Part of my PhotoShelter job responsibilities include not being in the office as much as possible. It’s easy to get caught up in all the excitement of the internal workings of the office (watching and waiting for faxes to come in, and sharpening pencils are some of my personal favorite moments.)
Some of my favorite out-of-the-office activities include:
* Watching people use the product.
This always fascinates me, and I learn something new every time. One thing I like to do is just stand behind someone and watch them use PhotoShelter. This kind of approach gives us information that doesn’t normally show up in an email from a user.
If, for example, a user can’t find something easily, or if they’re not taking advantage of built-in shortcuts, that tells me we need to do a better job of making it more obvious that there are more efficient ways to manage their regular workflow.
We’ve found that this kind of unintentional feedback is incredibly useful – and it’s not possible to collect from within the office.
* Opportunity to brainstorm with users.
It is common for people to show a healthy level of enthusiasm for PhotoShelter when we’re talking about the future. We receive suggestions via email all the time. But an in-person brainstorming session gives us the ability to interact with a customer and get to the core of their idea, and the inspiration for it in the first place.
* See and hear about the different ways in which people are using PhotoShelter.
Just when I think I’ve heard of every possible usage scenario, someone comes along and shows me how they’ve come up with some creative way to use PhotoShelter. Sometimes, for example, it’s how they used PhotoShelter to solve one of their long-standing workflow-related issue, sometimes it’s the way someone is structuring their archive, and sometimes its how someone is seamlessly integrating PhotoShelter into their personal website in new and innovative ways.
Most of the time, these people don’t even realize that they’ve come up with anything “creative” or “new” at all – they’re just doing what comes natural to them. Seeing these creative solutions gives us ideas, and makes it possible for us to recommend that “creative” solution to other PhotoShelter users.
* Hearing real-life experiences help us make the product better.
It seems like every photographer has their “war stories” — Tales of their life as a photographer in the real world. Not only are they often entertaining, but also they’re a valuable source of information for us. For example, a photographer talking about the time when FTP and email ports were being blocked by their hotel’s network, causing their inability to send images back to their editors on deadline. This, of course, is the inspiration behind PhotoShelter’s uploading protocol, which uses the standard, always-open, encrypted web port to ensure that uploads can happen on even the strictest of networks.
I’m always looking for excuses to leave the office and meet up with people – and it seems like I’ll travel just about anywhere if it involves talking to other people about PhotoShelter. It’s a contagious thing – because, for me, the result of every trip is added excitement, increased motivation, and the first-hand knowledge that PhotoShelter is helping a lot of people in a lot of different ways.