(This post about creating passionate users is dedicated to Kathy Sierra.)
I think this new initiative is an interesting success on Dell’s part. Dell will embiggen their support for Linux by offering Linux distributions on some of their desktop and laptop machines. (What, you’ve never heard of “embiggen”? It’s a perfectly cromulent word.):
Dell to Expand Linux Factory Installed Options
Since launching Dell IdeaStorm a little more than a month ago, one idea has risen to and stayed at the top: better support for Linux. We have heard you and appreciate the direct feedback. On March 13, we responded by launching a Linux survey asking for your feedback on what you need for a better Linux experience. …
Dell has heard you and we will expand our Linux support beyond our existing servers and Precision workstation line.
Cross your fingers for Ubuntu, baby! More important than the specific Linux distribution, Dell is also beefing up their support for Linux by working to ensure that all their hardware can be supported by Linux drivers.
In this tale, there’s a virtuous cycle:
– Creating a way to get feedback; some way to listen to the community
– Responding to that feedback to let users know that you’re listening
– Refining a company’s practices by acting on that feedback
– Result: the web community responds to those refinements with love, which leads to more feedback
In this particular case, Dell had some bloggy tools to help them. Dell IdeaStorm provided a way for people to give feedback and that other people could vote ideas up or down. Dell put in process a place to respond to that feedback, and then used the Dell blog to communicate the changes they made. I give Dell an A+ on this change.
But you don’t need blogs or digg-like sites in this picture to respond to feedback; those are just tools. The important thing is the process. It’s a process that many groups at Google use, and that (frankly) every team at Google should consider using. I’m not advocating that you set every goal by what the outside world wants. If you do that, you’ll miss some thunderbolt-from-above ideas that only an internal team can suggest. But for many products, paying attention to what your users are saying can really provide great feedback and ideas for how to improve, and that in turn leads to “love” and even more future feedback. In this case, I think Dell did well.