Keeping Perspective

March 20, 2020

I watch this presentation by Wilson Minor at the 2011 Build Conference at least once a year. Last week, I rewatched it trying to refocus my mind from pandemic to product development work. Watching Wilson’s talk reminds me why we make things, both the impact and consequences. If you can spare 38 minutes, it’s worth your time.

Nine years ago, before we knew the full impact of mobile and social apps would have on our lives, Wilson used a quote from Marshall McLuhan and adapted by Winston Churchill to explain the future:

“We Shape Our Tools, and Thereafter Our Tools Shape Us”

This quote is a reminder that the things we build impact the world. Even if it looks like a toy at first, like Chris Dixon said 10 years ago. At the beginning of a project, you may not understand all potential uses for what you are building. But, if you keep your eyes and ears open, some of those uses may find you.

At Spokestack, we build tools and services that make your app fully voice-enabled. The idea started with “wouldn’t it be cool if you could talk to apps?”. That came from frustration. If you ask Siri a question, you’ll likely hear, “this is what we found on the web”. The answers are already on our phones but locked inside our apps. Why can’t they answer our voice?

One common request when talking to customers is improved mobile accessibility. Especially for those who need more than a touch-only experience. Existing companies already build hardware for the visually impaired. There are also companies like Tecla that build devices to help those with limited upper-body mobility to use mobile devices. Voice technology has the power to increase usability for millions of people.

Startups like ours are always looking for a product-market fit, but times like these compel us to reexamine how we think of the “market”. What we make should provide for societal needs in addition to making a great business.

If you have specific problems a voice-enabled interface could solve, please reach out. Help us shape Spokestack’s tools for everyone.