Social media, peer content creation and various web 2.0 applications have been pitched by many to revolutionize user contributions to innovation. There is no doubt of their importance. There is, however, considerably less rigorous research than buzz about how exactly user contributions depend on, feed to, take place collaboratively or in conflict with producer actions in developing these sites.
This case study rests on the unique access we have had in following the producer-user interchange throughout the history of “Habbo-hotel” and its developer company Sulake Ltd., during which the site has grown from a hangout built for the designers’ own friends to a 13 million user global teen-age site. Habbo-Sulake is one of the most successful social media development in Finland.
In this project we finalize this ongoing study and focus on how the various user contributions to the development of this site have “travelled” and how these contributions as well as their pathways to wider significance have changed over the years. This means that we connect the various types of user contributions to development of the site to the developer responses and developer laid preconditions to these contributions have changed over the years. From the research to date we know that there have been, for instance, 23 different major forms by which developers have generated development information from users over the years, that these forms differ significantly from ones found in traditional product development, and that these forms have changed dramatically over the lifespan of the site. Deepening the analysis of the interchange, particularly from the perspective of users’ contributions to innovating in this site is in the focus of this case study.
The data from this case is longitudinal and covers both development and use practices. Habbo use practices have been triangulated based on a visitor profile survey (N=10000), in-depth interviews with users (N=13), and data from online Habbo texts (173 websites) written by users. The development practices have been investigated through in-depth interviews with game developers (N=10), and representatives from marketing, user research, and community management. During 2005–6 an intervention study was conducted regarding Sulake’s user feedback methods. Research collaboration with other Habbo researchers as well as Aalto University student projects have provided important secondary sources to Habbo data.