In my session on an Open Web App Marketplace during this year’s Mozilla Summit 2010 I wanted to split my time into 15 minutes of me talking & presenting and use the remaining 30 minutes for a discussion with the attendees. My main observation with open forum-style discussions is that you usually only get a fraction of people to speak (people are shy, the discussion moves on and your original point might not be appropriate anymore, people sometimes get into a bit of bikeshedding, etc). To overcome this problem, we originally planned to break the group into smaller sub-groups of 5-8 people and let them run through a structured brain storming exercise. As we expected to have more than 100 people in the session, this became somewhat complex. On a hunch I decided to try an experiment: What if we would allow the audience to discuss in person (one person speaking at a time with me moderating) and use an Etherpad as a back-channel for the participants to jot down their thoughts and notes. At the same time one of my colleagues kindly offered to take notes from the live discussion and add them to the Etherpad. It turned out to not only work - but blow my expectations out of the water. The group not only had a very fruitful live discussion but people were hacking away on the Etherpad. The interesting thing which happened, was that people started to have conversations on the Etherpad itself - people agreed, disagreed, argued and sharpened their arguments. We ended up with about 10 pages full of extremely valuable comments, thoughts and ideas. The Etherpad software itself handled the onslaught of more than 50 people hacking on the same document at the same time with grace and created a fascinating visual artifact as participants could see how thoughts were developed in real time (which we also projected on the main screen). I highly recommend giving Etherpad as a backchannel a try for your next public talk. You can download the Open Source software here.
Recently the whole world seems to go nuts over “Facebook fans”, “Twitter followers” and all the other signs of wondrous consumer love. The common notion is that consumers aren’t merely users of your product or service anymore but that they have to become fans, lovers and/or evangelists of your brand (which is not your brand anymore anyway - but that’s another story). Which makes me wonder: What does it actually mean when you have a “fan” on Facebook? How does this fan translate into real business (or whatever other meaningful metric your business has)? I bet - little. Fast Company (not my favorite business magazine as they seem to rather mindlessly jump on all the latest trends) recently published an interesting article: “Five Steps for Consumer Brands to Earn Social Currency” – arguing that the sole notion of buzz, fans and followers is rather meaningless on it’s own. They go on and state “Not every brand should be social” and “Social tools are a means, not an end”. So far so good. But - in the same magazine they run a story about Mekanism, a buzz marketing/social media agency, hailing their business and how they help brands build followers and fans. The article goes on to point out achievements such as “[…] hired Mekanism to double Del Taco’s 20,000 Facebook fans” - 20,000 Facebook fans to what end??? Especially disturbing is the example of Toyota’s Matrix campaign, which basically encouraged people to unleash a stalker attack on their friends. The campaign resulted in “[…] a woman had filed a lawsuit against Toyota and Saatchi stating she’d feared for her life and had resorted to sleeping with a machete under her pillow.” The article goes on to hail the fact that the campaign drew 4 million visits (again: to what end?). 4 Million visits and at least one person suffering severe mental trouble (I guess that’s what you call collateral damage). Maybe I just don’t get it… Update: Patricia Clausnitzer translated my blog post into Belorussian - read it here.
We recently were invited to present Mozilla Labs at a workshop on open innovation and crowdsourcing organized by Eric von Hippel (MIT) and Karim Lakhani (HBS). The workshop brought academics and practitioners from organizations such as General Mills (food), Ford (automobile), Pitney Bowes (services) and the World Bank (finance) together, and had each present the specific implementation of crowdsourcing at their respective organization. Below you’ll find my deck on Mozilla Labs’ approach, experiments, results and challenges in the wider area of crowdsourcing - aptly named “Lessons from Mozilla - How we are learning to foster and grow participation”.
Flipping through this deck, I realize that this also acts as a good update on what Mozilla Labs worked on in the last 12 months in relation to the Concept Series and Design Challenge.
Recently I bought a new bicycle at Mike’s Bikes - and got this card a few days later… :)
I’ve been running barefoot for a little while now - and beside the fact that I injured my Achilles tendon pretty badly while running barefoot a few weeks ago (which to be fair was my own fault - the typical “too much, too soon” problem) – I enjoy it greatly! It’s simply a tremendously good feeling, it’s good for your feet and ankles (if you’re not doing “too much, too soon”) and it might help you find better running form. One thing which always bugged me is the idea of barefoot running shoes (which is pretty much an oxymoron) and more importantly - their price. It started with Vibram’s Five Fingers which are the tool of choice for a lot of barefoot runners - priced at $85 for a fancy piece of molded rubber. But hey - if it makes you run barefoot, I guess $85 are a fair price (I for one bought a pair a little while ago). And as Barefoot Ted points out - they are the perfect example of a trojan horse, getting people to run barefoot who would never dream of running truly shod-less. Lately TerraPlana get’s a lot of press for their Evo barefoot running shoe - which is again basically a thin piece of molded rubber with a minimalist upper. The fun part about the Evos - they set you back $160! One-hundred-sixty dollars? Seriously? For an un-shoe, a shoe which only exists to protect me from some sharp objects which I might encounter on my barefoot runs? And probably more importantly - a shoe which pretty much resembles my old ASICS Onisuka Tigers, which I can still buy for about $50 a pair. So here’s the thing - if you want to run barefoot, by all means: try it out! It’s great. But do it, as nature intended you to run barefoot - barefoot! Don’t spend $160 (which can buy you some wonderful things in life) and don’t let anyone sell you ice if you’re an Eskimo.
Over the last few days two very well written articles about Mozilla Labs in general and the Concept Series in particular were published by BusinessWeek and ZDNet. BusinessWeek took a broad view of design and innovation in Open Source and published their article “Mozilla Labs Explores Open Source Design” as part of an online special. Dana Blankenhorn from ZDNet wrote a very passionate piece about Labs and our work together with the wider community: “Mozilla Labs where the future is being made today”. Both articles are testament of the amazing Mozilla Labs community, the creativity and passion of each and every participant in our Design Challenges and what we accomplished together. Currently we are working hard on building better tools, better programs, more outreach and create more opportunities to participate – I can’t wait to see what 2010 has in store for us! To end with, I couldn’t have said it any better myself – in Dana’s words: “Try things out. Play - Play is where great ideas come from.”
My dear friends at Fast Company recently ran an article about the restaurant chain Houlihan and their use of a private social network to connect to their die-hard fans & diners. They managed to build their network to 10,500 “Houlifans”, who provide feedback to the company (in return for coupons, exclusive information and so on). So far so good… What starts to tick me off is the fact that every time a business magazine such as Fast Company talks about communities, the very next line is about profits:
The community's feedback has allowed the company to revamp on the fly, and the small-plates menu now accounts for 26% of item sales in the 10 markets where it has debuted. Those dishes carry a higher-than-average profit margin on smaller-than-average portions. In the Kansas City area, site of the first test, overall profits are up 12% [...]
Seriously - if that’s the way you see your community (and I am sure Houlihan wouldn’t have more than 10,000 fans in their network if they would treat their community members purely like a way to increase revenue), you better don’t even start. It’s a recipe for disaster. So - please dear business writers: I know that it’s compelling to draw the comparison between organizations with strong communities and increased revenues. But that’s not the story - it’s the byproduct of an organization which produces something their customers want.
I did some hacking and with considerably little amount I managed to create a proper tumblr template for this site - and so it begins: My journey away from Twitter and the all-too-short 140 characters and away from Wordpress (which is a great platform but always felt to big & complex to me) to tumblr. Bear with me while I figure this out - and be assured that my next posts will be a bit more substantial. :)
It’s most likely just me and the fact that I tend to babble on Twitter - but lately I find myself more and more scratching my head and wondering if the signal to noise ratio on Twitter really is that bad… Combined with the fact that Twitter seems purely about shouting and not about discussion (anymore) I figured that I try something different: I’ll move most of my conversation to a tumblr (micro-) blog at blog.finette.co.uk – let’s see how that goes. :)
Yeah - I know… But. There are still people who think you can “market to the social web” – point in case: Adam L. Penenberg’s book Viral Loop (no link to Amazon as I don’t endorse reading this book!) was recently market in Fast Company with the headline:
Go Viral. The users do all the marketing. You reap all the profits.
Yes. You get it Adam. Good luck reaping the profits from your book going viral.