Tag Archives: Twitter

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.


Reflections on Boston: People Screwed Up, Not Crowdsourcing

23 Apr
Image © 2013 Next Media Animation

Image © 2013 Next Media Animation

Ohh, these have been a maddening last few days. The U.S. sort of went to hell last week, and at the center of it all we had the Boston Marathon bombings and the subsequent panic, finger-pointing, racism, media incompetence, armchair investigation, death threats, and basic reminders that we, as a species, are not that great.

But of course, you’re here because you want to read about crowdsourcing. Throughout this story unfolding, internet denizens gathered on social media outlets, mainly Reddit, to collect information, speculate on as-yet-uncovered details, and attempt to reduce confusion. Which is fine! That’s what Reddit is for; collecting all of the Internet into one place where just the good stuff rises to the surface. The problem arises when certain people decide to take this information and, because they are obviously smarter than the FBI, CIA, and Boston PD combined, attempt to find the perpetrators of the bombings before the authorities do.

Alright, let’s do a rundown of who in this narrative is making me angry (hint: everyone):

  • Redditors. Not as a whole. Reddit is everyone; that is its beauty. I’m mad at the Redditors who had the gall to think they were smarter than the tens of thousands of investigating officials. What leads a person to believe that just because they have a few blurry citizen photographs and some other Internet Detectives on their side, they are better at solving crimes than entities with sophisticated investigation techniques, access to innumerable surveillance sources, a network of collaborators, and the support of the U.S. Government? Glory, maybe. The idea that they can achieve Internet fame for cracking the case. But, that’s The Internet. Some people on it are idiots. I know that, and you know that, but do you know who apparently didn’t know that?
  • Mass Media. The Internet will wildly speculate on anything and everything, but that doesn’t make it fact. What makes a fact is confirmation, proof, and sources. You know, things major news outlets are supposed to get before they report that some random student is probably the bomber. But, of course, as soon as Reddit came up with the name of a dark-skinned male who was possibly a little suspicious, news outlets unfortunately ran with it. With the help of Reddit itself, this poor individual’s family was harassed with countless accusations that their relative was the Boston Bomber. All false, of course. No one knew the identity of the suspects until (surprise!) their names were released by the FBI. Not Reddit, not NBC, not Twitter: the real, honest-to-God government agents who were investigating the case. Turns out they can do their jobs after all!
  • Internet Journalists. Specifically the ones who are liberal with their use of the word “crowdsourcing”. After the events of this story shook out, many were quick to blame crowdsourcing for the colossal amount of incompetence that went down. I’ve got a news flash for all of them: what happened here wasn’t an example of “crowdsourcing” by any definition of the word. What many forget is that aside from the presence of a crowd, the equally important component of crowdsourcing is the controlling entity, the person or people directing the crowd. It’s what separates this story from the time that crowdsourcing actually did solve a murder mystery. What we have here is crowdsourcing with a complete lack of compartmentalization; without a leader steering them towards a common goal, the crowd governs themselves. I should hope I don’t have to tell you how well that sort of thing typically works out.
  • Media Consumers. Yeah, I’m in this boat and so are all of you. We’re the reason for the 24-hour news cycle, we’re the reason that fact-checking is passé and editorialized headlines are the norm. We’re the reason the media will jump on the opportunity to place the blame on any brown kid they can find. And we’re the reason that Reddit posts saying “hey guys, maybe we shouldn’t jump to conclusions and let the authorities do their jobs” got downvoted straight to hell. We demand answers more than we demand correct answers, and our constant yearning for entertainment has turned the news into what at times feels like a constant stream of barely-relevant information. I know this is well-trodden ground at this point, and that I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said fifty times before by people much smarter than me. I don’t care. I’m angry anyway.

I think if there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s that the Internet has made many people forget their places. The fact that information can travel so quickly from brain to fingers to keyboard to THE WHOLE WORLD and onto a new brain makes people think that they can solve mysteries better than the pros. These are people who dedicate their lives to these things, and chances are they’re better at it than the random Internet denizen. Let them do their jobs.

People on Reddit are supposed to gather and share information; they don’t investigate crimes, finger suspects, or make Facebook raids. The media reports what is happening in the world, once they’re absolutely sure that it is indeed happening. If they see something worth reporting on Reddit, they are perfectly within their rights to do so, but they are obligated to make sure it’s true first. And the viewers of the news are supposed to watch it, not demand it. Demand for news leads to fabrication of news.

Everyone, please take a breather, recoup, and kindly go about your business.

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!

It’s Back! Magic: The Gathering Announces You Make The Card 4

12 Mar

Image © 1995-2013 Wizards of the Coast LLC

Turns out the number-one cure for the Mondays is your favorite company announcing the revival of an incredibly popular and successful crowdsourcing campaign. Game company Wizards of the Coast announced today that their trading card game Magic: The Gathering, of which I am a huge fan, would be beginning the fourth iteration of their You Make The Card (YMTC) project, starting immediately. Using the ideas and voting power of their fans, Wizards will create a brand-new card that will be released in a future set.

Like the last few contests, YMTC4 will involve an iterative approach. One decision at a time will be presented to the fans, and they will discuss, submit ideas, and vote on that aspect before moving onto the next one. This campaign starts with deciding what card type this card will be; the first three campaigns began by choosing the card’s color or art. It’s similar to the approach Nissan used when soliciting the crowd’s help to design a car.

I’ve previously discussed the past YMTC campaigns, so I’ll take this space to briefly reiterate why they were so popular and such a good example of a company effectively reaching out to their audience. Wizards expertly hits all three of the tenets of successful crowdsourcing:

  • Since Magic research and development is usually very secretive and confidential, fans are incentivized by the rare and significant opportunity to be this closely involved
  • The iterative way in which the contest is compartmentalized prevents the people running it from being overwhelmed with too many disparate ideas, and ensures that each part of the card will work properly with the previously-designed parts
  • Hosting the campaign on the official website ensures that only people who are already sufficiently interested in Magic will find it, and that they will also have access to the massive archive of articles about Magic design that are hosted there.

I can’t wait to see what kind of crazy card we end up with when this contest is over. The first three cards designed by YMTC were fun to build decks around and provided effects that were previously underexplored in the game, so there’s no reason to believe this one won’t do the same.

Get in on the contest while it’s fresh and new by voting in the first phase and following the contest on Twitter under the #ymtc tag, and then pop down to the comments to tell me what kind of cool card you hope will be designed in the upcoming weeks.


EDIT 3/18/12 4:30pm EST: Thank you Maro for retweeting my article, and welcome all followers of Maro on Twitter!

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.

Follow-Up: IDThisItem.com Does It Right!

30 Apr


Sometimes, a platform is so useful, so novel, and so well-designed that I have no choice but to write about it multiple times. So when one of the people behind IDThisItem.com sent me a message saying that the invite-only period was over, a quick browse through the site convinced me that this glorious platform absolutely deserves a second look.

The concept behind IDThisItem is simple; sometimes you see something on TV or on the internet that’s awesome. An article of clothing, some artwork, or a well-designed piece of furniture catches your eye and you think, “Alas! If only I knew where to purchase this glorious item, my life would have new meaning and my wife won’t leave me!” IDThisItem saves your marriage by allowing you to post a picture of the item with a short description and have the website’s fantastic community find the item, the designer, and/or where and how to buy it.

ID This Item - ID #54

It’s very rare to see a start-up like this firing on all cylinders, but IDThisItem absolutely nails it. Their best decision was to emphasize their co-operation with platforms like Pinterest and Tumblr, which are both hugely popular right now. Crowdsourcing initiatives work best when they actively seek a relevant audience, and IDThisItem has done that perfectly by actively seeking an audience from these websites. It’s not uncommon to see the typical account on these websites chock-full of interesting examples of fashion and design that may not be available at your local Target.

In addition to knowing its audience, IDThisItem knows how to design a platform, too. The sign-up process is super minimal, and can be done by linking Twitter or Facebook. Submitting an item to be identified is similarly a snap, and the community fills many requests within 48 hours. Especially useful is the option to list a budget for the item in question. Rounding out the site are some simple community features, like an aggregated score for each member that tells how helpful they are, and personal “walls” for interaction. The only flaw I can find (which isn’t even a flaw yet) is that as the site grows in popularity, the “Art & Design” and “Other” categories may become too broad, and could benefit from some specialization.

In summary, anyone who’s fashion-minded, online-shopping-savvy, or has a really good photographic memory should sign up for IDThisItem immediately and save themselves some trouble down the road when they see a cute pair of jeans on Jersey Shore that they just have to have.

“ID This Item” Crowdsources to Help You Find, Purchase That Cute Top You Saw One Time on Tumblr

11 Apr

ID This Item

It’s happened to the best of us. You’re on your favorite picture-sharing website. You spot an article of clothing on an attractive model, think “Psh, I could wear that better than them!” and then promptly lose interest because you can’t find where to purchase the damn thing. Pinterest and Tumblr are great for sharing pictures, but when it comes to the details and source data of the image, often you’re left without the slightest hint. So for the aspiring internet fashionista who wishes to mimic these styles, IDthisitem.com swoops in to save the day.

It’s a pretty simple crowdsourcing model that we’ve seen in similar forms before: person posts item in question, thousands of pairs of eyes see it, one of them says “It’s X item available at Y.com,” correct answers are rewarded, rewards buy prizes… by-the-books crowdsourcing here. The site isn’t breaking ground in innovation, just providing a solid service that can definitely be strengthened by applying crowdsourcing. As an added bonus, this is the sort of subject matter that lends itself well to an online community. ID This Item could find itself with a very strong fan base if this platform proves worthy.

So far, results look promising. The site is invitation-only for another week or so, so I unfortunately couldn’t see inside. But if we’re to believe the Twitter feed, ID This Item is producing quite a few satisfied customers, who all express gratitude with some version of “omg thank you” (triple exclamation points optional). Sign up if this is your sort of thing, and let me know if it’s a dynamo or a dud in the comments.

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