Recently, I've started using cykho).  For those of you who don't use twitter - think of it as micro blogging.  You write 140 character posts about whatever you're thinking of doing at the time.  Then, you can follow (think RSS) people and they can follow you.  That's it!

While Twitter is basically the same as blogging - the 140 character limit really makes a difference. You no long feel obligated to write long novel like posts about your entire thought processes.  Twitter only allows room for the thought or concept at the top of your consciousness.  This leads to much more frequent and whimsical posts.  The major downside is that nobody seems to use twitter history as an archive.  So, what you write is just for the moment. 

That all being said...I digress....

Today twitter was "over capacity".  (from the users' perspectives this = down).  However the cartoon the put up there to show to rejected users (see birdies lifting a whale below) made me giggle and move on with life with a smile and happy thoughts about twitter.

That is nothing short of a brilliant customer experience.  The service failed.  I should be pissed and never come back.  However, because they took the extra 15 minutes to draw a funny cartoon - I walked away happy.  Think about the ROI tradeoff here.

A - invest millions and hundreds of engineering man hours in a foolproof scalable infrastructure to ensure 99.99% up time (think amazon)

B - ask a dev who doodles to make sure to have a couple cute cartoons on hand to make up a 95% up time.

Hmm...which seems easier... hard choice.

To me this is the true secret sauce to a great project.  Make people smile.  This has nothing to do with being an effective or useful product.  That's all separate.  In evangelism we know the job to be capturing hearts and minds.  Well the "does it work/do what I need it to?" is the mind stuff.  Very utilitarian easy to test.  What sways a customer's heart "do I feel happy using this?" is much harder to test - but is fully equal in value to the utilitarian side.  However, many companies have left the emotional response by the wayside because it's harder to quantify.  How do I explain to my boss making people smile is valuable?  To a great extent I believe this can only be done successfully if the boss believes it already. 

At the risk of becoming labeled JAF (just another fanboy) Apple has really mastered this technique.  I just discovered the value of their magnetic power cord (as I tripped over mine).  The cord popped out - everything was fine.  awesome.  I was so happy about that I didn't care when a wmv crashed or I can't get quicksilver to do what I want.  Just that one moment of happiness makes up for a lot. 

If you can make people smile - you can get away with murder :)