Caravat.com: an analysis of its community management pratices

On October 15 I discussed how the logic system of Caravat.com allowed terminated accounts to return to the system through another invitation from a member within the network.

The reason my membership was withdrawn was because I didn’t fall under the different categories of executives that Caravat mapped out. Which was fair enough.

However, my argument is still that terminating people from the service was/is not the right thing to do, and in order to become a social network, such a control mechanism shouldn’t be in existence. Because it was not necessary in the first place. Why?

Let’s explore the rationality behind the decision to invite people you know into the network and see if there’s an incentive to expand your connections in such a way that will eventually cause harm to your reputation.

Take A as an example: A is a member of Caravat.com

A thinks Caravat.com is something worth trying out. He invites his friends to join the network. What are the possible outcomes if A does that?

- If the people A invites are highly qualified professionals. Then A get a lot of added value to his reputation.

- Vice versa, if A invites some people whose name you’ve never heard of, then A reduces his chance to get connected to other professionals. Because generally when someone decides to connect with A, they will firstly look at his credentials, and secondly look at his network of friends. Thus if the people in A’s network are mainly students and not good enough professionals, that will be a negative incentive for others to connect with A. So it is still pretty much “Who you knows” that matters.

- Now if A tells his connections to fake their credentials, that’s even worse. As Ms Thanh [CEO of Caravat/ @thanhthanh on Twitter] pointed out, if you were lying about yourself, eventually your connections would find out about it, and your reputation within the community would fall down to Zero.

In many ways, each member of the network is well aware of the danger of their getting those who are not qualified enough into the network, because it has a negative effect on their prestige. And thus there’s no need for Caravat.com to tell people what to do, they’re smart enough to know what they’re doing. That’s why they are called professionals.

Say, A still wants to invite people into his network. Caravat.com worries that these people will eventually affect their reputation as an exclusive network of professionals. Still, I may argue that such worry is again not necessary. Why? Because they cannot spread like the way viruses spread. They will only remain a part of A’s network, and thus does little harm to the overall performance of Caravat.com. Nobody wants to connect to these guys at all. Until they can prove themselves worthwhile.

Now A’s friends want to invite theirs into Caravat.com. The above argument still holds. Plus, because of A’s dilemma of whether to invite or not/whether to fake themselves or not, such incidents are very few.

So, if A invites a bunch of people who are not qualified, does he violate his message privileges/ Caravat’s exclusivity policy? Take a good read at this extract from the FAQ:

How do I join Caravat?

There are 2 ways to be a member of Caravat website,

-> Apply for Caravat Membership. Steps to apply:
1. On Caravat.com home page, click Apply for Membership Now in the upper right.
2. Fill in the Signup forms and click Next.
3. When the waiting approval message appears, an email with login data will be sent to your email box within 3 business days.
4. Check email, click the provided link to login to Caravat with your provided login data.

-> Or request an invitation from a friend or colleague who is already a member of the site. By this way, you can receive a verification email right after finishing the Signup forms.

Here’s a simple question asked by a Business Analyst: is the newly registrant automatically be qualified?

And here’s the answer that is supposedly given by Caravat: Yes.

So, in essence, there’s a gap in Caravat.com’s policy that allows people regardless of their backgrounds to join Caravat.com through invitations. As such, it contradicts the Exclusivity part of the policy. This means A can send a bunch of invitations to his friends and he DOES NOT violate Caravat.com’s policy. We know he does, but the policy doesn’t explicitly say that. And thus he doesn’t.

Here’s my take:

- Caravat shouldn’t have filtered its users out, because that’s not how a social network is supposed to run.

- Instead of spending time on filtering, they should invest in fixing bugs and their  logic system and policy.

-

Who wanna join Caravat.com first?

Just like every other social network or emerging technology, the people who wanna test it first are the so-called geeks. Geeks want to try out new things and are more often than not early adopters. Unfortunately for Caravat.com, they missed this point and filtered the geeks out, while these people were actually the ones who filed the bug reports and made recommendations on how the site should be operating. I doubt if the C-level executives have the time and interest in doing so, and if they have the ability to do so.

So by filtering them out, Caravat.com was putting the technology community off and thus making a huge loss of beta testers and PR. Remember, they do that for FREE.

Yesterday, I tweeted that I would invite any single one who wished to get a hand on the officially launched Caravat.com. And I got this message today:

Dear Hung Nguyen,

We’ve received several complaints from Caravat people that you are misusing Caravat invitation privileges by offering free Caravat invitations to everyone.

Please understand that Caravat is a professional community of high-level executives and highly respects user privacy. Members that abuse the message privileges of our community may have their membership restricted or terminated. If your invitation messages are reported as misuse one more time, Caravat will seriously consider to withdraw your Caravat membership.

I wonder if there’s anyone who complained about that besides Caravat.com itself. If someone really complained about it, then proved that to me. If it’s a direct complaint from Caravat.com, then just say it to me, I don’t mind. You get the idea.

Am I misusing Caravat invitation privileges? No, read the above session to see why.

So basically I bet someone from my twitter community who works for Caravat saw this and reported it to their seniors. But if you can take a look at the messages that appeared in my Tweet list at that time, people were giving very negative feedback regarding the fact that they could not join the network.

To conclude, in order to succeed, Caravat.com needs to stay more open to the tech/web/geek community, listen to what they have to say, spend more time fixing bugs and getting things done.

Or, since you can’t be a private club with open membership, just close it entirely by setting up the same approval mechanism for invitation, which means screening invitees credentials. Too much work to do?

For me, I will not invite anyone else to the network, not because I’m afraid that my account will be suspended, but because I lose the interest in doing so.

This is the last just another post about Caravat.com

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