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Getting "Love" (and Attention) for Your Whizbang 2.0 Application – Fast, Frequent Features

Last month, Adobe evangelist Ryan Stewart asked why Adobe Share doesn’t get as much attention as other document sharing services. Without picking on all the gory details of Share itself, the main way I see Whizbang 2.0 services getting attention is by frequently integrating with out Whizbang 2.0 services. By integration I mean simply the simplest, easiest thing you can think of (or complex if you want, but the bar is low), and by frequently, I mean monthly, if not 2 or 3 times a month.

Any online service like this should be more of a highway (fast and connected) instead of a cul-de-sac that barely connects to the rest of the web.

What is Share?

Adobe Share is exactly what it sounds like: a way to share documents and other “objects.” It’s a Flex based application and has things like “limit who can see my stuff,” embedding Flash widgets to look at the documents (as above), and converting documents to PDF. More detail here and elsewhere.

“Good cooking takes time. If you are made to wait, it is to serve you better, and to please you.”

From what I can tell, Share breaks the rule of thumb of integrating early, integrating often. You can get a URL or widget embed out of it, but you can’t, for example, tell it “go synchronize documents between here and Google Docs.” I have no idea if Google Docs makes that possible, but, whatever, if I start thinking too much like that I’ll fall into being a developer instead of a user.

Or, what if I wanted to share a document to Twitter? There’s no “post to Twitter” link. Can I post to a blog from within Share? Is there a Facebook widget? To get slightly less consumer web, more enterprise: what about synching with SharePoint or a wiki? Or Buzzword even? How about a plugin for MS-Word that lets me save to Share?

Don’t get me wrong here, I actually like Share, a lot. The first time I saw it, my first thought was that RedMonk could use it for our long “under construction PDF library. We have a “stack” of old, and some new, PDFs that we don’t really collect in one place too well. I’m a big fan of PDFs for this kind of thing, and I love the PDF reading you can do in Share.

When Switching Costs Are Zero, Don’t Let ‘Em Turn that Dial

The larger point is that in a SaaS world, the old release schedules of, well, taking a long time, don’t really work out too well. You want to put out new releases, even only for one feature, all the time. Otherwise, as Ryan notes, you find that people forget about you, and maintaining that continuous trickle of attention is vital for SaaS applications.

More so than packaged, installed software, there’s virtually no switching cost in a SaaS world. There’s moving data, sure, but for the most part, that’s nullified as a concern by a few things: the data in question is of low value enough that it doesn’t need to be moved, the data can be easily imported and exported (as with most address books), or, you simply don’t need to migrate the data (you can keep serving up videos at YouTube if you switch to

The primary way to stave this off is to keep adding new features – again, even minor, “meaningless” ones – to keep your users attention. Most importantly, as new, exciting services come along, integrating closely with those services helps keep users around as well. This is especially true if you’re a platform like Share.

Accelerating Share

So, what are some things Share could do? Here’s some featurettes:

  • Use OpenID – really, no one likes vendor-wide identity like Adobe ID, or Microsoft Passport, or whatever. We all carp about the lack of consumer single sign-on, but a vendor-based ID that’s used on their web-site ends up causing more harm than good. Integrating with something like OpenID grabs attention, attracts new developers to help you build on the platform, and has the “bonus” (I’m being tongue in check cynical here) of actually delivering a useful feature beyond hype.
  • Cross-posting – allow people to post to their blogs and Twitter. I mean, you gotta work with Twitter, bro’.
  • Vacuum up Word – as mentioned above, make a Word plugin that lets people upload (or download, even!) straight from Word. OK, so this is much more than a “simple” feature. I cheated. As mentioned I last week on RIA Weekly, though, people tend to forget about using Word as a platform – an RIA even! Shocker! – for getting at content.
  • Don’t forget the blog – Share actually has a blog. Unfortunately, it’s not updated too frequently. The icon of success here is how 37signals uses its blog to drive attention, traffic, and sales for its portfolio. As an example, the Share blog should have been the one to break the news that Share uses Alfresco “everyone’s favorite open source ECM (enterprise content management) platform.” Other topics: what does a “document” mean in a web world? How (e.g., what audiences) and when should I use a PDF instead of a URL/web page? What is up with all the document format wars out there? How can an “enterprise” transition from emailing around Word docs and PDFs to using web sites like Share and SharePoint?
  • Make toy applications on the platform of the du jour that integrate with Share – make something in Ning, GAE, whatever PaaS bucket shows up on Techmeme, integrate with it. Yes, this is just cheap, page view-think, absolutely.
  • Start using Share for Adobe’s correspondences – I got an invite to this year’s Adobe Analyst event (thanks! lookin’ forward to it!). That would have been the perfect chance to slap in a URL for a brochure that went to Share. Engage and invites for the OnAir bus tours too, if they don’t have it already. This a key point that many elder companies don’t get: new, SaaS, Whizbang 2.0 companies are always referring to themselves and doing mad link-bakcs. Large companies are terrible at promoting each others brand (they often don’t benefit compensation wise from it).

The Slow Trickle Sweet-spot

As I say, despite my need to maintain a professional distance from fanboy-ery, I usually like stuff Adobe does, like Share, quite a bit (how’s that for a disclaimer?). As with most elder companies moving into a web or SaaS world, the execution of the Share road-map has the trappings of traditional software road-maps and marketing. Instead, to finally get those features I want to use in Share – using it for a RedMonk library, making it easy to throw up a PDF on my blog – Adobe needs to find that balance of speeding up to deliver tiny features more frequently.

It’s Generalizable

As usual, while I might be using Share as a specific example here, you can pretty much do a search-and-replace on “Share” for your product name and the same advice will probably apply. You’ve gotta be out there, in user’s face all the time. SaaS killed the packaged software star.

Disclaimer: Adobe is a client, as is Microsoft.

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Categories: Companies, Ideas, Marketing, Social Software, The New Thing.