Category Archives: techcrunch

Amazon, Twitter and Operant Conditioning

twitter downtimeTwitter/FriendFeed updates announced Amazon.com was down for at least an hour this morning. It has since come up and down a few times. CNet, Mashable, TechCrunch and, thus TechMeme, eventually realized it too. It’s up for me now.

I have no idea what happened, but I know Amazon gets a surge of buzz/traffic when it returns. I’ve seen Twitter leverage this strategy masterfully, reaping the rewards of variable scheduling to maximize conditioned behavior.

Wikipedia’s description of operant conditioning has this to say about fixed and variable scheduling of stimulus:

“According to the laws of operant conditioning, any behavior that is consistently rewarded, every single time, will extinguish at a faster rate while intermittently reinforcing behavior leads to more stable rates of behavior that are relatively more resistant to extinction. Thus, in detection dogs, any correct behavior of indicating a “find,” must always be rewarded with a tug toy or a ball throw early on for initial acquisition of the behavior. Thereafter, fading procedures, in which the rate of reinforcement is “thinned” (not every response is reinforced) are introduced, switching the dog to an intermittent schedule of reinforcement, which is more resistant to instances of non-reinforcement.”

Image above from Reinforcement Schedules (VR line shows maximum impact from Variable ratio schedules)

Applying this to Twitter’s intermittent downtime and you can see how Twitter awareness is reinforced every time Twitter comes back from an outage. Services like Twitter need people addicted and, ironically, random outages can help drive the addiction. Hopefully, Amazon’s lost sales make it too painful for them to follow a similar approach…

Sched.org: Order from Chaos at SXSW

Congrats to local AJAX cage-fighters Taylor McKnight and Chirag Mehta — for mashing together the hot site of SXSW 2008: Sched.org. Last year’s SXSW love child was Twitter, this year was Sched.

Sched’s simplicity and on-the-fly find/group scheduling picked up a couple thousand members during the conference — and coverage by Wired, TechCrunch, and Silicon Alley Insider along the way (see Techmeme). It didn’t hurt Sched buzz that the site was developed in only 14 hours (after some early McKnight prototyping).

Sched isn’t the first McKnight & Mehta joint — Chime.TV is another, delivering TV-like usability for net video. Taylor also helped create PodBop with Daniel Westermann-Clark. Keep ’em coming guys!

UPDATE: A mobile version is in such high demand that Michael Galpert even kicked off SponsorSched.org to get McKnight & Mehta an iPhone via this widget — I’ll toss some change in that hat:

Related images: taylor mcknight, chirag mehta, sxsw

Stage6 Killed so DivX Could Thrive?

Well, no sooner did I tout the growth and value of HD streaming site Stage6.com and they decide to close up shop. It could be my rationalization, but it sounds like they were a victim of their own success. According to some sources the combination of traffic, copyright policing and board greed (nixing a spin-out funding deal), led to a decision to shut Stage6.com down. I’m guessing deal negotiations also broke down when new investors wanted reps & warranties about copyright liability.

On the surface, shutting such a property down doesn’t make much sense…someone is probably too busy with the DivX-inside business model to mold the right Stage6 deal (including all the copyright complexity). But, sometimes such focus makes perfect sense…[UPDATE: especially if the core team is gone]

Jordan, I’m still interested in talking if you are…I’m guessing you’ve got something interesting in the worx…

UPDATE: TechCrunch provides a blow-by-blow on the Stage6 drama. As an early investor in DivX along with Frank Creer and others, I sure hope it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. There is still a lot of value in that property…

PPP Direct Makes it a TechCrunch Baker’s Dozen

In honor of TC’s lucky 13th post about PayPerPost, most with some Mike Arrington swipe at PPP or Ted Murphy, I’ve created the “Be Like Mike” game below. Although TechCrunch and PPP compete for the same social media advertising dollars, Ted and Mike are like the “Odd Couple” of the web and have helped each other build industry-leading companies.

The PPP Direct transaction widget really disrupts the industry PPP created last year, enabling bloggers to cut direct sponsorship deals without the 100% markups of some PPP copycats. I was going to provide an in-depth review of the announcement, but honestly couldn’t do much better than Andy Beard did in his post “PayPerPost Direct Changes the Paid Review Landscape“. The Digg of Andy’s post also includes some comments worth reading for anyone impressed with the quality of Andy’s review. As much as I like Mike and appreciate his coverage, I’d love to see more TechCrunch reviews at Andy’s depth. Maybe I should make a game called “Be Like Andy”? I just did…

Hat tip to Amit for PicToGame.

UPDATE 05-29-07: Talk about synchronicity(?). Arrington jumped on the customized game meme less than 24 hours after my post above. PlayMyGame is another entry in that space and I expect more. I can’t wait to see this functionality combined with StripGenerator to allow personalized SouthPark strips/movies or the like.

I’ll call this game “Be Yourself” and you can guess whose face is under all that cake:

PayPerPost Gets Some Love, and Gives Some

Arrington had some nice things to say about one of my portfolio companies today. So did Scoble. Interesting that neither one touched the topic of undisclosed affiliate marketing bloggers — a multi-billion dollar FTC magnet (supposedly 40% of Amazon sales come from affiliate links — with disclosure requirements entirely absent in their Operating Agreement). Luckily, PPP’s Disclosure Policy framework can help all those affiliate bloggers who have hundreds of undisclosed aff posts in their SE-indexed archives…

That’s not the only thing PPP is helping with. They just launched another $1000 puzzle — about RockStartup. If you haven’t already found RockStartup, the world’s first real-time reality show, check out what it’s like in the belly of a venture-backed startup. After you’ve done that, collect this piece #19 and find/assemble the full puzzle first to win $1000.