Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Do products have to be right the first time?

In the course of a post that described Google's latest iterations to its Buzz product, L.A. Times blogger Don Reisinger stated the following:

It's commendable that Google is updating its service when it receives user complaints. But all these updates make me wonder if the Web giant is really prepared to run a social network. It seems that the bad press just keeps coming for Buzz.

My first thought was that Reisinger was being a little harsh. After all, it isn't that Buzz has had to make a 180 degree turnaround in the way it works - the changes are, in the overall scheme of things, tweaks rather than major rewrites. And those with long memories will remember that today's social networks - Facebook, MySpace, Twitter - are substantially different than they were when they first started.

But Reisinger's statement does raise the question - how much deviation is best between version 1.0 of a product and version 1.1? And what are the reasons for deviation? I can think of two: (1) the developer wanted to add features to version 1.0, but ran out of time; and (2) the users pointed out things that the developer didn't realize.

Unless I'm missing something, Google Buzz's changes fell into the latter category. And apparently Reisinger believes that Google SHOULD have anticipated the firehose and privacy issues that occurred once Google Buzz went out into the wild.

Or perhaps there's a third explanation: (3) the developer wanted to see if the users would tolerate a particular feature set, or if they would reject it.

Hmm...product vs. users. Louis Gray recently gave a presentation on this very topic. I haven't seen the presentation, but I have seen the pre-presentation synopsis:

As users, we for too long have not had much of a voice in the products we are expected to use. We have been dragged through iteration after iteration of beta software, expected to accept poor user interfaces, lost data, incompatibilities and decisions that have been made that benefit the company rather than ourselves. We have seen violations of privacy, we have seen sites that we like abandoned when founders get bored, or when the acquiring company has no interest in supporting the existing community.

More later as I ruminate on this.
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