Eating Own Dog Food

It has come to the end of the 3-month time in 9GAG after OneSky. It was great. The experience made it clearer about eating own dog food when building a product.

Prior to 9GAG, I was working in OneSky. It is a web service. Most clients are mobile app developers. But there’s no chance to launch or promote mobile apps globally in OneSky. That means we missed some details and key steps in mobile development and international promotion. Thanks to the clients, we still gathered a lot of information and built a good enough product. But it is not a great one.

My primary responsibility in 9GAG was setting up the internationalization process for iOS and Android apps. Despite the founder bias, I still chose OneSky for 9GAG because it’s the best among all similar services for apps. I saw OneSky from a client’s perspective.

I was amazed by how easy and reliable it was to internationalize mobile apps using OneSky. The integration was easy. Most important, the translation quality was great. There were no quality complaints about the German version after it was launched. Thanks to the German translator (who’s also a 9GAG user). She asked a lot of relevant questions to clarify the English phrases and responded to my questions. Also, kudos to the OneSky translator manager, who brought the translator on board for 9GAG.

Besides the app translation, there were other items to enable full German 9GAG, such as the app store German descriptions, the German keywords, the German screenshots, and German dynamic contents.

With founder bias, I thought OneSky was good at translating those materials, but I was wrong. OneSky was reasonably good but not great, like what I experienced with in-app translation. Keyword translation didn’t optimize for the 100-character limit. Store description translation didn’t handle duplicated paragraphs between iTunes Store and Google Play. There’s no easy way to translate screenshots.

I was ashamed that I didn’t pay attention to these use cases when taking care of the product in OneSky. There was no other translation service handling the use cases nicely, either. So, we thought it was okay to offer a good enough solution as a product builder. When I was a client, I found it unacceptable. The solution wasn’t offering a pleasant experience when managing multiple store assets. The translation quality was still good, but the flow just wasn’t smooth. Using OneSky as a client revealed problems I couldn’t spot before. I should have done that earlier.

The argument was also true when it came to 9GAG. I was an inactive 9GAG user. I visit 9GAG probably once a week or once a month, not actively enough to spot the potential needs. I couldn’t find things to improve at the beginning. I had to chat with a couple hundred users through tickets to know more about their use cases on 9GAG. Some were interesting but still couldn’t help me understand the product thoroughly.

I started browsing 9GAG a lot more frequently by then. It sounded like the most chill task ever. It was the most important step to get the feelings of 9GAG users and suggest something more relevant.

I also worked closely with one of the founders. He has been a very active 9GAG user and usually came up with interesting ideas to improve 9GAG. I learnt a lot from him, not because he’s a founder, but because he’s an active user.

After all, it is about empathy. Empathy is easier said than done. Meet users, talk to users, understand users, become a user, then help yourself.

The journey still goes on. I have no idea what the next product will be. But I will befriend 100 active users. I’ll meet them, talk to them frequently, and eventually become one. That’s how I can build the product to help them and myself.