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🧠 This post is part of my brain gain series.

Throughout history, the use of smoke has been a great way to determine things on a clear day. Before humans could make light beams shine long distances or make anything fly, smoke was readily available and would float up very high in the sky. This was referred to as smoke signaling.

To this day this technique is still used but more commonly the phrase is used to give similar meaning to other things.

Also, similar to this is the phrase smoke and mirrors. Using smoke and mirrors to distract and/or make an optical illusion for magic tricks.

Thus, smoke is a way to signal or make an illusion, and/or even impress humans. It’s a way to put a signal out there into the world to see what people think.

This brings us to today’s random Wikipedia article, Smoke testing (lean startup). Just like actual smoke was used to test signaling systems, smoke testing digitally puts something out there to see what people perceive. Or, to get people’s attention. It is often a one page website or landing page with a signup form showing a potential new product.

The product does not fully exist yet. The webpage or advertising at this point is simply to gauge if the product or service will generate a lot of buzz or not.

Kickstarter campaigns are a great example of smoke testing. You have an idea but you don’t have money to make it a reality. So, you create images and videos of what the product could be (which is all just smoke and mirrors at this point) and ask people to back you. People donate, and then you have money to pay a manufacturer. If all goes well, you’ve gone from smoke test, to funding, to real product and profit thanks to Kickstarter’s services (not a sponsor).

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Billy Wilcosky