Having been on the receiving end of the ire of the same vocal hordes [e.g. w/r to Spintricity Magazine] seeing this happen to Audiogon is really fascinating. And we have also seen this backlash happen to Digg and Facebook, but not Twitter [which is bizarre because the Twitter UI changes by-and-large are non-intuitive, even after repeated use… much more like Facebook now, in fact]
It is fascinating because I think it allows us to rule out the validity of this or that particular feature and instead focus on the social dynamics of the situation.
Fact #1. Only techies like websites to change in any way
Many people claim to be techies, because they own a business that has a website, or they played with HTML some [and many have gotten paid for it!] , but really are not, are confused by web technology, and hate these kinds of changes. [This behavior really confused me for a long time]
Twitter is largely techies, so they got away with it. Digg, a counter example with supposedly a large techie population, has lots of people who, seriously, just like to be nasty and whine a lot.
Most of the home audio sites are horribly designed and implemented, but audiophiles love them because they are now used to them.
Rule #1. If you make a change to a site popular with non-techies, make it look exactly other sites they are comfortable with.
Stereophile changed its site to look just like an ordinary blog. This was largely accepted by audiophiles because they are now used to blogs. [I personally think it was nuts, they gave up their claim to fame – that of being a successful print magazine – to compete at the same level as 1M other blogs. Best thing they can do now is try to implement meta features like Engadget has done – but this will take time and be expensive].
When we recently changed Audio Federation, we copied a couple of other well-known luxury brochure sites as well as several very popular luxury shopping sites.
Audiogon is, unfortunately, making their site look like eBay – which is a quite unloved, albeit successful, site
Rule #2. Try to make a big change by making lots of itty bitty changes over time.
This is often extremely hard to do [i.e. very expensive], from a programming point of view.
Assuming Audiogon’s troubles go on for awhile, and even if they do not, I wonder if there is an opportunity here for a competitor to step in and break the Audiogon monopoly?