Ed Sim of Dawntreader has a post about roping in developers as a “buzz”-generating mechanism for new projects. He says
While it is imporant to court developers and technologists in the sales process since they typically have to give the technical buy-off and can just as easily squash an opportunity, it is not a great and economical use of time to have your most expensive direct sales resources and sales engineers doing this. Enter the web and the open source movement.
Interesting. However, going through his post reminded me of another post by software guru Joel Spolsky. In his article, Joel talks about substitutes and complements. For example, consider a graphics card by nVidia. The sales of this card will go up, when its complements (read computer games) become cheaper. What’s the point, you ask…
Using the web as a platform for building community is well and good. But, what are the complements of a brand new product - nothing. For example, I could develop a device which connects my iPod to record my radio shows. Will it sell? I dont know..even though in itself it is a complement to iPod, I still have to create its own set of complements.
Can I depend on the developer community to do it for me. Nope. There has to be a momentum, which has to be created by the creators. So for example, if I had used a hackable linux kernel in my device - I could write modules to compress the stream on the fly/encrypt it/broadcast it to multiple receivers. Can I now depend on the deveopers? That depends on how much you maintain the momentum.
One of the best lessons I learnt from my Big Boss was “respond fast and release often”.
Which brings us to a quote by Joel:
..when an economist considers price, they consider the total price, including some intangible things like the time it takes to set up, reeducate everyone, and convert existing processes.
Creating a web based community is well and good. But a community withers out fast if there is no training/support. Companies may think that they have a cheap medium of the internet for marketing/sales. But customers now expect faster and faster responsiveness to issues. That does add on to cost.
The web can never equal an attentive salesman who can sense body language. Its what I have learnt from deploying applications at customer sites.