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Your Platform Must be Compelling (jonmaddox.com)
18 points by holman on Sept 7, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 6 comments

I think this article is poorly named. If it were titled "Your API must be Compelling" it would make sense (but only as much as "if the sun is up it's daytime" makes sense).

The term platform is way overused and poorly understood.

When I think of a platform I think of something that enables a virtuous cycle of participation from 3rd parties.

A virtuous cycle will never be created if there isn't something in the mix that is compelling.

Very rarely (if ever) is the compelling thing the platform itself.

It is, instead, almost always some value proposition delivered to end users.

See my blog post on this subject here: "Be Either an App or a Platform" http://ceklog.kindel.com/2011/08/24/be-either-an-app-or-a-pl... (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2925566)

Which got some discussion here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2912794

Let me check this for MobileWorks platform:

Low effort, high reward: You can use MobileWorks' simple API to use humans to do some tasks for you which may not even be possible for complicated AI algorithms. So, check.

Enable multiple points of value for free The first 100 tasks are free. You can get a lot done with that. So, check.

Make it accessible MobileWorks is REST-based. Uses simple auth over https and no API key. So, check there too.

Tooting my own horn aside. I think it comes down to reward/effort ratio. If a programmer can get a lot of reward for limited effort that's great. It he can get little reward for no effort, that's good too. But high reward low efforts works well enough too. I think that's the only metric programmers look at.

I don't know much about MobileWorks other than spending 5 minutes browsing the website. But it does not appear to be a platform to me. It is a service. The value of the service is connecting developers to armies of humans who can do manual tasks. Developers pay MobileWorks for that value. Some part of that money gets passed onto the humans who do the work.

This is a service. Not a platform. There is no virtious cycle where multiple 3rd parties derive value from each other through the platform.

That's a great point and fairly accurate from a bird's eye view.

However, MobileWorks does much more than connecting developers and humans. MobileWorks lets developers define the tasks and then makes sure that the workforce comes to the right conclusion. In some manner it lets people negotiate on the answers. However, this is completely transparent to the developers. For a developer, it is more on the lines of 'call an api and get an answer'.

I think MobileWorks is closer to something like Heroku than to say AirBnB.

I'm not so sure about this. Many platforms attract developers without being compelling.

I don't see how the api key requirement will push devs away. If you have a simple ways to demo the api, like Facebook, Foursquare and YouTube all do, then it's easy to see the output you'll get. Assuming that happens, a key for tracking and preventing (serious) abuse seems necessary. Much harder to add security later as you'll break the apps from original ecosystem members.

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