Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Deck Chair on the Titanic – March 5, 2008

There are hundreds of Web 2.0/Social Networking companies out there, and my guess is only about 5% of them are actually unique onto themselves. What I mean is that most of these start-ups offer the exact same thing as their competition, with maybe a slight tweak of some sort. They are all junk with the exception of a handful. My profession requires me to follow things of this nature, and as such, I sign up and try to play around with a bunch of these new age technology solutions, most of which I forget about.

This whole post is dedicated to the number one indication that a 2.0 company is going under.

Before I reveal the sign of failure, I want to remind everyone unfamiliar with 2.0 websites that the whole basis of their technology is rooted on the wisdom of the crowd. This means that the users determine the righteousness, incorrectness, and sentiment of things like definitions, reviews, statements, suggestions, ratings, directions, etc. A comment or post on a 2.0 site might solicit a barrage of negative or positive/supportive responses from the community. For example, if someone said, “What’s a good place to eat in Little Rock, Arkansas?”, and someone responded, “McDonalds”, the chances of the user base to speak up and say, “Actually, the best place is Uncle Bobby Joe’s Rib Shack” greatly increases because no matter where you are, McDonalds is never the best place to go. The crowd self corrects.

Consequently this open playing ground of crowd correction builds a loose sense of community where other users can link up and learn more about one another. Or at least, that’s what the 2.0 companies want. Many of these start-ups really try to force a sense of community, and often times, everyone working for the start-up tries their best to establish a community. You will frequently see the founders and technicians of the 2.0 start-up out befriending individuals and supplying content to gently coax others to increase their level of participation. This is a good indication the company is failing. Actually, it’s a good damn indication that the company is going under.

I signed up for Blippr, which is more or less like Yelp but with a focus on discovering media (i.e. Books, Movies, etc). I “blipped” about one book review like 2 months ago, and just yesterday I got a request from the founder to join his friend list. I was like WTF is going on here? I practically abandoned the service, my initial use was incredibly low, and my profile was practically incomplete, but the founder wanted to put me on his friend list. Hmmm….my guess is that he is on a crusade to revive the company, but chances are it won’t work, because like I said in the beginning of this post, Blippr is no more unique than the dozen other companies just like it. I dug a little deeper and found that most of the reviews on the site were all from employees, which is a very clear indication that no one outside of the company was using it.

So moral of the post, if the founder of any 2.0 website tries to befriend you, the company has about 3-6 months left. Here is some of my Blippr evidence:


Jonathan C. said...

Hey Reid, sorry you feel that way. My friending you wasn't an attempt at "reviving the company" as blippr's use has been steady and we (me and one other guy) have been solely focused on building out the service, with many more features on the way soon. Also, you should note that we simply opened up the service to people via a private beta on February 19, only one month ago. It is not, as you say, that employees have been the only ones adding reviews. We have about a 1500 users at this point, people are inviting their friends and signing up daily, and that is with us having limited our user numbers via private beta explicitly to gain feedback and improve the service and feature set. There are nearly 8000 reviews that have been added in the past month, and over 90% of those are from people completely unaffiliated with blippr (which again, is only a two person team). I'm sorry blippr isn't for you and you find it like other services, but our response from other users has been incredibly positive. As with anything, though, it's not for everyone.

Thanks again!

Reid said...

Hi Jonathan,

I didn't mean to put a slam on your company, but I had an inclination that Blippr was another one of the hundreds of "2.0" companies that get launched every month. I felt that because I had little to no activity on Blippr and I was still befriended by you that you didn't necessarily filter who you wanted to be friends with. That to me is an indication you are trying too hard to make the service work. Also I noticed that you were following far more people than were following you, which was another concern of mine.

From the numbers you shared, it does sound as if Blippr is heading towards success. Congrats! I realize I might have been a bit harsh in my initial review, but I'm happy to reconsider. Sometimes you have to be a bit provocative as a writer, and I apologize if I came off as completely dismissive.

I appreciate the outreach, and it's that type of involvement within the community that will drive Blippr to wards its goals. Maybe you should let people know how open and engaged you are with the community via the Blippr blog.

I'll be sure to check out developments over the next couple months.

Jonathan C. said...

Hey Reid,

Thank you for the kind words back. I understand your position and how it could have seemed that way at first. Thanks for your advice.

I definitely love to hear what people are saying, and we're very much listening to all the feedback we can get--from users, from bloggers, and wherever else we can. It's been an encouraging response thus far, but we're in this for the long haul, looking to build unique service that delivers true value to people looking to discover and organize media. Thanks for not dismissing it totally. Over the next few months I think you'll find many of our upcoming features very original and inventive. As a single developer effort only, it's all about prioritizing development, but we're doing our very best. Stay tuned.

And thanks for the words about reaching out. Another blogger was kind enough to say the same thing:

Hope to see you using the site in the future. And if not, thanks again for the kind response back. All the best!