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Stemming Mediocrity

Posted on Apr 28th, 2007 by Mike Vattuone

“Mediocre?” you may say, “But it works great and we love it…most of the time.” Well, as they say, there’s the rub. It can work, but it can also suck. Bugs abound, features break randomly or are absent altogether. Basically, Interweb gremlins feast on the fatty innards of the Ethnio beast. (Meaning: our system architecture is broken and we really, really want to re-build it.)

Ethnio started as a home-spun solution to help us run remote usability interviews. We patched it together from a collection of PHP scripts and a quick and dirty implementation of the VNC screen sharing protocol. Learning as we went along, we moved from developer to developer and the web application backend grew and grew, making bug fixes and additional features more and more treacherous.

So here we are, three years since Ethnio, the first remote moderated research app ever, became a reality. It’s just Nate and I working on maintaining, supporting, and developing the product – in addition to doing interesting research and the (wonderful) chaos of running a really keen research practice. Since we first started selling Ethnio, about a year ago, the time we’ve been able to spend fixing bugs and developing new features has diminished as we spend more and more time supporting existing customers and chatting with new ones. All the while we’ve been talking about new and exciting features, without the people power or people time to implement them – without the availability to even fix many of the existing bugs and quirks.

We don’t want Ethnio to be relegated to the status of a first-run product that faded, like WordStar or the Diamond Rio. We’re not satisfied with an okay product that mostly works. We are convinced we can make Ethnio an elegant, exceptional solution – and we’re dedicating the next 4 to 6 months to just that. Yes, it does mean that we’re going to stop selling Ethnio and giving trials in the meantime, but we promise it will be so much better for everyone in the long run.

We are still just as passionate about creating a technology that helps people understand people – we just don’t want our technology to get in the way of that ideal.

We’ll post updates on our progress along the way. Watch this space.

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