Consulting the People in a Benevolent Dictatorship

The fine people at EllisLab have a quite interesting post on how they see feature requests. Generally speaking, I like their voice. Unlike many web 2.0 companies, they’re not delivering the usual pandering bullshit: “it’s all about you the users and the comm-you-nih-tee.” Yeah right, like we can’t figure out the part about UGC economies of scale in your pitch to VCs.
EllisLab is saying, look we do appreciate your feedback, but it’s our job to maintain the product’s sense of purpose, stay the course and deliver. It’s refreshing, it’s honest, and it’s the right thing to do. You need the courage to say no to a lot of requests, whether externally or within a company with your internal users by the way. You also need to execute on some of those ideas, or people will just see the whole thing as an exercise in futility. Maintaining a transparent dialog about why feature requests make or don’t make the cut is key. Easier said than done as sometimes you’d rather just sit down and ship product.
Salesforce is doing a great job with its IdeaExchange (here’s their blog about it). There are ASPs (Oops, sorry for the 90’s wording, surely it’s more hip to say SaaS) such as BrightIdea too, and of course, a blog dedicated to idea management systems (what topic doesn’t have its blog this days, carrot juice fetishism maybe?). If you can educate internal and external users about trade-offs and cost/benefit decision making, I think given enough scale (i.e. you need the manpower to handle the firehose) these systems have real potential.

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