Any user of the current version of Microsoft Office could suggest tweaks and improvements. One word: clippy.
Users are fabulous at providing feedback to software they use and are familiar with. Software companies rely heaily on user feedback to improve the existing product that the users are already famliar with. Users are not good at describing how to improve products they don't use or don't understand.
reBlogger has that exact problem. No one can help us build it, because they have never seen it before! It also has the problem of requiring to be installed, WordPress had the same issue and decided to offer a hosted solution called WordPress.com. I like their explanation of why they started the hosted WordPress.com to complement their original WordPress product:
WordPress was famous for its 5-minute install, but as simple as we could make it the barriers to getting a WordPress blog were still fairly high and technical. Enter WordPress.com, a more limited version of WordPress that is hosted and completely maintained. Thousands of people every day are creating blogs on the WordPress.com service, which has just begun to explore its capabilities.
Many people have played with the online services of memetracker, technorati and the other services – but even these people struggle to understand what reBlogger does for them. We tried providing online videos and a release notes page but this has still not resolved the problem.
reBlogger has three problems:
- it requires installation and specific pre-installed software (.Net, MS SQL)
- reBlogger solves problems that most companies perhaps don't yet know they have
- We use too many nouns that aren't in wikipedia (haven't gained a large enough audience)
The blog wave is gathering speed – it doubles every 5.5 months – so this problem of managing information is only going to grow. The need for reBlogger is going to become intense. But unless people can get their hands on it and play with it – we're not going to break through.
We can see the same problem for every innovative product. Back when everyone was riding horses, Henry Ford was building something the people didn't know they needed and could not have described – until they saw it and used it. Henry said:
“If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses.’ ”
– Henry Ford, apparently as he is quoted in the London Observer
Hehehe. People didn't know they wanted cars – but they did. This is a significant problem for any first mover. While Henry got the next generation big picture right, he vastly underestimated how important the feedback from users us. He obstinately said:
"You can paint it (the car) any colour – so long as it's black."
– Henry Ford
That was a huge mistake: everyone wants cars in their own shade of color!
In the social/blogging world what people want is to express themselves and to get some level of control over the software that they use. That's the reason for the success of WordPress widgets and TypePad widgets. Combine that with open source (wordpress.org has the free PHP GNU source) and the end result of user extensions and playing around is quite unexpected: a WordPress Comic theme. Read From Weblog to CMS with WordPress.
Users are phenomenally good at giving advice about products that they use. A company that doesn't listen to feedback and act on it rapidly will lose out. We must strive to listen to what our customers want.
If you're interested in how revolutionary reBlogger is, listen to this interview with Robin Good Digg-In-A-Box… the interview. He makes some interesting comments about our functionality and how it plays into the whole blogosphere and newsmastering.