Reading Between the Lines: Lightweight Models and Cost Effective Scalability on Goodreads

The concept of lightweight models and cost effective scalability, one of O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 Patterns, is directly linked to the success and proliferation of many of the web 2.0 platforms that we use every day. This concept, in simple terms, is that the capabilities now possible, due to the world of web 2.0, such as open source software, cloud computing and businesses and brands being able to market themselves due to the network effect, that more can be done with less. This business model is suggestive that those developing web 2.0 platforms can now benefit from using these tools and resources to allow them to reduce costs and time because of what is already available. O’Reilly propose that this model is not only cost-effective, but scalable for changing demand and being able to adapt instantaneously in response to the market. This business model has been demonstrated by many of the major social media sites, like Facebook and Instagram, both of which were developed at a low cost and with a limited number of resources. The start of the platform that is now Facebook was designed and created by Mark Zuckerberg and his friends in their dorm room while still studying at college.

Another example that I think encompasses this strategy and several of its best practices is Goodreads. goodreadsGoodreads is a community-based book review and book recommendation website, where users have the ability to share books and book lists, see what their friends are reading, have books recommended to them based on their previous reading habits, as well as look over the 29 million book reviews. Goodreads was developed by Otis Chandler and his wife in 2007 for their personal benefit, and since then has gone one to acquire more than 25 million members.

Goodreads’ smart utilisation of sharing capabilities and feedback channels has allowed them to optimise on the ability to market virally at a low cost, one of the best practices and benefits from this web 2.0 pattern. Goodreads is able to benefit from ‘user initiated publicity’ and promote their site by allowing users to share books, book lists and reviews to their friends via their existing social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Amazon, which is available from every page on the site. This allows for a greater reach of people to see Goodreads and the information on their website, with the potential for this to benefit from word of mouth or to spread virally, without them actually having to pay for promotion of the site.  The platform also has the capability for interaction between users and the company itself, through their blog and help pages. This type of communication can assist in users feeling like they are a part of a two-way mutually beneficial relationship, which is important in maintaining loyalty and customer satisfaction to build a strong user base. The easily accessible widgets on Goodreads that any user can access and share on their website is another example of a promotional and marketing tool to advertise Goodread’s benefits without them actually having to spend any money or time.

The syndication of business models, another best practice of this web 2.0 pattern, has seen Goodreads collaborate with other businesses and platforms to offer users a better service by essentially building on top of the components each business already has to offer. Goodreads has an open API, meaning developers can access the data from the platform regarding books and book reviews and share them on whatever platform it is they are working on. Also, just recently Amazon acquired Goodreads and now has the capabilities for users who purchase books with Amazon to sync their accounts and information. By touching an extra button on your kindle when you purchase a book, you can now directly integrate your purchases with your Goodreads account and the social network you have on there. How easy is that!

These two practices are definitely not the only way in which Goodreads is benefiting from the lightweight model and cost effective scalability, it is also very obvious in their designs and ability to scale with demand as the platform has expanded over the years. It is amazing to think what the platform has achieved in 7 years with a company that has less than 70 employees, and definitely epitomise the idea that more can be done for less thanks to web 2.0 capabilities.

I am interested to hear your thoughts about the topic, especially in relation to Goodreads and what you think is or is not working well for them. Do you know of any other platforms that you think are benefiting from this business model? Do you think platforms like this will become even easier to develop as technology and software changes? I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions and thank you for reading my blog!

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Leveraging the Long Tail and Society6

Leveraging the long tail, while a bit of a mouthful to say, is extremely relevant to the topic of web 2.0 and has been categorised within O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 Patterns. Originally introduced by Chris Anderson, in his economic model of the ‘Long Tail’, the concept, I think, is well summarised by O’Reilly who states that it is “the collective power of small sites that make up the bulk of the internet’s content”.

Essentially the topic relates to strategies that e-commerce and web 2.0 platforms can use to leverage the online market place in a way that is beneficial, not only for them, but for consumers and niche markets. Consumers no longer need to choose ‘mainstream’ or ‘one size fits all’ products or markets. The world of web 2.0 has allowed for organisations and brands to optimise on these capabilities and this means that niche goods and services can now not only be found, in markets previously too small to be able to capture great attention (whether it be because of physical limitations in stores such as ‘shelf space’ or popularity), but that these markets have the potential to be just as economically attractive and feasible.

Chris Anderson’s diagram of the ‘long tail’ assists in showcasing this ‘new marketplace’ and the fact that while niche markets are within the lesser part of the slope, the total number within that section represents significant market opportunities. Two prime examples of platforms that have been successful in leveraging the long tail include Amazon and eBay, due to their abilities to connect people with their specific needs and crowdsourcing capabilities.

It is obvious that the benefits surrounding this pattern are immense and allows for platforms and websites to have the ability to reach a broader range of consumers and to more accurately meet the needs of their target micro-markets. As a result, this means consumers have products and services targeted to their needs and wants more readily available.

The platform I am discussing this week that I feel exemplifies the best practices of leveraging the long tail, is Society6. society6 logoSociety6 is an online e-commerce site for consumers looking for original, new, artistic items and also a platform for designers to share and sell their designs on a variety of mediums, from iphone cases to shower curtains. The site prides itself on being founded by designers for the purpose of up-and-coming artists to be able to share and sell their pieces to consumers who are looking for something a little bit different.

One of the best practices of this pattern that I feel Society6 optimises upon particularly well, is the use of algorithmic data management to match supply and demand. All markets are competitive, even niche ones, and so platforms that utilise this function of helping consumers find products similar to what they have been looking at or targeted to their needs stand out from those that do not. Society6 demonstrates this feature on every product page, where users have the option to see more pieces from the artist they are looking at as well as the category ‘Items you may like’, based on similar categories and items to the ones you have been looking at. Society6 is using this algorithmic data management in a strategic manner to connect more people with more suitable products and is one I personally find is extremely helpful when browsing the site.

Society6 is also definitely demonstrating the best practices of leveraging customer self-service to cost effectively reach the entire web and the low-cost advantages of being online. Upon entering the Society6 site you are instantly in control of your entire experience. You can manage your own accounts and transactions easily, without having to interact with anyone, and you are not even required to sign up to the website to be able to make a purchase. This quick and easy, self-service approach allows for customers to quickly navigate their way in, find what it is they want and purchase it without any complications involved, while still having the support from the Help and Order Status pages. Not to mention, the fact that Society6 does not have any physical stores allows for them to be able to benefit from the low-cost advantages of being an online store as production and inventory costs are kept low from products being made to order, as well as the fact that support and training costs would be able to be minimised due to the previously mentioned self service and community support functions.

In comparison to other websites similar to Society6, I definitely feel that they are leveraging the long tail in a more effective and customer-orientated manner and that their growing success is a testament to that. Please let me know what you think about this topic; do you know of any other great examples of platforms that have successfully leveraged the long tail? What do you think the online marketplace will be like in a few years, will we be inundated with niche platforms all competing for smaller markets? I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions!

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What about the newcomers on Wattpad?

The past few years have seen a steady rise in the number of web 2.0 platforms available, especially those accessible via a mobile application, with social media users expected to rise to 2.6 billion by 2016. What this ultimately means is that at some point in time we all have been, or will be, newcomers to a platform.

Newcomers have both benefits and risks for all web 2.0 platforms. In order to survive a platform needs newcomers and the benefits from the intelligence and capabilities that a group collective can bring. However, newcomers also mean that you may have users who contribute in ways that are against the ‘norm’ or upset the community. I have chosen to evaluate Wattpad and their strategies for overcoming some of the newcomer challenges as defined in the text Building Successful Online Communities, in relation to their categories for newcomers, including; recruitment, selection, retention, socialisation and protection.

Wattpad

Wattpad is a social media platform that is essentially made up of a community of ‘readers and writers’, where writers can publish their work for free and users can read, review and share these pieces. Right now, Wattpad has over 40 million stories listed within their site that can be accessed by users at any time from the website or app.

I first heard about Wattpad from a friend of mine, who shared her creative writing from Wattpad, via Facebook, and upon research it seems that word-of-mouth recruiting is the most common form for Wattpad and they have really optimised their platform to utilise this recruitment method. It is easy for users of Wattpad to share content, not only with the community, but with their friends via existing accounts like Twitter, Facebook and Google+, with these functions being accessible from every page, whether it be if you want to share your story, someone else’s story or even a review. Burke, Marlow and Lento (2009) suggest that social media users are more likely to contribute useful content if they see their friends contributing also, so by having these ‘sharing’ options Wattpad can encourage this type of behaviour.

Wattpad is also following some of the best practices for helping to select the right ‘type’ of newcomers for their platform by having ‘hurdles’ or steps that newcomers must fulfill before having full access to the service. You must create an account and have your account verified before you are able to use any of Wattpad’s capabilities, meaning that not any average internet user can stumble across a story on Wattpad and abuse or spam the writer. It is likely that by having to wait to have your account verified, and signing in before use, that this could turn off people who may not be suitable for the community because those who are really motivated to use Wattpad wouldn’t mind having to follow the steps. By having entry barriers in place, the result can quite often be that the community is made up of more committed users as supported by Kraut, Burke and Riedl (2012) who state that “…barriers…that cause newcomers to suffer a little before joining a group should increase their eventual commitment.” However, I definitely feel if the process to join Wattpad had been much more complex or time consuming than it is, it would have turned me off ever using the service.

One feature that I think is great for showing potential new users what Wattpad is really like, is the informative introductory video about how the platform works, that users have access to before signing up. This information shows the capabilities and habits of the community before you even using the platform, which could help make the user’s decision as to whether Wattpad is really what they are looking for and in turn, help Wattpad recruit the right newcomers.

In saying all of this though, Wattpad does not just try to sway the ‘wrong’ type of newcomers to protect the community. The site is extremely dedicated to making the transition for newcomers easy and teaching them the ropes quickly.  Upon signing into your new Wattpad account, there is a section dedicated to ‘Tips to get you started’, including how to get you interacting with others, recommended people for you to follow and clear links to discussion threads for specific interest groups to help lead you in the right direction for your likes and dislikes.  The steps are extremely easy and not only makes you feel at ease with how to use Wattpad, but welcome, two essential characteristics to retain newcomers on a platform.

I definitely feel in comparison to many other social media sites, Wattpad has fair entry barriers and recruitment/retention techniques to ensure that they have the right type of newcomers for their community, that will assist in harnessing the collective intelligence. I would love to hear your thoughts though; do you think Wattpad’s recruitment process for newcomers is suitable? Can you think of a better way of involving newcomers to the platform? I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions!

Reference List

  • As 700 million new users sign on through 2016, what’s in store for social media at the enterprise and consumer level? (2012, July 18). PR Newswire. Retrieved from http://www.search.proquest.com
  • Burke, M., Marlow, C., & Lento, T. (2009). Feed me: motivating newcomer contribution on social network sites. Retrieved from http://www.cameronmarlow.com/media/burke-2009-feed-me.pdf
  • Howard, L. (2012, December 11). Self-publishing on Wattpad [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://laurahoward78.blogspot.com.au/2012/11/self-publishing-on-wattpad.html#.U1Se71WSyum
  • Wattpad. (2014). About Wattpad. Retrieved from http://www.wattpad.com/about
  • Wattpad. (2014). How to use Wattpad. Retrieved from http://support.wattpad.com/hc/en-us/categories/200110764-How-to-use-Wattpad
  • Image Source: Google Images via Creative Commons

Regulating Online Behaviour on Instagram

Some common themes and benefits associated with web 2.0 platforms include; user involvement, online collaboration, participatory cultures and two-way mutually beneficial relationships (particularly from an organisational or marketing perspective anyway).  As a result of this, online users feel that they not only have the right, but are encouraged to comment, tweet, hashtag and blog their personal contributions and thoughts and to share them across the web.

However, just like in the real world, such as at university or in the workplace, online communities have normative or accepted behaviours for their users, which differ greatly from platform to platform. For example, Rotten Tomatoes expects for reviewers to leave honest reviews, which quite often may highlight negative perspectives, such as a poorly developed plot line or character in a movie. Alternatively, the normative behaviour for a Health Support Community, like body image forum such as Women’s Forum Australia, have expectations pertaining to comments to be encouraging and supportive.

In saying that, there will always be a percentage of people who will behave in a way that is unacceptable, or that pushes the boundaries for that particular website or platform, in order to behave however they please. Quite often these ‘bad actors’ are commonly referred to as ‘trolls’, ‘manipulators’, ‘spammers’ and even ‘flamers’.  And therefore, in order for online contributions to be useful and beneficial for harnessing the collective intelligence, as well as for crowd sourcing purposes and ultimately ensuring the web 2.0 platform is still being enjoyed, behaviours must be regulated.

Behaviour Regulation and Instagram

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Instagram, it is a popular photo sharing social media platform, where users can upload, edit and share images, with their ‘followers’ and use hashtags to ‘categorise’ them, the same as Twitter. Instagram has only been around since 2010 and has grown vastly, with reportedly an average of 60 million photos being uploaded each day. I use instagram on a daily basis, for personal and work-related use, and throughout my use have seen spam-like and inappropriate behaviour, which prompted my research about how Instagram really is regulating behaviour on this ever-expending platform. Instagram

Instagram does have readily available and clear Community Guidelines, Terms of Use and Abuse and Spam pages, outlining clear guidelines and policies for using their services, as well as what is deemed as appropriate behaviour.

I believe Instagram is implementing two areas from the design claims relating to good regulation of behaviours in online communities; including limiting the effects of bad behaviours and coercing compliance by limiting behaviours. There are obvious functions and capabilities for users on Instagram to report inappropriate and spam behaviour, such as being able to directly report an image or comment, which is then moderated by Instagram against their policies of what is and is not allowed. Instagram sends warnings to some users who have behaved in a poor manner and can suspend an Instagrammer’s account for continued breaches or a serious misuse of the service if the breach is deemed serious enough. However, these practices have opened Instagram up to criticisms from certain users saying that these consequences just encourage offenders to pursue this behaviour further, particularly if they feel their account was unfairly or wrongly deactivated.

A feature that I think Instagram was right in implementing and that is suitable to limit bad behaviours and coerce compliance is their usage limits on certain behaviours. Instagram has activity quotas, just like on Twitter, to prevent spam-like activities such as following, liking or tagging too many people and their images, particularly over specific time periods.

One recommendation that I think Instagram could consider to encourage voluntary compliance and reduce the number of offenses from their users, would be to offer reminders at the point of action when users may violate the normative behaviour. For example, a warning message could appear to a user when they are commenting on a person’s photo that they do not follow or if they have commented more than 2-3 times in the space of a few hours, similar to Ebay’s negative feedback warnings.

I am interested to know what you think. How do you think Instagram may change their terms and actions for regulating behaviours in the future? Do you think what they are doing is working or is there something else they could be doing? I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions!

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