One of the recent books I read, ‘Are your lights on‘, made this claim that we merely displace a problem when we solve for a problem, it is fundamentally a tradeoff between problems. Ever since, whenever I look at a solution, I try to see the new problems that it introduces. It has been a very good thought exercise. Here is the line from the book:
“We never get rid of problems . Problems , solutions , and new problems weave an endless chain . The best we can hope for is that the problems we substitute are less troublesome than the ones we ” solve . “” – Are your lights on.
When looking to solve any problem, it is important to start by understanding the problem well and the new problems the solution will introduce. One of the ways to learn of the problems a solution might introduce is to put the solution across (build it and ship it) and wait for feedback from customers. The other end of the spectrum is to thoroughly vet the solution in theory and understanding all the problems it might give rise to, which would take a lot of time on the drawing board. The right way is somewhere in the middle, you spend a couple of days or a week and get eyes on the solution from a small set of customers, peers, stakeholders and flesh out 80% of the possible problems the new solution might lead to and then ship it, if the solution is worth the problems.
Coming to what happened with Twitter and the blue tick, I believe the goal was to make revenue for twitter and get a sense of how many wanted were willing to pay $8 for the blue tick on their account. The new problem that this $8 verification brought was: Any user could claim to be any person on Twitter by paying $8 to Twitter. The blue tick used to stand for ‘verified’ accounts. I don’t know the factors that pre-Elon Twitter considered to verify an account but it seemed legit, I’ve not heard of any verified account (pre-Elon Twitter) that had misrepresented any user. So, the problem that got introduced with the $8 verification, was anyone could claim to be anyone by paying $8.
If the above new problem had been recognized (it seems obvious now!), then the team could have thought of multiple ways to solve it – maybe, different color tick or a ‘pro’ tag next to the user handle or perhaps some other icon to suggest a premium account.
Lesson 1: Don’t jump too quick on a solution and don’t sit on a solution too long to find out all the new problems it might cause, spend just enough time (hours, days, weeks depending on the customer and business impact) to ship.
Lesson 2: It is ok to jump the gun sometime. In this case, Twitter didn’t crash and burn, it is still running and as per Elon’s recent tweets it has gotten more DAU than ever before.