Monthly Archives: May 2010

4 Things That Drive Early Adopters Away


We’ve had the alpha sign up page up for couple of days now. So what are we seeing? Not much, to be honest.

The people who leave their emails are the people whom I know personally, and who have ignored the ominous warning that says:

It’s preferable that you are not related to or are friends with either of the founders so as to allow yourself to lash out against our vision without fear of breaking the bonds of friendship or family.

So why would the rest be turned away?

  1. Lack of trust or credibility. Leaving your email is a gesture of trust since it involves passing your personal information to another party. At the end of the day you don’t know what’s going to happen to it. And if you don’t know us, your first inclination is to keep your distance. That’s perfectly natural. Moreover, in our case neither co-founder has a well known public persona that could boost credibility or count toward reputation.
  2. It’s not clear what you get. So you sign up, then what? Are you going to be among the privileged few who get to play with the app or are you being recruited for alpha testing? Well, a little of both actually. But why would you volunteer your time? You wouldn’t unless you know us or have something to gain. I keep hearing about early adopters all the time, but where do they actually come from? Are early adopters just a euphemism for fools, friends and family or is it something more?
  3. It’s not obvious when you get it. Our sign up page is purposefully vague on when the app is going to be ready for alpha. It’s vague because we do not yet have a good handle on our own bandwidth and velocity in the coming weeks. As we are making progress we are getting better with time estimates, but the margin of error is still pretty high. What we do know is that we are probably done with 70% to 80% of what we set out to do for alpha.
  4. Scarcity or urgency is not fully conveyed. There is no indication that this is somehow limited availability. Should we have said that we are accepting 20 alpha users only with the counter indicating the number of spaces left? I don’t know, but I feel like trying that soon.

Thanks, but no thanks!

The recurring theme with the four points above is clarity. In the coming days we will attempt to increase clarity along those four dimensions and see if that brings in some new folks, preferably the ones we don’t know personally.

Have you tried recruiting early adopters and motivating them to sign up? Please share your collective wisdom in the comments below.


Like quickly – timing is everything


In my previous write-up I spoke of the long tail of taste, how it affects our public persona and how we use it to quickly gauge who is worthy of our social graces. I sited the long tail as one of the premises for conjuring up Just Liked. Today I would like to turn to premise number two, which I believe is no less important.

Couple of weeks ago my wife and I happened to vacation in Prague. When we arrived at the hotel, we were cordially ushered in, pampered and treated in the most courteous manner possible. The service was impeccable. What was my first urge? Well, to recommend the hotel, of course.

I just started using Google Nexus One as my phone the week prior, and I already loaded it with all the location-based services goodness. I popped open FourSquare but ICON Hotel and Lounge was not in the database. Every imaginable venue in and around the building was, but not the hotel where we stayed.

I then did the same for Google Maps just to verify that I was not going insane. The hotel was there, but there didn’t seem an easy way to recommend it. At least neither app offered an immediate way to channel the superb experience I was having into a recommendation that my friends could use. It seems now that I should have been a little more patient and used Google Maps to search for the hotel and attack the problem from that angle, but that’s not the point.

Now, the point:

If you can’t attend to the urge to share or record a fleeting emotion in a 10-30 second interval, then it’s gone forever.

It's ticking...

It’s like pre-history. If you can’t write it down, it’s lost for the future generations. And these good feelings come and go very quickly. The memory of the positive experience stays with you, but the urge to share it with others fades. The memory alone does not provide enough motivation to return to the task, and you move on to something else.

I know what you are thinking:

How the hell are all the reviews on Yelp and similar sites generated?

Or if you are a bit more subtle in your delivery:

Pardon me, how the hell are all the reviews on Yelp and similar sites generated?

I don’t know. I guess the people who write reviews are somehow special. I think there is the “recommender” type, one who incessantly pores over every aspect of their existence to review and recommend every relevant bit. I am also sometimes struck by the length of these reviews. Some of these are treatises, not reviews. I suspect that few Yelpers recommend a lot of things, and a lot of Yelpers recommend a couple of things, but there is a huge gap in between.  There are few prolific reviewers and many who rely on the few for advice.

One possible reason for the gap is that there is no instant, like anything, anywhere type of service. People feel good about a service or a product or whatever else a lot more than what is already captured by the existing review sites. Why not capture more?

That’s what we are trying to do.

The Long Tail of Taste

One of the premises for dreaming up Just Liked is that when a friend tells me “I like Starbucks coffee” I, for one, would consider this piece of information less interesting than if he would have told me that he likes Kopi Luwak coffee. If he also told me he had it at Herveys Range Heritage Tea Rooms in North Queensland, Australia for a mere $33.00 a cup, I would have thought him some sort of coffee connoisseur.

Our likes and dislikes play a profound role in defining who we are and how we position ourselves within our social circle. I am not a sociologist (if you haven’t guessed this much already), but I am convinced that everyone born and raised in societies where individuality is valued strives for some sort of uniqueness. This drive for uniqueness finds an outlet in our physical appearance, our purchasing decisions, our food, our travel and just about everything else. We do not want to appear indistinguishable, we want our identity to stand out, to sparkle and to signal to those sharing the same preferences, interests and values, which also means that there is a palpable  social behavior attached to the drive. Well, the extroverts have it anyways.

The long tail of taste (not drawn to scale)

Yes, there are extreme examples of eclecticism (and its close cousin elitism) but I would argue that the extremes only appear extreme because the observer is not a part of a given social circle. If you can appreciate drinking yak milk with Buddhist monks in the Himalayas, then chances are someone you know does too. Taste flows both ways. It’s used to define who you are and to attract those who are like yourself, so it’s used at once to make people stand out from the rest and to bind them together. This simple social dynamic is what we wish to tap with Just Liked.

A Thought-provoking Tale of Customer Acquisition

I was thinking about what product I’ve used the longest on a daily (or at least weekly basis), and I realized that in my case this is none other than my trusty  Gillette Mach3 razor. That thing is old and I just haven’t had a chance to replace it, but if I ever get around to it, I will probably go for another Gillette.

Gillette freebie?

I found the razor in the mailbox along with paper spam right around my 18th birthday. I’ve been a satisfied user for 11 years now (I am turning 29 on May 5th, for those wondering about my age), and still I have no idea how Gillette found out that I was turning 18.  However they did it, their customer acquisition kung-fu turned out to be incredibly effective.

I also just learned from Wikipedia that Mach3 was introduced in 1998, so this was a brand new product at the time and it must have been at its promotional peak. The most effective promotion in this case was just to give the razor, which purportedly took some $750 million to develop, away.

As far as I am concerned there is no real product differentiation among razor manufacturers, it’s more of a force of habit — once you go with one, chances are you’ll stay with that one forever. So what better way to acquire customers than to send them a free razor when they are most likely to be making a decision that could spell lifetime loyalty to Gillette brand?

Now let me turn the question around and ask you what products you’ve used the longest and how did you end up sticking with them for so long? I would love to hear your stories.