Sharing Ideas Without Having to Think

Steve Krug would agree that thinking is a bad thing. Not that thinking in general is bad. I’ve found that it is actually a good thing.

Thinking can be bad when it is a barrier between a user and what they want. People don’t want to spend more time thinking about how to do something — they just want to do it.

It is why simpler sites win. Simpler means less thinking and a better experience for the average user.

The same ideology can and should be applied to all other realms. The “waste no brain cells” approach is often applied in marketing and user experience areas during the design phase of a web application. But on a larger scale, shouldn’t it be applied to an entire organization? To a community? To their actual ideas?

Take a look at Dell’s idea storm and I think you’ll get the idea (or ideas!). They are taking a fresh approach to consumer affairs and empowering users with the ability to tell them what they think — without thinking too much in the process.

The concept behind this site is simple. Users have all the good ideas, and a company ultimately wants to please its users. It is a tool to bridge the gap between Dell’s future plans and the dreams of its community. After all, shouldn’t they be the same? It’s not ALL about profit, is it?

So I say bravo, Dell, and I hope it works out. But it seems like a lot of ideas just sit there for a while. We’ll see how it goes. Ones I liked in particular:

They lead me to wonder — who is considering items that are **UNDER CONSIDERATION**?

In open source I don’t think projects or organizations lack feedback or tools for aggregating feedback. It’s just that they are too complicated and seem daunting to someone who just want to tell us what they are thinking.

I worry about the alienation of a large percentage of users. In the Mozilla community, specifically, we rely heavily on Bugzilla as a bulletin board for user feedback. In order to report a bug and let their ideas be known, a user has to take a few steps:

  1. Create a Bugzilla account
  2. Sign in
  3. Figure out what product they need file a bug in
  4. Figure out what component they need to file the bug in
  5. Figure out what all the other stuff means
  6. Follow Bugzilla rules on how to file a bug
  7. Realize they should look for dupes
  8. Look for dupes
  9. File the bug
  10. Wait a while and hope something happens

Sorry, you lost John Doe on step 1. He decided to grab a beer and watch the Sopranos instead. It requires less thinking and is much more entertaining.

Reporter, hendrix and the uninstall survey also attempt to gather user feedback but once it gets there it stagnates. There’s no active participation that occurs after the delivery of an idea.

So what about this?

  1. Click on something
  2. Say what you think (while optionally creating an account if you want to track your idea)
  3. Hit submit
  4. If it’s a great idea and you’re up for it, track responses and participate in resulting discussions

I can see a need for this in almost every organization — small or large. I think the advantages would be huge and the investment relatively small given the frameworks we have at our disposal and the simplicity of the application.  What do you think?

11 responses

  1. Anders wrote on :

    In the bugzilla-list, you forgot step 0 where the user has to find bugzilla, realize what it is and grasp the concept of a bug tracker.

    In the proposed shorter list, why would you want/need to create an account just for tracking the idea? Isn’t that what rss-feeds are for (of course the user don’t need to know that the browser will subscribe to a rss feed to check for progress)?

  2. morgamic wrote on :

    You wouldn’t need to, the idea would be public — but if you wanted to ‘watch” it the way you would in MediaWiki or some forums you’d have to tie a user account to it.

    I’m not entirely sure not requiring a user account is a good idea, but it’d make things easier initially. Kind of a catch-22. Maybe we could make them sign up for a user account after they submit. We could be sneaky like that. 🙂

  3. Pat wrote on :

    We’re well on our way to making what you’ve outlined available for any company, organization, product, website, etc.:

    “FeVote” is a ‘social suggestions’ website.

    One of your hottest points is that suggestion making should be dead simple — no hassles. We’ve opened the site up to Yahoo and OpenID (thus AOL/AIM) users, but after reading this post, you reaffirmed an old thought I had that users should not be forced to login to make suggestions.

    For instance, on a website, through our widget, a person should be able to:

    a) Type the idea
    b) Complete a CAPTCHA; click submit
    c) OPTIONALLY register/login; otherwise, the suggestion is by “Anonymous”

    It’ll be tricky to secure, but I know we can do.

    Second to last thing… feel free to create a category for any Mozilla product on FeVote. It’s on us for at least 60 days:

    Last thing… if you’ve got suggestions for FeVote — anything at all — and I know you do, please, share your ideas without having to think:


  4. Cameron wrote on :

    Mozillazine forums?

  5. Gerv wrote on :

    That all works fine as long as everyone is as smart as you. But if you reduce the barrier to entry for feedback, what you get is more feedback. Compare the Hendrix volume vs. the new-Bugzilla-filer bugs-filed volume. However, there’s also no guarantee of quality, because you’ve got no “clue barrier” in the way either. So compare Hendrix quality to Bugzilla bug quality. The Bugzilla bug quality’s not high, but the Hendrix quality is (frankly) terrible.

    If it’s really easy to give your opinion, the problem is that everyone will do it. 🙂

  6. morgamic wrote on :

    Mozillazine forums? Errr, no… but kind of.

    Gerv, that’s kind of the point. I don’t think it’s healthy to assume that people who are “as smart as you” have all the ideas. A good app would also let the community bubble things up (for better or worse). Is the fear that the Bugzilla-aware community is egocentric and lacking some ideas that the rest of the world has not legitimate?

  7. Anders wrote on :

    My point was exactly that you don’t need an account even if you want to watch the issue/bug. Internally the issues might be tied to a guid, which would server as both identification and credentials. Only if the user would like to access the submitted issues from another installation/browser, the user would need some form of identification, at that point they could be given an url to bookmark to the option to enter a email to which a password or url can be send.

  8. Wil Clouser wrote on :

    Gerv’s comments are true – the uninstall survey is flooded with comments that make no sense or are just outlets for frustration. I think the benefit of a system like the IdeaStorm would be picking up the set of users between “I just want to vent” and “I’m going to create an account, articulate my idea, and follow up when people ask questions.”

    Since the barrier to entry is lower, you’ll get more input, however, most of that input would be in the form of votes, rather than separate ideas/issues (which is a weakness of the uninstall survey’s comments). As ideas+votes clump together and float to the top, you’ll find the issues that most people want addressed (another issue with hendrix/survey).

  9. Pat wrote on :

    No comments about FeVote!? (see above; and sorry about the spammy tone — i got excited!)

    On another note, we’re considering open-sourcing FeVote once we’re comfortable with our hosted platform. Think Pligg, but based on ideas as opposed to news.

    Also, all the talk is about IdeaStorm, but don’t leave out Yahoo! Suggestion Board, which IMO is better implemented. Same concept, but simply better.

  10. Wil Clouser wrote on :

    I didn’t mean to ignore FeVote in my last comment – I think it’s very close to what the original post is talking about. If you’re thinking of open sourcing it, I’m all the more excited about it. 🙂 Do you have a time line you’re considering?

    I didn’t know about yahoo’s suggestion board, but it looks nicely done. I kind of like how you can “demote” items on Dell’s site, but that might just be my negative attitude shining through. 😉

    Regardless, if there is code out there we can use to save us time, I’m sure we’ll all be pretty excited about it.

  11. Pat wrote on :

    Thanks, Wil!

    Right now we’re working on extending FeVote every which way, and considering a limited open source release at the end of the year. While the wait could be long, the hosted utility is readily available.

    For immediate site integration, we recently released the FeVote Widget.

    Right now we’re working on two projects to help open FeVote up: an API, and a small package that Facebook app developers can use within their apps to get Feedback. (Our own FB app here, btw.)

    It would be an honor to have Mozilla on board, and to hear your thoughts on improvement. 🙂