I’ve started a new book- Trade Off- Why some things catch on and other’s don’t– the ever present tension between quality and convenience by Kevin Maney.

Kevin starts out by talking about what he calls the Fidelity of experiences- which is sort of a drill-down into what Seth Godin refers to as “remarkability.”  Kevin states that fidelity is a measure of the quality of an experience that you can compare to its convenience- kind of like a supply and demand curve.  But he also acknowledges that it’s a problem to get both a high fidelity and high convenience experience- let me explain a bit more.

An iPod touch is a great device at a fairly high price compared to a run of the mill mp3 player, but it has a sense of design of ease of use, and of utility that makes it “high fidelity” but lower on the “convenience” scale because its price excludes all comers to the market- it’s not as ubiquitous as, say, flash drives because of this.  However, the iTunes music store is lower fidelity and high convenience, because you can access almost any music or movie you want, but it may not be equivalent to a CD because an mp3 simply has about 1/10th of the data of tracks on a CD, and movies may not have all the special features you’d get with a DVD set, for example.  Both products are a hit however, and work in tandem to perhaps get close to a high fidelity, high convenience mark, but neither achieve this feat on their own.

This concept of fidelity struck a chord with me.  If we take this concept into social media integration for websites or web design, we have to ask ourselves a couple of questions:  Are we trying to design a high fidelity, high end, exclusive experience, or a high convenience, lower fidelity experience, and if we try to make too many compromises, do we end up just being average and boring?

It’s clear from my recent experience with Google Buzz that high convenience-low fidelity  means a deluge of information into my inbox.  Much of it is useful and interesting, but much of it is simply too much to maintain a sense of focus and importance.  It means I’m also going to have to be more aware of what I dump into that stream, in order to maintain a reputation for being as high fidelity as possible to friends.

I’m currently working with a client that’s all about the high fidelity of experiences and services, and she does an amazing job with maximizing convenience, but of course, it comes with an associated price that reflects supply and demand at the same time.  I wish I had a 4-d model to plot these things out, because I think the gold lies in overlaying the supply/demand curve with the fidelity/convenience curve, and making sure before you launch your product or service, you position it accordingly.

What do you think of the concept of fidelity?  What do you find you are willing to pay more for?  When is good enough simply good enough?  How do you decide what quality versus convenience means to you?  Inquiring minds want to know!