Never Underestimate How Much People Care

April 21st, 2010 3 Comments

Photo by jonbro from Flickr used under Creative Commons

Earlier in the month, foursquare announced some changes to their game that would curb cheating. The following day, they posted an update, which said in part:

First of all, I can’t tell you how psyched we are to see so many people passionate about foursquare – this is crazy!  Second, a few quick updates that didn’t make it into our original blog post.

The post went on to clarify how the new rules worked. This was partially in response to this hilarious story of how a guy blatantly cheated at foursquare to become mayor of places like the North Pole and the Taj Mahal.

Well worth a read for its humor value alone.

Anyway, in both cases, people were surprisingly vocal, and I think foursquare should have expected the feedback they received.

You can tell how seriously people take the game by cruising around their support forums on Get Satisfaction, which I did to clarify how a few badges were earned.

I was amazed at how annoyed people were about things like earning badges and points. Many of you are probably amazed that I cared enough to look at their forums, so you’re probably in total shock by now.

This type of visceral feedback reminds of other successful services namely Twitter and Facebook.

Remember the dark summer of 2008, when the fail whale ruled?

Remember how everyone said Twitter wouldn’t scale, how any startup could replicate its functionality and how people would never use the service or take it seriously?

At Chirp last week, Biz Stone (@biz) remarked at how bad that time was for the fledgling company. Of course, today, they’re only laughing because they made it through, and Twitter is stronger than ever.

Facebook has been dealing with user uprisings since it introduced the News Feed and opened itself up to everyone. Every time they make a move, users revolt, and this week will produce more of the same during their developer conference, f8. I haven’t kept up with the announcements, but I know they will cause a stir.

Foursquare is at a growth tipping point, about to cross the one million user mark this week, signing lots of deals with media partners, rumored to be an acquisition target, etc. Right, wrong, indifferent, they’re on to something.

Maybe that’s a rule of thumb. If your users freak out when you change something, you’re doing something right. The hard part is to figure out what’s right and what’s wrong, but at least someone cares.

Find the comments.


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3 Responses to “Never Underestimate How Much People Care”

  1. John E. Bredehoft (Empoprises) Says:

    And the one thing that we sometimes forget as users is that what's right for the user isn't necessarily what's right for the company.

    I'll use a recent example – the yanking of all of the Downfall-based Hitler parodies from YouTube. Now perhaps users could claim that the parodies ended up generating additional revenue for the copyright holder because people sought out the real version of the movie, but is that just wishful thinking on our part?

    Even my paranoid conspiracy theory – that the copyright holders of Downfall (and of “Never Gonna Give You Up”) allowed the parodies to stay on YouTube long enough to generate some buzz, THEN yanked them – could be justified from the perspective of the company. If this was truly the copyright holders' secret strategy, then it's no different from the strategies of any other company that offers a product for free, or at a reduced price, for a limited time. (Can you say Ning?)

    In the end, it all boils down to conflicting expectations. New tech companies want to earn revenue, and customers don't mind that – as long as the customers themselves aren't the ones having to pay up. However, in too many cases, the companies end up losing money on such a model.

    Sorry for the rambling nature of this comment, but your main point is certainly valid – if you have passionate users, you're doing something right.

  2. Jake Says:

    Not entirely a parallel with what I meant, but OK. I'm referring to the users of a product, and the company's surprise at how passionate they are. It's a weird growing pain that I don't recall seeing in the 90s, i.e. a company provides a service and hits a point where they must stop treating it like a side project. Good problem to have, just a bit odd.

    In the 90s, every company assumed they were the real deal from Day 1. Now, companies start out like side projects. Actually, it's pretty smart for setting expectations, up to that nexus point. Has to be related to the venture money.

  3. Jake Says:

    Not entirely a parallel with what I meant, but OK. I'm referring to the users of a product, and the company's surprise at how passionate they are. It's a weird growing pain that I don't recall seeing in the 90s, i.e. a company provides a service and hits a point where they must stop treating it like a side project. Good problem to have, just a bit odd.

    In the 90s, every company assumed they were the real deal from Day 1. Now, companies start out like side projects. Actually, it's pretty smart for setting expectations, up to that nexus point. Has to be related to the venture money.

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