We Need to Build More Parks Not More Prisons

Smarter people than I can debate the title of this post literally, I’m using it as a metaphor for web development and customer relationships overall.

Vendors don’t have full control over their customers. Never did. Best they can do is encourage, support, and remove obstacles impeding their customers’ success. Especially if the vendor wants to build any notion of community among their customers.

This is where the metaphor comes in.

Each business needs to be an ecosystem where customers are free (free to move to a different vendor, free to congregate) rather than locked-in or “allowed to”. The same reason file formats should be plain text, xml, or another standard format, is the same reason DRM is a bad idea – it’s not usable if the vendor disappears.

The next question is whether we build one big park or a system of smaller ones. Personally, I’m a fan of the system (if I wasn’t I wouldn’t publish regularly to multiple blogs). It allows focus and gives you the power to say, “No, We don’t do that here – we do it over there.”

In the end, best we can hope for is customers leave the place better than they found it.

Update 21 January 2006:

“…you don’t try to force a behavior change, you look for a behavior change and try to make products for it…” – Joichi Ito