Thursday, February 26, 2009

Crowdsourced Innovation

Innovation is becoming more and more of a buzzword these days, sort of a magical formula to overcome global crisis. Long before the crisis though, the Dutch Government has launched an Innovation Platform that was to propose ideas on how to propel the Dutch economy and expertise. The first presentation of this platform is due on March 11th.

However, the Innovation Platform is Government appointed and merely takes suggestions into consideration, it does not let YOU contribute. To cure this, a group of citizens has started the "Burger Innovatie Initiatief" (Citizen Innovation Initiative), a crowdsourcing experiment at "Beleid 2.0" in which YOU, the expert, can contribute your ideas on how to change our society and economy to prepare it for the future.

It might be a little out of place on this blog, but the ideas may impact the Dutch technology sector so it's probably not too farfetched as a lot of my readers are thoughtleaders from the Dutch technology scene I'd really like to invite you to make it happen!

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Adjiedj Bakas: Megatrends

Yesterday I went to the Vint Technology update. Vint is Sogeti's research institute which does research in new trends and technology. This year Vint received the Computable award for ICT research and opened up shop with our colleagues in France, Sweden and the USA.

Yesterday's speaker was Adjiedj Bakas, one of Europes Megatrendwatchers who gave us a view into the future. He adressed some 9 megatrends ranging from a 'world without oil' to a 'shift in power'. Here are just a few thoughts from that presentation:

Shift happens

One of the trends we're going to see in the near future is a shift in balance. Geographical nations will change into new communities. National identity will shift to corporate identity as we will see the growth of some stellar companies. In many ways this trend reminds me of the dystopian society of Gibson's Neuromancer.

The Prosumer.

Technology drives us forward, be it for good or bad. The world has changed through technology:

  • We used to book our flight tickets at a travel agency and receive the ticket at home. Now we book online, have to print our e-ticket ourselves and check in online. Did it make prices drop? No, it just gave the industry a better margin.

  • We're seeing unmanned cashregisters appear. Do the prices of groceries drop? Nope, it just gives the company a better margin.

  • We used to go to banks to make a cash withdrawal. Now we've got cashmachines and we draw our money from the wall. It didn't get cheaper for us.

It is sold to us as extra service while the business actually crowdsources its workload to the consumer. We are getting prosumers.

Energy Consumption

Under pressure, everything becomes liquid. Although we've only used about a quarter of our oil reserves yet, we do have an energy and environmental problem. We'll see new technology in the very near future that will reduce energy consumption.

  • In the next two years we will see the ECO-Hummer, a CO2 eating humvee (Hummer 02).

  • We'll see a shift in building. For instance look at the Burj Al-Taqa Energy Tower in Dubai, this commercial high rise will produce zero emissions and use sun, wind and water to create all of its own energy and more, enough clean energy for 10 others.

  • EasyJet, one of Europes price-fighting airline companies has designed a new jet which it will take into production next year, as well as Boeing.

  • British Petrol is working on creating a new enzyme that produces oil (project stalled due to ethical discussion with the Vatican), whereas Shell is working on oil producing fungy.

The Orient

Do not underestimate the power of the Asian world. Just being statistical: China has more high-IQ kids than the US has kids in total. For every 20 kids born in the USA, about 250 are born in China and 350 in India. Do not overestimate the power of China either: Up till the industrial revelution, China has always been good for about 30% of the world economy. They just had a dip and are working their way back to where they belong. Yet in these times, when China had 30% of the world economy, the Netherlands still managed to have its Golden Age. We just have to do the right things.

A random thought (I forgot which trend it belonged to)

If you read the New York Times you'll get more information in a week than the average guy got in his entire lifetime in the 18th century. This year we're producing about 1.5 exabytes of information, which is more than we've done in the past 5,000 years.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Friday, August 31, 2007

Coke lost its bubbles?

It's been a while since Coca Cola entered Second Life. When they finally entered, a lot of us were expecting a whole lot from them. Now they're turning their backs on Second Life with outright disappointment. What happened?

Let's get back to the start. In early april an enormous buzz surrounded the anticipated immersion of Coca Cola. We'd all expected Coke to launch a cool island in Second Life, but they didn't. Led by marketing agency Crayon they've set up a small campaign on the Crayon island as an extention to Coca Cola's new marketing campaign, "Virtual Thirst". The buzz created in the days leading to this release was good. The actual immersion a bit disappointing to many residents and bloggers.

[image from Coffee with Crayon]

Yet Crayon seemed to be doing a good job. The "Coffee with Crayon" sessions showed commitment to the community, or engagement (one of the 5 essentials according to Information Week's Mitch Wagner). I think over the past months, since april 2007, respect grew for the way Crayon & Coke handled things. At least, I've seen pretty positives things in the blogosphere and we were curious to see where this was going.

[image by Cyn Peccable at Flickr]

However, Coca Cola has a reputation when it comes to marketing. It spends millions of dollars on brilliant television ads, most of which we can recall pretty well. I personally had expected them to create such an epic adventure in Second Life as well. But they didn't. And now they're disappointed.

The infamous Wired article "How Madison Avenue Is Wasting Millions on a Deserted Second Life" tells about Coke's adventures in Second Life and their disappointment in the number of visitors they drew inworld:

"Yet Donnelly decided to put money into Second Life anyway. He's no digital naïf: When he joined Coke last summer, the company was being ridiculed for its huffy response to a spate of Web videos showing the soda geysers that erupt when you drop Mentos into Diet Coke. Within weeks, Donnelly had Coke and Mentos sponsoring a contest on Google Video that's gotten more than 5.6 million views. But Second Life was different. 'Many places you go, there's still nobody there," he concedes. That's certainly the case with Coke's Virtual Thirst pavilion, where you can long linger without encountering another avatar. "But my job is to invest in things that have never been done before. So Second Life was an obvious decision.'"

Nick Wilson at Metaversed is also having second thoughts about his initial excitement on the Coke-strategy for Second Life, as he writes:

"What they didn't count on though, was the fact that Second Life isn't full of the same echo chamber web2.0 commentators that wave and cheer and throw their knickers at mere mention of user generated media. No, it's made up of ordinary folks interested in their own stuff -- their own shops, groups, businesses and friends. And when you realize that, is it any wonder that the figures cited by Joel Greenberg are less than stellar?"

These Greenberg figures are:

  • 300 blog posts about the contest

  • 33,000 links

  • 150+ photos in Flicker

  • 31,000 Youtube views with 160,000+ comments.

Tony Walsh from Clickable Culture writes:

"Here's what I think: Hardly anyone entered the Virtual Thirst contest, which is why Crayon kept asking for submissions, why Coke didn't mention how many entries the contest got, and why the official site now rots before us. If the contest did receive an impressive number of entries, where's the evidence on Flickr, YouTube, MySpace, or the official Virtual Thirst site? "

Furthermore, he remarks "And then... nothing. No mention of the fact that the contest judging was delayed by over a month. No major Virtual Thirst site updates, just an announcement of the winning entry two months after submissions were closed. At the time of this writing, the official Virtual Thirst site doesn't even acknowledge the winner."

Where does this all add up to? Has Coke failed to impress the way it usually does with marketing campaigns? And can we conclude that Second Life is a bad platform for marketing activities? The next quote (by Ordinal Malaprop) perhaps says it all:

"Would it be reasonable to put up a promotional video on YouTube that not many people wanted to watch, leave it there, see that it didn't get a lot of views and conclude that YouTube was a useless medium? Or, for that matter, to publish one issue of Wired and then complain that people stopped buying it after a while?"

This was said in response to Chris Anderson's The Long Tail: Why I gave up on Second Life, another of those examplary articles of old media not understanding the world we live in today.

It's not fair to say this blog by Chris Anderson is another examplary article. It's pretty much the same article. Chris Anderson writes for Wired and both the Long Tail and Madison Waste article are signs of personal frustration. They're only looking for the negative aspects in this story and don't leave room for (even small) success stories.

Donnelly said in public he thought this first entry into Second Life a success. We don't have all the data, Coke has. We don't know what their criteria for success were at the start. But if the client is happy, why say it's a flop?

This was also said (again) by Electric Sheep's Joel Greenberg:

"'Coke was in Second Life prior to us actually entering SL,' said Donnelly, referring to coke machines fans were making and putting in the world. Taking what the fans were doing to the next level, Crayon and Coke developed a contest to make a vending machine, with the idea that SL residents are thirsty for experience. Of course, avatars don’t have physical needs like eating and drinking, but by taking the brand value of coke and appropriately translating it into a virtual world, Crayon and Coke created an appropriate, successful campaign. To be clear, I’m not saying they were successful, Donnelly the client said the campaign was successful based upon the criteria they set for themselves."

Okay, one last quote, this time by from Second Effects blogger ArminasX Saiman:

"In such a small market, you must expect small returns until the economy grows. You cannot expect big things to happen. Consider an analogous situation: a big-city manufacturer shows up in 45,000 resident Smallville and spends $1M on a spanky new store. By the way, the big city manufacturer produces items that are not usable in Smallville. What do you think is going to happen?"

So did Coke blow the bubbles or didn't they?

Coca-Cola by nature is not a virtual brand. It's products (soft drinks) have absolutely no value in a virtual environment. Avatars don't need nutrition. This means Second Life, or any other virtual world, isn't suitable as a product selling platform. It has merits though when it comes to branding. Coca-Cola is a strong brand and is capable of creating a strong brand experience in tv-commercials. If they're capable of creating Christmas they must be able to create a Second Life experience as well.

More recent campaigns, such as the one above would certainly be strong material to create immersive shared experiences in Second Life. Personally I've never been enthusiastic about Coke's Virtual Thirst campaign, but reading the evidence I wouldn't call it a flop. I just hope they're getting involved in the Community and create Cocalicious experiences. Is it worth doing so in an environment with 'so few active users'? That will be up to Coke. As long as they take into consideration that:

  • We're just in the early days of Virtual Worlds and they will grow, no matter what frustrated journalists say.
  • The userbase (which might not be as large as many would have liked) in Second Life is a very active, downright creative and critical userbase. And if they can "make it there, they'll make it anywhere."

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, July 30, 2007

Capozzi branding hyperjump

Everything new gets dubbed 2.0 these days, upto and including the Financial Times writing on gospel 2.0 or the blogoshpere getting excited about Philantropy 2.0 or Fundraising 2.0. To state that this blogpost is about wine 2.0 or distilling 2.0 would not give credit enough to the sim I visited today...

This is a tale beyond a succesful immersion - even when the island hasn't seen it's final version and opening yet. This is a tale of creating a brand 21st century style in a 19th century business.

The business I'm referring to is that of making wine, a traditional profession that -at least in Europe- brings images of old, weathered farmers and old French chateau's. It's classic and romantic and absolutely non-tech-savvy. During the 20th century we have seen the rise of new wineproduction areas, like California, South Africa and New Zealand gaining popularity over the traditional French and Spanish wines. The popularity of these new wines are partly because these wineries use modern technology to create well balanced wines and of a more constant quality than the traditional French ones.

Here's a look at the Capozzi sim

To start off by calling this a hyperjump and getting all excited about it does raise some expectations. Why?

If you look at the sim -without its context- it's nothing special. It is a quality build, as expected when built by Chip Poutine of the Prion Design Group and the guys (and girls) over at Metaversatility. Lush green rolling hills house the winery and a path that leads through the various stages of the production process. Though totally different in design than the Ben & Jerry's factory in Second Life, it's the same concept. So why the buzz?

The buzz is that this is not a brand creating a virtual presence like "we've got to be there" but it is a grand design in creating the brand itself. The Capozzi winery was established in 2005 by Josh Hermsmeyer and really is a tale of crowdsourcing as it started off on the pinotblogger blog:

"On November 18, ‘05 pinotblogger was born. Its stated purpose is to “outline the long and painful processes involved in starting and building a family winery in the Russian River Valley. While we haven’t been at it very long nor has it been particularly painful yet, I’m 99.9% certain that at least one of these adjectives will correctly describe the project in the very near future (hopefully NOT painful and short though, as that would be sad)."

Meanwhile the Pinotblogger website has been been among the top 5 wineblogs in the world and gives a great insight in the business and starting up the new winery. The virtual presence complements this strategy. It's an all in, a 21st century marketing campaign from a traditional craft, that's a hyperjump.

Read more on the build of the sim at the website, or visit it inworld: SLURL:

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

ABN AMRO Dances 4 Life

Friday the 8th wil see the launch of a new ABN AMRO venture in Second Life; the Young Professional Island. The opening will be supported by DJ Jesse Voorn, ambassador to Dance4Life with a simulcast or cross-reality concert from the Panama Club in Amsterdam .

In this coop ABN and Dance4Life are opening an island for people at the start of their careers. It will be a place to meet, socialize and relax. The Dutch bankers will organise several events for the community. The island is one of the new builds from the Dutch Lost in the Magic Forest and the Dance4Live club on the island is build by ABN AMRO themselves.
According to Lost in the Magic Forrerst the build is not complete yet, but will be further developed in coop with the YP community.
DJ Jesse Voorn will perform between 00.00 and 01.00 (CET) in both Club Panama as well as Second Life. Jesse is no stranger to Second Life, as he has done a rather succesfull gig earlier this year.
Dance4Life is an international organisation which gets young people together in the fight against hiv and aids. Dance is the international language that binds young people all over the world. Dancing is combined with television programmes, media campaigns and fundraising to benefit projects in areas that suffer strongly under the presence of hiv and aids.
ABN Amro is one of the sponsors of Dance4Life

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Aloft Revisited

One of the grand openings this month is not a newcomer to Second Life, but actually an early pioneer. Aloft entered Second Life mid 2006 with a rather static sim -which was not a deadly sin at that time - but certainly understood the principle of crowdsourcing much better than Visa (previous post).

They've received an enormous amount of input from visitors and redecorated the whole sim. Aside from a dominating Aloft hotel, there are many interesting fountains, gardens, beaches and other retreats that will keep you busy for a while.

You'd assume they're here to stay, but they're not. Aloft has received enough input for a year ;) Now it's back to the drawing table for them to transfer that knowledge into their Real Life business. Their grand re-opening is at the same time a say goodbye.
One last great crowdsourcing trick that will surely involve the community: They're offering their sim for a whole year. Tell them how and why YOU need the sim for a year, and it's yours...

Labels: , , , ,

Virtual Banking (5): Hasta la Visa

The first weeks of May saw many new sims go public. One of them is Visa. At Ambling in SL and KZero's blog the reviews were not positive, so I decided to take a look myself. Ambling Aleister accused me earlier this week of being a bit negative about a particular blog I did, so I hoped I could return the favor. But Al and Big Nic didn't turn down their visa for this one for nowt.

At first entry, the design looks nice, yet too light. After a short walkway there's a couply of signs asking visitors to contribute their ideas to Visa's SL build. In the official press releases Visa put out a very enthusiastic crowdsourcing promotalk telling the world they are very into the interactive environment that SL is and that they're an innovative bunch.

Except crowdsourcing does usually have an idea to begin with. Crowdsourcing is about getting usefull feedback on something. The way Visa is approaching this looks like buying a shop at Rodeo Drive and put an small note on the window asking people to tell the management what they would like to buy. Worse, it is like Microsoft asking YOU to build their new Windows version...and have you pay later.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Pontiac Motorati's Crowdsourcing show

One of the companies that literally drives the notion of crowdsourcing to the edge is Pontiac / Motorati. There's heavy interaction between the wonderful SL sim and their website ( The sim is a buzz of activity with visitors designing new cars, dragracing and all sorts of car-centered events.

Since the Pontiac Motorati cluster borders on the Millions of US development sites, it isn't hard to figure who build this great sim.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Succesful Second Life Business Integration?

Interested to see where Second Life is going, from a business point of view, I asked a short question about thison the Linked-In forum.

The Question:
Second Life is now in hype-stage. But the blizz of drinking virtual whisky's and being hit by a passing whale will be over soon. Does Second Life stand a change from a business point of view?

What will be -in your opinion- the most likely business to succeed in Second Life?
How can we integrate existing real world business into SL, or create Real World business for Second Life

Some Answers:
Answers received from various experts in the IT world:


There is an article in the February 2007 issue of Wired that talks about how MTV is using Second Life to create more buzz around its 'Laguna Beach' show (first link below).

Coca-Cola and Microsoft have also grabbed some virtual real estate in Second Life, presumably to use to promote their real-world products.

Digital farming operations have received a ridiculous amount of attention in the media (see 2nd link below). But beyond these shady and often-hyperbolized enterprises, Second Life does hold some promise as a short-term location for marketing, and as a long-term location for entertainment-related ventures.

The denizens of Second Life have spare time, high-speed connections, and a desire for escapist entertainment. That makes their eyeballs pretty valuable to certain companies. There already are billboards on Second Life, and in the short-term I think there's an opportunity for an outdoor advertising giant to emerge. The business model would be very much like that of a large, real-world billboard owner. The technical challenges would be related to tracking visual impressions, detecting vandalism or obfuscation, etc.

In the long-term, I see Second Life as a great platform for online gaming. I believe that there have already been some early discussions related to this. There is already a conversion rate between Second Life currency (Linden Dollars) and US Dollars. With gaming, the money must be added to the account through a method that makes chargebacks impossible.

What kind of business are you looking at incorporating with Second Life? Would you be willing to provide goods and/or services in exchange for Linden Dollars?

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Best of Luck!



Second Life is not only a gaming world but also a virtual world. The interesting thing about this is that people are in SL also there because of the social aspects. They hang around, meet, conversate, buy and reflect there needs that they have in RL (real life) in SL (Second LIfe) too.

This means they want to own things like a car or motorcycle or just want to have there own place like an island or a house. There is a whole virtual economy already who supports these needs, with real dollars behind it. People even get married in SL or have hobbies like sailing and skydiving.

Even more interesting is SL if you take a look into the future. SL adds the social aspect that misses in even the most sophisticated conferencing or participation technologies. This is why even meetings and virtual presentations could work better in SL then in any other approach.

From a business perspective, I spend much time in traveling for meetings. An important reason behind this, is the social aspect reason. People feel that they have talked to me and they have seen me. This open doors and makes it easier to make appointments. The same thing is true for training and presentations.

A part of this social aspect can be fulfilled by virtual meetings or presentations with virtual characters (avatars) that take place in virtual places with virtual buildings.

They are virtual but they feel ‘real’. There is a thin line between Virtual Reality and Reality. We are just on the beginning of this. Open your eyes.
I think the hype outweighs the reality for Second Life at the moment.
It is interesting that large companies like MS and IBM have a presence in the Virtual World but there generation of revenue from direct sources in SL is in doubt.
Porn will (and is) fueling the most cash generation at the moment as I understand it. The hype machine is in overdrive at the moment and I will be watching with interest the development but I would not be advising people to attach a revenue stream to this for a long time if at all.
As the world is virtual providing more 'space' later for people is not that much of an issue, where the space is is going to be more important.
I think that unless you, as a company, experiment with these types of technological online worlds then you can't take full advantage of what the next generation of online worlds will have to offer.

If i were a big corp - I wouldn't expect any direct monetary positives from anything 'we' did in SL. It's, at this stage, more branding, awareness - and surely the top message is: 'We, (Nike, Coke, MTV... etal..) 'get' what you guys dig here and we are 'with' you.'

I'm sure companies will make mistakes in messaging and 'voice' - in the same way companies will continue to mess up their corporate blogging activities.

It's a learning experience, as in 10 years SL will probably be unrecognizable from what it looks like or 'is' today.

Best make the mistakes and learn those hard lessons now - when there are only 3 million there rather when there are 50 million to see you mess up.

Great questions, and I wish I had the answers. That area is exactly the area I'm interested in exploring. I do believe there is much benefit to be had from integrating business with these virtual words and social networks, but I don't think we have figured out the optimal strategies yet.

One aspect of Second Life that intrigues me is it's value as an application platform / content delivery platform. I've been of the opinion for some time that "the web" is broken in many ways and that "web 2.0" is a giant kludge layered on top of a brutal hack, and have wished for something better. But desktop penetration is so much better for web browsers than for anything else, that web browsers have become *the* platform. IOW, ask how many people have X servers on their desktops. By comparison to web-browsers, the answer is "not very many."

And truth be told, relative to web browsers not many people have Second Life... but I'd wager that many more people have Second Life than have an X server, and I'd further wager that installs of the Second Life client are growing much faster than installs of X servers.

(note: this doesn't really have anything to do with X servers specifically, that's just one made up example to illustrate a point)

And now that the Second Life code is going open-source, is see (in a vague sense) a lot of potential for growing the use of SL as a platform.



Labels: , , ,

Crowd Sourcing Project

It was just another day on the job. As a Project Manager I pick up a project, find resources, get the thing going, deliver on time and within budget and end of deal. Seemed to be true for this project.

However, it turned out to be a success (wow, how's that for a change?). The project received national media attention, was mentioned in the weblog of the parting Dutch Minister of Finance and suddenly became a Crowd Sourcing showcase. For those who're new to this, here's the Wikinition:

"Crowdsourcing" is a neologism for a business model that depends on work being done outside the traditional company walls: while outsourcing is typically performed by lower paid professionals, crowdsourcing relies on a combination of volunteers and low-paid amateurs who use their spare time to create content, solve problems, or even do corporate R&D. The term was coined by Wired magazine writer Jeff Howe and editor Mark Robinson in June 2006.

Now, what's the big fuzz?
Crowd Sourcing is big business for companies. Let's start simple. A large company changes name and starts a contest for a new slogan and the winner receives a luxurious Holiday in Spain. That's a good deal for the winner, yet a better deal for the company since it saves thousands of euro's otherwise spent on expensive Marketing & Advertising companies.

In short, Crowd Sourcing is a money saver. It allows businesses to gain expert opinion free of charge (or at extremely low charge, a nice incentive).

Additional Resources:

Labels: , , ,