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Posted by: Russpd - 14 May 2009 / 11:24
One of the exciting parts about running Scribnia is that we are always learning as we go. We think we know what features will make Scribnia a powerful tool, but we always listen to our alpha users.
Recently, one of our top users, Rilkegal, emailed us asking why we don’t have a messaging system. We had initially thought about including one, but the downside of a messaging system is that conversations become private. On the other hand, when a user comments on a review, the conversation becomes public and all users can share their two cents.
We rethought our initial assumptions and decided to give it a try. Since launching this feature, we have been pleasantly surprised at its popularity. Users message one another to send links, provide author recommendations, and send compliments on good reviews. Even better, users are still commenting on reviews. We should have known better; private and public conversations are not a zero sum game. When users feel engaged with any site, they tend to participate more. So we expect more comment and more private messages being sent in the future.
Thanks Rilkegal for the advice! Keep sending us feedback guys, we love to create new features for our users
Posted by: Russpd - 29 April 2009 / 16:47
People often ask why Scribnia is in private alpha. The question is definitely a good one and thus far we have done a poor job addressing it. Hopefully, this blog post will help our users understand our goals for the future.
Why private alpha?
Scribnia is password protected because we want to build a strong and large community before expanding.
How do you build a community?
Obviously, step 1 of building an online community is to have a product that users will find useful and exciting. Luckily, our users have provided an overwhelmingly positive response to Scribnia and we are more confident than ever we are on the right path. But no product comes out perfect the first time. Jack and I are always scrambling to make Scribnia better and each version of Scribnia incorporates direct feedback from our users. The hard work is definitely worth it; we are always getting closer to an application that our users will rave about.
Another way of building a web 2.0 community is to make it “viral.” Some sites bank on their viral nature to capture attention on the Internet. At Scribnia, though, our product is a database of high quality author reviews and a community of bright readers eager to share their opinions. We never want to sacrifice quantity of users for quality. Ideally, we want our future users to resemble those who currently use our site: intelligent, articulate, and discerning individuals. We devised a few ways to accomplish this goal.
- Make our users feel genuinely appreciated. We never want to get too focused on user acquisition that we stop caring about the people who drive Scribnia. For example, one of our favorite users David Schneider (Scribnia username: Webber) had a week or so where he was unable to use Scribnia because he was swamped with work. Webber writes phenomenal reviews and Jack and I noticed the difference. Today, I reached out to him personally. Users don’t realize how much of an impact that they can have, and I suspect David appreciated knowing he was missed. I am thrilled to report he is back on Scribnia and throwing up signature awesome reviews.
- Allow our current users invite others. Scribnia now offers alpha invites that current users can send to friends, family members, and other contacts. Users can even import their Gmail and Yahoo contacts to make the process as streamlined as possible. If our users are great, then chances are they know great people to invite to Scribnia.
- Reach out to authors that we respect. Authors that we read regularly tend to have intelligent audiences. When bloggers write about Scribnia, these audiences get exposed to our service and join our community.
We are always open to ideas. How else should we go about building a community? Do any of our readers have other experiences participating in an “alpha” community?
Posted by: Russpd - 27 April 2009 / 17:11
Scribnia recently hired David Spinks, a social media guru who will serve as our Community Manager. I wanted to share the process of how we hired David Spinks because it highlights a few important lessons about social media.
We advertised the position by emailing the career service departments at colleges and universities. Scribnia received responses from a number of applicants and narrowed down our list to a few candidates. Each of these applicants was articulate, active on campus, and had a high GPA from a top school (Harvard, Cornell, and Wharton). A few days before we notified the successful candidate, I happened across an interesting article written by guest blogger David Spinks on TheLostJacket.com, a blog by Stuart Foster. I commented on the article and David and I continued the discussion further. I browsed his blog and was impressed by his passion for social media and writing ability. I contacted David asking whether he would be interested in working at Scribnia and within 48 hours David interviewed and accepted the job.
Lessons for employers
- Think outside of the box when hiring employees. In hindsight we should have known better. We assumed we could find intelligent college students with good writing skills and mold them into a social media expert. Instead of emailing colleges, I should have been reading blogs.
- Know about the area you are hiring. When I realized we needed a social media expert, I added about 30 social media blogs to my RSS reader and started reading and contributing to these blogs. I got a better sense of what qualities I wanted in our community manager and it was clear talking with David on the phone that he was right for the job. Paul Graham wrote an article explaining why business people shouldn’t hire developers But there is a misconception that because social media requires “softer skills” anyone can pick out a good social media hire. This simply isn’t true.
Lessons for applicants
- Importance of “personal brand”: Even if you have a job now, start contributing in some way to a field that interests you. For software developers, that might mean contributing to open source software. For those in marketing, consider blogging about trends. David showcased his “personal brand” via his blog. With other candidates, an interview was necessary and we hung up the phone still not sure how well the candidate would work. With David, we were confident before calling him that he would be a good fit and certain when we hung up the phone. We offered him a job within an hour after interviewing him.
- The web allows unbelievable interconnection, take advantage: If you read a blogger consistently, email him asking if you can write a guest post. Follow your favorite authors on Twitter and become part of their conversation. This will broaden your exposure.
Update: Great article by Stuart Foster published today with further advice on pitfalls employers make in hiring social media people.
Posted by: Russpd - 24 April 2009 / 0:26
Stuart Foster, a social media expert and guest blogger for Mashable, recently had an interesting debate on his blog, The Lost Jacket, that I wanted to share with our readers. Stuart recently blogged about The potential dangers of Twitter and other social media sites. He believed that Twitter’s lack of security will limit the service’s uptake and relevance among a teenage and pre-teen audience.
As usual, Stuart’s commentary spawned some interesting debate among his readers (myself included). I argued that Twitter is the safest social networking option for children because the conversations almost always occur in public. In contrast, other sites rely on users messaging each other and also tend to show more personal information (pictures of a user, their friends, even their address). After further discussing with Stuart and re-thinking my position, I realized that the danger is no longer confined to any one site. Today, our networks can no longer be thought of as discrete and instead, we have to see each of our social networks as a component of an online identity. Through the most cursory searches, a person can be tracked across their Linked In, Facebook, mySpace, Twitter, and even Yelp! profile. This can be especially dangerous when dealing with a younger audience engaging in social media for the first time who isn’t quite sure how much information to share or what is safe.
But what do our readers think? Will these issues prevent social media from becoming mainstream, especially among a younger audience? Do you worry about how much of your personal information is spread across various networks and how easy it is for interested parties to connect that all together?
Update: Danny Brown, a great PR blogger, recently illustrated our point with this post
Posted by: Russpd - 20 April 2009 / 14:55
I returned last night from the DreamIT’s orientation and am officially pumped about the summer. First off, the offices that we are going to be working at are amazing. All the companies are located in one huge room in the University Science Center in Philadelphia which will be sure to foster collaboration. Following Mike L’s advice, I plan on taking a day off and working for another team. Seeing how another team handles similar (or even completely different issues) than we face will help me think of better solutions for tough decisions at Scribnia.
I expected all the companies to be in similar stages of development, and this was one of the big surprises for me this weekend. Some companies like Notehall already have thousands of users while other companies are in stealth mode. I wonder whether this is a good thing. DreamIT brings in speakers that are meant to help companies as they encounter issues. The first speakers focus on scaling, development, and other technical issues while later speakers focus on raising angel investment and perfecting VC pitches. If all the companies are in different stages, this strategy doesn’t work quite so well. The founders of DreamIT obviously have a lot a of experience in working with startups and I am curious to talk to them more about their rationale behind this strategy this summer.
Posted by: Russpd - 7 April 2009 / 17:08
Scribnia is starting to take off! We have gotten some really enthusiastic early users and they have provided us with great feedback. We quickly realized that it is too big a job for two people to grow Scribnia and to tackle new initiatives that users suggest. Scribnia needs another programmer and we decided to bring on a third person for our summer at Dream It in Philadelphia. This is a great opportunity for any programmer who wants to work at a startup or is thinking about launching a business. At DreamIt, programmers will get exposure to venture capitalists, angel investors, successful mentors, and the network of DreamIt companies and people. The applications have already started to come in and we are excited to begin interviewing applicants in the upcoming weeks.
We think that Startuply, Snaptalent, and other job boards are great ways to find talent, but nothing beats a personal reference. If you want to refer a friend or are interested yourself, please contact us directly and we will set up a time to chat.
Posted by: Russpd - 27 March 2009 / 15:40
Jack and I recently sent out our first round of alpha invites to friends and family. Our hope is to get feedback from alpha tester to learn which aspects of the site we should focus on over the next few months. If you did not receive an alpha invite, be sure to visit Scribnia.com and enter your email address and we will be sure to send you an invite.
We look forward to hearing what our alpha testers think and in expanding Scribnia over the next few months.
Posted by: Russpd - 20 March 2009 / 16:41
Welcome to the official Scribnia blog. We created the blog so we can let our users know about new Scribnia features and share our entrepreneurial experiences. Scribnia is currently in private alpha but we plan on launching to a wider audience over the upcoming months. If you would like to be an alpha tester please visit Scribnia.com and enter your name on our email list.
Thank you for visiting our blog!