March 14, 2010

On Monday, the Users Will Strike Back Against Products

Although I covered a pair of panels from the South by Southwest conference in Austin yesterday, I didn't go deep and explain why I chose to return to the event, which I first participated in and attended last year. Thanks to work at home and with Paladin, I almost opted out of SXSW in 2010, but after being offered the opportunity to speak on behalf of users everywhere and talk about how we may be losing the battle against products that are poorly designed or don't have our input, I had to accept - and therefore, I am spending the weekend in Austin. Tomorrow, in a core conversation, where I will participate in tandem with Chris Wetherell of Thing Labs (makers of Brizzly), and formerly of Google Reader we will sound the alarm for users to once again get the upper hand.

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.

In an allegedly social world, we have seen companies think all they have to do is start a Twitter account or beg you to join their Facebook pages, but instead of having real connections, the are sending out their interns to spout coupon codes and collect follower counts. We have seen discussion boards and feedback forums created, and then ignored.

Users are not to be feared. Users are to be embraced - and very often, we may have some fantastic ideas in terms of how to drive your product strategy that will help your company gain in differentiation, gain market share, and outperform the competition.

This is not a game of power users demanding power and access. This is a cry for help, to give us the option to trust you again. Just like every airline reminds us at the end of every flight, yes we have choices, and we are looking for solutions that give us real value. We want to help you.

If you are at SXSW in Austin tomorrow, please take up a torch on behalf of users everywhere, and join us at 11 o'clock to talk about how we can prevent products we like from becoming products we hate - and ask developers to take us seriously. We are in Hilton J, and the session is titled: "Products vs. Users: Who's Winning?"

Join us: