October 18, 2005 - An Interesting Forum Happened on the Way to the Home

I have a fair commute from Mountain View over the hill to Santa Cruz County. So, I try to make good use of the time by listening to podcasts of technical presentations. Yesterday, I was driving home on Highway 17 listening to Tech Nation with Dr. Moira Gunn, It is a technical discussion program broadcast on NPR, but also available on IT Conversations as a podcast.

Dr Gunn was interviewing Ann Winblad and Laura Merling about the current state of software development, venture capital, and Silicon Valley. One topic they discussed was developer transparency and that more new companies were adopting the practice. They meant practices such as sharing bug databases online with customers, providing more insight into the release cycles, collaborating more with customers on feature definition, and showing tracking metrics publicly.

Then they referenced Agitar and our posting of our dashboard results publicly. It was really cool to hear our company name mentioned out of the blue. Particularly, it was good to hear that people investing in new software companies are recognizing these contributions as valuable to the industry and seeing more of their companies adopting them.

As a consumer of software, moving to the other side of the fence for a moment, it is nice to have insight into the products I am using. Since software is so malleable, I see my purchase of software (other than games) more as the start of a relationship with a service provider, than a retail purchase. For that type of relationship to work, there has to be a two way conversation.

Insight into the product development status gives me confidence in the provider. I would much rather see the production of fewer features done well, than a bunch of buggy features rushed out the door.

Also, providing input on what I would like in future versions gives me a sense that I am able to help provide better tools for myself even if I am not building those tools directly.

As a last thought, from the producer side of the fence, by starting these conversations ourselves, there is less of a chance that consumers would see it necessary to introduce regulation for software companies. I don't see a great likelihood of that in the near-term, but when you think about how unreliable and buggy some of the software products that have shipped in the past were, you wonder why consumers don't throw up their hands and revolt.

I don't offer that last point as a reason to take on more open practices. I want to do it because it makes for better business. Happier customers mean more revenue. Happier engineers mean better products. Better products and more revenue make happier investors. Happier investors make happier managers. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

Posted by Bob Evans at October 18, 2005 09:04 AM

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