August 19, 2015

The Truth About Iteration of Sovereignty

A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.

George S. Patton said that. You can just imagine him standing around a table littered with maps, the smell of diesel thick in the European air. His officers are arguing over a particular part of a battle plan while Patton grows more and more frustrated. Finally, fed up with the bickering, he gives the now-immortal quote. The decision made, the army rolls out on its treads and victory is won.

I've taken that quote to heart, and not just because one of the most successful generals in human history thinks it's true. I've seen its usefulness first hand in the business world. Speed is absolutely critical to winning a market, even if the product isn't perfectly polished.

Dave Girouard, the former President of Google Enterprise Apps says:

"I’ve long believed that speed is the ultimate weapon in business. All else being equal, the fastest company in any market will win. Speed is a defining characteristic — if not the defining characteristic — of the leader in virtually every industry you look at."
Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, has said, "If you're not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late."

As you can see, this sort of mentality is not unique. Getting something out into the virtual wild that has a clear, structured plan and with basic mechanics that are solid is actually far more important than delaying the release to polish and perfect. This idea is just table-stakes for a startup environment. If you're moving slowly, you don't belong.

CCP has, of course, released the sovereignty restructure in bits and pieces, little at a time, as they should. This is exactly how the fast-moving tech world works. If they did anything else, they'd actually be failing as a company. Is it perfect? No, and no one in their right mind would expect it to be. But it is a good plan being executed very violently.

The Pareto principle is also commonly referenced in the tech world (also known as the 80-20 rule). It basically states that 80% of your output, or results, are due to 20% of your input. The practical lesson here is that almost all of the productive things that can come from a concerted effort are from a small amount of that effort. Putting more and more and more effort will only return a small portion of the total output, making you quite inefficient.

If CCP were to put more effort on top of more effort with the goal of perfecting a system before releasing it (with the goal of eliminating the 20% of output remaining), it would be a huge undertaking that would suck an inordinate amount of resources. It's much more efficient and logical to expend a lesser amount of resources to reach a nearly perfect state and iterate over time as resources become less scarce.

In essence, the approach that CCP is taking to rebalancing the sovereignty system is an absolutely tried and tested approach to a stable, polished product. It's unfortunate that people aren't perfect and can't create perfection easily, but since that's not the case, using an approach like I've described helps us to overcome as much of those flaws as possible. In the long run, we end up with a much better product, and in the short term we end up with changes that we can digest and give feedback on. Can you imagine the impossible task of trying to comb through the entire sovereignty rebalance if it were released all at once with the intention of bug fixing, tweaking, and doing small iterating? That's a perfect example of how much manpower would be required just to finish off that 20%.

So when CCP releases the next small piece of the rebalance, don't complain that it's not done. Don't lament that patch A is useless without patch B, that until patch C happens then we might as well all unsubscribe. That kind of thinking is antithetical to a good product, a good game, and a healthy nullsec. Instead, give them feedback.