Ted Rheingold, Dogster’s founder and “Top Dog” speaks at FOWA

Ted’s talk was one of the best at the Future of Web Apps conference last week. His talk was entitled “The State, Future & Business of Passion-centric Online Communities” and he spent half the presentation (or maybe less) talking about Dogster and Catster and general guiding principals for passion-centric online communities. And the last half or so of the presentation was dedicated to a review of 20-30 different such communities– the latter part was awesome, a lot of fun and a great survey of online communities.

Ted also touched on how he believed communities would exist wherever there members are and that accordingly, you’d see them everywhere from mobile phones, to DVRs, PDAs, mobile game devices, and so on. This is something that I’ve always believed (something that’s reflected in some of the newer things that we’re doing at SnapStream) and Ted’s the first I’ve heard reinforce this notion.

My notes…

Ted Rheingold – Founder / Top Dog
blogs: blog.dogster.com & spideysenses.com

Passion-centric Whats
– passion centric online communities are spaces dedicated to a single particular interest
– they usually include human profile sharing, posting of passion-specific items and offer member-to-member and member-to-group communication possibilities

Other likely feautres
– design, copy, and UI that only refelct the site user’s passion, they amplify it
– moderation is key: a community is a garden and that needs sincere consistent care
– clearly stated ground rules that are community initated and community approved
– precised and considerate safety policies with lots of opt-in/opt-out

Sincerity cannot be faked
– people’s passions do not fit into silos
– using topic agnostic community software will rarely captivate your commnity
– if you ignore your community at any time for any length they will feel it and look elsewhere

Dogster & Catster’s frontpages:

(single code base, every cat word is specific — cats naps, dogs do tricks)
(regular cat page, samoa… blue ribbons, only subscribers can give blue ribbons and they disappear after 30 days — came straight from the forums)
(like locker in high school)
(profile pages are completely customizable)
(meet her feline friends)

– custom coded, don’t have to register to other forums

– diary central, 36,000 dogs keeping diaries, most all of them are writen from the standpoint of the pets
Aggregate data
20.5 million virtual treats given
7.6 million distrinct friendships
289,000 dog and cat profiles
252,000 human members
50,000 pets keep diaries
16k logins yesterday
Da’ Biz
Not too many revenue options

– advertising and sponsorships (3rd party ads, affiliate programs and bounties rarely pay more than your expenses)
– subscription programs: a good goal is that the commmunity should be able to support it’s own existence
– selling member-made or site specific items: even better way than memberships fees for community to support itself
How to make advertising work
– keep your ad sales inside no one will be able to voney your memeber’s passion better than yourself (bring it in and your numbers will increase 10 fold)
– advertisers need to have a direct connection to the communities passions
– CPM is almost dead, for an advertisers message to be heard deliver it in the site voice and in place swhere members are receptive to messaging
– require advertisers to offer something real to the community. something that requires them to participate and become trusted

(if you are doing well, $8 CPM, 3rd party services get down to $0.10 – $0.25 CPM)

Circle of Trust
Dogster -> Community -> Advertisers ->

(community should like the product, advertiser should be happy)

Future of passion-centric online communities

– for every passion there will be a dedicated’ster’ and there can easily be more than one popular ‘ster’ passion
– there will be tens of thousnads of pasion-centric online communitiesi in 10 years
– public APIs badges and mini-sites widgets will bring communities to where the mbmber already is
– public/open ID system will be used
– the web is just the launchign point, think cell phones, mms, pdas, console-gaming, hand-held games (PSP/DS), DVRs, car-based computers, communities will meet where their members are

DeviantArt — started in 2001
35 people
2+ million members
25 milliions pages serves / day
alexa: 177, google PR 7/10
18k online at one point in time
community mood
besides subscription, they sell prints that people make
revenues from subscriptions and orders of member art

ettiquette policy: this is not about being a jerk
amateur illustrator (based in England, brand new)
CNet — alot of community in it, amazing job in bringing in advetrisers into the community
PopSugar — blogging site with interesting products for hip people, make a profile on there, blog, comments, bookmark all your favorite items
Model Mayhem
Alexa 3896, Google PR 3/10

Models and photographers only
amazing set of rules: no pornography, no GWC (guys with cameras)

major league gaming
– halo and microsof tgames
– they have a tv shows
– hour long visitor sessions in 2004
– president: michael sepster
– website is just to bring people in and make them happy
Yahoo Autos
– people add photos of their car
– deep integration, photos, features, modifications
Edmunds — Carspace
– old company, trying to make a stir
– try to find the word car — it’s not there very much, not good
– lagging behind on alexa
– forums: are boring, “talk about your car”, too much advertising

boompa— car site from cnet
– your garage online
– add your ride
– random ride, battles
– must better than the edmunds site
– ask the community

– browse guides by categories or model
faniq: all about sports people
– college or university, good job of replicating a sports fan environment
– every team that has to elect a commissioner
– one of the few that’s wokring on a reputation system (has been elusive to deploy, lot of ways to game it)
– stock fan site, get people to stick by their picks and earn your reputation accordingly

Social picks— putting a faec behind investments
– people who have read my blog recently
– messages below– two lines of javascript that I put on every page
– 30boxes
– sharing families online
– “safe, fun and free”
– the safest way to share on the Internet
– can’t get a good feel for them
– could be huge in China (?)
Club Mom
Alexa: 11,105
GooglePR: 4/10
Funding to date: $50M
– they are killing with advertising, but they started during web1.0
Minti is a baby site
– frontpage is a mess which is fine
– I could see 30 baby sites being successful
– share workplan, calendars
– goth enthusiast sites
600,000 members
Alexa: 4,105
Google PR: 5/10
2-3k members online anytime
4+ million forum posts
backgorund color is black, links are purple
“fuck the mainstream”
page is probably not w3c compliant (ha)
— made with Drupal
— person on the homepage
– first site for this
– upload photos, videos, etc.
– you register and we’ll give you a free bumper sticker
– new realm of community
– using blogging software
– ‘commenting is community’
– they won a webby
– they use ning– topic agnostic — for “caption me”
search on ‘cats’ in Google– two communites in the top 10 hits
AboutCom’s Cats
Cats in Sinks
Stuff on my cat

Kitlers– cats that look like hitler

(photograph above by Scott Beale and hosted on flickr)

8 thoughts on “Ted Rheingold, Dogster’s founder and “Top Dog” speaks at FOWA”

  1. Clay- Yes, I believe that’s what Ted meant. I think he said the same thing about the Dogster/Catster frontpages earlier in the presentation.

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