ARCHIVE: June, 2007

Common Pitfalls of Building Social Web Applications and How to Avoid Them

This is part I of a series on Common Pitfalls of Building Social Web Applications.

In the last several years we’ve seen the rise and fall of many social web applications. While most of our attention gets paid to the hugely successful ones like YouTube and Facebook, we can also learn a lot from those that have failed. Here are some of the common pitfalls that lead to failure when building social web applications.

1) Underestimating The Cold Start Problem

If you build and release your social web site and nobody uses it, you have the cold start problem. This problem affects most social sites, and directly results from designing for the network. The effect of the network is that nodes on the network (web sites) have attention momentum. We pay attention to certain nodes (sites) already, and so if you’re trying to add one to the network then you have to build your own attention momentum over time. This is not easy.

Too often, though, this hurdle is underestimated. The first step is to admit there’s a problem. Say “This is not working. Our early users are not using the site how we want them to”. You would be surprised at how often this doesn’t happen. Instead, what often happens is that more money is pushed into features or marketing, which is precisely the wrong move…

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