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Joel's mistake - Activity-based analysis

Heh. Whoops:
"Another example, from the web, is the evolution of, which started out as an huge, searchable index of Usenet called dejanews. The original interface basically had an edit box and said "search Usenet for blah," and that was it. In 1999 a bit of activity based planning showed that one common user activity was doing research on a product or service, of the "which car should I buy" nature. Deja was completely reorganized, and today, it is more of a product opinion research service: the Usenet searching ability is almost completely hidden. This annoyed the small number of users who were using the site to search for whether their Matrox video card worked with Redhat Linux 5.1, but it delighted the much larger population of users who just wanted to buy the best digital camera."

Yep. Deja's move was a smart one. Except that Deja is out of business and Google probably doubled their audience overnight when they bought the dejanews archives and we usenet freaks followed.

And now points to... a usenet search engine once again.

I think Joel made a bad call on this one, just as Deja did.


Philip Janus
Thursday, February 20, 2003

Yes, Dejanews blew it.  They took their wonderful unique asset (usenet archive), full of amazing promise and opportunity, and they hid it behind ugly, patronizing, mindless dot-com garbage.  Truly hideous.

Good riddance.  Google, as usual, does it right.

There's definitely a lesson to be taken from "", but it would have to fall under the heading "Things NOT to do while you happen to be in sole possession of an incredibly valuable resource".

Matt Conrad
Thursday, February 20, 2003

I think Deja's mistake was not distinguishing between Stuff You Give Away and Stuff You Sell.

The task based analysis was sound, but nobody makes money out of giving stuff away.

Ged Byrne
Friday, February 21, 2003

Deja had two key things: 1) A great idea (in this case, seing how many people actually searched for product review sorts of information), and 2) the usenet archive (used for all sorts of reasons).

Thing is, they decided to cannibalize their asset to implement their idea - in a word, "why?" Why didn't they just hook up something sepperately called "DejaProduct"? Then they would have merely built their new idea into an asset, without loosing their original asset! They would have expanded and possibly even improve their product offerings (or at least not hurt them much)...and yet they decided to do THAT?

Can anyone explain that logic to me? They could have done all kinds of things, like use a filter on searches to catch product searches and then give the response "It seems that you are looking for product review information. If that's true then Click Here to go to DejaProduct, our new service made especially for YOU!"

...yet they didn't. Ugh.

Brian Hall
Friday, February 21, 2003

Another area where they miserably failed is their interface. So much flashy thing, one hundred links, 20 boxes around the center of your window, only 20% of your screen was actually useful.

Google has it right. Modest but clear display of advertising, very directed.

I hope that with google, companies will learn that pushing you more flashy thing and crap does not pay in the long term. Or does it ? I hope I am not the only one running away from multi-popup extra-flashy triple frame web sites.

PHilippe Fremy
Monday, March 3, 2003

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