Hitchhiking 2.0: See You On the Road

“Damn,” said I, “I’ll just hitchhike on that highway . . .”
Jack Kerouac, “Good Blonde”

“I hitchhiked to New York. Please, do not put me in any category with fucking Kerouac.”     Dan Fante, Interview

 hitchhiker-88746-530-644When talking about hitchhiking, some of us think about summer holidays, travelling with a backpack, a few friends, little money, hitting the road and living an adventure. Others might recall Jack Kerouac, and his bohemian lifestyle, in which hitchhiking was part of his rebellion against society. For the more mundane ones, hitchhiking is a last resort when things go wrong and a lift is desperately needed. To sum up, unless you are Kerouac, probably hitchhiking is not something you do systematically. Rather, it is either a backup plan, or the main plan, but only for a circumscribed period.

This changes with Letzgo, a brand new Italian app for hitchhikers 2.0. Letzgo was launched a few weeks ago, and is currently operative only in Milan. If things go well, the developers want to extend it to other Italian cities and also internationally. How does it work? Conceptually, Letzgo is similar to BlaBlaCar. Indeed, users carpool, i.e. travel together sharing a car. The difference with BlaBlaCar is the kind of trip users do. Ideally, Letzgo users will carpool to travel short distances, within the city, while generally carpooling is for longer distances. To put it differently, while BlaBlaCar competes against trains, planes and “traditional” cars, Letzgo competes against urban public transportation, like buses, metros and trams.

Let’s see the app more closely: in the first place, users have to register on the platform, specifying if they are interested in being just passengers or drivers as well. Continue reading Hitchhiking 2.0: See You On the Road

Designcrowd: Crowdsource your graphic design projects

Designcrowd.com is a platform where graphic designers can compete with each other for projects posted by individuals or companies. How it works? Pretty easy, business post a briefing with the description of what they want and their budget and hundreds of graphic designers from around the world send them their proposes within days. Then, the company chooses its favorite ones and gives feedback to the designers for minor changes till get the perfect design for its needs. Of course, the company pays the designer and the designer sends all the copyrights and the files to the company. If you don’t find the design you are looking for, the webpage gives you your money back. One of the differences between Designcrowd and its competitors is that Designcrowd pays also for participation to the finalist designs, attracting more designers than any other design crowdsource webpage.  This has made the company grow faster in the last years and even get involved in some acquisitions of other crowd design companies. The platform covers any kind of creative project, from web design to logos.

The system has clear advantages for companies: they have more options to choose from than a traditional graphic design company can offer, it´s possible to benefit from the creative diversity around the world and even cheaper than normal graphic designers.  In the other hand, the system has been criticized for diminishing the quality of the designs, since there’s no certainty of getting paid, artist have less incentive to put extra effort on the designs and prefer to apply to several projects than work hard in one. Another detrimental point is the possibility of recycling ideas for several projects, compromising the singularity of the design. Continue reading Designcrowd: Crowdsource your graphic design projects

Crowdupping: Crowdfunding skills and resources

You are sure you have that million-dollar idea that will change the world. Or you want to produce that product that will attract thousands of customers. But you don’t even know where to start… you have the idea but lack the practical expertise.

Why not crowdfund your start up?

Crowdupping is a portal where you can share your start up project and look for a team or material resources, in exchange for a share of the future profits. The idea is quite different from the classical notion of crowdfunding. Normally, if you try to create a project through word of mouth on the net, you can ask users only monetary contributions, ranging from a few cents to millions, and give in exchange a product or service. There exist also equity based crowdfunding platforms, so nothing new in giving some shares to funders.

So, why is crowdupping different? The platform will actually help you search for the skills or the necessary non-monetary resources you would need for the project.


After registration, the user can upload a sketch of the idea, attaching photos or videos describing the project. Subsequently, the creator indicates the skills he needs (e.g. mobile app programming, visual designing) or the resources (e.g. an office or a computer). In return, he may offer part of the shares or profits that will derive from the project. Other users will then be able to apply and supply the needed means. At this point, the founder of the project can choose the co-workers, after controlling the curriculum or materials offered by the applicants.

The platform’s risks are very similar to the challenges of traditional crowdfunding: Continue reading Crowdupping: Crowdfunding skills and resources

Part 2 Anoniem Anno Nu: value co-creation

An artwork from Anoniem Anno Nu

In the last post I discussed how Pieter Jan Glerum could make Anoniem Anno Nu (AAN) commercially more attractive through different pricing strategies. Today, however, I want to reflect on the different ways AAN facilitates value co-creation through collective intelligence and suggest some room for improvement.

In post-modern theoretical works on value co-creation, the term has been characterized by consumer’s ability to craft personal consumption experiences through the offering of more customized goods or services. However, for a deeper understanding of the underlying frictions between the three terms (value, co, and creation) need to be dismantled and separately evaluated according to their meaning. In the case of AAN, value is generated for the artists who get to send in their artworks for a potential sale and for Glerum who gets a 10-15% mark-up over all sales. ‘Co’ refers to the resources that are used by the consumers when creating value. In this case, it is the artists who use their artistic talents to create works to be sold through AAN. Lastly, creation refers to the mechanisms that are used by artists and art patrons to change roles that were traditionally taken on by firms. At AAN, co-creation and voting are used by the consumers and integrate with the firm’s own resources.

However, though we now know what is being done at AAN – creating artworks and making decisions around the quality of these works – and by whom it is being done – artists and art enthusiasts on both crowd and individual level –, we can ask ourselves why it is being done (i.e., why would one partake in the website’s objectives?).

Continue reading Part 2 Anoniem Anno Nu: value co-creation

TicketZen – a new way of paying your parking ticket(s)

Imagine you come back to your car one afternoon only to discover a parking ticket in the windshield. After analysing the situation, you begrudgingly admit that the ticket was waranted and that you won’t bother fighting it. However, that still puts you in the hated situation of having to go to the city hall, or some police station, or even have to mail a check or any other archaic way that costs precious time and annoys you to no end. If only there was some way to pay the thing without going through all this hassle. Well, thanks to an American software development company called Terrible Labs, now there is just such a way. Introducing… TicketZen!

Although it started out as a response to a tweet by Kayak co-founder Paul English(“I want an iPhone app to take a photo of any parking ticket and pay for it from a credit card on file.”), TicketZen is now an app developed for both iOS and Android that allows you to scan the code of the parking ticket and then pay for it online via credit card. It’s just as easy as scanning any QR code right now, and it saves you precious time and energy. No more waiting in line alongside other disgruntled drivers, now you can just scan the code, select the city in which you got fined, select your payment method, and then with a single click of a button the payment is done.

Currently, TicketZen only works in eight cities across the United States, however, this year it is scheduled to be rolled out in over a hundred cities in North America, Europe and Australia. Continue reading TicketZen – a new way of paying your parking ticket(s)

Curing diseases by doing nothing

Curing deadly diseases by doing nothing – an alternative use of crowdsourcing

What if I told you that you could help scientists in their search for a cure to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cancer? The first reaction would probably be „I don’t have any medical background or experience, how could I possibly do that?”. Then you might think of donations to certain organizations or NGOs, but in order to really make a difference in terms of research, the amount of money needed is somewhere in the millions. So how then can an average person, with no experience whatsoever in the medical field and with a budget that could never hope to match the needs of this endeavour, help in finding a cure for these diseases?

The short answer is… by doing nothing. The longer answer is… by doing very little. Puzzled? Don’t worry! The people over at Stanford University’s Pande Laboratory, alongisde Sony, Nvidia and ATI have created a software called Folding@home, which runs in the background of your computer and simulates different possible folding patters of proteins. According to medical textbooks, this folding process is the physical process by which a polypeptide folds into its characteristic and functional three-dimensional structure from random coil[1]. What this actually translates into for you and me is that when proteins in our body fold properly, they can even work as defense mechanisms against disease. When they don’t, they can actually cause the abovementioned diseases. Clearly, if scientists manage to unlock the secrets of this process, it would be a great thing for us all.

Unfortunately, the process is not that simple. Continue reading Curing diseases by doing nothing

How rotten is Rotten Tomatoes?

I live in a house with four other girls, invariably one night in a week is a dedicated movie night where questionable amounts of junk food is bought and the search for the perfect movie elapses the time taken to watch the actual movie. Coming to a consensus about which movie to watch is a far more difficult ordeal that you’d think so we end up putting our fate into the hands of the internet-Rotten Tomatoes. Similar to the ‘Magic 8 ball’, heavy decisions are made with Rotten Tomatoes.

The platform basically combines critic’s reviews and user rating across various websites and presents the final rating of a movie as a percentile. If the movie is higher than a 60% percentile, it is considered ‘fresh’, if not then it’s ‘rotten’. As much as my housemates and a million other people swear by it, I have a bone to pick with the website. The platform compiles reviews and is considered an aggregator yet movies that completely suck, in the real sense, Captain America 2011 for instance are giving a whopping 79% rating. The movie did miserably at the box office and was not well received by audiences at large. So where does this compilation come from? Who are their audiences? Despite high ratings, comments say completely different things. And this movie isn’t the only example!

rotten-tomatoes-screenshot Continue reading How rotten is Rotten Tomatoes?

Using the internet to create a better world

We all know it, but often we are reluctant to acknowledge it: there are a lot of people in the world that need our help. This is why there are so many charities, often calling or approaching you on the street asking for money. But many people simply ignore this, thinking their money will probably not reach the cause anyway… The problem with these organizations collecting money is that they often convince you to send a monthly payment to the organization, and you end up not even knowing exactly how your money is being used. (Yes, I am one of those victims that has been donating a couple of euro’s a month to a charity organization for several years now, I have no idea where it is going though).

So what can you do if you want to give aid to a specific cause, and decide for yourself how much and when you are giving money? Here the online world comes into play once again. Through crowdfunding based on donations there are many sites that facilitate you to donate to a specific cause of your choice. For example the websites Geef.nl or JustGiving.nl, which allows you to search for a cause, make your own ‘giving-page’ and start giving!

These sites also use crowdsourcing to their advantage: most causes on the site are advertised by the crowd: let’s say I want to run 5 miles to support Kika cancer fund, companies and individuals can then decide to support me and donate a small price. Besides individuals, also companies or events can register on the site and start giving to or advertising their cause.

Continue reading Using the internet to create a better world

AHHHA moment? Share it!

We can all be Bell, or Marconi, to name just some of the world’s greatest inventors. Why? Because we all have those great ideas. Naa, you’ll think, I don’t have great ideas, my ideas are whacky and not suited for the outside world. Think again. What do you think they said to Marconi when he told his government that he could transmit wireless signals and pick them up again? They told him they weren’t interested.  And can you imagine what the world would have looked like without radio? Neither can I. So, those whacky ideas are the ones you need. You might not even be the only one having them. Now what’s keeping you back? Developmental costs? Not anymore. Meet AHHHA!Screen-Shot-2012-03-13-at-9.22.13-AM

AHHHA is a platform where your whacky ideas can come into existence. You submit your idea, claim it, and then share it. Now, others comment on it, you improve it and before you know it, your idea is propelled to life and you get a prototype on your doormat (see the example of the SleeperSleeve). AHHHA’s managed to turn the long and time consuming process of developing an idea into a product into a crowdsourced process, while at the same time shielding you of the risk and costs related to the development. They call themselves a crowd ideation platform: it’s all about putting your whacky ideas out there, see who shares them and who likes them, and putting some of that into action. Continue reading AHHHA moment? Share it!

Sharing is caring

It’s what every socialist dreams of; a society share the stuff they don’t urgently need and receive the stuff they desire without having to spend any money on it. One possible downside to this is the idea that people are not to be trusted and will take advantage of the good nature of others. If there was some forum where people could look for goods to share while at the same time moniter what others have to offer and have an indicator of how trustworthy there were, that would be amazing right? Look no further!


The people Spullendelen have recently created exactly such a platform. You can register the goods you have to share, indicate with whom you want to trade and and what days an interested party could come and pick them up. Clearly value is created through the otherwise neglected goods that might have been useless to one party, but extremely valuable to another.

The guidelines specifiy the rules that are ought to be maintained (clearly specified dates when you will return the item, as well as state of condition it was in when you borrowed it). The website itself distances itself from any conflict arising through the transactions, and lending something out to someone is at your own risk.

One of the means the website aims to use to counter this is to have profiles for users that show how often they lend out and borrowed themselves, as well as the money any person has saved by doing so. You can also add people to your friends and only allow your unused goods to be shown to your friends or people in your own neighborhood.


Continue reading Sharing is caring

Jelly, “Let’s help each other!”

There is something wrong with the information today. First, we suffer from an information overload (1). We can know whatever we want, whenever we prefer. However, in most of the cases, this doesn’t make us more educated, as info touch us just the time to impress. Probably it will be disappeared in a moment of real need. Second and more important, “Information is not knowledge”, at least according to Einstein. Information is the skeleton, knowledge is its human application, colored by creativity, fixed by ad hoc application.


The founders of Jelly, which are Biz Stone -one of the Twitter co founder-, and Ben Finkel, started up from this intuition. Do algorithms really know us? Could friends’ advises be replaced by recommendation agents? Can Wikipedia answer all our questions? They said no. Technology, they thought, does a lot in terms of gathering the worldwide intelligence, but it will never be able to replace human brains. Phew, this is comforting.

So they created Jelly. Jelly is an app and an idea that like a jellyfish uses different tentacles to feed the same brain. Jelly is personalized. Last, Jelly is social.

Continue reading Jelly, “Let’s help each other!”

Giving back through consuming

Charities have been a topic of discussion for some time, as people are unsure of whether or not the money will actually end up where it is supposed to. A number of credible charities have been shown to really make a difference, and people have been eager to give them a substantial amount of money. For people that do not have a lot of money to spend but still want to feel like they make a difference there is a website called goededoelshop.

Goede doel shop

By using this website people can make purchases on websites and a portion of the price will be donated to the charity of your choosing. Normally the webhost will retain this portion (which is also called affiliate marketing) but through the collaboration with this website they have agreed to relinguish it to these charities. The Goededoelshop is obligated to hand over a minimum of 80% to these charities, the rest of which is used to cover the costs of the website and compensate those maintaining it.

Continue reading Giving back through consuming

Behomm, the home swapping community


Home swapping as a way to celebrate your summer weeks has been done for many years. Lately this type of vacation has become popular with the crowd. With an increased interest new initiatives arise, just as Behomm. Agusti Juste and Eva Calduch started Behomm a year ago out of dissatisfaction about the traditional home swapping websites. “You spend too much time scanning all the houses and rejecting people that have a completely different lifestyle and home” they said. As graphical designers they wondered why not to set up their own home swapping community JUST for creative people: Behomm was born!

The first 300 members consisted of friends and family of Augusti and Eva who received a lifelong membership in exchange for sending out invitations to their friends. As said only creative people are eligible to receive an invitation, for that reason the website holds a ‘professions list’ that indicates what is understood by this term. All sorts of designers to art museum managers to make up artists are welcome. Only an invitation will lead to access to the website which makes Behomm a private online community. To go even further, Augusti and Eva (try to) meet all new members; having a coffee or diner with potential members, everything to be sure that they fit the community. You can say that Behomm has already become a success. Within a year it reached 702 members in Europe and the Americas.


Continue reading Behomm, the home swapping community

Adopt a Priest !

You have certainly heard about it, the Catholic Church is in decline in most western european countries. Less and less believers go to the office on Sunday and the figures are even worse for the seminarians – the “students” to be priest. As a consequence, less and less donations are made for the restauration of the roofs, the payment of the priests, …

Three dioceses in Normandy (France) have decided to use crowfunding to fill their empty buckets. They just launched this Friday “Adopte un curé” (adopt a priest) as a parody of the dating site Adopt a guy.

Adopt a guy is a french dating site (Adopte un Mec) that “gives power to women” and enables them to pick up their prince charming like in the supermarket. Guys that would like to meet a nice french girl register on the website, set up an account and wait till the women of their dream send him a message. This platform has gained more and more popularity in the past few years, especially since they opened a temporary boutique in Paris where women could go and do their shopping. The marketing stunt proved to be extremely efficient as even the BBC came to the aptly name street of happiness in Paris to do a report of the phenomenon (see here). Soon a british, and later a german website emerged.


“Ladies, find great deals at the supermarket of love” 

Inspired by this successful marketing action, the three norman dioceses decided to apply these concepts to the church, in a nice parody.

Continue reading Adopt a Priest !

Do you speak alien language?

Don’t you feel pain while watching your favorite sci-fi movies or series the alien talk with their weird language for 3 minutes and you just don’t have any clue on what you just missed? Or when watching your long waited action movie and the actors speak in 5 different languages for the whole 2 hours? On this point you might just hope that there’s a website where you can easily search for a subtitle for every film you watch. Well, there is! Just go to http://www.subscene.com where you can type in the title of the movies or series along with the type of codec, resolution, etc (basically just copy the name of the file) and it will gives you the link to download the subtitle for the language of your choice.


Who uploads the file?

Subscene uses crowdsourcing to provide the content, every registered user can create and upload his/her own subtitle which later on will be available for public. Other users (either unregistered or registered) who already downloaded and tried the file are allowed to give numerical ratings and/or verbal reviews (1) to the particular file. In the subtitle details you can see how many people voted the file as good and how many voted as bad and also how the number of downloads. These features will definitely enable you to pick one of the most reliable file from a number of choice.

Where does the money come from?

Continue reading Do you speak alien language?

BlaBlaCar or how to travel for cheap

BlaBlaCarTable 1 shows the prices we would have paid for the following one-way trips if we made them a few years age. However nowadays, it is possible to do the same trips for much cheaper prices (table 1). Why? Because since 2006 there is a new company called BlaBlaCar that allows traveling at very low costs, by using the empty seats in the cars of people, who are doing the same trip with their car. In exchange of taking passengers, the driver gets paid to cover the travel costs.

table1BlaBlaCar is present in 12 European countries and it is continuing to expand. The company has a 100% growth rate/y over the last 4 years, more than 1 million passengers travelling by using this company every month, the estimated costs savings are about €100 millions every year for all the drivers that are registered on their website. By founding the company, Frédéric MAZZELLA did not only seek for profit; one of his main concerns was to find a way to reduce pollution. Thanks to BlaBlaCar, the average occupancy rate of the cars that belong to the members of BlaBlaCar is around 3 vs 1,6 for the European average level. In consequence, it reduced the CO2 emissions by 700 000 tons.

Continue reading BlaBlaCar or how to travel for cheap

GemShare – The trustworthy recommendation agent

Finding the best restaurant in town is not easy. Therefore a vast number of applications and websites provide services to facilitate the search. The “online urban guide” and business review site Yelp is the most popular among them. It uses automated software to recommend the most helpful and reliable reviews for its users and to help them connect with local businesses. Like most other recommendation websites, it combines numerical ratings with textual reviews. Yelp contains over 57 million local reviews and attracts around 130 million users monthly.

Companies are aware of the power of word-of-mouth. Online user reviews have become an increasingly important source of information for consumers. However, when it comes to more personal local services such as finding a trustworthy craftsman, lawyer, or the most competent physiotherapist online recommendation websites like Yelp are only used as a last resort. „People don’t go to Yelp for doctors or lawyers because of trust issues“, says Mohit, the founder of GemShare. „Positive reviews from strangers don’t guarantee that you, too, will value what is likely a very personalized and intimate experience.“ Besides the relevance of taste and trust for these services, people are also aware of fraud within online recommendation systems. Especially local services that are not used by a sufficient quantity of people to obtain the wisdom-of-the-crowd-effect, reviews and ratings can easily be manipulated by self-ratings of companies.

The alternative to the time-consuming and sometimes untrustworthy use of common online recommendation platforms is to ask the own personal network for advice, but even with all our social networks and technical devices, this approach can also be time-consuming and frustrating.


GemShare, launched in April, 2014, is a recommendation platform and application that focuses on trust and personal recommendations to solve this issue. “We have several members who have said two thumbs up from a friend is worth more than 40-star reviews,” says Mohit. Users create their own trusted network of friends and like-minded people, via Facebook, Gmail, or phone contacts, for the specific purpose of finding out where to find the best service.

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Crowdfunding – Last resort for high quality online journalism?

“Online journalism is dead”. This statement is the driving idea behind the business model of the German online magazine Krautreporter. A paradox?

Today many websites are exclusively financed by online advertisements. Google, the most visited website in the world, provides its services to the Internet users for free. Revenues are exclusively generated from advertisers who are interested in reaching out to the online users. Today Google is one of the most valuable companies in the world. Virtually no website misses the chance to broach the lucrative source of online advertisements. Websites with the highest click rates generate the highest profits, since advertisers are willing to pay premium prices for increased reach. In general there is nothing wrong with it. But how about non-commercial Internet content?

Freedom of the press is a crucial element of each democracy. This freedom mostly implies the absence of interference from overreaching states. Public opinion should be shaped by unbiased information. Online journalism, the distribution of editorial content via the Internet, is increasingly suppressing traditional print media and has democratized the flow of information. Today any content can be found online at no charge; therefore print media sales are falling. To ensure sustained revenue, publishing companies are using the previously described business model, by running advertisements on their websites, on which they also display their journalistic content.

Continue reading Crowdfunding – Last resort for high quality online journalism?

An Unexpected Application of Crowdfunding

Nowadays, the crowdfunding has become a very accessible and common way for start-up firms to raise substantial initial funding to launch new innovative business ideas. However, the use of crowdfunding practices seems not to be attractive to start-ups only. Indeed, crowdfunding practices start to be incorporated at the root of new innovative business models, for instance in the real estate industry. Here is an illustration of how building house companies can effectively benefit from crowdfunding uses with the presentation of a real case launched in 2014.

The crowdfunding platformTo begin with, it is important to distinguish two different business models in the house building industry, since the crowdfunding can only be relevant within one of the two. The first business model consists of the situation when the firm already have a certain client and is creating a project especially tailored to the client’s requests and budget. Since the client is paying as the construction goes on, the firm uses directly this entry of money to cover the construction costs and typically does not need any extra funds. The second business model is the situation where the firm undertakes the construction of a house on an acquired land, without having any clients prior to the construction. When the construction is finished, the firm put the house on sale on the regular market. This latter business model required construction firms to raise funds themselves to cover the costs throughout the construction phase. The firms typically use to issue debt to raise funds for such common projects. An interesting alternative to debt consists of the crowdfunding. One of the lead pioneers in this practice is Blavier, a Belgian company that has recently launched its own crowdfunding platform called ConseilB+. Here is how it works in practice.

Continue reading An Unexpected Application of Crowdfunding

Bullying among the GoodReads reviews?

With approximately 25 million members, 750 million books and 29 million reviews, the numbers look definitely impressive for GoodReads. Launched in 2007, GoodReads is at the moment, the most popular online platform for book recommendations and reviews. However, not all benefits are for everyone. The members have access to a lot more information. Apart from the opportunity to read the community reviews –a feature that the visitors have also access to – the website offers personalized book recommendations based on each member’s “bookshelves” which include the books that the member has or is planning to read.


Nonetheless, you cannot but wonder how did GoodReads accomplish such a growth within 7 years? It can be argued that one of the main reasons why GoodReads managed to survive is because some individuals return repeatedly and invest energy in the ongoing conversation (Bateman, Gray and Butler 2011, Bagozzi and Dholakia 2002, Lee and Cole 2003). For each book genre, you can identify consistent reviewers who, most of the time, are also popular bloggers. The platform assists the interaction within the members and tries to help achieve the perfect fit as you are not only allowed to “add as a friend” and follow the reviews of a fellow member but also have access to the member’s bookshelves. In addition, the authors -the contemporary ones, as it would be at least weird if James Joyce was participating in discussions and replied to comments – can connect with the readers.

Continue reading Bullying among the GoodReads reviews?