The Idea Dude


Monday, February 06, 2006

Show me the money

There's an upcoming conference that focuses on why Web 2.0 matters. It's an Under the Radar conference, it's about Web 2.0 so you know what to expect. The list of companies presenting are particularly interesting, ranging from websites in stealth mode, to shared calendars and most of all, picture blog communities. Many of these seem to be run by 5 people and have 50-200 picture contributions in them. Those of you who've been around smell 'dotcom', or the proverbial "build it and they will come" syndrome or will they?

The Internet has always been about communities...ask Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay who (at least publicly) always thought of his auction business as a community. In my mind it is probably the most successful online community business ever... based on stickiness, scale and profitability. Builders of today's Web 2.0 ideas should take note:

It is a many-to-many equation in which your business is to facilitate the collaboration and hopefully you make a bit of money oiling the gears to make it work. Let the consumers and producers decide what the commodity is be it a picture, a story, an antique or a used iPod. One of Amazon's strengths is not only it is cheap but it becomes your destination because you know you can find what other people thought about the book you're about to buy. The recommendation engine makes them the maven for books. But Amazon didn't want to be the maven (Yiddish term for one who is knowledgeable or expert), it facilitated a community of self-declared mavens. One man's Pez dispenser is another man's poison.

There is no one large community but it is a collection of tiny communities often no larger than 5 or 6 people. Why? Duncan Watts, in his book, Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age, debunks the 6 degrees of separation idea as an over-simplification. He proposes communities are in reality islands which are bridged by one individual (Gladwell, in The Tipping Point, calls these folks connectors). What's the point here? You may be connected to the President but you have to first get past his secretary... Seriously though, I believe companies like Friendster and MySpace succeeded in getting traction because they didn't purposefully try a build a community of millions of people. It started by connecting students and bands to their fans respectively. Something small, something comfortable...interpret as "I belong". First rule of can't please all of the people all of the time.

Finally, there has to be a focal point and memorable experience for the participants. It could be that we shared the same passion for skiing or had the same magic vacation or found the bargain 1965 Ford Mustang. Remember people connect for a reason...some picture sites forget about this, thinking that the world is simply a bunch of voyeurs and as long as we serve thousands of pictures, you will find one that takes your fancy and you will return. Wrong! Think about why people connect, better still, ask and observe and then put them in a nice cozy room to strengthen the bond, not some large Internet room.

People are fickle, our tastes change, as do our jobs, friends and location. Be prepared for communities to die or better still, facilitate their transition and transformation to different spaces. It is not the connecting we have trouble with, it is maintaining the connection.

Would I jump on the Web 2.0 bandwagon, absolutely! I love this space, sometimes if feels like you are swept away by a huge current. But where there's white water, there are treacherous rocks and the customary waterfull. But what would life be without the thrill.

The best quote comes from an article in Fast Company about successful women...

"I fear regret more than I fear failure."


Blogger Dave said...

Nice post Dude! I totally agree that many of the new web 2.0 companies have cool technology but lack substance.. ie, don't solve a specific problem... It will be interesting to see who sinks, and who swims, either way, I'm along for the ride as well

3:06 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home