Shipping Can Be Hard

Aaron Mahnke writes about entitlement:

Here’s a great rule of thumb: until you create something yourself and then actually ship it, try to first find the positive in the products around you. Those products are the result of someone’s passion, hard work and innate genius. When we compare them to our own twisted, entitlement-driven expectations, we do nothing but insult their creators.

Shipping something is difficult. Shipping something is like setting a platter of precious glassware on the edge of a razor-thin knife. Shipping is an action that flirts with risk and failure. But it is an action that should be applauded rather than attacked.

His post reminds me of something I’ve wanted to touch on recently: the backlash over the delay in shipping the Elevation Dock by ElevationLab. ElevationLab’s Kickstarter for the dock was funded on February 11, 2012, to the tune of almost $1.5 million. The Elevation Docks were expected to start shipping to backers of the project in May. However, the project was beset by delays and ElevarionLab is still at this time fulfilling orders from backers of the project. People have been registering their dissatisfaction with ElevationLab loudly and widely (the breadth of the internet is vast, after all). Unfortunately, there was a unique confluence of events that happened with the latest iPhone having a redesigned charger and being released while some people were still waiting for their docks to ship.1 In effect, people began to expect their docks around the time they would become obsolete for their newly purchased iPhones.2

I’m not saying it’s unreasonable to complain under the circumstances. My own Elevation Dock arrived much later than I had anticipated. It’s a great product, when you finally get it. However, if you get it late, and you can’t use it, that’s 10x as frustrating.

All of that being said, I’m here with a sympathetic plea for ElevationLab. I’ve been on the other side and I can’t help but wonder if the majority of the people complaining about the situation have ever had to rely on a third party in order to ship a product. You can have the best project plan in the world, but if it relies on a deliverable from a third party, you can possibly end up throwing it out of the window. I’ve seen it happen, more than once.

ElevationLab had to get a number of components from other companies. Sometimes, those components weren’t done on time. Sometimes, whole batches were defective or didn’t meet quality standards. I know this because ElevationLab sent regular emails on the progress of the project. I’m not sure much more could have been asked of them.

In response to the complaints, Kickstarter has institued policies to make it abundantly clear that Kickstarter is about funding projects in various stages, and not a store where goods are simply purchased. I’m hoping the changes and the emphasis on the process over the product helps to eliminate some of the complaining. I like to see people who are working hard to deliver a solution given the credit they deserve, and not blasted for things that might not be entirely in their control.

  1. ElevationLab has said that they intend on shipping out a swappable adapter that will allow people to use their iPhones with the Elevation Dock.  ↩

  2. Apple is not even making a dock for the new iPhones or iPods. They are out of the game entirely.  ↩