“Beta Culture” and Opportunity Cost

29 January 2009 at 12:17 am 3 comments

| Peter Klein |

blackberry-storm-hands-3-grodyI enjoyed this rant on “beta culture” — the trend toward earlier and earlier releases of hardware and software, before many bugs are worked out — but wish the author understood the concepts of opportunity cost and marginal analysis. I used to assign Gene Callahan’s classic “Those Damned Bugs!” in my introductory classes to explain these concepts. Would it be nice if new products worked perfectly right out of the box? Sure. Is perfection worth the wait? Probably not. That isn’t to say that all new products are launched on the right side of the temporal benefit-cost margin — the BlackBerry Storm might qualify as alpha, not beta — but using the problems of some new products to crusade against early release more generally misses the mark.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Innovation.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Joe Mahoney  |  30 January 2009 at 10:33 am


    Given the temporal benefit-cost calculus, I notice some of your blogs receive no comments. You have got to provide more of what folks want. I want MORE COWBELL.


  • 2. Peter Klein  |  30 January 2009 at 10:54 am

    Joe, here at O&M we don’t follow public opinion — we MAKE public opinion!

    BTW for those readers confused about Joe’s cowbell reference:


  • 3. Joe Mahoney  |  31 January 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Unfortunately, there are not many opportunities to explore the dialectical space of the cowbell. In the words of Jean-Paul Sartre the situation is absurd. In the words of Albert Camus, it doesn’t make any difference. And finally in the words of John Dewey — my philosopher of choice — we need to explore the consequences of the cowbell ringing in action to understand its meaning.

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