I love the collective power of online communities. However, sometimes it really works against your best intentions. A recent upgrade to facebook.com, a large community-based site, brought about an internet riot of massive proportions. Scores threatened to leave the service after new features were added that simply were making it easier to do things that were already available on the site.
We run into this all the time on SuperMotors. Granted, our userbase is not in the millions like Facebook’s is, but it still hits home when we work months on new improvements and enhanced features that are greeted by luke-warm reactions or feelings of complete hostility towards us. It keeps us honest, though. We never do anything to purposely make our site operate worse, which is what Facebook did, but sometimes the best intentions can be your worst nightmare.
The net/net, I think, is that new features need to be introduced before they are…well, introduced. It is the responsibility of business owners and site owners who are frequented by hundreds, thousands, or millions to manage the expectations of users. Nobody likes to visit their favorite site one day only to have it completely changed the next day without warning. This of course, is easier said than done!