Tag Archives: APOC

Blog Resurrection!

21 Jan

Like This!

It’s true! I’m resurrecting my blog. After a six month hiatus, where I finished a master’s degree and helped develop an iPhone app, I decided to use my downtime from full-time job-hunting to blog. Stay tuned for more.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Yelp, Clay Shirky and Me

15 Mar

It seems as though I am the Yelp advocate of the APOC crew.

Sure, I’ve been Yelp Elite since 2006. I currently have about 300 reviews (ok, 298, but I will get to 300 soon enough). I mostly review restaurants, though I also review bars, nightlife, services, arts and entertainment locations, etc. I also use Yelp as a guide for finding places to go and things to do. I found my mechanic on Yelp. I am discovering awesome local restaurants in my new neighborhood and keeping track of the best dishes to order. I discuss foodie topics on the talk threads, send compliments to fellow Yelpers on reviews that I think are Useful, Funny and Cool, and meet Yelpers in person at monthly Elite events at locales around LA. (Full disclosure: Yelp provides free food and drinks at these events).

Several of my classmates are skeptical about my involvement in Yelp, and about the Yelp platform in general. Why do I participate if I don’t get paid? Why do I trust Yelp? Yelp has been discussed in the news recently as an “extortion scheme,” as several local LA businesses have come forward in a class action lawsuit that claims Yelp asked for payment in exchange to remove negative reviews. My classmates Ruby and Christopher provide great insights on their blogs about the Yelp lawsuit. As an active Yelper, I wanted to add my own two cents to the discussion.

In Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky addresses the concept of “nonfinancial motivations” as powerful means to building trustworthy online communities. In Chapter 5, “Personal Motivation Meets Collaborative Production,” Shirky discusses the evolution of Wikipedia as a widespread, successful and informative tool. Anyone can launch a wiki page and anyone can edit, change and update that same wiki page, thus creating a mass “coordinating resource” (117) that is a dynamic “process” as opposed to a static “product” (119). Shirky claims that much of Wikipedia’s success comes from the fact that, “since no one is being paid, the energetic and occasional contributors happily coexist in the same ecosystem” (121). He devotes an entire section of this chapter to asking “Why Would Anyone Bother?” contributing or updating Wikipedia and offers three primary motivations:

1) “chance to exercise some unused mental capacities” (i.e., sharing knowledge);

2) vanity; and,

3) the desire to do a good thing.

This third motivation directly relates to my involvement with Yelp. Just as Shirky believes that “the ability to make nonfinancial motivations add up to something of global significance” (133), I believe that the individual desire to share knowledge is a good thing in and of itself. The idea of getting paid to write Yelp reviews undermines Yelp’s M.O. (and business slogan) of “Real People, Real Reviews”. It is the individualized nature of Yelp that promotes authenticity. I Yelp about what I want, when I want, as much as I want. Being paid would potentially drive me to tailor the quality of my reviews more positively towards paying businesses (or negatively towards their competitors). This would render the site basically useless, as the reviews would be sanctioned public relations stunts as opposed to genuine reactions from consumers. Thus, I believe the current lawsuits stemmed from misunderstandings about Yelp’s process, as opposed to Yelp subterfuge. I trust Yelp because it provides an open forum to discuss my ideas; I discuss my ideas because I want to share my knowledge; and given the positive reactions to my reviews by friends and fellow Yelpers, my knowledge seems to be valuable for the community. In my opinion, Yelp is the “shadow of the future” in action — without any real risk, I offer my genuine, authentic knowledge with the belief that others will reciprocate, which snowballs into an authentic community of local discussion and reactions. Such discussion is incredibly useful for businesses from a customer engagement and service standpoint, as they can evaluate, change and improve goods and services based on free consumer feedback.

To answer Shirky’s question: I bother because Yelp allows an open forum for me to be authentic, without being concerned about answering to “the man”. And this is why I will continue to be a Yelp advocate.

Now for shameless promotion (ie, reason #2: vanity):

Check out my Yelp page: juliee.yelp.com. Add me as a friend, follow me as a fan. I would love to hear your comments (and compliments!) on my reviews.

Megasites vs Niche Communities. Rap vs Comedy. And mobile food trucks.

31 Jan

We had an excellent second class meeting on Monday, January 25 with four outstanding speakers:

Curtis Jewell of mycypher.com: a site dedicated to bringing together the global hiphop community. Artists have the ability to use an online recording tool (on mobile device or computer mic) and upload their beats, thereby democratizing the recording process. The site is still in beta testing but you can request an invite to join.

Josh Spector, SVP of Content and Marketing for comedy.com: a guide to what’s funny right now on the web, hosting the best of web and TV comedy videos. The site has 3 million unique monthly visitors.

Ben Gigli and Sean Stevens, APOC alumni, and creators of awesome niche sites including 5secondfilms, hotgirlsandexplosions and wheresmytaco.

We covered a lot of ground discussing the nature of communities, options for building and monetizing a site, and how to best utilize existing social media to establish brand awareness. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc., are third party tools that allow people to create communities, but are not necessarily communities in and of themselves. It’s imperative to know and understand these different tools and the people they attract in order to build the broadest consumer base. These existing networks help to establish and leverage partnerships.
  • What’s in a domain name? These days the domain is usually overrated, and frankly it’s probably more beneficial to have a specific domain (5secondfilms) versus a broader name (comedy.com) as it’s tough to build a brand on a broad concept. The more niche the site and the domain, it may be easier to self-promote across third party tools, as consumers can perform a more directed search.
  • It’s difficult to build on technological and business platforms that you can’t control. For example, Facebook began to block generic fan pages (ie, “Laughing” or “Sleeping in late”), which prompted businesses to lose built-in audiences because they could no longer control status updates that lead back to their brand. Changes in Facebook privacy and technological policies can therefore directly affect web traffic, and niche sites in particular can become a victim of third party platform changes.
  • Obviously, there are different approaches to revenue models depending on the type of site. The general consensus is that advertising is a good ancillary (as opposed to primary) revenue stream, and venture capital money tends to stretch the farthest when you know what you want and what works best for your site (which will likely happen through trial and error).

Overall, there was a lot of information to sink our teeth into. I’m personally looking forward to understanding how to monetize and create a business platform for various revenue streams. Because making money would be a good thing.

And Curtis’ multi-language rap was pretty awesome.

Hello world!

16 Jan

Welcome to my first official blog! I am writing this blog specifically for the Intro to Online Communities course at USC’s Annenberg Program on Online Communities (APOC), from which I am planning to receive a master’s in communication management in December 2010. This exploratory personal blog will discuss content from the previous and upcoming classes, current events and issues related to the tech world, and lots of other cool stuff. I will also use it as a tool to explore WordPress and the world of blog building and designing. So here goes…get excited!

%d bloggers like this: