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Written by Tom Powell: Online enthusiast with an abnormal interest in innovative applications of technology, crowdfunding, co-design, co-creation, and crowdsourcing.

03 July 2013 ~ 0 Comments                                       

New Venture: Resonant Clicks

I recently started a consulting company with a focus on using data and conversion optimization to improve the performance of the online portion of businesses. I have started writing about Analytics, Conversion Rate Optimization and Funnel Analysis at resonantclicks.com.

Check it out and let me know what you would like to learn more about: tom@resonantclicks.com.

30 January 2011 ~ 1 Comment                                       

The Glif; or, How to create a hit product with no money down

The Coinnovative singularity has arrived.  The culmination of the concepts at the core of this rarely updated site have been demonstrated by the hugely successful Glif project.

The Glif in actionGlif was as of this writing the 5th largest Kickstarter campaign ever which funded a simple iPhone tripod attachment and kickstand to prop up the iPhone. A simple concept that obviously found an audience, raising $147K in pre-orders and financial support. (6 weeks later, the iPod Nano watch raised an astonishing $941K.) But when you read about the post-mortem on the project from the creators, you realize that the ecosystem available to the entrepreneurs made it all possible.

Kickstarter for crowdfunding, Shipwire to handle fulfillment, Shapeways for 3D printing prototypes.

The bringing off of the project relies on conducting a symphonic network of providers and tools that did not exist a decade ago — or were so prohibitively expensive or complex that only established or well funded entities could hope to utilize them.

It’s an amazing thing to behold and I love it.  A tiny team coordinates a world of customers, manufacturers, and service providers to test a design in manufacturing runs of 1, raise funds before a product is manufactured, sell out the first run to its funders with a minimum of marketing and 0 marketing dollars, and offload fulfillment to a fulfillment service.

When it comes to industrially designed products, content and information, software, and online delivered services, lack of resources of any kind cannot be used as an excuse.

They provide a great summary of the tools and services they used to bring this project together:
3D modeling software: Rhinoceros for Mac
3D printed prototypes: Shapeways
Project funding: Kickstarter
Manufacturing: Premier Source
Printer (for packaging): Keystone Folding Box Co
Fulfillment Service: Shipwire
eCommerce Store: Shopify
Domain Hosting: Dreamhost
Payment gateways: Braintree and Paypal
Email campaigns: Mailchimp
Monitoring Internet chatter: Google Alerts
Monitoring Twitter chatter: Tweet Deck for iPhone

Read all about it at The Russians Used a Pencil

21 June 2010 ~ 1 Comment                                       

An argument against listening to your customers…

13 June 2010 ~ 0 Comments                                       

June Co-Creation Odds and Ends

Democrasoft: Collaborize is another entrant in the idea submission and voting market. They provide idea marketplaces in which internal and external contributors and submit, vote, and discuss ideas in order to produce the best decision. They launched last week and are the latest entrant in the innovation management market I described over a year ago on ReadWriteWeb. I don’t see much new here and given that the technology behind the basic idea voting systems is not terribly difficult when compared to actually driving useful participation and valuable decisions, I am curious to see how they differentiate their offering and demonstrate successes.
CardsInk sample card
CardsInk: Threadless for greeting cards! The Threadless model can be applied to essentially any object that requires graphic design of any kind. You end up with a more eclectic mix of designs, a sense of the popularity of designs prior to production, and a greater connection to customers. They seem to be having some behind the scenes difficulties but some designs are available on the site for order. Hopefully they will be back up and running soon.

Cloudcrowd: Another interesting entrant in the labor as a service market. Similar to Mechanical Turk, the system “helps companies reduce overhead, increase efficiency, and lower costs by breaking large projects into smaller tasks, and distributing them via a proprietary online platform that brings work and workers together.” Types of work they facilitate are data processing, data entry, image processing, content filtering, and content creation. You assign and work on tasks through Facebook.

25 May 2010 ~ 0 Comments                                       

Government 2.0: Government As Platform

As the Gov2.0 Expo kicks off this week I wanted to highlight a few notable open government/government 2.0/gov2.0 goings-on.

Manor Labs aims to collect user driven ideas for improving their city. Once those ideas receive a sufficient number of votes it moves into the validation stage where the relevant department head determines if it is a useful, viable project to undertake. In the emergent stage all department heads discuss ease, cost, and value of undertaking it. Finally, the project is either implemented or rejected at which point the community is told why the decision was made.

“Manor Labs is the official research and development division of the City of Manor, Texas. Manor is a small, but growing, community of about 6,500 innovators (citizens) located on the outskirts of Austin.”

So far they have deployed Manor Labs itself (which runs on Spigit) and QR codes which are 2d bar codes that are posted at locations throughout the city. These bar codes — when photographed by a cell phone with the right app — link to a URL which displays information about that location. Other projects likely to be implemented relate to RFID tags, Google Waves, Android apps, and Augmented Reality. They have even incorporated some gaming aspects to the site ranking users based on reputation and contribution to the community. (Users gain Innobucks which can be turned in for things such as a t-shirt or a ride-along with the Chief of Police.)

I have talked a lot here about the use of feedback in product design, but this illustrates one of the early steps in using it as direct feedback for running a city.

Data.gov is an initiative to open the varied data sets housed within government agencies and opening them up in a standardized form in one centralized site. Opened a year ago with 46 data sets it has exploded to 272,000 sets. If you believe the old saw about sunlight being the best disinfectant, setting these data sets loose on the world where they can be mashed up, made into powerful infographics, and analyzed, this is an unvarnished good. Many times hard-fought, contentious bills are enacted with little to no follow-up. This data will help expose which projects worked and which did not and where we are spending our money. I hope the administration continues to add to these data sets and that they become integral as the back-end to countless apps and sites, thereby making it very difficult to shut down.

Other interesting related links:

    EveryBlock: Tracks information and events down to the block level.
    Sunlight Foundation: “Making government Transparent and Accountable”
    USASpending.gov: “Users can search anything from bombs to toilet paper and filter government spending by location, timeline, agency, extent competed, recipient, product/service code, NAICS and fiscal year.”
    OpenGovTracker.com: Tracking ideas and votes across the web across various government agencies.
    What does Government2.0 look like?

Democrat, Republican, Green, or Libertarian you have to love a more transparent government.

17 May 2010 ~ 3 Comments                                       

The Power of Crowdfunding: Diaspora

Whoa, Nelly! The largest Kickstarter project ever: 4 soon-to-be grads from NYU posted a project to fund their internships for the summer with a request for $10K to build the beginnings of an open-source, distributed Facebook. Man, did they get their timing right. As of right now, they have reached $177K! They have essentially raised a strong angel round, with no strings attached, no experience, and not a single line of code written. And they still have 15 days to go.

They hit this at the perfect time. Anti-Facebook sentiment over privacy issues recently hit a crescendo and they got some great press on the NY Times blog DealBook. I had the same thought as Jason Fried that these guys may, in fact, be hampered by this huge windfall. It’s too much money for 4 guys with no experience for a summer internship. Wouldn’t the money be better spent on different teams working on several pieces of the distributed social puzzle? (New term alert: “distributed social”. You heard it here first. Maybe.)

I bring this up on Co-Innovative because it demonstrates the amazing power of Kickstarter; to promote, distribute, and collect funds for a project. As I wrote back in October, Kickstarter is a killer platform. Further, a completely centralized network such as Facebook will not survive long term as they exist today, and neither will Twitter. Diaspora is a brilliant marriage of these two concepts. I’m looking forward to whatever these guys produce. Who knows, maybe in 3 years it will evolve into a Facebook killer.

09 May 2010 ~ 0 Comments                                       

The Disputed Value of Customer Engagement and Feedback

At the heart of everything I talk about here is 1) increased engagement in production and consumption by consumers and 2) increased market awareness and customer feedback for business. Both may seem at first glance to be unequivocally positive things to strive for; however, a tension arises from both ends of the spectrum in that users may not want to be involved with production (“Just make the damn product for me! I don’t want to submit, vote, modify, or do any work on it.”) and companies may not benefit from listening too closely to what the customer is saying (Apple’s valuation is a testament to a strong vision and a closed product development process. And, of course, the old chestnut from Henry Ford: “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”)

Are these folks useful partners in the co-creation process or a motley crowd of passive consumers?

As with everything else there is no clear answer but a spectrum of answers that will work for some companies in some situations and not for others. (Speciation and useless business advice)

Item: A recent contest calling for designs for Smart cars. A nice marketing exercise, but what came out of it? Did Smart gain any true fodder for new designs? Will any of them be made available? Likely not. Customers may feel a bit more affinity to Smart cars after participating, but the number of people interested in designing their own car exterior or paying to have one applied, I would contend, is extremely limited and niche. Perhaps the market is large enough to sustain several niche businesses such as Infectious which crowdsources decals for cars, phones, laptops, skateboards, and other objects. Or Ryz for shoes. Or Cardsink for greeting cards.

Item: 100×100. Daniel Schipper has a design up for a lamp that he would like to produce. He needs 100 preorders before it will be produced. This makes the process efficient for the manufacturer, but for the consumer it requires uncertainty and a lot of patience. Very cool, but, again, very niche.

Item: The king of co-creation, Quirky allows anyone to post an idea for a product for $99 which is then worked on by the crowd to decide whether to move forward with it and how to improve upon it. People who have the most influence on the product receive a certain amount for every item that is sold once a set number of presales are made. I haven’t seen anyone else come close to executing on this concept as well as Quirky has. They filter out a lot of crappy ideas up front due to the $99 posting fee, they provide a good monetary incentive for people to contribute, and have the expertise and industrial design experience to pull it off. My sense is this is a powerful platform but that it will be relegated to niche products and low volumes.

The key is eliciting and using feedback in the right situations and in the right way. After all, you only need a small subset or sampling of customers to provide feedback or help with co-creation to create value for the rest of the passive consumers. And from the other side, you need to understand when NOT to listen to your customers, who can provide great insight into the present but have difficulty with predicting the future.

17 April 2010 ~ 2 Comments                                       

The Co-Creation Landscape

I dump whatever I find interesting surrounding co-creation into a folder and come back to it later which means I occasionally read stuff months later. Case in point: Sense Worldwide, a creative strategic consultancy, wrote a nice whitepaper back in September that I would recommend you grab called The Spirit of Co-Creation: Risk Managed Creativity For Business. The below graphic from the report is a nice summary of the various types of co-creation in the wild:
The Co-Creation Landscape