Friday, February 20, 2009

Dear facebook user: do it for me. Once again

After complaints over their new Terms of Use, Facebook wants its users to write the new ones. This is how it goes: OK dear users, we got it wrong [ or you didn't let us get away with it ], now tell us how you would like it to be.

Two comments about it:
  • Facebook is built on the premise of profuse user generated content on top of the platform the company provides. But, hey, how cool it is when users actually help you develop your product infrastructure!. It is not the first time facebook relies on its users for developing core components of its product. They did an awesome job outsourcing to users the site translation to other languages.
  • Facebook can make a mistake and still have the brand power to tell its users to work for them. It looks like it can get away with anything: the product is so relevant to its users, they are so locked-in - due to a massive network effect-, that people would provide feedback and try to change things for lack of any other better alternative.


barbunaki said...

I don't think giving users a voice is always a good thing. In particular, I don't believe is such a thing as a full democracy when it comes to product development. Obviously, being open to feedback and selectively incorporating them into the product/service is generally good, but oftentimes the feedback you get is flawed, and here are some reasons:

- People giving spontaneous feedback are often power users or users with specific needs. Their view of what is important and what should be prioritized in the next iteration can be very biased and distant than the needs of the majority of your users.

- Only the company knows where it want to take the product. Users give feedback based on their [narrow] vision of the product and not a holistic/strategic/long term vision (which, ideally, the company has).

- "A zebra is a horse to which all user feedback was incorporated - lower back to make mounting easier, more appealing color pattern, cute hair..."

Santiago said...

Thanks for your comment barbunaki. There is this quote attributed to Henry Ford saying that if he had inquired people about how to improve transportation before the introduction of the automobile they would have asked for a faster horse...

There are many successful examples of visionary product development -design for customers-. I personally believe in integrating the customer point of view somehow -design by customers or with customers, which may involve from just listening, to observing or even letting the customers decide on the product design-.

It might be true that what customers say is not representative or it is flawed but oftentimes observation provides interesting clues to inform the company's vision and ensure that the product will have the desired utility.

Regarding engaging your customers in product design, Frank Piller from RWTH Aachen University and MIT has interesting thoughts and examples at