Note: I posted this in the STW blog on 04/14/2011, but I never did link to the blog or otherwise get it "out there". Now, I'm removing the blog but thought a few posts were worth keeping and just migrating to the forum. Enjoy.
I was just thinking about how expectations have changed so much in regards to technology over the past decade or two. It's really amazing to me, to see the "new generation of expectations."
I, not being that old, still remember the days of brick sized cell phones at $2/minute and eagerly waiting 25 minutes to load up "missile command" on my friend's Commodore64!
Now I see teenagers these days who carry around cellphones with multi-megapixel cameras, playing unbelievable games on PlayStation 3. And even then, those gadgets and games will be considered obsolete within a few years.
The expectations have grown such that a simple landline phone call is unheard of (remember corded phones?!) and when a teen is shown a video-conference, they immediately expect a high definition (HD) experience. "I mean, that IS how it should be, right?"
This, to me, is what I think of as the "generation of consumers," because it seems like teenagers today simply want and demand. They are quick to point out when something isn't up to their expectations and that has been a boon to creativity and advancement.
For the innovators and developers of the world, it's a frustration that must be endured in order to bring the minimum of what's expected. And when we achieve that magic and greatness, the response is often: "Great. Now let's see how we can re-design this and have you start over or let's add this-and-that." Ain't No Rest For The Wicked.
Ultimately, though, this is the way of the world and the way that people have become accustomed. As a result, we must accept and adapt.
In our market of capturing and delivering "website screenshots automatically," the challenges are to provide an "instant" response on all requests and simultaneously provide a portal that makes it stupid-simple to do everything everyone wants to do (in every language around the world), even though we cannot emphasize everything. I am reminded of the saying:
"If you emphasize everything; then you emphasize nothing."
We are always fighting the thought of what is most important to users and no matter what we decide, someone will call and say: "There is absolutely no way to do x-y-z", even when the link to do it is right there on the page.
In the end, we must strive for the goals of maintaining the largest instantly available inventory of screenshots, making the service affordable (or even free) for all, and making it simple enough for even the casual webmaster to use.
Back when I started this service in BETA in late 2007, I can't tell you how many people told me it would be impossible to automate this service on a *nix platform. Several consulting firms declined the project, saying it was unlikely to get a stable system working and that I needed to use a script based on Windows, using Internet Explorer. I knew that wasn't the best solution and that using a webkit render engine set atop a *nix foundation was the lowest-cost way to go and after months of obstacles, I managed to make the magic happen. Initially, I managed to automate three(3) captures in-a-row before the script crashed... and I was ecstatic. Within months, I had a fairly stable system and now, years later, we are capturing between 1-2 million per month and delivering nearly 100 million per month.
We have achieved greatness before and we will continue to strive to meet everyone's expectations. I am proud to be a part of this great company and I look forward to watching it continue to grow with the support of its loyal users, like you!