Fail Faire


FAILFaire 2012 kicks off today in Atlanta celebrating and dissecting a range of failures in the Information and Communication Technology and Development area. Their programme advertises…

“FAILfaire: Where it’s OK to Talk About #FAILS. Failure. What does it mean for ICTD research to fail? How can we learn from ‘failed’ research projects? At the FAILFaire@ICTD2012 we invite people to an open and interactive discussion about the nature of failure in ICTD research, using presentations about specific cases as a starting point for dialogue. While the publication of papers at ICTD constitutes success for many ICTD researchers, it is difficult to use this context to examine failures as actual failures. We will feature short talks that examine #FAILS and seek to answer:

  • What does it mean for a research-based intervention to fail?
  • Are interventions a failure when they are deemed inappropriate?
  • Are they failures when they are adopted but fail to achieve measurable change in development
  • Perhaps an informative pilot is conducted but something prevented the researcher from scaling up or replicating the technology.
  • Or a project has done well, but encountered otherwise ‘unpublishable’ obstacles.”

They also have an ongoing FAILFair website, where people can submit their failures. One of the most recent that intrigued me was Cfabian’s post on sort of a compound failure “My Fail at Failing at Failfaire” where he examined his failure to incubate an innovation called Water Canary inside UNICEF…

“I think I would break up with Failure if we were dating. Here is why:

  • Failure is needy: If you present a failure that is linked to a product *even if that product isn’t the failure* it seems like that product doesn’t work, or was badly designed, or was, itself, the fail.
  • Failure is jealous: You need to really own every part of the failure you are presenting. Don’t present around, or near, other peoples’ projects unless you’re trying to be mean.
  • Failure lacks subtlety: If you are describing a failure *within* a system and that system is big and bulky (like our organizational structure) – you may sound like you are actually presenting a failure of that system, or something else entirely.”

For more great real world stories, follow the proceedings today and beyond at #failfaire.