Ryze eyes shift in networking model

Today, Ryze founder/CEO Adrian Scott announced plans for significant changes intended to improve the quality and experience of business networking on Ryze. None of the plans are written in stone at this point, and he has opened it up to the Ryze membership at large for feedback.

The feedback indicates we’re doing a few things well, but that there are a lot of things we could be doing better. Different people feel differently about different aspects of Ryze, just as people network with different approaches and styles. As we look at improving Ryze, we want to address the issues that people have raised, keeping in mind the overall goal of improving the quality of the business networking on Ryze for all, and making it a great place for thoughtful interactions.

Scott also offers some insight into Ryze’s philosophy, sharing two principles that guided them in creating these proposed changes:

– Structure over Policy

Structure refers to providing an environment that supports the goals of Ryze through the architecture and avenues for communication. Policy is the setting of standards that require communication, voluntary cooperation and ‘policing’ of violators. When structure helps support goals, positive actions are encouraged just by means of the structure itself and ‘policing’ and ‘enforcement’ are minimized. In the case of trying to solve problems only by ‘policy’ rather than with structure, there needs to be a complicated policing and enforcement system, which is not much fun for anyone, and is not realistically something we can provide to a large membership with a limited staff.

– Encouragement of Quality over Quantity

We’d like to create an environment that encourages quality, rather than quantity for its own sake. We still have a ways to go on this, but it’s an important consideration as we look to the future.

I’m particularly encouraged by the latter. The public displays of the twenty most active and largest networks, the number of hits to someone’s profile, and even friends lists have been items that I’ve long had issue with. It is simply human nature to “optimize for the metric”. If you put a number up there and make it public, a significant number of people will alter their behavior to maximize that number, whether that’s really a good, sensible thing to do or not. And those who don’t feel an unspoken psychological pressure to do so — it makes others feel inadequate.

Case in point… consider the guy who offered feedback on my LinkedIn class saying, “I looked at Scott’s number of connections and was not impressed. I almost have as many as he does!!!” Mind you, I had almost 200 at the time, and no great desire for more. When you publish those metrics, you encourage those kind of attitudes. So I’m very glad to see this shift at Ryze.

Some of the major areas targeted for change include:


We are looking at converting the guestbooks to being “Friends-only”: only friends can write in and view the guestbooks by default. Members could still opt to have their guestbooks visible and available to all as a preference setting. This will certainly affect the nature of Ryze quite a bit, which will take some time to adjust to. While it will reduce the volume of messages, it will still provide an easy outlet for people to keep in touch with their friends, and encourage thoughtfulness from others by guiding their communication to private messages. It will also enhance the perception of Ryze as a place for business.

Searching and contacting people:

We are looking at shifting to a model where advanced searching would be free, but gold membership would be required to contact people who are more than 2 degrees away and not in any of the same Networks on Ryze. Gold members would be able to contact a limited number of these ‘distant’ members in a time period, such as 20-30 per month.

“Friends” or…?

We’ve also gotten a lot of feedback that we should we replace the word ‘Friends’ with something else more ‘business-like’. We’ve heard suggestions including ‘Colleague’, ‘Trusted Colleague’, and a few others. We’re not sure which direction we should go on this and would be interested in your thoughts. If we go with something other than ‘Friend’, we probably need to move from talking about ‘Friend of a Friend’ to using the ‘degrees of separation’ terminology (e.g. a friend of a friend is 2 degrees of separation, and a friend is 1 degree away). ‘Colleague of a Colleague’ would sound pretty confusing :).

Friend (or whatever) requests (one of my pet peeves, and I’m very happy to see this shift):

We’ve gotten a lot of complaints from people who receive lots of friend requests from people they don’t know — in some cases, repeatedly. This looks like another area where ‘policy’ solutions alone don’t work and more structure is needed. So we’re looking at requiring people to type in a person’s email address to be able to request to add them as a friend. This is pretty standard in most networking-related services. As part of this, we’ll be upgrading the infrastructure so you can have multiple email addresses attached to your Ryze account, something that’s been on the to-do list for a while :).

While it may be noble and friendly to want befriend everyone, the kinds of functionality that can be valuable using friends as a filter get less useful if there’s only a modest amount of selectivity in who’s added as a friend (again, more reason to reconsider if they should be called ‘friends’).

Network lists:

The “Most Active” & “Largest” Networks listing would be phased out, replaced with items like links to Networks that your friends are in. Though the lists are fun, they don’t encourage quality interactions or recognize the value of focused networks with high signal-to-noise ratios. They also don’t work well as the number of networks increases. [ Network Invites will also be released soon which Network Leaders can tap into to grow their membership by email invites from both them and their membership. ] We expect to test this new version of the Networks page out later in the week, along with making the page load faster.

Other miscellaneous changes include:
– Limit of one photo for free members
– Removal of “who’s visited your page” feature (Good riddance! It made many people uncomfortable.)
– Removal of “Newest Photos” list
– Removal of comments in event RSVP (I understand the issue, but think there are better solutions)
– Privacy preferences will become part of the setup process (to help prevent people unknowingly entering the network on medium privacy setting, and no one able to contact them until they contact others).

The proposed changes are open for comment in the Ryze Support Network. You’re also welcome to come discuss the proposed changes in the Using Ryze Effectively Network.