Monthly Archives: December 2011

Huffington Post

Would you like to use the word “brix” at a diner party and actually know what it means? No need to travel to vineyards or enroll in classes, just log onto facebook, and “like” the Silversmith Vineyards page.

A small family owned winery in northern California, Silversmith invited their fans on facebook to contribute to their typically solitary world of winemaking. Named the Crowd-Made Wine Project, Matt and Tom Johnson wanted to put the creation of their 2011 vintage Cabernet in the hands (or keyboards) of their followers; every step from which strain of yeast to use to how far apart the rollers should be on the grape crusher.

Hesitant at first, the father-son winemaking duo posted the first decision online—which variety of wine to make. Votes poured in from seven countries on four different continents ultimately choosing the Cabernet and validating the process’s appeal.

It was obvious from comments that their followers ranged from winemaking aficionados to first timers who enjoy the drink, so Matt and Tom posted short videos on the facebook page explaining the choices involved in each step of the winemaking process.

“This process forces us to re-examine all of our winemaking decisions. Since we are explaining each step of the process through social media, it’s like a refresher course in winemaking for us,” Tom commented.

By using facebook as a platform to connect with their followers, the Crowd-Made Wine Project increased their visibility and marketability among the competitive Redwood County. Originally, Silversmith Vineyards had 150 fans on facebook; they currently have about 850 and growing. Previous to this experiment they didn’t even have a Twitter account, they now have 442 followers.

While the harvest, yeast strain, and tannins have all been selected, this is only the beginning of the process. The decision making will continue on through 2012, where fans will choose the label design, what kind of cork to use and how long the wine should age before it’s released. And of course you’d want to taste your creation right? At the end of the process, they will offer a pre-sale to all their facebook participants. Matt and Tom are interested to see if the bottle is sold out before it’s released to the public.

And by the way brix is a measurement of the sugar level in grapes as well as an indicator of ripeness (the definition expertly explained in one of their videos).


Harvard Business Review

In the early 1990s Lego was bordering bankruptcy. The plastic bricks that defined a generation were being tossed aside for “Game Boys” and video games. Through an unexpected Internet hacking, Lego embraced an “outside in” business model, welcoming external brainpower and creating a collaborative relationship with its consumers.

In an effort to save the company, they introduced LEGO Mindstorms—a concept that took years to develop—and released programmable Legos equipped with sensors that allowed customers to create moveable robots and designs.

Within three weeks of its release, over 1,000 users hacked—through a campaign created on Lego’s website—into the software that came with the toy and created unauthorized changes that modified it’s functions and design.

Instead of pressing charges, Lego realized how beneficial these unforeseen modifications were to the original product. The hackers became Lego’s unconventional Research and Development lab. Lego eventually opened their software to see what the rest of the community could create.

The hackers’ improvements immensely improved the product and vastly increased the amount of units being sold, particularly to customers over the age of 18, an audience Lego had never been able to target before.

The Lego fiasco was an early example of crowd-sourcing. After embracing external input, the next generation of Lego products was developed with user-designed parts. By taping into the innovation and creativity of others they extended their network and showed consumers that Lego valued their relationship. All while saving themselves from a brightly colored downward spiral.

The New York Times

Occupy Wall Street protestors have redirected some of their anger away from big investment banks to their peers who fill the positions at them.

Robert Shiller, a professor of economics at Yale University can feel the shift in sentiment on campus toward careers in investment banking.

“I teach financial markets, and it’s a little like teaching R.O.T.C. during the Vietnam War,” Shiller said. “You have this sense that something’s amiss.”

Student newspapers at typical Wall Street feeder schools such as Dartmouth, Harvard, Cornell and Yale are urging fellow students to steer their career paths away from a world on Wall Street. At Stanford, students have launched an online campaign called “Stop the Brain Drain.” It’s pointing an angry finger at how hedge funds and private banks’ recruitment campaigns only serve to “divide the campus,” and that finance-minded students could “use their energy for better things.”

On-campus seminars, information sessions, and workshops used to be overflowing with students eager to mingle with recruiters. Now, they have been morphed into protest sites.

A Morgan Stanley event at Yale University last week was bombarded by angry students holding signs and chanting slogans such as “take a stance don’t go into finance,” showing the polarizing perspective at the recruitment atmosphere.

However, these recruitment sessions are not a lost cause. Several days before the Morgan Stanley incident, more than 100 students filled the Omni Hotel at Yale and networked with Goldman Sachs recruiters, still hoping for a career in finance upon graduation.