Online Discussions – Insights you could use!

February 19, 2007 at 9:59 am 9 comments

In the series I wrote on Convincing the unconverted, Part 3, I talked about using the data/evidence approach to convincing your business of the value of communities.  It often feels to me like many of the investments being made in communities by businesses are first and foremost about brand and brand marketing.  That is not inherently wrong, but I do feel it is too limited a purpose for communities and in fact if done in isolation to other motivations may be perceived as insincere by your users – (and, they might be right!).  I guess I tend the see marketing benefits as a good by-product of why you do communities, not the reason you do it.  I thought in this post I’d talk a little more about “insights.”  This can be broken down into a number of areas:

1.     Product feedback (both current and future) – Important:  Don’t assume you know everything you need to know from your call centers!!  That is a “going out of business feedback model.”

2.     Policy, program or content feedback

3.     Demographic insights – better understanding who uses your products

4.     Preference information – Why people use your products or why not

5.     Companion information – people who use your product also use _____?

6.     Competitive insights – whose products do they use instead of yours

7.     Unexpected insights – users often do what you didn’t intend with your products – this might indicate new markets or avenues of sales/development

8.     <insert your additions here>  

Now, realistically, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to do all of this – particularly in a short time frame.   Just collecting all these insights is non-trivial to say the least – it could be a massive amount of data (unstructured data)!  And taking action on it, which your users expect, is even more challenging.  Not all of it is actionable and you can’t be all things to everyone.  So deciding how to manage this is a complex, but important task. 

Perhaps, together we can share some thoughts on who we think is doing this particularly well and what we think about the approach is effective.

I’ll start with a couple of examples: Now, I’m not hiding that I work at Microsoft, but I don’t work on this project and either way, I still think this is very good.  The concept of connect is to provide an engagement, feedback and voting mechanism on Microsoft products.  On the splash screen, you can see connect has over 800,000 members who have registered over 225,000 bugs and over 30,000 product suggestions.  You can quickly view a list of connection opportunities, manage your participation and join others in publicly contributing and/or voting on others contributions.  Imagine, a public database of everything that is wrong with your products – this would be heresy for many companies.  But communities are all about transparency. This is pretty new, but is another interesting engine for gathering insights.  After registering, you get a quick idea of the size of the community and some light reputation based on top participants.  More importantly, you can quickly navigate user provided insights and either add to the insights or vote on existing.  As a company that brands itself on user customization, this is an interesting way to extend their customer research process.  Just so I’m not accused of any Microsoft biasJ  The level of activity here doesn’t seem very high yet (I think this is fairly new), but the idea is quite similar to those mentioned above.

As the collector of insights, knowing how to think about the thresholds for when you take actions and how you close the loop back will be an important part of your planning process…but the first step toward collection and transparency seems to have some obvious long term benefits.  A big challenge of feedback systems is that they can add so much noise to the system that you don’t know what to do.  That’s what I love about these examples with voting models implementing.  With nuturing, the community will manage the noise out by voting for what is good and marginalizing what isn’t most important. 

Imaging how your users will feel when they “see” their feedback in your product!!  This ain’t easy!!  But, that should be the core principle. 

Now, who do YOU think is doing this well!  (yes you, this means now you post a comment) 

Feeling informed? Digg it!



Entry filed under: Community Development Business Case, Convincing the uncoverted, Part 1-4, General Community Discussion, Why Community Matters.

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Deirdre Walsh  |  February 19, 2007 at 10:55 am

    Sean – First of all, thank you for setting up this necessary site. I look forward to exchanging ideas with others who share my compulsory passion for developing and nurturing a strong, successful community. Sorry I’ve been MIA since the conference. I think I brought more than a gift card from the original Starbucks back with me from Seattle. I was on my deathbed all last week.

    Anyway, Patty Seybold’s latest book, “Outside Innovation,” takes a look at 30 companies around the world that have successfully harnessed customer-led innovation, including my employer National Instruments. The report evaluates by-invitation-only communities such as Kraft and open communities like our partner LEGO, which does an excellent job of incorporate feedback from its’ lead-user program. Additionally, this resource provides “a self assessment to see how far along your company is in empowering your customers to strut their stuff.” For more information, visit

  • 2. Sean ODriscoll  |  February 19, 2007 at 3:52 pm


    Hey, Thanks for posting!!! Great to see you here. Sorry to hear you weren’t feeling well.

    It’s funny you mention that book, it was recommended to me just last week and I ordered a few copies (for myself and some friends) just the other day. I like “community” reading too as a way to group learn. I think I’ll post here soon on what I’ve read and/or am reading as a reference on this topic as I’d love to know what else I should be adding to the expanding pile!


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