All yesterday and this morning I’ve been seeing tweets about SWIFT, so I finally googled it to see what it was about. The service promises to help organize conferences in some new 2.0 way, but it looks to be about as preposterous a social network as WalMart’s aborted 2006 attempt at copying MySpace.
There are some real lessons here, however, about how to court the early adopters that are essential to making an application that depends on user activity successful:
- The license matters. Nobody wants to invest the effort it takes to get the ball rolling just so somebody else can profit from it. Wikipedia’s GFDL was essential, SWIFT’s license policy is already strangling the site. Don’t call them “users” if they’re really the ones building the site, and don’t expect them to work for free if you’re going to make a killing off of it.
- Details matter. Would you trust a company that can’t figure out permalinks in WordPress (the site’s blog is powered by WordPress) and has URLs like http://www.imswiftblog.com/?page_id=698 to be technically capable of protecting your privacy or solving the problems that matter to you? What does the placeholder text in the last page of this FAQ suggest?
- Your friends matter. A supposed social software app that associates with a conference that looks like astroturf has already lost my trust.
- If you find yourself explaining what value your service offers to the very people who you hope will be early adopters, you’ve already lost them.
Anybody want to bet me a drink that SWIFT won’t break the 1,000 users mark before the end of CIL? I doubt anybody using the CiL wiki would take me up on that.