Hey Amy, thanks for chiming in.
I AM NOT saying “30x500 taught me to work in a vacuum”. I was just saying that you can still have gaps in your understanding of what your customer needs, even by following 30x500. Interacting with them by the way of blogs and forums still gives you an incomplete picture. It is not like having them one-to-one and getting to understand their life as a person.
I agree with you in the way you should not ask stupid questions such as “what’s your biggest problem?” or “what’s the secret to your success?”. That’s not what customer development is about. You have to understand what job your audience is trying to get done, and how a product could help them get this job better and faster.
If you have found out a pain around sending invoices for freelancers by doing the 30x500 sales safari, you can go interview a couple of freelancers and learn how they actually do invoicing. Ask them to tell you stories, not opinions. ( example: “How did it go last time you sent an invoice and it didn’t go as you wanted?”). People are good as telling stories but not necessarily in understanding the root of their problems without being prompted.
The thing is most of your audience actually shies away from talking to people (hey, we’re developers after all) and so they feel more comfortable staying behind their screen and “doing research”. I think this is a bad habit to keep and actually breaking out of your comfort zone and talk to some people will teach you lots of things about these people and bring more insights into how to develop a product.
But that’s my opinion, and you’re right in that I haven’t checked 30x500 in a while and will have a look at what it becomes now.