Making History - the Fans


I spent most of my career as a marketing and communications professional inside high technology corporations. These companies have an engineering focus and frequently struggle to communicate what customer value they are creating with their latest amazing innovation of how many pixies they can get to dance on the head of a pin.
After reading Gordon Kirby's lengthy piece interviewing Delta Wing designer Ben Bowlby it struck me how much these guys struggle at getting to the bottom line: why should I care? Oh, if you read carefully, you can ferret out a few choice nuggets about automotive relevance through creating efficiencies by reducing drag and regulating fuel flow or catching a wave of four cylinder, turbocharged 300 HP engines they promise are heading our way from the major car companies in the next few years. And really, that stuff is good - assuming the check really is in the mail. But,  just as I found in other engineering companies, the Delta Wing message is at this point deep, dense and uninspiring.
In the article Kirby quotes Chip Ganassi talking about how every consituency in the sport - car owners, sponsors, drivers, race track owners, promoters and car/engine manufacturers - wants to see something different. I thought that was telling. In that list there is no mention of the fans. That's not to heap on the obvious criticism that the owners don't seem to care what fans think - although sometimes I have to wonder - but also to note that apparently Chip doesn't think he's talking to the fans through the article. Given that, it seems perfectly reasonable to mention terms like "yaw"(to deviate from a stable flight altitude by oscillation of the longitudinal axis in the horizontal plane) factor in aerodynamics without explanation.
All this leads me to reiterate my view of previous blog posts that the communications of Delta Wing has been botched from the get-go. If the key advantage is an open source approach to design that invites the participation of many contributors, than that is the attribute they should be pounding on. Who gives a squat about "yaw" factors - unless you are an engineer? The advantages of an open source solution would be that it could stimulate the variety and innovation so coveted by fans who remember the glory days of the 60's and 70's. Also, the door would swing wide open for anyone who wants to contribute to the body of knowledge about what is a 21st Century IndyCar. This could intrigue a whole new market segment of young, technically minded people looking for exciting careers, engage the sport through a new channel or just appreciate variety and innovation.
This assumes that the idea of "open source," is more than some half-considered throw away line on a laundry list of talking points. The fact that this attribute is not being explained leads me to believe that perhaps it doesn't exist at all. It might have been a tertiary talking point that sounds intriguing but no one has seriously thought through.
On the other end of the spectrum is a column by Pressdog, who interviews Swift Chief Scientist Mark Page. Throughout the interview Pressdog stresses the importance of the fans and the key role they have in shaping the potential outcome. I was also impressed by Page's position that the Swift design was fluid and his firm is wide open to working with Delta Wing.
I found both articles worthwhile. One was far more inspiring and enjoyable, the other I would call necessary and frustrating - I think you can tell which is which from my perspective. Kirby promises us the second half of his "white paper" next week with the teaser that the open source concept will be discussed. We can only hope that it is concise, to the point and clear on a crucial but too frequently disregarded question: What's in it for the fans?