This simple case study of my dryer in SquareTag illustrates the value of social, online products.
A while back, my dryer broke. Specifically, the door latch, a small plastic part broke. I spent about 20 minutes finding the model number for the dryer and finding a place online where I could order replacement parts. I didn't want to have to do that again, so, I put my dryer in SquareTag.
If you click that link, you'll see my dryer's public profile, including links to the place where I ordered parts. You're also seeing the timeline of the public posts from my dryer; there are many more private ones telling me about configuration changes, scans, and so on.
After ordering the part, I made a note about that, on the dryer's SquareTag page, and then made another note when it arrived and I replaced it. The dryer is keeping track of things about my dryer. A simple, but powerful concept.
Now my dryer and the information I need about it, is online and available. I've chosen to make part of that data public so you can see it too.
A Blog for my Dryer
A few years ago Jon Udell wrote a piece in InfoWorld about Open Source Documentation. He tells a story familiar to anyone who's used the Internet to find the fix for a product problem and then concludes with this thought:
... Collectively, we users know a lot more about products than vendors do. We eventually stumble across every undocumented feature or quirk. We like to maintain the health of the products we've bought and we're happy to discuss how to do that with other users.From Open source documentation | Developer World - InfoWorld
Referenced Mon Sep 09 2013 15:18:22 GMT-0600 (MDT)
There some of this going on here. If you click on the "Product Manual" button, you'll get a PDF of the tech sheet for the dryer in a modal window. If you pay attention to the URL, you'll see that I'm hosting that myself. I couldn't find a copy of the tech sheet in a convenient place online, so I'm hosting it.
But more importantly, once we start identifying bits of information as being about a particular product (e.g. by model number), it's easier to structure and collate. The timeline on my dryer starts to look like a little blog for my dryer. Granted, there's not much there, but what is there might interest someone else who needs to fix the door latch. Creating communities around common products—whether with my friends or a wide audience—is easy.
A Social Product
How much better if Sears had aided in the creation of all this. They don't need to do much: simply give each dryer an online space and link in whatever resource they can muster (e.g. manuals, customer support forums, and so on). Then stand back and let the owners get to work.
They can go beyond that first step by taking an active role making my dryer's online profile more interesting and useful to me. For example, they could create a channel to the profile that gives me a direct line into the company's chat system—one that identifies me and my product without me having to log in, give a model number, or anything else. My dryer's profile becomes the connection point and keeps my record of my interactions with the manufacturer.
These are just some of the benefits of a social product. Add in smarts so the product can stream it's own data into its product page and it gets even more interesting.