The Cost of Chasing Trends

Not so long ago, readwriteweb predicted that Google's next killer application after the launch of Google Enterprise App is Online Accounting System.

In Malaysia, the momentum of Google Apps is not yet tremendous but slowly rising.

But then again, today as I went through a UAT (User Acceptance Test) for a web based system which deals with some numerical processing, I came to an observation which I could reorganize as a phenomenon where the cost of chasing trends is going to create more monopoly, bigger gaps between rich and poor and thus a more significant long-tail effects.

The result is that majority of people will do more things and settle with less income.

The catalyst which took me into this conclusion is based on a feature known as "Auto-Fill" or "Auto-Complete" in our common web browsers.

The good intention of Auto-Fill feature is to increase convenience as such that you don't have to retype information which wouldn't change for a long time such as username, emails and etc.

However, the real problem arises when you enable Auto-Fill to web forms which are not supposed to, such as to web forms which deal with numerical data such as point-of-sales, data entry forms, spreadsheets and etc. It will be not intuitive to have Auto-Fill enable for these forms because numerical values typically doesn't hold much meaning and imagine entering 1 would results in 1 to 11111111111 (infinity) suggestion. It is just very annoying to have the auto-fill suggestion because they don't make sense. Take a look.

The solution is to turn off the Auto-Fill feature and Firefox is the less competent in dealing with such problem. This is because FireFox only allows the following settings.

Thus you either turn-on or turn-off everything. But we don't really want to do that, sometimes Auto-Fill is useful too.

Then Internet Explorer takes the second place in offering solution.

It allows users to enable Auto-Complete only for username and password.

Safari takes the top spot in this subject which it even allows IP Address filtering of web sites to enable and disable Auto-Complete.

However, QuickBook online accounting software uses grid for data entry, which is the current trend of data entry even for the web. Check out free components from YUI.

And accounting software which doesn't keep up with the trend would eventually lose out in the game. For instance, take a look at an accounting software which uses conventional text field as input box.

Keeping up with trend is not impossible, except that it is very unprofitably in terms of product development because trend would stabilize for a limited time-frame before the next trend take over.

And the cost of chasing trend is absorbed by software developers who couldn't keep up with trends due to insufficient resources. How do these entities absorb such lost ? It is the opportunity costs! By chasing trends, smaller companies will risk higher probability of product over-budget and over-schedules.

Therefore, only big companies can afford to chase trends, with end-users doing the free marketing while smaller companies will lose money in doing it. Thus, trend is very friendly to big companies. Small companies cannot accept to play the trendy games...otherwise, you invest into a future which is to help bigger companies to be bigger and poor to be poorer. A great zero-sum game.

To conclude this, I say that the cost of chasing trends make people poorer. Happier ?