When Max and I started a restaurant a few years ago we knew that the core of our business had to be regular customers. We began with just a few people who came in almost every day, and we made sure that they felt special, and that other customers could see how valued they were. We'd do stuff like refer business to them, or occasionally give them and whoever they're with a free round of coffees. This not only kept them coming back, but it also created a sense of aspiration among other customers who also wanted to be recognised and valued. The business gained a phenomenal amount of regular customers, and became virtually immune to the usual seasonal boom and busts that many other restaurants in Cape Town experience.

This same principle of having a conspicuous hierarchy of regular customers applies very strongly to building and sustaining online communities. Digg, for example, used to have a list of "Top 100 Diggers" which was very hotly contested because appearing on that list gave those users power and reknown. Unfortunately Digg has now removed the list from their site, and is already starting to lose top users. One of them, Greg Hartnett writes:
So this is how I see it playing out: more and more top users will continue the exodus, which will in turn contribute to the deterioration of the quality of the content being submitted. The SEO crowd, and others trying to game Digg, will continue with their efforts, and an even greater percentage of front page stories will have gotten there through artificial means. Average users will grow tired of the spam (or perceived spam) and return less and less often. Daily visitors will diminish over time, resulting in a front page story that generates a couple of hundred visitors. At this point, the SEO crowd will realise that the ROI is no longer there, and they'll move on to the traffic generator du jour. In their wake, they'll leave Digg in shambles - a mere shell of the site it had once been.

In the end, Digg founders and investors will be left scratching their heads at what went wrong.  You should have nurtured your top users - not screwed them.

27dinner27Dinner Cape Town has a new home: The Hotel School restaurant in Mouille Point (next door to the Waterfront and the Radisson Hotel). *

The good news: not only do they offer a beautiful spot (right on the ocean front!), delicious food, great value for money, and all the sound, lighting and projection equipment we need... but we can seat 100 people too! So this means that there's now a further 20 spaces available for 27-4

As always, the 27dinner is a great opportunity to meet other people who are interested in media, technology, marketing, programming, technology, the web, and generally fascinating combinations of those.

There will be a couple of talks, and the wine will be sponsored by Stormhoek. If any other company would like to sponsor a prize or two (or hundred), then we're also open to that.

To join us, go along and pop your name on the wiki - or drop me an email.

* Thanks to Mr Knox and Captain Chris for scouting and scoring the new venue :)
AuthorDave Duarte
9 CommentsPost a comment
This post was done for SArocks.co.za:

Ubuntu is a sub-Saharan African ethic or humanist ideology focusing on people's allegiances and relations with each other.

The ideal of uBuntu is that the individual and the collective are inseparable. That the actions of one person have repercussions throughout the community. Sounds a bit like the blogosphere, huh?

One of my favourite quotes on the subject is by Desmond Tutu:
"A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed".

Online user generated content is showing us that there is huge untapped wealth and potential to be harnessed in the collective intelligence of volunteer communities. Opensource developments are enabling people to gain access to tools and opportunities that were previously unattainable to them either due to financial constraints, time constraints or access to other people's skills.

Truly worldshifting technology and development is being built and distributed freely by collaborating with others.

Online cultural phenomena like Wikipedia, Muti and even SArocks are the digital embodiment of uBuntu.

If we are to believe that the internet is going to have a massive impact on the way future generations do business, then we we best believe that South Africa is well positioned to be at the nexus of the next wave of economic leadership - as long as we cherish the true spirit of uBuntu.
AuthorDave Duarte
4 CommentsPost a comment
Are you ready to share ownership of your brand?

Customer-driven communication tools like blogs, cellphones and email are making Word of Mouth (WOM) the most significant channel in marketing and branding today.

Brands are now subject to public customer feedback that's far more influential than any big-budget ad campaign. So, pushy messages are generally shot down, whereas authentic communication is rewarded.

Ads that extol your product's virtues will fall on deaf ears - and in-fact, may alienate your market. Rather, be a brand socialist and share the credit for a great brand or product with your customers.The key here is collaboration, humility and involvement.

We need to move towards more involvement and less obscure ideas cooked up without broad-based customer involvement.
Brand socialism is about making the most of many minds.

Reg Lascaris has more...
AuthorDave Duarte
2 CommentsPost a comment
Tech4Africa 2007

If you'd like to:

  • Hear international speakers and authors presenting in your own back yard.

  • Discuss what the global web and technology opportunities are over the next 5 years

  • Understand what technologies are making the biggest impact

  • Thrash out how the web can positively play a role in the development of (Southern) Africa

  • Create a fun, informative event where you can meet and interact with other people like you

...then go fill out the questionaire at technologyforafrica.org!
AuthorDave Duarte
3 CommentsPost a comment
It's interesting to see how influential bloggers are becoming, even in South Africa... and rightly so!

I arrived early for a meeting with the owners of Mercury Live night-club today, and walked in on an intense debate they were all having about a post on a local music blog...

I was SO impressed with Mercury for paying attention to this blogger. They realise how valuable the candid feedback that comes through maven bloggers is. I'll be even more impressed when they join the conversation online.

Fellow bloggers: let's expect and demand better products and services. Companies: Pay attention!
AuthorDave Duarte