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    • I don’t think you’re obnoxious, just passionate about your point of view. 🙂

      It seems as if we’re coming to Cake with diametrically opposed end goals. I joined Cake because I’m a bit of a polymath who got frustrated with Twitter’s narrowcasting, which limited my productive and enjoyable conversations to mathematics. The breadth and depth of conversations here is a welcome change. Although I do have topics I follow, the greatest features are the Featured and All threads because they surprise me with conversations that I didn’t even know that I’d be interested in. Who knew Medieval deaths would be so fascinating?

      Clearly you want none of that and are only looking for people who share specific interests.

    • Thanks, Jason. Not obnoxious, just really important for us to solve. I've grown some other communities and they can be agonizingly slow in the beginning until they get critical mass and usually we have to generate a lot of the content in the beginning.

      My hypothesis is that during the onboarding process when new people have a chance to choose topics to follow, they are drawn to the narrowcast ones because they want good signal to noise. It feels cool to follow something very specific, but then after you do in the early days of Cake, you don't see much in your feed. If you choose broader topics like Technology, you see more.

      I suspect that the people who are finding interesting conversations are selecting the All option on their feeds, like @apm is doing. Then serendipity sets in.

      I used to work in the book industry and when customers would enter a store like Borders they would want to know where a specific section was. But booksellers would make you walk past tables of interesting books as you entered that might catch your eye. The publishers clamored to be on those tables because it turned out to be a great way to discover books like Into Thin Air that you didn't know you were looking for. That's kindof like our Featured and All feeds.

      Tell me if I'm wrong, but I think what we're seeing is a real desire for Cake when we solve the critical mass problem, no?

    • Thank you for the compliment, and I agree that users can indeed do a lot to boost Cake exactly as you suggest. I'm just not likely to do that right now.

      That probably sounds ... ah, "blunt" at best, or "like I'm an a-hole" depending on how it comes across, but I'm genuinely hoping to be helpful by being sincere here. I'll try to explain.

      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.

      Now, there are a few ways that companies do manage to get their customers to do this kind of work on their behalf:

      1. Encourage a sense of community or subcultural belonging. This one has worked wonders with "geeky" entertainment media for years. (See: Textual Poachers, comics fans going out of their way to support favorite books and creators, or, I guess, chapter 5 of my dissertation, with apologies for how verbose it is ... but you probably could've predicted that from my posts here.) This doesn't just have to be a sense of community with the company itself, though, especially when we're talking about a social site. You folks at Cake are super nice, and I like you personally! I don't have a deep emotional connection to anything created here yet, though (like fans have with their favorite comics/shows/movies/whatever), and I have yet to find a community I recognize and belong to here. Absent these things, I am not quite personally invested yet. In contrast, I've been frustrated with some creative and marketing decisions Marvel and DC have made in recent years, but I love their characters, and their stories are cultural touchstones for communities I belong to, so I keep watching their movies and shows. And I kind of hate Twitter as a company, but it hosts too many communities I feel connected to for me to walk away from its service right now.

      But of course this is the point we started at—it's a lot easier to get users to do promote your thing when you already have plenty of users. So, next thing....

      2. Build a sense of shared ownership. As you say, I already think about how I'm going to promote my blog, but I'll do that work for a post on my own blog because I feel like it's mine—I can track analytics on it, I could monetize it eventually if I wanted, I could export it from WordPress.com and re-import it onto some other host. But I'm not really inclined to put in that extra effort for Cake because right now, to me, it's a cool feature set with a friendly and responsive team who I want to succeed—but I don't own this space, and I am well aware that it is a for-profit service. (This can cut both ways, though; again, see Textual Poachers, and note the example of Star Wars fans feeling like they have more ownership over the films than Disney/Lucasfilm.)

      I am not sure offhand how to encourage this in a positive way (and doing the research to figure it out would be the point where this transitions from "I have some thoughts I hope you'll find interesting and helpful" into "let's discuss my hourly rate"). I do think, though, that you are doing better than average by so openly soliciting user feedback and responding directly to people, which definitely a component in this strategy. It really helps users feel like they have a stake in the product and some say in the direction that it develops. And hell, I guess it's working at least enough to get me to do some "work," because what else do you call writing a thousand words on a weekday?

      Still, I think there's another major thing that could be pursued—maybe already is being pursued, and I just haven't looked deeply enough to see it yet. And that is....

      3. Make it less work for users to promote you. Instead of asking users to think about what they can do to get more users onto Cake, don't make them think. Make it as easy as possible for them to do whatever you want them to do. Give them tools that help you draw in new users and help them accomplish whatever it is they want.

      For instance, I once worked at a mobile game company that was looking to leverage social media to draw in new users. They didn't ask people to talk up the game on Twitter and Facebook—they built a "share" button into the game so that when you get a new high score, you can easily say hell yes I want to brag about this, and their Twitter/Facebook account would immediately blast that high score (and a link to the game, of course) to all their followers.

      Writing about this just reminded me that I could probably do exactly this with WordPress.com. I popped in and linked it to my (doomed) Google+ account in a matter of seconds. Now it'll automatically share everything I blog to my G+ feed, and comments on that G+ post will be comments on the blog post. It still required some work from me in connecting my accounts, but it's less work than it was before. Could've done the same with Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr.

      To be clear, I'm not saying this specific thing is a thing you need. (Though I will admit that if I could automatically share posts from WordPress.com to Cake, I definitely would, and if I could automatically share posts from Cake to Twitter, I would probably do that too.) Rather, I just mean to say that getting users to do work for Cake will probably require Cake to do some work to make that easier for users. I have to assume you're already doing stuff that could be described that way beyond general quality of life improvements, so I feel like kind of a know-it-all jerk for even writing this ... but I'll hit "reply" anyway because I sincerely hope it helps.

      And hey, neat, I see now that the "Reply" button is visible at the top of my screen still even though I'm scrolled way down. I requested that feature on one of my earlier visits to the site, and now, there it is.

      This is why I'm willing to write a thousand words (and counting) on this site. I am sorry that this does not translate into a willingness to start more conversations here and share them elsewhere ... but I think it could, in time, especially if it were just trivially easier to do so. I would like that.

    • Yeah, pretty much. I do appreciate serendipity, meeting new people, and learning new things, but I'm not inclined to visit a new website with nobody I know on it to satisfy those desires. Just a different set of use cases. And since other sites with use cases I don't much care for are getting by just fine without me (again, see Reddit), that might mean that Cake is doing exactly what it needs to be doing, and that thing just doesn't happen to be for me.

    • Yeah, I definitely want to use and love this site—I'm just starting to think that the moral of all my lengthy posts is "I am not looking for the things Cake does best, and that's okay." 🤔 I came here looking for a G+ replacement, and it took me some time to recognize that it does something else, but it does that thing in a new and interesting way I want to see succeed. So I came here looking to use this new and interesting thing to connect directly to hobbyist communities, and now I am finding that it's better at serendipity (at least for now). And as I admit to @apm, I'm just not looking for serendipity: I like to make a beeline to the section I want in the book store, I find the channel I'm looking for on each news/social site I use, and I want the thing that takes the fewest clicks possible.

      That said, I've certainly bought stuff off those tables in the bookstore, which makes me wonder if I'd be using Cake more if only I bookmarked the "Featured" or "All" tab instead of www.cake.co—"For You" is kind of a ghost town since I unfollowed "Cake Feedback." If your analytics suggest that there are many others like me—dropping by, seeing nothing new under "For You," moving on—that might be helpful to know. But it definitely occurs to me that my experience may be pretty idiosyncratic.

    • 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. 🙂

    • Oh, of course! I don't mean to sound crass by pointing out the for-profit thing (especially speaking as someone who has worked at for-profit companies for most of his postgraduate life). Truth be told, one of the main reasons I keep coming back here is that I believe you folks have good intentions and want to do right by your users. And I am a big fan of you all getting to eat. 🙂 (But I'll edit this to add that "getting to eat" is a low bar, so I wish you all especially good fortune AND plenty of opportunity to keep building up this place.)

    • I think @JasonT raised an interesting point about starting a conversation when you have no way of knowing if anyone is interested in it. I basically took a straw poll before starting the topic problem solving:

      But is there any plans to make this simpler? Maybe I fill out a brief description of the topic and, if Cake approves the idea, a poll survey shows up on the main page and people vote up and down their interest.

    • Also can someone provide a list of what the 60 emojis mean? I can then take a screen shot or three and refer to it often so I can accurately express my reactions.

      (I don’t use desktop so can’t hover to find out.)

    • We're doing a lot of thinking right now about how we can make topics more useful.

      I don't have a firm answer for you, but my advice is to not overthink it. If you're interested in something, chances are there are more people out there who are also interested in that thing. They may not be on Cake yet, so it could take some time and effort to find them and bring them here, but they're out there somewhere.

      So I think your best bet is to start conversations about the stuff you're interested in and spread the word and trust that people will find them eventually. Hopefully sooner rather than later. 🙂

    • The meaning of a given reaction is really in the eye of the beholder and will depend on the context, so I'd only use these as rough guidelines, but here's a list of the reactions Cake currently supports along with the labels you'll see if you hover over them in a desktop browser:

      😡 angry
      😲 astonished
      🏅 award
      😊 blush
      💥 boom
      💔 broken heart
      🎯 bullseye
      🎂 cake
      📷 camera
      😛 cheeky
      🍻 cheers
      👏 clap
      👊 closed fist
      😎 cool
      😢 cry
      😳 embarrassed
      🙄 eyeroll
      🤞 fingers crossed
      🔥 fire
      🙁 frown
      🏳️‍🌈 gay pride flag
      😬 grimace
      😀 grin
      🤢 gross
      🙉 hear no evil
      😍 heart eyes
      ❤️ heart
      🎉 hooray
      😂 joy
      🤐 lips sealed
      🤥 lying face
      🤘 metal
      🤯 mind blown
      😈 mischievous smile
      💰 moneybag
      💪 muscle
      😐 neutral
      👌 ok
      ✌️ peace
      💩 poop
      🌈 rainbow
      🙌 raised hands
      🚀 rocket
      🤣 rofl
      😱 scream
      🙈 see no evil
      🤒 sick
      😜 silly
      🤨 skeptical
      😴 sleepy
      🙂 smile
      😭 sob
      🙊 speak no evil
      😮 surprised
      🙏 thank you
      🤔 thinking
      👎 thumbs down
      👍 thumbs up
      🦄 unicorn
      🙃 upside-down smile
      😉 wink

    • I see two challenges with starting a conversation that no one is currently interested in.

      One, it increases the noise ratio for everyone else when they’re scrolling through the All feed.

      Two, I don’t have access to analytics to back this up, but in paging through all of the conversations back to August, it seems as if a conversation that goes two or three days without further replies is basically permanently dead here. That’s a million times better than the 15 minute lifespan of the average tweet, but I can’t see people putting in the effort for something epic like this

      if there isn’t at least some sense that it has a chance of engagement.

      Not trying to be argumentative for the sake of being argumentative. It’s just that I’m not seeing how a new user would easily have visibility to great content that never took off for lack of an audience when it was originally posted.

      And yes, @yaypie, you’ve got me pegged—I do tend overthink things.

      🙃

    • One thing I think people sometimes overlook is that while Cake's feeds like "For You" and "All" are designed to change rapidly to help you discover newer conversations, this only affects discovery within Cake.

      Conversations themselves are designed to be long-lived and to have great SEO, with the goal of helping people continue to discover them for days, weeks, and years afterward via search engines and externally shared links.

      It's a tricky balancing act because we obviously want to help conversations succeed by giving them the best chance to be discovered by Cake users, but we also need to make way for newer conversations so that there's something interesting in your feed that you haven't seen yet next time you visit Cake.

      We'll keep working on improving this, though!

    • SEO? You mean like this

      which led me to this

      and this

      The thing that appealed most to me was the idea that we could give women, people of color, and other people who are often targets of abuse or harassment a safe way to have meaningful conversations with each other online without having to resort to fully private means of communication in order to keep out the trolls.

      I think it’s just awesome that this was part of the vision for panels. I went ahead and shared it on the Federated timeline on Mastodon as there are a number of troll-abused populations that have migrated from Twitter to Mastodon and I think it would be of interest.

    • @JasonT Thanks for bringing this up - because I'm in exactly the same situation. The Cake platform, the idea as well as the people behind it, everything is great but it's hard to just jump in and start posting if there's no real community for that specific topic yet.

      "Post and they will come" is the general suggestion here - but "They aren't here yet, so I won't post" is something like a logical equivalent to that, and probably the more likely pick of the two for most people.

      This is especially true for topics where I want to participate in, but wouldn't consider myself to be a real expert. I'd love to talk about anything ranging from Hiking, over that free-to-play online card game I currently enjoy, to Android development. I'd love to participate in discussions about woodworking, gardening or the next expansion for the Civilization VI video game - but being an "Average Joe" instead of someone who knows every nook and cranny regarding some of those topics, I'm hesitant to start a discussion when I don't know what discussion might come up (if any at all).

      You brought up Reddit as a place where discussion already happens - and in fact, I lurk on Reddit for some of these topics, but would love to get away from it because it is often a vile place with all the anonymous downvoting and general trolling going on. Bootstrapping this is hard, though, so I'd appreciate any suggestions that might still come up here. :)

    • I’ve been thinking about it and I think it’s actually a healthy thing that there are conversations about Cake on Cake.

      In a way, we are following people on Cake. The way we get to know the characters in this forum is across a variety of different conversations. I’ve learned things about Steve Jobs from @Chris in a conversation that didn’t start out having anything to do with him. I found out today that @lidja and I have both worked in the nonprofit sector. But like a party filled with both familiar and strangers, there are going to be lulls in the conversation. So what do you when that happens at a party? Stare at your shoes for ten minutes? No, you avoid the awkward silence by quickly turning to a safe topic, one you can chat amicably about until a more interesting one comes to mind. Or the safe topic turns out to be of significant interest to the group so you enjoy the significant time spent discussing it. Either way, talking about 🎂 on 🎂 is a good thing.

    You've been invited!