What is “legacy”? Simple: it’s what used to make sense. We all have it, including me, and lately I’ve been letting go of a lot of it.
For example, right now I’m sitting in seat 24D on a Virgin America flight to San Francisco. Why? Well, everyone tells me Virgin is the best way to get from here to there. That, and, let’s face it, I’m not that satisfied with American Airlines, despite my Platinum Priority status. The planes are old and dirty. The wifi is only on about half the flights (and it’s hard for me to discern which half). You get the idea. But it hurts to wait in the regular security line and to sit in the back of the bus.
Another example a lot of us are going through: Google+. Yeah, Twitter and Facebook, both ridiculously young, are the legacy providers in the social networking space, and I’m already moving more and more to Google+. It lets me edit posts. It lets me add more than 140 characters. Nice video and image integration. I don’t care about the privacy issues supposedly addressed by circles, but I do appreciate the interface and the flow. And I love love love the lack of Bejeweled Blitz. But, yes, it is rather tedious to make all these social connections again.
How do you identify legacy and how do you know when it’s time to let go? That’s an incredibly hard question. I don’t know. My switch to Virgin and Google+ makes the assumption that these services will be more interesting for me over a medium time horizon. And I might be wrong: Google+ might be a flash in the pan (but I doubt it) and I might need to fly places other than where Virgin goes (likely). But, in both cases, I felt an overwhelming pull toward these new offerings. I needed to try them.
Don’t get me wrong: legacy isn’t all negative. It’s good to have things done and decisions made, to take tasks and questions off the table. That kind of legacy can be very positive. But that good kind of legacy erodes, often with surprising speed, and it’s almost impossible to tell the exact moment in time when it went from helping you to holding you back.
It’s always interesting and helpful to ask yourself a simple question: What if you were making this decision today, with zero legacy? What airline would I fly if I had never flown before? What social network would I use if I had never used one before? And, since you know I’m going to ask it: what platform would I build this app on if I were starting from zero today?
Another fine example of letting go is this blog. You might have noticed some fancy new features. The ability to click on my name, for example, and see everything I’ve contributed. That’s because we’ve moved to WordPress along with approximately 14% of other internet sites today. Exciting stuff.
What legacy decisions are you sitting on?