Back when I first jotted some thoughts upon A First Taste of Cake, I concluded that I might crosspost some writing here as I moved away from G+ and toward other platforms. I haven't done that for a few reasons, though, even though I poke my head in here pretty frequently. Rather than just leave my timeline here looking halfheartedly abandoned, I thought I would drop by again to reflect on why I'm posting elsewhere these days, as much as I really want to love this service.
Personal writing isn't usually discussion-worthy. Between Twitter, Mastodon, Google+, and now my own WordPress gaming blog, I have plenty of places to post online. If I'm to be honest with myself, though, I am often just thinking aloud into the void, sharing personal thoughts and observations, and finding myself pleasantly surprised to get a response from family, friends, and would-be friends. That's fine, though—I don't think this kind of thing is what Cake is meant to do. Cake is about discussions.
When I want to discuss something, I post where enthusiasts will find it. Sometimes I do want to get a conversation going, or see what others are talking about—I want help making a decision, I need feedback on a project, I'd like to get some context about the news, or I want to share something thought-provoking and see what further thoughts responses to it might provoke, and so on. In these cases, I am looking for knowledgeable people, for people I like and personally trust, or for both. Most of the time, those conversations will be about my professional interests (user research, UX design, communications theory, etc.) or my personal interests (games, genre fiction, local events, etc.). I already know where there are active, safe online communities for those things where I'll get good responses.
Cake is not one of those places, at least not yet. There's no "UX" topic here at all, and the "Design" and "Games" topics haven't seen posts in weeks. Most posts I come across on Cake are about Cake itself, which isn't very reassuring. (And I contributed to that proportion myself.) I'm not finding the conversations I want, and starting a conversation seems like a waste of time when I know I could get high-quality responses elsewhere immediately. Reddit, the main service I've seen Cake compared to in contrast to Google+, is not one of those places, either, even though I know there are plenty of gamers there. I poke my head in sometimes, but the quality of discussion is uneven, and personal safety doesn't feel like a given. Maybe Cake could be a "better Reddit," but people have to come here first.
Attracting new users takes work. Taken together, these points suggest a chicken-and-egg problem: The emphasis on discussion suggests that it's really only worth putting in the extra effort to post about my interests if there's somebody else here to discuss them with, but nobody's going to come here to discuss my interests until people start posting about them. Getting those people here and posting will take work. Getting users to do that work themselves likely requires either rewarding users somehow, or making it not feel like work (the way generating content on for-profit platforms is itself technically a kind of work that we don't mind doing).
I imagine that Cake may already be doing that work themselves, and somehow getting some users to do that work too, but in ways I can't see. Maybe they already enticed a bunch of opinion leaders to post in topics I don't follow, and those people will gradually draw in their whole networks. (Getting those networks to stay will be easier to do, I expect, once there's some kind of feature guarantees you'll see the posts of the folks who brought you over here.) And to be honest, it's no fault of Cake's that I can't yet see the work they're doing. The topics that interest me—a bunch of niche hobbyist communities with a justified reputation for exclusion, and some professional communities that update their buzz-wordy names every few years—may not be smart ones for Cake to focus on right now. Still, I can't help but be curious what's going on behind the scenes to actually get folks in the door here.
I'll probably still poke my head in from time to time. This place shows a lot of promise. But suspect I'm not really the kind of user Cake needs to cater to right now, and (maybe weirdly) hoping that that's a smart and purposeful call on their part.