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On November 23, 2015, Pipedreamer commented on Bikes, Data and the Crowd :

I have been using Hubway and also similar services in other cities and having enough bikes and docks is always the most frustrating problem. I definitely agree that this type of service especially relies on data analytics and combined with the operations and scale of street usage permits, these services are usually run by the city government, so digging into this data could possibly save us some tax dollars! What I find really interesting is the data visualization through Tableau that you’ve shared. In some stations, like the one close to SFP, demonstrated a corresponding curve in both inbound and outbound with the same peak times, while some other sites like the MIT Stata center shows opposite peaks for inbound and outbound. My assumption here is that at stations with corresponding peaks, Hubway wouldn’t have to pay too much effort in managing the bike numbers because bikes come and go at the same rate, the bike amount at the station should be constant. It is the stations that have peaks of inbound when there’s no outbound traffic or the reverse that needs trucks to arrive and make adjustments at the set time. Very interesting that there would be this kind of contrast between sites, I believe it has a lot to do with whether the area is residential or commercial zones.

On November 23, 2015, Pipedreamer commented on Nielsen: Unique Opportunity with Big Challenges :

This is an interesting post. To what I understand, 45% of Neilson’s business lies in “what people watch”. Having worked in the advertisement industry, Neilson has became industry standard to track performance data for traditional media (i.e. TV commercials, radio..etc.) As the world increasingly shifts ad spending from TV to digital media, Neilson quickly becomes less and less important. Brands strive to find a reliable source to track digital media and given the large amount and variety of advertising spaces and ownership, the world still strives to find one single consolidated and reliable source for digital ad spending performance data. You’ve mention they are actively trying to integrate data from online media sources, I think this is the key and critical strategic step for them to stay relevant in the increasingly digitized world and the best way for them to maintain their status as an industry leader.

On November 22, 2015, Pipedreamer commented on RAW IS EVERYTHING: Using Data To Start My Own Skincare Company :

Thanks for sharing this, this is awesome! I suffer from sensitive skin due to atopic dermatitis since I was born, and finding quality cosmetics is very challenging. To this day, I have found a few brands that I use, but still not one that works well enough that I think I will stick to it forever. I agree with Tikola’s point that the “hesitant users” or skeptics might be a potential large market, which is harder to convert than the volunteered test takers who are already in an open mindset to try a new product. The skeptics are the people who haven’t found the perfect product, but is reluctant to try something new because the current product they are using isn’t “that bad” either. To these people, concrete proof is the key element to persuade them to take action and this is where data from first movers comes into play. I think the sequence of your market testing is correct, but maybe as the data shapes up, it is good to keep in check whether your target customers aligns with your brands core mission, and they might not be the first movers.

On November 1, 2015, Pipedreamer commented on Lego Ideas: a leading crowdsourcing platform in the Toy Industry :

I think this is a very smart move from Lego to foster this community engagement platform, especially since they are gradually loosing the favor of new generation kids. They have struggled in the past decade to try to stay relevant, even changing their initial belief of creating original characters and model sets to making lego version of Hollywood blockbusters. To me, making Legos that only mimics movies takes away the imagination aspect that encouraged kids to build whatever they want however they wanted it. Sadly, Lego found this was one of the most profitable routes to continue to stay relevant. I think that fostering this idea community is a great way of reverting back to the creativity aspects of the Lego spirit while gauging into what customer today really wants. Hopefully by moderating this forum effectively, Lego can move away from relying on Hollywood blockbusters to sell.

On November 1, 2015, Pipedreamer commented on The Quirky-ness of Crowds :

I wonder what the cost structure looks like as Quirky move on from producing one product to another. It sounds to me like a very hard to sustain business model given that they would need to constantly source out new ideas to attract community engagement, but then when a product becomes popular, they can’t focus their energy on scaling production and have to shift their production model from one product to next (which could be completely different in processes). This makes me skeptical that they are scalable as a business even though I think the idea of empowering customers. I guess this is why they were on the road to bankruptcy in the end.

On October 30, 2015, Pipedreamer commented on NASA is Getting Crowdy and Saving us from Asteroids :

Hi Donald, nice article and an even nicer alias! It seems like there’s many examples in the astronomy community that is using similar crowd sourcing ideas. This reminds me of the SETI program (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) where anyone with a computer can install a program that helps the institute analyze electromagnetic radiation signals to search for aliens using the computing capacity that you are underutilizing in your computer when you are only doing basic tasks. People are incentivized to help because if the signal from an alien is found with your computer, the discovery will be attributed to you. The same with Zooniverse, which is a crowdsourcing project that allows ordinary citizens to study and organize high-resolution lunar images. I think the sheer amount of data needed to be analyzed in this field is the reason why crowdsourcing is an attractive solution for astronomical discoveries.

On October 5, 2015, Pipedreamer commented on How AirBnB Might Ultimately Fail :

Hi Schwas,

Thank you for the thoughtful comment! My own few thoughts on your comments:
I think the two points you point out goes hand in hand. I agree that AirBnB can definitely invest more money into quality control, but currently the mechanisms isn’t bulletproof yet. To my understanding, the current rating system of AirBnB is also crowd-based, given that it’s an aggregated review of people’s experiences. The particular thing about AirBnB is that it is a very personal experience where you meet the host face to face and more often than not there will be some parts you like and some you don’t. What I find myself is that even if some parts of the experience was sub-par, if the owner is a nice person, it prevents me from giving him a full honest review because I don’t want to hurt his business based on my personal experience. Of course, you can say it could be just that I’m too nice and these views are highly subjective, but I think there is definitely potential for these type of “positive” ratings to happen. (Given that the disadvantages of his place that I’ve experienced was nowhere mentioned in any of 50 reviews he got.) Therefore, I don’t think the review system is the best way to sift out lower quality units.

On the disintermediation risks, I would say that as a frequent traveler between Boston and New York, it is possible that in my needs I would frequent the same AirBnB, as I find the quality level of lodging still highly varies from spot to spot. I don’t think it’s hard to imagine people to stick to their choices when they frequent a city. If a host provides a great place that attracts enough of these travelers, it is possible to reach a critical mass where they no longer to post their place on AirBnB. This is why the traditional Bed and Breakfasts can survive even before the AirBnB platform was invented. I imagine that the places that can reach this state are higher quality units, and if most high value units gradually moves towards this model of cutting out the intermediary due to high demand of a growing user base, the quality of content on AirBnB would eventually go down.

Of course these are all assumptions and it might take a long time before it hits. I agree with you that before this happens, people will still pay the 3% fee for insurance. I think it is very interesting to see how things will play out.

On October 5, 2015, Pipedreamer commented on Groupon – Will Weak Network Effects Be Its Downfall? :

#1 National Cranberry Fan, to my understanding, you don’t need to publicize your purchases, you just need to have enough people (complete strangers) to also purchase the deal in order for it to become valid. These people don’t come from your personal network, and you won’t know who they are, but they are consumers that are attracted to the deal because of the low prices.

I agree to Drew O.’s point that Groupon has a poor way of insuring the quality, which is an experience that I had personally. The restaurants and salons that were offering discounts usually don’t live up to the product description on the site. This is especially important given that network effects depends on quality content, which is why I think eventually as they scale, they would gradually run into reverse network effects as seen today.

Great post summarizing Skype’s growth and potential threats. This is interesting because we can see how the industries that competitors are coming from gradually blurs. As digital innovation evolves, old platforms are rendered obsolete due to new methods of communication. In this case building a wide reaching network with huge user base is no longer enough, which is prompting Skype to move towards adding other types of value-add other than just online chatting. I think one of Skype’s greatest strengths still lies in their ability to call landline from computer, but as technology progresses and wifi gradually replaces landlines, I imagine this advantage to also gradually diminish. It is then evident why they are striving to expand their value-add. However, their move to replace MSN with Skype still seem to puzzle me, and as mobile messaging services move towards having a web version available, the migration rate is fairly low. I wonder if there’s any better explanations to making that strategic move?

On September 14, 2015, Pipedreamer commented on WeWork – Reshaping the office landscape :

Interesting post! It definitely gives start-ups or freelancers a much more flexible opportunity in facing the runway years before your business really scales and you need a bigger space. Yet, I agree with mtv0302 on the fact that there are many start-up incubating spaces emerging and it’s hard to assume a competitive advantage to block out competition. I think one way to mitigate the risk might be having a good balance of tenants who possesses different functionalities who can mutually benefit the community there. For example, assuming that the majority of the tenants there are start-ups, having an IP lawyer with a small office there would be a functionality that everyone would benefit from. The same goes with small consultancies or start-ups who share the same technology who can learn from each other. If WeWork can control their tenant at each location to have a healthy mix or even an “expertise theme” of businesses, it might be an attractive advantage over other similar services as they cultivate a tighter and more coexisting community.

On September 14, 2015, Pipedreamer commented on Netflix in the ever changing home entertainment space :

Hi H Li,

I think your thoughts are very interesting and I certainty see your logic behind it. However, I personally think that studios can gauge and have been gauging into consumer interests for a long time in a very simple way: box office. Even though this might seem not as tech savvy, it actually has the same workings as using data analytics, with at least 400 new movie releases per year in the US alone, the movie industry does have enough data to analyze consumer interest and has designed its content development and whether or not a piece of content goes into theaters or just DVD release based on this data. I think another way that they’ve been collecting this data is from DVD sales performance and also the licensing demand from platform services like Netflix. The pricing of the licensing deals are also determined by market demand. This might be a reliable way for studios to collect consumer preference without having to build and manage tech platforms themselves, but rather focus on content creation.

On September 14, 2015, Pipedreamer commented on WeChat: How a Chinese Messaging App is Winning the Internet :

Great summary highlighting the point that the Western society should start noticing the movements of WeChat in order to connect with the Chinese consumer. Many of the obstacles you mention about WeChat are definitely real. The fact that they are facing growth obstacles outside China is not only a limitation on their end, but combined with the internet security and technology infrastructures unique to China, the Chinese consumer is becoming more and more cut off from the West. I think this is a threat to WeChat, but also an incredible opportunity. During the summer I was working in a growth stage tech start-up in the U.S. as they just start to expand their client base overseas to China. While setting up a product demo meeting with the Chinese client, we are trying to connect with the client with very basic business functions such as an internet call and share the demo screen for the client to see. However, as we found out, neither GChat, Logmein, or Skype works smoothly in this setting and traditionally the sales team has just been using basic phone lines to hold overseas conferences with these Chinese clients which often turns out sounding fuzzy and unclear. Ultimately the only solutions to this problem was to build a communication server that explicitly addresses this in house (like big consulting firms who have these capabilities) or to use WeChat. We ended up successfully achieving our goals through setting up our conference calls on WeChat. I think this is a largely neglected area of opportunity for WeChat to overcome some growth obstacles, by focusing on the connectivity of the rest of the world to the Chinese community.