Jelly and the dynamics of web participation

Enrique Dans
Mar 9, 2014 · 3 min read

Two months after the launch of Jelly, the smartphone questions and answers app created by Biz Stone, fewer and fewer of the current doubts are now about its commercial viability (as in “who the **** cares about that?”) and much more to do with the interesting dynamics surrounding this kind of web participation.

The app has proved its success as a business model: Biz says that this was simply an idea that was never meant to turn into a company, and that it was more or less a happy accident born out of an attempt to create empathy between people and the quest to feel “useful”.

Aside from the app’s success or the quality of the replies it offers, or the apparent absence of a business model (Google and Twitter both went through similar phases), Jelly does raise the question as to why people are prepared to invest their time in using such an app. What do we get out of it? Why do we do it? Here are a few suggestions:

  • I want to feel useful: I know the answer, or I think I can find it quickly. This is an app characterized by its easy usability and orientation toward short answers. The effort involved is minimal, and leaves me with the feeling of having done something useful, along the lines of a good deed for the day.
  • Image: answering a question allows me to show off my knowledge of a subject to the person asking or others that are part of the network.
  • Attention seeking: in a sense, the thanks sent via the app, being given a “good”, are a kind of quick reward, which makes us feel good.
  • Hope of reciprocity: I reply in the hope that if I ever have a question and need a quick reply, the app will work for me.
  • Contact: The reply, whether useful or not, is an opportunity to contact the enquirer. We have seen this factor at play in other social apps.
  • The subject interests me: I may not know the answer, but I am interested in the subject and want to see what other people say about it, or how much interest it generates. I can ask to be kept informed about other replies. Apps like Quora offer longer, more detailed answers with more relevant information, but the rules of participation are different, requiring more input.
  • Building engagement: this is more applicable to brands asking questions that aim to generate empathy with a product or service.
  • Input on a subject: again, more likely in the case of brands looking to provide a service and create a customer base in the process.
  • Humor: I may not know the answer, but I have just thought of something funny to say about the subject. Related to image, but for different reasons.
  • Others? Definitely…

(En español, aquí)

Enrique Dans

On the effects of technology innovation on people, companies and society (writing in Spanish at enriquedans.com since 2003)

    Enrique Dans

    Written by

    Professor of Innovation at IE Business School and blogger at enriquedans.com

    Enrique Dans

    On the effects of technology innovation on people, companies and society (writing in Spanish at enriquedans.com since 2003)

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