Product Hunt has expanded its Collections feature, allowing members of the community to curate and share lists of their favorite products. The Web site and app, which started as an e-mail, has quickly grown popular among the Silicon Valley crowd and early-adopters looking for interesting products and start-ups.
Founder Ryan Hoover, who has shown an ability to build digital communities, doesn’t want Product Hunt to just be something that techies in San Francisco use. Allowing users to create lists, such as their favorite health apps, is a step toward creating different communities. Hoover says possibilities include music, games and books.
“How do we create a place for just games and a community of people that love games that want to find out about the best new things everyday,” Hoover said. “That’s the direction that we’re heading long-term. Collections will span across all of that but it will give us some signal on what types of categories people are drawn to.”
He credits the status that comes with being the first to point out a great product as one of the motivations driving engagement on the platform.
“If I was the first one that hunted Snapchat several years ago, that found it, that’d be cool,” Hoover said. “Just like investors when they find things early. That makes me cool.”
An interesting aspect of Product Hunt is its reliance on a human touch. While big data is hot, Hoover is succeeding without using an algorithm to surface the best product recommendations.
“Having a really sophisticated algorithm that’s personalized, that’s using big data and all these other buzzwords isn’t necessarily what people want,” Hoover said. “You might be able to provide a really good recommendation, but what’s more important I believe for most people is the context around it. And if you don’t have context, if it’s just a machine telling you you’re going to love this thing, this game, whatever it is, I don’t think it’s not that meaningful to people.”
Getting the very best product highlighted may not be as essential as creating a group and place that people want to interact in.
“These aren’t necessarily the best products in the world that are on [Product Hunt] each day. These are just products that the community and people find interesting,” Hoover told me. “Some of them are amazing, some of them are silly, it doesn’t really matter. But it has this context of upvotes, people are excited about it.”
The makers of apps regularly pop up on the site to discuss their creation with interested readers, which strengthens the community experience. Anyone can submit a product and upvote products, but not just anyone can comment. The site does this to encourage a thoughtful dialog. This also adds a velvet-rope effect. The site is stickier to those fully admitted, as being given full access becomes an honorific.
That approach is a lot different from Reddit, which has a rich collection of communities and allows anyone to comment.
“We’re looking at a lot of different models, like Reddit is interesting,” Hoover said. “It’s a little bit confusing and cluttered.”
Could a more curated approach to communities succeed on a grand scale? Time will tell.