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Why Quora (Really) Is The Next Big Thing

January 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Last July I wrote a post covering Quora titled “Quora: A Social Wikipedia” in which I expressed my belief that Quora had a lot of potential, but was still rough around the edges and was suspect to the apparent randomness in which success is awarded in the online and social worlds. A little more than half a year later and Quora exploded into the mainstream since the end of December. Need more proof? Reports are now showing the existence of a Quora button right up alongside the familiar Facebook and Twitter buttons.

With all of this news about Quora becoming much bigger than the small Q&A site it was less than a year ago (nobody really knows how big it is now, since the usage statistics are kept private), it seems that Quora is making a push to be the next Twitter.

I’m not really sure how I feel about everyone saying Quora is becoming the next big thing. Yes, it has a needed service. Yes, it has the hype. But that’s my problem with it. I believe it’s becoming something bigger simply because of the hype, not because it’s providing a service that people actually want; rather, people will force themselves to want it in order to jump on the hype-train. Do I realize that this is how many things become big on the internet? Yes. Do I have a problem with it? Of course. While this may seem petty, at least let me explain myself.

Over-hyped websites, services, videos, songs, etc. that become mainstream so quickly have one fatal flaw: being super successful after so little time creates an atmosphere that says “keep doing this, and you’ll be awesome! Improvement is optional!” I tend to relate a lot of this to the Youtube generation (yes, my generation). Back in the day videos like Numa Numa and Star Wars Kid were making their initial splashes into viral video. In fact, they really helped make viral video what it is today. However, these two ‘celebrities’ failed to create much success for themselves after the initial ‘fifteen minutes of fame’. If you look at their other videos, they are really just the same thing over and over again, with small things changed. Even Numa Numa guy was in a Geico commercial that used the exact same formula as his original hit, he even wore the exact same headphones and shirt.

Where am I going with this? I’m saying that hype that occurs because people not involved with providing the service, or video, or whatever is hype that doesn’t encourage adaptation and development. I’m sure the Quora founders are smart (fyi, they are…they, along with many employees are former employees of Facebook) and won’t just level off without improving their product, but I am allowed to worry. Quora hasn’t changed at all since I first joined six months ago, and while that doesn’t seem that far in the past, six months in the social world is an incredibly long time to not have a significant update to a new-ish website. With all of the media and attention they’ve been receiving the past few weeks, isn’t it safe to say that a huge influx of users and traffic, coupled with a website that hasn’t had to deal with traffic of that magnitude, might cause problems?

I wish all the best for Quora, because they definitely have the right idea…I am just hoping that they deserve the hype and media attention, as well as the influx of curious users who are joining just because they are told it’s cool. That’s what media does, tells the masses they should join something…but then what? It doesn’t tell them what to do, or how to optimize the service. My hat’s off to Quora and their recent success, I just hope it is able to continue.

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Categories: Q&A, social media, social networking Tags:

Facebook Should Follow Twitter

September 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Twitter's new user homepage

Earlier today Twitter announced that they were on the verge of releasing an all new Twitter experience. If you’d like to read more about it go to Twitter’s homepage . In a nutshell this overhaul brings in features like tabbed browsing (through the feed, mentions, retweets, etc), videos and pictures directly in your feed, mini profiles, and more. It is a completely new way to Tweet, Follow, and is an incredible update that I predict, and in agreement with Mashable’s recent post on the subject, will make the website insanely more popular and easily monetized for businesses.

This is how you will view Twitter vids and pics in the feed...live.

That’s not what this post is about. This post is about how Facebook should “follow” (get it?) in Twitter’s footsteps about how to update/change a website layout, and functionality. Facebook has angered plenty of people with their somewhat frequent home page, profile, and news feed changes over the years…I myself have been very angry about this since Facebook hasn’t even perfected basic features on their site such as Search and Chat. Why update things without warning, angering your users (aka your monetary value), without fixing the things that actually need fixing?

Twitter is doing something extraordinary when you compare the process to Facebook’s lack of notifications, customer service habits, and apparent lack of hearing when it comes to user feedback. Twitter is slowly rolling out the new website in a preview mode that will allow all users to switch back and forth between the old and new sites at will. This will allow users to get accustomed to the features and layout of the new site at their own pace. Eventually everyone will only have access to the new site…but at least Twitter is doing what Facebook has never done, letting users know what’s happening well before it happens. Maybe they learned a few things from Facebook’s mistakes as well. It always sucks being the big man on campus when trying new things doesn’t it FB?

Here we go: @Wildfire releases yet another fantastic product

Here we go: @Wildfire releases yet another fantastic product making social media easier for companies to utilize http://tinyurl.com/378d7kg

Newest Old Spice commercial…it’s Mustache-stic

Ladies…enjoy!

The real life social network…a Google report

http://www.slideshare.net/padday/the-real-life-social-network-v2

Has your online social presence every come back to haunt you offline? It’s happened to me more than once, fortunately it was nothing terribly serious and it didn’t change my life much. The potential for something terrible to occur though is very obvious and stories about marriages failing and relationships ending because of one’s online life conflicting with their offline one is disturbing. Check out the link above for a great report on this.

Social Media = the disheveled multitasker

Over the past couple of years complaints have piled up about Facebook. Through friends, family, and other contacts it is so easy to hear about how terrible each layout change is, and how poorly implemented certain features (Facebook search, FB chat, etc.) are. Well the good news is that Facebook isn’t the center of attention anymore (in terms of complaints, that is…it’s still the center of everything social); social media has boomed in the past few years and the number of services available is astounding. However, the territory that comes with being a part of a revolution (and evolution) is that nobody has done it before so you are going to make mistakes, a lot.

Mark Zuckerberg: Doing too much.

The necessary expansion for sites that begin to catch on in the social media world is something that not even a major league player like Facebook has been able to handle in stride. My personal gripe about the way Facebook approaches its expansion is that it develops features like FB chat that are great, but then don’t take the time to perfect them when problems arise. It is extremely annoying to not have automatic refreshing for FB chat; constantly trying to IM a person who is not actually online, contrary to what my homepage says. Facebook needs to perfect the basic features it offers before trying to expand. There is a new feature, something along the lines of a Q&A thing, that Facebook has been advertising to get beta testers. Why are they implementing a feature like this when they still haven’t made it easy enough to search on their site? Expansion should only happen with a solid foundation, something Facebook needs to work on. Here is a rather extensive list of some Facebook criticisms just to get an idea of issues they already have.

The other social media sites that are going through transitions like this remind me of the rattled teenager just starting his first job…and is completely overwhelmed. Trying to get too much done, too quickly, and trying to please everyone at the same time. This is a mistake.  Trying to please everyone will result in nobody being truly satisfied…this is why Apple is successful. Sticking to your market, and rising vertically within it and taking it over is what the best in the business do. Apple does this, and gradually expands their market reach once they hit the pinnacle of their industry (iMac, to iPod, to iPad).  Foursquare is a company that has its issues with expansion as well.

I’d like to see a sight sweep in, take over the industry by perfecting the art of social media in one aspect (say, social networking like Facebook), and continue to rise vertically. What do you think?

Your time is worthless…until you’re told otherwise

June 29, 2010 1 comment

In the past couple of years an incredible phenomenon has occurred in the online world: gaming. Yes, there’s always been PC games that have “revolutionized” the industry, but I’m talking about this new gaming…within sites like Facebook, made by companies like Zynga. This games aren’t like anything that you see anywhere else. Seriously, watch about twelve seconds of any video gaming convention, or read any game review for a game released on the PC or a console and the descriptions of these games and what makes them good is nothing like what you see in social gaming. What makes console games good, you might ask? Well as a relatively involved gamer I look for: content (plot strength, gameplay depth, etc.) and graphics. Content is important because it is how the game is played and how enjoyable it is. Better graphics = better game is a huge myth in the gaming industry, but is an almost universal one. Now look at social gaming…can you think of even a handful of games that tout their amazing graphics or incredibly deep story? No. It doesn’t exist. While the offline and console gaming industry is evolving graphically and technologically, the social gaming industry is reverting back to old-school Nintendo style graphics and strategies. And it’s working!!

The most amazing/unbelievable things about social gaming is that it offers games that require constant repetition and boring, monotonous grinding in order to increase your level or improve your character (or farm, just to throw it out there). What is the attraction with this? I recently watched a video of Jesse Schell presenting on the absurdity and unpredictability of social gaming, specifically within Facebook. Watch it right here. Skip to about 9:25 and he talks about the psychology behind games like Farmville and Mafia Wars. What makes millions of people willing to spend millions of dollars on virtual goods that can’t benefit them beyond minor bragging rights? Basically it’s all about how the consumer views their time, and how valuable it is. Roughly, this is the thought process of a social gamer who pays money for a game:

Step 1) My friend is playing this game, I’m going to join.

Step 2) My friend is better than me, I MUST GET BETTER

Step 3) How is this game worth my time? Oh yeah, because I’ve already spent a ton of time playing it.

Step 4) Hell, I’ve played this game for weeks, might as well pay $20 to boost straight past my friend instead of grinding for any longer

Step 5) Only an idiot would pay for a game then not play it, so I have to keep playing

Step 6) Start cycle over from the beginning (if there’s another friend), or from Step 3 otherwise.

Farmville: 4 months in

This is a vicious cycle but I’ve seen many friends get drawn into it…I have as well. I have never paid a cent for a game, but I’ve spent so much time that is apparently worthless (since I didn’t actually spend my money) on these games and I think it was foolish in hindsight. But just to humor myself, and the gaming industry…why haven’t they taken it to the next step? Take out the “how much time am I wasting with this, and how valuable is that time?” step and just tell the consumer exactly how much it’s worth…then the $20 the spend to gain a level will seem insignificant.

What I propose is this: When a user joins up on a game…keep track of how long they play. Don’t tell the user because they may realize just how much time they have spent growing and selling strawberries, but just keep the amount of time recorded for each specific user. When they hit a certain milestone (5 hours of playtime, etc) reward them with virtual currency. Get even more specific, give them a badge or other visual reward for being dedicated to growing a certain crop. The user gets a reward, then also has to spend more time catching up all of their other crops in order to earn the specific reward for that crop…it’s a never-ending cycle of constant play that would generate even more revenue.  Set up the rewards given for time spent on a certain task or goal on an variable-ratio  schedule (the same type of schedule slot machines are on) and people won’t be able to stay away for long. Yes, this idea was being thought up as I was writing this post and is very unpolished and could be fleshed out more. But the point I am trying to make is…make users know exactly how valuable their time is by rewarding them for the amount of time they spend in an application, not just by how productive they are.