Keep in mind that this idea, "first principal of social web apps", applies mostly to external social web applications and not so much to internal ones. Internal social networking applications and community software are driven by business development requirements, which are generally more rigid than those found on the open net.
"Supernova: The First Principle of Social Web Apps and Its Implications" from read/write web.
...first principle of social web applications, which is:
For each complete user interaction ...
the user must perceive they have received more value than the energy (and attention) expended to complete the task.
On one level this principle is very obvious, because basic human nature seems to prove it. People won't continue to engage in acts they believe are more expensive then the value they are receiving in return. What I think is important is that users must perceive the ratio of energy and attention spent versus value received to be 'profitable.' The ratio is actually more important then the absolute amount of value delivered.
Thinking about the implications of my proposed first principle , I think there are three types of interactions that we should focus on when creating social web applications. In each case, the interaction needs to be delivering more value to a user then the energy they are exerting. This can be achieved across three basic types of interactions:
- New interactions users find valuable
- Returning significantly more value to the user with the same interaction
- Returning the same or slightly more value significantly more efficiently
It seems like the most common violation of this first principle is in the area of applications that require a network effect before they are successful. While the value may evolve as they site grows, each interaction needs to deliver value back to the user participating at that point of scaling.
Since most of the social web applications and community solutions we implement are semi-private one of the challenges we bump up again is the curse of knowledge. Where a limited number of active members fully exploit the application, new interactins, while others have a hard time.
One more interesting effect: The del.icio.us (sicial bookmarking) effect - users will bookmark and tag pages for themselves first without much thought of the network.