Note: This page is a work in progress, new stuff at the bottom.
Cory Doctrow has a transcript of a talk he gave at Microsoft on DRM tech. It's a really great read, so go read it. In it, he has this wonderful ServeTheUser point:
When MP3 rolled around and Sony's walkman customers were clamoring for a solid-state MP3 player, Sony let its music business-unit run its show: instead of making a high-capacity MP3 walkman, Sony shipped its Music Clips, low-capacity devices that played brain-damaged DRM formats like Real and OpenMG. They spent good money engineering “features” into these devices that kept their customers from freely moving their music back and forth between their devices. Customers stayed away in droves.
Today, Sony is dead in the water when it comes to walkmen. The market leaders are poky Singaporean outfits like Creative Labs -- the kind of company that Sony used to crush like a bug, back before it got borged by its entertainment unit -- and PC companies like Apple.
That's because Sony shipped a product that there was no market demand for. No Sony customer woke up one morning and said, “Damn, I wish Sony would devote some expensive engineering effort in order that I may do less with my music.” Presented with an alternative, Sony's customers enthusiastically jumped ship.
I sat through meetings where we were asked to research ways in which to increase the amount of time that users spent in Money. Increase the amount of time! Users always ask for the exact opposite. Users want a Navy Seal relationship with Money -- get in quietly, do the job quickly, leave no comrade behind, maybe smoke a little afterwards. We got busy making Money into a needy girlfriend. “Let's make it so fun and engaging people won't want to leave!” Users would rather be scheduled for a root canal than to spend another minute trying to balance a checkbook.
Money is no longer laser-focused on beating Quicken. We realized that the PFM pie is much bigger than just getting upper middle class folks to read reviews and buy Money for their favorite uncle. There's now much more focus on getting simple things done.
//BusinessWorld/TheRestaurant had a great bit tonight (8/17/03). On the show, two famous chefs visit Rocco's restaurant, and the cameras caught a bit of their conversation. One was saying to the other that having great food is not enough in a restaurant. Chefs, waiters, writers, artists, all of them are servants, and a great restaurant is made with great service. While this conversation is going on, they spliced together a montage of Rocco, who was assisting a waiter that night to help gain an understanding of his new, failing, system for serving the room. Every shot was Rocco making a killing in good will with his customers.
When an artist is in the strict sense working, he of course takes into account the existing taste, interests, and capacity of his audience. ... Haughty indifference to them is not genius nor integrity; it is laziness and incompetence.
- C.S. Lewis, from his essay, “Good Work And Good Works” published in: “The World's Last Night” (out of print)
Serving the user is hard. Raymond Chen writes about the various ways users unwittingly lie to companies trying to serve them:
The following story is true, but the names have been changed.
A company conducted focus groups for their Product X, which had as its main competitor Product Q. They asked people who were using Product Q, “Why do you use Product Q instead of Product X?” The respondents gave their reasons...
Armed with this valuable insight, the company expended time, effort, and money ... sat back and waited for the customers to beat a path to their door.
But the customers didn't come.
Because the customers were lying.
An example of the Raymond Chen story that I think I saw myself was Borland's attempt to make a Delphi version for Linux, called Kylix, which can now be found in their “Classic” product group. I remember the surveys going out to the Delphi developer community, of which I was a part, right around the time Linux had really caught everyone's attention. I don't think the community lied so much as they just got really optimistic. “How cool, I could write Delphi for Linux!” The problem is, no one actually needed to, and the community made the product an instant Classic.
Independent (of each other) Negotiable (have some “wiggle room”) Valuable (to users or customers, not technologists) Estimatable (not very precisely but generally) Small (Not all stories but the ones you'll do soon) Testable