Inviter - Two years of work

    imageOnce on Habré a month of reports of bearded startups and startups - I will share my balalaika too.

    It will be about my project Inviter (exchange of invitations exchange) , which was launched two years ago (plus or minus a couple of weeks). However, officially November 13, 2009 can be considered a birthday, when I shared a link to the project with a respected audience of Habr.

    Insider, I would like to talk about the path that the Inventor has traveled over these two years, to ask for advice, and to distribute holiday cookies to the most patient users who have read the note to the end in honor of their birthday.


    When I came up with the Inviter, I was able to [irony] program only in HTML, jQuery and Smarty [/ irony], and draw tolerable interfaces. Therefore, the choice of technologies, at that time, was obvious and straightforward to me: PHP / ZendFramework + MySQL + Apache. The site somehow lived and developed for more than a year, until I thoroughly tried out the Rail and couldn't look at my old code without a shudder (by the way, Kirill Mokevnin described similar symptoms of infection with Rails on the Habré) Having successfully talked to himself that new ideas require a new architecture, which means REFRESHING TO REWRITE, for several months he reproduced the main functionality, simultaneously refreshing the design. As a result, the project is now working on a bunch of Nginx / Unicorn + Rails 3.1 / MySQL + HAML / SASS / CoffeeScript. Of course, the code is still far from ideal and there are errors from which the head goes steep, but anyway - debugging and searching for them has become many times faster and more convenient.


    I would not say that the project was somewhere purposefully advertised. Word of mouth and search engines played and continue to play the main role in attracting the audience, while the remaining methods of promotion had an episodic effect.

    While writing the last paragraph, I remembered that the Inviter was publicly publicized, nevertheless, not on Habré, but on Leprochka , and although the post was quickly removed by the government, the first mass feedback and part of the audience were obtained there. But after a post on Habré, links to the Internet began to appear on the pages of other online publications. The most significant in this series of posts was the story of Inviter in the Sites of the Day by Rambler, after which the server thoroughly rested on a barrel.

    In general, there was a certain interest of the audience, which strongly motivated us to continue the project. At some point, it came to an understanding that since the site, as they say, was popped up by domestic users, and the platform is less stable and copes with its tasks, it is necessary to do localization and start up more quickly for the English-speaking audience, thanks to which the traffic will increase significantly. In practice, everything turned out not so rosy. Firstly, the process of translating a service itself, the possibility of multilingualism of which was not initially considered (it’s still a pleasure), took several times more time than expected. Secondly, the long-awaited increase in audience was, at best, a dozen percent. It’s hard to say why. Most likely - it was not possible to convey the idea of ​​the service to the Western public. Or this idea is simply not interesting to her. We wrote on Hackernews, published a review on Digge, molested the editors of Techcranch and Mashable, posted a description of the project on a dozen less well-known resources - the results of the work were miserable percent of new users. So in the column “interaction with a Western audience” FAIL was marked and put in this direction with the device.

    There was another moment that inspired me a lot at that time - my teenage dream came true: I wrote about the site to the editor of the magazine ] [ and I received a response saying that they know the site and are already preparing to print a number that will certainly tell about the Inverter it is written. And you haven’t been deceived! On the last page of the magazine, in the column of regular reviews, there was a block with a screenshot of my work and a brief description of it). Wow, how much joy! I am surprised how I did not tear out the sheet and hang it in a frame on the wall. Probably regretted the magazine. But this is all the lyrics. The paragraph is not about the Hacker at all, but about offline activity). And the result of offline activity is this: after the publication of a note in a paper journal, more people began to come than after all our attempts to attract a western audience.

    Recently, experimenting with social networks. For example, if the user so wishes, requests for new invites, together with a link to his profile, are automatically transmitted to Twitter, Vkontakte, Facebook. The effectiveness of such crossposts is not particularly great - out of all three networks, about a hundred people a week come by links. Before registration comes even less. But this is not interesting - it is interesting HOW are registered. Not so long ago, I connected authorization and registration of new users through designated social services. In your opinion, which of the three social networks does our very specific audience prefer to use? So, when I'm too lazy, I sign up through Twitter, and then I’ll think ten times whether to trust my site with a token. And our users calmly go through VKontakte. Such an amusing fact.

    Need advice

    Two years is a huge time for any undertaking. During these two years, my daughter learned to walk and talk. One of these days she will already go to kindergarten ... But the Inviter is marking time. It is very difficult to maintain and develop a web service almost in one person, on bare enthusiasm and in the background. I want to drop everything and plunge headlong into the Tasklist “My Possible Projects”). But I convince myself that it is necessary to bring our plans to the end and, even if at stubbornness, to ensure that the service pays off the investment.

    An investor makes almost no money. Even if you consider the funds that users send as donates. By the way, if someone is interested to read about connecting the donation system and the results of its work - in my blog there are a couple of notes on this subject ...

    And here there should have been a subtitle from the series “How to make money on your own shortcomings,” but since you haven’t managed to make a lot of money, I’ll just write about a more or less intelligible monetization method that I recently came up with. The fact is, by default, I think most people are good and adequate. I would like to believe that the majority of good people I created as a resource of good people. But, unfortunately, the imperfection of our model lies in the fact that in automatic mode this statement cannot be verified. So it turns out that while some users send their invites to others, their opponents merge with a clear conscience, getting what they want. How then to judge who deceived whom? It turns out that without the intervention of a third party, at the stage of concluding a deal, it will not work. It is supposed to earn on such an intervention.

    In order for the exchange moderation service to start generating enough money, a larger number of users interested in it are required. So far, this opportunity is not very popular among 25 thousand registered participants and 500 daily visitors (.

    Perhaps, reading my note, you saw a good service monetization model that I am missing. Or, what the hell is not joking - you have the resources with which You can seriously increase the popularity of the service and you are ready to share them on mutually beneficial terms. Or maybe you are a good Rails developer who will be interested in developing the project in exchange for a share in it. In general, I will be immensely happy with any suggestions opportunities and cooperation. Best of all - write in a personal.


    And now - cookies! In honor of the upcoming anniversary, the Inviter is ready to give a certain amount of intra-service currency to its users. True, not disinterestedly, but on the condition that they bring their friends as well). Details of the action can be found on the page . Yes, you’re right, this is another experiment to evaluate the conversion of promotion in social networks, but you don’t feel sorry, right?

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