I like animals, and I’ve been told that I’m good with them. I’d like to think that’s due to a mix of empathy and respect that I’ve developed over the years.

It occurred to me the other day that my favorite online services treat me like I imagine my pets like to be treated.

It might be worth noting we have cats and rabbits, which are both rather independent kinds of critters. That said, being treated like a pet might sound demeaning. But, consider these pointers for being nice to animals:

  • Give them a reason to come to you. Don’t chase after and grab.
  • If they want to leave, let them. Don’t hold on and squeeze tight.
  • If you are allowed to pick them up, hold them gently yet offer enough support to make them feel safe.
  • Pay attention to their reactions, learn what kind of attention they like. This gives them a reason to come back when you let them leave.

Consider the above with respect to Dropbox, a service I use more every day:

  • They give me a place to put my files, like a thumb drive installed all the time on all my computers regardless of vendor or OS.
  • I can quit Dropbox whenever I want – all my files are safe on multiple hard drives, and won’t disappear if Dropbox goes away.
  • Dropbox has never lost a file, never spammed me, never done anything that suggested they’re spying on me. I mean, they could, but they haven’t. I also asked a support question once – they answered it.
  • The people at Dropbox keep doing more of the above, and releasing things like the JavaScript API that makes them useful for web apps I like building.

I can tell a similar story about Disqus, the service I use for comments here:

  • Disqus takes care of my comments and keep spam away. They were easy to set up with a WordPress plugin.
  • The official WordPress plugin mirrors every comment into my site’s database. I can turn off the service at any moment without a problem.
  • Disqus does run some advertising and off-site recommendations alongside my content. But, even though I could turn it off, I haven’t because it seems like a genuinely interesting aspect of the service. They’re also quick to answer questions.
  • Disqus continues to work well, add features I like, and have yet to disappoint me.

Now, how about Evernote? They’re neck-and-neck with Dropbox for me:

  • They store all my random thoughts & notes, make them available on all my computers regardless of vendor or OS.
  • I can backup or export my notes and quit whenever I want, and they’re stored on all my computers.
  • Evernote hasn’t done anything nasty with my notes, and have only ever made gentle suggestions that I pay or use other services.
  • The Evernote team just keep improving things – and every time I switch to something like Notational Velocity on Dropbox, I find myself coming back.

So, that’s it: Just a quick handful of thoughts that occurred to me when I was on a walk. I’m not entirely sure how this translates into execution and a successful business, but I know I like it when it works out this way.

Might be interesting to muse on this further: Sometimes being treated like a pet is a trap. Sometimes it’s demeaning. I’m not entirely sure it’s a good thing all the time, mostly my point in this post is to describe the feeling.