Users flock to a site; and then what?
Why do they?
The internet is a vast universe. The bleeding edge is always too far to see, as well as the long tail of users. The reality is, there are new people coming online all the time; a constant stream of confused newbies. How do we capture them? How do we create an appealing product?
Timing and marketing are a separate, but crucial component. That is dealt by people more competent than I am. Technologically, however, I ask these questions: What needs to happen on Gravity to make people want to come back often? What needs to happen to make people feel like sharing stories of good quality? How do we cut down on the chattiness and crank up the quality of content?
This is the generic problem that everyone with a dream faces.
We need to ask each user, what do you like? what interests you? what do you already do? Users look for information, and filter and create and shuffle information. Most importantly, users need feedback. People asking for your advice, people letting you know when your opinion is valuable.
A nerdy way to see it: a user, like our system, has an input, and an output.
The output can be interpreted (and predicted) if the input is known. In terms of quantity, the input is a relative positive (as it increments the information in the system) and the output, compared to the input, can be less (information was filtered) or more (information was created), dissimilar (shuffled) or a combination of these. All these outputs are embedded with the ideas and feelings of each user, and an increasing quality will see increasing number of users on the site.
From the information consumption perspective, the user should always be shown the best content first, diminishing in relevance as she scrolls down. From the technical perspective, how does this ranking happen?
There needs to be a very transparent system for tracking user intention: assigning positive and negative points between users and items and rank them accordingly. Examples of explicit interaction: liking and orbiting. Weak indicators could be clicks, scrolls and mouse movements. These scores could be propagated to make educated guesses.
Intrinsic value for an object is determined by its outgoing positive connections. In other words, only external interest determines value of the object in question, and only relative to those consuming it. When it comes down to users and what they post, having someone else like your stuff is the only way you will get credibility, regardless of how good something is, according to you.
However, this is not the whole story. A company's success depends on how useful it is to its users. The metric of usefulness for each user will depend on how often users want to come back and invite the ones they trust. Again, it's a matter of propagating good stuff to the people you care about.