I read Dana Gardner's post about the "grass-roots media future - for the enterprise."
If John Lasseter can chat about what goes on behind the scenes at Pixar, why can't I get podcast "bonus materials" on who designed my favorite widget? Or my favorite iTunes feature? Or probe the accounting minds behind my QuickBooks Pro application?I completely agree with Dana on this. Why have layers of people and management between the developer and the user?
Maybe a blog with comments spawned from the podcast would provide valuable user feedback and powerful market research for future products and brands. You can't beat the value of an actual ongoing conversation on what makes people love or hate the products and brands they use … and they give it to you for free, if you let them.
But I know exactly why those layers exist: it's idea laundering. You know, with money laundering they have various "clean" fronts for the money taken illegitimately and then come up with it through a series of bogus transactions so that it looks as if the money came through legitimate means. Well, this way, the idea looks like it came to the development team unsolicited from users for the many people in between the development team and the user.
It's about protecting intellectual property.
It's about money.
Long ago, I sold shareware that I had written and put it out on the Internet and peope downloaded it and I made money from it. I had one woman write me and suggest a feature that was a good idea, but also a no-brainer for a future enhancement and was already planned. She wrote, "And if you implement this idea, which I think will make you a ton of money, I expect some sort of royalty."
As though for the sheer 5 seconds of grace from her brain I now owe her a significant portion of my product's income.
I wrote her back. "I've spent 600 hours on this product just in development alone, not to mention marketing time and so on. If I leverage my future development of this feature, plus what I currently have into this product, your demand of 20% of my gross revenue is inflated. By my calculation on hours alone, your contribution is a fraction of a percent."
Ideas are cheap; implementation is expensive and hard.
Blogs and comments for companies by the employees are a great step forward for interaction with the customer, but while people might believe that they "own" their idea and believe that it's worth millions by merely speaking it forward in less than a minute's time, companies are at risk to accept such interaction. Which is lousy for the future of products. We all benefit by a broader discussion that brings the consumers to the manufacturers in conversation. But we can't, and we like to blame that on lawyers.
It's not the lawyers, though. It's us. Until we get over the price of an idea.