What A Concept: Encouraging The Community To Make Your Product Better

from the good-ideas dept

Boing Boing is excitedly discussing how Neuros, a small consumer electronics company is actually encouraging people to hack its new set-top box to add new features. They've made the firmware open and they're offering cash prizes to anyone who can hack the machine to do things like show YouTube or Google Video content, or create software remotes for other gadgets. It's a smart idea... but the amazing thing is that it's really not that new. Few people remember that back in the early days of TiVo, it was also famous for supporting the hacker community who added more features and made their devices more usable. They didn't go so far as to offer cash prizes, but they at least recognized the value. Of course, that went away as TiVo's relationship with the TV companies got closer (and those same TV companies sued TiVo's competitor ReplayTV). It will be interesting to see where this goes, and whether or not the "bounty" method of encouraging hacks helps it gain a following... or simply gets TV execs one step closer to trying to sue. What's worth paying attention to here, is the idea that there's tremendous value in building an active and committed community around your products. While generally companies have a instinctive negative reaction to the idea that their products are being "hacked," it's really about people who are committed to your products, helping make them even more valuable. It's a real business opportunity that more companies ought to learn how to embrace.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    chronno S. Trigger, Sep 21st, 2006 @ 2:00pm

    more systems need to do this

    like microsoft for there Xbox's and sony for there PSPs. I would use my PSP at work if it did RDT or VNC or even citrix.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    mmrtnt (profile), Sep 21st, 2006 @ 2:02pm

    Western Electric

    According to what I've read, the Neuros OSD will be able to produce video from an analogue stream for any number of devices - that's just got to have some TV execs chewing their Rolaids.

    Back in the bad old days, the phone company used to be able to prohibit you from attaching "non-approved" devices to the phone line - modems, extra phones, answering machines.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the networks tried to revive this tactic by strong-arming the cable operators.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Greg, Sep 21st, 2006 @ 3:01pm

    It's kind of like the Chumby, only the Chumby isn't offering bounties, and seems like it'll be a ton easier to develop for. I like the trend of hacker-friendly devices.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    anonymous coward, Sep 21st, 2006 @ 3:21pm

    Another reason for broadcast flag...

    ...because recording television, stripping it of commercials, and then time, place, or device shifting lets the terrorists win!

    The American way is to watch television when your are told, where you are told, how you are told, and to faithfully watch all commercials. Patriots rewind and watch commercials twice!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    rijit (profile), Sep 21st, 2006 @ 3:35pm

    Re: more systems need to do this

    "like microsoft for there Xbox's and sony for there PSPs. I would use my PSP at work if it did RDT or VNC or even citrix."

    Actually Microsoft is working on it, they recently released the XNA Games Studio Express in beta on August 30. When the full version comes this Christmas it will allow the community to make games for the Xbox 360 and/or Windws XP/Vista. I have a blog devoted to XNA, click my name if you are interested in more info.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    smokebreak, Sep 21st, 2006 @ 3:39pm

    i love hackable's

    LOL!!! Anonymous!!! and remember to eat your fda approved e. coli spinach leaves

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Chumby Hater, Sep 21st, 2006 @ 4:19pm


    Chumbys are fucking GAY!!! I want something that is not just some "Tech Wonder" POS that will actually provide value to my life, not just add more techy shit that I have to keep up with!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Dominic, Sep 21st, 2006 @ 4:36pm

    Powerful philosophy

    The most powerful philosophy a business can have - and the one that builds the most momentum - is to make the world (or your part of the world, industry-wise) a better place. By actively finding others to share that vision with, you build a powerful business model.

    Hats off to Neuros....now if I could just get an open source PSP.............

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    |333173|3|_||3, Sep 21st, 2006 @ 4:44pm

    Own Set-top box

    A basic set-top box could be built out of some old P1 system by adding a TV tuner card and media centre software. Add a HDD and you have a DVR as well. it hardly takes an expert to do this, and then you could have access to DRM free TV. I have a friend who has used a TV tuner card in his computer, and has been getting pirated FoxTel for years over his cable connection, which he has for internet. All channels are transmitted simultaneously to everyone on the line, so all you have to do is listen out for them. There are plenty of tools for decrypting encrypted TV streams, and since the FoxTel PPV system relies on dialing out to tell the company that you watched a PPV film, you can watch as much as you like with impunity. there is no way they can catch you unless you do something stupid.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    RevMike, Sep 21st, 2006 @ 5:26pm

    Tivo hacking never went away

    Basically, TiVo really hasn't changed all that much. They've never encouraged hacking, but they haven't done anything to actively discourage it either. The only thing that they've tried to discourage is service theft and video extraction hacks, things that could potentially get them in hot water.

    There still are hundreds of forums and websites where other hacking is discussed. TiVo employees openly participate in these forums without repurcussion. While noone is perfect, TiVo has done a pretty laudable job of balancing their own self interest, the rights of their customers, and the rights of the copyright holders.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Sohrab, Sep 22nd, 2006 @ 1:06am

    I gotta soon figure out how to add a much bigger hard drive to my Tivo Series 2 cause god damn, 80hours is not enough cause you only get that on Basic quality and meh on that

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Reed, Sep 22nd, 2006 @ 11:22am

    Open Technology good or bad?

    Can someone tell me why there is a good reason not to open source your hardware? I mean is their actually proof that closed source hardware makes a company more money?

    On a side note I think that all hardware should use open standards. I like the idea that I could do anything I wanted to with my DVR equipment. It opens up more possbilities and makes it unique to me. In a world of generic crap I think we could all use a little more customizable hardware.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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