Grump

by havoc

I’ve been trying to get “D-Conf” discussions on the rails; some people
don’t seem to understand that this is about creating a certain user
experience for admins, programmers, and end users. The requirements
flow from that, not from a bunch of technology modules or libraries
that are available.

I was recently reading a report on VoIP technology consisting of a
discussion between various industry participants. Most of them kept
trying to predict and talk about the future by extrapolating trends,
guessing at upcoming legal changes, finding out about business deals
in the works, and combining technical buzzwords: in this context they
would tend to think “Skype got lots of users because it was P2P
(which reminded me of this
“architecture astronauts” article
).

One of the participants in the conversation had it right, though. He
repeatedly argued that Skype had its userbase because it let you make
free calls, it worked most of the time, and the calls had adequate
quality. In other words it was a useful product that solved people’s
problems, and shockingly, that resulted in people using it.

Check out this thing
(disclaimer: I’ve never tried it, maybe it rocks, but I’m going to
criticize their web site anyway). Their marketing slogan in the page
banner is “Blending: VoIP, IM, Presence, and Social Networking”; since
this web page has a “Geek Zone” link presumably the main page is
supposed to be the non-geek end user zone. How isolated from reality
do you have to be if you think “Blending: VoIP, IM, Presence, and
Social Networking” will make someone buy a product. Exercise: call
someone outside the tech industry and ask them if they would like to
blend VoIP, IM, Presence, and Social Networking today and how much
they would be willing to pay to do so.

My guess is that someone got too caught up in BS about “convergence.“
Maybe “convergence” is such a popular idea because anyone can become
a futurist this way without thinking too much. You just take a couple
of technologies and WHAT IF WE COMBINED THEM???? IT WOULD BE
AWESOME!!!!

To be fair, if that web site is really marketing to VCs or other tech
industry people, maybe their slogan is a good one.

And I don’t mean to say that combining technologies always sucks. Lots
of people use IM and phone calls in conjunction for example, and
surely you could create IM/phone integration that was useful. But just
sticking both technologies in one product doesn’t have any magic
benefit. You have to get down to the details of exactly how they
really work together to create an improved user experience. What does
the software do. It doesn’t matter which market it’s in or
which technologies it uses.

(This post was originally found at http://log.ometer.com/2005–04.html#9)