What is Your Core?

In a typical Lego set, there is a core set of building blocks that make up the core of the object you are building.  My son just got a new Star Wars Tie fighter Lego set.  It relies on a few common objects, such as little flat Legos you might see in other sets, but overall, what you would see in this set would be much different than the core of Legos you would see in, say, a set to build a House, or even my 2 year old’s set of Duplos which builds just very simple objects geared towards people his age.  For a house set you will see more block-like structures.  For a Robot you may see more objects with holes in them, to accommodate for axles and gears.  For a plane you may see more flat structures for things like wings and a skinnier body.  In the end, you’re trying to build one core, unique object that is different than any of the other objects around it.

Too often I think entrepreneurs struggle to find out what their core is.  Social Networks should be ubiquitous.  Real time should be ubiquitous.  Open Standards should be ubiquitous. Search should be ubiquitous.  There are already companies out there that have these things as their core.  They’re the experts.  I think entrepreneurs and developers often get stuck (myself included) in this rut of fixing things the experts are already good at, rather than finding something new and innovative they can take ownership at.

There’s already a T-Shirt out there that says “Twitter destroyed my market segment, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt”.  Well, the reason that occurs is because developers are building core blocks that are already part of the Twitter core.  They are building something, the cockpit, the engine, the wheels, that were already destined to be replaced in the original scheme of things.  We developers like to see, and fix, the big picture – I know because I’m in the same boat (or ship?).  However, I think we need to be thinking bigger.  We need to be thinking about what our core is, not what’s missing from others’ cores.

When we talk about “filling holes”, I think the best position to be in is where others are filling the holes that you create.  You own the core that includes the missing parts.  The propellers of Twitter should be added to your core to make your airplane fly.  The Jet Engines of Facebook should be added to your core project to push it forward.  The wheels of Google should be added to your core project to get it off the ground.  But in the end, you still own the airplane.  You have control of the core.  All the other “cores” get to contribute back to your core to make it better.  Heck, you can even take pieces of your core and add it into the other existing cores to complement their space too – the power is you still own your space that way.

As you build new creations, think to yourself, am I contributing to others’ cores, or am I building the core that other cores can add their parts to and make better?  No one should be building another “social network” project.  No one should be building another “search engine” project.  The focus should be on the innovative creations we create, and how other “social networks” and “search engines” can make us better.  It should not be the other way around.

This is the “core” success story of the Building Block Web.  How are you letting Twitter or Facebook or Google make your core project better?

11 thoughts on “What is Your Core?

  1. Interesting, thought provoking article. Thanks.

    It does raise the question though: should we use this to rationalize not building a competing product? The obvious example is Google. When they started, there were already a number of well established search engines. They entered a competitive space and dominated in a short time. How do we determine, when we see a core with holes, whether we should plug those holes, build our own different thing using that core, holes and all, or build our own competing core?

    Like

  2. Harley, the key is not to be the supporting product. Competition is good,
    and you can have similar products to another, but your product should be the
    one plugging holes of other products as its sole responsibility. Your
    product should be the one with holes that others are trying to fill, or that
    you can use others to fill. If you have a need to rely on your competition,
    that's not a good thing.

    When Google launched, the only thing they relied on were open standards and
    technologies, and the open, distributed web. Those are the good things you
    can build around since no one (or one could argue everyone) owns them.

    Like

  3. Cool post Jesse, although you forget that core's rot with time.

    There's nothing wrong with rethinking search or social as your core. Just look at all the awesome aggregators and open standards social tools coming out. Consider how fundamentally different WordPress, Cliqset and Status.net are from Facebook. There's a huge space open for folks who genuinely want to contribute to communication structures that compliment their vision of the future.

    One of my “far out” dreams is working on virtual assistants that attune themselves to our explicitly written, shared, and liked web content. That's a form of search, but it's not what Google's mastered. They've created an incredible framework for broad search, web crawling bot technology and distributed computing (gotta love Bigtable, have you seen this pdf Jesse? It's Jeff Dean's keynote on Google's datacenters.

    Like

  4. Mark, my point on social networks was that you shouldn't try to be Facebook
    or Twitter, or even support them. They should be supporting you. We seem
    to have lost innovation with the advent of these networks, everyone narrowly
    focused on just those networks as the main platform or core. There is a
    much bigger core we should be building on, that being open frameworks,
    networks, and technologies.

    Like

  5. Hey Jesse, Innovation has always been done by building something off of someone else's work, making it better, or fixing it as you say. I think Microsoft wrote the book on that process, they never really invent anything, they buy someone out, then FIX (re-dress) what they bought. Then they put it into the BIG Marketing machine that Microsoft really is.

    Personally, I think we struggle with the CORE because nothing is static anymore, technology is growing at an exponential rate, and that makes it impossible to identify what the CORE is or was. The rate of change is no longer linear, the CORE is always in a state of change.

    I think Search and Social Networks will become seamless, the cores will change to meet the need to be unseen or seamless. The Browser was CORE once wasn't it, the browser is becoming less and less important in the technologies being innovated today.

    I agree with you, we do need to think bigger. Maybe it's deeper than that, maybe we have to make a paradigm shift, move away from control and truely embrace openness in our innovation. We have to change our beliefs about how the world really is out here. I think an Open & Free Business Model is the fundamental shift, closed to open. This is a painful shift, our brains are wired to be in control, open means out of control, KAOS! but that's whole notha story.

    Stay well my friend

    Like

  6. I like the idea of “reusing” instead of “reinventing”. I am a software engineer by trade and I always support the idea of reusing or extending an existing platform or application instead of reinventing them. We can even contribute to other core by giving suggestions, reviewing, testing, or contributing new components.

    The more we share with our social network the more feedback we get, the more opportunity we can have to improve our own core. I wrote an article on how to back up my Ubuntu. 2 days later I receive heaps of suggestion on other software and other techniques to back up my Ubuntu. These suggestion expands my horizon and improve how I do my existing activities. So I say, share, share and share and you might get opportunities to improve your own “core” skills or competencies.

    Like

  7. […] I’ve talked about building on your core – your core is key.  Apple, quite literally, showed its core today as it stayed focused on one of the things they do best right now – Music.  Everything else is just a complement, and that is totally evident in Ping.  I think Apple just confirmed what we all knew up to this point – “Social” is now just a commodity. […]

    Like

  8. […] I’ve talked about building on your core – your core is key.  Apple, quite literally, showed its core today as it stayed focused on one of the things they do best right now – Music.  Everything else is just a complement, and that is totally evident in Ping.  I think Apple just confirmed what we all knew up to this point – “Social” is now just a commodity. […]

    Like

  9. Hey Jesse, Innovation has always been done by building something off of someone else's work, making it better, or fixing it as you say. I think Microsoft wrote the book on that process, they never really invent anything, they buy someone out, then FIX (re-dress) what they bought. Then they put it into the BIG Marketing machine that Microsoft really is.

    Personally, I think we struggle with the CORE because nothing is static anymore, technology is growing at an exponential rate, and that makes it impossible to identify what the CORE is or was. The rate of change is no longer linear, the CORE is always in a state of change.

    I think Search and Social Networks will become seamless, the cores will change to meet the need to be unseen or seamless. The Browser was CORE once wasn't it, the browser is becoming less and less important in the technologies being innovated today.

    I agree with you, we do need to think bigger. Maybe it's deeper than that, maybe we have to make a paradigm shift, move away from control and truely embrace openness in our innovation. We have to change our beliefs about how the world really is out here. I think an Open & Free Business Model is the fundamental shift, closed to open. This is a painful shift, our brains are wired to be in control, open means out of control, KAOS! but that's whole notha story.

    Stay well my friend

    Like

  10. Interesting, thought provoking article. Thanks.

    It does raise the question though: should we use this to rationalize not building a competing product? The obvious example is Google. When they started, there were already a number of well established search engines. They entered a competitive space and dominated in a short time. How do we determine, when we see a core with holes, whether we should plug those holes, build our own different thing using that core, holes and all, or build our own competing core?

    Like

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