If I Ran The EntreZoo  

If I ran the EntreZoo, this is what I'd do:

1) My first order of business would be to let folks set the price of their own ad. (I've temporarily disabled ads on this site because folks kept spending too much for them.) The current ad system is responsible in part for the declining interest in Entrecard, even though it is an improvement on the old ad system. The dust has settled and too much of it ended up in our eyes, noses and mouths. People still spend too much to get on the Popular pages and lots of garbage and inactive blogs carry a higher price than they should because so many folks are bottom-feeding. However, I wouldn't just make this change by itself, but would consider additional changes to be a necessary part of a new system. (See items 2 through 8.)

2) I'd give each Entrecarder the ability to determine how many ads they would accept in their queue, up to a maximum of 30. The current system discourages anyone from purchasing an ad too far in advance based on its doubling the price day after day. If you give folks the ability to control their ad price you should also give them the ability to determine how many ads to accept.

3) Create a voting system for each ad that one purchases that would allow the advertiser to rate its performance. Market information is poor and a high Popularity ranking doesn't translate into high traffic, but how is an Entrecarder supposed to know which sites they should advertise on? Click through rates can be manipulated and user ratings could provide some input that would be helpful when choosing where to spend your ECs. Advertisers could rate each ad placement with "Exceeded Expectations", "Met Expectations" or "Did Not Meet Expectations" and an Expectations score could be determined for the past 30 days. If your score wasn't to your liking then you might consider lowering the cost of your ads. On the other hand, if you were consistently Exceeding Expectations you might consider raising the price of your ads.

4) The Ad Tax would go away or be greatly reduced. If an Entrecarder was able to earn the full ad price they set there'd be a bunch more advertising going on and I believe folks would try harder to make their sites more ad-worthy.

5) Create special clubs, services, awards, etc., that can be purchased by Entrecarders with their ECs. This would effectively take many of the untaxed ECs out of circulation and provide additional motivation for earning ECs. Examples of services could include additional database information that could help improve ad and card dropping strategies, like click through rates or the number of times dropped on someone in a given period of time, etc. Awards could be given to Top Droppers, Most Consistent Bloggers, Best Ad Value, or other types of recognition that would draw attention to Entrecarders who are very active in the community. Creating an Executive Wash Room type of VIP club where people could enjoy an unmoderated chatroom, or be included in planning sessions with Graham and Phirate, or other perks that would provide an additional reward for one's hard work and good blogging. Membership in other Entrecard clubs or services could be purchased with ECs and would allow those who choose to buy in with their excess ECs (or cash) to get some extra features and benefits, too.

6) Get the Credit Exchange system in place so there is a easy method for buying and selling ECs and for a market rate to be established. The rate would fluctuate based on supply and demand and Entrecard could manipulate it should they so choose by buying and selling ECs from a central bank. (I'll even let them use EntreBank if they want to.) I think the current price of $3-4 per thousand is too low to motivate people to earn ECs specifically with the idea of selling them. Conversely, $10/1000 is too high as it will attract the attention of those who will try and beat the system to earn some cash. Maybe one has to earn the right to sell their ECs by length of membership and/or community standing, which might inhibit spammers from setting up shop with garbage blogs just to farm credits.

7) Create a new Popularity ranking that was based on Entrecarder input and not on number of cards dropped or external rankings. Let each Entrecarder choose 10 blogs to put on their personal Top 10 list and weight each position accordingly. Use only the lists from active Entrecarders to calculate a Popularity ranking that others could see. The lists would remain anonymous, so there'd be no benefit to putting someone on your list unless you really like them. Prohibit the sale of list positions and discourage trading or otherwise attempting to manipulate the rankings. And yes, it IS a personality contest! Maybe have separate lists for different attributes, like Best Blog, Best Ad Value, Nicest Person, Best Commenter, Most Helpful, etc.

8) Allow for multiple blogs and remove any limits on drops per IP, but require approval for each new blog/account from the same Entrecarder. A simple yes or no question on the sign-up page would allow Entrecarders who are willing to play by the rules to state so upfront and be acknowledged as having multiple blogs. Use IP tracking checks to determine if someone has undeclared multiple blogs. One day we might be able to consolidate multiple accounts into a single account, but for the time being we could implement some more checks and balances that would weed out the spammers.

9) Create a TOS that has to be agreed to upfront, and not just the kind where you check one box and you're done with it. Make it interesting to read with key points highlighted and perhaps separated on different pop-up screens that each require a click to move on. So what if it takes 10 minutes to sign up for a new account instead of 5? At least this way new Entrecarders would know which rules they are breaking. Along with it I'd include a requirement for new Entrecarders to visit a FAQs page (or watch a video), just so they'd have a better idea of what it means to be an Entrecarder, the benefits of membership, etc.

10) Improve the communication between Entrecard and its members. The "buzz" line on the Dashboard is easy to miss and only a few people read the official Entrecard blog on a daily basis. Make the notices easier to see, send system messages, add the option in the Email Settings to receive an email when Entrecard sends you a system message, and create a method for highlighting a forum post that relates to an Entrecard policy change or other important information. I'd also start running surveys on the Dashboard to get input from the community about proposed feature changes or additions, as well as "temperature" checks about how well Entrecard is doing, burnout levels, etc.

There are several weightier matters that aren't as easy to solve as it relates to Entrecard's long-term planning and revenue model. If I were in charge, I'd be structuring Entrecard to become the premier community for bloggers, with the idea that some really big fish would want to Gobble it up for millions of dollars. Gobble would then put millions more behind marketing Entrecard and position it to be a key player in Web 3.0, the Semantic web. Entrecarders would have the opportunity of collaborating in the development of knowledge centers along their topics of interest. Gobble would have a leg up on developing collaborative teams of bloggers who could each receive some form of compensation for their contributions.

Entrecard has to continue to evolve to survive. Blogs have been around for a long time and there is so much redundancy that unless Entrecard looks to the future they will go the way of other social networks who have enjoyed success for a season but end up as virtual ghost towns when the thrill of the fad wears off.

What next?

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