As Simple As That
It is that simple. You don't need to wait for people to start writing interesting stuff. You don't have to dig through forum posts searching for news people post whereever they feel like.
Just set some rules for participation and ask people to follow them.
Stop listening to those saying «Give people place to share thoughts, and they generate tons of content». I've been trying to do that for years. Forget about motivation. People are not traffic, they're individuals. Communicate. Ask.
For people like me there's a special place in hell. With Wi-Fi and hookers.
Yeah, just surfing. Like it's your first time online.
The very first time, when you haven't yet discovered lots of porn and got addicted to it. Before you decided you're the new Oscar Wilde and started writing. Before you found out you can leave a comment somewhere telling that all you've read there is absolute rubbish.
The very-very first time.
Type something in search engine's text box, search, grab the first link... And go! Link by link. Click by click. Surf! We got used to it. Those who are younger see hyperlinks everywhere offline, but I remember (though I'm also too young to remember a different Net) that excitement: click – and you're somewhere else, click again – and there's another page.
It's driving me... just driving. I often forget it, stuck to a few sites and blogging, and working and forgetting how wonderfully BIG the Net is. You can start reading something on nuclear physics, continue with annelids and end up reading some musician's comments to his own songs.
It's hard to treat Net as something magic when you're IT professional, but I can sometimes.
Surfing. Like the very first time.
Inequality of Social Sites' Members' Contributions
While maxima attempts to solve a differential equations system I have to get solved to pass examination tomorrow, I would share with you some of my thoughts on social sites and their 90–9-1 problem.
Social sites are great. They help sort things out, divide quality content from lame, share expertise or news or interests or whatever. It doesn't matter right now, what exactly, social sites allow you to get quality unique content created by your visitors, not yourself.
But how efficient are they? Probably you've heard of 90–9-1 rule or figured something like that yourself. This is generally a rule of thumb, which states than in average 1% of your visitors actually create content, 9% interact with it, and the rest just use it (read, download, etc).
Here's an example. There's a message board on (partly) my Russian Rock Portal. There are 5092 members registered at the moment. Among them, there are just 991 members, who posted more than 10 messages, only 299, who has 100 messages or more, 61 person with at least 1000 postings, 5 (!) who posted 5000+ replies, and only 1 (one!) man left more than 10K messages (almost 15 thousands – he's a great guy and listens lots of music every days and writes a lot about it). You see? 5.87% members posted almost a half of all messages, and about 1% left a third of all messages.
This situation also has one unwanted side effect: your community starts to reflect the opinion of minority, not people's opinion, and when people see that these folks post wierd things, they like your site less. And less. And finally they leave.
And that's a good case actually (forums have the best action ratio among social websites). Take Wikipedia: it has about 75K active submitters, amoung millions of visitors every day.
Can you solve this problem? NO! Whatever you do, most members are still lazy (you are lazy, I am lazy, everyone!) and only a few really do something. You can only shift the values a little, it's up to you if it would be 80–16-4 or 95–4.9–0.1.
What can you do? You should encourage your visitors to become registered members, and encourage your members to contribute. How? There several ways I see:
- make registration and contribution (whatever contribution means in your case) as simple as possible. And even more simple. Very good examples of this are Reddit and lOOnstart: you just have to enter your email address and password and – viola – you're in!
- reward active members. Limit something tasty to registered users only. Limit something really tasty to active members only. But you have to be careful with the limits: if they are too high, people won't even try to reach them.
- make the contribution a side effect. Design your site in a such way so people will actually contribute without doing anything. Well, the simplest example is using a content views count as a rating. Of course, it's not the best rating factor, but could be used in cooperation with another rating system, like stars, comments, votes up/down, etc. Other, better example is Amazon's Customers who bought this item also bought thing.
- force people to contribute. My first PHP/MySQL gig was creating a photo-rating site (thanks God, that site no longer exists, it was awful, just the idea was good). Some people would upload their pics there, others browse them. But to see next picture, one should rate the previous one. Invent something less straightforward.
And, of course, the main is just keep your site usable, useful and/or fun. If people don't like it, they won't do anything for you. Good luck!
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What Do You Really Want?
Digg is dead.
Or probably not.
For sure, not.
For most people.
But... Something definitely changed. In people's minds only, but nothing matters, than people's minds.
Just three weeks ago I said that I underestimated social networks. I did, but I underestimated them even more and at the same time I ranked to high. Mistakenly.
Mob is not people. Mob is mob. People want simple things: sex, food, place to call home, family, children, anything could be described by word 'happiness'. But mob craves for something strange. It wants idea. False freedom, equality, whatever.
When one man doesn't get something for free, he realizes, that good thing cost some money. When a lot of people want something for free and don't get it, they suddenly start thinking someone stolen that from them! I just can't understand that!
So, returning to underestimating and overestimating. I won't be surprised if I'll see a story about tonight's digging on TV. Community can make a lot of noise. Community can filter out lame things (like my senseless post then). These are it's powers. But community can stumble at something ordinary and shout: That's evil! They take off our freedom! Hands off, you greedy bastards! More, mob can make something terrible feel ok.
I hate mob. I want my home, my women, I want to be happy, and I don't want that HD DVD Key! I don't want to prove someone I want it. I don't.
And surely I don't need it once it was published.
I wonder how strange does a man in military clothes and dirty boots (it's raining there...) look when he orders Irish coffee (coffee, whiskey and cream) and a glass of cherry juice and stay in cafe for an hour to read some Khlebnikov?
Does anyone know why do I mistrust people who say they love Oscar Wilde and a minute later say that Dan Brown is cool?