FB Login and What We Learned from our Show HN

Hello Hacker News,

2 weeks ago we put up a Show HN a few weeks ago titled: Show HN: It’s hard to make friends offline, so we built a solution (letsbeamigos.com). Though the post was relatively popular (97 points and 180+ comments), we made a few product mistakes that made our Show HN not as successful as it could have been:

{For those of you that don’t know: we are building a system to match people to those they don’t know, but share similar interests (whether it’s a sport they both play, a type of restaurant or a hobby). Then, we help coordinate an activity off-line. (Check it out: http://www.letsbeamigos.com)}

 

Problem 1. Using only Facebook sign up

(Note: We as a team still sit on the fence about this since we are building a social product.)

These were our assumptions about why only Facebook signup made sense:

  • It gave us a way to make sure people were “real.” After all, it would not be much fun to be set up on an activity with someone that did not exist. (This was only somewhat true as people have fake Facebook accounts for many reasons)
  • It gave us insights into the likes/ dislikes of people based on their Facebook information and also helps us with our matching algorithms (more on this below)
  • It was an easy way to sign up/ log in for a service without having to remember a password (we still think this is true, but this benefit is not exclusive to fb sign in)

Our decision definitely received some backlash and interesting HN comments, as well as Olark conversations, but FB-only-signup also gave us some product issues:

  • The email people used to sign up for Facebook was not one that they checked every day (which is especially important if that’s how you want to schedule events).
  • Facebook interests and likes are not good representations of what people like in real life. For example, I love basketball, technology startups and eating. But my likes on Facebook are: Counting Crows, Sky High Lab, Tapestries of Hope, and company pages of my friends. That’s not really a good representation of what I am off-line, is it?

Our solution is a trade-off: allow people to register with just their email and opt-in to using Facebook if they also want to share likes and interests. As a result we had to make our questionnaire longer. We are curious to see how this converts/ improves the quality of our experience.

 

Problem 2. “Enter your city”

The plan was always to launch only in the Bay Area – for any sort of localized service having region-specific knowledge is especially important. To do this, we asked each person that registered where they lived with a dropdown: San Francisco, Palo Alto, and “Enter your city.”

We initially wanted “Enter your city” to gauge interest of other cities that really wanted the service (to help our expansion strategy in the future). The problem that emerged, though, was that we had too much interest outside our area and could not provide them with the service they signed up for. Our fact-finding mission actually ended up preventing us from satisfying our users (not something we wanted to do!).

Our solution is to remove the “Enter your city” option entirely and just have San Francisco and Palo Alto as signup options. We will make sure the product kicks ass in our backyard and then expand to help the rest of you! We really appreciate your patience.

 

Problem 3. Feedback channels

When doing a Show HN, you are really asking the community to comment on something that you have built, and have them give feedback to make it a stronger product. We relied on the comments of the post to help, but it did not work. Most of the comments were related to FB login and not the actual reasons that people wanted / did not want a product like this, how they would use it, or how they would want it to work. We were all getting stuck in the trees without seeing the entire forest. (This post is the place to discuss the merits of FB signup!)

Our solution is to build that feedback channel into the product itself. After registering, we have revamped how we gather information.  On top of learning your likes/ dislikes we ask how you would like a product like ours to work and how we can improve. We have a clear vision of what we want to achieve, but always love hearing feedback from our users so we can make something they want.

Thanks for reading and I hope these lessons are helpful when you are doing your next Show HN or a private beta of your product. If you have any things to add or questions please leave a note in the comments. If you live in the Bay Area we would love to have you try: http://www.letsbeamigos.com.


Discussion — 6 Responses

  • Mitchell Abdullah 06/20/2013 on 11:56 pm

    I would highly suggest two things:
    1. Continue taking ‘other city’ requests. From what you wrote it sounds like you’re just closing the door on ‘other city’ users. What to do instead: follow the signup page with an instant apology that says you’re unable to currently fulfill that area at the time but you’ll email them when it’s available there. Then tell them that if they’d like to advance the development in their area to share it on facebook, twitter, etc and encourage signups within their city.

    2. Upon facebook signup, on the next page INSTANTLY ask what the person’s email address is. Simple as that. Then you have a way to market to them that you can rely on. I’ve worked with startups before that have relied too heavily upon social logins. If they pull your api key, you’re F-ed! But if you had requested an email as well (and verified using ‘confirm your email address’ methods) then you can auto-generate a bunch of passwords and distribute them via email to the accounts.

    Reply
  • Maciej 06/21/2013 on 9:22 am

    You really should format this text. From a reader perspective, it is just a plain wall of text that I won’t read 🙁

    Reply
    • neil Maciej 06/26/2013 on 6:21 pm

      Anything fancier than what I just did?

      Reply
  • sandokan 08/18/2013 on 2:35 pm

    good

    Reply
  • Damn Quick MVPs 10/05/2013 on 10:28 am

    Great post with highly valuable insights that, I’m sure, would be useful to many startups (as well as to more established businesses too).

    Mitchell Abdullah’s comment above is quite useful too – thanks for sharing, Neil and Mitchell.

    Reply