[Scoble] Everyone who rips us apart, though, does make the book better. In fact, we invited one blogger, Trevor Cook, who had some constructive criticism to write a part of a chapter. That wouldn’t have happened if we had just waited until the end to publish the book. This process is going to be used in products too. You just watch.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t been paying too much attention in keeping up with Scoble and Shel Israel write their book about weblogs, "Naked Conversations" (frankly, it feels like more blogging about blogging), Scoble made a comment that really scares me: "This process is going to be used in products too. You just watch."

Bzzz. Wrong. Sorry Scoble, I have to disagree with you here, big time.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m the first person to fight program managers left and right in order to (coining a term from Kathy Sierra) give users the "I Rule!" feeling, and to make sure that feedback from your users and usability is a part of the design process, but "design by committee" never works when it comes to building software.  In fact, it leads to only one thing: feature creep.

Don Norman, author of The Design of Everyday Things has it right (from New Scientist): "You don’t do good software design by committee. You do it best by having a dictator. From the user’s point of view, you must have a coherent design philosophy, and I don’t see how that could come about from open source software. The person who’s done it best is Steve Jobs, and he’s well-known for being a tyrant."


7 Comments

    AC (May 29, 2005 @ 9:18 am)

    “…and I don‚Äôt see how that could come about from open source software.”

    Firefox. Just because it’s open source, doesn’t mean there isn’t a dictator.


    Robert Scoble (May 29, 2005 @ 10:01 pm)

    Even if you have a dictator, why can’t the dictator recognize good feedback from a customer and integrate that into the product?

    I already know of good ideas received from customers that are getting into products.


    Jeff Atwood (May 30, 2005 @ 1:48 am)

    > but “design by committee” never works when it comes to building software. In fact, it leads to only one thing: feature creep.

    Not necessarily. I agree with Scoble. Design input from the customer isn’t design by committe.

    If companies were reading the epinions.com reviews of their products and rapidly incorporating changes to address the most frequent complaints, I *guarantee* they’d have better products and higher sales.


    Steve (May 30, 2005 @ 7:34 am)

    As I mentioned in the original post, I’m *not* talking about ‘input from customers’. The VS feedback center is a *great* example on how customer feedback and input is having a direct effect on a product. Good stuff.

    “Design by Blog”, like Scoble’s book, however, is not going to be the way products are built.


    James Kew (May 30, 2005 @ 1:33 pm)

    Python is another good example of an open-source, but strongly led, software project: many developers, one Benevolent Dictator.

    (It’s often said that Guido’s strong leadership is what’s kept the language clean; arguably, recent community-promoted additions to the language have led to some loss of clarity.)


    Robert Scoble (May 30, 2005 @ 10:07 pm)

    Steve: you misunderstand TOTALLY how our book is being written.

    We write it. Our readers rip it apart. If we think they actually have a point, we’ll change the book. But, we are dictators. It’s our names going on the cover.

    This is how I see many products being designed. You think Steve Jobs came up with the idea of putting podcasting features into iTunes on his own? No, he was reading the blogs and watching for product feedback (or his employees were).


    Steve (May 31, 2005 @ 7:41 am)

    I’m glad that I misunderstood then, you had me worried. I was basing my post on the linked entry above, which made it appear to be ‘design by blog’.


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