Million Second Quiz: What Could Have Been And What Could Be #MSQ

I was an addict. It's okay to admit now, because the fever burned out after two weeks.

I love #MSQ.  It's Million Second Quiz, a game show from NBC that mixed elements of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire with a shorter time limit and head to head instead of individual.

It's a great game on the app.  10 questions, each that allows you to read it, then gives you five seconds to answer the question with four multiple choice answers.  In playing almost four hundred games, there were no trick questions. This really was pure trivia, covering everything from history to science to music to observations (Anyone know what key the $ is on the keyboard without looking?).

It was a great simple game.

But the television show debuted poorly, and lost viewers every night, as a combination of technology, gameplay, commercial breaks, and general loss of interest overcame the greed of winning a $2 million prize.

I'll leave it to others to talk about what was done wrong, or how it came about, but I wanted to offer a number of suggestions for either future versions or new kinds of game shows that copy from this format.

1) Explain the rules online.

    It's the internet.  Pixels and video and pictures and infographics are free to post, and relatively easy to create for one of the  national broadcast channels. Going into last Monday night, no one knew how the game worked on the internet, and that is a killer for introducing a new game show in primetime. It didn't have to be Ryan Seacrest.  In fact, having contestants or casters explain how to play, win and get on television would have made it far more interesting.  Instead, I kinda feel like they were making it up as they went along, and any attempts to be mysterious were really attempts to get me to tune in the first night (which killed interest later nights). 

2) Keep people motivated to play the app during the series.

How hard would it have been to add Line Jumpers or players through the app?  Do something like say, get 100,000 points, and we'll save a spot for you in line for the next three days?  I would have flown to New York if I had the faintest clue I could have played, and especially if I knew I had an advantage to make up for the hours spent playing.  This would have cost next to nothing, as the cost to get there would have been my responsibility, but getting to 100,000 would give me hope, hope that would translate to watching the game and staying invested and telling my friends. 

3) The casting is way too New York City centric.  If you're going to let people get in line to play for a national broadcast, picking a single location where most people come from isn't so bright.  There's a reason watching a Superbowl matters more when it's two different big cities.

In the future, consider regional casting events, even if these are just rooms or events where people gather to play the app.  There was talk about leaderboards for each state (though I never saw them on my app) - if you're truly searching for a nationwide audience, make it a nationwide audience. This is probably why there was so much dropoff.  Once it became clear that watching was entertainment, and had no reasonable chance to win, why continue to watch live? 

4) Chance to win live

    Speaking of which. If you want people to play live, and to tune in on time - give them a reason to do so.  Do a money event, where someone who won the money chair earlier in the show on the app gets a chance to compete for $1000 on their home app live.  Think of it.  600,000 people playing, and 10 of them win $1000 after being selected to play.  That would have kept a lot of people playing every night.  You could put in a multiplier where signing on on successive nights would make you more, so someone who was there every night won $10,000 on the 10th day, while someone who missed an episode won $1000 on the ninth day. 

Talk about Must-See TV

5) NBC can't be the answer to every question.

We get it. You're priming the network for new shows. You're driving traffic to the News and Entertainment websites.  But your constant referencing of NBC properties on the quiz show tainted the questions.  I don't know what exec made that nonsense up, but it made me think you were trying to please the execs instead of maximizing interest.  

Viewers have a bullshit meter. Your questions on the prime time broadcast were pathetic attempts to get people to your websites. You could have done the same thing putting ads up running a contest on those sites (Sign up on Facebook to be a commenter gets you a line jumper pass at the open casting call).

6) Speaking of questions - once I ran through about 350 games, I'd seen all the questions on the app. That ruined gameplay for me, and I'm sure it ruined gameplay for newer people who couldn't figure out why everyone else was scoring perfect 10's.  

7) Social Media was horrible. You know this because of the lack of traffic and interest, but the game didn't give much in the way of interest of connecting players.  A forum that addressed the game, and gave players ways to talk about strategies, casting, the future, and question submittal would have been very easy. Heck, you could have had an old school forum up, but all you had was a Facebook and Twitter account, that made no sense to me, a superfan.

If you're going to play in Social, hire someone with talent.  Interns don't count.  Take it from the guy known as the Social Media Headhunter.  

Gamification Of Business Has Always Been With Us

Business is a game. 

My first sales job was an inside position where I was required to make 125 outbound calls a day.  Those contacts were supposed to yield 12-15 direct contacts, which would yield 3-4 appointments, of which 3-4 would close a week.

We tracked our numbers, and often had contests and spiffs to hit those numbers and more.

My first recruiting experience had activity KPI's.  They included a point system where phone contacts were one point, meetings were 10, job reqs were 5, placements were 10, and handwritten notes after a meeting were two points.  For recruiters, they included, interviews, submissions, phone calls, placements, and reference checks.  Those recruiters with the best totals were lauded, promoted and also given cash rewards. 

My first retail job bonused managers when they kept theft levels down.

My first corporate recruiting job bonused managers on keeping Gross Profit Margins at 25% and above, and managing employees to hit a minimum number of entries in the ATS.

My first private recruiting job included bonuses for managers who made diversity hires.

My first customer service project utilized call center metrics that included time-to-answer, time-on-call, Survey results, escalations, and a monetary figure for each minute of time. 

My first marketing project included number of views, earned media, expansion of paid media, clicks, conversions, and email addresses. 

My first web design project included traffic to the site, calls from the site, email form submissions, and sadly, award nominations. 

What these all have in common is a series of metrics that are measured, accumulated, often rewarded, and tabulated for success. 

There is no functional difference between any of those metrics, and gathering coins, experience points, eaves, check-ins, corn crops, gems, mayorships, and badges.  The difference is what we value, not the system with which we measure the value.

Take a 15 year old World of Warcraft player who runs a team of other players, and compare him to a 40 year old executive with Microsoft.

 The executive uses KPI's to measure actions and track experience in their organization.

 The player uses game statistics to measure actions and track experience in his group.

One craves virtual goods, experience points as measured by the system, and team interaction that helps them accomplish goals. 

The other just likes killing orcs. 

The Recruiting Animal Show just finished a somewhat frustrating call trying to interview Dups, the CEO of Empire Avenue.  The recruiters wanted to know what value the game had.  Dups pointed out the game had the value you assign to it.  That's not a circular argument, it's an accurate description of what to look for in a gaming layer. 

Empire Avenue can be used to amass fake wealth, or it can be used for recruiting. 

Empire Avenue can be used to create a reputation as a social player, or it can be used to self-train on social platforms. 

The Game is not what's important.  It's recognizing that all of business is a game.  We can dress it up as much as we want, but the sooner we push aside our views of what things are supposed to be like, and recognize how things are, the better prepared we are to utilize all platforms, social and otherwise, to achieve our goals. 

Maybe Gary Larson was right after all. 



Above: Gary Larson's "old FAR SIDE" cartoon, nicked from the Psychology Today site. Yes, Psychology Today! (The Far Side ® and the Larson ® signature are registered trademarks of FarWorks, Inc. Copyright © 2000, 2007 FarWorks, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

via Mike Lynch Cartoons



Announcing EmpireHire: A Community To Hire Eavers

Just finished shooting a quick video and building out the first job board community for Empire Avenue.  It's a place for companies to post jobs inside Empire Avenue, allowing jobseekers to purchase stock as indication of interest. 

It's called EmpireHire 

The process is simple:

1) Companies join

2) Companies post jobs

3) Candidates join and browse jobs

 4) If candidates find a job that's interesting, they buy stock in the ticker and send a private message to the company

5) The company decides if they're interested (using the Empire Avenue dashboard to assess the candidate), and either start the recruiting process or thank them privately and say no

6) After an offer is made and accepted, you come back and tell us about it. 

It's my thought that Empire offers a unique insight into people with big social networks, the type of person most companies want to hire.  So why not bring them together? 

How do you get involved?

1) If you're a company, join.  Feel free to message me if you have questions

2) If you're a jobseeker, browse open jobs when convenient and apply

3) If you're neither, spread the community far and wide, using Twitter, Facebook, and Empire.

It's that simple.  And let me add here that while I recruit, and don't mind recruiters posting, I won't be using the information in the forum to do any sales.  This is simply a service I want to see if it works. 

The VideoBlog Announcement:


 So join in.  Let me know what you think. The community again. 


A Trial For How Empire Avenue Can Improve Employee Performance

Metrics aren't that hard.  You determine what you're trying to measure, you measure it, then you look at the data.  You run into problems when you can't measure the full impact of something, or when you don't know what to measure, or when you can't gather data. 

In that case, you run trials, just as they do in other complex systems.  I'm a big fan of trials in social media contexts because they are easy to sell, easy to track, and the data speaks for itself.  Take two groups - train one with social, compare the groups. 

Rather than focusing on tasks or individual, unrelated results that can be gained, you focus on outcomes.  

Group 1:  50 Sales people using LinkedIn. 

Group 2:  50 Sales people not using LinkedIn.

You split two groups up based on their average sales. To make sure there is no cheating, you have assign one person with a stake in the matter to split up the groups, and another to pick the group.  This ensures the split is on level ground. 

You run a test, and compare the increase over the baseline, for both groups, but you also look at the individual performance.  The winning group is the one you move forward with.  If the control group wins, but certain individuals excel - you at least have data that helps you determine if the training is bad, or if only certain salespeople can be effective. 

Hard to argue with a test like that. So how would you do this for Empire Avenue?  

I maintain that Empire Avenue is best as an individual training tool for a group.  Sign up your trainees, and let them use the system to track themselves.  Don't focus on stock price for an individual, and make sure they know that stock price and portfolio wealth won't have any effect on their salary or commissions or performance.

In other words, don't use it as a game.  Let the game work in the background, but use the tool to train.  And like the previous examples, set the site up as group trial. 

Click on the image for a full-size pop-up, but what I've drawn is a trial on how to teach social media to a group using Empire Avenue, with an outcome that help you understand the most effective method for your team. 

I see this for people with sales teams, remote retail locations, franchises, dealers, recruiters, customer service departments, PR firms, and for associations looking to help their members.  Any group willing to implement a training system for social media can use Empire Avenue to track the results, in a way that decreases monitoring cost and training personnel costs.

Is it easy?   Of course not.  But I could do it. I've trained dozens of people at the same time, and thousands in shorter sessions.  One of the things that makes Empire Avenue so attractive is how it could have helped me have my clients train themselves. 

Which means small-business consultants can use it now, one-on-one, and see results. 


Empire Avenue Metrics: Twitter Follower Growth

Just a quick note.  I add about 100 Twitter Followers a month, on a pretty steady basis over six months. Since joining Empire Avenue one month ago, I saw a spike, and in the last month, have added about 200 followers.  I went to a conference mid-month, which spiked me somewhat, but I had already added 72 followers prior to the conference. 

For the first month, it's fair to say I'm adding followers at a rate of 140-150 followers a month, as the rate of adds stabilized to the pre-conference rate within four days. 

Picture 6 Picture 8

I pulled this  graph from Twitter Counter to show the difference. It's not statistically significant yet, but I'll keep tracking it to show you the difference.  The other picture here is from my Twitter advisor, Declan, under stats on the Empire Dashboard. 

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The stats don't fully add up - as I'm not sure when the week starts, but using the advisor does help you track your personal activity in terms of followers and tweets, on a week by week basis.  of note is that RT's of me have gone up 54%, and total mentions have improved by 34%, in the last week. 

A second advisor, Kesley (these are algorithms you can unlock inside Empire Avenue under the stats board), tells me hashtags, most retweets, most posts retweeted, and the people with whom I've connecting the most.  It's about half and half Empire and other users.  The "engagement" for all groups has gone up significantly since my joining.   

Why is this important?  It brings me instant feedback on my social activity, from a place I'm frequenting multiple times a day.  It allows me to see, to actually look at the difference between  quality and quantity, and as an outside check that both are high.  If I see that I haven't made any posts on Facebook in a week, I can alter my behavior (and it happens, as you get caught up reading). 

More initial passes on the impact of Empire Avenue on social activity to come. Please share your anecdotal thoughts in comments, and let me know if you write it up on your blogs. 

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Empire Avenue: The DNA Of Angry Birds, InTrade, And Radian 6

Empire Avenue is a social media stock market game where you buy and sell profiles with a virtual currency.  You sign in, connect your social media accounts like Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook, and boom, you get a share price.

From there, you're thrown on the open market, where friends, investors, and other folks on the platform buy and sell you, pushing your price up and down based on their criteria.  Well, that's not all - your stock and dividend price are also greatly influenced by your social activity.  Get retweeted for great content?  Leave a lot of comments on Facebook?   Have a lot of connections on YouTube?  All of these impact your score, as does activity on the site.  The higher your dividends, the more people buy and hold.  It's the free market at work (pun intended). 


Picture 4

Sounds fun, right?  It is, and it's highly addictive, but like all sequential games that award points, levels, and badges, you eventually burn out and move on (Angry Birds Rio anyone?).  And that's where Empire Avenue differs.  It's a game, but it's also a social network and a social dashboard and a research site that helps you monitor your activity, that of your friends, and provides you access to networks of people you never would find on your own.

I'm a big fan.  A supporter.  I spend real money to buy upgrades and eaves (the currency - empire ave ='s eaves), and then build networks out of my lists to identify investment opportunities versus friends versus business connections.  And I'm hooked.

Empire Avenue gives me the addiction of a game with a visual inspection of connections (vital to recruiters and marketers and salespeople), but it also connects with me people., folks like Ron Capps (e)NicheProf, an educator from Missouri, or Chris Latko (e)CLAKTO, a developer living in Tokyo.  It's connected me to recruiters and social media folks, of course, but it also connects me with musicians, college students, housewives, executive, and hobbyists, whose networks I've never seen, and whose social media reach differs than mine in every way.

This is important to note, because most people talking about Empire Avenue see it as a way to connect with those of like minds.  The problem is lots of sites already do that, from Facebook to LinkedIn to Twitter to Flickr to YouTube. Empire Avenue connects them all, like the One Ring, and binds them into a single profile you have to spend finite resources to acquire.

Picture 5

Talk about potential.  When I send out a tweet, I reach a possible 6000+ followers.  When I go on Empire Avenue, it's like adding StumbleUpon, Digg, and the front page of the local paper, because my content is seen by massively connected people who never heard of me, but who bought me because my shares and dividends are good.  It's now a message multiplier, it's a network multiplier.  And the best part is the community is self-policing.  The stock market requires content to keep prices up, but your personal networks won't allow you to spam them, so 500 Facebook comments will lead you to losing friends, all for a temporary bump in price.  This forces you to create quality content, connect with people, and keep your social networks happy, while simultaneously boosting your share price through activity. The beauty of the system is it rewards good behavior.

Now the system is new.  Lots of behaviors have to be ironed out.  But the founders and the staff are pretty open to changes, and are riding the changes, rather than forcing them.  That speaks very highly to both their vision and the success of the site, as the people who are involved the most tend to be highly connected already.  It feels a lot like the blogging communities did from 2001-2004, when small groups of helpful people hashed out behavior patterns, which then created the "rules" of conduct for each community.  That's what makes it sticky.  Empire Avenue is a safe place you can share information in your communities (private ones), and get value back. 

I'd strongly encourage you to join, if for no other reason than to be able to monitor your own social media usage (it tells you how many comments, likes, posts you make in a week on all of your social sites).  As you get deeper in, wIll share investment strategies, communication networks, and most important, how to get the most value from your time here and in the site.  

So how do you join?

1) Don't just go there.  Find a friend or someone already in the game, and ask them to invite you.  While you can join on your own, accepting an invite gives you and them an extra 2000 eaves.

2) Invite 25 friends and then bug them until they join.  This gives you 50,000 more eaves to start, and gives you a group to play with.

3) Join your local communities and your interests.  

4) When buying and when bought, reach out to the people and talk to them.  They'll be interested in chatting with you, I promise. 


Good luck.  I'm (e)SMHeadhunter.  And congratulations. You'll be joining, and quickly comprehending gamification of business, the next big thing.  And I don't say that lightly.  


For other blog posts on the site, check out.

Jeremiah Owyang (a recent, enthusiastic convert and social media rockstar) 

Caleb Storkey

Hank Plumley

Scott Wendling

Michael Long