Grit is good, anonymity is better


There are certain online sites which tend to evoke in people a feeling of the true nature – or the DNA – of the internet.  Chatroulette was one of these and 4chan is another. Usually what people mean by  ‘the DNA of the internet’ is unbridled raw expression which is often tainted by porn or other social vulgarity. Using this criteria the public bathroom wall has functioned in much the same way as the internet.

The Marketing Sandbox


Games used to be about consoles and phones and farm-related status updates on Facebook. But games have already moved into other areas that impact our purchases of everything from airline tickets to 1950s era office chairs on eBay.

The idea of a game layer for the world, seems very plausible. In fact if the game layer involves using mechanisms to cause new behavior, the game layer is most definitely already here – its just that most marketers aren’t thinking of themselves as game designers, yet.

Loyalty versus Deals deathmatch

Groupon has fast become the king of deals. It uses a simple combination of game mechanics to create irresistible offers:

+ the qualified “free lunch”: get 50% off! (but only if 100 people agree to the deal)

+ communal gameplay: only 53/100 have agreed so far, get your friends!

+ countdown: hurry, only 2 days and 1 hour left!

It’s JUST these game mechanics and an e-mail list (and a massive sales team) that keep Groupon running. SCVNGR believes they have a counter-measure to discounts to induce loyalty using a different set of mechanics around leveling up, fittingly called, “Level Up”.

Marketers are game designers

Groupon and SCVNGR are just the latest to take advantage of game mechanics. At the core, game mechanics are nothing new: they’re about understanding individual and group behavior and creating systems to get specific outcomes as a result of these insights.

Marketers should feel right at home, right?

Actually, marketers already design much more complex games. They get to draw on libraries of game mechanics from how people might respond to a story, to A/B tested copywriting in e-mail. Loyalty systems keep me from switching to a cheaper ticker because now I get special treatment in security lines. Social media added a host of new mechanics to cause behavior in people that causes other behavior in other people, so complexity has gone up again.

No wonder marketers get the feeling they may be missing opportunities – how could one possibly choose the right mix of approaches to changing behavior to get an optimal result?

How do I know it will work?

At the end of Seth’s session, 3,000 people frantically gestured to one another and began trading pieces of colored paper. It looked a little like the trading floor behind a TV announcer explaining a sharp equities sell-off.

The objective – work together to win a game, by organizing ourselves to create patterns using different colored cardboard sheets. There were a few rules, a clock, and a clear objective.

At the outset, if you had polled the room, my guess is most people would have voted against  a successful outcome. Yes, after 60 seconds, were were done. #epicwin

More experiments, fewer attempts to plan

Too often I encounter the following.

“We want to do something innovative”

[insert untested idea that might cause desired behavior here]

“How well will this work?”

“I’m not sure, but we have a way to test it”

“Oh, what else do you have?”

Seth could have tried to model and analyze what might have happened when 3,000 played a new game. But it was cheaper and more conclusive to simply run the game on a small scale as an experiment.  Real-world evidence trumps survey data every time.

Developers have been using this strategy for years, working and playing in sandboxes: places designed to test ideas and understand what works.

Maybe its time for a marketing sandbox?

[If you want to learn more about the SCVNGR panel at SXSW, we liked the thoughts from The Guardian and Made by Many.

Top Image: SCVNGR founder Seth Priebatsch doing behavior hacks on 3,000 of us at his SXSW keynote. ]

Epic Winning at SXSW


I love it. But will it work?

Heading into SXSW, many people are asking themselves this question of their new products, panels or parties.

So, using my very special mix of trend analysis, chatter analysis and witchdoctory, some prognostications for Epic Winning at SXSW.

1. Holler Gram

Remember backchannel? Now there is something new for presenters to contend with and a new way for session attendees to join in. Actually its likely also something that barkeeps, Austin TSA officials and a host of other people will come to know in short order.

The smart folks at Made by Many have created a physical messaging platform.

This is just genius because it is going to enable a bunch of new experiences in a simple elegant way. It’s an instant classic example of what we call scaffolding – the stuff organizations can make to enable others make.

2. Groupme

Ah the joy of social networking reduced to the core. Thank you Groupme. I can finally fill in the massive continuum between public and private without trying to understand Facebook privacy settings. Plus there are some fun power-ranger-esque features like a single button that instantly summons everyone in the group.

While I suspect many people don’t want to bother setting up a new Social Network, Groupme makes it so easy, it will be hard to not to.


3. GroupGram

In the spirit of good ideas having sex (combine the top 2 with MIT’s Flyfire), a new concept (possibly ready by the end of SXSW?). The idea is simple – enable screens to be networked together to create much bigger screens by defining groups.

Any takers?


Misunderestimating Communities

Building a better Tomorrowland

We wish you a happy, healthy 2020.

So there’s lots to do in 2011, to make this happen.

This was brought sharply into focus on our holiday trip to Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

The centerpiece of Tomorrowland is mini-speedway of fun to drive, CO2 spewing cars. This contrasts with the rather slow, not-particularly-funly-named, environmentally responsible, Peoplemover.

Shouldn’t we be asking for sustainability and fun? Maybe some Tesla-inspired electrics on the Tomorrowland circuit?

But there was hope in Tomorrowland – just ask Mike Wazowski (with one eye). For years Monsters Inc. was using “scream fuel”, when it turns out that fuel sourced from laughs provides a far more efficient source (along with much much better monster-human relations).

We know the Monsters Inc. experience is not unique – we just have to ask the right questions and challenge assumptions.

We’ve been inspired by the abundant creativity and talent we’ve seen in 2010 from participants in Social Production challenges we’ve helped create, like The Betacup and Life Edited.

Hope you’ll join us in building a better Tomorrowland in 2011. Cheers!

[photo by]

Design > sell > fund VS Fund > design > sell

Almost a year ago we tried to get the betacup started on Kickstarter, with mixed success. We came up with a pitch to sell people on something we were going to design. In other words, we
wanted to pitch an idea to raise funds to create a design.

Fund -> Design -> Sell

Turned out it was not the best idea approach for Kickstarter, but Kickstarter is very useful for another approach.

Design something, then sell it, to raise funds, or simply:

Design -> Sell -> Fund

Kickstarter has suddenly made it possible to pitch new designs (or other creative work) for sale and fundraising. The process works so well that we found some of our favorite products on Kickstarter this year (they’re also mutopo holiday gifts this year).

Planningness Social Production Machine Prezi

Forrester on the betacup and Social Co-Creation

Forrester just released a case study discussing our work on the betacup. They offer great insights for organizations looking for innovative ways to solve complex problems.

When Starbucks decided to tackle a specific, more complex problem — reducing waste generated by disposable coffee cups — it recognized that it needed a new audience, a new strategy, and a new technology. We analyzed Starbucks’ participation in the betacup project and found a prime example of product strategists taking a different approach to social co-creation in order to address a significant company problem.

We’re really proud of this work and hope to do more projects like this. Thanks again to Starbucks and all our collaborators who made this possible.

Get the full report.

Next big challenge: traffic congestion

Thanks to IBM and Social Media Week, I had the opportunity to discuss a rapidly growing challenge – traffic congestion. The recent IBM Commuter Pain Study paints a grim picture of metropolitan-area commuters in many cities struggling to get to and from work each day, often with negative consequences.

I talked with Naveen Lamba, Global Industry Lead for Intelligent Transportation, IBM, Sarah Goodyear, Cities Editor of Grist and Richard MacManus, founder of ReadWriteWeb. Appropriately this was a virtual panel, so we didn’t add to the commuter pain – take a look at the session below.

Watch live streaming video from newintelligence at

The Mutopo Social Production Landscape Report

Download the Social Production Landscape report

As organizations increase their use of social media, we believe social production is the next step to start new conversations and solve complex, shared problems.

We define social production as the process of working with people outside your organization to create products, services and communications.

In this report, we explore data from a sample of almost one hundred creative challenges from organizations like Disney, Mini, Samsung, GE, Amazon, the City of New York as well as a number of smaller organizations.

The goals of the Social Production Landscape Report are to:

+ explore how organizations are using social production

+ understand different approaches from incentive structures and task types to technology platforms and the role of existing online communities

+ encourage thinking about how social production can be used to achieve communication and product/service development objectives

This is our first report on the Social Production landscape. We still have lots of questions and we’d like to know what you think, so please leave a comment or say hello on @hellomutopo.

As planned

Bio for Shaun Abrahamson

Accused of living in the future. Guilty on a few counts. Amateur investor. Social production engineer at Papai to Max & Oli. Married to @anhuch.

As planned

“Can I play video games for a little?” my 4 year old asks, in Portuguese. My answer I expect will throw him off, “Not the Wii. The Iphone”. The fact that I understand Portuguese still surprises me.

Weather today is muggy, as forecast.

In the office, Pete asks “Coffee?”. Like clockwork, I pretend to think about it and nod. The fog of sleep will not lift, unaided.

“I’m going to see Sylvie tonight, ok?”, Andrea reminds/asks me. “You don’t need to ask”, I remind her (she is still not convinced after 7 years of marriage).

A public tweet claims our late Friday conversation was very pleasant for a late Friday conversation. I nod.  Not what I was expecting at all.

It catches my eye – has 10 billion connections in their taste graph? Amazing. I wonder how well they will do, telling my tastes. Apparently very well, but I have to stop when one recommended topic is – “should I be looking for a job”.

I’m nervous about one of our new projects – so I’m using a business plan pitch format. Somehow business plan structures feel more thought out and better able to divine what might happen versus more creative formats. (all this despite routinely asking other people if they feel they want to share a plan when they won’t bet on how their life will be in 5 years).

Surprise – at least one thumb up. I know we’ll make this a massive success.

Huge downpour. Bike stays at work, but luckily find an umbrella that I had forgotten at the office, weeks ago.

For some reason Oli won’t sleep. He points, I guess. We agree that he needs to hold a car and lie next to me on the bed. Max joins after multi-party bi-laterial negotiations regarding sleeping arrangements.

“Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition”, I can almost hear John Cleese storm into the room.

I wonder what time Andrea will be home?

Date: August 16, 2010
Re: saw the bat signal

Actually you’re on. Go for it.

[NOTE: This post was written as a backup post for the 3six5 project. ]

Open innovation begins with communication

The fun part of business development, is that you get to talk to lots of people about:

+ what they want to do
+ what work they like
+ why they think it is/was successful

When the subject turns to co-creation, open innovation or social production, there are a few reference organization outside the technology world – P&G and Starbucks are probably the most cited.

I am always curious about why people think these organizations are succeeding. In some cases, we talk about tools and processes and change management. And invariably we get to legal and IP and how that is managed.

But I fear we miss one very critical piece of the puzzle – telling people that your organization is open to outsiders (not just to innovation). I can’t help feeling that when P&G launched Connect and Develop, the constant drumbeat about wanting to get 50% of innovation from outside, was critical to success.

If people understand that your organization is open and willing to partner, they will find you – they will find your people via linkedin, the will email you, they will make an effort to find the people to talk to because they believe there will be a reward. Even the best tools, processes, IP and change management wont convince people outside your organization to show up and want to find a way to work with you.

Open innovation begins with communication.

Forage like meerkats (for creative challenges)

Meerkats are pretty good at foraging for food.

Why is this important?

We trying to be good at foraging for great creative challenges.

This is why we created with mr.peter (he is also from South Africa, so he feels strongly about showing the greatness of Meerkat-inspired foraging).

We’re making it easier to find the best creative challenges.

And we’ll also use the data to research and understand the how the best challenges work.

Take a look at and let us know what you think.

Update: like the Meerkats we aspire to be, we had a sense that things were about to get really interesting. GE just launched the largest open innovation challenge worth over $200 million!

betacup learnings – curation at scale

Simplicity did win, but we’re just starting to understand the complexity of the process to choose the best ideas.

In particular, in the coming weeks, we’re going to dig into two topics in a lot more detail:

+ choosing the right tasks

+ choosing the right people (for the tasks)

Choosing the right tasks

Much of what we do, focuses on deciding what to ask of participants. In this case we focused around 1 – 9 – 90.

We realized a small number of people might submit ideas, while a larger number would likely comment, share and rate the ideas. However, the majority of people might view the ideas. Looking at the quality of ideas, participation as well as media coverage and conversation and Twitter and Facebook, this seemed to work quite well.

However, we also made some assumptions about curation, or more specifically:

+ how feedback might happen

+ how ideas would be selected

The 15 jurors had a difficult time getting through 430 ideas, that were on average updated 3 times each. But to further complicate matters, there were more than 5,000 comments, many very detailed and involving specialized discussions from materials to legal.

So one key question for us is: how can this process can scale without making massive demands on a jury or other people charged with curation?

Which leads us to the second area of interest.

Choosing the right people

Our primary concern. when we started was that finding people to submit ideas. We new there was interest from some initial testing of the idea, but we worked with Jovoto and Core77 to get the word out in their respective communities. And then we reached out to a variety of additional networks and media outlets. And this seemed to work quite well since most of the winners were professional designers or masters level design students.

However as we discussed above, the hardest tasks turned out to be the feedback and selection tasks. In particular, we were curious about the differences between the jury and the community selection since we had both – there was some overlap between the shortlisted ideas and the community top ranked ideas.

As we explore where the differences come from – its clear that since we invited people to share their ideas (and encourage others to vote for them) there are some “popularity” effects. This is a common “crowdsourcing” issue – if the crowd is not aligned in terms of how “the best” is defined, the results quickly devolve into a popularity contest.

However, as we gather data about the quality of ratings, feedback and ideas in the form of karma, we can begin to select people with higher karma to participate in the rating process (interestingly this is being proposed by the community, but thats a story for another post).

So rather than a jury of 15, we might have had a jury over over 1,000 people. And this is how we might be able to scale the curation process for large numbers of complex idea submissions.

To be continued.

Crowdsourcing how to Crowdsource

People are crowdsourcing everything from logo design to crisis management. While many people have heard about crowdsourcing, we get lots of questions about what it can do and how it works.

At Mutopo, we do some crowdsourcing and we also try to figure out how it works. But we’re fortunate that people in the space share a lot of what they are thinking and what is working for them, from their motivation to their tools. Some of our recent sources include: John Winsor, Trada, Jovoto, uTest, bbhlabs, Andrea Meyer, 15inno, Going Social Now, etc.

While I love these resources, I have picked a favorite mainly because it elegantly uses crowdsourcing to understand successful crowdsourcing strategies . The Network Challenge project was run by DARPA and they have been good enough to share a detailed report of their findings (pdf).

DARPA asked people to find 10 tethered weather balloons across the Unites States. What is most striking is that the most successful teams all employed crowdsourcing. Although there were some differences in strategy, there were many more similarities, as a simple summary shows below.

Here are here are some of my favorite learnings (because these are questions we get asked alot):

1. Does it help to start with a strong brand?

It really does. Brands may have been built to get people to purchase, but they are good for recruiting full time talent and part time (even very part time) talent, too.

2. Does media coverage help?

Again, like a strong brand, people need to know that you need help, so getting covered, helps you get coverage of your community needs.

3. Should I use an existing community or recruit a new one?

Seems like either approach can work. If you don’t feel very good about 1 or 2, you might consider approaching an existing community.

4. So we can just sit back and wait for the result?

Probably not. As one of our Mutopo t-shirts say: “this community isn’t going to manage itself”. This really takes quite a bit of work. In this example, multiple people ran an operations center to respond to manage recruiting, manage tasks, deal with trolls, etc. Interacting with 100s or 1000s or people requires some new management approaches.

5. What tools do I need?

There are loads of good ones already. It probably makes sense to see what you can reuse and then focus on the specialized aspects of your task for custom development.

6. Do I need to pay people?

It certainly seem to help, although people participate for all sorts of reasons.

I really love the idea that an organization we expect to be very secretive is experimenting in public and sharing their learnings. Shame on us if we dont try to learn something too and thanks again to DARPA for an elegant enlightening experiment.

Clios Presentation – What’s Inspiring Us Right Now

social product development (the comic strips)

concepts and ideas

testing and feedback

the launch

insights for new opportunities

created using strip generator.

the betacup – how are we doing so far?

How are we doing after 1 week?

+ 65 ideas

+ over 300 comments

+ almost 30,000 views of ideas

+ almost 1,000 registrations to submit ideas

In addition, the contest has good press and is the subject of steady twitter conversation all of which is helping to move the numbers above.

But how good are the ideas?

Here are some good examples:

+ new cups – some are created from existing waste materials, some while you wait and others are designed to disappear when not in use (while also checking into foursquare)

+ new recycling or reuse options – cups can be used to distribute seed or if we had more ways to collect used reusable mugs, perhaps more people could use them.

+ new behavior – these ideas explore ways to encourage behavior to reduce or eliminate the use of paper cups.

I personally believe this last category is where the best solutions will be found (I’m not a juror, but I will be voting with everyone else for the community prizes).

One of the big changes in recycling is the cost of tracking. For example barcode scanners are ubiquitous, so barcodes can be used to track and reward reuse. In fact the cup (or the lid) can become the more valuable kind of plastic (the kind you buy stuff with).

Going one step further, loyalty card programs result in interesting data for segmenting customers for selling more stuff, but they can also be used to cause better behavior.

Beyond the ideas, we’re excited to see how the process unfolds

Because submissions are public some interesting things are happening.

+ comments – feedback is already resulting in iterations, so we think some of the submitters are benefitting and enjoying the feedback

+ teaming up – it has happend once already and there seem to be some discussions already (this is how the netflix prize was won, so this is interesting, for sure).

+ juror expert feedback – we have already seen some of the jurors weigh in with their particular expertise, so we’re looking forward to seeing how this helps submitters to identify and address prospective issues with their submissions.

We’ve just started, so why not submit an idea or encourage other people to check out the betacup challenge.

How can the crowd change your business model?

During Social Media Week, we covered lots of crowdsourcing.

Advertising was up early in the week, followed by hardware focused crowdsourcing (like the Rally Fighter) and at the end of the week, crowdsourcing was discussed in the context of the news business. I also had a chance to talk with John Winsor about “the age of abundance in marketing” about the implications of access to talented crowds.

After all this great discussion, I was left with one main question:

How can the crowd change your business model?

I made a first pass at an answer using a framework from Business Model Generation.

I. Key Activities

create something

create the communications about the thing

find other people to create (recruiting)


– what activities should we be asking the crowd to help with?

– who exactly is in this crowd? customers? experts?

II. Key Resources

People, financial, intellectual, physical


– how many people need to work for us full time? where do the others come from?

– is is possible for us to have all the best skills “in house”?

III. Key Partners

– optimization + economy

– reduction of risk

– acquisition of particular resources and activities


– can some of best partners come from the crowd?

– see I

IV. Value Proposition


– isn’t the crowd well positioned to help with this (assuming they are your customers)?

V. Customer Relationship


– is co-creation is a good basis for a relationship?

– is ongoing dialog that is not always focused on sales, a good basis for a relationship?

VI. Channels


– can the crowd help decide how they can best be reached?

– can the crowd help with: awareness, evaluation, purchase, delivery, after sales (support)?

VII. Cost Structure & Revenue Streams


– can the crowd lower cost of resources? (for example if you only work with people as you need them or as they need you)

– can the crowd help to lower cost for specific activities (awareness, support, recruiting, etc)

My initial conclusions:

If you find specific places where the crowd can help and if you choose the right crowd, you have a shot at transforming your business model. Yes, some testing will be required.

If you look at crowdsourcing narrowly as the creation of anything by anyone, you’ll miss the opportunity.

How can the crowd change your business model?

UPDATE: fortunately, ALEXANDER OSTERWALDER, one of the creators of Business Model Generation just helped to answer this question with his post on Social Media on Business Models.

Investing in the future of creative work: Jovoto

Jovoto Logo

I first met Bastian, founder and CEO of Jovoto, almost one year ago, when I was doing research for my Berlin School thesis. Crowdsourcing for the creative industries was just gaining momentum and through my research work, I was finding similar looking companies such as Ideabounty, Crowdspring, 99designs, etc.

But after my first conversation with Bastian, I realized Jovoto was doing something quite different. They had found a new way to work with creatives based on a creative driven approach which emphasized interaction and ownership of one’s work. First I entered a contest and then convinced one of Mutopo’s clients to try it out. After a few months, it was clear that not only did the vision make sense, but the community was producing fantastic results through an unusual collaborative-competitive process of responding to client briefs.

We love what the community is doing, so when the opportunity came to invest in Jovoto, we immediately said yes – we’re glad to finally make it official.