Navigating the Challenges of Building for an Opinionated User Base in the Age of AI

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Sep 03, 2023

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Navigating the Challenges of Building for an Opinionated User Base in the Age of AI

Introduction:

Building products for an opinionated user base can be a daunting task, as Reddit learned throughout its five-year journey. From the ousting of its CEO to navigating the demands of vocal users, Reddit's experience offers valuable insights for founders and product managers. This article explores the lessons learned at Reddit and combines them with Bill Gates' perspectives on AI to provide actionable advice on building for a highly opinionated user base in the age of AI.

1. Building Trust with Your User Base:

One of the key challenges when dealing with a highly opinionated user base is the inherent mistrust that may exist. To address this, Reddit introduced the concept of a "Trust Vault." The Trust Vault represents the level of trust the customer base has in the company or product. Measuring and monitoring the Trust Vault is crucial for understanding the sentiments of the user base.

To measure the Trust Vault, consider using tools like the Edelman Trust Barometer, which surveys people's trust in organizations. Ask questions such as, "On a scale of 0 to 6, how much do you trust our company to do the right thing?" and "Why?" This feedback will help identify areas where trust may be lacking and guide decision-making processes.

Additionally, if a product or feature threatens to increase the effort or dissatisfaction of a specific user group, it may be necessary to delay or adjust the launch. Reddit implemented the concept of "Mod Experience Oriented Wins" (MEOWs) to ensure that product launches align with the trust and satisfaction of moderators.

2. Listening to the Right Customer Voices:

When dealing with an opinionated user base, it is crucial to distinguish between the loudest voices and the representative majority. Often, the most vocal users may not represent the general sentiment of the broader user base or the ideal customer profile. Therefore, it is essential to identify the feedback that truly represents the attitudes of most users.

Keep in mind that users often won't provide feedback on useful features, as they consider them expected or standard. To assess user feedback accurately, consider two factors: the feedback's representation of a significant portion (10% or more) of the user base and whether the users providing feedback can influence others' opinions.

If you decide to deprioritize a group's feedback, it is crucial to communicate the reasons behind your decision. Transparency helps maintain trust and understanding among users, even if their feedback is not immediately addressed.

3. Creating Effective Platforms for Discussion:

Having nuanced product discussions in public spaces like social media platforms can lead to confusion and lack of alignment. Instead, consider forming an advisory council composed of passionate community representatives. This council provides a safe and private space for discussions and ideation.

When forming the advisory council, focus on building a culture that rewards candid feedback and thoughtfulness. Live conversations can offer clarity, but depending on the volume of launches, consider additional platforms like forums or chat rooms. Connect with the advisory council frequently and engage them early in the product development process.

To ensure a fresh and diverse perspective, set a tenure limit for advisory council members. This practice avoids a culture of complacency and encourages a continuous influx of new voices and ideas.

4. The Role of AI and Productivity:

Bill Gates emphasizes the transformative potential of AI, comparing it to milestones like the PC and the internet. AI's ability to assist in reading and writing tasks, such as summarizing complex documents or emulating an author's style, opens new possibilities for users. However, the near-term challenge lies in addressing the productivity implications of AI on the job market.

It is crucial to recognize the concerns around AI's control and the potential for humans to lose control over its development. Engage in debates about ethical considerations and strive to ensure that AI remains a tool under human control.

Conclusion:

Building for a highly opinionated user base requires a strategic approach that prioritizes trust, genuine feedback, and effective communication. By measuring and monitoring trust, identifying representative voices, creating private spaces for discussion, and considering the implications of AI, founders and product managers can navigate the challenges and build products that resonate with their user base.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Measure and monitor the trust of your user base using tools like the Edelman Trust Barometer.
  • 2. Distinguish between the loudest voices and representative feedback to make informed decisions.
  • 3. Form an advisory council and create a culture that encourages candid feedback and thoughtfulness.

As the digital landscape evolves, incorporating these strategies will ensure that products meet the needs of a highly opinionated user base while embracing the potential of emerging technologies like AI.

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