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Bootstrap Content

Because personal Web businesses are based on the autonomous business model, users contribute the bulk of a site's content. Paradoxically, however, users aren't likely to contribute content to a site unless it has content in the first place. For example, if you set up a movie review site and your site doesn't have any movie reviews, it's highly unlikely that someone visiting your site will add one. So how do you get users to add content if your site doesn't have content? The answer is bootstrap content.

In the context of a personal Web business, bootstrap content is content that makes your users want to contribute their own content. For example, on the movie review site, one way to get users to contribute their own movie reviews is to post a couple of controversial reviews of popular movies. The idea is that users who disagree with your reviews will post their own reviews, which will then prompt other users to post their own reviews, and so on. However, due to how we've chosen the themes of our personal Web businesses (see the four criteria in my Week 1 article), quite often we don't have to make our content "contentious" at all—having enough examples of the type of content we want our users to contribute is sufficient.

However, you have to be careful about how you present these examples. It's my experience that users are unwilling to contribute content to sites that are new and don't appear to have a large community of users. A page with a couple of examples on it is a dead giveaway that you have a new site with hardly any visitors. Once again, going back to our example of a movie review site, if you just have five reviews on your site, it's unlikely that users will contribute their own content. After all, who wants to make a contribution when no one will see it? Until your site takes off and you have a large enough community of users constantly adding new content, you need to make it appear that your site has both more content and a larger community than it actually does.

Now, the best way to make it appear your site has more content and a larger community than it actually does is to put your bootstrap content into a database and use scripting to cleverly display your content. For our sample Web site, based on hacker phrases, to get users to contribute their own hacker phrases we'll add a few of our own hacker phrases (approximately 50) into a database (Microsoft Access) and use scripting (Microsoft Active Server Pages) to randomly display a phrase. This random displaying of phrases makes it appear that there are more hacker phrases than there actually are. You can easily generalize the database and scripts to your own personal Web businesses.

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