Lane Becker on Get Satisfaction, the Help Tab, and Code for America

Lane Becker is an optimist. He was co-author of a NY Times best seller Get Lucky and his twitter bio says, “You’re pretty.”

I got to know Lane during the early days of blogging and he was one of those ever-cheerful folks that helpfully pointed out the way forward,  never talking down at you or taking privilege from his influence in the community. A true community builder, he lead by inclusion. Get Satisfaction, the distributed support network he built with Thor Muller was a reflection of his spirit.

Many aspects of the service were cutting edge and advanced concepts we take for grated today. I invited Lane to speak at the third segment of the Better Builder’s Bureau to talk about the early days and over the course of an hour he weaves a tale of Web 2.0 history that takes you right back to those times where,

  1. SaaS was not a thing
  2. Social Businesses didn’t exist
  3. Web sites were a series of static pages, not interactive “apps”

So sit back and relax and take a trip back and remember what it was like back in 2007.

mp3 audio recording, 1 hour

Highlights/Notes

3:00
You just have to be slightly ahead of the curve to succeed, “Silicon Valley is about the relentless present. The goal is to be right, right now.” People who are too far off in the future are often failures. It’s as much about timing as everything else.

4:30
OED entry for the word “blog” and the story around its genesis.

8:00
Valleyschwag, “e-commerce as performance art.”

11:00
Flashlight forums and “beam shots” as the model of an engaged online community that is independent of a company.  The existence of these communities convinced Lane that there was a business around community sites around company products, “stuff could be a thing that connected people.”

12:30
Questions, Problems, Ideas, and Praise
Get Satisfaction as a place for a broader conversation, one that not only includes a channel for problem resolution but also hosts threads about ideas and praise. Customer Service without companies.

16:00
Google Alerts hack that got them the attention of every single marketing executive, “we had accidentally created a direct line to every marketing person on the planet around the problems with their product that were key and important for them in that moment. This turns out to be key in the growth of our organization.”

27:00
Help tab came out of a specific set of circumstances. Product Managers are the ones that can synthesize multiple inputs and create features as solutions for these situations. How do we solve the problem of how to “get on every page” while still staying true to the product’s personality and soul. A good PM has a gut instinct for the “system” that lies underneath the UI & UX of their product.

34:00
Good guerrilla marketing does not equal a good business plan. Lane wishes he had just written a better help ticket system. That would have given him the runway to innovate. The future markets very well but the present sells.

“We were directionally right but specifically wrong.” Social did change business. It is reality today but the specific Get Satisfaction solution “bounced off the answer but it wasn’t the answer”

40:00
Code for America
No tensions around advertising. You don’t need to sell a government service.
This allows you to make wildly different choices in product design.
No need for customer growth, city governments can tell you where everyone lives and how to get in touch with them. More important is to reach and get responses from the population. You cannot have a target market and optimize just for that.

47:00
Government policy is waterfall development. All the arguement comes up front. What would it look like if they went agile, that power and authority comes from execution, not elective office or budget.

52:50
City of Oakland Record Trac shows speed and status of Public Information requests. By making public each department’s response time public the service has worked so well that each department uses Record Track instead of internal channels. The project was so successful that Code for America is spinning Record Trac off as a separate company.

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