Painful Facts For Developers #programming #foss
You don’t demand ETA’s on shit you aren’t paying for. You don’t get angry when something doesn’t work quite right on an Alpha or Beta build of something you didn’t pay for. You don’t start shooting off at the mouth about how you are going to move to someone else’s free software if this developer doesn’t fix the software you didn’t pay for.
I was naturally in agreement with the spirit of what he said. And I think that he and these developers miss a number of simple facts:
- These are your customers
- These customers are giving feedback
- These customers have rights
- These customers are emotionally connected
- You have rights
These are your customers
Read that again: These ARE your customers.
If you don’t want users you MUST NOT release anything, this turns strangers into customer. It’s easy to write something for yourself, write some cool code and run it for yourself . And it can be tempting to share it with others and if this is not in the safety of giving it exclusively to close personal friends don’t! To quote Jobs’ biography there are 2 classes of people: “Geniuses and Shitheads.” The times you deliver something that’s brilliant to a stranger you are a genius, and will be openly praised for it. All the other time you are shithead, luckily when customers demand better they have a belief that you are more genius than shithead.
These customers are giving feedback /
These customers are emotionally connected
Feedback is pure information, your interpretation, weighting and opinion of the feedback turns it negative or positive. And emotionally charged feedback shows an emotional connection from whoever is giving the feedback. So this is actually praise, when you deliver something good, people ask you to improve it and add value in asking. Whether they do it in a manner you appreciate it or not does not deflate the value of the input and information they are giving you. In the information age information is valuable. And they are giving you feedback and saying here’s information to make you product better. They took their valuable time and invested it in you, they might as well be handing you dollar bills. How are they not paying you? And you should understand that the people who get angry are the best, they are as emotionally invested in your product as you are. Sometimes even more…
For this post I went to the extent of ask a marketeer about this and he confirmed to me that emotionally connected customers are the ones who are more likely to pay you, when you ask for payment. Look at software which made everybody angry and given a choice people would not pay for: Windows 95. During an interview Bill Gates deluding himself said:
Most of them [customer centre callers] call to get advice on how to do a certain thing with the software. That’s the primary thing. We could have you sit and listen to these phone calls. There are millions and millions of them. It really isn’t statistically significant. Sit in and listen to Win 95 calls, sit in and listen to Word calls, and wait, just wait for weeks and weeks for someone to call in and say “Oh, I found a bug in this thing”. …
—Bill Gates, FOCUS 43, 1995
Do you get angry about something you don’t care about?
These customers have rights
Developers sometime forget that as soon as somebody gets something in their hand they have rights and obligations, no money needs to exchange hands. Funnily enough this is why people can be sued for downloading music they didn’t pay for. There is a magic transferal of rights and obligations to that person. There is also a magical transferal of emotional investment. An ice cream on a hot summers day tastes better because the conditions are right, even the expectation – the creation of the experience in the mind – will make the experience of the flavour better. Getting you software into the right person’s hands at the right time can make you very wealthy, just ask Russell Holly.
And these customer rights are cemented, to the extent that there is a shrink wrapped license is included with Free or Open Source Software, such as is in the GNU public license below.
THERE IS NO WARRANTY FOR THE PROGRAM, TO THE EXTENT PERMITTED BY APPLICABLE LAW. EXCEPT WHEN OTHERWISE STATED IN WRITING THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND/OR OTHER PARTIES PROVIDE THE PROGRAM “AS IS” WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO,THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. THE ENTIRE RISK AS TO THE QUALITY AND PERFORMANCE OF THE PROGRAM IS WITH YOU.
You have rights
As a developer you have rights. You don’t need to release the software, not releasing the software frees you of users and customers. It also removes praise, adoration and feedback. When you decide you want to help people who are lacking the brilliant features your software has realize that you are giving up your baby. However beautiful you think the software may be to everybody else it is just and ugly duckling, with warts.
A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.
—Steve Jobs, Wired 4.02, 1996
There is a lot of value to be gained from any feedback given by any user, and you as a developer you have the right to choose to ignore them.
I welcome you to respond in whatever tone they like with a good argument or feedback, this means I touched you in some way.
Image source: Sebastian Fritzon