Since the public launch of the new usv.com, I’ve been trying to check in on it a few times throughout each day. It’s been an interesting experiment so far and I thought I would take a moment to share some of my developing thoughts around it.
First, the popularity/fame of the USV partners is really helping to jumpstart the community.
It’s not at all close to critical mass, and in fact the community is still pretty small and figuring itself out. Probably not long from now, we’ll look back at this time and remember how great it was when you could post just about anything up and have it dominate the home screen for a day or more (a cheap and easy way to drive high quality traffic).
In fact, if you dig into what people are sharing right now, you’ll see a fair amount of links to their own blogs and things (I’ve tried this myself as well – and it does drive quality traffic).
There’s a splattering of other, random and interesting things…so it’s not all shameless self-promotion, but there is a healthy percentage of it right now.
Second, I think achieving critical mass is really only a matter of time.
It seems clear that the team at USV is dedicated to using it – because it serves an internal need if nothing else. This makes it a low-barrier way to get their attention, and that’s something lots of people want to do (thanks to their history and reputation).
Eventually I think we’ll see a shift from people trying to get partner attention to getting community attention as a whole (some are already using the system for that)…when it’s the common use case, I think we’ll see a massive uptick in traction.
Third, I think this is going to motivate at least a few copy-cats (you could argue the system itself is already a copy-cat of Hacker News).
I think this is a really good thing, but I think most will fail.
The secret sauce in all of this is not the tech., it’s the fact that they have a large and previously-unserved community (again due to their history and reputation). Not a lot of others are really in that position (and trying to build a community out of nothing is *really* hard).
Finally, the system is actually pretty full-featured already but there are two areas that I am hoping we’ll see some improvements in:
Search - I’m a search guy, so this request shouldn’t come as a surprise. There have already been a few times when I wanted to go back to something within the service and have had trouble finding it. The basic search isn’t bad, but it doesn’t let you search the content of the comments…and I think that’s 90% of what you will actually want to search against as the community grows (bonus points if it actually let you search against the content behind the links being shared – but that’s prob. a ways off at best)
Alerting - I’ve already added the system as a source to knowabout.it, so I’ve basically solved this request for myself already…but knowabout.it is not something the general public actually knows about (and the alerting features are actually locked down to just a few ‘insiders’ right now anyway).
So I think it would be great for users if they could enter in keywords or set some preferences and then get email alerts (immediate or daily) whenever a new link or conversation pops into the system around their interests.
Alerts really do drive engagement and they help remove the fear of missing out (FoMo) which really helps build affinity.
In summary, overall I’m liking what they’ve built and I think it’s got great potential. The community is small, but engaged and growing. It’s not yet a must use or a must visit daily system…but it’s on it’s way.
If you haven’t checked it out yourself, you should.
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Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.
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