Posts filed under "Business"
October 1, 2013
New Episodes: Identity, Psudonyms, & Influence
Three new episodes of the Social Media Clarity Podcast have been posted since our last update:
- Social Network: What is it, and where do I get one? (mp3) 26 Aug 2013
- HuffPo, Identity, and Abuse (mp3) 5 Sep 2013 NEW
- Save our Pseudonyms! (Guest: Dr. Bernie Hogan) (mp3) 16 Sep 2013 NEW
- Influence is a Graph (mp3) 30 Sep 2013 NEW
August 26, 2013
Randy’s Got a Podcast: Social Media Clarity
I’ve teamed up with Bryce Glass and Marc Smith to create a podcast – here’s the link and the blurb:
Social Media Clarity - 15 minutes of concentrated analysis and advice about social media in platform and product design.
First episode contents:
News: Rumor – Facebook is about to limit 3rd party app access to user data!
Topic: What is a social network, why should a product designer care, and where do you get one?
Tip: NodeXL – Instant Social Network Analysis
August 23, 2013
Patents and Software and Trials, Oh My! An Inventor’s View
What does almost 20 years of software patents yield? You’d be surprised!
I gave an Ignite talk (5 minutes: 20 slides advancing every 15 seconds) entitled
“Patents and Software and Trials, Oh My! An Inventor’s View”
Here’s some improved links…
I’ve created ip-reform.org to support the “I Won’t Sign Bogus Patents” pledge.
Encourage your company to adopt Twitter’s Inventor’s Patent Agreement
Sequestration has delayed a bay area PTO office, support this bill
I gave the talk twice, and the second version is also available (shows me giving the talk and static versions of my slides…) – watch that here:
April 14, 2011
We’re at it again and we’re hiring…
Chip has created the Nth generation of his massive-scale real-time server architecture (the spiritual descendent of Habitat) and we think the time is right for mobile/social games to go multiplayer! So we’ve gotten the band back together, and you can join us!
FUDCorp Job Openings
Real-Time Game Server Programmer, SF Bay Area
About us: a still-stealth start-up with a groundbreaking mobile/gaming platform that will reshape social games/apps. Get in on the ground floor with world-class founders and established technology. If you know us, you what we’ve built since the earliest days of online play.
- Writing server-side Java code for an original massively multiplayer mobile online game
- This is a contract position, with potential to join our full-time team
- Immediate Availability. Our recent successes (partners and funding) means we need more help immediately!
- San Francisco Bay Area. With live meetings at least weekly, increasing over time.
- Minimum 3 years as a professional Java programmer working on client-server applications in a small, decentralized team.
- Strong Linux/Unix skills: shell scripting, command line tools, server administration, etc.
- Big plus: experience with Amazon EC2, and optimizing server features for automatic deployment
- Big plus: previous work with implementing social games, such as taxonomies, economies, abuse mitigation, and social issues
- Big plus: experience with iPhone or Android app development
Please send resume and contact info to firstname.lastname@example.org.
January 15, 2011
Requiem for Blue Mars
Another virtual world startup (Blue Mars) is dying. At The Andromeda Media Group Blog Will Burns [Aeonix Aeon] writes:
Looking Back at the Future
The really interesting part about all of this is that in order to see the future of Avatar Reality, and subsequently Blue Mars (or any virtual environment today), we need not look into the future but instead look to the past…
[many interesting insights about 1990s era worlds]
In 1990, the solution was given by two people to all of this madness. Chip Morningstar and F. Randall Farmer, authors of Lessons Learned From Lucasfilm’s Habitat. Strangely enough I had asked Mr Farmer about Linden Lab and he informed me that he was actually called in as a consultant in the early days, and not surprisingly, ignored.
That’s a bit of a harsh summary, but more than five years ago I did write The Business of Social Avatar Virtual Worlds: Or, why I really like Second Life, even if their business is most likely doomed. Clearly I wasn’t 100% right about them – they found a business model that at least got them to cover their run-rate. But many of the things in there may to apply to Blue Mars…
November 16, 2010
Quora:What lessons of Social Web do you wish had been better integrated into Yahoo?
On Quora, an anonymous user asked me the following question:
In hindsight, what lessons have you learned from the Social Web that you wish you had been more successful at integrating into Yahoo before you were let go?
I considered this question at length when composing this reply – this is probably the most thought-provoking question I’ve been asked to publicly address in months.
If you read any of my blog posts (or my recent book), you already know that I’ve got a lot of opinions about how the Social Web works: I rant often about identity, reputation, karma, community management, social application design, and business models.
I did these same things during my time for and at Yahoo!
We invented/improved user-status sharing (what later became known as Facebook Newsfeeds) when we created Yahoo! 360° [Despite Facebook's recently granted patent, we have prior art in the form of an earlier patent application and the evidence of an earlier public implementation.]
But 360 was prematurely abandoned in favor of a doomed-from-the-start experiment called Yahoo!Mash. It failed out of the gate because the idea was driven not by research, but personality. But we had hope in the form of the Yahoo! Open Strategy, which promised a new profile full of social media features, deeply integrated with other social sites from the very beginning. After a year of development – Surprise! – Yahoo! flubbed that implementation as well. In four attempts (Profiles, 360, Mash, YOS) they’d only had one marginal success (360), which they sabotaged several times by telling users over and over that the service was being shut down and replaced with inferior functionality. Game over for profiles.
We created a reputation platform and deployed successful reputation models in various places on Yahoo! to decrease operational costs and to identify the best content for search results and to be featured on property home pages [See: The Building Web Reputation Systems Wiki and search for Yahoo to read more.]
The process of integrating with the reputation platform required product management support, but almost immediately after my departure the platform was shipped off to Bangalore to be sunsetted. Ironically, since then the folks at Yahoo! are thinking about building a new reputation platform – since reputation is obviously important, and everyone from the original team has either left, been laid off, or moved on to other teams. Again, this will be the fourth implementation of a reputation platform…
Are you sensing a pattern yet?
Then there’s identity. The tripartite identity model I’ve blogged about was developed while at Yahoo an attempt to explain why it is brain-dead to ask users to reveal their IM name, their email address, and half their login credentials to spammers in order to leave a review of a hotel.
Again we built a massively scalable identity service platform to allow users to be seen as their nickname, age, and location instead of their YID. And again, Yahoo! failed to deploy properly. Despite a cross-company VP-level mandate, each individual business unit silo dragged their heels in doing the (non-trivial, but important and relatively easy) work of integrating the platform. Those BUs knew the truth of Yahoo! – if you delay long enough, any platform change will lose its support when the driving folks leave or are reassigned. So – most properties on Yahoo! are still displaying YIDs and getting up to 90% fewer user contributions as a result.
That’s what I learned: Yahoo! can’t innovate in Social Media. It has a long history in this, from Yahoo! Groups, which during my tenure had three separate web 2.0 re-designs, with each tossed on the floor in favor of cheap and easy (and useless) integrations (like with Yahoo! Answers) to Flickr, Upcoming, and Delicious. I’m sad to say, Yahoo! seems incapable of reprogramming its DNA, despite regular infusions of new blood. Each attempt ends in either an immune-response (Flickr has its own offices, and a fairly well known disdain for Sunnyvale) or assimilation and decreasing relevance (HotJobs, Personals, Groups, etc.).
So, in the end, I find I can’t answer the question. I was one of many people who tried to drive home the lessons of the social web for the entire time I was there. YOS (of which I helped spec in fall 2007) was the last attempt to reshape the company to be social through and through. But, it was a lost cause – the very structure of the environment is personality driven. When those personalities leave, their projects immediately get transferred to Bangalore for end-of-life support, just as much of YOS has been…
I don’t know what Yahoo! is anymore, but I know it isn’t inventing the future of social anything.
[As I sat through this years F8 developers conference, and listen to Mark Z describe 95% of the YOS design, almost 3 years later, I knew I'd have to write this missive one day. So thanks for the prodding , Anonymous @ Quora]
Social Media Consultant, MSB Associates
Former Community Strategy Analyst for Yahoo!
[Please direct comments to Quora]
October 12, 2010
First! Randy to be the kickoff guest for new Community Chat podcast series.
Bill Johnston and Thomas Knolls are launching a new live podcast series: Community Chat on talkshoe.
I am so honored to be the lead-off guest on their inagural episode (Wednesday 10-13-10):
The kickoff episode of Community Chat! [We] will be discussing the premise of the Community Chat podcast with special guest Randy Farmer. Will also be getting a preview of Blog World Expo from Check Hemann.
I’ll be talking with them about online community issues developers and operators all share in common – well, as much as I can in 10 minutes. :-) Click on the widget above to go there – it will be recorded for those who missed it live…
February 24, 2010
Grizzled Advice from Business & Legal Primer for Game Development
[Two years ago, I wrote up a few lessons for inclusion in Business & Legal Primer for Game Development. I'd always meant to cross-post it here and was surprised to see I hadn't already when I went looking for it to share with the folks over at PlayNoEvil in reply to a recent post. - Randy]
Here are three top-line lessons for those considering designing their own MMORG or latest Facebook game for that matter…
1. Design Hubris Wastes Millions
Read all the papers/books/blogs written by your predecessors that you can – multi-user game designers are pretty chatty about their successes and failures. Pay close attention to their failures – try not to duplicate those. Believe it or not, several documented failures have been repeated over and over in multiple games, despite these freely available resources.
If you are going to ignore one of the lessons of those who went before, presumably because you think you know a better way, do it with your eyes wide open and be ready to change to plan B if your innovation doesn’t work out the way you expected. If you want to hash your idea out before committing it to code, consider consulting with the more experienced designers – they post on Terra Nova (http://blogs.terranova.com/) and talk to budding designers on the Mud-Dev (http://www.kanga.nu/) mailing list, amongst other places. Many of them respond pretty positively to direct contact via email – just be polite and ask your question clearly – after all, they are busy building their own worlds.
2. Beta Testers != Paying Customers
One recurring error in multi-user game testing is the problem of assuming that Beta users of a product will behave like real customers would. They don’t, for several reasons:
A. Beta testing is a status symbol amongst their peers
“I’m in the ZYXWorld Limited Beta!” is a bragging right. Since it has street-cred value, this leads the user to be on their best behavior. They will grief much less. They will share EULA breaking hacks with each other much less. They will harass much less. They won’t report duping bugs. The eBay aftermarket for goods won’t exist. In short, anything that would get them kicked out of the beta won’t happen anywhere near as often as when the product is released.
B. Beta testers aren’t paying.
Paying changes everything. During the Beta, the users work for you. When you release the game, you are working for them. Now some users will expect to be allowed to do all sorts of nasty things that they would never had done during the Beta. Those who were Beta users (and behaved then) will start to exploit bugs they found during the test period, but never reported. Bad beta users save up bugs, so they could use them after your product’s release to gain an edge over the new users, to dupe gold, or to just crash your server to show off to a friend.
So, you’re probably wondering; How do I get my Beta testers to show me what life on my service will really be like and to help me find the important bugs/exploits/crashes before I ship? Here are some strategies that worked for projects I worked on:
Crash Our World: Own up to the fact that Beta testers work for you and they do it for the status – incentivize the finding of crash/dup/exploit bugs that you want them to find. Give them a t-shirt for finding one. Put their portrait on the Beta Hall Of Fame page. Give them a rare in-world item that they can carry on into general release. Drop a monument in the world, listing the names of the testers that submitted the most heinous bugs. Turn it into a contest. Make it more valuable to report a bug than to keep it secret.
Pay-ta: Run a Paid Beta phase (after Crash Our World) to find out how users will interact with each other socially (or using your in-game social/communications features.) During this phase of testing you will get better results about which social features to prioritize/fix for release. Encourage and/or track the creation of fan communities, content databases, and add-ons – it will help you understand what to prepare for, as well as build word-of-mouth marketing. But, keep in mind that there is one thing you can never really test in advance: How your user community will socially scale. As the number of users grows, the type of user will diversify. For most games, the hard-core gamers come first and the casual players come later. Be sure to have a community manager whose job it is to track customer sentiment and understand the main player groups. How your community scales will challenge your development priorities and the choices you make will have you trading off new-customer acquisition vs. veteran player retention.
3. There Are No Game Secrets, Period
Thanks to the internet – in-game puzzles are solved for everyone at the speed of the fastest solver. Read about “The D’nalsi Island” adventure in Lucasfilm’s Habitat where the players consumed hundreds of development hours in only tens of minutes.
The Lesson? Don’t count on secrets to hold up for long. Instead, treat game walk-thru websites as a feature to be embraced instead of the bane of your existence. “But,” you’ll say, “I could create a version of my puzzle that is customized (randomized) for every user! That will slow them down!” Don’t bother; it will only upset your users.
The Tragedy of the Tapers
Consider the example of the per-player customized spell system in the original Asheron’s Call (by Turbine, Inc.): Each magic spell was designed to consume various types of several resources: scarabs, herbs, powders, potions, and colored tapers. The designers thought it would be great to have the users actually learn the spells by having to discover them through experimentation. The formula was different for every spell and the tapers were different for every user.
One can just hear the designer saying “That’ll fix those Internet spoilers! With this system, they each have to learn their own spells!” But, instead of feeling enjoyment, the players became frustrated with what seemed to be nothing other than a waste of their time and resources burning spell components as they were compelled to try the complete set of exponential combinations of tapers for no good reason.
What was interesting is that the users got frustrated enough to actually figure out the exact method of generating the random seed to determine the tapers for each user as follows:
Second Taper = (SEED * [ Talisman + (Herb + 3) + ((Powder + Potion) * 2) + (Scarab - 2) ] ) mod 12
[Modified from Jon Krueger’s web page on the subject.]
The players put this all into a client plug-in to remove the calculation overhead, and were now able to correctly formulate the spells the very first time they tried. Unfortunately, this meant that new users (who didn’t know about the plug-in) were likely to have a significantly poorer experience than veterans.
To Turbine’s credit, they revised the game in its second year to remove the need for most of the spell components and created rainbow tapers, which worked for all users in all spells, completely canceling the original per-player design.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars went into that spell system. The users made a large chunk of that effort obsolete very quickly, and Turbine then had to pay for more development and testing to undo their design.
Learn from Turbine’s mistake; Focus on making your game fun even if the player can look up all the answers in a database or a plug-in.
Don’t start a secrecy arms-war with your user. You’ll lose. Remember: There are more of them than you and collectively they have more time to work on your product than you do.
September 25, 2009
The good news is, I don’t have to move to Seattle
From the shameless self-promotion department:
As some of you may know, I’ve spent most of the past year working as a contract CTO for Kirkland, WA based WeMade Entertainment USA, the (relatively) recently formed American arm of the Korean online games company WeMade Entertainment. The job involved overseeing the setting up of their engineering organization and architecting a community platform for their MMO offerings in the west. There were many cool things about this job, but one of the less cool things was that since it was 800 miles from home, it kept me racking up the frequent flyer miles and would have required me (and my family) to move to Seattle if it had gone on much longer. However that contract is over as of the end of September, and so I’m now once again a free agent.
For the moment I’m doing some work with Randy’s consulting group (and, I’ll admit, finding the consulting lifestyle congenial), but I’m definitely on the prowl for The Next Thing. If you know anybody looking for a virtual worlds guru, online games technology wizard, freelance code disciplinarian, or software development organization tamer, my resume is here. Pass the word.
July 8, 2009
Online Gambling Patent: Another One Bites the Dust
For regular readers of Habitat Chronicles, it comes as no surprise that Lucasfilm’s Habitat, the first graphical virtual world with the first avatars, was the source of much innovation in the field. And this was back in the mid- to late-1980′s before people tried to patent software. As a result, those who created products like these are in some demand when later related patents were filed in the 1990s and now lawsuits a cropping up in an attempt to enforce them.
Another product during that period was called Rabbit Jack’s Casino, which allowed Quantum-Link users to play online gambling games such as Bingo, Poker, Slots, and Blackjack against each other for Q-Pons, chips that were not backed by real dollars, other than the $3.60 to $4.80 an hour people were paying for premium service access.
Rabbit Jack’s played an important role in getting an EU patent on online gambling [EP 0625760B1] declared invalid yesterday. Though I provided three sworn statements about Habitat, in the end the Honourable Lord Lewison did not need to site them in the decision. No matter – I was glad to be of help and to see the process in action.
Another one bites the dust!