Monday, April 30, 2007

Coolhunt #10 - Friday, April 27, 2007

Coolhunt Log #10
Friday, April 27, 2007

On Stage:
Scott Cooper, MIT researcher with the Sloan School of Management, co-author of
Steve O'Keefe, Professor of Internet Public Relations at Tulane University
Rachelle Matherne, moderator

MODERATOR: I'd like to remind everyone of the rules of the Coolhunt. We do at least one site review, one blog post, one comment on another blog, and try to make one personal connection via email or phone.

Speakers, please introduce yourselves and tell us where you are dialing in from.

SCOTT: Today, I'm calling from the Engineering Systems Division at MIT.

STEVE: I'm here in my role as Tulane University professor, calling in from my home office in New Orleans, Louisiana.

SCOTT: Part of the preparation for doing this daily call has resulted in finding some interesting things on the web. The weirdest thing I've seen lately was a blog by Alyssa Milano on the L.A. Dodgers. Apparently, she blogs every day for Go Blue, and she seems to know what she's talking about. I'm a very big baseball fan.

MODERATOR: Leading the coolhunt today is Scott Cooper. Where are we going to start today, Scott?

SCOTT: Recently I was sent a link for WeFeelFine.


SCOTT: The reason I chose this for today is because I thought it'd be interesting to see the many unique ways people do things in niche areas. Go to the Mission link on this site. The artists who founded this sift through web blog postings world-wide for the phrases "I feel" or "I am feeling" to accumulate demographic information to enable them to show in any given moment what the world's happiest, saddest, sexiest cities are. It's called "harvesting human feelings."

You can see exactly how many feelings have been collected by how many people based on age, gender, nationality, and actual feelings. Apparently, Las Vegas is the city where people are feeling sexy. Go back up to the top and click on "Movement." This is the artistic part. See the first picture of "madness." It looks like some of the social networking maps in our book, "Coolhunting." Each particle represents something unique to a person based on color, etc. Clicking on a particle reveals information about a person. This gives you a structured environment where you can view a variety of human feelings.

MODERATOR: Clicking on an individual "feeling" takes you to the original blog post where they harvested this phrase.

SCOTT: Right. Let's click on the Montage. This was created to present feelings from a particular population.

STEVE: I clicked on the image of a flower and I get "I feel guilty because I don't know what any of these images are."

SCOTT: Another says, "I feel horrible. . ." from a 99-year-old who refers to her MySpace page. Now, let's go to Mobs.

MODERATOR: Note the white X to get back to the previous page since pop-ups don't give a back button.

SCOTT: Let's go to the fifth one, which is Metrics. Metrics shows the most salient, which expresses the ways in which a given population differs from the global average.

STEVE: Very sophisticated color coding for emotional states on this site.

SCOTT: This is a good example of showing how social networking works. This is data mining, with individuals logging in to allow them to say how they're feeling. This could be used to better humanity.

STEVE: It's based on social networking, but it doesn't rely on voluntary participation -- they automatically scan how people say they are feeling. It's one of the most dynamic sites I've ever encountered.

SCOTT: That was just a snippet of interesting stuff related to what we've been discussing over the past few days.

STEVE: I'd like to take us on a trip to Trip Advisor.


STEVE: My daughter tipped me off to this one. I'm interested in looking at the reviewing process. Click on the Read & Write Reviews tab. Now I'm going to look for reviews for a hotel I know, the Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans. There are 229 reviews for this hotel. They're doing a similar thing to We Feel Fine in that they are scanning the web for reviews of the Monteleone. You can see how the reviews congregate, viewing various reviews. I'm clicking back on the green banner for the home page.

STEVE: Now let's check hotel rates across the board for an entire city. Let's search for hotels in Austin, Texas. It shows me the first 10 hotels that have a vacancy the dates of my stay.

SCOTT: It also gives you a sense for expense, which according to the professional raters is better.

STEVE: Because of the popularity of the site among travelers, hotel proprietors will actually come on the site and write what they're doing to overcome problems posted by guests.

SCOTT: A smart hotel could make a small investment by hiring a bunch of kids to go to the site to post a bunch of good stuff about the hotel.

STEVE: Good point, and I wonder what TripAdvisor policy is about postings. I'm going to modify my search now to show only hotels with rooms available under $100 in Austin. A useful tool is to compare TripAdvisor rankings with prices.

SCOTT: Super 8 is ranked no. 7 out of 166.

STEVE: This is a high rating for a 1-star airport hotel. I'm clicking on the Read All button. I'm always suspicious of 5-star ratings, just as Amazon readers are of high book review ratings. Scott's right that someone could come in and spam TripAdvisor. But maybe just a few people who were very happy were responsible for the high rating.

STEVE: Articles also have been added to TripAdvisor, such as the best second-hand shops in Seattle. Go Lists also is given to recommend what to do in Austin. Any article on the web will be linked here. TripAdvisor allows you to search airline ticket portals and hotel reservation systems, all in one place, with articles linked to geographical destinations. The objectivity, combined with the number of reviewers, is what gives it its power. It's an extremely popular site, giving at least an aura of independence.

SCOTT: It illustrates the wisdom of crowds, and what a swarm of people can do. There are lots of examples on the web of people sharing information like this. Just a couple weeks ago my teenage daughter wanted me to order Chinese food to come to the house. But she insisted that I order from this new restaurant. I looked online and noticed enough people who seemed genuine had reviewed the site for this particular restaurant. I saw enough people talking about it with enough specificity that we ordered, and it was great.

STEVE: People seem more willing to review hotels and restaurants online -- maybe due to the anonymity -- than will use a comment card. Reputation Management has almost become a science in itself. If you see a high TripAdvisor rating, that's a really good indicator based on a large number of reviews and users. Many hotel managers may not know of problems without such an anonymous interface.

STEVE: The reduction of risk is what this is all about. I'd be curious to hear you and Peter talk about the role coolhunting plays in the reduction of risk.

SCOTT: Here, they allow people to vote with comments such that the swarm's collective intelligence and wisdom has a value greater than the decision made in a boardroom -- one that might cost the company $50 million.

STEVE: This greater accuracy is the flip side of lower risk. In virtually every aspect of human endeavor, this coolhunting process can significantly reduce the level of risk, and increase overall prosperity and development.

SCOTT: You made another interesting point about anonymity. Coursing through the blogosphere is the anonymity. Cathy Sierra had to shut down her site because of threats due to something she once wrote, having to cancel public appearances. Tim O'Rielly has developed a bloggers code of conduct that indicates that you shouldn't be anonymous.

STEVE: The "average" Wal-Mart posters who were writing blogs were actually paid employees. This scandal was a turning point in blogger ethics. There needs to be an automated weeding out of various forms of bias that cause a distorted picture. There must be software to help with this.

SCOTT: I'm sure there is. My colleague, Bengt-Arne Vedin, sent me some sites because of what he's been reading on our swarm blog. Citizendium is the first one.


SCOTT: This is a site that actually was started by one of the founders of Wikipedia to solve one of the problems on Wikipedia. Citizendium requires contributors to use their real names and has a gentle expert oversight -- expert editors involved to ensure accurate information. Now let's go to UNcyclopedia.


SCOTT: It looks exactly like Wikipedia but is a spoof of them. This is like The Onion of Wikipedia. Today's feature article is Rock, Paper, Airstrike. I had never seen this site and it looks like hours of fun.

STEVE: This whole hunt today has been a lot of fun.

MODERATOR: We are out of time. Thank you, Scott. We've been talking today with one of the co-authors of Coolhunting: Chasing Down the Next Big Thing.

Listeners, please post your comments to the blog -- whether they're about any connection problems you're experiencing or commentary on the subject of today's coolhunt. The transcript of today's coolhunt will be posted tomorrow morning. You can view that transcript and previous ones at The Swarm Creativity Blog:

Join us on Monday for the next installment of our live, online coolhunt with Peter Gloor and Scott Cooper.

Thank you.

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