Like other independent software developers I’ve been following My Dream App with interest. It’s a purple cow: remarkable because it is different, allowing users to define the application they would like.
While the competition is a purple cow, I’m not sure that the offspring will also be purple: the final choice of the application resides with the participants rather than with the developers. Seth points out that remarkable products don’t survive focus-groups or committees. So, what’s in it for the developers? Writing a great application takes time, dedication and passion, which only occur if the developer is truly sold on its idea. If the result is lackluster, it will not compensate the developers for their time…
However the experiment is definitely worth watching: it goes against the received wisdom that users define the functionality they need but not the form the solution will take. For instance, Steve Jobs said “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them”. Joel (on Software) said ” Customers Don’t Know What They Want. Stop Expecting Customers to Know What They Want”. Steve McConnell says in Rapid Development that users don’t know what they want. Will the developers implement what the winners say they want? or change the ideas to be their own?
The only other comment I’d make is that I’ve had many of the ideas presented on the Dream App forum. Unsurprising I guess, given how many of them turn out to have already been implemented. Perhaps I need to come up with a “cool winning idea” of my own: I need an Intel Mac Book on which to test Find It Keep It !