I have a friend who works for a non-profit wiki that recently launched. The staff populated the site with original articles, released it to the wild, and waited for users to come in, create accounts, and edit and create new content. It’s several months later and hardly anyone has signed up for the site.
I have another friend who works for a tech start-up dating website that has a few added twists. Despite favorable coverage in many of the largest tech and news publications, actual user engagement has been low. I’ve also worked on several projects where a tool was created that relies on users coming together and working in mass collaboration. Though there has been some success in signing up new users, they quickly become inactive and in many ways don’t engage much with each other.
There are sites out there like Digg, Wikipedia, Facebook, where the user base somehow reached a “critical mass” in which the community was self-motivated and self-sustaining. Having a good idea for a web tool was not sufficient, there had to be some other added bit of luck or innovation to draw in enough momentum.
This is why I show skepticism when any news site or organization launches “social” applications to their websites. Huffington Post announced such a move today. The news site has the added benefit of already having millions of readers, but will those users take the next step to actually engage on an even more social level?
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