All great points. I really appreciate you taking the time to discuss this!
I agree with everything you've said, but I do want to zoom in and examine in more detail what I think is your central point:
So, yes, absolutely, getting users to draw in other users is key. The trick, I think, is that framing it in terms of "think about how you can help" is expecting your users to perform free labor for you. It takes work to brainstorm about how I would help a for-profit company. It takes a modicum of additional effort to go drop those links around all other social networks when I could have just posted to any of those networks in the first place.
You're absolutely right that Cake, a for-profit company (though one — I hasten to add — that has not yet actually generated any profit!), is to a large extent dependent on the good will and free labor of its users to become successful. Especially in these early days when we rely heavily on users to fill Cake with content and to encourage others to use the site.
But there's also another angle from which to look at this, which is that what we're trying to do with Cake is to provide a service we think the Internet lacks, and which we think could be of great benefit. Moreover, we're trying to do it in a way that allows us to provide the service to users free of charge, because this will benefit the most people.
Reality dictates that Cake must eventually make money, because Cake's employees must be able to feed and house themselves and because investors expect a return. So this is one of our goals, and an important one, but it's far from our only goal.
We would certainly never ask users to perform labor solely for Cake's benefit. I believe that would be ethically wrong. But there are ways users can help Cake that will benefit everyone, and that's something I feel can be a fair trade.
In other words, we build Cake for you, and you help us make Cake successful so we can continue building it for you. 🍻
As you point out, there are things we can do to make this easier, and we're working on those. And of course we'd never expect anyone to invest time or effort they can't spare. But I can't even begin to tell you how much we appreciate it when users pitch in to help, even just a little bit! It warms our hearts so much and gives us the fuel to keep going even when we've got a ton of hard work ahead of us.
Even just taking the time to have discussions like this one is a great help in giving us ideas and letting us know what we're doing right or wrong. Thanks. 🙂