Hello, Konstantin here again!
Today I want to tell you about bubbles.
We are social creatures. As soon as we figure out some interesting topic, we try to stick with a group of people, also interested in the same thing.
We join Facebook groups, follow people on Twitter, join Telegram chats and communities on the web.
I did this every time I got interested in some topic.
Here is the list of such topics, that I got interested in over last several years:
1. (Russian) Python developers groups
2. Russian e-commerce
3. Worldwide drop shipping
4. Solo makers
The reason we join these communities is simple: we want to stick with like-minded individuals, learn from them and be like the most successful of members from those groups.
Unfortunately, I’ve observed that amount of new information, new topics and new people in every niche get exhausted.
Topics are repeated over and over again. Most exciting people stop posting interesting stuff because they get busy (probably tired of becoming successful and having no more time to contribute to the community).
Niche becomes too popular, and new people come.
A lot of new people abuse growing communities by posting self-promoting links.
Some try to make up for failures in their real lives, and their behaviour ruins the healthy and supportive atmosphere of the community. Such conduct manifests in being gross, cynical or elevating value and exposure of their persona in each conversation.
What I’ve seen in those types of groups I’ve mentioned earlier.
1. (Russian) Python developers groups.
Developers mindset often leads to hate against any paid software product.
Additionally, a large amount of envy to the success (primarily financial) of other members of the community makes it the worst place to ask for feedback or help of any kind.
Developers love to brag about everything: tools they learned, events they attended, computers, even fonts they are using in their terminal.
Pouring tonnes of crap to others’ creations, opinion or apps choices. Constant race of fears of not knowing every possible feature of the language which in turn only increases the level of stress.
Non-stop holy wars between lovers and haters of tools like apps, modules. Django vs flask. Digital ocean vs AWS. iPhone vs Android.
In the end, there is only one group of people who like such niche communities: recruiters, who seek a candidate for a specific job.
I must add, though, that worldwide python communities are way more kind, supportive and welcoming. But some traits are still there in every software developers’ community.
2. Russian e-commerce.
I have joined all possible groups of this niche to figure out common struggles among e-commerce companies.
I asked questions, advised based on my experience in software developer and offered various tools that can help people.
As many people say: start from giving value and help others, then ask for something. I did my best.
In the end, truth bluntly hit me in the face. Russian e-commerce people hate developers, hate web service owners like the human body hates sicknesses. Developers cost a lot, so they seek to hire freelancers for an absurd wage. Web services are perceived as abuse for e-commerce companies, which drain money, and their services have to be free. Because it is all automated and does not involve human labour, making web services business model too high margin, compared to the e-commerce business. And this is envy again, and they don’t take into account how much time and effort goes into developing, iterating over the product features and implementation. They compare only the result – e-commerce has low margins, web services “do nothing, their servers do the job.”
Then I sought ways how they try to serve their customers better, do they advise on this matter. It seemed to me that they are hiding their bright ideas from competitors because nobody talked about it in groups. After some extensive digging, I realised that there are merely no attempts to make their customer service better.
They seek ways to resell more without added value but increased margins. How to sell and not provide a service, to avoid refunds, to not hear customers’ complaints.
They even discuss how to make customers pay for every interaction with a site because it consumes the resources of their servers!
There was very little I was able to learn from this niche.
I left all groups and communities after several months of repeated topics:
– Excel driven automation.
– Everyday question (which CMS/CRM to use).
– Complaints, a lot of them. (Delivery services, web services, etc.).
– Legal advice on how to avoid being sued by customers for delivering broken products or breaking some expectations from their service.
Goodbye, to never see you again, Russian E-commerce.
3. Worldwide drop shipping with Shopify.
Here there is not much to tell. What part of the catalogue of AliExpress is best to resell. How not to look like reseller from AliExpress.
4. Solo makers.
Problem with solo makers communities is the most problematic to describe to make things fair.
Let’s start from the beginning and the reason why such communities were created.
First of all, they were made to help people build their apps, launch their projects, assist each other and motivate to keep going when things get tough.
It is true that many people help others to overcome obstacles and motivate and support each other.
I got help from many other indie makers, that tested my apps, provided valuable feedback, gave great advice. Thank you, people! I am forever grateful for your help and kind words!
I must say though, the problem with these communities lies in their growth and popularity, that indie maker movement gains day by day.
As more and more indie makers come to these communities, they start to abuse all available channels to promote what they have created.
They ask for upvotes on ProductHunt. They share their apps in a way that instead of asking for feedback they only throw the link to the chat or forum without any meaningful description and never show up again to see what people said about it.
Interesting topics get exhausted, and instead of insights and interesting ideas all niche chats end up limited to a conversation in the following form:
Maker1 joins the chat.
Maker1: Hello, happy to be here. I made an app. here is a link to product hunt go check it out!
Maker[2-N]: Awesome! Cool! Super! Upvoted
That’s about it. Link posted, one of several typical phrases posted in response.
I think it is possible to replace a large part of such communities with several bots and nobody will feel the difference.
I understand however that people have limited time and can’t check out every single app their peers created and provide meaningful feedback, but the situation described takes from the value of those communities.
With enough effort, it is still possible to find links to valuable resources there. People still produce great apps that others can benefit from by using it.
People still help each other, they beta test apps, they upvote on ProductHunt, they still support each other.
With Makers communities, I found one problem that was hard to describe at first. It was a feeling.
At first, I was trying not to miss a single post on IndieHackers, in Telegram Channel Solo Founders and other similar ones.
I took part in conversations, tests apps, read landing pages, checked sites on all devices I had and subscribed to newsletters.
In return, I got help from others, and again, thanks a bunch to those people!
But a week ago I found myself avoiding these communities. I felt very little motivation for opening any makers chat or community.
So I tried to figure out what the problem was.
I found these points to be the ones I became tired of:
– everything revolves around publishing on ProductHunt
– everything was about bringing a product in front of the eyes other makers, not their target audience and potential customers.
– It became a club where people did stuff to show other makers what they can do. Amount of success is measured solely by ProductHunt upvotes.
To be entirely fair, I must admit that stories I have been reading on Indiehackers.com were inspirational. I don’t open those interviews anymore. I think it is because I am already motivated and inspired. I already know that it is time to ship. Time to figure out and iterate over that precious idea. I have done enough reading.
After all those examples let’s get back to bubbles in general.
They are very inspirational and exciting when you first dive into the place where like-minded people hang out.
Being in a niche community gives you the feeling that you are on the right track.
I have come to learn from experience though, that it is easy to accept a common behaviour and mindset blindly following what others do.
Such blind faith can limit what you can achieve.
If a community has thought leaders that are bragging about some approach that worked for them, it is possible that you start believing that it is the best way to do things. You begin to follow this survivorship bias.
But it may not work for you for many reasons. Also what they say can be only part of the truth that they decided to share.
Also, keep in mind that sometimes thought-leaders in a niche can be selling something around a lifestyle they are talking about. Be it, digital nomads, dropshipping on Shopify, SaaS founder, it can be anything.
When you join a community, make an effort and see who is the admin or the most vocal person in this community and what are they doing for a living. Such research can give you an idea of how to filter what they write.
To finalise this post, I’d like to say that it is good to feel like a part of some tribe. It is entirely natural for humans.
But be careful blindly consuming what the tribe says.
Use your brain to figure out what’s best for you, what works for your product and your circumstances.
Help others, listen to your peers, but decide for yourself.