Understanding the customer is not the same as educating the customer


Hosting my own website is a pain in the ass. Kind of like owning my own house but without the obvious benefits. When I owned my own house and my hot water heater died, I had to get it replaced. Broken things added up over time, but I always thought to myself, "That's okay. It's an investment in my own property." So the time and money spent on it felt like an investment in my future.

Now, I understand that hosting my own blog has similar benefits. I'm hosting my own data and have complete freedom with it and that is very future focused of me. But I understand the importance of data in the future and not everyone does.

This conversation is going on right now over on the Project VRM Mailing list. I'm explaining why the fact that blog maintenance being a pain in the ass outweighs most people's perceived benefits to hosting one's own data. That Facebook or Google owning our data doesn't seem pressing compared to the type of work we'd have to put into the maintenance of it ourselves. Plus, there is that convenient way that they connect so many of us by making it so easy.

I self-host my blog. I get to personalize the theme and have the ability to export my data in an instant. Nobody puts ads on here except for me. You sign up for alerts? I maintain that database. It's my content, my community and my artwork. All mine. But it's also a huge time suck. I get bugs, hacked, lose things, have the possibility of having my host explode and lose everything not backed up. When my template breaks with an update, I have to figure out why. I recently lost my Whuffie Factor website altogether (content is still on my server), and it'll take me a while to track down this issue. My blog was compromised again for, like, the 6th or 7th time in 10 months just this week. I needed to research what was going on and how to fix it, then figure out where things were at, what my passwords were (I always seem to be changing them) and wade through folders looking for files that look out of place (I have no clue, really). Luckily I have stellar friends that helped me out.

It's frustrating and inconvenient. And even for me, a big believer in owning my own data, I wonder on days like these if it's worth it. I want to "set and forget". I'll deal with the data issue later so I don't have to deal with the maintenance issues now. So I posted this dilemma to the list and got back a bunch of responses with all sorts of links on how I can make my blog more secure. It's not that security isn't important. It's very important. I get that. But I don't want to deal with it. I don't want answers. I want convenience.

And I really think that is the basis for "regular people" not fighting against Facebook or any other companies that own a good amount of our data (still growing at an incredible rate even if there are protests in the geek ranks). They make everything really convenient. People don't want to learn more about security so they can host their own conversations and relationships, but if you provided people with a solution that is 100% user-friendly PLUS you gave people the ability to export/move data/relationships/etc, you would be a clear choice.

People aren't lazy or stupid, but we ARE busy and will find anything to simplify our lives so we have more times for the things that really matter (i.e. not reading how to make our blogs more secure). It's not about education, it's about understanding that. So if you are in the business of changing the world or offering a solution for people that is empowering or a 'better alternative', don't educate people on the benefits of using your service. Instead, offer the very very best user experience in the universe. Help people not think about the stuff that doesn't matter and do all of the heavy lifting in the background so that they can just reap the benefits of your platform. If you can deliver both freedom AND convenience, you'll be the clear winner.

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