car boat While discussing a product at work today, Caterina said something that really stuck with me. For whatever reason, I like her analogies. They work for me.

We were discussing a recent example of a product group that was trying to do what amounts to merging two things that really ought to be distinct. The end result, as you might imagine, is a product that does neither thing well.

She called that "building a carboat." And that immediately conjured up the image of a mis-conceived vehicle that "drives like a boat and floats like a car." While that's amusing to think about, it's easy to do when you're trying to please too many masters, designing by committee, or both.

I'm a big fan of consumer products that have one very clear and easy to articulate purpose. If you ever find yourself in the midst of building something that seems to be lacking that clarity, make sure to stop and ask yourself if you're building a carboat.

Posted by jzawodn at January 05, 2006 08:53 PM

Reader Comments
# John said:

What do you mean, carboats work great!


on January 5, 2006 09:22 PM
# Ken said:

Sure, show a photo of the dorky car-boat.

on January 5, 2006 09:55 PM
# Patrick Mullen said:

The Samsung Smart Thru printer/scanner/FAX sitting next to me comes to mind. Ugh! One would hope better machines are made to accomplish these functions now.

on January 5, 2006 11:15 PM
# pwb said:

Why can't people get it through their tiny skulls that hybrids invariably lead to the worst of both worlds?

on January 5, 2006 11:21 PM
# said:


on January 6, 2006 02:45 AM
# KC said:

I remember seeing one of these in a museum in Pennsylvania

on January 6, 2006 06:12 AM
# dan isaacs said:

That is, unless Q is the guy that hacked your Lotus. In that case, you'll get a damn fine carboat.

on January 6, 2006 11:33 AM
# Joe Hunkins said:


Are you suggesting I should stop design on the portable CoffeeMakingCopyMachinePortaPotty...

... dot com edition?

on January 6, 2006 05:55 PM
# Alex said:

unusual machine)
You have very interesting blog!
I enjoy reading you blog... keep it up guys!
Respect you. Happy New Year!

on January 8, 2006 11:23 AM
# Ramon Leonato said:

I don't know if this will be admitted because I don't know if Jeremy is your first name. Mine is Ramon Amteus Leonato... In any case.

Anyhow... I worked for a company that tried to do this and they screwed the company completely and the life of all the employees. Good advice. I hope they had read this then.

Ramon Amteus Leonato

on January 11, 2006 03:22 PM
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. My current, past, or previous employers are not responsible for what I write here, the comments left by others, or the photos I may share. If you have questions, please contact me. Also, I am not a journalist or reporter. Don't "pitch" me.


Privacy: I do not share or publish the email addresses or IP addresses of anyone posting a comment here without consent. However, I do reserve the right to remove comments that are spammy, off-topic, or otherwise unsuitable based on my comment policy. In a few cases, I may leave spammy comments but remove any URLs they contain.