People Everthing Starts With

rosie1.jpg155,000 pageviews later, I’m finally able to blog about our little social network experiment, whose name is still in flux.

When we started the band, we all agreed that new web was not about a list of technologies (blogs, wikis, forums, tags, foo), but instead that new web was about people. We agreed that a business was not about transactions, it was about people. Paul touched on this yesterday.

We also assumed that:

  • People learn better by doing.
  • People are super busy, so participation needs to be easy.
  • People want to do interesting stuff.
  • People like fun.

Armed with these epiphanies, we set out to build a prototype that would immerse people in new web goodness and spur them to participate and innovate. The old “if you build it, they will come” mantra. We hoped that we could drum up enough participation to grow the application virally, rolling new features and gradually building the core. The killer app for us was based around the employee directory.

So, we put up a social network around the 68,000 odd people who work at Oracle, a ready-made, trusted social network that everyone at Oracle already belongs to by virtue of having an email address and password. No fuss, no muss. Sounds easy, but Rich is a whiz. He built it all in about 3 weeks, more on that later.

And then we stepped back and saw it grow virally. As I wrote the post on the IdeaFactory on in the afternoon of August 2, Rich opened the alpha phase. He, Paul and I invited some people and waited. By the end of August 2, we had 315 new users sign in to the network, and 1,800 invitations to network had been sent.

By the end of August 3, the number of new users had risen 643%, and the number of invitations has gone up 777%. This is based on less than 50 invites sent by the three of us 18 hours earlier.

The numbers are staggering, and we’re learning a lot about our colleagues. We’ve uncovered a new demographic that I didn’t expect. These are the ravenous consumers who have either have not participated in a social network or do nothing more than join and not return. The reasons are many: not enough time, lack of privacy, lack of features, no clear relationship to work, etc. This group trusts our network because it’s inside the firewall and it’s made up of colleagues.

While we patted ourselves on the back, our new users started to ask for features. Questions like: What’s the point other than building a network? What do I do with my network? These are common. Also common, questions like: What if you widgetized this internal system and plugged it into the network? Can I contribute to your project, in addition to my regular work? Would I be able to invite customers into this network?

The IdeaFactory started to blow up with ideas and comments around how to improve or extend the social network. These are the questions we like because it means people are thinking and see the value of people first. We’ve had overwhelmingly positive feedback from kudos, to coolness, to inspirational stuff.

Now we need to execute, so we can blog about it.