2 min read


Vaguely thinking about 'productisation' today. I resisted using this word for some time as it's such an incredibly ugly-sounding piece of business jargon, but unfortunately it's also useful. Wiktionary describes it as follows:

(computing, business) The act of modifying something, such as a concept or a tool internal to an organization, to make it suitable as a commercial product.

I first came across the term when I was working at a company that made one-off bespoke web applications, mostly for government agencies. We got bought by a much bigger company that was aiming to productise some of these applications and sell them to other countries, or to local government, or whatever. I don't know how far they got, it was kind of difficult and I left before they got much traction.

On a much larger scale, I guess AWS is a gigantic example of productisation. Taking Amazon's internal tools for running servers and so on and 'un-situating' them, making them into repeatable lumps that can be sold to external customers.

Anyway I haven't suddenly become a business blogger, this is still just me banging on about my normal obsessions. I find productisation fascinating as a source of examples of how abstraction actually works. You've got to take a bunch of code that's highly coupled to a specific situation, and 'transform it out' into a less indexical form. In the simplest case that might be allowing some hard-wired values to vary and sticking them in a config file somewhere, but it gets a lot more complicated than that.

I'd love to read a Talking About Machines-style ethnography that followed a group of people trying to productise something. It wouldn't necessarily have to be a company... I'd also enjoy reading about e.g. some scientists in a lab making their balky research prototype into a reusable component. This would be a great example of the sort of 'natural history of science' described in David Chapman's thread here:

If anything exists like this, let me know! I'm particularly interested in details, natural history style, not high level overviews. The more gory details of config file formats the better.

Related note: stabilisation.