Under The Microscope


Welcome to the Rogue Amoeba Company log.

This all began when I started reading The ClueTrain Manifesto for the first time recently. Clue Train was the business revolution website-cum-book back in 1999, when the Dot-Com bubble was still on the rise. It details the then-coming business revolution, where consumers held all the power and knowledge was key. While the world has perhaps wound up at some sort of midpoint between business as usual and the new economy, the first thesis of Clue Train still holds true: The market is a conversation.

What does this mean? It means that no longer can businesses tell you what you like. No more of the old Henry Ford “They can have any color they like, so long as it’s black”. We need to listen to our customers, because if we don’t, someone else will. We also need to talk to you, and not in the condescending tones of old. No one wants to listen to marketspeak, and on the Internet you just don’t have to. I’m paraphrasing the book here, so if you’re convinced I’m some sort of business savant, you should check out cluetrain.com. This idea of conversing with users really struck a chord with me, because it’s what I’ve always found to be the key to shareware development, and one of our enormous advantages over our larger competitors. You can tell us what you want, what you hate, and what went wrong, all without going through layers of middlemen. We’re a small company, and if your complaint gets heard by just one of us, we can personally make a difference. I hear from our users the most, which means I can tell Quentin that users just don’t like the DSP drawer (found in Audio Hijack 1.x), and we need to make the interface more intuitive. Or I can tell him that people really want a Timers feature, after Audio Hijack 1.0 came out. Honest to god, this seemingly obvious idea just never occurred to us, but it’s essential. And when I get the same support request over and over, I know that I screwed up and didn’t include something in the documentation.

Talking to our users is what keeps us moving and ahead of the big boys like Apple, Adobe, and Microsoft. They’re big but we’re mobile. We’ve got our ear to the ground and they’ve got their heads in the clouds. If you talk to us, we listen and respond, and changes are often made thanks to the input of just one user. If you talk to them, that third party tech support guy makes a note and your case gets filed away. Maybe if you’re lucky, enough other people call the outsourced support company to complain and the incident gets moved up. Maybe someone whose paycheck comes directly from the company who actually made the product even hears about it. What a concept! At Rogue Amoeba and at most independent software companies, we’re all directly involved in the product. We’ve got our sleeves rolled up and we’re up to our arms in it, and every complaint or request gets our attention.

But the scope of our conversation with the market has thus far been a bit narrow. We listen to you through email and forums, and offer feedback (“That’s an incredible feature idea, and we’re dropping everything else to add it” or “Doing that might help you, but it would cause an unacceptably high number of seizures among our users, so unfortunately, we won’t be implementing that”*), but what are we saying to you, to our visitors and our customers? We’re saying “Here are our products, we think they’re great and we hope you will too. Try them out. If you like them, buy them”. That’s great, that’s our bread and butter, but we’ve got much more to say than that. We are more than our software. We’ve got ideas, and feelings, and emotions, and sometimes, they’re worth sharing. Geeks the world [former link to unsanity.org] over are turning to a new medium, the so-called “blog”, to talk about things that are outside the scope of their standard conversations, but that are still relevant to what they know.

So I started to write about what I knew. I wrote a response to an article I read on starting a shareware company. And while I was writing that I came up with an odd but fitting theory on developing independent software so I went off on that tangent for a few pages. Then I realized Rogue Amoeba had some Good Ideas that needed to be written down and fleshed out in more depth later. And before I knew it, I had the makings of half a dozen articles ñ I’d found my voice, and you’ll be be able to hear it here. I hope you’ll be interested enough to listen and talk to us. We want to get into a discussion with you, because that’s how things move forward. No one-way marketspeak, just honest and open communication from one human to many others, and hopefully back. We hope to hear from you.

* No, I’m not sure what number of seizures a feature could cause and still be considered acceptable. Probably 0. Probably.

Update (February 6th, 2019): A blog clean-up has found that the link to unsanity.org here is sadly broken, with no way to access this content from long ago. The Internet Archive’s WayBack Machine provides the best 2003-era context for unsanity.org here.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Our Software