Emerald Nuts goes viral with Robert Goulet

April 26, 2007 § 1 Comment

A while back, Emerald Nuts had a pretty funny Super Bowl commercial that featured Robert Goulet, which they hosted on YouTube themselves:

Recently my brother sent me a link to a funny site they have up profiling the spoof Goulet’s Snooze Bar, “the perfect afternoon snack to put you to sleep at work”. I think these guys have been listening to Seth Godin, the marketing guru whose mantra is basically “if you’re not doing something totally ridiculous and off the wall, no one is going to notice you”. Their efforts are working too, because here I am, writing on my blog about an Emerald Nuts ad.

Planters: if you’re out there and listening, you’re going to have to get Wayne Newton to become your fake spokesperson and really rip on him hard to become my favorite nut company now.

Blogging corporations and CEOs

April 26, 2007 § Leave a comment

The NewPR Wiki is an interesting wiki dedicated to blogging and other forms of…you guessed it…new PR. The best features seem to be the robust lists of corporate and CEO blogs. Blogs are normally used to keep track of things like news and gossip, but they are also really good for sneakier stuff, like doing diligence on investment opportunities and keeping tabs on potential competitors…

Human Computation, Game Design, and Behavioral Economics

April 24, 2007 § 1 Comment

The philosophies generally associated with the University of Chicago usually orbit around free markets, rational actors, and economic efficiencies. These were generally borne out of the Friedman & Stigler cohort and the Chicago School of Economics which reached its peak during the mid-80’s still is a dominant force in economics, politics, and law today.

An interesting spin-off of the classic Chicago school of thinking here has been the Behavioral Finance movement piloted by Richard Thaler in the GSB and by Cass Sunstein in the School of Law. The behavioralists generally think that free markets are all well and good, but that people simply don’t always act in perfectly rational ways. They try to and categorize ways in which people generally deviate from rational behavior so that modeling and predictive techniques can be formed around how people DO act, as opposed to how they SHOULD act. One of the classic models that has emerged from this school of thinking is the Prospect Theory, which models the fact that humans are generally more adverse to losses than they are to gains, i.e., a normal person would feel more pain from loosing $100 than joy they would feel from gaining $100, while a perfectly rational actor would give the same slope coefficient to losses as they would to gains.

Another interesting model that has come from this school of thought is the impact the framing of a question or situation has on the response it generates. For example, people are likely to not be neutral between a 25% chance to win $50 and a 50% chance to win $25, even though the expected payouts are the same ($12.50). Similarly, studies have shown that people tend to anchor expectations to numbers they have recently heard or seen. Smart attorneys attempt to use this heuristic in their closing arguments by referencing numbers near where they would like the jury award to fall, e.g. a attorney who wants a hundred million dollar reward in a pharmaceutical trial would be smart to talk about the hundreds of millions of people who could have been potentially hurt by a drug, thus anchoring the jurors’ minds around numbers of that size.

Anyways, what got me thinking about this whole subject was a reference to the Mechanical Turk on Guy Kawasaki’s blog. Now Guy was a little late to the Mechanical Turk party, as the comments to his post point out, but one thing I noticed in the comments were several references to the Mechanical Turk being a failure. I hadn’t given it much thought before I watched the video below. The classic Mechanical Turk task is paying users $0.005 to tag , or describe, a photo with text. Until a photo has been tagged, a computers currently have no way of telling if the picture is of a boy, a dog, or a airplane. There are some people that will tag photos for pennies, but it isn’t terribly rewarding and it’s not a great way to make any money. But, as you’ll hear in the video, if you frame the same task in the context of a game, you end up having to cut people’s playing time off after fifteen hours because they like it so much.

The video is long, but basically this guy Luis Von Ahn designed the ESP Game and Peekaboom which tagged more photos for free than the Mechanical Turk will ever even come close to seeing. Some recent posts on the Lightspeed Ventures blog have also piqued my interest about game design and its place in social networking and web applications in general. One of the posts is about Yelp harnessing game design to get users to do what they want them too (create listings, contribute reviews, etc.). I think LinkedIn has done a fabulous job of this as well. I still love making connections on LinkedIn but never once have I really gotten any real benefit from it…I just like watching my counter go up. Yahoo! Answers and Amazon’s Askeville are also great examples of game design getting people to do things. Every day on thee sites thousands of people answer questions posed by complete strangers to accrue millions of points that have no more value than a video game score. Nutty.

Edit: Thanks to Jeremy Liew at Lightspeed for the shout out about this post.

Webkinz = traffic

April 22, 2007 § Leave a comment

Check out the traffic explosion I got from my post on Webkinz yesterday (Saturday, from FeedBurner):

It will be interesting to see what happens today! I’m pretty sure these are all people hitting Google to try to figure out how to buy Webkinz for their kids. A commenter on my previous post indicated that the Webkinz site is free for a year and it stays free if you buy more Webkinz…but what if you can’t find any Webkinz? Genius!

This is a really great example of viral marketing. Adding a site where you can buy things for your toy is great, but allowing kids to interact online through their toys is even better. At the end of the day, this is a chat room/social network for kids, and the subscription fee is buying a Webkinz toy. It’s cool that Ganz, a family owned toymaking company based in Toronto, figured this out, and not an entrepreneur in the Valley.

JotSpot/Google screenshots

April 22, 2007 § Leave a comment

My recent post about being frustrated by Google’s lack of application integration got me thinking and I remembered that I created a JotSpot account for a side project before Google bought them. Turns out it’s still alive…which is nice to look at, but it’s super frustrating because I’ve wanted to start wikis on several occasions over the last months and have had to use inferior products. The features for this look pretty awesome and perfect for small business. I’ll be interested to see how good the bug tracker is. As pissed as I am at them dragging their heels, I can guarantee I’ll use this product when it (re)launches.

Interesting that it looks like they’ll be charging for the service…very un-Googley. Also strange that there is a spreadsheet app but no sign of a doc app. Maybe this is what they are waiting on.

[I use Blogger, owned by Google, to run blog. Apparently they didn’t like me posting these screenshots and they edited them out. Thanks Google!]

A history of home values

April 21, 2007 § Leave a comment

I saw this on the Freakonomics blog…pretty interesting stuff. Click the image to see a larger readable version.

Webkinz = genius

April 21, 2007 § 1 Comment

A couple of months ago, a professor of mine was talking about his kids’ obsession with something called “Webkinz” and how he and all the other parents of kids his age in his town would rush to the store when word got out that a new batch of Webkinz had come in. At the time I didn’t think much of it, other than laughing at the thought of my professor having to burn over to the local mom & pop toy store to get his kids new plush toys.

This was my introduction to Webkinz, and the last time I thought about them until today when I was reading a post over at the Lightspeed Ventures blog about the recent ComScore numbers. According to ComScore, Webkinz.com gets the 28th most monthly visits per user on the web. After digging around on Webkinz.com a bit, I now see why this is the case. When you buy a Webkinz stuffed animal, you can then “adopt” the animal online via the Webkinz site. This creates a virtual world for your pet, complete with Happy, Health, and Hunger meters which decrease if you don’t exercise or feed your pet in “Webkinz World”…which obviously costs money. Imagine all the five year olds out there waking their parents up on Sunday morning telling them that Scruffy’s Hunger meter is low and that they need to buy him a cheeseburger in Webkinz World. Genius!

Webkinz is owned by the privately held Ganz company based in Toronto…

Where Am I?

You are currently viewing the archives for April, 2007 at robwebb2k.