Dell channels Digg to enter the world of co-creation2007-02-19
I have to confess that I’ve had my doubts about Digg. I love the idea of people voting on the most interesting and important stories to determine their rank, but just, who are these one-percenters who submit items and ten-percenters who vote on them? And who reads Digg at all? Certainly it’s a tiny minority of the online population, not like the readership of Wikipedia voting on the most interesting encyclopedia entries. And there has been enough chatter about people being paid to submit articles to throw Digg’s value further into doubt.
But the idea rocks, and now Dell Computers has done something with it that makes sense. Lionel Menchaca, Dell’s digital media manager, gave me early notice on Friday that Dell’s IdeaStorm was set to launch, but I was just too flat-out busy to blog it. It has since gone live and several blogs have covered it, but I still want to weigh in with a few thoughts. (Lionel blogged the launch on Direct2Dell, by the way.)
The idea behind IdeaStorm is a sort of mashup between Digg and a message board. Anyone (including employees) can submit ideas to share with Dell, from product and feature requests to changes in policies. People who visit the site then vote on the ideas, creating a ranking of the most popular ideas. visitors can also comment on each idea. This represents a masterful way to extend a conversation with your publics—at least, it’ll be masterful if we see Dell adopt some of the most popular ideas.
Over on his blog, Jeremiah Owyang suggests IdeaStorm “nods to Johnathan Schwartz???s mantra that ‘intranets are anachronisms.’ The site, Jeremiah contends, puts the company and its customers in a real-time feedback loop that should speed product development. That’s true, but I don’t think it spells the end for intranets. I still don’t see how I could use it to enroll in my benefits, conduct a performance evaluation, check the cafeteria menu, find the contact information of an employee in Bangkok or check the company’s maternity leave policy. But it certainly could represent a new communication paradigm for company/customer relations (and I don’t employ the overused word paradigm lightly).
The utility of something like IdeaStorm has applications in just about every industry and business. Consider these off-the-top-of-my-head ideas, for example:
- General Motors’ Fastlane blog is, according to Vice Chairman and principal blogger Bob Lutz, a means of obtaining unfiltered feedback from the most passionate of auto enthusiasts. Lutz says the intelligence gained from the blog is informing product decisions. Imagine the kind of product feedback Lutz could get from something like IdeaStorm.
- Among other uses, a company like Baskin Robbins or Ben & Jerry’s could collaborate with customers to identify new ice cream flavors.
- Airlines could let passengers contribute posts about the most important attributes of service while flying, helping companies like United decide that maybe, just maybe, a snack is important enough to be a deciding factor in which airline to fly.
- Employees (using an intranet) could submit and vote on the most important elements of a benefits package, helping the company tailor a package that meets employee needs, attracts new employees, but also holds the line on benefits costs.
The reason the IdeaStorm concept is so potent is because the audience it attracts—unlike Digg—could represent a significant portion (maybe even a majority) of a company’s customers or other constituency. By way of example, the top post at IdeaStorm right now, which suggests free installation of the top three Linux versions on all Dell PCs, has received 15,603 votes. In the meantime, the story with the most votes on Digg’s home page, about the announced merger of XM and Sirius Radio, has garnered 772 votes.
If you had the opportunity to tell a company that matters to you what it should be doing better—and then see how other customers feel about your idea—wouldn’t you? And wouldn’t you vote on an idea you loved if it meant better products or service from a company you rely on?
Much of the blogosphere is focusing on the notion IdeaStorm represents simple copy-catting, but, like Jeremiah, I think they’re missing the point. From where I sit, Dell is adapting, not copying, an idea to business that could alter both customer perceptions of the organizaton and the way it designs and develops products. While overtly recognizing Digg for the inspiration, Dell is also entering into co-creation in its purest form.
Incidentally, oncurrent with the launch of IdeaStorm, Dell opened StudioDell, which in addition to offering Dell-produced videos allows customers to upload their video testimonials. You can also download and share videos from the site. It’s a kind of Dell-specific YouTube.
Update: Constantin Basturea points out that Dell’s IdeaStorm uses CrispyNews as its back-end. Says Constantin, “The URL (which redirects to dellideastorm.com) is dell.crispynews.com.” That’s the same service that Constanin uses for the PR ranking service you can see by clicking “Add to New PR” above each of this blog’s entries.