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Archive for the ‘online communities’ Category

Why hasn’t Google+ crossed the chasm?

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After reading this excellent post on Mashable about Google+, I found myself wondering, why hasn’t google+ reached facebook level membership?

At the moment G+ has 170 million members, which is a huge number of users and remarkable achievement in its first year, but still that number is less than the number of users facebook grew in the last year, which is from 700 million to 900 million this year.

I attempted to create this simple graphic illustrating the situation:

This graphic captures the situation with google+, that while it is still very popular with a huge user base, but it appears that its appeal is still limited to a very select audience, mainly tech/social media enthusiasts. Facebook, on the other hand, has definitely crossed into mainstream the market, even into our daily lives and culture.

How can we explain this? Why is Facebook so successful, while g+, bearing the google name and unlimited resources, has not yet crossed the chasm?

EDIT:

I have to be honest, when writing this blog post I had not visited google+ in a while. This is what I realized. The mainstream kinda sucks, in terms of the quality of content. Just like how Reddit’s frontpage is so mainstreamified that in order to get to a quality post you have to sift through  a mountain pointless memes, I have just realized that my facebook stream is full of updates of people I know but to be honest not very interesting. My google+ stream, in contrast, is full interesting content, it could be because the people I follow, but it is also because there is a general air of intellectuality in google+ that is lost on facebook, well, lost or never did exist in the first place.

So maybe for google+, it’s best that they stay where they are.

What do you think? If you beg to differ, please feel free to comment.

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Written by randomwalls

June 28, 2012 at 9:26 am

Crossing the chasm and Reddit

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Earlier this week I posted about Reddit and posted a comment from a reddit user describing how the early reddit user base started and grew into what it is today.

Why reddit? Here are some stats:

More detailed stats can be found here.

The great thing is, they don’t generate their traffic from ads, they don’t harass users to sign-up, they don’t even offer Facebook or Twitter integration. All their traffic is generated by the community itself.

How the reddit community started and grew into mainstream popularity to me is a textbook example of the crossing the chasm strategy in practice.

What is the crossing the chasm strategy?

Crossing the chasm was first introduced by Geoffrey Moore, a tech marketing thinker and strategist, back in 1991. The main premise of his theory is that when you introduce a new product into the market, where you want to go eventually is have your product accepted by the mainstream market. But in order to do that, there is wide gap (chasm) that we must cross between the early market, the people who first use your products, and the mainstream, which is everybody else. Crossing the chasm offers a strategic framework we can use to help bridge this canyon and bring your product to the mainstream.

The strategic framework offered, in very simplistic terms, is this:

  1. Target point of attack
  2. Assemble an invasion force
  3. Define the battle
  4. Launch the invasion

Let’s go through this point by point

1. Target point of attack

The key here is start small and focus on a niche. When the US invaded europe in WWII hey focused on one point, Normandy, and this is kind of the idea. What you want is to start small and establish a stronghold. When reddit launched back in 2005 they focused on

..techie geeks that were into obscure programming languages. At the time, Reddit was written in Lisp, which was its main claim to fame.

They even first announced the site to a newsgroup dedicated to lisp, comp.lisp.lang. So early in the lifecycle of the product the founders had a clear idea of who they were targetting.

2. Assemble an invasion force

Now this sentence sounds grand, but what it really means is that you have to have the whole product ready, meaning you have the core product working and have everything else that is needed to support the product and make sure it functions as planned. I may add that at this stage it is imperative that the product doesn’t suck.

Reddit had the basic mechanic of up voting and down voting user submissions in place. They had added a new comment feature which facilitated discussion between users. Another key in what they did was the founders where very responsive. Here is an example of how responsive they were:

The founders were very responsive. There used to be a “feedback” link right at the top that would go straight to their GMail accounts. I remember sending kn0thing a couple bug reports; he got back to me within a half hour with “hey, could you give us more details? we’re working on it”, and then a couple hours later was like “It’s fixed. Try now.” Then I’d send him back another e-mail saying “It’s better, but you still don’t handle this case correctly”, and he was like “Oops. Try now.” Back then, spez would edit the live site directly, so changes were immediately available to all users.

This responsiveness allowed them to adress what the users needed directly and gradually improve the product and user experience over time.

3. Define the Battle

The key here is that it is important to early on define who you are and what you want to be. At the time reddit started there was already a number of existing social bookmarking sites that did similar things such as Digg.com and slashdot.

Reddit stayed true to its roots as a place where techie geeks can group together, as opposed to Digg.com which went on to sell out and display ads to drive traffic (the rise and fall of Digg on the internet is in itself an interesting topic I might get into in another time). Even up to this day reddit refuses to show ads on its site, and in the age of social media integration still has no option to integrate with Facebook or Twitter. This consistent and clear cut message of what Reddit was gained them credibility in users eyes and grow a loyal user base and community that drives traffic to the site today.

4. Launch the invasion

According to the crossing the chasm theory at this stage in order to cross to the mainstream we need to dedicate a direct sales force to push our product to the masses, winning sales one person at a time. This is the most expensive way to sell something, but it was thought of as the only way to cross the chasm. I will argue that reddit had none of this. Instead their loyal user base became what other companies dream of having, loyal users who become a loyal sales force, selling the product to everybody they talk to. The product was so cool, people couldn’t but help to talk about it.

Because of these steps, reddit grew from an obscure website nobody knew of to become one of the largest and most influential communities on the internet today. So there we have it, the growth of reddit explained (very simplistically) using the crossing the chasm framework.

Before I go, here is a timeline infographic about Reddit’s growth from Sortable.com. Enjoy!

Reddit History
Sortable’s The Reddit Invasion

Written by randomwalls

March 22, 2012 at 5:41 am

The early days of Reddit

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Reddit.com , I think, is one of the most interesting communities on the internet.

I can’t remember when I first discovered reddit, maybe around 2005-2006, but I do remember that it changed how I browse the internet. When I got online that means that I would be browsing reddit.

Now I work in digital media and I am interested in how online communities grow and evolve.

While browsing today I found a comment from reddit user nostradaemons that gives insight on how the reddit community started and evolved into what it is today:

Showed up the day Reddit opened (Jul 2005), thought it was kinda interesting but not interesting enough to keep coming back, figured it’d never catch on. Came back for real a couple months later (Oct 2005), and stayed.

At the very beginning, there were no comments or self-posts: it was only links, with voting. And the only people posting those links were spez, kn0thing, PG, and spez’s girlfriend.

The initial userbase was very tech-heavy. The initial announcement went out to comp.lang.lisp, so the initial user population consisted largely of techie geeks that were into obscure programming languages. At the time, Reddit was written in Lisp, which was its main claim to fame.

When I came back in October, comments had been added, which was the “killer feature” that made me decide to stay. The userbase at the time was perhaps in the low hundreds – a popular submission was one that had about 10ish votes, like this one does now. It was small enough that you’d see the same names posting over and over again; you could get a sense of people’s personalities over time from their posts.

Comments were longer, more intellectual, and more in-depth. The culture was actually a lot like Hacker News is now, which makes sense, since a lot of the early Reddit users migrated over to there when it started (I was a first-day user of Hacker News as well).

The founders were very responsive. There used to be a “feedback” link right at the top that would go straight to their GMail accounts. I remember sending kn0thing a couple bug reports; he got back to me within a half hour with “hey, could you give us more details? we’re working on it”, and then a couple hours later was like “It’s fixed. Try now.” Then I’d send him back another e-mail saying “It’s better, but you still don’t handle this case correctly”, and he was like “Oops. Try now.” Back then, spez would edit the live site directly, so changes were immediately available to all users.

For the first couple years, the submission process would try to auto-detect the title of submissions by going out and crawling the page. Presumably they got rid of that when they moved to multiple servers, as it’s hard to manage a stateful interaction like that.

I started seeing pun threads in I think mid-2006; actually, I recall creating some of the first ones I saw. That actually was when the culture of the site started changing, going much more mainstream and much less techie. The userbase was growing by leaps and bounds, and we started getting more funny cat pics on the front page. I think this was right around the time of the Conde Nast acquisition.

There were also plenty of in-jokes, eg. the “Paul Graham Ate Breakfast” meme. That happened because people were complaining that anything written by or relating to Paul Graham got upvoted far beyond what should be fair, and so somebody decided to create a link to prove that point.

The first subreddit was programming.reddit.com. It was created basically out of user revolt. A core group of early users complained loudly and vocally about how the front page was taken over by lolcatz and funny animated gifs and thought-provoking submissions would get buried, and so a couple subreddits (programming and I think science) were created for the intellectual stuff.

Subreddits at the time were admin-created only. IMHO, user-created subreddits saved Reddit; the community was getting far too unwieldy by 2007, and so the only way for it to survive was to fragment. I remember seeing the first user-created subreddits and thinking “finally!”.

I’ve got a bunch of memories of specific Reddit users or events as well, but I think that’s enough for now…

The original post on reddit can be viewed here.

So what then? What lessons can be learned from this? Now that will be the topic of my next post!

 

Written by randomwalls

March 21, 2012 at 3:54 am