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CommunityNext skinnyCorp and Threadless

The following are notes I took during the CommunityNext conference held at the Annenberg Auditorium at Stanford University in Palo Alto on February 10th, 2007.

Jeffrey Kalmikoff and Jake Nickell of skinnyCorp presented their "patent-pending method for creating online awesomeness and other cool stuff too"

Making money was not the intention behind making Threadless, except to pay bills. The approach was similar to what we felt like when they were kids. For example, I didn’t analyze whether and why I should skateboard. “I just started skateboarding when I was 11 because it ruled”. And 95% of the projects they have done have not and will not make money. They’re just a way of giving back to the community. As time goes by, skinnycorp gets more crazy awesome. Their metric is how much fun are they having … it’s the fun scale. They start projects because they think they will be fun

Threadless is the exact same idea as when it started. They have just added to it, but not changed it. The community came together, made art and then had something made out of it. It’s only a great idea if it adds to the value and doesn’t change it

Always remember: your project is not good enough. If others try to be better than you, then your own aim should be to be better than you.

How to make money using the "internets": a crash course brought to you by … skinnycorp:

  • There’s “The Awesome Way”: using technology to create something that will make people’s lives easier. For example, Flickr and 37signals are fun. But LinkedIn is not fun: you justdon’t want to hang out there
  • And there’s “The Not Awesome Way”: identity theft, phishing, MySpace (too much advertising)

The Four Commandments:

  • Allow your content to be created by its community. The employees are in the minority because the community is so much bigger. So just open the door and let users do what they want
  • Put your project in the hands of its community. The community sees its feedback. 40% of all the features that are added have been submitted by the community.
  • Let your community grow itself. No advertising. For example, they ran a $1,000 ad once and got a total of 7 sales from it. It just doesn’t work and it’s much better when users get new users. And their users want to get their design rated.
  • Reward the community that makes your project possible. They are now paying $2000 for winning designs. When they started, they were paying $50. They also give special prizes for special projects and promotions (ie. Movie promotions). As the community gets bigger, the quality of submissions go down, so giving more money keeps up the quality. They will also do a $1M t-shirt prize giveaway at some point.

Question and Answer Session:

How are people scoring the tshirts?

They hide the scores until the scoring is over. They look at what people want beyond just the simple 0 to 5 score (including blog comments)

How about users getting upset with changes?

Negative feedback usually restricted to 24-48hrs and then people adapt. Example of their blog design change: users said threadless was wrong and they opened a thread where there were like 500 comments within a couple of days and then they changed what was wrong.

How to keep it fun within company?

They voice opinions and have debates. Most people there are friends.

How to control against fraud?

There’s not an easy way to beat the system because the system is simple. Also people flag the content and they are familiar with stock photography. The average winning design gets 4000 votes.

Donating $1m to charity?

Threadless donated $100,000 to Katrina. It’s a tricky issue because it’s hard to give money and not get slighted for not favoring another worthy cause.

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February 13, 2007 in Marketing-Advertising | Permalink


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Great Notes! I look forward to atending something awesome in Miami soon. It was great having you here!

Posted by: noah kagan | Feb 19, 2007 6:57:23 PM

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