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How can we induce users to participate more in our website?
For sure a lot of people have this question in their minds. Since the arrival of the Web 2.0 the value of a web is based on its users and the content they create. The more quantity and quality of the user’s created content, the more value of the website.
The first step is to simplify the UI as much as possible, to help users overcome their laziness and participate. The state of art includes clever AJAX tools, browser plugins, and desktop applications. In some websites they go one step further, and reward somehow the most valuable users, like the stackoverflow.com’s badges (a website for programmers), where you get medals for doing things (like “silver medal for good answer”: voted up 25 times).
But what about the quality of the content?
If you help users to add content, that doesn’t mean you will have a great content, just a lot of content. In some cases you can finish with a website flooded by low quality content (read “Facebook”). This is not a bad thing per se, as happens on quite a lot of TV channels: despite their low quality, people continue watching them. But seems that specific (or thematic) websites have better quality than generic websites (this also works on TV channels). Just compare the ratio interesting-content / total-content in Flickr vs. Facebook : of course you can find some bad pictures on Flickr, but meanwhile you can find tons of uninteresting content on Facebook. On Flickr you are somehow induced to publish only good pictures, on Facebook you are just tempted to publish a lot.
So, the balance between quantity vs. quality rules the net as it does in other places. The thing is, as website creator, find the most profitable ratio (regarding personal satisfaction and/or monetary ROI).
Lately I’ve been thinking about resurrecting an old pet project, a website for creating and playing games. Is that specific group (the gamers) enough to pay the bills or just to pay some caprices? Is the “create game” part too specific, or just what I need to make the difference? How could I work effectively on this project while keeping my day job?… too sunny to think!