Duncan Hamra

Co-founder @ Memberstack.com
I took some time this week to brainstorm a few different solutions in response to previous thread, and want to share them here. ChrisDrit Aletta Rulz Rick Lindquist Let me know if I missed anything 😁 (Btw I tried to write this quickly, so please excuse any typos).

Problem:

Summary → Our roadmap affects your roadmap, and you have no idea what our roadmap is.
 
More →
1) You need to know what's been released (and how to use it). 
2) You need to know what use cases are supported (and which are not). This is primarily helpful to new users and the people who help them get started.
3) You need to know what's in progress now, what's coming down the pipeline, and what's never going to get built. Without seeing our roadmap, you don't know how to allocate time or resources effectively.
4) We (Memberstack) need to know if the solutions we're building are going to actually solve your problems.

In some sense, Memberstack is like a dev agency for 1000+ people. It's important that we clearly define our plans for the future and address roadmap questions honestly so you can decide if Memberstack, Memberstack + custom code, or some other solution is going to be the best thing for your business.


Solutions

Our plan is to implement a few of these things starting next week. No idea which will stick or which we will pull. I've mapped problems to solutions in the list below. 


A) Feature table
Complete feature table on the marketing site. I've seen this done many time on the pricing pages of different saas products. (Solves 1)


B) Public wishlist
We want to hear your feature request, but most importantly we want to know your goals, and what blockers and constraints are keeping you from reaching those goals.

At the end of the day, we're all trying to run businesses that solve a problem so someone can accomplish some goal. I want to emphasize the phrase solve problems there. It's important to remember that building more features can be the solution, but not always. Successful companies (and people, for that matter) focus on solving problems with whatever resources and processes are available to them. Sometimes that means building features and sometimes not.

The first step in deciding how to solve a problem is deciding if the problem is worth solving in the first place. The process of determining whether or not a problem is both real and valuable is more complex than I first thought. In the early days of Memberstack we jumped at almost every feature request. "You want XYZ? Awesome! I bet we can do that... soon?" Say that 1000 times, and the only thing you'll get "soon" is hair loss from the stressful realization that you just over-promised and under-delivered to hundreds of people. The fact is we can't do everything that everyone wants us to do, and we need to be transparent about those things which we will not be working on.

All that to say, our wishlist will be highly curated. All feature requests are welcome, but I'll be personally creating wishlist items for you all to comment on. The wishlist maybe here in Circle, or we might try to use some wishlist software like Canny or Aha. I'm not a huge fan of voting systems, but I do want people to be able to subscribe for updates (Solves 2)


C) Public roadmap
Predicting the future is impossible, but we recognize it's important that we try for the sake of transparency and clear results regarding build speed. The categories I'm imagining for a public roadmap are...
Research & design → We've decided to solve a problem and we have some high-level solution ideas. The goal here is to flesh out those ideas and validate (or invalidate) them. By the end of this step, we should have a clear idea of what's required to ship it.
Planned → This is a staging area between "Research" and "In progress." Something that's planned has an approximate release timeline. (Probably specific to the quarter so we can work and hire accordingly)
In progress → This is actively being worked on. Doesn't mean it will be done soon, but it does mean that someone is actively writing code to bring it to life. Now might be a good time to share that we reserve the right to pull any feature from the roadmap at any time. We've learned over the last few months that the solution is almost always more complex than we thought at first glance. Social login is a great example. Once we realized social login required a few core foundational changes we decided to run a complete code overhaul to unlock a BUNCH of new features like multiple accounts, more payment gateways, more frameworks like React and vue, and so on. The good news is, if you had subscribed to "Social login" in our new roadmap you would have been notified when we started when we stopped, and why. If you were waiting for that feature you could now make an educated decision about outsourcing or looking for another solution. Of course, we want you to stay, but we want you to succeed more!
(Solves a bit of everything)

D) Feature request form
We need to reply to everyone who submits a feature request to set clear expectations so they can make an informed decision. If the requester fits our target customer persona, has a supported use case, and can articulate their goal and problems then I'll add the request as a new wishlist item to the public wishlist. From then on out that person will get notified as we make progress on solutions which we believe will solve their problem. (Solves a bit of everything)

E) Monthly Product AMA
Everything else is cool, but nothing beats a face to face conversation! I'm thinking about trialing a monthly product AMA where you can ask our product team any question you want about the future. We'll share what's new, major updates to the roadmap or company direction, and answer your questions live. There's a good chance we'll want to ask follow up Q's as well, take really good notes, and move the whole conversation into the wishlist / roadmap after. (Solves a bit of everything)

F) A list of supported and unsupported usecases
We have a really solid start in Intercom. Getting this updated and expanded is going to be a nice side effect of everything above.
Supported usecases
Unsupported usecases
(Solves #2)

Whew! I think that's everything. Stay tuned for updates next week. Looking forward to your thoughts! (Btw - no product development time was harmed in the making of this post 😁)
Mammoth effort, Duncan, thanks for the logical breakdown. 

A public roadmap (C) is most useful for me. If I can't see signs that my issue is being worked on in the next significant period of time, I might feel safe investing time/money into a workaround (or I might reconsider is MS is going to work for my future goals). 

As mentioned in 3) right at the top... I would also be very keen to know what is NEVER going to be built. (Or at least what is extremely unlikely to be built.) If it's a deal-breaker for me, I kinda want to know as soon as possible. 
This list of Supported and Unsupported use cases is really helpful. Thank you!
Naitik Mehta replied
  ·  1 reply
Founder @LegUpHealth, co-host @StartuptoLast, Duke alum. I also write a weekly newsletter at ricklindquist.com
C with the ability to subscribe to updates would solve my biggest problem. 

Thanks for taking the time to post this and think through all of this. 

B is good, but I prefer (like you) problem focused ideas vs solution focused ideas. Wish lists with votes tend to produce a lot of surface level solutions vs root problems. As long as someone on your team managed this well, it will be valuable. Other wise, it has the potential to create more confusion ( read : distraction ) than it solves for. 
Explain what's going on here. Why did you decide to created a public roadmap. How should it be used. Etc. 


CODE This should be a full-size product roadmap embed that is interactive or redirects to the actual roadmap CODE
🌟 Check roadmap status & signup for updates 🌟

In a perfect world, I'd like this page to include everything we think needs to go into Paypal... the only issue is we're basically exposing all of our research for the entire world to see... Maybe we do need to keep it vague? Ideally, we'd have this vague thing that's public which gets more specific when someone on the MS team shares more information with feedback.

I want this to feel like a client → agency relationship with an investment of energy and transparency from both sides. The client makes a request, the agency asks for clarification, the client confirms that clarification is correct, the client puts something of value on the line (maybe we do loans?), and then the agency is responsible for hitting deadlines and sharing progress/problems/asking for help etc.





Subscribe?
Airtable Embed?
Check the status or embed a live roadmap
The roadmap should have a link to search the wishlist in Circle. Roadmap cards should have a subscribe link and link to the Circle conversation.
Okay, I think this could work... we can embed each of the 5 circle spaces into a page on the marketing site so folks can easily find them. If they want to subscribe to a feature they can hit a custom subscribe button which might just be a dynamic Airtable form which collects their contact info... which may update intercom... and may automatically update a database when a major change takes place?
Here's a new comment which should appear the other...
I'm testing out a few things... we want to make sure posts don't get dropped or remain unsolved. You may notice a few things moving around.
Duncan Hamra just chiming in with my two cents, please ignore it if you like 🤓 

At first I thought this would be a great idea, but now I don't. If this is a "community" versus a "support forum" then with the former we are engaging in discussions versus the latter which is help desk software. 

When is a discussion finished, or solved?

At times answering a question posed turns into a discussion that then spawns new questions. 

A good example is this thread: 

https://community.memberstack.com/c/community-support/showing-an-element-only-to-the-member-who-is-currently-logged-in

It was tagged as solved, then new questions emerged. Is it still solved?

Maybe I'm overthinking it, it's an occupational hazard of mine 😱


Duncan Hamra replied
  ·  1 reply
You're right Duncan Hamra that does make sense! Thanks for the details...based on that I see your point and I too think you're on the right path with this. Good stuff! 😎
I also put out a suggestion on circle community to add a way to sort by comment number so we can get to the ones that have no comments better. ☺️
Happy Tuesday!

My name's Duncan, I'm based in Williamsburg VA, I live in a van (down by the river), and I'm a co-founder at Memberstack.

I've been looking for an excuse to create a van tour video, so here it is!


Keep an eye out for new designs & updates as we continue to improve Memberstack. 

See you around ✌️


Looks so cool! What are you growing in the mini garden?🌿
Duncan Hamra replied
  ·  1 reply
Yoo Duncan that's awesome man! So interesting to know that you're already living the Van Life & it seems like you're living it well! The setup is awesome in there. The greens also caught my attention haha 😁 Dope to know they are edible too.

I also mentioned this on Molly's introduction, that I also considered van life earlier this year! It may not be so feasible for me currently anymore, but I may very well take it into consideration at least for a temporary adventure should the opportunity & resources arise for me to consider it again!

Thanks for all that you & the team have been doing in order to keep Memberstack growing! Grateful to all of you. 
Duncan Hamra replied
  ·  2 replies