Coolhunt Log #11
Monday, April 30, 2007
Scott Cooper, MIT researcher with the Sloan School of Management, co-author of Coolhunting
Peter Gloor, MIT researcher with the Sloan School of Management, co-author of Coolhunting
Steve O'Keefe, moderator
MODERATOR: Welcome to the Coolhunt. I'm your moderator, Steve O'Keefe, calling in today from our offices at the Bywater Tech Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, over a nice, clean land line. Hosts, where are you calling in from today.
SCOTT: I'm Scott Cooper, and I'm calling in from my home office in Newton, Massachusetts -- right down the street, it turns out, from where TripAdvisor is headquartered. They were included in last Friday's coolhunt.
MODERATOR: Yes, just after our hunt, Scott forwarded a link to another review of TripAdvisor. The review is on a blog Scott reads regularly called Read/WriteWeb:
MODERATOR: The review was written by Sramana Mitra, an entrepreneur and strategy consultant. The review contains screenshots of TripAdvisor, and then comments and rates the site in six areas -- Context, Content, Community, Commerce, Personalization, and Vertical Search. She gives TripAdvisor an overall rating of A-.
Mitra adds some figures to our Coolhunt of TripAdvisor: 500,000 estimated travelers a day visit the site. She says the "Rant & Rave" function "can make or break the reputation of a hotel or a restaurant in a nanosecond." She doesn't comment on how TripAdvisor adjusts to rating and review spam. Would love to hear from them on that question.
PETER: I am using SkypeOut to access the chat today from my office in Switzerland.
MODERATOR: Peter tried calling twice on Skype, but the sound quality made it impossible to follow his conversation. Reluctantly, he called on a land line.
PETER: I'm testing the SkypeOut for when I am in Greece later this week. It looks like I might have to call in using a cell phone, with very expensive international rates.
MODERATOR: What followed on our phone conference was a lengthy discussion of blogging ethics and the manner in which we are conducting the Coolhunt. We discussed how much we should reveal about email communications we have received during the hunt. For example, we revealed that a New York Times reporter commented on our first Coolhunt, but did not want his comments posted on the blog. We honored that request, but we also posted the names of the New York Times journalists who we contacted about the hunt. We came to an understanding that if people wanted their comments to be public, they would blog them, and if they don't blog them, we should ask for permission before revealing them on the blog.
This discussion included references to several recent blogging breaches of netiquette that are being discussed on many blogs. We referenced O'Reilly Radar's attempt to formulate a blogger's code of ethics. We are trying to bring onto the blog more of the background discussion of how we manage the coolhunt, and we look for your suggestions on these and other coolhunt-guiding issues.
Now onto today's hunt. Peter, where are we going?
PETER: Today, I want to start a discussion of Commmunity Based Shopping. Part of what got me started on this topic today is an article that appeared at The New York Times Online today: "Got Roomfulls of Stuff? Now sites will help keep track of it," by Bob Tedeschi. NYT Online requires free registration to read archived articles. If you're registered, you can find the article at the link.
MODERATOR: Those without NYT Online registration can read the article at the Tuscaloosa news, where it was syndicated and available for viewing.
PETER: The article pointed me to this very interesting site called Zebo, which is a place for people to shop but has become a community of shoppers.
PETER: Zebo is to shopping what Prosper is to lending. It calls itself "a better way to decide what products or clothes to buy." They try to tap the swarm to find out what clothes and other products are hip by who is using those products. If you have a list of everything someone owns, you can search through those lists to find "People Like Us" -- PLUs -- or "People Like Me" -- PLMs.
You have to register to access many of the functions. For example, the registration page teases that you can "see what celebrities own" if you join. People list all the things they own on their profile. So you can discover people by the things they own. You can see how some of this works without registering by going to the "Groups" tab on the top navigation bar.
PETER: You can input a keyword into the search box and look for groups, or you can scroll through the box on the left side of the page and select or highlight groups that match your interests. You can have multiple search criteria. For example, let's select three groups and add them to our search using the "ADD" button between the two boxes. Let's pick:
SCOTT: No, trampoline! Let's take Sports/Trampoline!
PETER: Okay, Sports/Trampoline.
Now press the "Find a Group" button and the results of our search appear on the same page in Section 2, below the search box.
MODERATOR: The search returns about 24 results in a grid that is four columuns wide and six rows long.
PETER: These are profiles that match the search criteria. Let's look at one of them, "Get Free Get Wild," which has 31 members and is listed in the categories "Comedy, Rock, Other."
SCOTT: Obviously, these aren't all trampoline people. They're matching on maybe one of the three criteria. It looks like it's designed to always find some group that you match.
PETER: The group Get Free Get Wild has a description that says "music is the best thing to talk about." The page shows recent comments and a list of the members.
PETER: Some of the members have real names, some have "handles," and some have pictures. Let's click on one of the members -- Michael -- and take a look at his profile.
PETER: Michael lists the things he owns. He lists 93 things, starting with two houses his Mom owns and three his Dad owns.
SCOTT: Looks like Michael's family is pretty well to do.
PETER: He also lists a Reebok Wallet. So you see how the brand names slip in here. If you think Michael is cool, and he has a Reebok wallet, maybe you should get a Reebok wallet? If you look at the comments Michael is getting from other Zebo members, it is mostly girls telling him how cute he looks. Michael might be using this site, not for shopping, but to meet girls. But the girls and the boys find each other through the products they have in common.
MODERATOR: So how do you know that this information is accurate? It's all user-provided. Can't this be tainted by spam?
PETER: Well it is true that we do not really know who "Michael" is. He say's he is 17 years old and single, but he could be 45, or those might not even be his pictures. And the girls writing to him might not be girls. That is an issue with all user-generated content that is not subject to verification. What attracts people to the site is that it's fun and entertaining. It's all about traffic -- Web 1.0 -- trying to get as many eyeballs to the site as possible. But we like this site for the design. It doesn't put a wall between users the way Amazon does. You can't find out who has bought a certain book on Amazon -- but you can search for a book here and find out who owns it.
MODERATOR: I searched for "Atlas Shrugged," the Ayn Rand novel, and got one matching profile. "Fel C" also says she owns "insomnia" and "anorexia," but she has not listed them for sale. We are running out of time. Is there a blog here or a place where we can leave a message, and let them know they've been coolhunted?
PETER: If you click on "ZE'Buzz" in the top navigational bar, it takes you to a discussion area. We can search the discussion or start a thread of our own. But you must be registered to do that.
MODERATOR: We are out of time. Thank you very much, Peter and Scott. Listeners, please post your comments to the blog -- whether they're about commentary on the subject of today's coolhunt or any connection problems you experienced.
Join us tomorrow for the next installment of our live, online coolhunt with Peter Gloor and Scott Cooper.
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