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Ghetto Testing

This hour long lecture by Mark Pincus, CEO of uber-successful social gaming business Zynga, and Bing Gordon, the longtime Electronic Arts creative force is somewhat rambling but contains some real gems. Pincus's view (as explained adeptly here by James) is that the next stage of the web will be far more about people paying for the kind of services that they can't imagine life without (what they call 'Internet Treasures'). The internet should enable the most profitable business models on the planet and, once again, every major franchise will be up for grabs.

Pincus admits that the kind of growth that his business has experienced (as a recent example, the launch of Cityville acquired 22 million active monthly users in just 11 days) doesn't make things comfortable, but the Zynga way is all about setting high goals, owning your failure, but just as importantly building a leveraged approach to benefit from it. Not using metrics on the internet, he says, is like flying a plane in a cloud without using instruments. So they have built their own platform that allows for several hundred tests to be going on simultaneously every day in every game. No single user is involved with more than one test.

The company is not short of ideas. But one of the core competencies that Zynga has developed is the ability to identify the ones with real potential – to "question customers with prototypes, not questions". Pincus calls it Ghetto testing – the capacity to describe it in 5 words, put up a link, understand the 'heat' around an idea, ghetto build it, put it out to a small proportion of users, and if it moves the metrics in a significant way, it becomes a full feature roll out.

Many evaluations of the worth of social connections for business seem to be characterised by a singularly myopic (and often one-sided) view of value. A more considered view takes account of the longterm advantage of creating a platform through which you can both deliver value to your customers, and leverage both your growing knowledge and your network.

HT to James for the video link

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