In life if something doesn’t work out, at least you can learn from it. That is the power of doing. The beauty of being a human being is that we are exceptionally good at learning from others. As I watched Google launch Buzz, and the ensuing mess, it got me thinking. Why did a project like Buzz not exactly work out (as of yet) when something like Twitter did? They are both kinda the same, right?
I am sure the guys at Google have a whole lot so say on the matter, but from my outside perspective I gleaned a few lessons:
1. Big Bang is Tough – Anytime you do a big launch you are placing a bet that you got it perfect. The fact is that you never will. There are always people who love you and those that can find something bad to say about a free pizza. Such is life. So we best just accept it and do something we think is great and hopefully, slowly, others will find us, and agree. Making everyone happy is not a real goal. Let’s just make ourselves, and maybe a few others happy. Remember Cuil?
2. Solve A Problem, Don’t Create More – The reason a site like Twitter worked was that it filled a niche. It enabled very simple broadcasting (and consumption) of information. No one on twitter expects a reply. Email is different. IM is different. Those are tools for private communications and they work very well. However, when you want to tell the world that you slept in and missed the bus, where do you turn? Thankfully we have Twitter. Whether we think it is useful or not is irrelevant, it fills a missing element in the communications continuum. Buzz was just doing the same thing. Was anyone really asking for more noise in their inbox? Doesn’t everyone already feel overwhelmed by the volume they already have? If not, just turn off the spam filter and enjoy.
3. Networks Hate Competition – Why is it that we are ok with a million twitter clients but not Buzz? It comes down to the network. Personally, I’d love a single network, but my request to the Internet Gods has fallen on deaf ears and I have both Twitter and Facebook. The problem is not having the network or assembling it – It is managing it. The whole point of a network is to communicate with it. I don’t think people have the energy to be witty in 3 places – it is hard enough to blow people’s minds regularly on Twitter. In fact, I have even linked my Twitter and Facebook publishing to avoid just this issue.
4. People Hate Change – I don’t care what you are doing, if people are even remotely content, you will lose. You need some serious dissatisfaction for people to change what they do. If you ask them to lift a finger, even the baby pinky finger in zero gravity, forget it. You ever wonder why there are no Facebook group called “I can find 100,000,000 people who can’t live without the next Facebook redesign”. Did you ever wonder why iphone apps took off and dashboard widgets never did? We are all lazy, and telling me I now have to do something to get what I already have is a non-starter. Uh, no thanks.
Ok, so I never like pointing out issues without at least shining a light on possible answers.
The net of this for me is that if you want to play in this space, don’t copy. If you are into collaboration, realize that the 1:1 and 1:Many problems are solved quite well. However, that means that the small group collaboration (1:Some) market is wide open. Being able to share very, very easily with a few people privately could be a very useful tool people might adopt. They might also just stick with email (see #4).
Another possible answer here is to tame the noise, as Rich has alluded to. Now if you want solve this problem and unify existing networks and magically figure out what is important I commend you. Just realize (a) that is a monster problem, (b) do it for yourself and no one else, and (c) you need something to call your own. No product built on someone elses value lasts long without their own value. Amazon sells other people’s books, but has an incredible end to end buying experience. Google maps uses someone elses map data, but now adds user maps, street view, etc. So aggregating is not enough, think hard about what you will do that no one else does. Yes, I know, it will be your algorithm.
Technology is tough. It moves very fast, people can be unforgiving and failures are very public, but don’t let that stop you. Every now and then people will root for you if you step out into the darkness like Google did with Buzz. The fact is that no one remembers the critics. So get out there and be amazing.