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Jan 03 2010
By: HeatherShow Wastelander 584 posts
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The Nature of Home: The Root of Recent Failures

256 replies 83 views Edited Jan 3, 2010

For the past several weeks I've been ruminating on what might be behind all of the failures we've seen in Home recently, as well as the rising tensions here on the forum. Originally I was planning on posting my thoughts on my blog, or here on the forums in its own thread. But in the course of the discussion in Reverend_M's thread 'Contentment While Seeking Improvement', I ended up posting most of what I'd been thinking about the past couple weeks in response to something he said.

But I don't want to see it get buried. Maybe you all won't care, but the conclusions I've come to are rather important to me and I don't want to see them buried in a thread somewhere that most people probably won't read because it's filled with thoughtful contemplation as opposed to drama. 

 

So I don't care if this gets deleted, I just want more people to see it. Please, think about post your thoughts in response.

 
As I've been thinking about the seemingly increasing rate of failures and the growing lack of communication from the Home management team, I can't help but think back to the very beginning of Home. We've all been running around the forum like mad lately, chaotically trying to solve all of Home's problems amongst ourselves, while guessing wildly about why the management team seems to absent lately, why everything seems to be falling apart. As hard as we - the Home community - might try to fix these problems, all of our good, respectable efforts will have been for nought, if the infrastructure continues to fall down around us.

 

I think the bottom line, what it really comes down to, are two significant faults in the very foundation of Home. I'm going to try and address these two faults as best I can. In a way, they're kind of intertwined, so please bear with me.

 

First off, the way Home was originally - and continually - marketed. Sony advertised Home as a "social networking space for gamers". Please, keep that phrase in mind.
Our generation has already had a great deal of experience with social networks. We have a deep understanding of what that name means. Think about the other social networks we as a generation have become accustomed to - Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, Second Life, and so on. Now keep that in mind.

We didn't call Home a social networking space for gamers, Sony did. They put themselves in that frame of reference. So, when we came into it with similar expectations, garnered from our years of experience with prior social networks, naturally we had certain expectations of what that would mean.
Look at each of the examples I gave you - Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, and SecondLife. What do they have that Home does not have?

Engagement with the community.

That's what makes a social network a social network. A certain degree of engagement, where the user isn't just a consumer, they're involved. They're engaged. With MySpace, it's the degree of customization. With Facebook, it's the ability for anyone and everyone to generate apps that end up making the service better. With SecondLife, it's all of the above, with the added benefit of being able to make money off your creations.

That's what a social network is! It's not just feeding a community, it's feeding and being fed by the community.

Home put itself in that category, yet they're neglecting the biggest and best aspect of all successful social networks: engagement. If they can't figure that out and fix the problem, it won't matter what we do to bolster the community. Because the flat out truth of the matter is, we've been spoiled. We're no longer satisfied with simply being consumers. We have to be involved. We have to be engaged. Because we were told we were entering into a social network for gamers, but instead, we're being treated like yesterday's consumers.

Home needs to figure this out, or they'll lose all of us. And they'll have lost everything they've invested.


The second failure, I think, is in the management structure of NA Home. I haven't seen this problem so much in other regions, simply because the communities seem to be getting better feedback. At this stage, in an open beta, it seems like the community seems satisfied with something as simple as feedback to feel like they're being engaged. We're lacking that here, so we're seeing all the frustration erupt on the board. It's not like we're expecting the same level of engagement as Second Life, just enough engagement to at least feel like we're being heard.

But we're not even getting that. Why aren't we getting that?

I blame the management structure. Think about it for a minute; we have Home Community Managers and we have Home Moderators.
In a social networking structure, communities don't need to be simply Managed or Moderated, as I said before, they need to be engaged. That's the operative word that's missing here, the weak link that I feel is breaking Home.

I realize that isn't in the HCM's or Mod's description. But that's precisely the problem.

I think they tried that with the HCV's, but as they should have learned from the Stanford Prison Experiment and High Schools everywhere, you should never take people out of the community and make them authority figures over their own peers. It just never ends well. All it does is serve to create cliques and hierarchies that end up tainting the community, poisoning it even more than it already was. If they aren't utterly removed and placed fully as an authority figure, they're going to retain the appearance of remaining a peer in the community When that happens, you can't accomplish the kind of engagement you're looking for. They would need to be fully elevated to a member of staff to avoid the inevitable preferential treatment inherent in a clique mentality. I think this was pretty well manifested in the fiasco surrounding the Bomberman Scavenger Hunt, where the HCV's ended up giving preferential treatment to their close friends. That's clearly evidence of a clique mentality, don't you think?


So what are we left with? A community that's managed and moderated, but bored. Feeling like they're being ignored, rather than involved. I blame the higher-up's at Sony for not realizing this.

But alas, it's a common story in older international companies. They're too used to the way business was done ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. They still expect their customers to be consumers, but little do they realize, their customers have evolved beyond them now. They need to evolve with us, or they'll die out.

Home's the same way. They've giving us all the appearances of a modern social network, telling us it's a social network, but giving us none of the meat and content that makes it a social network. If the society can't network with the network, then it's not a social network!

I think the best solution here would be to let the managers and moderators do their job of managing and moderating. But they need to add a new authority figure - a Home Community Engagement Specialist.

 

Someone whose sole responsibility is to look for every possible way in which the Home community can be involved and engaged in improving Home. Someone who can improve communication with the community and give us all the feedback and consideration we deserve.

 

And just as importantly, someone who understands social networks, who understands the evolving nature of consumers vs engagers. Sony & the Home management team simply must get it through their heads that the age group they're targeting simply isn't content with being a mere consumer anymore; we're used to being involved, we were told that we would be involved in Home, and we will not be satisfied until we are involved with Home.

They have an invaluable resource here in all of us. But right now, they're squandering it. If they can't figure out what it is they advertised Home to be in the first place, and the implications of them not living up to their own promises, Home will fall apart, despite all our best intentions.

(And on that note, I'd like to volunteer for that position! Lol. As funny as that sounds, I'm serious. Google me, Sony. I know what I'm talking about. Heck, I was just featured in this last issue of The Economist for pretty much this same topic: one company just couldn't comprehend that their customers had evolved beyond being simple consumers. I set them straight. Hire me, I could do the same for you.
Or you could go pick up a copy of 'Remix' by Professor Lawrence Lessig, or 'Convergence Culture' by Dr. Henry Jenkins. Those two books - from professors at Stanford Law and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology - will tell you all you need to know about the evolution of your customers, and exactly how far behind you really are. Trust me, those two books cost only $20.65; it'll be the best investment Sony ever made in Home.)

 

Well, let me know what you think. And please, let's keep this a civil, intellectual, mature discussion. Check the drama and flaming at the door and lets be productive, shall we?

Message Edited by HeatherShow on 01-02-2010 07:55 PM
Message Edited by HeatherShow on 01-03-2010 07:03 AM
By HeatherShow.com
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Fender Bender
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Re: The Nature of Home: The Root of Failure

Jan 3, 2010

i think your analysis is very inciteful. thank you for reposting this, Heather.

 

But i do think you are missing a key component of SCEA's management structure for Home - the guy at the top - Jack Buser, Director of Home.

A senior manager puts his/her mark on an organization and their attitudes and passions carry all the way down the line of that organization.

i have found that at the heart of most customer service experiences - that top manager was the key to making it good or bad.

 

from what i gather about Jack...from video interviews and his linkedin page...he is first and foremost an evangelist for his product.

that means he sees his first task as generating hype and interest in the product.

and i beleive he does that exceedingly well.

 

but that doesn't necessarily create a successful "manager" of the product itself...just great marketing.

 

i do think for Home to change and be successful in the areas you note above,

first Jack needs to realize and accept that limitation on his management style.

 

 

 

 

Message Edited by cbeyond on 01-02-2010 07:11 PM
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Re: The Nature of Home: The Root of Failure

Jan 3, 2010

Great post. I agree for the most part. I'm guessing the future of Home died after Phil Harrison left. He wanted what you (and I) want. No worries... the demand is still there just waiting for a competitor to satisfy.

 

No disrespect to the Japanese, but they are not like us (sexy, hip, diverse and slightly overweight North Americans; shout out to my Mexican peeps!) They are more conservative and will not embrace our hipness. Love 'em, even (well) after Pearl Harbor, but that chain of tiny islands with a homogeneous people just think a little different than their customer base.

 

Engadget snip:

"Phil Harrison out at Sony

By Ryan Block  posted Feb 25th 2008 4:54AM

Breaking News

Not but a few days after some decided anti-Sony Japan commentary by a very frustrated Phil Harrison, the Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios President is out, with his role to be assumed by the monolithic Kaz Hirai. Phil recently expressed his frustration for SCE Japan's resistance to online and social gaming, which, as it turns out, is exactly where Sony needed to be like five years ago. From the sound of things, Phil's departure is a little unceremonious (and, dare we say, acrimonious?), but who's to say what really went down behind closed doors?" 

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Re: The Nature of Home: The Root of Failure

Jan 3, 2010

cbeyond wrote:

i think your analysis is very inciteful. thank you for reposting this, Heather.

 

But i do think you are missing a key component of SCEA's management structure for Home - the guy at the top - Jack Buser, Director of Home.

A senior manager puts his/her mark on an organization and their attitudes and passions carry all the way down the line of that organization.

i have found that at the heart of most customer service experiences - that top manager was the key to making it good or bad.

 

from what i gather about Jack...from video interviews and his linkedin page...he is first and foremost an evangelist for his product.

that means he sees his first task as generating hype and interest in the product.

and i beleive he does that exceedingly well.

 

but that doesn't necessarily create a successful "manager" of the product itself...just great marketing.

 

i do think for Home to change and be successful in the areas you note above,

first Jack needs to realize and accept that limitation on his management style.

Message Edited by cbeyond on 01-02-2010 07:11 PM

 

Mr. Buser definitely is good at creating hype and marketing his product. After all, that's how most of us got here. But great marketing can be a double edged sword, and I think that's what Home is facing now. That's what I was getting at with regard to Mr. Buser's attempts to market it as a "social network for gamers." It's a great idea, Mr. Buser's marketed it well, but they aren't living up to his great marketing.

So I don't think I really neglected him, I just didn't really mention him by name. But hopefully he can realize that his great marketing could end up shooting the entire project in the foot, if they can't live up to what he's promised. 

But then again, maybe he - like so many others - doesn't really understand exactly what a social network is. Perhaps he doesn't even comprehend at this point what it is he promised, so he doesn't understand why it isn't living up to expectations.

 


PygmyOperative wrote:

Great post. I agree for the most part. I'm guessing the future of Home died after Phil Harrison left. He wanted what you (and I) want. No worries... the demand is still there just waiting for a competitor to satisfy.

 

No disrespect to the Japanese, but they are not like us (sexy, hip, diverse and slightly overweight North Americans; shout out to my Mexican peeps!) They are more conservative and will not embrace our hipness. Love 'em, even (well) after Pearl Harbor, but that chain of tiny islands with a homogeneous people just think a little different than their customer base.

 

Engadget snip:

"Phil Harrison out at Sony

By Ryan Block  posted Feb 25th 2008 4:54AM

Breaking News

Not but a few days after some decided anti-Sony Japan commentary by a very frustrated Phil Harrison, the Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios President is out, with his role to be assumed by the monolithic Kaz Hirai. Phil recently expressed his frustration for SCE Japan's resistance to online and social gaming, which, as it turns out, is exactly where Sony needed to be like five years ago. From the sound of things, Phil's departure is a little unceremonious (and, dare we say, acrimonious?), but who's to say what really went down behind closed doors?" 


 

Pygmy, I really don't think it's a matter of it being an American-only thing or that the Japanese don't understand social networks. Japan has many successful social networks. I think the problem lies more in the fact that Sony's been doing business a certain way for a very, very long time. It can be exceedingly hard for old companies to dramatically change their outlook as quickly as a consumer can. It's been that way for many American companies too.

For instance, the experience I was alluding to at the end of my post was an altercation I got into with a major Hollywood studio. They had the same failings that Sony does now, only they took it a step farther and started threatening their customers with lawsuits when they refused to act like yesterday's consumers. So trust me, it isn't just a matter of cultural differences, it's just a common failing of major international corporations who haven't evolved at the same pace as their customers. 

 

By HeatherShow.com
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Re: The Nature of Home: The Root of Failure

Jan 3, 2010

Well if not the Japanese, then Sony Japan. The stuff I have read, if half-true, paints Sony Japan as being very out of touch with Americans.

 

If you haven't read these yet, please do:

 

http://boardsus.playstation.com/playstation/board/message?board.id=ps3home&thread.id=671363&view=by_...

 

http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=183084

 

It is a miracle Home even exists so we should give Sony that much credit, but to me it is evident that they don't have their best or brightest running the Home show. 

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Re: The Nature of Home: The Root of Failure

Jan 3, 2010
Another really important aspect of this little debate or watever u wanna call it, is wat home has become as opposed to wat it was. In the beginning of closed beta we were given this awsom game, some free stuff & a few spaces, & wer told to test it & give us ur feedback on what it needs or what you would like to see. There was like heather said, Communication. When it finally opened, it was still that with a drive towards advertising. This was not a bad idea, it actually helped to inform ppl of what was out there. In the span of over 1 year it has completely mutated into this steaming pile of commercialism & consumption, w very little input from the ppl that are driving this game. I fear we have become sony's tool 2 generate sum quick revenue. If thats the case, then i fear this may be our final product & that they are only using that "beta" tag to hide behind for any foul ups on there part. I love home, but the fact is, there are tons of issues w the game, & the fact that there continue to pump out merchandise w hardly any addressment toward these problems is very concerning. Ps i love home & will always give thm the benefit of the doubt, but even my patience is wearing thin. Sorry 4 no paragraphs also, ps3s wierd like that
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Re: The Nature of Home: The Root of Failure

Jan 3, 2010

Maybe my comment about best/brightest wasn't fair. It could be that Sony employees have avoided following Phil's visionary path... just to keep their jobs. In that case maybe we're just dealing with a group of visionless sycophants? I don't know... that seems rough as well. Anyway, point being, Phil would have brought us social networking, user created content, actual community management, etc. 

 

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Re: The Nature of Home: The Root of Failure

Jan 3, 2010

Good points. "steaming pile of commercialism & consumption" fits well. And this is not brought to us from any American corporate culture. This was not Phil's dream. Phil's Sony could have given us a vastly superior experience that would have naturally encouraged exponentially more micro transactions.

 


GenomeGirl_33 wrote:
Another really important aspect of this little debate or watever u wanna call it, is wat home has become as opposed to wat it was. In the beginning of closed beta we were given this awsom game, some free stuff & a few spaces, & wer told to test it & give us ur feedback on what it needs or what you would like to see. There was like heather said, Communication. When it finally opened, it was still that with a drive towards advertising. This was not a bad idea, it actually helped to inform ppl of what was out there. In the span of over 1 year it has completely mutated into this steaming pile of commercialism & consumption, w very little input from the ppl that are driving this game. I fear we have become sony's tool 2 generate sum quick revenue. If thats the case, then i fear this may be our final product & that they are only using that "beta" tag to hide behind for any foul ups on there part. I love home, but the fact is, there are tons of issues w the game, & the fact that there continue to pump out merchandise w hardly any addressment toward these problems is very concerning. Ps i love home & will always give thm the benefit of the doubt, but even my patience is wearing thin. Sorry 4 no paragraphs also, ps3s wierd like that

 

 

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Re: The Nature of Home: The Root of Failure

Jan 3, 2010
I was curious about your assertion that the Japanese have many successful social networks. I found this slide show. If accurate, the Japanese enjoy sharing information but not identity. Also I understand most "online" social activity in Japan is mobile based.   
 
 

HeatherShow wrote: 
Pygmy, I really don't think it's a matter of it being an American-only thing or that the Japanese don't understand social networks. Japan has many successful social networks. 

 


 

 
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Re: The Nature of Home: The Root of Failure

Jan 3, 2010
I wouldn't have minded more stuff to buy. As long as the "game" was the focal point of attention from the Developers. The focal point of this home seems 2 be "what else can we get them to buy". I wouldn't mind payin 3$$ for a tv or a radio/jukebox/watever. As long as it had functions to improve the experience. Our stuff is just for decoration 4 a space that 99% of the community wouldn't see.
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