Ryze repositioning

A few weeks ago, we talked about the coming changes in Ryze’s networking model. Today, what I consider to be by far the biggest change goes into effect:

These changes are designed to improve the quality and experience of business networking on Ryze. In particular, they are designed to reduce spam and encourage thoughtfulness and quality in networking. These are pretty big changes that will take some time to adjust to, and will also likely require some fine-tuning. We thank you in advance for your patience in trying things out.

Here’s a summary of the main changes:

  • Basic level members can now only communicate with people within 2 friends of them, or in the same networks as them.
  • Gold and Platinum members can communicate with up to 25 and 35 ‘distant’ members each month, people who are more than 2 friends away and not in the same networks.
  • Advanced searching is now available to all members.
  • All members may now use the Pivots as well — links in member profiles that lead to listings of members with that link in common in their profiles.
  • Guestbooks have been defaulted to ‘Friends-only’ for all members (excluding those who previously turned it off)
  • You can change your guestbook setting…to turn it on for everyone, if you want.
  • Gold and Platinum members may set their account to let distant members communicate with them, without counting towards their limit.

I imagine that this may not immediately be a popular change, primarily among free members. But before anyone jumps to conclusions, let’s look at the impact of this:

  • Note that there is no limit on contact with people who are in the same networks as you. This will encourage new members to get involved in the networks. I believe that this only primarily affects the rate at which you make new connections. How many people do you engage in ongoing conversation that aren’t a member of at least ONE network that you’re in, too?
  • There’s now a compelling reason for just about anybody to go Gold. Previously, the two (as I see it) primary benefits of Gold membership were the ability to search and to run a network. Out of 200,000 Ryze members, only about 1,100 apparently considered the value of running a network sufficient. I don’t know exactly how many more were Gold and for what reason, but the answer is (my opinion) “Not enough to support Ryze’s continued development and growth in an ad-free environment.” Hopefully now more people will step up to the plate and pay the $10 a month (less than one business lunch or most in-person events).
  • There’s now no excuse not to be random, rather than focused. Everyone has access to pivots and advanced search, so now everyone can seek out people in their hometown, from their place of birth, with common interests, in the same industry, etc., etc. This is extremely powerful, and it’s now in the hands of free members. Take advantage of it, folks!
  • Communicating with distant members? Those limits are pretty much one a day. And remember — distant means more than two degrees away and not in any of the same networks. If that’s really going to be a problem for you, you might just give a moment’s thought as to whether what you’ve been doing is networking or cold-calling.
  • I do have a concern… this new model implicitly encourages people to build a large friends list. Granted, the new requirement for an email address (more on that in a separate message) will help dampen that effect, but still, the friends list now has a direct impact on both your visibility into the network and your ability to communicate.

Overall, I see this change as a good thing. It will definitely encourage more focused networking habits. But this isn’t just a feature change — this is a major re-positioning of Ryze’s nature and purpose. Its previous openness has been a major part of its identity — good to some, not so good to others. It remains to be seen not only how the existing members, but how other people who might not have previously been interested in Ryze, will react to the changes.