As I was watching Super Bowl XLV, probably paying more attention to the commercials than the actual game, I caught an ad that I’m sure many saw as well for a company called Groupon. Before this, I had never even heard of it, but a few of my friends watching the commercials game with me had. Intrigued by the word “Groupon” and trying to think of a concept for my travelogue, I looked up some more information about it.

Basically, the site offers online deals for different merchants, depending on the popularity of that deal. Each day, the site offers a new “groupon” (group coupon). If a certain amount of people sign up for the deal, everybody is able to use it. However, if the minimum number is not reached, nobody gets the deal. In an age where everybody knows what everybody wants and desires through social networking sites such as Facebook and Friendster, it’s an interesting concept to only offer deals based on what the majority of people want.

But this leads to a few questions. Does the site only offer deals that it knows will be successful? Could it be intentionally misleading people by offering deals that Groupon knows not enough people will want? Also, is this site one of the first signs of a new wave of advertising that lets small businesses get their name out to a wide market without paying top dollar, or is it too good to be true?

To answer these questions, not only do I want to find out more about the company and its creator Andrew Mason, but I want to research what are the current trends that seem to be truly connecting with people, and analyze other sites that may be starting to offer new ways to advertise, ways that benefit the platform the ads are on and the company itself.

Here’s a site similar to Groupon, in which only a certain amount of deals are available per day:

Tenka

Also, here’s one that’s being called Groupon’s main competition:

LivingSocial

Continuing on a related track from Natalie’s questions about anonymity and Julian Assange’s own extreme secrecy (see post below) are questions about Wikileaks’ structure and ways of operating. Wikileaks took/takes a huge amount of expertise and skill to set up and maintain, and because of that is heavily centralized and doesn’t actually resemble a “wiki” at all (besides when it asks its users to help it verify the authenticity of documents). Is that okay? Does it still put forward a wiki-like idea of organization and power?

Read the rest of this entry »

I cried when I had to switch to Facebook. Not really, but I was a diehard MySpace fan until the fall of 2008 when I moved towns and realized everyone there used Facebook. I couldn’t figure out why the generic Facebook layouts and lack of personalization beat out the many graphical and musical capabilities of MySpace. I am actually an avid proponent of minimalism, so the Facebook layout does have a certain appeal in that sense – it is simple and systematic to use. But for the average teenager who will fight to the grave for his freedom of self-expression, I found it an odd transition. Facebook executives say MySpace and Friendster failed because of poor management and the inability to control the amount of spam and irrelevant advertisements users received (see some of the failures here). MySpace also lacked a coherent organization system along with having chronic difficulties in sending messages (CAPTCHAS, links marked as spam, etc.) Facebook obviously had a better design which was more user-friendly and improved regularly. But what would make even Facebook better? What is the next generation of social media? Read the rest of this entry »