I have tried to come to grips with this concept for several days now. So rather than just keep wrestling with it any longer I need to just get it out of my system. Last month Google announced the plan to solicit users for ideas on new products. On the surface this seems harmless, engaging and even fun. But after applying further thought to this and reading through the feedback on this post, I’m wavering. Here’s why.
Nothing comes free
This is brought up in several comments. Anyone with an idea worth anything isn’t going to just hand it over to Google or anyone else, right? I contend the answer is that they will. Passionate users will gladly free-up ideas if they think they are part of the process or team. Also, many people realize that they are not going to have a chance of seeing their vision come to fruition for a number of reasons, they are not experienced, do not work in the industry, do not have resources to start, etc. Therefore, they sacrifice profit, for the potential bragging rights.
Another comment to the post talks about the system and how it is flawed. If you rank ideas by popularity then the more popular ideas will only continue to grow. Additionally the task of wading through the garbage becomes more tedious. At the time of this post the stats are: 6,481 users – 2,193 ideas – 125,156 votes. Now this would indicate that every third person submits an idea. On average every person is dropping 20 votes.That means you are not going to get much action past the first few results pages. New ideas will struggle to see light if they get buried.
Many of these “ideas” are not really ideas. So you end up with things that do not necessarily fall under the Google Product influence. Since the current suggestions are for mobile you see many users suggest things that might be useful or make sense but if the hardware or carrier is unable or unwilling to move then you set an expectation that the idea might have merit based on the popularity and number of votes. When the idea does not come to be who gets the blame. I contend Google will get the blame because they are the ones soliciting ideas.
Manage the Ideas
This might seem like a sounding board for some people to post user issues, bugs, and other issues. If you do not manage these “ideas” by directing the user to the appropriate documentation and removing the idea it is just adding more noise for people to sort through. There are plenty of examples of people announcing their approval of a product or service without any real useful data. This might be good for the development team, but provides little value in moving the products forward.
I like the concept that Google is using to reachout to dedicated users to get feedback, but they are really going to need to work on the tool in order to make it useful for true product development. Imagine trying to wade through this mess. What could be a great opportunity turned into an administrative headache.