Why your company needs a changelog as a service

[Image: Image blocks + activity]

One weird part of building something new/newish, is determining what to call it. A chat widget is easy. Most understand chat and why they might want it. But, a feed of activity on your website? Most haven’t seen such a thing—or know why their company would need one.

The need and the gap

Most organizations have information to convey. Software companies want to share product updates and improvements. Online retailers look to highlight sales and new offerings. Meanwhile, public organizations must note disruptions in service and other critical issues. I dare you to show me an organization that doesn’t need to communicate with external parties.

The problem comes down to one question: How? You can post on Facebook, but most of your audience won’t see it. Most Twitter feeds are so full that we measure a tweet’s lifespan in seconds. Email newsletters are great, but often swallowed by spam folders. And your blog? It’s not that easy to find—and likely abandoned.

This is where we introduce the new old thing

Fundamental needs inform many older technologies. This essential nature makes them ripe for updating. Consider Slack: it’s a rethink of IRC. Or Twitter: Doesn’t it feel like a rich form of RSS? Changelogs are like IRC and RSS. They’re simple, non-proprietary, and solve a fundamental need. They log additions, changes, deprecations, removals, fixes, and vulnerabilities of a software product.

Many products have changelogs. Some are simple text docs; others use a dedicated web page. Maintaining these changelogs can be cumbersome. This is why so many search Google, for the term “changelog as a service”. These product managers need a simple way to share product development updates. Additionally, some want added functionality, options, and integrations.

Enter the changelog as a service

A changelog as a service begs to be more (and different) than a changelog. It needn’t only log development progress. It can serve as a feed that also highlights general news, sales/offers, and other relevant updates.

This is why I struggle with the name “changelog”. It isn’t quite what I describe above. “Newsfeed” might a better term, but that sounds like Facebook’s News Feed. I don’t know… it could be an activity feed, a microblog, or something altogether different. I’m not sure it matters. If the idea proves viable, some name for it will stick.

What does it look like?

There’s no single go-to in the changelog as a service space. That said, some small companies are playing with options. Each has its own take on what a changelog as a service should be. Additionally, most are watching others and… umm… “borrowing” features. This isn’t surprising. Most new product categories involve some amount of collective innovation.

One common approach is a public page for the changelog. Another is to show updates in a widget/sidebar. Site visitors see some kind of alert on the page, which leads them to the changelog (or newsfeed). Individual log entries contain text, images, and sometimes video. This makes these feeds more engaging than traditional changelogs.

Each product offers its own feature set. These range from push notifications, to custom branding, and scheduling. Some products integrate with other technologies (like Zapier, Slack, and social networks).

Why you need a changelog as a service (or whatever it’s called)

You don’t. You’ll be fine without one more way of communicating. Or, you could go the simple route and create a web page that lists company updates. No sweat. But, those interested in new ways of reaching customers, might find a changelog as a service worth trying.

An activity feed on your website helps your company surface news and share updates. It’s easy to use because it’s a plug-and-play tool (meaning no HTML, CMS, or other technical requirements). Additionally, these services promise to increase your engagement rates.

Additionally, corporate websites often suffer from neglect. (Let’s be honest: Your last blog post, two years ago, doesn’t instil confidence with prospective customers. 😉) If this describes your website, a changelog as a service offers an easy way to signal proof of life for your company.

Want to try a changelog/newsfeed on your website? Start your free 14 day Emetti trial, today.