Archive for January, 2012:

Anonymous Social Networking

Think of a microblogging site – like twitter – but with autogenerated usernames, and nothing like geolocation built in.

Imagine you can tag your anonytweets (ala delicious, or many other sites) – and so can other anonytweeters.  They can also rank your relevance to particular tags (up or down – like reddit, perhaps) – or just converse with you.

Perhaps there’ll be some funky way of proving your identity in public – so that you can become well known under your pseudonym – then go public.

There would have to be good discovery tools (which would have to identify and avoid spam – for example)

But over all the idea is about building a reputation for what you say and what you like – without it being based on who you are – and without fear that you can ruin your personal rep (or – perhaps more importantly – your professional rep)… because tomorrow (or even today) you can be someone totally different if you wish.

[incidentally there might be other problems here - its hard to see a good monetization model - especially while keeping a reasonably level of anonymity.  And given that it could be used for nefarious purposes, one might want to allow some sort of mirroring feature to be built in to work around specific government ordered blocking requests.  Finally you might want to find a way that users can hide their IP address.  You would need to be very careful about libel law too... ]

Why isn’t ticketing this simple?

Right now, when I want to book a flight – or see a show at a theatre, its hard to know exactly when its best for me to book.  Prices fluctuate.  Leave it too long I may not get a ticket, book too early and my situation my change – and there is no way of getting rid of my ticket.

Moreover, it isn’t great for the airline or theatre – sure they have their own algorithms which work out the best prices to charge on a given day – but don’t they have a nagging doubt they could be getting more – or at least letting someone else take the risk?

Here is how it would work in my world – and by the way, there is probably a perfectly good business plan in offering this as a hosted ticketing solution – possibly in competition with something like EventBright (EventBright – if you’re listening, hire me as a consultant to go over the details, and I’ll work with you to avoid other readers of this blog from steeling a march over you in this area.  Go on – you know you want to) :

As the promoter, you work out exactly how much profit you want to make out of the event (or flight).  You also work out the fixed costs and the variable costs of the event.

You now hold an auction for all your seats – each seat being individually auctioned, with the auction ending in 24 hours time.  The auction is on the basis of the seat being sold to a specific person – non exchangeable, non refundable.  A starting price is set so as to recoup the seat’s share of the fixed and variable costs and desired profits

This is isn’t as simple as it seems – imagine the case of business and economy class tickets. Clearly the variable costs of business class are higher, but the fixed costs of running the plane don’t vary – neither does the total profit we want to make from the flight.  So should fixed costs and profit be divided equally by number of people on the flight, or should they come equally from each pound spent in total.  I suspect the latter will work better – but for now imagine we literally spread fixed costs equally per ticket.  This way you don’t have to guess how much more people will be willing to pay for business class seats on a given flight)

Some of the tickets will sell, and some won’t.  There might be a bidding war on the perceived best seats, making them sell for much more than the asking price.

The next day, take note of your total earnings – subtract the variable costs for the seats sold, and subtract the result from the fixed costs and profits desired.  This value, divided by the number of seats remaining and added to each individual seat’s variable costs is the new (lower) starting price for the next day’s auction.

There are a few flaws with this model, specifically:

This doesn’t make it easy for me t0 change my plans

I often don’t want to have to wait a day, when booking tickets, to find out if I’ve got my seats (and I do want to know that I’ve bought my seats together)

If a particular event is going to be more valuable than the organiser thought (perhaps a volcano has restricted the number of flights, or a concert has been announced as being a band’s last ever), there is no way for the organiser to gain from this.

So I introduce the second section of my plan – you offer a resale market.  The rules are simple – the only way tickets may be resold is through the official resale market.  Tickets sold through the resale market are offered through the same purchase mechanism with payment processing etc handled by the same people.  However, resellers are able to make 3 changes to how tickets are resold

1) They can set a ‘Buy it now’ price (or percentage above current highest bid / highest offer) to allow a purchaser to buy the ticket immediately

2) They can set their own starting price for the tickets

3) They can set their own end date for the auction

The payment processor and original promoter will take a cut out of any resale.

This means, as soon as I know I want to go on a trip, I can look at the current market value of all seats on a plane (and pay a small premium to get the seats I want right now).  Presuming an efficient market, prices for seats shouldn’t change all that much is demand is as the market expects.  If I need to change my plans, I ought to be able to get some of the price of my ticket back.  Ticket touts become marketers on behalf of the venue, and bearers of risk.

[Incidentally, it would be just as plausible to hold a straight forward market for the seats.  The reason I'm not suggesting this is that people probably understand eBay better than they understand stock markets, also an auction means that the promoter (or reseller) gets the fair market value for a specific ticket without having to guess what it should be.]