Sunday, February 06, 2022

Life Lately: On Wordle - Why purple cows matter

Today’s puzzle. Sorry for the spoiler!

I did the daily Wordle a few moments ago, just before I started writing this. I often start with ‘AEROS’ and ‘TULIP’ because these two words cover the ten letters that appear most frequently in English. After guessing today’s word, I copied the grid using the Share button and posted it to Twitter.

Several people have said Wordle was an easy game to build. Many versions have popped up, proving the IP was not complicated. I found at least fifteen, including Wordle Unlimited (unlimited words per day), Nerdle (numbers instead of words), and Absurdle (designed to be absurdly difficult). You can now even make your own ‘Wordle’ using code publicly available on GitHub.

Wordle has millions of daily players and was recently bought by the New York Times for a seven-digit figure. If it was simple to build and several thousand software developers possessed the skills to build it, why didn’t anyone do so – and reap the benefits – before Josh Wardle?

This is a difficult question to answer. There is an element of “time and chance” to virality that makes it difficult to engineer. Even Josh Wardle didn’t set out to create a viral game. He wanted to create something he and his girlfriend would enjoy.

I think an easier and potentially more useful question is: what has made Wordle so successful and is it something we can reapply on a smaller scale at work, in business, or in our day-to-day lives?

In a brilliant 2003 essay published on Fast Company, Seth Godin writes about purple cows:

Cows, after you’ve seen them for a while, are boring. They may be well-bred cows, Six Sigma cows, cows lit by a beautiful light, but they are still boring. A Purple Cow, though: Now, that would really stand out. The essence of the Purple Cow … is that it would be remarkable. Something remarkable is worth talking about, worth paying attention to. Boring stuff quickly becomes invisible. You’re either remarkable or invisible.

While we won’t all create million-dollar side projects, one way to increase our chances of creating successful stuff in general is to leverage the so-called Law of Remarkability. If you make a purple cow and make it easy for people to talk about the purple cow, chances are some people will pay attention and they’ll tell other people about your purple cow.

I still remember the curiosity I felt when the Wordle grids first started popping up on my Twitter feed. Wordle did not need to advertise itself to me. People found it remarkable enough that they shared the results on their social handles, and once I saw enough grids – I went looking for the source of these mysterious grids myself. It was like the Holy Grail of marketing.

It takes some thought to build remarkability into what we’re doing, whether as an employee or an entrepreneur. But as Wordle’s example shows – it could well be worth the effort.


Have a nice week ❤️

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