The Cluetrain Manifesto and IDE Conversations

Guest Author

I am currently reading a book called The Cluetrain Manifesto. As you could guess I mostly don't read business books but this one cought my attention. Why? Because it's about open conversations.

The main idea of the book is that markets are conversations and for a company to be successfull it needs to be able to communicate with it's market in an open way. This is in contradiction with the culture of mass media, where companies communicate with it's customers mainly using advertisements, PR articles, boring corporate web sites and similar not very human ways. The book claims the power of human voice is regaining it's importance with the wide acceptance of the Internet.

Firstly, there are some things I really don't like on the book, mainly that it's very dogmatic, saying that this is the only way in the future. The whole book has an undertone "we know it better" which reminds me of some of the Linux fanatics (don't get me wrong, I like Linux, I just don't like it's fanatics).

The dogmatism is the only bad thing about the book, for the rest it's full of very good ideas. The 95 theses on the website are definitely worth reading, they give a summary of the ideas. To my surprise I agree with many of them. The manifesto is signed by James Gosling among several other employees of Sun Microsystems, one of the co-authors is from Sun, too.

I've been actually implementing many of the concepts from the book, even before I read it. In connection with NetBeans, I believe success of NetBeans depends largely on it's community of users. Sure, we still need to have a great product with lots of useful features. But that's not enough. There are many companies who failed even though they've created a perfect technical solution, but didn't communicate well with their market. Silence in this case is fatal.

We can't meet most of our customers in person like usual companies do. We meet majority of people using NetBeans only through the internet.
Our market are the most "hard core" users of the internet, people who use it daily, they communicate, amuse themself, search for information, solutions for their problems or just lurking around looking for anything interesting for their brains.

We cannot use any of the traditional marketing tools, like brochures writing our products are the best of breed with quotes of the CIOs who claim our product saved them completely. No, people using IDEs are very critical. They don't accept any marketing bullshit. Our market is smart, whenever somebody publishes incorrect information, the market almost immediately reacts - via blogs, forums, mailling lists, whatever. Suddenly you can see responses negating this information. Our market is very fast. News spread in a matter of few days (no matter if it's good or bad, although bad news seem to be spreading a bit faster ;-)

What matters the most when communicating with developers who use the IDE? (strictly my opinions)
  • Conversations - developers want to discuss, evaluate the IDEs, get answers on their problems, discuss future of the IDEs, get latest information, help each other or just chat about the features. Two-way communication is necessary, not listening is fatal.
  • Sincerity - the IDE market is smart, any unsincere information turns against you very soon. Being unsincere makes you irellevant, the trust you might have gained before is lost.
  • Openess - crossing the company firewall and providing openly information about the newest development. Waiting for the next release to surprise everyone may be fatal, developers may swith in meanwhile to another IDE which communicates more openly.
  • Human voice - developers don't want to read PR bullshit, they want to talk to a human being. They want to read stories, discuss them and provide feedback through conversations.
  • Fun - developers want to have fun while using the product and discussing it, any software development should be fun or there's something fundamentally wrong.

Next to it, building the community is important. It feels great to be a part of active and supportive community. To see people helping each other just because they want to, not because they get paid for it. Community around the IDE is what makes people happy for using the product and it's providing a great support for anyone having any issues or questions.

How are we doing with all this in NetBeans? Not bad, but it could be better. I think there is a tremendous progress compared to what was few years ago, I know NetBeans from that time only as a user.

So this is my vision of success of NetBeans (yeah, I know features ARE very imporant, but as I wrote - you can have amazing features but without communicating properly with the market, you are doomed to fail). Anyway I hope this post will not create too much of controversy...

Update: If you've read the book, you'll certainly enjoy The Gleutrain Manifesto. Extremely funny if you know the book. Use the force, Luke!

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Comments ( 1 )
  • Jim Grisanzio Sunday, June 12, 2005
    Excellent review! Cluetrain is my favorite book. No question. It guides my every move on the OpenSolaris project.
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