Now blogging at diego's weblog. See you over there!

of hype and new features

Dylan wrote a cool entry about an article by Joel Spolsky entitled Mouth Wide Shut, about the problems and advantages of publicly talking about features and new products way before they are released. The article is pretty good, but he fails to mention one of the main reasons behind announcements like this: FUD.

The spreading of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt is something that Microsoft has become quite adept at, and that all big companies tend to use at times. When IBM was at the top of their game (between the mid-60s and the late 70s) they were the masters of FUD. Entire organizations would wait for their new product and smaller companies, with already-shipping products wouldn't be able to sell them, which suited IBM just fine, thank you very much. A very similar situation exists with Microsoft today. .Net is the extreme example: a technology-strategy-framework (or whatever the hell it is) that promises so much that even Microsoft itself can't define it. But if you promise something that then you don't deliver (and this is one of the points that Joel makes in his article) logic dictates is that your customers would be disappointed and potentially leave for greener pastures, right?

Right. Unless....

Unless you have a monopoly. Then your customers (by definition) can't leave. At least not as easily as they'd like.

Anyway, I personally agree with Joel on this: I think that one should talk mostly about what's been done, and a little about what you're planning to do, the latter in particular for things that a) are central to what you're doing, and therefore will be done no matter what and b) might not be central to the product but are expected of it (Example: Undo is rarely central to functionality, but always expected). This should be done not only to avoid disenchanted users when they don't get what they thought they would, but also because in software (more than in other fields) things change too fast. The cool feature of today is the dud of tomorrow. It's better to keep your options open.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on January 19 2003 at 1:33 AM

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