I recently posted an introduction to Scrabb.ly (now called WordSquared). Since then, I have still been playing, loading up Scrabb.ly from time to time and extending my original chain of words. Here are a few survival tips that I have learned:
When you see other players encroaching, run away! It's pretty easy to just keep forming words on a grid with open space. You can generally find some place in your grid to fit nearly any letter, and in the worst case, you can hit "swap tiles" and start off with a new set of letters. The biggest threat to your survival is being boxed in by other players (but see below about how to deal with that).
Start in a relatively empty part of the board. New players will be randomly placed near recent activity, but you don't really want to be within sight of another player. They might perceive you as a threat and try to box you in. It's better to backtrack from the front a little and find a quiet place where you can start building on your own. That way you can get your bearings and build up a big enough grid that you can always find some place to dump letters.
To be sure that your part of the board is open, keep in mind that...
The map is not the territory. Currently, the little map up in the left hand corner (which can be expanded by clicking on the box with the arrows in it) is not up to date. It seems like it is updated maybe once a day (if that). Note that this is likely to change in the future, as the site is improved. For now, it means that if you want to scope out the competition, you have to drag around the board (which can also be done by dragging on the map) to see where the tiles actually are.... [OK, the map updates more quickly now, at least for a player's own tiles which appear in a chunkier white trail dynamically added as another layer over the main map]. In addition to checking out the big version of the map from time to time, it also helps to keep an eye on the little expanding circles that appear on the map whenever someone plays a word.
It is possible to break out when surrounded! This technique was written up by SPAZIN who is currently third on the leaderboard (for human players). He explained his technique here. (You can tell he is an expert from how concisely he explains it). I thought it would benefit from a bit more description, so I decided to expand on it a little below.
Step 1: Identify a place to break through:
Here I decided that I could build to the left through another player's DEN to make a word like INDENT.
Step 2: Build over in that direction.
Step 3: Plan your approach.
At this point I was close enough to map out a specific path. I imagined hanging an O off of the S to make SO, and then constructing a three-letter word like AGO from that O, and finally a three-letter word like SEA, where the S would form the end of the eventual word INDENTS.
I then had to go off to some other part of my grid to dump a lot of letters before I got the tiles I needed to make INDENTS.
Step 4: Break out.
Note that the DEN tiles now have dark letters, indicating that I now have a partial claim to them. I believe this means that I could build off of any of them, even if none of my original tiles are involved.
Step 5: Run away!
You can now escape the blockade and continuing playing Scrabb.ly as usual.