Quora: New way for Answers & Questions

Nowadays, if you have a question in mind, what would you do? Google it? Check Wikipedia? Either these ways are the most common method we use for searching an answer. However, what if the question is more complex that you can barely find a relevant answer by google or Wikipedia? There is a new choice you should try – Quora. It is basically a Q & A website which provides a platform for people can ask questions in variety areas. As guideline gave by Quora:

Quora works by having the community ask and answer questions.
When you want to know more about something, Quora delivers you answers and content from people who share your interests and people who have first-hand knowledge — like real doctors, economists, screenwriters, police officers, and military veterans.

beginning page

You need to sign in by email or facebook/google account before start using website, then choose topics interested you. After several step about personal information, you can start ask a question or answer a question from other people, or just check discussions from topic interested you. You can also follow people in Quora, but that will cost you credits, an important element which will be explained in the next paragraph. The recommendation agent works vigorously at Quora by active and passive content filtering and collaborative filtering. By the topic you select in the beginning, Quora displays relevant contents on your homepage and by the questions you are viewing, it shows relevant or similar questions on the ride-down side of screen.

topic choosing

However, how to evaluate quality of answers to the question or the question itself? Continue reading Quora: New way for Answers & Questions

Parking Monkey: Getting paid for leaving!

Parking Monkey is a new app that allows city dwellers of the San Francisco area to auction their parking spots from 5 to 20 dollars. The app works like this, once you park your car in San Francisco, something apparently not easy, you can post the location of your spot, when you want to leave and the price of your spot. Then, interested drivers seeking for parking spots access the app and enter the maximum amount they are willing to pay for stop driving around the city and the app offers a map with locations of available parking spots for that price, and if there is competitors, you will have to bid.  The app developer profits from taking a commission in the transaction. The platform works basically as other auction sites, like Ebay.

Continue reading Parking Monkey: Getting paid for leaving!

I don’t know what to wear… people help me out!

It’s that time again… you open your wardrobe, stare at a pile of clothes but you soon come to realize you have nothing to wear. Or maybe you do, and you just need some creative advice on how to match that lovely dress you bought two months ago, with the price tag still on it.

A personal stylist would be really handy in this case, but what if you could actually have a personal styling community for free?

The mobile app Jaqard, a social network for fashion enthusiasts, might be exactly what you are looking for. It was launched October 2013 for iOS and it will soon be also available for Android.

To exchange fashion tips, the user posts a picture and asks a question:

How could I pair these new shoes?”2

He will receive feedback from other users, who can give a personal advice

They would look great with that white dress you posted three days ago.

but also choose the perfect match from a combination of clothes from an integrated catalog, linked to the fashion brands and online shops.

In a user-friendly and very visual platform (all the advice must be accompanied by a picture) the developers were able to co-create value for all the parties involved:

Continue reading I don’t know what to wear… people help me out!

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a Dwarf! It’s a Druid! It’s Nerd Fitness!

Screen Shot 2014-05-11 at 12.28.30 AM

Companies recently discovered the opportunity to combine products with online communities, to support continuous usage of their product(s) in evolving ways; creating a whole new experience for customers. While previously consumption ended after the tangible product had been purchased, the online community continues the consumption period and becomes more important to the customer than the product itself. We call this a “continuous consumption community.”

To keep these online communities functioning, there must be some level of community commitment that is either need, affect, or obligation-based (Bateman, et. al, 2011). An online community would ideally like to evoke affective community commitment, or “an emotional attachment to the organization, which leads them to act in ways that further the organization’s interests,” (Meyer and Herscovitch 2001). Specifically within online communities, this type of commitment stimulates both reply-posting and moderating behavior among users (Bateman, et. al, 2011).

So how do these websites attract users and create “emotional attachment”? The fitness community 1-2 Sports (www.1-2-sports.com) tries to attract users through an easy-to-use website and mobile app, lowing the barrier of entry for novices to join the community. Some online communities create attachment through a common identity; the gaming community World of Warcraft evokes identity with graphics (www.warcraft.com).

World of Warcraft Website with "Nerdy" Fantasy Graphics
World of Warcraft Website with “Nerdy” Fantasy Graphics

Upon first glance at the website of another online community, Nerd Fitness, you might think it was created in 1997 instead of 2009; the graphics are out-of-date and the interface is rather tricky to navigate. And yet it has successfully created an online fitness community of nearly 200,000 users! How?!

Nerd Fitness attracted users by creating affective commitment through a sense of belonging to this fantasy fitness realm, where users create avatars and join guilds. Continue reading Look! Up in the sky! It’s a Dwarf! It’s a Druid! It’s Nerd Fitness!

Facebook, a powerful customer service tool

Facebook was founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, with some other students of Harvard University. The purpose of Facebook back in those days was a social network that allows members of Harvard University to create social relations through the site. Gradually the website, allow users from other universities and finally it was opened to anyone who was older than 13 years old. However, nowadays Facebook is more than just a social network website that allows people to crate social relations. Facebook now, represent a tool for companies that allows them to create a profile, which can be used to promote its products or its services, or on the other hand it can be used as powerful tool to offer customer service to the customer, in which they can add reviews or comments about the services or products that they just purchased or have the intention to it.

Facebook represents a powerful tool to offer customer service especially for companies who sell services instead of products; this is the case of banks or airlines, among others. Since it is not common that they sell their services through a third party website, which is the case of products, and probably the best example of it is Amazon, where customer can add a review of the products purchased; and on the other hand they do not provide spaces for customer review in their own website either. The reason of this might be that Facebook can reach a larger amount of people than their own website.

Continue reading Facebook, a powerful customer service tool

LibreOffice: The Document Foundation

In 2011, LibreOffice was voted one of the best open-source software. An open-source software has the particularity to have “its source code made available and licensed with a license in which the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose” (Andrew, 2008). In simpler words, it’s a software that anyone (with the right knowledge) can change, use, copy, improve and share.


LibreOffice, the homonimic non-profit organization, made a sustainable business plan out of this main product. They even exhibit a growth that most multinational corporation would envy.  But how could a firm make a business out of a product that is free and on which the firm accepts to give up the control?


LibreOffice generates its revenue through mainly through donations.  These donations are either directly cash or either materials.  These donations come from enthusiastic users or from “strategic Advisory Board Members”, understand a long list of firms that have some interests in seeing a free competitor challenge Microsoft’s Office quasi-monopolistic position on this market.  Although the number of employees and there wages are still undisclosed, these donations are sufficiently large to allow the company to run and to hire some in-house developers.  The next straightforward question is now: why would so many people and firms pay give so much?  What do they get from it?

Continue reading LibreOffice: The Document Foundation

Into the Darkness

Disclaimer: Don’t worry, this post ain’t related to any kind of dark power, magic or any other horrifying stuffs. So… continue scrolling in peace. 🙂

Having stayed in Singapore for 8 years, I have always been impressed on the varieties of dining out options it offers. For a country as small as this little red dot, Singapore has grown into an international haven for the foodies. From the traditional food court for simple and cheap local delights, the recent craze of ramen (Japanese noodle) huts and coffee places, to the top-notch Michelin star restaurants; Singapore gastronomy business indeed never sleeps. Now, living thousand miles away from Singapore doesn’t keep me away from the updates of new cool restaurants popping up there (thanks to the social network and my circle of friends who always likes to ‘boast’ around). Well, this was how I came across Nox, Dine in the Dark.

Nox opened less than a year ago in Singapore. The concept was not entirely new. Indeed, there were several restaurants located across the globe that are using the same concept. I think I’ve heard it before too somewhere, but it was not until recently when I heard a real experience directly from my friend that I was curious to read further about it. Word of mouth is still as powerful as ever!

So, for those of you who are on the same boat as me, and as curious as ever.. let’s reveal this darkness!

DarkImagine a view like this for dinner – a total pitch darkness. You can’t see the cutlery, the table, the food, not even your own hand in front of you.

Continue reading Into the Darkness

Pandora vs Spotify

Pandora is an internet radio station that offers automated music recommendation. You can type in a song or artist that you like and Pandora will generate a continuous playlist for you. During a song, you can click whether or not you like it. If you like that song, Pandora will play more songs that are similar in style. If you do not like that song, then Pandora will not pick that type of songs. It was brilliant. Everybody at my work listened to Pandora. You can also listen to Pandora on your smartphone. Pandora relies on ads and the ad-free subscriptions for its revenue.

The downside? You can only skip a certain number of songs per hour and playback is not allowed. The most important downside of Pandora is that it only available in the United States, Australia and New Zealand. I missed Pandora a lot when I moved away and Pandora was no longer available. But then, along came Spotify.

Spotify is a commercial music streaming service. You can download the player and listen to the music on your computer, tablet and smartphone and it is free, or, at least, in the Netherlands. On Spotify, you can search for your favorite songs and artists and listen to the whole album or create your own playlist. The coolest thing is that it also offers the exact same service as Pandora, except on Spotify you can do much more. Since I have Spotify, I stop using iTunes on my computer. The annoying thing about Spotify is that if you use the free version, you have audio ads and the visual ads on the player but you can pay a premium package to have the ad-free version. Spotify is available in Europe, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and a few countries in Asia and South America. It also looks like Spotify plans to expand its service to many more countries.

Continue reading Pandora vs Spotify

The Craigslist Incidences

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Craigslist is an internet-based platform where people can sell their personal stuff. Not only that, but you can also share news, post a photo of your lost pet, look for a partner/a house/a job, find a ride to somewhere, advertise the service you offer or advertise that you need one, participate on a discussion board and much more. If you go to the Craigslist website, you will see that it keep things very simple. There are no ads on the website. It earns revenue by charging for job classifies in some cities. Craigslist encourages that users deal locally to prevent scams and frauds.

Nevertheless, we still hear about the horrifying stories happened via this platform. In October 2007, Micheal John Anderson killed a woman who answered his ad for a baby sitter on Craigslist. This was the first murder case involving Craigslist since it was found in 1995. In April 2009, Philip Markoff was charged with first-degree murder of a masseuse who advertised her service on Craigslist. In June of 2011, a woman bought a car on Craigslist for her daughter. After the money was transferred, she found out that the deal was a scam. The woman lost $2,900. In the same month, a woman in California who worked as a housekeeper was raped by a man. They came in contact through Craigslist. Another example of Craigslist-related crime: a man agreed to buy a cellphone from someone and when they met up, the man was robbed at gunpoint.

Continue reading The Craigslist Incidences

Hazing with the X-Files fans

Online communities are platforms where like-minded can converse with each other and share things. We are undoubtedly all part of one or more of these platforms, take for example Facebook, YouTube or even this blog you are reading right now! Usually online communities form around a certain hobby or fanpage where you can find fellow fans and get in contact with each other. One of these platforms was formed in 1998 among fans of the then running tv show The X-Files, named the X-Filesaholics. This platform shows that sometimes, boundaries between real life and the virtual world can become extremely vague, and that people online can participate in situations that even in real life are not considered pleasant.

More precisely, I am talking about the concept of hazing: something that is still very alive in student fraternities in the Netherlands. Hazing a practice meant to show the freshmen, or newbies, that there is a set hierarchy within the fraternity and that they should obey those with more power. This includes doing chores, public embarassment and often verbal abuse. Not very fun now is it?

So how does an online platform for X-Files fans relate to this? An extended study (Honeycutt, 2006) of the community shows how the users of this site are using hazing techniques to maintain boundaries and excert power onto newcomers of the platform to maintain the inequality inherent between dominant and subordinate groups.On the message board, also referred to as “Mulders Apartment”, many things are discussed unrelated to the X-Files whatsoever. Newcomers are expected to go through an intitiation ritual, part of which is the so called “toothbrush/ice block welcoming ritual”. According to this ritual newcomers are assigned a room inside the apartment that they then need to scrub using only a toothbrush.

Continue reading Hazing with the X-Files fans

Science needs your help!

We all heard about Crowdsourcing, the popular business practice fostering innovation.  We know it is useful for ideating products that satisfy unmatched needs, or to vote for existing business ideas. Surprisingly it was applied to bimolecular design. Even more interestingly, participants were not scientists, but just game players.

Let’s make it clearer. Crowdsourcing is defined as “ a type of participative online activity in which an individual, an institution, a non-profit organization, or company proposes to a group of individuals of varying knowledge, heterogeneity, and number, via a flexible open call, the voluntary undertaking of a task” (1). What this definition says is that internal expertise can be triggered by the help of outside knowledge, more diverse even if less skilled. And maybe sometimes, outside brains can see the bigger picture better than experts. That’s what happened with Foldit.


One day David Baker, a leading protein scientist of the Washington University, thought that crowdsourcing could have helped him in his struggle with Protein Engineering. The understanding of proteins’ structures is of paramount importance for science, due to the vital tasks they perform: they facilitate biochemical reactions, they copy DNA, they help to recognize viruses. What is also important is to create new proteins, non existing in nature. By creating new sequences of amino-acids with functions needed yet still unmatched in nature, researchers could even help fighting HIV through vaccines.

However, this is not an easy task. That’s the where the idea of Baker comes from.

Continue reading Science needs your help!

Viewers and Reviewers: the YouTube Challenge to Amazon

When Amazon started its website in 1995, it was meant as a place to build a community of like-minded souls, pooled together by the passion for books (Pinch and Kesler, 2011). In this context, selling books wasn’t the only point of Amazon. The mission was to recreate the atmosphere of local bookstores, where customers feel “at home” and receive advice. Amazon wanted to offer specific suggestions for books, exactly as local bookstores do. So, professionals were hired to write book reviews. In accordance with the idea of building a community, Amazon encouraged members to write their own reviews, sharing opinions and feelings. Then, Amazon realized users were indeed providing reviews of the books for free, and they could provide many more reviews than paid editors. So, Amazon dismissed his professional editors, and let users do all the work. But why would users do that?

Malone et al. (2010) indicate three main motivating factors, namely love, glory and money. All three factors play a role here, even though to different extents.

– Love: is the most important factor. People write review because they love the product, for enjoyment, to help others, and to develop a sense of community.

Glory: since Amazon ranks its reviewers, a part of the motivation to write a review lies in desire for glory. The more helpful reviews you write, the higher in the rankings you will find yourself.

Money: top reviewers are often sent products. The higher you are in the rankings, the more likely you are to get freebies.

Continue reading Viewers and Reviewers: the YouTube Challenge to Amazon

Tutor ABC

Totor ABC

There is no doubt that English is important at work. However, many people give up studying English after graduation, because they cannot make time for it. Tutor ABC is a perfect online platform to study English. The idea is to offer workers a flexible and convenient course which fit into their working schedule. Tutor ABC succeed with two online platform characteristics we discussed in class.

  1. Customization: In the beginning, Tutor ABC will offer exam to evaluate your English skill, level from one to twelve. Based on your level, you can choose small group or one to one teaching. Moreover, you can email teacher to choose specific topic for your own course, for instance, preparing a business presentation or practicing an international dinner party. In other words, Tutor ABC is different from traditional online education of the level of interaction.
  2. Pricing Schemes: Different targets have different need. Tutor ABC creates five price packages for different market, Platinum Package, Gold Package, Silver Package, Business Package, and Citizen Package. These packages are different in course period, group or individual study, and the way to schedule the class. For instance, Citizen Package offers group study with standard teaching material in one year, but students need to schedule the class one day before. On the other hand, Gold Package offers one to one lecture, prompt online teacher in two years.

Continue reading Tutor ABC

Pornhub gives America wood

Watching porn will never be the same again. You don’t have to feel bad or guilty watching porn, as Pornhub gives people a good incentive to watch. By watching a video they contribute to a better, greener, society! How? For every 100 videos streamed in a certain category (for this campaign they choose the ‘Big Dick’ category), Pornhub will plant a tree! Watching porn now is justified as a form of volunteering!

The Pornhub gives America Wood campaign has received much media attention due to the strange connection (which linguistically perfectly makes sense) between porn and a sustainable, green initiative. Next to media attention, many memes have been created on popular sites (eg. 9gag.com),  given the campaign a boost. These memes can be perceived as value co-creation, as they are not made by Pornhub, but by people who are intrigued/inspired by the campaign. The many memes, comments and blogs about Pornhub’s campaign (see one of them below) attracts more attention, and thus creates value (both for the environment as for pornhub).

blog 2
The campaign has been a very successful one for the porn site; 15.473 trees have been planted (http://www.pornhub.com/event/arborday). The campaign lasted merely week, and easy calculations show that over 15 million videos (in the ‘Big Dick’ category only!) have been viewed on the platform during that week.

Continue reading Pornhub gives America wood

Can you really rely on online product reviews?

Product reviews on online platforms are growing in popularity1,2. Platforms like Amazon, Google or the App store use product reviews to show which products have the best experience in usage by other consumers. Most of these product reviews are extremely positive about the product3, but does this indicate that all products are extremely good and that there is no moderate product on the online market? Let’s give it a try to search on Amazon three random product reviews from books, video games and sports. The results are shown in table 1.

table 1

As can be seen from the table, two of those random reviews are extremely positive (the book and the sport watch) and one is extremely negative (the video game). An experiment done by Hu et al., (2009) asked customers to rate a music CD on a 5-star scale. This experiment shows an almost normal distribution, which can be expected if the ratings are randomly done by every buyer of the product. Most of the reviews on Amazon (table 1) show a so called J-shape distribution and not the outcome of the explained experiment. What could be the cause of those differences?

The first explanation is the purchasing bias, which states that customers with higher product valuation are more likely to purchase the product than customers with a low product valuation. Continue reading Can you really rely on online product reviews?

Flattr: A ‘Like’ with Real Value

The development of the Internet brought us several  online platforms on which we can exchange information, share pictures, listen to music, watch videos and so on. The use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Soundcloud is incorporated in our daily lives and nowadays we can’t image living without these services. One of the most interesting aspects of our online behavior is the fact that people share and contribute information for free on a massive scale. So what explains this behavior that we observe in the online environment? Although the urge to earn some money, a rather intrinsic motivation, can definitely play a role in people’s considerations to share or contribute to information online, extrinsic motivations such positive emotions, social rewards and connections, seem to be strong motivators which explain people’s online behavior (Mingarelli, 2013).

So how can we reward the millions of people who share and contribute information which we can use for our own benefit? Thanks to Facebook, we are able to ‘like’ others’ shares and contributions, but the familiar like button provides a more ‘social reward’ to the contributors or creators of certain information. Is this type of social reward enough for creators to keep sharing their information and contributions online for free? According to Flattr, a service enabling micro donations,  this is not the case. This European initiative beliefs that monetary support is the way to enable more content to be free and open. Flattring creators means that a supporter gives both a micro donation and social support, which provides a means of motivation which hopefully leads to more and better content to use and benefit from.  Furthermore, Flattr argues that paying for content gives a warm and fuzzy feeling and moreover, the feeling of being part of the creation of great content.Flattr Blog post

So how does Flattring work?  Continue reading Flattr: A ‘Like’ with Real Value

Wiebetaaltwat.nl: Could it be improved?

An important British wisdom states that it is improper to discuss money – and if the Brits say so, it must be true. But living up to that maxim in today’s society can be quite challenging, especially for students. Take your typical student that lives in a house with five others. Usually, they will share their kitchen, making it virtually impossible if not very inefficient to have everyone get their own groceries and their own cooking. Of course, the big advantage of living in a student house is that you can share.

But what about the – this time – American expression that states: “There is no such thing as a free lunch”. Everyone is happy to share in today’s economy, but sharing comes at a price. Of course, there is your general freeloader problem, but in addition to that, it can become quite difficult to keep track of all expenses. That is probably what the inventors of www.wiebetaaltwat.nl (“Who pays for what?”) must have thought.


On their website they give the following example (“Wat is Wiebetaaltwat.nl”, 2014): image we have four students living in a student house: Daan, Bart, Anne and Fleur. Bart went grocery shopping today and spent 15 euros. However, Fleur went for groceries yesterday and spent 20 euros. To see who owes whom you could calculate how much each person is in the positive or negative. For instance, Bart needs to receive 6,25 and Fleur and Daan both need to pay 8,75. Very time consuming to keep this up to date.

That’s why www.wiebetaaltwat.nl offers a tool where you simply enter the amount you spent and the rest is calculated. In addition to that, the website offers many features: it shows records and overviews and can show what you owe to each particular individual.

Continue reading Wiebetaaltwat.nl: Could it be improved?

Framing product recommendations in online stores

Most online shops feature recommendation bars to make consumers aware of suggested purchases. The way of presenting these suggestions differs significantly from webstore to webstore. Their suggestions are framed in simple terms such as “more …. ” (Ikea), “others also bought” (H&M), “if you like this, your might also be into this” (Urban Outfitters), to more advanced suggestions helping customers to find related products “frequently bought together” (Amazon), or “do more with your purchase” (Best Buy). How effective is the framing of related products of these websites? Does the way it is framed matter? Nearly every webstore has a slightly different name for the recommendation – which seems to point to a specified strategy.

Recommendations of Urban Outfitters of similar products (this is not upsetting since the suggested items are not more expensive or profitable)
Recommendations of Urban Outfitters of similar products (this is not upsetting since the suggested items are not more expensive or profitable)

 In the end, besides helping customers navigate through a dizzying number of products on offer. Whether mentioning it is recommended for them, for the product they have selected or a favorite of other customers, these efforts have the goal to sell more products. They aim at either cross-selling or upselling (Moth, 2012). Cross-selling means that users are shown additional items they can use in combination with the selected product, or that are identical to the selected item. Upselling of products means that a similar product of better quality or with more features is suggested. Whereas cross-selling only drives 0.2 percent of the total number of purchases, upsales drive 4% of the purchases (Moth, 2012).

Example of cross selling from Amazon
Example of cross selling from Amazon

Continue reading Framing product recommendations in online stores

Customer information and promotions: Quid pro quo

Ahold is an international retailer that operates supermarket chains in various countries, amongst which Albert Heijn (Netherlands) and Giant Food Stores (United States), in which they implemented BonusCard programs, respectively introduced in 1998 and 2000. Both cards are required to receive discounts, but while the AH card can be kept anonymous, Giant card holders have to reregister their card, giving their full name and home address every fall, to avoid deactivation. It appears that the amount of personal information required in these programs is directly related to the discounts that can be obtained. The more information is required, the more discounts are awarded.


Whereas in US, customers’ privacy concern seems relatively low when the BonusCard was just introduced it faced active protests. These ranged from mass e-mailings to Giants then CEO, to online BonusCard swaps where people could exchange their cards’ barcodes. This probably has to do with the many advantages of the card, which does not only give discounts but which through the A+ school rewards program also donates 1% of the total purchase price of each customer to a school of their choice. On top of that, the card also gives significant discounts on gas, up to $2.20 discount per gallon (which amounts to a 60% discount) at Shell.

The Albert Heijn’s customers received the BonusCard with more suspicion. Of the 10 million new BonusCards that were handed out since bonuskaartOctober 2013, only 2.5 million were activated online. Each customer receives discount if they have a card, but if they link this to their e-mail address they can also view the groceries they have purchased in the past, which of these are on promotion, and receive personalized promotions. Entering further personal details is not required.

Continue reading Customer information and promotions: Quid pro quo

My Starbucks Idea (revisited) – Consumers’ feedback in product design

Every day, several dozens of Starbuck’s customers share their idea online about how to improve the customers’ experience at their favorite coffee place. They do so on MyStarbucksIdea, a simple but well-designed website that somewhat resemble a blog.  Up to now, more than 190,000 ideas have been collected on MyStarbucksIdea.  Besides allowing the customers to offer possible products or concepts, Starbucks also engages its customers through daily survey, test, games, etc…


But what’s new with this website? One might say that it’s simply another way to collect and monitor the customers’ feedback and satisfaction. The difference with a regular customers’ feedback tool has a twofold nature. Firstly, the extent of the customers’ feedback breaks apart from the previous habits. The customers not only grade and comment the new products but also offer ideas for the next step the corporation should take. Secondly, the extent of the following innovation taken by the firm is new. On average, 3 new products, concepts or variation are tested somewhere every week due to an idea posted on MyStarbucksIdea.

Continue reading My Starbucks Idea (revisited) – Consumers’ feedback in product design