Archive for February, 2011


Reading articles about the internet can teach you many things.  Like why can’t I get paid like everyone else?  You showed up late, and it’s all about being first. Why does so many free services exists that so many people use? They have value to the programmers, they just don’t tell you what kind of value.  Why do people do the things that they do?  People are random.  People do all kinds of things for all kinds of reasons, but we still think we can figure them out.

Reading Jeff Howe’s article on crowdsourcing explained how people can make money off the internet and businesses are more than happy to pay.  Crowdsourcing is a method where businesses pose problems to the internet and ask for assistance.  Solutions are then compensated by the businesses.  Lots of money can be made in this way.  Little bits of money can be made this way as well.  In the end, it adds up to a lot of money spread across multiple avenues.  Crowdsourcing is just one method that the internet community can be used as a tool.

Jose van Dijck looked at internet tools in a different way.  He presented what the tools themselves gain from the community.  Popularity is nice, but it is also profitable.  What a tool may lose by being free to the general public, it gains through connections and data.  Users sign up to these sites and turn over their rights to privacy to varying degrees.  Sites are able to track usage of their tools and how those tools are being used.  The sites gain demographics and behavioral statistics.  These bits of information turn into data that is sought out by other businesses that are interested in how people are using the internet.  That data can also be used to motivate business to work themselves into the tools.  The tool may be free upfront to the community, but it takes away something worth more than a simple subscription fee.

Lastly, we have to understand why people use the internet and its tools in the way that they do.  Terry Daugherty and his team decided to research into those motivations.  People can have many reasons to interact with internet, and Daugherty’s test was to analyze those reasons using the standard motivation tools that have been developed over decades.  Those reasons are broken down into four main points: utilitarian function, knowledge, ego-defensive, and value-expression. The survey added in a social component to add another layer based on how social media chooses self-described. This analysis relates to rewards (utilitarian), for knowledge sake (knowledge), for people’s well-being (ego-defensive), for self-expression (value-expression), and socializing with others (social). The survey was sent out and they received a sample of more than 300 people.  The results were fairly predictable.  The leading reason for people doing things across the internet: social.  People like to connect to others.  Ego-defensive and value-expression came next and those falling to the rear were utilitarian and knowledge.  People first wanted to be social, then helpful and entertaining. Ego-defensive and value-expression can be taken as social aspects as well, at least more so than the other two.

People like other people.  Recluses are the oddities.  It only makes sense that human beings will gather and share.  The internet only makes it easier to find like-minded others. We want to speak and be heard, and if people are listening to us, we’re more likely to listen to them.

 

Next on my reading list is “Groundswell” by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff.  The book introduces the concept of the groundswell.  The writers come up with some elaborate definitions, which I applaud.  But for my simple mind, I’ll just say that the concept talks about how the programs become popular not because of themselves but because of the people that choose to use it.  It is about the community that builds up and around the various tools that the internet provides that is the groundswell.

That makes sense.  People are the driving force behind popularity.  Popularity is what makes something useful.  Popularity can be measured within the community that is targeted.  Niche communities can drive a site if everyone sees that site as a meeting ground.  The greatest program in the world can exist, but if no one wants to use it for whatever reasons, then it doesn’t have any use in the social world.

The social components that make these things useful build from understanding the community.  Communities can range in their characteristics within and without.  Generalizations can be made about groups of people.  What separates fans of one page from another?  Does that difference reflect a specific aspect of that group?  Can we measure or define that aspect?  These are the questions that were posed early on in “Groundswell,” and the answer was very interesting.

The discovery was understanding that different groups breakdown differently.  A=A so what? The breakdown was the fascinating part.  Li and Bernoff’s research dissecting the internet communities into Creators, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Spectators, and Inactives.  They labeled this the Social Technographics ladder and from that they could build profiles about communities.  Being able to understand a community in regards to how they choose to interact within themselves shows an insight into how to target that community.  If a group prefers to interact amongst itself as joiners, then the marketing should be aimed at that.  Knowing where the majority sits is a great tool.  This is another part of a simple concept, targeting your audience.  If dog lovers prefer to upload pictures of their mutts, then target creators.  If your targeting audience likes to read forums and rate posts, then target critics.  Each community has a preference.  Preferences are not all-encompassing, but it does show a place to aim.

 

Look what I found. It looked more like a cookie. Tasted more like cardboard. I do not recommend producing more Wheat Fats without more research and recipe adjustments.

Wheat Fat meets Wheat Thin 1

Wheat Fat meets Wheat Thin 2

Just read a couple of articles pointing in a common direction. Consumers have gained a level of power in the retail world.  First, Rachel Demerling wrote “Twitter Me This, Twitter Me That” where she talked about the consumer’s desire for customization.  That people wanted to be an individual within a group conforming around an idea or product.  Odd how that work, yet it does. Secondly, Andy Hobsbwan discussed the need for action by the brands in his “Brands 2.0 – brands in a digital world.” Accepting the fast paced movement of the consumers is the first step.  Understanding that consumers are now controlling where they go and what they look at is the next. Now how do the brands find ways to get those consumers to look at them and keep looking at them day in a day out?  Interactivity is a great pull.

Both articles expressed the power of the consumer.  The consumer has so many options, that the brands need to pull out all the tricks to gain their attention and hold their attention.  Often it is understanding the need for two way communication.  It is no longer about broadcasting the brand’s ideas to an awaiting public, but rather establishing a dialogue for the brand and the consumers as well as establishing a safe forum for the consumers to discuss among themselves. There is a new found respect for consumer and the competition between brands is becoming more drastic as the world’s options become easier to access.

Chapter 1, Part 2

The house seemed tidy at first glance.  The floor carpeted and lacking any stains.  The living room looked like a page from a catalog; leather couches and recliner, with matching end tables, and even a throw rug to decorate the underside of the coffee table.  The place looked pristine, but at the same time it didn’t look like it had much use.  Everywhere the same white walls were seen.  Not much for decoration, not even plastic plants.  The illusion of comfort was unnecessary to Phil as long as the practical application of comfort could be felt when you sat on the couch or chairs.

Phil didn’t pursue anything in excess.  His bed was a queen that would suit his slightly above average height.  His couch was simple, but long enough to stretch out.  He was a man that preferred the soft texture of cotton rather than luxurious need for leather.

The kitchen was a different story.  This was a room designed for use.  His counter was cluttered with all kinds of appliances; each was known for their hard work.  Phil’s knives could only be found in a gourmet kitchen.  The kitchen also doubled as his workplace.  Phil could be found at his counters day and night with his laptop out and food within an arms reach.  He was a man known for his snacking.  The kitchen’s activities could be seen all over the place, as food was resting nicely upon the piles of dishes sitting in the sink and the tables were lined the sticky trails of food left out a bit too long.  Whatever impression the living room gave off, the kitchen replaced those thoughts with the exact opposite.

Phil wandered over to the kitchen; he was in search of something to kill the current hangover.  First the headache needed to be addressed.  Phil grabbed one of the glasses from the sink, turned on the cold water and gave the glass a quick bath.  No scrubbing necessary, the last thing it held was water, and Phil was content with that.  He refilled the glass and reached for the aspirin, which was always conveniently left out on the counter top.  Step one done.  Next was to find something to eat, and at the same time that something could not make his stomach feel worse.  Bread is always a safe bet, and bread is most useful when constructing a sandwich.

Phil had a typical set of sandwiches.  When he goes to the grocer he buys the specific set of ingredients for those sandwiches.  First is the egg sandwich.  Eggs are always good to have lying around incase of various cooking emergencies, such as baking a cake or making an omelet.  Though Phil did not tend to bake much, eggs were something to keep close by none the less.  Phil’s first thought was that eggs are good source of protein for the stomach after a hangover, but when he got to thinking about a runny egg, the desire faded.  Tuna fish is a secondary staple, but not the kind of sandwich that is required to chase down the previous night’s intoxication.  When he really thought about it, fish mixed with mayonnaise and pickles sounded like a craving for a pregnant woman rather than something to cure what ails of a stomach.  Ham and cheese was the next sandwich to make its way into Phil’s kitchen, but when it is prepared, it has to be done to perfection.  The right cheeses and the right meat accompanied by the perfect set of vegetables resting upon it all.  Often times the ham sandwich can grow larger than one’s own mouth, and that is how it should be when done properly.  Phil understood this and accepted the conclusion that he was not in the proper state of mind to prepare such a sandwich with the respect that it deserved.  Thus he came upon the final sandwich to which he buys the ingredients for, that being the peanut butter and jelly.  Bread should soak up the pain in his stomach, at least Phil was willing to give the bread that much credit, and the peanut butter should show stability to the irk in his belly.  The jelly was simply a bonus, a fruity flavoring of grape to make the experience that much more enjoyable.

This event was not uncommon for Phil.  The waking up outside his front door is, but the desire for sandwiches after a night of drinking was commonplace for Phil on a Sunday morning.  Now it was time to figure out what happened during Saturday night.

If you’ve been keeping up with the recent posts, you’ve noticed that I’ve been reading “Here Comes Everybody” by Clay Shirky. Well now I’m done. Good read. If you have ever wondered about the things that people do, especially within the age of the internet, then you should pick this up.  Read the first chapter while you’re standing in the bookstore, I bet you’ll walk out of there still holding it (while hopefully paying for it).

To wrap up the book, I’ve learned many things.  I’ve learned about the internet and some obscure stories that were interesting and some stories that have affected the lives of millions, if not billions.  One thing I found at the tail end of the book gave a little bit of insight into business and people as well as the business of people.  It was a simple process of analyzing failure.  Failure isn’t something we can just cut out of our lives.  “You win some. You lose some.” “It’s not about whether you get knocked down. It’s about whether you get back up.” “Everything tastes better with ice cream.”  Not sure if last one holds up as well as the first two, but you get the point.  These clichés exists because they’re true (though ice cream could be argued against).  People as a whole have come to terms with failure.  The next step is how do we find the successes?

Business had failure down to a science.  Business has to do it that way in order to avoid it.  Maximize success while minimizing failure.  That sounds like as good a slogan as anything else.  But what do we miss out on while trying to minimize failure? Minimizing failure takes priority over maximizing success.  It’s too expensive to have big failures.  And that is where the solution laid.  Business was afraid of the rate of failure.  Too many for too long and you get no where, except broke. If you can’t affect the rate of failure, because failure happens, then maybe something can be done with the cost of failure.  That was the method of the internet: free collaboration.  And the internet is big enough to have everything happening at once.  There is lots of room for failure, lots of room for success too.

Another point of interest is the communities on the internet.  Three are communities that are strong enough to control the programs they exist within.  There were a few examples, but they all showed one thing.  Social capital can and does exist in the internet.  It showed how members of a community see themselves as that, members.  As such, certain members can be showed a higher level of deference by others.  Inside jokes can form and bond these members.  Also, many people find themselves within these niche corners of the internet finding people they just like talking too.  These niches expand to cover the members rather than just the topic.  People come together under an idea, but they stay because of the people there.  This allowed the people to control the programs.  The community was more important than the topic.

Here comes everybody.  Everybody seems like infinity. It has a meaning, but it can’t really be conceptualized.  But once you realize all the things that exist, and all the things that people do.  You start to understand that “everybody” is a whole hell of a lot of people.

Clay Shirky proposes a lot of interesting concepts through his book “Here Comes Everybody.” The latest one to pique my interest is the ultimatum game.

The ultimatum game establishes a scenario where two individuals are given with an option. The first is given the sum of $10 to be separated in any fashion between the two. The second has the choice of accepting the first’s offer or rejecting the offer where neither would gain anything. The simple math is that the first person would maximize his or her gain by offering $9.99 to him or herself, while giving $.01 to the second person. The second person should be happy with anything since anything is better than nothing and accept the offer. That isn’t what happens. People don’t like getting the short end of the stick, even if it is better than having no stick. Fairness is a simple concept. Children go around claiming the fairness of things, and getting 1 cent of 10 dollars isn’t fair. So the second person rejects this offer. The experiment presented by Shirky goes on to state that people are willing to take some degree of unfairness if the gain is better than the rejection without being too insulting. The experiment he referred to stated that people were more willing to accept offers around $7 to $3. 70%-30% split is enough to satisfy the unfairness if a person has nothing invested. Good to know.

There is a reason why men don’t go to the bathroom in groups, at least while it is unavoidable.  Because men’s bathrooms smell like men’s locker rooms.  The location does not encourage gathering.  Unlike women, no guy wants to stand in the bathroom any longer than he must.  The place has a constant funk.  A scent that lingers, and lingers, and lingers.  Pretty sure you can’t febreeze that.

So ladies, please understand that men do not understand why the group adventure to the bathroom is so appealing.