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The cloud shooting itself on the foot: dispatch.io/.cc and do.com

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Posted by Alexander Deliyannis
Oct 26, 2013 at 02:35 PM

 

This issue deserves a post in a personal blog (which I don’t have) and time for research and documentation (which I don’t have either). But I am not willing to let it pass so easily, so hopefully you won’t mind my posting some notes in this friendly forum. I will try to keep it in-topic as possible, to the extent that I consider the viability of the software we use is in-topic.

Dispatch.io/.cc timeline:

- 2012 September: Dispatch.io launched http://blog.dispatch.cc/post/32203399275/launch | Quote “We’re on a mission to help you be more productive by unlocking the power of the cloud services you already love. You can add things from Dropbox and Google Docs into “dispatches”, where you can share and discuss those things with others.”

- 2013 July: The new Dispatch.cc is launched. I copy from the email I received from its representative Alex Godin “The new Dispatch aims to end the noisy reply-all email chains that clog your inbox. We now give you a dispatch.cc email address for each of your projects, along with a place on the web to easily reference your discussions later.”

- 2013 October: Dispatch announces it will be closing down http://blog.dispatch.cc/post/63555606313/dispatch-is-joining-meetup The announcement is worth reading in full for the casual way it is written. “We have some news we’re excited to share. [...] As of today, we are joining Meetup to continue our mission of connecting people around things they care about. [...] As part of our move to Meetup, we’ll be closing the Dispatch product on November 15.”

I never relied much on Dispatch, though I was looking into the possibility of using it extensively within my company. Believe it or not, I was discouraged by the fact that it was completely free, with no premium version or other income making approach in sight. I wrote as much to Godin in August: “As awkward as this may seem, I am reluctant to trust our work on a free tool. So, can you provide some more info on how you plan to make money to support your valuable service?”

His reply was simply: “Dispatch is entirely free at the moment and there will always be a free plan. We may add plans in the future with premium features, but for now, go ahead and link, discuss, and share as much as you can.” I found this vague to say the least, and decided to use the tool no further.

In the http://dispatch.cc website there are quite a few testimonials in support of the tool by people who apparently use it extensively in their businesses. In Dispatch’s shutdown announcement itself it notes “we’ve served tens of thousands of you on projects focused on writing, design, event planning, software development, classes, furniture building, even healthcare.” I wonder how all those people feel now, and what they plan to do with their Dispatch data after they download it to their hard disk; will it really be of any use to them?

In brief, even though I am not personally damaged by Dispatch’s shutdown, I am (a) alerted by the rates at which genuinely useful tools can be developed, launched, offered and shut down and (b) as a marketer, horrified by the kind of messages such approaches send to the market.

I seem to remember that years ago (before Windows XP), Microsoft asked its customers which ‘features’ of an operating system are essential to them. Top of the list was reliability. Microsoft obviously took that information well into account, judging by the stability improvements in the next version of Windows.

I am afraid that we don’t have to worry about the reliability of technology anymore, but of the people and organisations that exploit them. The financial crisis led a lot of businesses to their premature end of life, but what we are seeing now is not the result of any crisis. For Dispatch’s founders, the acquisition by Meetup is considered success—and maybe it is in the short term.

But in the mid- and long-term, how many users that have been disillusioned by such business behaviour are likely to invest their time and entrust their valuable data on online tools again, if they can help it?

Similarly, the very good Manymoon social project management tool was acquired in 2011 by none other than Salesforce http://www.zdnet.com/salesforce-buys-social-app-maker-manymoon-3040091645/ What better reason for users to imagine that it had a sure future? 

Not really. Much of Manymoon’s functionality was stripped down as it was morphed into Do.com. And now it is announced that the service will shut down on 31 January. Even the URL of the announcement could be considered as mocking its users https://do.com/done

I’ll follow up as soon as I can with the story

 


Posted by Alexander Deliyannis
Oct 26, 2013 at 02:36 PM

 

P.S. Ignore the last phrase; I was planning to follow up with the Manymoon story separately, but in the end just wrote a brief version of what I had in mind.

 


Posted by 22111
Oct 26, 2013 at 02:55 PM

 

“For Dispatch’s founders, the acquisition by Meetup is considered success—and maybe it is in the short term.”

What you didn’t grasp is the fact that THAT had been their business model from start on, to be bought.

 


Posted by Dr Andus
Oct 26, 2013 at 06:12 PM

 

Alexander Deliyannis wrote:
>But in the mid- and long-term, how many users that have been
>disillusioned by such business behaviour are likely to invest their time
>and entrust their valuable data on online tools again, if they can help
>it?

I don’t think there are any easy solutions to this. The cloud revolution is not going away, and start-ups (or their investors) will always be tempted to exercise their exit strategy by selling out to a large corporation with deep pockets.

I would be more likely to trust a service that is a labour of love and run by two guys from their garage, than a hip start-up with huge VC support from the Valley… The former might be around longer, even if the rise is more spectacular of the latter…

But then I am not a business buyer, so the cloud services I tend to use for my professional needs (the likes of Workflowy and Gingko) are probably less attractive for large corporations to acquire (and kill off), and they are more likely to survive on subscriptions from enthusiasts (probably many of them academics and their students).

It also comes down to the question of how users can minimise the risks of service termination by demanding features from these services to back up data off-line on a regular basis, and be able to export it in a format that can be used in other software.

 


Posted by Dr Andus
Oct 26, 2013 at 06:22 PM

 

Dr Andus wrote:
>I would be more likely to trust a service that is a labour of love and
>run by two guys from their garage, than a hip start-up with huge VC
>support from the Valley… The former might be around longer, even if
>the rise is more spectacular of the latter…
> >But then I am not a business buyer, so the cloud services I tend to use
>for my professional needs (the likes of Workflowy and Gingko) are
>probably less attractive for large corporations to acquire (and kill
>off), and they are more likely to survive on subscriptions from
>enthusiasts (probably many of them academics and their students).

BTW, WorkFlowy and Gingko are each run by two guys. That of course also has its risks (it’s enough for one of them to lose interest and maybe that’s the end of the service). On the other hand both provide excellent export functions (plain text, for one), so you will always have your data, if you care to back-up frequently.

And I get a warm feeling from supporting such small businesses for some reason, which I don’t get from supporting a venture capital fund…

 


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