May 29, 2008

Developers Are People Too, Don't Forget

Sometimes, in the race to declare one service better than another, to be among the first to say one product won't scale, or that one product will be killed or eclipsed by another, the rush of feeling declarative overlooks the fact that underneath every single one of these services we interact with each day lies people. In almost every case, especially when it comes to the nascent Web 2.0 market, the services are understaffed or sole-sourced by well-meaning developers with little more than hope, an idea, and reams of code.

One thing I have tried to do when writing about the many services I've grown to like or otherwise launch here is to mention the names behind the services. I will let you know that it's been Benjamin Golub behind FFToGo, Tweet2Tweet and RSSMeme. It was Alexander Marktl with ReadBurner, Caleb Elston with Toluu, Mario Romero with Feedheads, Yuvi Panda with TheStatBot and Dave Stanley and Matt Shaulis teaming up on Shyftr.

I say these names not because they'll eclipse their "brands", but because in almost all cases, I've forged a relationship with these entrepreneurs, even if it's just been e-mail, phone calls, late-night Google Chats, or Facebook messages. And while it's easy to crow that Twitter's down (again) or say one service is going the way of the dodo, you can be sure that the best, most aware, entrepreneurs are watching what you say. They've got their Google Searches, Technorati queries and Summize feeds set to alert them when their companies are mentioned, and the last thing they want to see is you getting a rush from being the first to say "Deadpool", a term popularized by tech blog giant TechCrunch, who has made something of a side business declaring startups dust.

On Tuesday, in a FriendFeed comment thread, I was reminded of this by a somewhat snarky note by Robert Seidman, who in response to an amusing piece that highlighted both me and Robert Scoble as finding new services in our own way, said a few sites I've covered here might as well close up shop now.
    "The sad thing is, other than FriendFeed almost ALL of the services Louis touts will 'sleep with the fishes'. You could call deadpool on stuff like Social Median and Toluu right now. Functionality will be absorbed into other Google products."
    -- Robert Seidman (Link)
This bothered me, not because he was suggesting I have a tendency to pick losers, but instead, because the eagerness to call "deadpool" didn't take into account the people behind the service, nor their goals. Not every Web service is expected to grow into a real company, and be sold off or enter the public markets through IPO. Many of these are hobbies. Others should be seen with the same light as shareware, in that most content is for free, and if they make a few bucks, that's just fine. Sometimes, a Web service will launch and help a developer pad the resume, or use it as a springboard to the next job. And whether it's one person behind a product or a hundred, there's no value in prematurely suggesting they wave the white flag.

Beyond this issue, I was also surprised to see the occasional visitor to my blog from searches done on Techmeme for its creator, Gabe Rivera. (See the search results) After a few of these searches had hit my referral log, I thought I'd check what was going on. Interestingly, despite the fact Techmeme is spoken of constantly, and the site comes up often in blogging circles, the last three stories to reach Techmeme that mentioned Gabe Rivera were mine, including a piece from each month in March, April and May. This tells me that people, when writing about Techmeme, don't mention Gabe, and have divorced the service from the individual.

As I wrote in April, when I asked "Does Negativity Deliver Credibility? If So, That's Nuts.", I have a tendency to shun negativity and be excited about new services. In parallel, I am supporting the developers who are taking a risk by shipping. I am supporting the people behind the services who are looking to help us consume more information, helping us build new social networks, or improve our communications. When I write about a service, I'll continue to do what I can to remember the developers and hopefully, let you get a glimpse into their world as well.