I’m going to apologies for the deluge of Fiftytwo related blog posts over the next few weeks, but I think some of the learnings from the site’s young life are fairly interesting, and may spark some discussion points about how we’re using online services.
This is how I consume a new web app:
- Connect with as many people from my Twitter and Facebook connections as possible, as quickly as possible.
- Observe the resulting output, hoping it’s a fabulously rich mix of content and stuff.
- Become pretty overwhelmed with how much stuff I’m seeing, and retreat from the site and not contribute any more.
From the results of my unscientific research, this is how you probably consume new apps too. Our instinct seems to want to connect as much as possible to yield as much stuff as possible, while forgetting the value that connecting less might bring.
Fiftytwo launched in what I’m calling “sort-of-private-beta” a few days ago, whereby if you are invited, you are free to go ahead and invite as many or as few others that you feel will enhance your experience of using the site. This turned out to have a nice, slow, and organic increase in its user-base, but a comparatively steep growth in the number of connections (I’ll furnish this post with stats when I get the chance). What people have been doing is exploring the user list and adding as many connections as they can, while individuals who have received relationship requests have tended to accept them without a thought to whom the individual or company is.
This is at odds with my, and Ben’s original thinking that of course everyone will want to curate and cultivate their connections to only those they feel close to. But, in fact, I’ve even had questions about what a user should do if they have been connection requested by someone they don’t know. My answer – resolutely sticking to my cosy idea of curated connections – is to ignore them (and then come back to the ignored request later if they want to). They then reply saying they accepted them anyway, often because it would be rude not to.
So what does this mean for a site like Fiftytwo, whose premise is about sharing work and content with a close group of people?
It potentially means that people will retreat from the site, feeling that some content isn’t appropriate for a wide audience, whereas the benefits of sharing content with a select few on a forum like Fiftytwo would definitely yield the benefits it set out to offer.
This starts to sound awfully like Facebook and Google Plus, which is something I’ve personally wanted to steer away from, but I’ve now realised that – like in real life – we need to group our relationships. What I thought was rather arduous on G+ is actually a necessity.
So high on the long list of priorities for the next iteration of Fiftytwo is Groups, whereby you can add connections to one or more groups that you cerate, and then share with – or hide from – the groups you that specify. It means that you share Work In Progress with just your closest colleagues, but share New Work with everyone else.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, and what else you might like to see with regards connection and group management, on Fiftytwo or in general.
Update: thanks to Darren who kicked off this conversation.