Umair Haque / Bubblegeneration
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Design principles for 21st century companies, markets, and economies. Foreword by Gary Hamel. Coming January 4th. Pre-order at Amazon.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Getting Ninged + Getting Flocked = The Two Chasms of 2.0 (...and Songbird)

Lately, I've been saying Ninged a lot.

It's shorthand for a chasm in usability. Though you've created new market space, the share of that market that's valuable in the real world is tiny; though many might want to use this set of services, only geeks can use them - you've built a better mousetrap, but only guys like this can figure out how to use it.

There's an obverse to being Ninged - being Flocked.

Flocked is shorthand for a chasm in needs. Though everyone can figure them out, they create little market space: only geeks want these services - you've built a better mousetrap, but it only catches very, very small subset of mice.

Getting Ninged and Flocked - things only geeks can figure out, versus things only geeks want - are the two big barriers to growth for 2.0 at the moment. They illustrate how out of touch 2.0 really is with consumer markets, which require deep understandings of consumer behaviour and how to make things if not cool, at least useful, usable, desirable, necessary, etc (think iPod).

Now, I bring all this up because I think Songbird may be Flocked.

Is it a cool idea? Sure. Is there really market space for it? I'm not so sure.

Without going into too much depth, the market offers a huge number of substitutes that are modular enough to do what Songbird does in combination. At the same time, I'm not sure that Songbird allows a meaningful or powerful leverage of the edge, which is what could reshape the value proposition in this space.

OTOH, I can also see the argument that media lovers want depth (without hassle). And the Songbird team is certainly the right set of guys for the task.

The bigger problem is that I think, in general, I doubt that Flock and it's vertical-browser-2.0 offspring are going to be as revolutionary as teh nu digerati kru would like.

I see the 2.0 browser space being dominated by virtual worlds (as it's already starting to be in Korea, China, Japan) and communities - more people, less software. This is the big issue for Songbird (despite the hype) - software focused on a better experience (whether through aggregation of competing services, etc) may be, in fact, part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.

-- umair // 1:51 AM // 9 comments


In your last paragraph, you hint at what can be the central question as to why songbird is flocked in the long term:

what's more valuable and easy to use for the consumer, or songbird?

OTOH, one way to approach the problem that you lay out, is to be equally modular as the far flung competition. Reach the edge in parts, let people convert to the 'total experience' as they choose.
// Anonymous Anonymous // 7:26 AM

Yeah, I didn't want to talk about in the post, but I agree.

I don't see how SB can go modular easily - but it would go a long way if it could.

Thx for the comment.
// Blogger umair // 9:52 AM

Does songbird talk to the P2P networks? If it could replace my SoulSeek or BitTorrent client, then I'd guess there's some real milage there.
// Blogger phil jones // 2:41 PM

Useful, usable and desireable--the holy trinity of design in an integrated new product development model.

Perhaps the myopia behind getting ninged or flocked could be addressed with a more balanced and integrated design and development team?
// Anonymous niblettes // 7:00 PM

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
// Blogger Yoz // 7:15 PM

(Disclaimer: I work for Ning.)

While it's true that we have a way to go with ease-of-use, it's certainly not true that only geeks can use our service. Putting aside the 80% of users who sign up to use an existing app rather than clone or build a new one, we have a large number of users who manage to create and publish their own apps without knowing any HTML, let alone PHP. This is what app cloning's about - the ability to say "I want one of these" without needing to rent server space, unpack tarballs and all the rest of it. Because of this, I think we're a good way ahead of the status quo for usability in comparable situations.

I agree that customising a new app is not as easy as it could be, and we're working hard on this as well as providing ways to build apps from scratch without coding ability. There will always be things that people will want to build but not have the necessary technical knowledge to implement - we can't eradicate this completely, but we're working on making that gap considerably narrower than it was before we turned up.
// Blogger Yoz // 7:16 PM

I really like this by anon : "Reach the edge in parts, let people convert to the 'total experience' as they choose."

This is what we ( are trying with TV. I really believe in it as the only way to get consumers to buy into the "blah-converged-media-future" that many of us are building.

Are we Flocked or Ninged? I hope not, but tell me now guys - what do you think?
// Anonymous paulpod // 1:06 AM

Songbird is a failure because it is not sufficiently better at doing what existing software is doing to warrant a switch. There is a tremendous inertia involved in switching, especially when you have something as large as a music collection.

Itunes is so very popular because of the ITMS, as well as the integration with the iPod. It's also "pretty good" at managing a collection of songs. People outside our bubble don't really care about Free/OSS, they just want to listen to music. iTunes already does this well enough.
// Anonymous CM Harrington // 10:14 PM

The point of Songbird is to be a new kind of software -- an audio/video browser, as opposed to an MP3 player like WMP or a browser like Firefox. There is no more need for it to talk to the filesharing networks than there is for normal firefox/IE.
// Anonymous Anonymous // 3:11 PM
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