The Customer is the Marshmallow

Spaghetti and Twine

Many of you will be familiar with Peter Skillman’s Marshmallow Challenge, an exercise frequently given to teams and business school students. Teams of four are given 20 pieces of spaghetti, 1 yard of tape, one yard of twine, and a marshmallow. They are then given 18 minutes to build a free-standing structure that places the marshmallow as high off of the table as possible. The team with the highest marshmallow wins.

If you haven’t seen it already, Tom Wujec’s TED talk is a good place to learn about the challenge. And if you haven’t introduced your team(s) to it, take 45 minutes out of one of your days to administer the challenge and see what revelations you get.


2015-01-20T12:43:18-08:00June 1st, 2012|5 Comments

Best Practices and Techniques for Increasing Page Views

I’ve been exploring a variety of ways to increase page views and sharing activity on websites. Here are a few techniques that I’ve seen lately that I found interesting… what have you seen?

A few seconds after a user watches a video on IGN, the page refreshes and brings the user to the next video. This seems like a clever way of encouraging a user to keep watching one video after another. If the user walks away from their machine for a while, it will also drive up preroll advertising inventory. Clever!

OKCupid is a free dating site with some clever user interface details. Their “OKTrends” blog has an interesting social media toolbar that swings into view when a user approaches the end of the blog entry.

Intuitively this makes a lot of sense; designers often place social bookmarking links at the top of the article, but users aren’t likely to respond to the suggestion that they share an article until after they have read it. Sure—seems obvious—but even big-time sites like the NY Times get this one wrong:

I do like the NY Times “Read the next article” widget that pops up as you approach the end of an article:

So what techniques do you use to increase page views and sharing of your content?

2012-07-26T11:00:44-08:00July 16th, 2010|1 Comment

Cheat Neutral and Carbon Offsets

This is a clever approach to parodying carbon emission permits. While I generally endorse the idea of carbon emission permits, I think the folks at Cheat Neutral have an interesting perspective that a) additionality is not guaranteed, and b) “offseting” a transgression does not necessarily make  it acceptable in the first place. Carbon offsets are “indulgences.”

I might take a slightly different perspective. My upcoming study trip to Jouy-en-Josas is going to use a lot of fuel. According to, it’s going to introduce ~3.11 metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, which is slightly less than the 3.72 metric tons I’d introduce driving my 2004 Toyota Prius 20,000 miles in a year (a typical usage pattern for me). My personal consumption patterns (e.g., purchase of overseas goods, non-local produce, air-conditioning in the San Fernando Valley) also contribute significantly to my carbon footprint.

I’m unlikely to stop flying because of the carbon output. Buying a carbon offset, even if it doesn’t completely reduce the amount of carbon I “introduced” into the atmosphere by taking the flight, is at least a good gesture. Changing my behavior—such as living closer to work, using public transport, or editing my consumption patterns—would more directly reduce my carbon footprint, making them more valuable than personal carbon offsets in the long term. Obviously, this requires a greater change of habits.

Personal carbon offsets will do a lot of good if they get people thinking about the negative externalities resulting from their consumption, even if their actual offset effects are slight.

Finally, there’s much more to carbon offsets than personal consumption. I am optimistic that they can be a useful tool at the macro level. In addition, a liquid carbon market would allow citizens to decrease their own consumption to buy carbon emission permits and personally “lock them away.”

2012-07-26T11:00:44-08:00May 26th, 2010|1 Comment

My coworker Ashley and I have been working hard on, a new mom website. It’s taken a fair amount of work to piece it together, but it’s slowly on its way to being an uplifting and inspirational website for mothers. I hope you enjoy it!

2012-07-26T11:00:45-08:00May 3rd, 2010|0 Comments
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