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the fence


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This is the preliminary deck a friend and I created in June 2010 following an idea we had for a crowdsourcing site.

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the fence

  1. 1. the fence Let the world weigh in on your life.
  2. 2. the fence A crowd sourcing website for the modern day decision maker. Amidst our information gathering and decision making culture, one thing has remained constant: There is no source of information that people trust in the decision making process more than the opinions of other individuals. Undoubtedly, the primary level of influence is through friends and family—a person’s immediate social network. Second to this, individuals are becoming substantially more trustworthy of and reliant on the advice and opinions of other consumers when making a decision; other people around the world like themselves—Web 2.0 at large. What is the fence?
  3. 3. What is the fence? the fence Coupled with this, companies are wising up to the idea that this free exchange of information is putting much more control into the hands of the consumer. Consumers want to be engaged in conversation; and want the products, people, and services they consume to provide them with their wants and needs on their terms. The future of a successful business then, is dependent upon the organization’s ability to converse with consumers and allow them to play an active role in the decision making process. This has been the impetus for the idea behind the fence.
  4. 4. the fence What is the fence? Giving people the power to decide. The fence is a crowd sourcing website where individuals create personal profiles, similar to any other social media site. From here, they post questions in a multiple choice format regarding future decisions they need to make and poll friends or the world at large. Example Getting a new puppy! Name help please!!  Jack  Porkchop  Puccini  Reptar
  5. 5. the fence What is the fence? Upon carrying out the decision (after receiving input from others), users have the option to go back and review the decision. Then, the user selects which option they should have selected in hindsight. The users who weighed in on the decisions will then receive a “judgment score” based on their ability to recommend good decisions. This becomes a metric for people to see which friends, or strangers give them the best advice—allowing them to live a more optimal, confident life, while fulfilling the desire for social engagement via the web platforms. User posts decision Others “weigh in” Decision is carried out User chooses best option, in hindsight Others build judgment score
  6. 6. What is the fence? the fence The fence isn’t only for individuals. Just as friends and families are viewed as extensions of oneself, so too are products, brands, and opinion leaders. The fence will also enable corporations, websites, celebrities, and consumer brands of any kind to engage people in the decision making process. It will allow companies to locate their top-box consumers those that are most involved and invested a product (similar to current customer loyalty and rewards tracking), as well as those who make the best decisions about the future of the product at hand, based upon the judgment score. Further, it will do so on a social platform that will blur the lines between consumers and brands. Finally, the fence will give companies a much quicker and clearer picture of consumer wants, while continuously engaging them with brand activity on a personal level. Example What deal would you like to see us have next weekend?  Free extra shot  Treat receipt  Buy one, get one drinks  Two free iTunes tracks
  7. 7. What is the fence? the fence A more engaged world will be created in a way that allows people to do what they enjoy most—building and sustaining relationships with others. Companies will be able to deliver consumer wants on consumers’ terms. People will be able to take ownership of their contributions to others’ lives and companies they choose to interact with; uniting and engaging them with the people and things that make up their world. A fun place for people to engage with each other, whether friends or strangers, in order to feel more informed, decisive and involved with the world in which they live. The fence is a place for questions to be answered and problems solved, big or small, monumental or mundane, in a fashion that validates the connections we all have as people. This is our vision: Our emphasis is going to be placed on the social aspect of the site initially. We want it to be very user-friendly, accessible, and fun. Whereas other sites (such as Yahoo! answers, Quora, Aardvark,, etc.) focus more on the actual content of the information given, our emphasis is going to be on user engagement or digital community building, if you will.
  8. 8. the fence Profile/Home page The logistics of our vision are preliminary. We want to give people a place online to engage with each other by posting and commenting on decisions, yet continue to grow the site in accordance with consumers’ use and the direction they want to take it. Similar to Facebook or Twitter, individuals will create a profile page for themselves on the site. This will include their name and a picture, in addition to basic demographic questions (age, gender, city, interests, birthday, etc.) for the purposes of segmentation, as well as information gathering and data mining for the site’s marketing purposes. This is also where the basis of their personal decisions will be posted and displayed. In addition to the profile page, there will also be a homepage that will feed decisions that other people post for the user to weigh in on. There will be several different filters for organizing and navigating the decisions posted by others.
  9. 9. the fence Friends Individuals can be searched for and added as friends, similar to Facebook. Also, friends can be segmented into lists, so decision posts can target specific audiences. In addition to this, there will be a tie-in to Facebook, Twitter, and email providers to find current friends with the fence accounts, as well as an option to invite your friends to start a the fence account. The account set up process should be very simple and very quick. Decision Post Format All decisions posted will be in multiple choice format. Doing so will assure that the user who poster the question is considering all options—in other words, all the alternatives listed are already in his or her consideration set, so they are pertinent to the decision. He or she will not receive responses that aren’t of interest. This will create a more concrete result for the user to interpret and enable the development of the hindsight feature since the data will be easy to code, aggregate, and interpret. This being said, a comment thread should be present below each decision so people can freely discuss their thoughts as related to the post. After users weigh in on a decision, they will be able to review the current results. With this, if identities for the decision are public, they will be able to see which options other people chose. Also, the user posting a decision will set a deadline, at which point the time to weigh in on it will end. The deadline can be very urgent or far into the future, depending on the nature of the decision.
  10. 10. Identity vs. Anonymity the fence There will be several different scenarios in regard to identity under which users will be able to post and weigh in on decisions. Also, it should be noted that these can be phased-in over time, so the users aren’t overwhelmed initially. They are as follows: Decision poster Person weighing in Identity visible Friends answer visibly Identity visible Friends answer anonymously Identity visible Public answers visibly Identity invisible Public answers anonymously This being said, decisions and their results will be made public via the public feed, but they won’t have an identity attached to them if the poster has specified to hide it.
  11. 11. Decision Deadline the fence Whenever a user posts a decision, they will also specify a deadline for that decision. This will guarantee that all content on the site is current and relevant. These deadlines can range from very real-time decisions (3 hours to decide where to go to dinner) to longer, more contemplative questions where users can track the progress of a decision over time (for example, 2 weeks to decide which job offer people think a person should take). Hindsight and Judgment Score A very interesting aspect we envision for the fence is the concept of a hindsight selection and a judgment score. After the decision deadline has passed and the user carries out their decision (whether they went with the majority or not), they will have the option to go back and select which option they should have selected in hindsight. The users who voted for that option will then gain points toward their judgment score. This feature then, will give the user insight with regards to which person, friend or stranger, tends to give them the best advice. Also, it will show businesses which consumers make the most optimal decisions for that company or its product(s).
  12. 12. the fence Filters and Categorizing Decisions Once again, this can be implemented with a phase-in process or the filters can be changed. We just want the users who are weighing in to have options in terms of the nature of the decisions they want to see. We have devised two components for filtering.
  13. 13. Filters and Categorizing Decisions—Component 1 the fence Character count: Short, Medium, and Long For short decisions: If a user just wants to sit at their computer and click through a bunch of decisions to weigh in on using minimal time, thought, or investment, they’ll be able to do so. For medium or long decisions: If a user wants to get invested in the story behind someone’s question (whether serious or funny), they can choose to read all about it and weigh in. These would have a similar appeal to something like “Ask Alice” columns, only in this instance, users can weigh in with their own feedback.
  14. 14. the fence Filters and Categorizing Decisions—Component 1 Stakes of the decision: Low, Medium, or High This again, concerns the investment level. Since it would be a filter feature determined by users themselves, it is anyone’s guess as to if it would get taken seriously, but it could prove to be a filter people enjoy or use for humor. Deadline Every time a user posts a decision to be made, they will specify a deadline for their post. This way, users weighing in can filter the decisions based on urgency or the immediacy of the situation. Popularity People should also be able to filter the most popular questions on the site. Similar to trending topics on Twitter, it is a good way to get lots of people engaged in an enjoyable way.
  15. 15. the fence Filters and Categorizing Decisions—Component 2 Categorical Filters The idea behind categorical filters is the fact that users might have an affinity for a specific type of decision content, or they may find one category more entertaining than others. Also, categorical filters could prove to be a more profitable means of filtering once ad placement is integrated (this will be discussed in the business model section). Finally, categorical filters could lead to an interesting feature of finding category “experts” based on individual judgment scores; In other words, locating individuals who have the best reputations for making the best decisions in a specific category (e.g. “Alex Heide has the best judgment in the Health and Beauty category”). Examples of categorical filters for decisions: Health and Beauty, Relationships, Family, Travel, Music, Academic, Music, Food, Career, etc. As previously stated, these can be changed, phased in, combined, or modified depending on the needs and desires of site users.
  16. 16. the fence Who will use the fence? Initially, we want to focus on a specific, social media savvy college community, but the idea is quite versatile and scalable. Everyone makes decisions, so we want to design the fence with everyone in mind. Most likely, the site’s launch will have a much more specific targeted audience, but we see potential for this to be used by anyone.
  17. 17. the fence Who will use the fence? Individuals: People will find this useful and fun on a very personal level, as they will be able to gain insight from others as well as engage socially. Also, they will have the opportunity to interact on a direct level with celebrities, companies, brands, or products that play a role in their lives. Celebrities and Opinion Leaders: Individuals that have a large following will be able to use the fence as a means of engaging directly with their fans. This will give them further publicity and presence in peoples’ social settings in addition to feedback from their concerned fans. Corporations and Brands: Companies and brands will also be able to use the fence to engage more directly with consumers, keep their brand active and gain direct feedback on future directions they should pursue. We expect that upon growth of the site, users will carve functions out of the service to suit a vast array of needs and functions. Designing it for everyone will allow for a natural progression.
  18. 18. Revenue Stream/Business Model the fence Again, this is not set in stone. We see considerable potential for revenue generation, but our first priority is to create the service. By focusing on service first, we will ensure that we retain site traffic because without regular users, there is no possibility for revenue generation. Advertising and Promoted Suggestions The great thing about the nature of the site is that all content posted is intended to come from a place of need fulfillment on behalf of consumers. This is the exact time when marketers want to communicate to these consumers. By using content analytics, the keywords an individual uses can be used to target specific advertisements depending on what the nature of their post is. This is similar to the advertising tactics used by Facebook, however in the case of the fence, we can offer individuals “promoted suggestions” to the decisions they are need to make. These can also include a hyperlink to a company’s profile and be expensed on a pay-per-click basis.
  19. 19. the fence Revenue Stream/Business Model There can also be “promoted decisions” that companies can purchase per category (such as Health and Beauty) and we can have promoted decisions that are featured in the trending/most popular decisions section of the site, similar to what Twitter has started doing. All of these tactics have proved to be very acceptable with consumers and preferred by companies as consumers are able to be targeted right away in an unobtrusive manner. Ultimately, we feel there is revenue earning potential with advertising, and intend to avoid a subscription-based business model. Subscriptions would hinder the ease of access to the site and deter many individuals from joining. We feel that the strength of the fence, and its revenue earning potential, will be strengthened by getting as many as possible to use it regularly. Also, there could be revenue earning potential in the information gathering and data mining prospects that could become very insightful for different segments.
  20. 20. the fence Industry Analysis—Competition: Formspring Formspring is a relatively new site, in which users engage in a Q&A dialogue. The focus is on the person being questioned, as if it is a large-scale, completely open floor, type of interview. The people asking the questions can choose to identify themselves when they ask or remain completely anonymous. With this, the individual being questioned can choose which questions he or she wants to answer and have them appear in his or her feed. Included in the appendix is further information from the site’s “about” section. With this framework in place, the focus is on the individual being questioned. Also, this site appears to thrive on the anonymity feature, as it is the only facet that differentiates the service from asking a question via Facebook or Twitter. This being said, they are starting to explore the realm of the individual asking the masses, and not just the masses asking the individual. They have created a feature that allows a person to ask something of all of their friends. However, the focus still seems to be on emotion-based questions, rather than action-based. For example, the questions fall under the realm of “Who do you have a crush on?” or, “What’s your favorite food?” Not, “Where should I take Sally on our date? Or, “What should I order for dinner at this restaurant?”
  21. 21. the fence Industry Analysis—Competition: Formspring Putting the individual at the center of his or her social universe: Formspring gets the ultimate thumbs up for engaging individual users through having people they know ask them questions. This makes the individual user feel important and cared for, the same as how Facebook users get excited when they receive status comments or birthday wishes on their wall. Completely thorough, yet user-friendly interface: Formspring has almost every other social media tie-in possible, integrated beautifully. You can sync your Formspring account to Facebook, Twitter, or an email address book to not only locate your friends from other sites with Formspring accounts, but also invite friends who don’t have accounts yet. Receiving this sort of initial exposure to the site (through another social media service) is a definite plus. Also, Formspring engages new users right away, with a question prompt before an account is even created. This is genius; it gets users engaged with a little taste of how the site functions before they need to commit to setting up an account. For some users, this may be the tipping point that moves them into motivated action. Also, the account set-up process is so simple. It takes no more than 2 minutes. Finally, the site doesn’t require that you create a full profile before you engage in Q&A, which undoubtedly contributes the consumers’ immediate engagement. With all of this, the web site is still amazingly easy to navigate. It is clean, clear, and simple yet very inviting. One design characteristic that I believe facilitates this is the very minimal use of text. Strengths
  22. 22. the fence Industry Analysis—Competition: Formspring Weaknesses Utility of the site is seen as a novelty: Formspring has thrived by being so easy for people to use, yet it has more entertainment value than actual function. Unlike other social media giants who thrive on connection, entertainment, and function, Formspring seems to have very little of the latter. Further, when people pose questions to each other, it is rarely in question form—just an anonymous comment directed at an individual. Lacking a tie-in to real life socialization: Formspring is a platform that allows for people to write about themselves, similar to a journal entry; at least in its present stage. However, this type of writing provides very infrequent opportunities for real life, social follow-up or engagement. In contrast, examine Facebook: Someone may post a video on a friend’s wall, and it could become an inside joke later on when those individuals meet up. Also, among the college market, there are very few individuals who take photos without intending them to end up on Facebook and be topic of conversation. Formspring seems to lack this key interplay between face-to-face social interaction and digital interaction.
  23. 23. Industry Analysis—Competition: Formspring the fence Weaknesses Breeding ground for harassment: Increasingly, teens (and others) are using the anonymity feature for purposes of cyber bullying. They don’t filter content, and require the community to report abuse, which is a fair stance, but this is still hurting their image terribly. They are addressing the heat pretty well, and claim it is just a very small segment of their 14 million users, but it is still causing them quite a few problems. Formspring is already being labeled the catalyst for the suicide of a 17 year old girl who was taunted on the site, and there is a Facebook group titled, “Boycott Formspring,” with almost 7,500 members. One member writes, “I think Formspring is another scourge for our youth to indulge in. It’s disgusting and it’s sad to see kids treat each other so horribly. I've seen many Formsprings and never do I see a nice question like what's your favorite color. It’s always hate and attacks. I support a boycott.” There is no known revenue stream: Although this isn’t a huge problem, it is some cause for concern for the company. Right now, they are not disclosing the business plan behind the site, stating that they want to focus on building the service. This makes total sense, but if they build a service that is easily replicated and someone figures out how to provide that same service and make money doing it, Formspring is over. A revenue stream is undoubtedly something constantly nagging at the founders’ and investors’ minds.
  24. 24. Industry Analysis—Competition: Formspring the fence Key Takeaway the fence’s point of differentiation rests in that all decisions posted are intended to have some real life action associated with what is being asked. We feel people would much rather contribute to a discussion where they know there could be real life implications.
  25. 25. the fence Industry Analysis—Competition •Yahoo answers •Facebook •Twitter •Polldaddy •Twtpoll •Quora Other Competition to be Researched