The first website I ever was addicted to was eBay. It was 1999 and I had used the site to buy things in the past, but never to sell. As soon as I began selling, everything changed. I found myself returning over and over, sometimes as many as 40 times a day to check my auctions to see who was bidding and what the prices were. I couldn't stop. I soon began the thinking of this like a lobster fisherman; the auctions were my traps and coming to check on them was irresistible.
What eBay did for merchants, top web services are now doing for users. In simpler terms, I may be "interested" in watching my Twitter stream but I'm MUCH more interested in seeing which of my tweets have gotten @replies or Retweets. These are my lobsters. I'm addicted to them.
I thought it might be interesting to list the elements that make a site a lobster pot and therefore addictive:
- Easy setup. See registration process at Quora .
- Low threshold interaction with other users' info (I become their lobster)
- Explicit metrics that show what's happened since my last visit.
- Tie these metrics to social standing, privileges etc.
- Give users a stake (i.e., points, social curiosity, money, game status, etc.)
- Then, mess with that stake (i.e., expiring points, competitive points, earn more money, see who has ""partnered"" with whom, who has made a friend, who has a new photo, which RL friends are already in world and what they are doing...)"
- Then watch users come back to track and improve that stake
I'm going to keep thinking about this. In the meantime, do you have any examples of good lobster pot sites? I'll be checking my comments addictively, of course. . . .