Boring can be good. It may seem like nothing’s happening but Archive’s community of photographers is growing and the magazine is improving as a result. The process is slow and there is still much work to be done but progress is taking place. Vladimir Lenin said, “There are decades where nothing happens, and weeks when decades happen.” He was referring to the communist revolution in Russia but the same principle applies to running a magazine like Archive. The incremental contributions of every individual member of the Archive community helps to create a city magazine that feels organic and unique. The improving quality of the magazine, in turn, encourages more people to participate. Their subsequent contributions improve the magazine again. The virtuous cycle feeds on itself.
Can we speed this process up? If we change the software to improve the user experience it may lead to increased engagement by our contributors. More engaged contributors would mean a better magazine. Right now the Archive app isn’t fun enough because it doesn’t give any feedback. People upload photos and then they wait until the magazine is published before they can have an “ah ha” moment. We want to let people know about the popularity of their photos right away. So we’re building a notification centre that will help create a good reason to check the app more frequently. Apps are useful because of their purpose, they’re addictive because of the feedback they give you.
What happens if we win? At some point won’t the virtuous cycle collapse under its own weight? Let’s play this thought experiment out to its logical endgame. At some point, having too many users may break the system. If 20,000 people are contributing photos it’s probable that the democracy would no longer function. Bad photos could slip into the magazine merely because nobody was voting in the middle of the night. This outcome would undermine the integrity of the democracy that underpins Archive. What would we do then? The answer: write an algorithm. If software is eating the world than surely it can fix our stupid magazine.