Our discussions in the past week or so about what development needs doing on Common Kitchen has centered on the phrase “usefulness.” The idea comes from what Josh Porter of bokardo.com calls “the del.icio.us lesson”: that personal value to a single user comes before network value. (If you’ve never met del.icio.us, it’s a site which allows you to store your bookmarks on the web rather than on a single computer… and it also allows you to share any site you bookmark with your friends or the ‘net at large. Now owned by Yahoo!, Del.icio.us was an early pioneer in tagging.) Put another way, if nobody else used the site, would it still be useful?
If the answer is “no,” that doesn’t make the site useless, but it does make the site vulnerable to what Porter calls “the cold start problem,” the chicken-and-egg problem a site faces when it’s most useful when it has a lot of users, but needs to become useful in order to attract those users.
So the work we’re focusing on now is on making Common Kitchen useful even to a limited number of users, and one of the features we’ve added in this direction is Questions. Questions addresses the problem of missing information on the site by allowing you to ask for it. By way of example, consider this question Noah posted: he’s looking for a good pasta salad recipe, can anyone recommend one?
Or consider one of the elemental questions asked by everyone who’s ever planted a garden plot: what do I do with all this zucchini? (You have heard, of course, of the gardener who left a single zucchini sitting out on the back seat of his locked car? He returned to the car to find a window broken, and, rushing to see what had been stolen, found he now had two zucchini.)
Questions let you ask about recipes now, but as we improve the system, you’ll be able to ask for restaurant recommendations, cookbook (and cooking) help, or plain old advice. Take a look at the questions which are already here, and drop in a suggestion or ask a question of your own.
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