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I think Adam's mistake here is to go too much by the numbers. He presumably has numbers that show that Quora ends up net ahead if they force people to create accounts to read answers. He grew Facebook very effectively by following the numbers. But he may not realize how different this case is from Facebook's. It may well be that for a site like Quora, at this stage in its life, users are not all equal. It may be a mistake to alienate the sort of people Quora has been alienating by doing this, even if they end up numerically ahead in the short term.

I'm one of them. Quora has now spent several years training me to be bummed out every time I click on a link to their site. Every time it happens, I dislike them more, and become more resistant to creating an account. I now think of it as a site for other people, who are willing to put up with the stuff they do. I'm pleased to find there are others like me.

I like Adam, but I wish he'd stop doing this.




It's so utterly broken. At the beginning I was just annoyed because you could select the blurred text and still read it, but now (for the desktop site) they actually substitute the text with dynamically generated images that are a blurred version.

I became so enraged over this that I decided to install the "Personal Blocklist (by Google)" Chrome plugin and then added quora.com to the blocklist just so that I wouldn't see them in results when I searched for things on Google.

Like you, they've trained me to never want to contribute to their site, and to never, ever want to consume the content they provide.


Same. It takes a lot to get on my blocklist and the only site that now populates it is quora.


That and mirrors of google groups such as gmame


Gmane doesn't mirror google groups -- it mirrors public mailing lists and originally was made to reformat them for news readers[1]; some mailing lists use it intentionally as their public archives (emacs org-mode for one) so you might be missing out if you blacklist it. I don't have any affiliation with them, but they don't seem too bad.

[1] http://gmane.org/about.php


If their purpose is so focused on newsreader formatting, they should tweak their robots.txt to keep from polluting SERPs.


Google groups should modify its robots.txt to avoid showing up in SERPS. Gmane was around first.


Gmane was not around first. Google Groups started almost a year before the gmane.org domain was even registered, and it was built upon the purchase of the DejaNews archives, which itself began in the mid-90s.


Deja News was a web interface for Usenet, not a newsgroup interface for mailing lists. I don't remember when google groups switched to a web/mailing list setup, but I think it was later than 2002 (when Gmane started).


Gmane the mail-to-news gateway and archive? It's not like Google Groups owns all those mailing lists.


Indeed. Same stands for me too.


It's funny, I'm more likely to fiddle about with chrome's inspector to try to remove just the right divs to get a quora page to be readable than to spend however long it takes to sign up. It's personally grating to me that they take such a boneheaded tack to content in the 21st century. Did they learn nothing from expertsexchange? It grates even more that they are putting crowd sourced content behind a wall.


Personally I don't do that. Unlike many technical people, I don't have AdBlock installed either.

Giving a service attention and eyeballs in this day and age is like giving them money. It's actually worse, because you're the product and so they don't treat you like you're the customer. Even if they don't get money from you, even if you're using AdBlock, even if you are totally immune to advertising or any other means of indirect monetization, they might get something from your friends, which is why Quora is insisting on logging in with your Facebook account and showing your activity to your friends. And even if you don't log in with your Facebook account by bypassing their wall, you might send links to your friends at some point. So the mere act of giving them eyeballs is helping them grow and is encouraging them (and others) to use the same tactics.

What I do is that I simply don't use Quora or any service or website that doesn't treat me well. Quora does have some interesting content in there, but it isn't valuable enough for me to do any sacrifice. Even if it's a free service, I'm not putting up with free services that don't respect me. If companies need to monetize and provide value worth paying, all they need to do is ask for it, as I've got money to spend on valuable things.

Otherwise I would rather focus my attention on things and products that actually deserve it.


I don't use Quora either but it's annoying when it comes up in a search when I need some help. I cannot wait for Google to fix their blacklist so I can add it to the list with experts exchange. (Before anyone mentions it, yes I know you can still get to the page to add urls to the list but it doesn't work, try it out.)


Yeah, w3schools is still showing up all the time -.-


You're by no means required to login with facebook, and whether you do or not, broadcasting your activity to them is an opt-in.


That's interesting because I recall hearing that FB is tracking non-FB users too.


Ah yes, firebug is also great for stuff like this. Click on firebug, click on the overlay, press delete. Bam, you have your page.

Doesn't work so well on mobiles though.


Or element hiding in adblockplus (on Firefox at least, I don't know about Chrome). And it's persistent, so it works again if you ever revisit the page.


Shouldn't be that hard to wrap it in a bookmarklet.


There you go (not mine): http://pastebin.com/zxzDMYKU


login form. bam, you have your page. edit. works just fine on a mobile phone.


login form. bam, you are being followed around the web. maybe Quora will even decide to tell your friends what articles you clicked on. who knows what new "feature" they've added today


Good point, by logging in you are consenting to their tracking. I must be honest though, I still think it's a fair trade off. I also suspect that making content public might make it worse - people know on HN and Reddit their comments are visible to a huge anonymous constituency and it biases the nature of responses.


Can you elaborate on that? I mean, how exactly does it bias people's response?

The "privacy" of a service can affect people's answer if it is that, private. But Quora is not a super exclusive club: anyone who's willing to spend some time signing up, and who's willing to risk having his posts revealed to his facebook friends because of a new "feature" can get into this club...

So I ask again, what peace of mind does it bring you to know that your answers are behind Quora's walls?


My general feeling is that a lot of content on HN, Reddit, etc. is superfluous and non-value adding. Things like buzzy blog posts, sensational headlines, etc. Believe it or not, lots of PR firms and businesses use HN as a way to promote their features. On a walled garden (as much as my gut reaction is to dislike it) you don't have that issue. There are other scenarios too, I'd imagine you can come up with as well.


We do not negotiate with terrorists.


I've thought about doing this. But, why bother? Most of the time the answer I'm looking for is just one or two more searches away.


I do exactly the same through Firebug in Firefox. :) I do actually have login for Quora, but when at times or on machines I'm not logged in, I just do that quickly to read the answers.


I'll keep aside the logic of whether I like what they are doing or not and ask if they have any other option.

The die has already been cast in Quora's case, from what it looks like from the outside (I'm speculating wildly here), it looks like the company realized a while ago (around the time of the Charlie Cheever ousting saga) that they're growing at a pace much slower than what is expected out of them.

A $11 million series A to $50 million series B usually fits the profile of a company in hyper growth stage.

Is Quora a company that fits such a profile? All pointers (admittedly imperfect) say 'no'. Even going by their latest feature, blogs, it would appear that they're also running out of tricks. Such a feature is often a clear indicator of the flattening of user growth, leading companies to chase down usage growth aggressively to make up for the decline in the former.

But a $50 million series B should fly in the face of such an assumption. Well, maybe not. Money can either help you unlock known avenues for growth or it can help you explore unknown avenues. Either option buys time, but with different ends in sight. DAngelo putting up some of his own money certainly points at the latter. It looks like an attempt to buy time to explore.

While it is hard to wager what their burn rate should be, it is probably not enough to burn $11 million in two years. Even with the really nutty assumption that they have actually burnt $11 million in 2-years, with the current round they should be good for another 2-3 years. That's enough time to focus purely on how to massively grow the product without having to worry about how will you pay the bills in the coming week.

With that perspective in mind, it is easy to see why they're less interested in being a warm-and-cosy small community with great answers that pushes all the right buttons with the power users.

Their road ahead is a choice that's already been made. Where they will get to on that road, I don't think anyone knows yet.

One thing is certain, though. They'll either win really big, or will flame out pretty badly. They've already boxed themselves into a place where there is little space in-between.


Maybe they're not growing very fast because (quite apart from their other failings as indicated here) their entire business model is based on convincing large numbers of intelligent, knowledgeable people to produce content for them for free, which Quora can then make money off?


>I'll . . . ask if they have any other option.

The other option would have been to choose not to take VC money -- or to have chosen a "business model" not heavily dependent on high-quality uncompensated contributions from users.


Not that I like much what they're doing, but I don't think those options exist anymore. As purists, we probably love the concept of organic growth a bit too much.

There's nothing wrong with being a small successful company, there are tens and thousands of that out there. But building a big successful company at scale is rarely done without taking on external investment.

Uncompensated users are a different issue altogether. I'm sure people have various reasons to keep contributing content there even after knowing that fact.


Let me stress that I am not talking about web sites in general but rather am talking specifically about sites that depend on quality unpaid contributions from a large numbers of people.

>building a big successful company at scale is rarely done without taking on external investment.

Wikipedia is a counterexample. According to Alexa, Wikipedia is the sixth most visited web site in the world. But more to the point, no VC-funded or stock-market-funded company I know of is foolish enough to try to compete with Wikipedia. I think that fifteen years from now, we will see a similar situation among Q-and-A sites -- at least those where the answers are contributed by unpaid users. In other words, I predict that Quora -- as well as Stack Exchange, which has also taken VC funding -- will be eclipsed within 15 years by sites not funded by VC or other profit-motivated investment.

Any competition for Google Search is likely to come from companies like Apple or Microsoft that already have plenty of money to pay engineers or from investor-funded for-profit companies. That is because the "non-profit sector" is unlikely to be able to summon up enough skilled labor or funding to compete with Google Search.

In contrast, setting up a competitor to Quora or Stack Exchange is relatively easy (especially since these new entrants can learn from Experts Exchange, Stack Exchange and Quora), and going the non-profit route (or the for-profit "lifestyle business" route without external funding) does not alienate a large fraction of potential unpaid contributors.


This is somewhat a non-sequitur, but I just want to highlight one significant distinction between SE and Quora, which is that "[All user-generated] content (questions and answers) posted on the Stack Exchange Network is licensed under a Creative Commons license, Attribution Share Alike." So in fifteen years when SE is no longer in fashion, those answers can live on in some form.

Atwood had an idea that SE would be "like Wikipedia" for QA, and Stack Overflow has certainly had success in that regard. I think that contributors to the site get very much the same value proposition as that of Wikipedia, if not slightly more in the user profile/karma regard.

Of course, none of this negates your point about the influence of funding!


This is the same reason why I wrote this Quora Login Prompt Block that was on HN a while back...

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/block-quora-login-...

254 users and growing, quick hack is to add ?ref=fb


>Quora has now spent several years training me to be bummed out every time I click on a link to their site.

"Bummed". Yeah that really describes it perfectly. Especially with how immaculately their digest emails are constructed, to be hit with that asinine wall is a straight-up bummer, and stops me dead in my tracks.


Yeah, I have been incredibly impressed by how good their digest email is designed. I am sure there is a serious amount of cherry picking (or machine learning) that goes into them but they are damn good, I say.


Same here, I only ever visit their site to read the articles they've picked for me in the email digest. I was thinking about this the other day, there's probably no other site where I interact with them like that.

But still, I click an email link and am automatically logged in, but they still insist on me downloading the fucking app! Thankfully in chrome on android I just click "request desktop site" and all that nonsense goes away.


I'm a pretty heavy user of Quora, and I have been "trained" the same way, at least on mobile.

When I click on a Quora link inside FB app or whatever, it takes me to iTunes to re-download the Quora app. Or, I click in Twitter, and it doesn't have my credentials, so same problem as you.

It also keeps me from posting links to Quora content anywhere else.


Yahoo Answers is open. Has millions of questions and answers. Lot of people who truly appreciate a good answer, use it. Just that elite don't want to answer questions from ordinary folks and seclude themselves in quora.


Yahoo Answers is also STUPID. Full of not-all-that-bright high school and middle school kids trying to get help with their homework. I have written answers for some of those kids on Yahoo Answers, in subject areas where I know a lot. It drives me to despair. The best answers I see on YA are workmanlike.

On Quora most of the questions are reasonably good, most of the names are real, and some of the answers are brilliant.


>> He presumably has numbers that show that Quora ends up net ahead if they force people to create accounts to read answers.

Well you don't have to be a genius to realize this.

So as long as there is a unlimited supply of free email accounts, asking for a compulsory log in to do things like reading answers is going to lead to only one thing: Users creating fake id's to read them. Good luck if they remember the login of that fake id next times they come in. Else what you will see is the same user creating as many id's he wants at his disposal.

If you by these numbers you are going to get the most misleading figures of number of users your site has.

I hope Quora realizes what they are doing.


Quora is now 3 years old and has taken $61 million from investors. Are there any numbers publicly available to show user growth over this period?


All the numbers show stagnation, and Quora getting dwarfed by other (less prone to ass-hattery) answers sites, like StackOverflow. Quora traffic hasn't grown in years, according to Alexa and others.

I believe they're simply optimizing the wrong variables. It has certainly driven me away. I use the google personal block list, and Quora was among the first sites to go on it.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but:

1. Third party statistics sites like Alexa and Compete are horribly untrustworthy indicators of reality.

2. Growing traffic isn't the best way to foster a community. I believe pg has written about this a few times, with regards to communities in general and HN.

I think the Quora community is amazing. It's very populous and the quality of answers is generally on par or better than specialty interest sites/forums from a wide range of topics, all in one place. Of course, it has its strengths and its weaknesses - for example, a strength would definitely be reading an answer from an actual CIA [something] analyst, former Foreign Service Officer, doctor, etc. on a relevant question, but it falls behind in areas like technology IMO.

The site is annoying and I hate a lot about the community (surprise, it turns out "mature adults" can use shitty memes just as much as the teens everyone blames for them on reddit), but I think they've done a great job at fostering the kind of community they want so far. If anything, it's being threatened by the pressure of growing.


"1. Third party statistics sites like Alexa and Compete are horribly untrustworthy indicators of reality."

They're always wrong. But, from what I can tell, they're usually wrong in ways that are still usefully predictive. If you compare two sites at Alexa.com, and there is a vast difference in popularity (as is the case between Quora and StackOverflow), you can probably assume StackOverflow is bigger and growing faster...even if you can't be sure how big the difference is. I wouldn't want to make business decisions on it, but it's good enough for me to feel comfortable making snarky comments about Quora.

"2. Growing traffic isn't the best way to foster a community. I believe pg has written about this a few times, with regards to communities in general and HN."

But, it is the way to justify $61 million of investment. HN doesn't have to ring the cash register. Quora does, at some point.

Anyway, I find Quora annoying. The community may be awesome, but I don't believe the curators of that community are deserving of my attention or my contribution to their walled garden.


Regarding Alexa and Compate, you're half right. They're wrong in useful ways, but not the way you suggest. What's important to realize is why they're wrong - sampling bias. So they give an accurate representation of a certain demographic, but the usefulness of that depends on the target audience of the site in question. I don't have any examples at hand, but I've come across plenty of big sites that pretty much flatline on Alexa et al - because their clientele is not welcoming to such measurements, for cultural or geographic reasons. So you can (usually) use them to contrast direct competitors, but I would be wary about quora vs. stackexchange.


Alexa and Compete are wrong in much the same way a clock is never right. It's a nearly impossible task to properly rank sites in that particular way, there are just too many variables and many of them have 'unknown' as their current value. Sampling the way they do is quite imperfect.

That said, as tools for relative comparisons they're quite useful, as long as you put a sufficiently large gray area around the results (50% or so). That way you can compare sites in magnitude without getting bogged down over whether a site at rank 1200 is larger than a site at rank 1201, the difference is small enough to be meaningless.

The final way in which you can use them is to use their time series to determine a trend. And that's where both are very useful, because assuming their sampling method is the same over time and assuming that there is some significant relationship between all the traffic you're interested in and the portion sampled the trend will be quite strongly reflective of what is actually happening. So growth, stagnation and decline can be determined with some accuracy (you still have to do some smoothing out but on 'max' with Alexa and a site that's a couple of years old the trend will be clearly visible).


HN can afford to go ahead and foster a community, but then again it hasn't taken $61 million that investors are expecting a return on.


Also HN doesn't rely on asshattery sign up tactics for you to read other peoples' content.


> Third party statistics sites like Alexa and Compete are horribly untrustworthy indicators of reality.

Alexa and Compete are bad sources.

Other third party sources like Quantcast, comScore, Nielsen, etc, do a better job of measurement, especially if they've been beaconed. You will never get complete agreement because of variations in implementation. A site's own "internal" analytics, like Google Analytics or Omniture, will never quite agree either.

Third party data is still ordinally and directionally correct most of the time. Google Trends and Quantcast both show a general trend upward, but it's not hypergrowth. What isn't mesaured here is engagement, and that's a much more interesting metric for Quora.

[1] http://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=quora [2] http://www.quantcast.com/quora.com


I'd consider over zealous mods as somewhere along the ass-hattery spectrum.


I am a huge Quora fan and user but would have to agree with this assessment. Most of Quora's traffic "lurks" and this will be the search audience they need to get. What they're doing now is trying to make sure they have your account credentials to monitor what you "lurk" for. At some point, my guess is that they'll remove this tactic. I will say, however, that the web created "inside" Quora is some of the richest, most high-fidelity information on the entire web, and it may not exist elsewhere.


Who's Adam, and what is his role in all this?


Apparently Adam is one of the founders of Quora. Depending on what online communities you are part of, Paul Graham's comment may be confusing as he is directly addressing the founder of Quora, not Scott Hanselman who is the author of the article.




This is the second time in a couple of days I've seen a wikipedia link posted with the %27 character stripped out. (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5208678)

Is there some browser or extension that's accidentally filtering this when you copy/paste a link?


Quora is just another set of URLs in my google blacklist.


I created a "test" Facebook account which I use for Quora sign in and many other sites. Works like a charm!


Another reason this is dumb is that this is the kind of thing that Google doesn't much like. They don't want to index and rank content highly just for it to be mostly inaccessible.

I have no idea how much new traffic to Quora comes from organic search, but I have to imagine its not unsubstantial.


I just created a Chrome extension that removes the Quora login requirement: https://github.com/sindresorhus/quora-unblocker


I also created a Userscript for non-Chrome users: https://github.com/sindresorhus/quora-unblocker-userscript


In other words, Quora is trapped in a local maxima.


Now Quora reminds me of "Experts Exchange" and other spammy Q&A sites. Just because they hide the questions.


I disagree - they are building a valuable repository of knowledge. If a simple login form is a deterrent for you in learning or understanding something new, that's unfortunate. Don't get me wrong, I also get a little dissapointed when it happens, but don't really mind logging in.


A little late to the party, but I want more Users!


Weren't Quora the ones who tried to tell other users which pages you read also?

Yup, it was them: http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2012/08/09/creepy-quora-erod...

This more than cluelessness, it's the same sort of low-grade sociopathy that underlies Facebook's shifting non-privacy policies.


Here comes the mob. Really? Are we all gonna throw up our arms because of this? We use their service, we consume, read and digest their content like blood-suckers and now we get mad they're asking us to sign up? PG you've been reading Quora for "several years" and you think it's unjust they are asking you to sign up?

Quora has let us eat at their house for years and now all they're asking is we take off our shoes before entering. Let's not forget, we're in their house!

As an entrepreneur, how will we ever convince users to actually pay for products when the mob and pitch forks come out when they ask us to sign up?

We are so entitled it's sad. Really hope Quora doesn't bow down here. They aren't asking for your first-born. If you wanna be a member of their community, then be a member. Nothing unfair about that.


Their content? I don't think even Quora would claim that.

And how exactly is creating an account taking off one's shoes before entering? I would not be contributing anything to the Quora community by creating an account. I'm not depriving the community of anything by not creating one.

I believe the reason Quora tries to force people to create accounts is not because this helps the community, but simply because this is the first step of the funnel of their viral spread mechanism.


I think we both agree on why Quora does this (viral spread mechanism, juicing numbers, etc). That's besides the point.

When we are guests in someone else's home, seems only fair that we honor their requests. Asking you to simply create an account shouldn't be such a massive chore.

I believe this attitude is dangerous for our community. I fear for what happens when we ask you to pay.


> When we are guests in someone else's home, seems only fair that we honor their requests.

This is a ridiculous analogy. It's not a home, it's a business. If my friends want me to take my shoes off when I visit them, no big deal. If Best Buy does, that's frigging insane.


What if there was a competitor to Best Buy, where everything was free, but only if you took your shoes off when entering?

[And no, I'm not saying that that's a true analogy either — I'm just exploring what makes this one right or wrong, and where you think the insanity lies]


I will certainly not pay a dime to read anything on Quora, but I'd be less upset if asked, because it would seem to make some sense.

Asking to download an app to do the exact same thing as without the app is upsetting because it seems completely pointless.


> When we are guests in someone else's home, seems only fair that we honor their requests. Asking you to simply create an account shouldn't be such a massive chore.

Or we can choose not to enter at all. They aren't asking us to just create an account, but to download an android/iphone App.


Read his comment again. He's describing the same frustration I and apparently many others have experienced clicking on a link (from a search engine, a blog, etc.) only to hit a wall. At this point I'm not a user of the site yet. The gist of your argument is how we're using a service, etc. That's fine, they can setup their service however they choose. And we, as potential users, can point out what a poor setup they have chosen.

The irony is I have an account... linked to my Facebook profile. But I can't log in with that from work. There may or may not be a way around this (perhaps a new account or linking my account to an email login), but I'm so irritated by their antagonistic approach that when I see the wall appear I just close the browser tab.

It's now gotten to a point where I don't even bother using Quora from home because I so strongly disagree with their policy.


It's good to see a dissenting point of view, but I disagree with your point about a collective sense of entitlement. It's more of a shared set of expectations about how the web works. In fact I'd argue that perhaps this point could be turned back on itself: it's the entrepreneurs who are guilty of a sense of entitlement because they want to build a closed system on top of an open one out of some perceived "right" to acquire signups.

If everybody on the web were using this tactic it would be a valueless platform. The only rational reaction, then, to those that use it, is rejection.


I disagree with your point but also disagree with the downvotes. (are people downvoting commenters who disagree with pg?)

Anyway, you're forgetting something important: We're completely entitled to not use a sucky service and blog about it. That's what going on here: there's people who decide to vote with their feet, and tell others about it.


I have no problem with people voicing an opinion -- it's America. But what I think people are complaining about in this case is just ridiculous.


I'm nitpicking, I know, but it's not America. You're on the internet, you know. It's the world.


Lol true.


Yeah, I think it's pretty common for Americans to believe anyone else who can type english is probably also living in America.


"Americans", you mean Cubans? Equadorians?

Really, you do not seem to be aware of the fact that or people leave in either Nothern or Southern amercian continent, and many of them do not speak English.

Each time any US citizen calls US citizens "Americans" it hurts the heart of hundreds of millions of people.

Shit.


I guess it's still not a bad heuristic for them in 80% of cases, so this attitude prevails. HN, however, is quite multinational, so one has to watch out ;).


It is not a matter of "heuristic", it is a matter of basic respect you have for other people living in other places.


The problem is that they work hard to appear in the top page of Google and then don't show the answer unless you sign up. I'm not going to be signing up and I very much resent that they've taken a position that could have been filled with a resource I want to use.


I agree with this argument, but not necessarily the tone of it.

Quora is a business as much as it is a consumer facing service with a strong mission to uphold. But the reality is, if Quora didn't keep its numbers out of the red and into the black by doing "annoying things" like forcing app downloads or account creation, then they would run out of capital and cease to exist. So, take your pick. Or better yet, just stop complaining.

Also, their mobile website isn't fully functional or in some cases usable. I beta test it, and it's riddled with bugs and missing features. Frankly, a lot of services today are skipping mobile web all together, and focusing on driving app downloads to provide a richer experience.

Bottom line: Services valuable to end users are also running a businesses. We must learn to give and take.


The StackExchange network does very well without resorting to any of these tactics.


Exactly. Assuming what GP wrote would be true about Quora going out of business, maybe it would be better to just let them die? At some point someone will come who will strike the right balance between providing quality, earning money and not being annoying. They will survive, and we'll be better off. StackExchange network proves that it is possible in this case.


"Run out of capital and cease to exist" works for me.


You are 100% right. I think we (readers of HN) are the wrong demographic for any company to be profitable. We are "everything should be free because we are cool" demographic. Do we like Oracle Database? No - because it is not cool (even if all our money and investment is managed using that evil database). Do we like Mongo? No - because it is not PostgreSQL. Do we like Facebook? Hell no - they are evil. Do we like Google? Not really - even they are a lot people from Google here. And so on...

And, I have to admin: I'm the same demographic and really hate what Quora is doing but nobody outside Silly Valley really cares.


I take exception to that! I think everything should be free and I'll take Posgres over Mongo, but I'm still most definitely not cool.


I believe the argument is not that the Quora team should be incarcerated for putting up a wall, but rather that this setup may not be the best way to build a large community and, in the long term, a profitable company.


There are answers sites that require registration. There are answers sites that don't. If one of those models outperforms the other -- say, by producing a more profitable company -- then that's that. It's not my job, or anyone else's job other than a business owner's, to make it easy to get paid customers.


You got downvoted but I wanted to address one of your questions:

"As an entrepreneur, how will we ever convince users to actually pay for products when the mob and pitch forks come out when they ask us to sign up?"

Ah, but the mob don't attack with pitchforks when you charge for a service. What they object to is bait & switch. Only a handful of random weirdos from the bowels of the internet have complained about me charging for my software.

Here's why:

Because I only have one audience -- my customers -- my job is making them happy. If I don't make them happy, they take their money elsewhere. This doesn't mean I have to do everything they ask, and for sure I don't. But the nature of our relationship is clear: Customers are the butter to my bread.

My job is simple. I do not have competing interests. Thoughts that will never arise: "Gee, I need this data for advertising, but users don't want to give it to me." "Gee, we use all this bandwidth for our free service… we need to put ads on it… but they won't like that if we tell them… I know, let's phrase it really confusingly and maybe they won't notice!" or my fave "Gee, we need to make money… I know, let's claim the rights of everything people post on our service, and stop third-party developers from distracting people from our proprietary interface."

That temptation is what leads these apps to ruin. That temptation is nearly impossible to resist… they do want & need to make money, after all.

Better to avoid temptation altogether by creating a business where charging is natural, expected, and welcomed by the would-be customers.




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