Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Lessons From Plancast - When Sharing Doesn't Work

Posted by Tom Foremski - January 23, 2012

Mark Henderson, founder and CEO of Plancast, has written an excellent article about lessons learned from operating his event planning service -- mostly popular in the Silicon Valley/San Francisco area. It contains a good analysis of the different types of users and what people are willing to share online.


There's a widespread perception that the geek community is constantly rubbing elbows but maybe that's not true, not even for the CEO of Plancast, who you would think would be out and about as an active evangelist (the "E" in CEO).

In The Uphill Battle Of Social Event Sharing: A Post-Mortem for Plancast, he writes:

Most people simply don't go to that many events, and of those they do attend, many are not anticipated with a high degree of certainty.

...I run the service, and even I currently have only five upcoming plans listed on my profile.


Mr Henderson found that there were two camps: those with lots of time to check out events and plan (probably lightly employed "consultants") and those that didn't have much free time (were full-time employed).

There was one thing that both groups shared in common: procrastination.

... most people resist making advanced commitments before they absolutely need to make them.


There were also problems in sharing: that vital currency without which there is no social web ( and that which Facebook frictionlessly pickpockets...).

He writes that there was little sharing of upcoming plans with others. He speculates that it's because there is little to be gained from sharing plans compared to the feedback from a great photo, or a smart link.

This is not true for a specific type of user: a thought leader in a particular field, who see themselves as a guide to future events for their community.

The conventional wisdom within the Web 2.0 community is that people would share their plans so that their friends can join them. Here again, Mr Henderson has had to rediscover the wheel:

... most people prefer to be rather picky about who they solicit to join them for real-life encounters.


Even when people do advertise their plans it can put a strain on their friendships.

... you have a situation where many people feel awkwardly aware of events to which they don't feel welcome.


Mr Henderson also discovered that events are tied to a geographic location while people's social network isn't. It turns out that people don't want to spam their friends about events only in their area. Heck, not even Mr Henderson will do that:

I may share plans for a ton of great events in San Francisco, but few to none of my friends who live outside of the Bay Area are going to care. In fact, they'll find it annoying to witness something they'll miss out on.

Notice the use of the words, "I may share plans for a ton of great events..." with just five upcoming plans on Plancast, Mr Henderson speaks hypothetically.

He concludes:

I still believe someone will eventually figure out how to make and market a viable service that fulfills our aims, namely to help people share and discover events more socially.

There's simply too much unearthed value to knowing about much of what our friends plan to do...

Imho, it is tough to build a company when the CEO and founder is a light user of their own service. I predicted correctly that Ev Williams and Biz Stone, Twitter co-founders, would leave Twitter based on their very light usage of their service.

Plancast should appoint a true enthusiast as CEO, someone who doesn't care they are spamming friends and family -- they have to have a blind spam passion! Their friends and family will forgive them because they know that's what they have to do.

The killer job interview question that most will dread: "Are you willing to spam all your friends and family about this service? Repeatedly? Daily?"

In a noisy world you have to make noise for your business -- you don't have a choice. Less is not more.


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