We’re readying MacGuffin for the beta-release at the end of April. The basic functionality already works nicely; now we’re implementing some of the fine-detail stuff: formatting for poetry, adding hyperlinks at the end of stories, analytics data-visualisation, adding the static pages and forum.
As the technical issues recede, there remain lots of UX and wider behavioural issues that we can’t entirely predict.
- Will writers be sufficiently motivated to record and upload audio?
- Will end-users be sufficiently motivated to add tags to content?
- Will they ‘barge in’ on other people’s tags?
- Will readers think the analytics function is something out of a dystopian nightmare?
- Will anyone actually use it?
That last question is key, of course. I’m confident that, from a technical point of view, MacGuffin is going work as we envisioned it. But it’s a self-publishing platform, so it naturally stands or falls on what’s on there.
I’d like to think that motivation for writers works like this:
A) Aspirational. I read something on MacGuffin that I like. I think ‘I want my work to be alongside that.’
B). Competitive. I read something on MacGuffin that I don’t like. I think ‘I can do better than that.’
Of course, both of these scenarios could go the other way. A writer might read a great story or poem on MacGuffin and be intimidated. Or they might read a poor poem or story and think ‘why would I want to position my work alongside this?’
A self-publishing platform is, intrinsically, agnostic about quality. We don’t moderate content on upload. We’re hoping that the rating and tagging functionality will take over from there, as the actions of end-users make good content more visible and make bad content less visible. But for this system to work, you need a lot of content to be uploaded, and a lot of end-users rating and tagging. I keep being reminded of a folk tale:
In ‘The Stone Soup’, a stranger arrives at a remote village. He tells the villagers he has a magical stone, which can be used to make soup, and if they lend him a cooking pot, he’ll prove it. He puts the pot on the fire, and drops in the stone. As it’s simmering, he asks the villagers if he could have a little pepper, just to season it. They give him some pepper. Then, he says, it would be improved a little if I could add some carrots. They give him carrots. Then, as you might guess, a whole shopping list of meat and vegetables is added, until the villagers have given him all the ingredients for the soup. The stranger removes the stone, and they all sit down to share the soup.