Abhishek Biswal
Mar 11, 2017 • 3 min read

Thoughts on the chicken and egg problem

This post was originally posted on HackerNoon

The first application I wrote (and completed) was an online quizzing application where people could ‘create’ and ‘play’ quizzes. That was five years ago and I still face the problems I faced back then.

Scenario You just spent N weeks on building an app which requires two kinds of users : Users who consume and users who create. And for now you’re just neglecting the universal truth that Users who consume are always going to be more than the users who create. Always. Now you launch, users come in & see nothing and then they leave. You just lost some dude and all you have is an inactive user row in your database.

Is my product dead? I was listening to this podcast interview of Kevin Systrom and he said something like “We launched Instagram and got ~25k users in two days”. 25k users. 2 Days. Sooooo, are you dead? Nope. Who knows, you’re probably working on Bourbon today and might transition to Instagram tomorrow. Possible Solutions?

This is one of my favorite questions to ask a seasoned entrepreneur and I have found out that it depends on what you’re building. A great friend of mine suggested that you can’t be sure of anything in this game of product building. Every step you take, every design changes you do is an assumption till people start using it. And if your product falls under the “Chicken & egg” category, you might just want to hold back 9 out 10 features you had thought of and just launch the best one out in the world and just see what happens. And that way, you can control a larger part of it.

While working on Let’s Barter, the team I am working with decided to go ahead with fewer features while pushing more users to create and then later consume. We made it easier for them to post a listing by making the steps shorter while also showing them the popular posts first and how they were written to be popular. This had a huge impact on creation. The people who were consuming were also tempted to post a listing (and we can safely assume that it was either because they had something to give or they saw their friends post something).

What About the first user? I don’t remember when & where I found this word but I swiftly added this to my note that day:

Astroturfing It’s the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by a grassroots participant(s).

We all do it. But I’m pretty sure there’s a better word out there for this. You got to clear out the schedule and spend some of your time on the thing you’re building. Create content yourself. If you think it sounds stupid, create test users. Or better, ask your friends to do it. And guess what? Everybody does it. An early employee of this successful startup told me that they had an in-house UGC team creating content for their own platform. It sounds stupid for a team assigned to ask questions on a platform and answer the same question, but guess what? The user coming in never got to know. And years later, they’re huge. Because the sad part is that while building something, we just forget that we are also a potential user for the product. And we never use it like others do (if they do).

Post by: Abhishek Biswal