do seem to satisfy the Milo criterion though. I tried applying the criterion to a whole bunch of products, and it turns out to be a pretty reliable way to sort the two classes. Google Wave fails the criterion. Google Plus satisfies it.

The primary reason these (Lean Startup) behaviors are effective is that they slow down the process of software development and maintain the optimal behavior modification rate for humans.

To take his Google Wave example, he's saying (I think) that having "so innovative" an initially-launched project that lots of user behavior changes are needed to get started means nobody will ever start. Whereas if you ended up with Google Wave through an Iterative process (starting from a "simpler" MVP), you'd bring people along one change at a time.


  • the interim steps, esp the first step, might not deliver enough incremental value to nudge people from their current practice. Pitching the long-view might help for some people, or might either scare them off (as if you had built the whole thing up-front), or make everyone pissed off after 3 months when you haven't delivered your 5-year plan yet...
  • it can seem like you're leaving money on the table for 5 years... (and pretty hard to prove it one way or the other)...

In his follow-up comments:

  • Pivot-s are not really about letting CEO-s steer better. They are about letting VC-s steer better... As an aside, this critique is mostly informed by my evolving understanding of OODA. A good deal of lean startup theory is sort of derived from OODA. Unfortunately, it mostly throws out the baby and keeps the bathwater. OODA-theorists make a distinction between “driving up tempo” and “getting inside the tempo of the enemy (or market).” They offer subtle arguments about why the former is misguided and the latter the smart thing to do. Pivots are basically the “driving up tempo” error... Capitalist-s understand Innovation just fine. They just subvert it to their advantage instead of prioritizing Schumpeterian wealth creation for the greater good.

  • I’d say ALL optimization is premature and evil. Optimization involves legible and impoverished finite models, even when it doesn’t succumb to overfitting.

I Commented a few times.

I have 2 projects occupying my mind these days...

(And an overarching Framing of everything around a Fractally Generative Pattern Language...)

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