In what could be an interesting sign of things to come industry wide, Dell today launched a customer relations site called IdeaStorm. Users can submit product and feature requests, policy changes or whatever else they care to share with the Dell community. Those submissions are then voted on Digg style. Dell’s move follows just one day after Yahoo! unveiled a similar site.
The company also unveiled StudioDell, a video sharing site focused on Dell issues that contains both company video and submissions from users. Comments are allowed on IdeaStorm but not on StudioDell.
The company fully acknowledges its intellectual debt to Digg, calling IdeaStorm “a combination of message board and Digg.com.”
Jeremiah Owyang calls this a nod to the idea that “intranets are anachronisms,” though the second most popular submission as I write this is a call for a separate, internal IdeaStorm site for Dell employees. That makes me question how enthusiastic Dell’s employees will be about IdeaStorm. The leading suggestion is the make Dell more ecologically responsible.
I think it’s more a testimony to the usefulness of paradigms made popular by Digg and YouTube. Like the Yahoo! Suggestion site that was launched just yesterday – Dell’s IdeaStorm looks a lot like Digg. Many people were very critical of Yahoo’s move but both Michael Arrington in yesterday’s coverage and yours truly in this post support what these companies are doing.
These types of sites are just plain smart. If web lovers are critical of big companies trying to patent processes that are logical and widespread (like social networking or mash ups), isn’t it unfair to turn around and criticise them later for humbly following the lead of trailblazing startups?
You don’t see outrage about Meneame or Hugg trouncing on the ways of Digg. Countless companies now allow user upload of videos and only the most unimaginative people say they are all trying to rip-off YouTube. I think Dell’s new sites are a brave move that many more companies will follow. Hopefully they’ll push this trend of online two-way communication to the limit and listen to what their users have to say.