Friday, April 27, 2007

IconBuffet: A fun variation on “social networking”?

My latest bit of fun diversion on the web is a site called IconBuffet. It’s a little bit social networking, a little bit of a game, and a lot about getting free icons.

The basic premise is that you’re collecting icon sets. You get one free set a month, and the rest you have to ‘trade’ for. There’s a bunch more to it than that (badges, points, collecting tokens and stamps to be able to trade,…). The point is that it ends up being surprisingly engaging and fun.

I’m (flimsily) justifying my time on it as ‘research’ for ways to improve some of the web projects I’m working on. I think it does some things really well in terms of encouraging participation that could apply to all sorts of social networking web projects.

Using the rewards model from video games in social networking has a lot of potential to stimulate people toward maintaining involvement beyond the initial excitement period (and subsequent drop-off rate) that typifies most web usage. Watching the responses from members as new badges are introduced, and new special point rewards, indicates that people are getting really hooked on the site—just like with a video game.

The IconBuffet developers have also setup a nice split between free and paid accounts. The perks for paid accounts are strong enough to lure a lot of people to pay up, but the free accounts have enough functionality and features to be engaging without having to switch to paid. It is, in my view, an excellent approach to including revenue generation for websites while still maintaining useful free services and attracting a lot of people (especially those who wouldn’t bother signing-up with pay-only sites).

Another site that got the free/paid account split right is Flickr. You get enough functionality on the free service to make it quite useful, but there’s enough benefit to the “pro” accounts to make them worth buying.


Anyway, IconBuffet participants get 50 points for everyone who signs up from a referral, so please feel free to sign-up using my referral link (heh):
Join IconBuffet Thanks!

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