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Friday, January 31, 2003

Product Development Blogging

Blogs open doors for developers. Business software developers are learning what game makers have long known: Using Web logs and online tools to gather feedback can help strengthen products--and pull in customers. By David Becker [CNET]

...Blogging has also become an important part of the development process for Dan Bricklin as he works on the SMBmeta specification, his idea for a giant online business directory that would open the Web more to small and medium-sized businesses. Bricklin, co-inventor of VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet program, said his blog and other public communication conduits extend the possibilities for user feedback beyond beta testing, the traditional approach in which developers send early versions of a program to a select group of testers.

"I remember trying really hard to find beta testers by saving all the business cards I collected," said blogging pioneer Bricklin. "We had to find people, call them and beg them to be beta testers and mail them the software. We had to call them every week to see how they were doing.

"A Web log is a simple, inexpensive tool to get communication going and do it so much more efficiently," Bricklin continued. "It's unbelievable how much wider an area you get feedback from. What Web logs do is let there be more serendipity of ideas. I'm already finding bugs and looking at ways to do a better job based on what people have shared with me after reading the blog."...

"It was a conscious plan of communicating to people about what we're doing," said Mitch Kapor. "It's part of a long-term process of building a user community. Every process has its advantages and its disadvantages, but if you have an open process, you can get much better feedback, and you get stimulated by new ideas."...

"If you do this right, you've got early adopters, you've got evangelists, you've got a lot of early support," Kapor said. "The train has left the station and is gathering steam before you do a final release."

The article compares these cases of blog use with existing practices by game developers.  My first job in tech was as a video game tester for Activision in high school.  Gaming has long involved its customers in the development process, but as online gaming is at the forefront of communities for immersiveness it was a natural to extend this function on the Net.

What the article doesn't mention is the potential use of blogs within the development process, for communication between developers.  This is already a vibrant happening within blogspace on open projects and is a natural behind the firewall.


7:37:16 AM    comment []

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