eBay, eBay, how does your Garden grow?

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ebay gardeneBay has launched a new program to let users give feedback on site features as they are being worked on.

The Garden lets users see proposed changes as a mock-up highlighting the new features, or opt in to use them on the live site. Likes, dislikes and bugs can then be thrown back at the people developing the new features.

eBay says:

Your opinions will go directly to the people building these features. Tell them if they’re on the right track, or if it’s back to the drawing board. We want to get this right.

Currently, there’s only one “seed” in the Garden: streamlined search, which adds some neat functionality and sexy design to search pages. It would have been useful to have had a few projects visible for launch, to see just what eBay think the Garden might cover – and then we could have had a Digg-style votey-up-or-down for what we thought was the most important project, as well as just feeding back on each individual one.

Isn’t this just ‘the Playground’ with a new name?

Apparently not: the Garden is much earlier in the roll-out process. Rather than being final testing for new features, features in the Garden are not finished, or even definitely going to happen.

Quite contrary…

Reaction from the eBay community has been mixed. Commenters on the eBay Ink post were pretty skeptical: “i wish i had a nickel for everytime someone at ebay said ‘this time we are listening to your input’… after 10 years of selling and a few years of that in voices, i know better”, while one wag on Seller Central said “eBay Garden? I know what they fertilize it with”.

It’s early days for the feature, and it’s pretty hard to judge from a single project, but I like the idea of the Garden. It *should* help to roll out the worst problems of some new features before they go live: it *should* help to shape the site in a way that’s useful for buyers and sellers. But I see three issues.

Firstly, the things that eBay does that cause most problems for users, especially sellers, are policy changes rather than site features, and these aren’t going to get tested in the Garden. So if eBay think this will make for a site full of happy people (they’re surely not that naive), then they’re going to be disappointed.

Secondly, it’s eBay who chooses the projects that get worked on – the seeds, if you will, that get planted. There isn’t a facility for saying, look, actually, it’s this bit of the site that’s causing us real hassle, so could you fix this, this, and this. It needs a suggestion box for user-originated changes, otherwise we’re still reliant on eBay getting it half-right from the beginning.

Finally, it’s only going to work if both eBay staff and eBay users are committed to it, and use it. I’ve lost count of the number of new features (especially in this community/social/consultation space) that have launched, and gone nowhere. I would hate for the same to happen to this – not only because it could be a great feature itself, but because there are definite signs of eBay trying to open up at the moment, and it will break my heart if that just gets thrown back in its face.

But eBay users have been conditioned out of bothering to speak to the company. We’ve had fifteen years of executives saying “we’re listening” – and then ignoring us. eBay users will need to be convinced, somehow, that this time, they mean it. This time, it’s different. This time, they really will change.

Christopher Payne, vice president of search, called the Garden “a cultural change at eBay.” I’d so love him to be right.

14 Responses

  1. Well I think it’s total carp tbh.

    Who seriously chuffing cares about nonsense like this? I don’t have time to waste sewing bloody seeds, and I DONT believe for one minute that eBay will take any notice, I don’t care if Barack Obama rings me at home and tells me it’s true, I still wouldn’t believe it.

    The community is dead, eBay killed it, and if they think for one minute that anyone with an ounce of sense wastes more than 1 minute of there life looking at silly pictures of gardens then they are bloody deluded.

    If you want my opinion pick up the phone, I will not be engaging in this style of San Jose nonsense.

  2. If eBay spent just half the time they spend trying to convince us that they are listening – actually listening – things would be a lot smoother for them and us.

    I am reminded of a truism: It takes a lot longer to concoct and support and keep up a lie than to just tell the truth in the first place. eBay spends a huge amount of time and effort in “spin”… what the rest of us might call a lie.

    The Garden is just the Playground with new graphics and a new name. And the Playground was a lie. They did not want or need our input, as decisions had already been made. That has now been admitted by eBay. So, the Garden is just more time spent spinning than actually listening. But some will be deluded, and that is eBay cares about. The rest of us are just so much… “noise”.

  3. I think, as with any big corp, the top people only action upon comments/feedback that support their game plan.

    They have become so far detached from the frontline that they no longer understand the people who use their services.

    Someone once said that the queen thinks that the world smells of fresh paint, I think the smae applies here.

    Just my opinion…

  4. Is the playground even still active? I just tried to go there and got a “Page Not Responding” error. It is kind of hard to take the claim seriously that this isn’t the playground when you never see them both in the same room.

  5. Diamond rings big on eBay then? I would have thought they would have gone down the lines of make your own t-shirt or something.

    They just want free bug testers for their new changes.

  6. Lie Lies Lies! Ebay is now going to take 9% of total value, Plus Paypigs 3%.And they are giving us free insertion! Ebay your a sick puppy,Go die!

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