Sunday, 24 August 2008

The internet makes us smarter

Previously, I touched on the concept of crowdsourcing (i.e. outsourcing idea generation to selected stakeholders) but never really delved into its implications for our work. Now, I am inspired to after reading about Brain Reactions a new site that facilitates competitions for ideas.

Whilst many examples of crowdsourcing exist, this one is worth watching as beyond an initial free brainstorm which you can do for free, it will charge to use its tools and access the wisdom of its primarily Gen Y crowds. Assuming a critical mass of idea-makers, this could be a good toe-dipping exercise, for companies who want to get some experience in this area. It will be interesting to see if the business takes off.

Perhaps the best example of full integration of the crowdsourcing ethos into an existing business is Dell's Idea Storm. At the time of writing, Dell's IdeaStormers had generated 9834 ideas. These ideas can be commented upon, promoted and ultimately adopted by Dell who regularly report which ones have been used in its product launches.

Since the infamous Dell Hell situation, Dell has successfully re-engineered its business putting its customers centre-stage. Embracing crowdsourcing has clearly enriched its business leading to further innovation. This innovation seems to know no limits. Dell has just launched its latest online community, Digital Nomads, dedicated to the evolving digital workplace. Amongst other things, visitors are invited to contribute to the 'What is a Digital Nomad' white paper. This site is a great resource tracking cutting edge nomad developments.

So although embracing crowd sourcing requires a new approach to doing business, it seems clear to me the benefits outweigh any disadvantages. Although I'm not promoting general uptake as the drivers are different for every organisation and each situation needs to be assessed individually.

FYI: The Digital Nomad twitter feed is a treasure trove. Latest tweat is all about Nomad Marketing.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Alternative Reality Games

There is something inherently appealing about the idea of Alternative Reality Games - who hasn't thought of exchanging their world for one of make believe...not only is it appealing to the game participant, it sounds like lots of fun for the makers.

Thinking along these lines and because of a great fit with our consumer insight, I recently proposed (and indeed co-developed concepts for) such a game for a prospective client, but was met with some concerns from colleagues who feared the such a solution might be too niche. What an interesting conundrum.

Digital marketers are constantly seeking new opportunities for their clients and to me the appeal of such games is that they are highly engaging and work across media platforms in new ways - the fact that they would showcase this client's core technology while meeting their business objectives was a bonus. However, for those with more traditional media backgrounds, they seem (to be blunt) a bit geeky.

So how do we get over this perceptual barrier? The data indicates that digital and play (as well as entertainment) are converging. This is particularly true for Generation Y who (almost) always enjoy having fun (no surprise) and have grown up with modern consoles which are becoming more and more mainstream and mobile.

If my experience is anything to go by, some of us may need to think more carefully about the language/terminology we use when pitching games to non-experts. If you've delved into the work of expert/futurist Jane McGonigal or Keri Facer of Futurelab, you will know there is tremendous evidence for the the core benefits of game play on many different levels (learning, teamwork, fun, problem solving, etc). Brands can be the enablers of these benefits (how compelling), but for now to convince them, the opportunity may need to be reframed with a focus on play with technology as a background enabler.

This is a quick cantor around a fascinating and complex subject which I will write about again. Until then, check out ARGNet.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Debating - alive and well on the internet

Most of us know politicians are using the internet for debate and to promote their policies and positions, but what about the rest of us? Whilst divergent views are all over the web, and self- publishing is rampant, how popular are sites that pull people together for the purpose of debate? A quick scan reveals myriad opportunities to get stuck in.

Debatepedia, "the Wikipedia of debate", is a good place to start. In addition to aggregating the best of current high quality debates, it also allows anyone to start their own as well as centralising "arguments and quotations found in millions of different articles, essays, and books into a single encyclopedia, so that citizens can better understand important public debates and make informed choices.

An open source platform, it fuses the work of innovators from Georgetown University (in 2006) and the International Debate Education Association (IDEA) and has an impressive wide-ranging catalogue covering everything from the Age of Consent to Sado-Masochism and that is only in the Moral category. Set up as a non-profit, it carries no advertising and yet has attracted thousands of users.

In contrast, Friction TV
facilitates debates on an internet video platform. Entirely based on user-generated content, it has a wide range of partners as well as commercial advertisers. It contains debates on topics both serious (knife crime) and light (cats versus dogs) - everything from Aliens (fact or fiction) to the Olympics (boycott or not) - presented in a highly engaging interactive format.

The potential of both these platforms to scale is considerable and if they do, they could become valuable tools for research and education as well as civic engagement.