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I've just finished 'The Tipping Point' by Malcolm Gladwell. The central thesis of the book is that little things can make a big difference when an idea goes 'viral'. For example, Gladwell recounts Lester Wunderman's successful ad campaign in selling mail order records...

The key to Wunderman's success was something he called 'the treasure hunt'. In every TV Guide and Parade ad, he had his art director put a little gold box in the corner of the order coupon. Then his firm wrote a series of TV commercials that told the 'secret of the gold box'. Viewers were told that if they could find the gold box in their issues of TV Guide and Parade, they could write in the name of any record on the Columbia list and get that record for free. The gold box, Wunderman theorised, was a kind of trigger. It gave viewers a reason to look for the ads in TV Guide and Parade. It created a connection between the Columbia message viewers saw on television and the message they read in a magazine. The gold box, Wunderman writes, "made the reader/viewer part of an interactive advertising system. Viewers were not just an audience but had become participants. It was like playing a game... The effectiveness of the campaign was startling. In 1977, none of Columbia's ads in its extensive magazine schedule had been profitable. In 1978, with Gold Box television support, every magazine on the schedule made a profit, an unprecented turnaround".

I've been looking for my own tipping point for the Writers' Club. I'm trying to make the experience of having your work commented on by someone from somewhere else in the world more clear and real, based on feedback from some of the users of the site. To do this, I need to encourage my users to fill out their profile, and make the profile emphasise the geographic variety of the users. To do this, I've made a few minor changes to the site - changes, while small, may be the tipping point in inspiring teachers to join up their students.

The first is that, when a user is clicked on, the viewer is taken to the profile page of that user. Secondly, when a user logs on, they are directed to their own profile page, which, if looking a little lean, may encourage the user to add to it there and then. Thirdly, I've added a progress bar to show the user's progress in completing their profile. Lastly, the profiles now have a google map, showing the location of the user.

Yes, the most minor of changes. But as Gladwell recounted the story of the tetanus information pamphlet, designed to encourage students to get tetanus shots, sometimes the most mundane addition - in the case of the tetanus pamphlet, a map of the campus where the shots could be obtained - can make a big difference.

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