A Classical Letter about "How to React when Users Disapprove your changes"

September 17, 2006

We all know about the recent Facebook changes i.e. Mini-Feed etc which were not accepted by its users (And technically it was not a privacy issue as they were only displaying the information that was already there – they just made it more easily available). But Users are Rulers (in Web 2.0 at least).

It happens a lot of times that users simply don’t like your software. Some companies turn a deaf ear. Others respond with promises of improvements in coming versions. Some even go to the extent of “informing its users” that users don’t understand company’s vision. Some even keep on claiming that only a small number of users are against it AND their loyal customers are happy with them.

What did Facebook do. Nothing like the above mentioned “standards”.

Mark Zuckerberg accepted his mistake. He addressed his users in his blog with “Calm down. Breathe. We hear you”. It was good. But the classical Letter was yet to come and it did come.

I have read his An Open Letter from Mark Zuckerberg several times and I am impressed and fascinated by his handling of such a complex situation. True to his words, Mark has heard his users and he changed Facebook the way users wanted it to be.

A few sentences from An Open Letter from Mark Zuckerberg

“We really messed this one up.”

“We did a bad job of explaining what the new features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them. I’d like to try to correct those errors now.”

“This may sound silly, but I want to thank all of you who have written in and created groups and protested.”

All the above lines are great. Great and simply Great. He is accepting his mistake. But wait – the real Classic is in the following lines where he seems to be out of this world. Before I quote the following lines, I must say that this letter should be included before preface in every book about Software Engineering, Customer Relations etc. This guy knows how to listen to the users and to act upon what they say. 

Mark wrote

Somehow we missed this point with News Feed and Mini-Feed and we didn’t build in the proper privacy controls right away. This was a big mistake on our part, and I’m sorry for it. But apologizing isn’t enough. I wanted to make sure we did something about it, and quickly. So we have been coding nonstop for two days to get you better privacy controls

This is how you do the job right. You’ve done a mistake -> your users complained -> you accepted the mistake -> apologized -> But knowing that an apology is not enough, you worked day and night to modify it according to the user’s demands.

See how simple Real Software Engineering is !

P.S. I have never been a member of Facebook myself.


SpiralFrog – Free Music (AD Supported) .. Finally Coming!

August 30, 2006

I had wished and hoped that this should happen and now its going to happen. Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music company, has agreed to make its entire library of songs in collaboration with SpiralFrog. This is truly exciting. They would show a 90 second commercial for an audio song and 120 second commercial for a video. This should have been there earlier. We do see this on televisions. We watch commercials and we get dramas/movies etc (and we all know that TV commercials have a great impact).

This is probably the exact same model. This would bring new audience for the advertisers. Many people who use pirated music would shift to this. The songs would be ad-free and we can listen to them (as many times as we want) on any device (computer, portable music players, cell phones etc.). People who pay $1 for each download would also go for this.

Time is money and so obviously SpiralFrog’s Chairman Joe Mohen said, “The currency we’re using is time”. I did some interesting calculations for this “TIME IS MONEY” part for audio songs (you can do it for videos on your own ;)).

Time to download from iTunes at $1                 =    20 sec

Time to download from SpiralFrog a $0.00        =    90 sec

Time wasted in SpiralFrog (allegedly)                =    90 – 20 = 70 sec

Money Saved for spending extra 70 sec             =    $1 approx. 

For Back-of-the-envelope calculation, let say that we save $1 for each minute that we spend watching advertisements. 

So IFF you are earning more than $1/minute (i.e $60/hour) and you can work the whole day, only then you should go for $1 downloads as you will earn more in the saved 1 minute from paid downloads. Otherwise if you want to download something and have got extra 60 seconds that won’t earn you $1, go for these AD Supported downloads :P.

By the way, if you make $60/hour (and work for 16 hours, sleep for 8 hours), you make $960 a day. This makes 4800/week (5 days/week) and makes 19200/month (4 weeks/month) … which makes $230400/yr. If you are earning (and working) that much, probably this service was not for you 😛 – its targeted at teenagers (or other people) who spend a lot of time on music everyday.

Way to go SpiralFrog. I am excited about your December 2006 launch.