Rick Skrenta: What do you do when your success … sucks?

April 3rd, 2007

Stone Cottage pointed to a great post by Rick Skrenta, CEO of Topix (and mad mind behind NewHoo/DMOZ for those who can remember back that far) on the Topix re-launch.

Lot of really interesting stuff about identifying a brand’s core value and putting it into practice. But also a phenomenal laundry for a problem that has stumped a lot of us, how to make a local news site succeed. Including:

  • Anthropomorphize our existing technology into the roboblogger. This was a brilliant idea from one of our lead engineers. It simultaneously solves three problems:

    1. Booting up a new city — you need posting activity to draw the first editors. The roboblogger would give us that. But he is shy and gets out of the way if humans show up and take over a page.
    2. If the community editors go on vacation, the roboblogger can step back in and take over while they’re gone.
    3. People know when a robot is editing the page vs. a human. His profile icon is a picture of a little tin-can robot. His handle is ‘roboblogger’.
    No more confusion.

A project has to already have value to draw a valuable volunteer base, this is the classic and yet fundamentally hard problem with boot strapping all local sites. But as soon as you have volunteers your contract with them is to rain attention and love down upon their contributions. roboblogger is a really neat hack to handle the delicate balance of a site’s lifecycle and mix community and data mining techniques in social software. Looking forward to watching it play out.

Comments are closed.