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Analyzing 9rules

Written by Mike Rundle on February 22, 2006

Today at Business Logs I wrote an article called “Guarding The Gates: Web 2.0 Barriers To Entry” and it talked about how new companies popping up need to essentially answer these three questions:

Are we actually useful or just fun to play with?
Are we actually innovating or just mashing/copying?
Are there barriers to enter our market, or can anyone be us?

In the article I hypothetically answered those questions for Meebo, 43 Things (43 Things’ response), and the online calendar space. Here I’ll answer them for 9rules.

Analyzing 9rules

I believe that 9rules is actually useful, innovative, but that our market may have little barriers for entry. I would say that 9rules is useful because 1) we’re trying to guide users through the infodump of the blogosphere, and 2) at the same time help the smaller, independent writers gain a foothold. It was about this time last year when Paul pitched me the idea of 9rules over dinner, and the #1 reason he gave for starting a weblog network like 9rules was to highlight great content because it’s sometimes tough to find the really good stuff you’re looking for.

If there’s one thing we pride ourselves on at 9rules, it’s that we always try to innovate and never rest on our heels. We’re constantly brainstorming with our members about what would make us better, tweaking features to make them more useful, discussing new functionality that isn’t around anywhere else, and so on. I think the biggest reason we try to innovate instead of follow others is that 9rules is in a unique situation — we have to provide tremendous value to our members, but we also need to provide that same value to our readers so they continuously view the 9rules Network as something they’d wish to join someday.

In general, anyone can start a weblog network for there are few barriers for entry. If you’re following the WIN-model of blog networks, then all you need to do is start a few blogs and get some people to write for them and you have a blog network. The difference with 9rules is that we don’t pay our members to join and maintain their sites, writers join us because we offer a community-like atmosphere, more visibility, and a “seal of approval” that deems their site as high quality to their readers. I’d go out on a limb and say that starting a weblog network in a 9rules-style is slightly more difficult, simply because you have to provide value to the members that doesn’t involve money per post or per month. When we started 9rules we asked our friends to join since those were the people who knew what we were trying to do and trusted us, but if you don’t have a large enough network to tap into from the get-go, it’ll be an uphill battle as you try and build your reputation. 9rules is doing well now with hundreds of sites trying to join our Network each round (and dozens more sending us emails every week!) but that’s because we’ve gained some momentum — the toughest part about 9rules was trying to convince new members while we were just starting out πŸ™‚

Amazing Member News: Shopify Contest and Prototype Reference

Written by Mike Rundle on February 21, 2006

Normally this would be an entry destined for our Featured blog where we talk about cool stuff our members are doing, but these two great projects are just too amazing not to talk about on our main weblog.

Our own Jonathan Snook (blog & new company site) has put together the absolutely ultimate guide to Prototype.js, the Javascript library that makes RoR and other stuff much easier. Ever see those massive SQL or PHP reference posters? Yeah, well Jonathan put one of those together for Prototype — with multiple resolutions and background colors. Just. Amazing. Go check it out even if you’ve never heard of Prototype before πŸ™‚

Shopify is a new e-commerce framework that, I believe, will put all the others to shame immediately after it’s launched — it’s that amazing. Shopify is based on Ruby on Rails and has the most extensible theming system I’ve ever seen on any web application before, I can’t tell you how easy it will be to make a totally new user interface for your company’s e-commerce store. Having said that, the Shopify guys are having a killer theme design contest, where if your theme is picked to ride alongside their app, you get a free iPod nano! Justin Palmer of Encytemedia has more details. To make the whole process even easier on fellow interface designers, the Shopify team has put together a theme design toolkit called Vision that makes it dead simple to make new themes. Their pre-packaged Ruby on Rails app starts on double-click and guides you through the whole process, including a great screencast (MOV).

I always tell people how 9rules members are the true innovators on the web, and these guys just proved it. Big congratulations to Jonathan and the Shopify team for making our Network look like a million bucks πŸ˜‰

It’s Official: 9rules Is Web 2.0…

Written by Mike Rundle on February 20, 2006

…at least according to Ludwig:

Web 2.0 List, Part II

Just because we’re now deemed “web 2.0” doesn’t mean that 9rules is pre-revenue though πŸ™‚

Measure Map Acquired By Google

Written by Mike Rundle on February 19, 2006

I feel a bit like Jeffrey Zeldman here in the sense that many people I’m friends with or acquainted with have recently had their companies purchased by larger companies. My bet is that the next company I’m friendly with to be purchased will be FeedBurner, but who knows πŸ™‚

Michael Arrington alerted me to the announcement that Google has purchased Measure Map, a weblog analytics application put together by our friends at Adaptive Path. Adaptive Path specializes in user experience design, and has worked on some great projects like NPR’s redesign, Blogger (with the design lead by our buddy Doug Bowman), and many others. As part of the deal, designer extraordinaire will be heading to Mountain View to join Google in some capacity — let’s hope they instantly make Jeff their Chief Creative Officer or something cause he could do some real good stuff over there if given the chance, which I’m sure they will.

The guys and I were privy to Measure Map back in August when we were out in San Francisco, and we were given an exclusive demo by Jeff and Lane. I wrote about this and compared it to Shaun Inman’s Mint and it was concluded that both were quality applications targeting slightly different niches. Turns out that they are both phenomenally successful, so we’ll see who ends up buying Shaun’s company πŸ™‚

Scrivs and Jeffrey Veen

A picture of Paul and Jeff Veen over at the Adaptive Path offices. Paul’s 6’2″ so you can imagine how tall Jeff actually is. Photo courtesy of Matto.

9rules: 150 plus sites and shrinking

Written by Scrivs on February 15, 2006

When we started this Network a question that came up a number of times was why we didn’t let any site into the Network. There is strength in numbers right? We didn’t take that approach because we wanted our Network to stand for something and we chose quality content as that one common theme. As we have grown over the last couple of months there have been other issues that we have had to deal with concerning our brand and image and how it affects our memebers and readers that have entered into the equation of how we select a site.

Through all of this we also know that our members have lives and their sites aren’t priority #1. Some sites start to lose some of the qualities that made them members in the first place. Some take a different route with their content, while others just stop posting. It’s called “life” and it happens. However, we understand our members are only helped out by us when our image is strong and the sites within the Network have the qualities that our readers have come to expect.

Yes, what this means is that some sites will be removed from the Network. This is not an easy thing to do at all because I have become good friends/acquaintances with many of the members in the Network. However, this is something that many members have been asking for a while now and an issue I brought up a couple of months ago within the forums so really it’s nothing new. There are also two other new policies (if you wish to use that corporate term) that we are putting in place.

One content Network please. We aren’t the only independent content network on the block anymore and therefore there was never a need to address this issue, but sites, a smart move by the way, are joining more than one Network to expose themselves to as many readers as possible. However, for the content networks this isn’t a good thing because your brand could be tarnished if associated with another network that doesn’t represent your ideals and you stand the risk of confusing your readers (the ones who don’t have the deep understanding of the blog community).

Adults, move to this line. Behind the scenes there is a network of sites being worked on that are sexually themed and obviously for adults only. If we are creating a network such as this, it makes sense to guide 9rules towards being one where sexually explicit content doesn’t exist. Everyday we are reaching new audiences and part of this includes children and teenagers who enjoy reading some of our member sites. If you know me you know I’m not the type to shy away from Adult stuff, but this is more about 9rules understanding new responsibilities we have to our readers, not us being prudes.

From where I am standing none of this is easy to say or do. Blog/content networks remove writers all the time, but no controversy is made of this. Being a larger and more recognized network though means tougher decisions going forward and this is one decision that I am not happy to make, but know that it must be done. If we tell members they are joining a network with the highest quality sites, that is what they should expect. If we tell readers they can come to us to find the best of the best, then that’s what we must offer.

Nothing less, everything more and that means we have to get smaller before we can get bigger again. So over the next couple of days you will see the 9rules badges removed from some of our member sites. This isn’t a reflection of the person or their capabilities to produce great stuff. It’s about 9rules moving forward.