Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The OPML Outliner or How to Market a Product

Dave Winer (man behind RSS and a bunch of other cool stuff) has been talking about OPML and outliners for a while on his blog. He's been slowly leaking details about his outliner application, including posting images of simple dialog boxes recently.

Why am I mentioning this?

Because I'm utterly fascinated by a product that I have no frigging idea of what it does.

I kinda grok the whole idea behind OPML. Right now, it's predominantly used to carry RSS subscription info, but from what I've been able to gather, it really is just a general XML format for carrying outline data. Nothing terribly sexy there.

I get what an outline is. I use them almost every day. So the idea of an outliner is pretty familiar. Again, nothing sexy here.

But what feels new and interesting on this whole thing is the slow leak of info. It's not a completely transparent process, but it's close. The general public isn't getting snapshots of code to play with, or even a quick little screenshot demo to understand how it all works together. Instead, we're getting a drip-drip-drip of interesting snippets. Stuff about buddy lists and random dialog boxes and collaboration and subscribing. For whatever reason, this particular marketing method (and really, that's what it has been, even if that's not the sole intention) has completely captured my attention.

I feel like I've caught the trailer for a new movie or the synopsis of the season finale of The Shield. I'm dying for more info ... some spoilers on what might be coming. I can't wait to find out more, and that's really a great way to market a new product.

Then again, I was always the kid who ransacked the closets to find out what I was getting for Christmas. So maybe this method of marketing just particularly resonates with me--seeing the drip of info flow through my aggregator is like finding random toy ads hidden around the house. Each bit gets me more determined to find out more.

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