Group chat and Pizza

Through a fortunate series of events I used hipchat today. After signing up I realized this was the group chat company that everyone has been talking about, especially that they do not provide native chat clients. The argument in summary, because they use Adobe Air to develop a desktop apps. It can’t do certain native functions. It doesn’t look like other native apps. All supposedly because it makes it easier on the developers, and that means they are doing a disservice to their customers. In short, they are doing something that makes things easy for them, thus not putting the user first. The whole argument rests on what do users want. We are using hipchat because the task of hooking up non-technical folks to IRC was daunting. This service allows one to chat with a group, and share links. It’s does exactly what IRC would have done for these users. It’s always difficult to to say what users want, or don’t but to clarify the dominate opinion put forth on the internets about hipchat I am going to suggest a thought experiment. Imagine two pizzerias are opening. The first question they need to answer has to be what kind of pizza do people want? Here is where the road diverges, I am now going to put two pizza makers into predefined, diametrically opposed boxes, which are only useful for this experiment. One pizza maker thinks people want bread, cheese, and meat, and they make a simple pizza. The other thinks they want artisan pizza made in wood fire ovens with the best ingredients. If you look at america, and the large chain pizza companies, you can begin to tell who will win the popularity contest. I know that I want that artisan pizza, I want to know that guy, but I also can’t deny that the other dude is going to make a boat load of money. Pizza, like the way the first guy is going to make it, is cheap. It will be ordered by large organizations for lunch, school teachers will order it for there homeroom end of school parties. No amount of attention to detail will make his users like, or dislike his product more. Furthermore, some might want to tell the pizza consumers that the former pizza is bad, and may be bad for them, but that has nothing to do with the argument people will buy what they want. The experiment has to apply to the main argument, yes it’s purposefully vague, and unreal, but it brings into focus the main point, which is a quality obsessed subset probably doesn’t know what the world wants. They know about quality, but maybe not people. In the world of group chat, if most people want the ability to chat with a group, and see what the group is saying, then hipchat is perfect. I am not certain what company is the artisan pizza of group chat, but I am sure they would do very well with a handful of discriminating developers.