Wednesday, March 6, 2013

On standing out

It seems that a massive amount of time spent on the internet is spent solely on attempts to stand out from one's peers.  I may be taking the cynical view of this, but individuality is a big part of western culture.  It seems that most Twitter users are there solely to promote their "personal brand" - whatever that is.  Still, the market is pretty flooded for those who do have something to disperse, be it blog, library or startup.  Now that we've established that promoting your product on the internet is a fruitless endeavor  how can we make the impossible happen?

The social media space is full to bursting, but news aggregators like Reddit aren't, having created an artificial constraint by limiting the "front page" to a certain number of entries.  Obviously, you need the right aggregator for the job - a post about the local church's bake sale won't make Reddit's front page any more than an image macro will hit Hacker News.

So we're back to "Make what users want," but with a twist: We get to choose the users.  This isn't a simple process, whatever you make will be affected by user feedback, so finding the right community is important.  It should be small in order to have a better chance of hitting that front page, and smart to provide quality feedback.

I'm not trying to say "Join a community, it'll solve all your problems!"  It won't.  There still needs to be a good product.  Despite your best push at promoting, there's still a larger element of luck involved.  The factor of luck can be minimized by shipping on a regular basis.  Dice came up snake eyes?  Roll again!

Passively creating a product won't cut the mustard anymore.  It used to be that you could design something cool and tell your friends, and they'd tell theirs and so on.  Then bigger companies got wind of this and started exploiting it with "Social Media contests" and the like.  Now, if you try and tell your friends about something, they'll ignore it or worse, see you as a corporate shill.

In the days of the Altair, it was possible to wow audiences by making a game.  Every new game has to live up to the greats of it's genera (hard) or create a new one (harder).  And yet, books have been around for millennia and great ones still come out.  I think it's safe to say that it's absolutely possible to come up with good material, perhaps even easier now that one can study the greats.

If you found this informative, you can help me reach the front page at my chosen aggregator, Hacker News.

(Thanks to dystroy for reading the rough draft)

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