Crowdsourcing missions for MMOGs April 21, 2009Posted by jeremyliew in game design, games, games 2.0, gaming, mmorpg, user generated content.
Really interesting post at Kotaku about City of Heroes experience with crowdsourcing story arcs.
In a letter to the community posted on the official City of Heroes website, Matt “Positron” Miller revealed that within the first 24 hours of the new updates’ existence, players in both hero and villain factions had created more than 3800 story arcs, each consisting of five missions a piece – more content than the development team had created during the game’s entire existence.
Players have been busy trying out missions and critiquing them in the forums as well. Out of the more that 20,000 arcs now available in game, 2,860 of them have been rated 5-stars by players, with only 582 rated at 1-star. Popular themes include the 5th Column, featured in 794 arcs; the super-heroic Statesman, starring in 134; and time travel, which is the subject of 112 arcs.
As an indication of volume, this is more story arcs that have been created by the game developers in five years!
One popular element was creating custom opponents notes the City of Heroes blog
70% of the arcs that are published use Custom Enemy groups. These are enemies created using our fantastic costume editor, coupled with a large sampling of the powersets that the game already uses. These unique enemies have proven to be extremely popular and sparked new life into the game. Players absolutely love fighting custom enemies for the simple fact that they no longer know what to expect. One of the biggest problems with MMOs is you eventually learn what all the critters you are fighting do, and the game can get pretty rote. Developers make new critters, but there can be months before you get new ones. Now players have the opportunity to be constantly making new enemies with new, interesting capabilities that can challenge and vex themselves and their friends, any time they want.:
I don’t play City Of Heroes, so I don’t know how directly applicable this idea is to web based social games. However, any of the social games currently available have very similar structures (e.g. the “wars” genre) which can get old over time. Perhaps this approach of crowdsourcing missions might add some interesting eldergame elements to these games.
The Economist has another fascinating article about face. Specifically, about physiognomy – the idea that the way you look is a reflection of your character.
In particular, it describes research done by at Rice University to see if people could identify people who were bad credit risks by the way they look. They looked at 6,821 loan applications on Prosper. They asked 25 Mechanical Turk workers to assess each of the potential borrowers’s likelihood to repay a $100 loan. Here is what they found:
Their first finding was that the assessments of trustworthiness, and of likelihood to repay a loan, that were made by Mechanical Turk workers did indeed correlate with potential borrowers’ credit ratings based on their credit history. That continued to be so when the other variables, from beauty to race to obesity, were controlled for statistically. Shifty physiognomy, it seems, is independent of these things.
That shiftiness was also recognised by those whose money was actually at stake. People flagged as untrustworthy by the Mechanical Turks were less likely than others to be offered a loan at all. To have the same chance of getting one as those deemed most trustworthy they were required to pay an interest rate that was, on average, 1.82 percentage points higher, even when the effects of historical creditworthiness were statistically eliminated.
So it takes two web 2.0 services to tell you that many people who look shifty are indeed shifty.
How many user reviews is enough, and how many are too many? March 16, 2009Posted by jeremyliew in Ecommerce, user generated content.
The Economist in their latest technology quarterly review look at how user reviews stimulate ecommerce.
They find that once you have about 20 reviews of a product, you start to see increases in sales conversion rates:
The sheer volume of reviews makes far more difference, according to Google’s analysis of clicks and sales referrals. “Single digits didn’t seem to move the needle at all,” says Mr McAteer. “It wasn’t enough to get people comfortable with making that purchase decision.” But after about 20 reviews of a product are posted, “We start to see more reviews—it starts to accelerate,” says Sam Decker, the chief marketing officer of Bazaarvoice, a firm that powers review systems for online retailers.
His company’s research shows that visitors are more reluctant to buy until a product attracts a reasonable number of reviews and picks up momentum. In a test with Kingston, a maker of computer memory, Bazaarvoice collected reviews of Kingston products from the firm’s website and syndicated them to the website of Office Depot, a retailer. As a result there were more than ten reviews per product, compared with one or two for competitors’ offerings. The result was a “drastically” higher conversion rate, which extended even to other Kingston products that lacked the additional reviews.
Even if some reviews were negative, sales still increase:
Online retailers have generally been reluctant to allow users to leave comments, says John McAteer, Google’s retail industry director, who runs shopping.google.com, the internet giant’s comparison-shopping site. But a handful of bad reviews, it seems, are worth having. “No one trusts all positive reviews,” he says. So a small proportion of negative comments—“just enough to acknowledge that the product couldn’t be perfect”—can actually make an item more attractive to prospective buyers.
However, some books on Amazon now have thousands of reviews, more than enough for a potential buyer to draw an overall conclusion. So why do people continue to write new reviews for these products, even years afterwards?
Mr Shirky suggests that in many cases, writing a review is more like writing fan mail (or hate mail) for a product, and the people who post them do not really expect it to be read.
Whereas new people continue to write reviews long after a book is published, blog comments have quite a different set of behaviors.
“You can probably have a decent discussion until you get to about 350 comments,” says Markos Moulitsas, the founder of Daily Kos, a popular left-leaning political site. But after that, he says, “most outside people will stay away from the thread, and further growth will come from people already inside that thread carrying forth a discussion, debate, or argument.” Such discussion threads are more of a conversation, and the page they inhabit usually has a limited lifespan during which people continue to post—unlike the Amazon pages for the “Harry Potter” books, which continue to attract reviews even today, years after the books’ publication.
Part of this is because the “pivot” of user engagement for a review is the product, whereas the “pivot” of user engagement for a blog is the conversation thread. Since the product is evergreen to new users, it will continue to attract reviews. But a stale conversation in the comments to an old post is unlikely to draw in new comment. It is usually clear that the other debaters have moved on from the conversation, and there is little incentive to speak to an empty room. Knowing what’s the right primary pivot for your social media drives a lot of design decisions.
This is reinforced by design; many blogs alert you to new comments if you’ve commented on a blog post; almost no ecommerce stores alert you to new reviews of products that you have reviewed. As a result, blog comments turn into conversations between engaged participants whereas product reviews. As always, behavior and culture are a function of UI.
How robust are communities? November 3, 2008Posted by jeremyliew in communities, product management, usability, user generated content.
Wired has an article in its November issue about Urban Baby and You Be Mom. Urban Baby is an anonymous forum for Moms. Like 4chan, its anonymity makes for a mix of candid discussions, raw honesty and trolling, but with a mommy bent (think cheating, divorce and public schools). Says Wired:
Then in May, UrbanBaby, which was purchased by CNET in 2006, launched a redesign. All hell broke loose.
The changes weren’t huge, but each of them subtly altered the flow of conversation. CNET added a wide sidebar on the site to create space for ads. This reduced the reading area, a big problem on a board with hundreds of comments per hour. Discussions had been organized chronologically, but immediately after the relaunch, the default setting had “most popular” threads at the top, even if they had been started days earlier. Worse, you had to refresh your browser to see new posts. UrbanBaby users went nuts, demanding a return to the old design.
They soon got it. But not from UrbanBaby. A week after CNET rolled out the hated redesign, a couple of work-at-home computer programmers—longtime UrbanBaby users themselves—launched a rival site called YouBeMom.
They perfectly re-created the look and feel of the old boards. Better yet, they made improvements, including a souped-up search engine and privacy controls that make sure your spouse can’t use your computer to find out what you’ve been posting. They also set up a blog to capture users’ requests for site improvements and to outline what YouBeMom plans to do about them.
Within days, there was a mass exodus of users from UrbanBaby to the new site. CNET won’t give out traffic figures, and neither will the owners of YouBeMom. But I logged on to both sites recently and compared how often people posted. I’d estimate that YouBeMom has three times the traffic of UrbanBaby. That’s just how fragile a social application can be.
I found much higher comment volume and more vibrant conversations at YouBeMom as well when I looked at conversations on similar themes on both sites. The moral of the story according to Wired:
People have a very sophisticated sense for their online hangout—if you mess up the feel of it, or impede the ways they want to schmooze online, they’re gone.
What a terrific parable about the importance of community. What is strange though is that the traffic stats don’t appear to bear it out:
According to Compete, not only is Urban Baby far bigger that You Be Mom, but the redesign actually seems to have dramatically grown usage.
Sometimes communities are more robust than you think. Redesigns almost always create a lot of negative feedback when they first occur because all users hate change. You have to leave a little time to pass for users to get used to the changes before you can truly judge if the redesign has been a success or a failure.
There are three classes of user within social media, creators, curators and consumers. It may well be that many of the Urban Baby creators moved to YouBeMom, but the 90% of social media consumers, who read but don’t write, stayed at Urban Baby.
Do any readers have experiences of the impact of redesigns on a community?
Online video CPMs are north of $15 July 24, 2008Posted by jeremyliew in advertising, user generated content, video.
TV Week reports on a new report from the Diffusion group on video advertising:
Professional Web programming yields very high CPMs, the report found. The CPMs for long-form online content are $40 today and will reach nearly $46 in 2013. Meanwhile, CPMs for short clips are clocking in at about $30 and will rise to a little over $34 in five years.
The CPMs for user-generated video will have the smallest rise, from only $15 today to about $17 in 2013.
While many have viewed this negatively because User gen video ad rates are lower than professional programing, I think that $15 CPMs with no content creation costs sound pretty good to me!