Finishedness is not a feature of organic systems. For life, completion, perfection, is death. Finishedness is facade, part of the packaging. Modern farming stresses surface appearance : the blemish free, monotone skin of fruit, regular sized vegetables, which have had all taste and nutritional value bred out of them.
The supermarket prioritizes those surface textures that influence buying decisions, over that which we might truly value when we come to know the product more fully. The same is true of the clash between commercialism and the amateur community. The FreeSoftware movement is familiar with the, fair, accusation that what comes out of the process is not slickly packaged, with the rough edges filed smooth. (The case of ease of use is more complex. I'd back any non-biased observer to accept DebianLinux as easier to administrate than Windows.)
This problem is sometimes seen as ultimately damning free software, who's aim is allegedly to displace commercial software. But here it re-enforces my argument in TheHilariousTragedy. Those who have the will and temperament to engage with the products from the amateur communities will find they have the superior products. But they must look beyond and learn to cope without the sheen that commerce uses to allure the customer. Ultimately, this includes the very notion of finishedness.
All projects are work in progress. Finishedness is simply the condition where the manufacturers give up improving on their products; and hand them over to be sold to the customer. But for the products of amateur communities, there will be no letting go. The product is the project is ongoing. Wise consumers will engage with live communities, rather than seeking the corpses of finished products.
In his book, HowBuildingsLearn, StewartBrand talks about the problem of commerce promoting surface over substance in architecture. He uses the term "MagazineArchitecture" to refer to designs which are optimised to look good in magazine photographs, and in competitions, but which lack any kind of sensibility of the comfort of occupants.
Finishedness is clearly the artifact of a market where buying decisions are made based on surface features. However, no supplier can dare offer "unfinished" products in public for fear of alienating customers. One solution to this might be an UnfinishedMarket, a place or an exchange where those who want to provide unfinished products and services come, and buyers come psychologically prepared to see unfinished product.
Sure, finishedness is an illusion, but again, "the market" is an irrelevant example. Since the 80's, it has an over sized cultural perception, just like the shoulder pads. All over the years Art has always provided the practices which invoke human creativity, and that has not changed but contrary to advertisements - has widened last century... Check Arte povera, JosephBeuys, and Mozart for the wonderful unfinished yet. – Aharon
FINISHED = DEAD
Hilan calls it The Cult of the Finished or The Cult of the Product (Compare ProductStrategy)
How would a world without a cult of the finished work? Products would be replaced by ongoing relationships. But how could you :
- monitor the success of these relationships?
- publicise what was available
- compare for recency
There'd still need to be milestones in the process, but the large milestones would be pulverised, products would be disolved into points on a checklist. (See also PlentyOfRoomAtTheBottom, SmallPiecesLooselyJoined, BangTheRocksTogether)
Q : Do products have conceptual value? By aggregating a lot of little changes together, they make understanding and navigating the process stream easier. I can just think "release 3 is the one with new functionality x, y and z ... rather than "release 2.3 has x, 2.4 has y, 2.5 has z"
A : That's an argument for a numbering system that retains notions of major releases. But this could still be within the context of a finishedless process.
Q : But won't people who want to engage only partially with the project start using the major release numbers as their only reference point. That pretty much re-invents "products"
A : Well, but I suppose different developers and users can have relationships with the process at the granularity that suits them. Contributers need not be constrained to work to the users' granularity.
One of the interesting things about some agile software development methodologies is that they discard "finished". For example in an ExtremeProgramming project you should have a working (if functionally limited) product at the end of iteration one - every iteration after the first one can be considered to be maintenance of an existing product.
That said, there are so many different interpretations of "finished":
- a set of features
- a polished (possibly usable?) end product
- a bug/problem free product