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#next11 – Lessons from Community-Centric Businesses

It’s nearly the end of the conference, and I’m flagging. I’ve tried to distill the essence of the advice from three community-driven businesses and keep this punchy. Here goes:


Jovoto – Bastian Unterberg

I found the first talk the most difficult to get value from. Unterberg talked about the problem of disposable coffee cups used by most coffee shops, and their huge environmental cost; 16bn gallons of water, millions of trees – they’re the cost of disposable coffee cups. The average in-use life spans is seven minutes…

So, they launched a competition – betacup – to try and resolve the problem.  They reached out to Starbucks who had an interanl team working on the same problem. They connected multiple communites – threadlessInstructables, core77

The result? 430 ideas in 1600 versions, with 13k votes on them. And a tonne of brand exposure for Starbucks. But, uh, as far as I can figure, no actual solution as yet. And surely, unless something actually comes from this, all that goodwill will turn bad…?

Etsy – Matt Stinchcomb

Matt Stinchcomb

Like so many startups, Etsy was born, 6 years ago, from an idea in a flat. And that idea took $100k in its first year, then $7m, then $27 to $600m now. 96.5% of that money stays in the community. It’s not an eCommerce site, but a marketplace, says Stinchcomb. You don’t just go there to buy, but to join in with the community. Once you knew the cobbler who made your shoes, you knew the baker who baked your bread. You supported them because you knew them – and they supported you back. So Etsy is about the community.

They publish all their revenue and traffic details – the community is a partner. They hold meetups wherever they go in the world.

They grow primarily through word of mouth. They need to give their community tools to bring more people to the site. The desire to use them comes from the relationship. Community curation and activity determines the home page, rather than the traditional metrics of what sells when.

SoundCloud – David Noël

David Noël

Everyday, we choose a user as SoundClouder of the day, says Noël. They started sending back stories about how the site has changed their lives. Site was built from the group upwards to encourage participation. People can put comments at particular moments in the track. Community people can tend to talk too much – do too much. It’s important to listen and absorb. The first thing you need is support – the faster, more personal and more friendly the reply, the better. It’s the foundation of the community team. When things go bad, be totally transparent and keep communicating until things are fixed.

Other community initiatives: SoundCloud Local – picking a city a week. Meetups. Old-Skoolers – took them on board and talked to them, along with QnAs. Sessions on their roof in Berlin.

Be patient and place dots – you want too much too fast. It’s extremely hard, and you need to be patient. See how people respond to your dots.

#next11 – An API to your body’s data

David Rowan

David Rowan tried to build a compelling case for gathering and sharing data about yourself, because it can benefit both yourself and society.

One example: Patients like me. It’s a site where people are sharing response to treatments for 500 different conditions. In particular, for one condition called ALS, there was a belief that lithium could delay the onset of some symptoms. So some of them took lithium treatments, and some didn’t. And they found that it didn’t work – not even a placebo effect. Pushed science forward.

Lots of people have depression. There are lots of different ways of coping. The community tracked 5000 people to see what worked and what didn’t. Most popular and effective was exercise, followed by more sleep. But there were some interesting results in the middle around various art-type therapies.

Self-tracking and self-reporting is moving forward our knowledge, he suggested.

Some other tools:

  • mycrocosym – allows you to visualise anything
  • runkeeper – tracks you using GPS – maps, graphs and share with other people. Got an e-mail congratulating him on April being the best month yet. Drove him to do better this month.
  • Daytum – allows you to track all sorts of everyday facts about your life.
  • 23 and me (although I know a PhD geneticist who is sceptical about this)

Price of storage is trending towards zero.1TB is £50 from Amazon.So why shouldn’t we collect this data? We might not know what we’ll use it for now, we might not spot the trends straight away, but over time, we will. And we’ll regret not storing more once we do.

A lot more of our devices are going to be linked to the network –  so we need to take control. Companies are collecting data about us. Why shouldn’t we? It’s opening up our own API.

#next11 – Beaming a mouse and other data-driven product designs…

Martin Deinoff and Frederick Marcus gave what has to be the most strange presentation I’ve seen at NEXT. The talk was nominally about making data central to product design.

You should bake technology into the product to make it better, they suggested. And there are several layers of data:

  1. Product
  2. Product data layer
  3. Extended service data layer.
  4. Organic data layer (social media)
  5. Broadcasting data layer

data layers in product development

So, a pair of scales with a WiFi chip (layer 2) apps and website (layer 3) and then tweets your weight (layer 4) – or connect to your doctor or your sports system…

Beware: The power of habits is strong, the habits of power possibly even stronger. (IE, your traditional management may be resistant to these concepts – there’s always golf to distract them – and you need to find ways of doing this that don’t need their permission)

But data is a two-way flow. You need to respect and understand the power of the user – something they never had before: time, media, tools, opinions and information. Time, for example, is time shifting of media consumption. Fredrik is a time-shifter, never watching TV when it’s broadcast. We chose to control media – like using comparison sites instead of going to a business’s site.

Frederick Marcus

Product development is all about utilising the power of digital technology. The levels of data we have now are new. There’s an ecosystem of data around every product in social networks and elsewhere. Price as a message (or absent message) is a problem – because people now have easy access to that information. Transparency is damn efficient. It is better to be good than to try and persuade people that you are good. Why are cars more integrated with the net? Spotify in the car – homepage linking to maintenance videos. Data about how you drive and your fuel consumption. Make it useful, and then you can integrate commerce around it. Integrate everything.

And then we went into a bizarre demo – of a teleport system mediated by your iPhone or iPad.

Martin Deinoff

The beaming app, you see was too technical, so people made mistakes, and so they went missing during the teleport.  So they had to back people up. Problem: old backups. Half a year old in some cases – kids had grown, wife left… Half a year of work to catch up to. Solution: Instant backup.

How interesting is it to see Foursquare and Gowalla in Facebook? Not very… Now you’re beaming it is very, very interesting….

And then they demoed beaming a mouse live on stage. Uh, wait for the video. It might make sense then…


#next11 – Social Media for Good

WARNING: Liveblogging. Here be errors, inaccuracies and typos

Peter Bihr

The panel is working on the assumption that social media is going to go away as a separate, but become integrated into the whole of the business.

Mike Arauz, Undercurrent

Mike Arauz

Mr Arauz prefers to do over-complex presentations. But today (phew) he’s going to try and keep it simple. In the summer of 2004, a group of people built a system that allowed them to deliver messages to 1000s of places all over the world. And he’s going to go through a whole number of examples like that…

I Love Bees – an immersive game that promoted Halo 2. Thousands of gamers worked together to solve puzzles and take on challenges. The ARG evolved to the point where “Melissa” (the alien character) would call one payphone, and demand that someone at another payphone somewhere in the world, and the person who answered had to have the answer. The developers pushed it down to 15 seconds – and still the players managed it.

Reddit & Stephen Colbert – How do you get Stephen Colbert’s attention for your plan? Work together to raise money for a charity he’s on the board off – and he went on to host the rally they wanted him to.

Ask Metafilter – a spin-off community from Metafilter, full of people who enjoy research. One day, a post: “Help me help my fiend in DC.” The friend, a woman, had come over on a shaky visa situation. She was going to meet some people in New York, and her friend was concerned that she would be kidnapped, or dragged into sex slavery. In 24 hours, 20 to 50 people called embassies, government agencies, the FBI, the police, the woman herself. By the time she got to New York, she had met a safe person from the community, the NYP investigated the people she was to meet, and they turned out to be sex trafficers…

It Gets Better – After a series of teen suicides by kids who were being bullied for being gay, Dan Savage and his husband posted a video. 3 days later they had one extra video. Within a month they had thousands, including a messaged of support from Obama.

So why do people do things they don’t have to?

  • Accomplishing satisfying work
  • Get good at something
  • Spend time with people I like
  • Be part of something bigger

Will Sansom, Contagious

Will Sansom

Contagious is a quarterly magazine looking at the future of marketing and engagement. And we’re in an era when people tune out of anything that looks like marketing. But he argues that it’s all become marketing (God, I hope not). People are looking for entertainment and meaningful experiences.  That’s why you can’t carpet-bomb people with social media – it needs to be meaningful.


1. Projects, not campaigns

Lots of brands are having success through effective change in the real world. You can’t plan and schedule this in the same way as traditional campaigns. They need to be designed to live and grow organically. Volvo’s right to clean air is cites as an example.

“Dude we should do” – problem of jumping on bandwagons. Chose the media that work for your idea, not whatever’s trendy.

Doesn’t have to be worthy – Nightlife Exchange Project

Is you project so good people would share it without media, then you have something that will work.

2. Networks of the Unacquainted

Getting people to connect around common interests, and reaping the benefit. Examples:

3. The Emotional Power of Response

  • @jessGreenwood tweeted @flyairnz asking them to change the music in the airline lounge. She was paged, called to the desk and asked to change the music… Of course, she tweeted to her thousands of followers about the experience.
  • @interfloraUK monitoring Twitter for people who are having a bad day – and sending them flowers to cheer them up.

Social data – lets you treat people as people. Data is the oil of social media – useless until you refine it.

  • @twelpforce – Best Buy’s tech pros on twitter offering real time after sales services. Creates a real relationship with recent customers.
  • iButterfly – an augmented reality butterfly collection game – and the butterfly becomes a coupon for a local retaier – and they’re sharable with friends…

Amanda Rose, Twestival

Amanda Rose

She was nine when LiveAid happened – but that sense of being part of something bigger than yourself left a deep impact on her. He had big dreams of changing the world 20 years ago, but then became part of the PR world. About 5 years ago she had the “wow” moment of social media with Facebook. She did a Masters about Twitter (I was interviewed for it 😉 ). She found that it changed events, because of the backchannel…

In 2008, she and friends organised a meet-up, a good night out, called Twestival – and it was great. And she couldn’t help thinking that this was something that should happen all over the world. But it took finding the right charity – and that turned out to be Charity Water.

202 Twestivals simultaneously around the world was the result. 55 new wells in 3 countries was the result.

Now there’s two different branches of Twestical: Global and Local. Over the four campaigns, they’ve raised $1.75m and 200+ cities have participated.

Social media has changed the game – they was no way all those volunteers worldwide could have been mobilised without Twitter. Even Facebook couldn’t have done it.

Amanda doesn’t have a home right now. She was in Sicily, and now going to Thailand, and then Switzerland… Skype and social media have enabled that working pattern.

The first Twestival cost her £200. To raise that much money for £200 – pretty crazy. She’s not a fan of “Tweet this” – she wants to see connection and tangible results.

#next11 – Driven to Distraction

Warning: Liveblogging. Here be inaccuracy, errors and typos

Here goes a session on attention, distraction and obsession:

Jeremy Tai Abbett has set himself a challenge: answering a question

What is continuous partial attention?

Jeremy Tai Abbett

Four steps to Zen:

1. Infinite Resources

Moores law – where once it was number of users per computer, but 100s of computers per user. Digital is making a lot of things obsolete. The music industry is “pretty fucked”. Music is no longer about distribution. Digital photography has made film obsolete. The Kindle is quickly replacing print books. Publishing companies – the iPad is meant to save them, but we’ll see…

The old model was about scarcity. The new model is all about abundance. What was scarce before – information – is now abundant. But our attention hasn’t gone up. attention is the new scarcity.

We have: infinite resources and limited attention

2. New Behaviours

Attention no longer focuses on the TV – it’s on the phone, the iPad, the iPad, the computer… And consumers are now producers. Messages from friends drown our commercial messages – we’re no longer as important as we were. Everybody wants to be at the middle of the social graph.

Old thing x new technology = FAIL

You NEED new thinking

3. Opt-out

Highly technical people are dictating how we communicate with each other. The least social people are dictating how we interact. They force us to opt-out not opt-in. There’s software that kills you internet connections for a set time to allow you to focus. Opt out is the new opt-in.

4. Question Everything

The rise of makers shows that people are happy to take things apart and make new things, and recognise that things aren’t the work of just one. The questions can be as important as the answers. question everything and answer only to yourself.

Dan Rollman

Dan Rollman is talking about the Universal Record Database – a crowd-sourced Guinness Book of World Records, based on the ideas that everyone can be the best at something, however bizarre. It was born from his adolescent desire to break records.

It’s a company employing eight people. People are often inventing records based on brands. For the last few years they’ve been working with brands for one off events, campaigns and now brand channels.

I want one of those yellow jackets…

Rollman has set us a record to break:

Rex Sorgatz worries that being over-connected is the new over-educated.


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#next11 #media – New metrics for a new media age

Warning: Liveblogging. Here be inaccuracy, errors and typos

Pablo Metz

Pablo Metz at NEXT11

How similar are the Union Flag and the Tricolore? Both flags…

Bike and a ball? Not very. Expcept, they’re both things people buy for their kids.

This is the problem data has right now. Measurable quantities are important, but easy and limited. Characteristics like brand held. But you also need to understand product categories.

You CANNOT handle all of the data out there. If you want to do things in real time, you have to choose the data you work with. Item to item? If one person bought a bike and protectors, you can recommend protectors to someone who buys a bike. But if they bought the bike for a performing monkey, and also bought bananas, you’re going to get strange results.

So, you use social demographics, because people who share characteristics, tend to share habits. But not completely – would you recommend AC/DC to a mid-40s above average income guy (uh, probably 🙂 )

All of this standard targeting is limited.

So… social media marketing. All friends! Similar likes! Except… grandma is a friend on Facebook. Very different tastes…

So…consumer action mining – similar customers who are interested in the same things. Segment all you customers into groups, without throwing away information. And algorithm based on the physics of complex systems. Physicists laugh at us – because they deal with way more data than we do.

We do data mining on the actions of your consumers – might be buying, might be surfing pages, might be listening to a track or playing a game. All good. All interesting. People have many dimensions. If we show the consumer something, and he doesn’t click on it – we need to capture that. We need negative events, too.

What you need:

  1. raw data and anonymised data
  2. unique user ID, unique event ID
  3. 3 events per user

He gave us an example of four groups of users – who all looked the same. They had to go deeper to sub-categories of activities before they were able to spot differentiation. He seems to be suggesting a lot of pre-calculation, that allows you to match event tracks in real time to particular people.

Claus Moseholm, goviralclaus moseholm

Let’s talk video. 

The audience is about engagement. You want them to spend time on your video, to engage with you. It’s not about click through to an e-shopping page, it’s about building emotional ties. Traditionally, we focused on the success of click-through – and the rates of click-through have been dropping almost since the internet began. So, there’s been a shift from destination to distribution as a central plank of thinking.  Video both gives you the opportunity to tell a story and gives you better click rates – but that’s on the “play” button.

Media are shifting display and TV budgets into online and viral video. Your moving beyond brand awareness into engagement. CPM is giving way to CPE – cost per engagement or view. 

Afterwards? Sure, you can put a click through there, but many people use that space for interactive overlays and other experiences at the end of the video. It’s about persuading them that they want to spend time with us. Rates of people doing follow up actions after a video are going UP. <– interesting. 

However, engagement drops with video length – the median seems to be just under a minute, according to a graph he showed. Keep it short.

Ciaran O’Kane of exchangewire.com gave a quick update on what publishers are doing with modern ad models. Most interesting idea: Could publishers become media agencies? If they’re inventory limited, could they start selling those extra ads on, using their own data and the trading platforms?

Wolf Allisat of ComScore is “the antichrist of clicks”. He goes around telling people that clicks are the wrong thing to measure. Click-through rates on online ads. 0.11% click through in any month. People try to make up for this with volume. And we could, for a while, when growth rates were 200%. Clever advertisers are buying loads of PPC ads, because they get all the brand awareness with none of the costs… Publishers should change their models right now. 

Wolf Allisat

And who are the people were clicking? 62% of clicks from 3% of the internet audience… Do you really want those people?

Significant branding CAN be achieved, according to comScore research. It drives sales – and the offline lift is higher (!) than the online lift. 

#next11 – Socialising Search with Bing

Ralf Herbrich of Bing

Ralf Herbrich of Bing, which we all know as the other search engine, is up and talking about making search more social. This is something that Google are starting to play with, but which is not seen as their forte. An opportunity for the Bing folks? Perhaps.

Herbrich kicked off by setting a pretty damn familiar scene. He presented us with a lot of data to persuade us that social is one of the most important data sets on the web, if for no other reason than sheer size:

Social data signals in comparison with other sources

Bing has a pretty deep intergration with Facebook, giving you a set of social information overlaid on the raw search data that your query produces. I can’t decide if the map search he showed, which brought up which of his friends lived in that area was cool or creepy…

They started a research project about a year ago to try and determine link quality on Twitter. Tweets with links appear to be perceived as of better quality than those without…

Twitter is an incredible fast news distribution system, but unless you find the right 40 or 50 people, it can be hard to get what you want. So, they want to build a database of what people like or don’t like by the links they share on Twitter, and comparative traces from others like them.  But how do you predict whether they will like a new product? Metadata.Metadata about people and products (like actor, director, genre etc for movies) allow you to build a sophisticated taste matching matrix.

Project Emporia:

Strip out all your tweets without links, and run them through this matchbox matrix discussed above, which matches people types with what the algorithm thinks they like or not. This can feed into search results even for something brand new – but you need to feed back results on individual pages straight away.

Project Emporia then builds you a newspaper (this customised news pages based on social sharing are all the rage, aren’t they?)

Some discussion in the questions as to wether you will reshape your friendships based on your search results. No-one wanted to admit that this will happen… But it’s an interesting idea. I can’t help feeling that it brings a large element of recommendation into search – which is great – but it brings the danger of the bubble mindset, where you never really see anything challenging to you…