Week 3, what have we learned?
Biglawrefuge has been in existence now for three weeks. This has been the slowest week for growth so far, adding only around 100 users. The first week saw 250, the week after that another 300, then this week, the numbers have dropped back down to earth (for me). There’s a limited audience to which biglawrefuge appeals at the moment, which is fine. I just need to focus on making the product better while still getting the word out. If it’s good enough, users will continue to come.
This is an interesting statistic, provided by google analytics. Biglawrefuge, though the numbers fluctuate drastically, sees on average about 1000 – 1500 page views a day and around 150 – 250 user sessions per day. However, I’ve closely monitored the returning user count and the number keeps going up. Maybe that’s because the number of new sessions is decreasing, or maybe it’s because the existing use base finds something of value on the site.
“What’s your number?”
In the past week, I’ve added the ability to find out your “contribution score.” Contribution score is essentially a metric that is based on the number of jobs, reviews, interviews, and articles you contribute, which is then weighted by the number of likes each contribution sees. It’s a quick and dirty estimate. No science went into coming up with the weighting function (except just seeing that the numbers clustered closely together and that taking small actions would have an impact on your score).
The idea of a contribution or user score is common to many websites. I guess the rationale behind adding the feature is that users need to see a sense of change when they return to a website, a sense of progression, and a sense of reward. When they contribute more, users end up forming a closer attachment to the website (probably by some combination of the sunk cost effect and the desire to achieve some goal). I toyed around with the idea for a while, but finally implemented it. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea if it’s a good feature or not. However, I do have data relating to when users have contributed their data. Hopefully this provides some motivation.
Likewise, I’ve also added the concept of achievements. Achievements are really easy to get at the moment -they just consist of creating certain objects on the site, getting a certain number of likes on something you’ve contributed, and making comments and receiving comments.
Achievements are closely related to one’s score, but they’re more discrete and represent tangible steps to complete. Now that I’m thinking of it, I should give a bonus to your score for each achievement.
What’s nice about biglawrefuge is the fact that there are no real expectations at the present. It’s a website that has a moderate number of users. They tend to be loyal. They have been consistent. It’s my first experience outside of work dealing with real users and the issues that go hand in hand with launching a product into the wild. When I view it from that perspective, it makes it easier (mentally) to add in a new feature just to see if it works. One thing I’m trying to avoid at least for now: Don’t quell innovation in the effort to maintain and grow one’s user base. The bottom line is if I’m constantly worried about user growth, I’ll never take chances that could make the site great or teach me a valuable lesson.
Finally, some closing thoughts:
As for how things are going regarding biglawrefuge in general: To be frank, there have been mixed reactions so far. Along with the mix of anonymous critiques, there are the doubters, those who are quick to find fault, and those who lack confidence in biglawrefuge’s ability to turn into something. Even for well-meaning friends, it’s all too easy to hop on that bandwagon. That’s all right; I don’t blame them. Going it alone is really really hard, because by yourself, you have to build, market, define and defend the product. You have to establish the product vision, plans on how you scale it, plans on how to define when you’ve succeeded. These are all things that companies founded by two or three co-founders have the luxury of handing-off to one person to focus on.
However, one article I read recently on hacker news provided some much needed encouragement: http://dontscale.com/stop-looking-for-a-cofounder/. The article basically describes the nature of solo entrepreneurship and its pitfalls, but also describes the status quo as being better today. PaaS like heroku really bring scalability to the masses.
Some other highlights from the article:
“Since it’s cheap and easy to spot faults in unproven business ideas, early votes of no confidence, even from well-meaning friends and family are standard fare. Expect and take them with a grain of salt.”
“…you need colleagues to brainstorm with, to talk you out of stupid decisions, and to cheer you up when things go wrong”
“In addition to crises, it’s also hard just staying motivated sometimes. The best way to cope is to maintain low expectations and stay busy working on things you can control.”
I love this article. Maybe it’s just telling me what I want to hear, but it’s also a reminder that you don’t always need a team to succeed. Drive and passion can take someone a long way, and can be that source of constant motivation even when there isn’t a reciprocal response. Let’s get it done.