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Nintendo Pokes Fun At Crowdfunding With Wario’s “Crowdfarter”

22 May
Image © 2013 Nintendo

Image © 2013 Nintendo

Ask any musician that’s been parodied by Weird Al Yankovic, and they’ll tell you: you’ve only truly made it when someone parodies you. Which is why I’m thrilled to death that crowdfunding is such a big deal that videogame giant Nintendo has lampooned it to sell their new Wii U game, Game & Wario.

Crowdfunding was popularized by sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo that present underfunded projects for people to throw money at if they want to see them completed. Nintendo’s parody, the maturely-named “Crowdfarter”, copies elements from the source material in a manner that shows that Nintendo isn’t just trying to cash in on a buzzword. They’ve made a conscious effort here to find the funniest and most ripe-for-parody elements of crowdfunding sites, and to represent them through their “lazy greedy corporate slob” character, Mario’s unscrupulous brother Wario.

Wario is a great fit for this parody; he wants to cash in on the new Wii U system, so he needs a game to do it. But of course, he doesn’t want to pay his own money to make the game, and that’s where we come in. Through Facebook “Likes” and Twitter shares, Wario will “fund” his game and spread awareness at the same time.

Nintendo went to notable lengths to rip on crowdfunding as lovingly as possible. All the elements that make crowdfunding unique are here: we’ve got the poorly-produced introduction video, the lofty and over-hyped funding goal rewards, the updates from Wario where he professes that his project will be “the best Wii U game ever”, and the less-than-subtle indication that the entire thing is less about the final product and more of a huge cash grab.

This parody would feel disingenuous if done poorly, but Wario’s characterization is absolutely perfect for this campaign. He’s unarguably the type of character who would see a system like crowdfunding and immediately attempt to game it for his own self-interested and lazy purposes. Wario might have even inadvertently touched on a deeper crowdsourcing issue with one off-the-cuff line: “Why should I pay for everything when other people will do it for me?” The best parodies always contain a kernel of truth.

Well done, Nintendo. I don’t own a Wii U so I probably won’t buy Game & Wario, but this is a marketing home run.  Check out the parody site here, and throw Wario a Tweet or a Like if you’re so inclined. Goodness knows his lazy ass could use the help.


PucaTrade is a Collaborative Way To Trade Magic Cards

15 Apr

Image © 2013 PucaTrade

It’s been well-established by this point that I am a fan of Magic: The Gathering. There’s just something about shuffling up your deck and launching a barrage of monsters, weapons, and sorcery at an opponent’s tender, innocent face. The only downside is that the cards themselves, the fundamental building blocks of the entire game, are not cheap. It’s not uncommon to see highly-played cards for some formats valued at $100 each.

PucaTrade.com aims to change the game by making the process of trading cards between players crazy simple, and it’s doing it through crowdsourcing. The driving concept is that of Collaborative Consumption, where people share things they own instead of maintaining permanent ownership. Zipcar has used this concept to great success with their car-sharing service, and PucaTrade extends the concept to Magic cards.

With PucaTrade, users mail out cards they own that other users also happen to want. In return, they receive some amount of “PucaPoints”, which in turn can be spent on cards the user wants. It’s dead simple, and PucaTrade plays fair by keeping a constant eye on card values and making sure no users are getting ripped off by uneven trades. In another act of crowdsourcing, the site developers have teamed up with the users to create PucaBot. The site-owned “user” identifies and buys surplus cards in order to even out the economy and make a little money to keep the site running.

It’s a solid concept. People who play Magic often have dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of unplayed and unwanted cards in their collections that would be better off in the hands of someone who’d actually appreciate them. PucaTrade also circumvents the entire economy of online card shopping, where prices can vary drastically and shipping snafus can prevent cards from arriving for days. With PucaTrade, the grassroots approach means its users can send and receive a steady stream of cards to each other at no cost except postage. Brilliant.

PucaTrade is growing quickly, and has already traded over $80,000 worth of cards between its users. They are currently doing an Indiegogo project to get out of beta and add some really great features to the site, including a redesigned interface and more tools for user interaction. If you’re as into Magic as I am, or if you just think these cards are getting crazy stupid expensive, donate to the campaign and/or register on the website and start trading. You get free PucaPoints if you share the campaign on Facebook or Twitter, too!

Case Study: What We Learned From Mountain Dew

16 Aug

By now, you may have heard of the fiasco that was Mountain Dew’s “Dub The Dew” contest, where they crowdsourced the name for their new Granny-Smith-apple-flavored Dew. If you’re a dedicated reader, you already see where I’m going with this. I’ll just cut to the chase, since this picture pretty much sums it up:

Disaster area. 4chan’s /b/ board got ahold of it, and in their typical fashion, overwhelmed the contest with their sheer numbers and pushed all the other entries out of the top 10 positions, replacing them with flavors like “Gushing Granny”, “Diabeetus”, and “Hitler did nothing wrong”. As of my writing this, the contest site is blank, but the damage is done.

Fortunately, we can make a case study out of this and actually learn something. Here are a few tips for dealing with your crowd if you happen to be a big company holding a contest on the Internet:

  • Seriously. Know your audience. I can’t be the first person to tell Mountain Dew that their product is overwhelmingly consumed people who use the Internet a LOT. The law of averages hurts Dew in this case, since it would stand to reason that at least one of these Internet users would tell 4chan about the contest, and this is not the sort of low-hanging fruit 4chan leaves alone. Especially because you didn’t…
  • Validate your contributions. If this is a real contest, treat it like one. Make people sign up to enter or vote, even if it’s just Facebook validation. It’s annoying, and you’ll lose some voters, but you won’t have as many cases of the sort of chaos that pure anonymity can breed. Look at Lay’s Facebook contest to name a new potato chip flavor; I don’t see any “Fapulous Apple” there. A little accountability goes a long way, especially when it means that you can block offending accounts or IP addresses. Speaking of technological failures…
  • Security is still super important. See that bit of anti-Israel vitriol at the top of the screenshot? Surprisingly, Mountain Dew didn’t put that there themselves. That was the result of a hacker with the smallest amount of talent and five spare minutes. See, the site lacked something called “input validation”, meaning that programming code entered in the contest entry box would actually appear on the website. It’s a little complicated, and explained better in this Reddit thread, but the gist of it is that this was Web Security 101, completely and easily avoidable, and Mountain Dew dropped the ball. I’m sure this didn’t help vote hacking, either.

So it looks like Mountain Dew threw together this contest with minimal research or development, and now they’re receiving results indicative of their lack of effort. The sad thing is, this is the sort of event that makes entire industries shy away from crowdsourcing as a method. But it’s just that: a way to do things, a tool. If you hold a hammer by the wrong end, it’s not gonna get that nail down, and you’re gonna look like a freakin’ idiot in the process.

Learn, and try again.

Nissan’s Crowdsourced 370Z Completed, Fans React

13 Aug


Finally! Since the earliest days of this blog, I’ve kept a close eye on Nissan’s crowdsourced project to have their fans help them design a car. Now, it’s finally here. After months of polling on Facebook, tweaking, and gathering results, Nissan finally showed off the fan-made build to the world with this video:

Over the weekend, I’ve been passing this video along, browsing car blogs, and generally trying to get a read on the reaction to this final product. It surprised me to find that the announcement isn’t getting much traction; even on the Nissan Performance Facebook page, the very place where fans designed the car, the announcement video barely has any comments (although it’s been shared a few times).

With this being said, here are some of the first impressions of the car:

  • Ugly/poor design. The fans don’t waste any time critiquing their own work. People will complain about anything, of course, but the general consensus is that there was a lack of an overall design goal, which is fundamentally true. Nissan could have avoided this by crowdsourcing a design goal as part of the project, but obviously it’s a little too late for that.
  • “I’ve already built this car.” A bit of a two-pronged comment. On one hand, this person is disappointed that the car isn’t anything out-of-this-world special. On the other hand, this was Nissan’s goal from the beginning; they wanted to use off-the-shelf parts so enthusiasts at home could build their own fan-inspired 370Z. Take this comment with a grain of salt.
  • We want more! By far the most repeated comment for the video was “That’s it?!” This does not represent a disappointment in the car, but a desire for more information. The fans want to see their car do some really impressive moves on a racetrack, and most of all, they want to hear what the engine sounds like. I can’t say I disagree with them; a performance vehicle should be performing if it’s being shown off.
  • Still pretty cool. Despite the complaining, reactions are generally positive. The novelty of this project helped a lot; many commenters were unaware that a project like this existed, and think it’s neat that Nissan stuck its neck out to trust its fans. The “you-can-build-your-own” aspect is also a big plus, especially since Nissan has no plans to mass-produce the car.

In summary, this was an excellent first crack at a crowdsourced vehicle, and Nissan is in a very good position if they want to try a project like this again. This 370Z seems to be the “Two and a Half Men” of cars; it’s nothing super-special but it’s generally liked because it doesn’t offend anyone. If Nissan wanted to do Attempt #2, they should start with a fan-chosen design goal and end with photos, videos, articles, statistics, sound bytes, and virtual shows spewing from every pore of the Internet. As a matter of fact, that’s my biggest complaint with this project. You and your fans have made something really cool, Nissan! Show it off and get people talking about it!


Take Back Your Snack with Lay’s “Do Us A Flavor” Promo

2 Aug

If you’ve ever felt out-of-control of your own snacking experience, Lay’s has your back. With their ongoing “Do Us A Flavor” campaign making the waves on Facebook, the company hopes to tap the brains of their fans to come up with a new potato chip flavor. The reward? One million dollars, or a 1% share of the flavor’s 2013 net sales. Winner’s choice.

Lay's "Do Us A Flavor"

The campaign has already had some success in other countries, where fans of the product have invented such flavors as Caesar salad, shrimp, and sausage. The version that American audiences will see has some impressive features that make it more than a simple “submit and vote” process.

First of all, customers don’t get to vote until the last step, when Lay’s has already narrowed down the flavor options to three. What they can do instead, to show their support, is to click a flavor’s “I’d Eat That” button, a clever replacement for Facebook’s standard “Like”. It’s a small shift but nonetheless re-brands the “Like” button to be much more relevant, meaning that the number of “Eats” a flavor gets will more closely represent how many people would actually buy the product.

Users can find additional fun with the Do Us A Flavor Facebook App, where participants can compare two random submitted flavors, submit their own for a chance at daily prizes, and have the app “Flavorize” them, which crawls through their profile for zesty words that could describe this person’s character as a flavor. Unfortunately, it would seem I am a deeply boring and slightly disgusting person; my ingredient recommendations were vanilla and egg.

Lay’s will narrow down submissions and start selling the finalists in early 2013, at which point a Facebook vote will decide the winner. Jump over to the Facebook page, and return the power of snacking to the people!

Stephen Fry Helps Push Crowdsourced Campaign to Fight HIV

16 May
The Community Campaign Launch Video - YouTube

© 2012 Chelsea and Westminster Hospital

HIV and sexual health clinic 56 Dean Street is teaming up with (awesome) actor Stephen Fry to crowdsource ads designed to raise awareness of HIV. Focused around the Community Campaign Facebook page, the campaign follows the typical “contest” model of crowdsourcing. Ads will be openly accepted from all comers, and the crowd will vote to decide the winners. The best ads will be displayed across multiple media outlets, and heavily featured in prominent London gay bars.

I love campaigns like this, because they target exactly the right audience. The ads will be primarily geared towards gay men, a community already famous for their unique style of creative flair. Add that to the videographers and other content producers from all circles;  they’re more than eager to tackle hot-button issues like HIV, since a controversial or popular video provides publicity for its creators. Also, 56 Dean attaching Stephen Fry to the project opens it up to his entire fan base. Some may not be particularly passionate about HIV awareness or the gay community, but they’ll support anything backed by their idol anyway. Heck, I might not have even seen this campaign if his name didn’t catch my eye.

Essentially, we’ve got a “perfect storm” of creatives that will be chomping at the bit to produce an ad like this, and 56 Dean Street is going to receive an enormous number of submissions. And as a bonus, since this is an awareness campaign, even the process of voting for the final ad will contribute to their overall cause. This is well-done crowdsourcing, and I think 56 Dean will be very pleased with the results. Look to the Facebook page on August 13th, when the submissions will be in and voting can begin.

Semi-Organized Crime: The Dark Side of Crowdsourcing

10 May

Can crowdsourcing be used as a tool for evil? - Tommaso De Benetti, Microtask

In a recent Microtask post, Tommaso De Benetti calls to memory the heart-pounding scene in The Dark Knight where the Joker essentially crowdsources crime by going on TV and threatening to blow up a hospital unless a particular person is killed. De Benetti ponders the ramifications; could real-life crime be crowdsourced in a similar fashion? He offers two scenarios he thinks could be effective.

The first method is pretty much the real-world application of Joker’s ultimatum; a cyber-terrorist posts on Facebook (for example) that they will blow up the Eiffel Tower unless everyone goes to Website X and donates $5 to him. He describes it accurately as “a cross between crowdfunding site Kickstarter and those absurd guilt-trip chain emails”, but would it work? Probably not. Joker’s ruse was successful for two reasons:

  1. He’s the Joker. When he says he’s going to blow up a hospital, people tend to believe him. Random Facebook poster? Probably not going to get as much credibility. He’d have to prove he’s capable of such a thing, and in doing that he would most likely attract law enforcement attention, nipping the whole thing in the bud.
  2. He was on Gotham TV. Joker knew his audience. His message was targeted towards a scared, doubtful audience, one that had already put very little faith in traditional methods of keeping the peace. In the real world, a message like this hits a much different crowd, and we probably can’t expect the reaction to be similar. Someone who actually believes this terrorist’s message (see point #1) is more likely to simply call the cops or FBI than actually donate their hard-earned and scarce funds.

De Benetti’s second method, however, has already seen some success. It involves using an online medium to organize a mass robbery of a certain store. The organizer offers to buy the loot, and the crowd organizes their own lookouts, getaway vehicles, and systems to decide who gets a cut of what. We’ve seen this in small-scale with flash robberies. If a mob was to collaborate to attempt a bigger heist, they certainly have the tools to do so, but at a certain point it seems bound to collapse on itself; all you need is one miscommunication or stool pigeon, and suddenly your big heist has no getaway cars. Or worse, the police are waiting for you when you arrive.

Flash Mob Welcoming Party

Your crowdsourced mafia’s welcoming party.

The best example of real-world crowdsourced crime that I can think of is Anonymous’ DDoS raids of various websites. While it equates to little more than Internet vandalism, the heart of crowdsourcing is absolutely present here. This is a group that anyone can join, organized grassroots-style, which has no leader and its participants have no illusions of personal glory. Their actions are for a cause they see as righteous and use methods that could only be accomplished by a large group of loosely-organized individuals. Nothing more crowdsource-y than that.

Do you think crime can be crowdsourced? Tell me in the comments how you’d build your own ground-up crime syndicate.

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