There's a great post on publishing 2.0 about developing applications for the average user.
Google’s problem with vertical search adoption (as documented by Bill Tancer at Hitwise) is a lesson on how average people adopt and use applications. Most people use Google’s main search rather than the vertical options (which are plainly listed on Google’s main page) because they see “Googling” as a simple, elegant, one-stop-shop for any and every search need — this is how most people function. Using different search engines for different types of searches is several standard deviations of complexity away from average user behavior — the people who adopted Google for its simplicity are the same people who won’t stop to think what type of Google search they need to do. They just Google search. Just one, plain, simple application.
Life is complicated. People cling to simplicity and proven results. Behaviors are deeply ingrained and do not easily change.
For me, this is a profound post and incredibly relevant to the challenge of Judy's Book and others who operate social networks that haven't achieved critical mass in the market yet. That's most of us non-myspace companies and networks.
The post reminds me of a speech I heard Mary Meeker give on technology adoption. She said, if you're replacing some consumer behaviour, then your product needs to clear the technology adoption hurdle by being twice as good (good could be fast, easier, cheaper etc) to get people to switch. Otherwise, consumer inertia sets in and they don't switch.
Google's simple search interface managed to get the average user to switch from yahoo, alta vista, and lycos because it cleared the adoption hurdle. The question we're (at Judy's BooK) left contemplating and attempting to prove is what is required for Judy's Book to clear the same hurdle.