Spotted elsewhere: How dark web marketplaces work


A blog post about the dynamics of dark web marketplaces, authored by Joel Montenegro whom, I understand, is an investor at a venture capital firm



Posted on Twitter by Maha Shaikh (@Open_Sourcing), whom you should definitely follow if you are interested on matters of open sourcing, open innovation, and communities of practice.



So what?

It is not every day you get to read an insider’s view on how marketplaces work in the dark web because, let’s face it, people who trade on drugs, stolen personal information and the like are not that forthcoming about their methods! So, this post is a worthwhile read in, and of, itself. But this is particularly good because the author then outlines the key lessons learned from his research for other (legitimate!) marketplaces. These are:

  • The importance of brand and reputation
  • The role of social proof as a mechanism to signal ‘good’ reputation
  • The role of influencers in conveying information about the product and the seller
  • How the existence of opportunities for adding value or cutting cost lead to the emergence of new players and business models
  • That consumers often have very creative solutions to apparently insurmountable problems
  • That you do not need customer data to succeed


And as a bonus, the comments are great, too.



What caught your eye on the web, this week?


New presentation on slide share: 3 reasons to embrace negative customer feedback

Inspired by Mark Schaefer’s podcast episode number 41 (get it here), I decided to convert one of my blogposts into a slide share presentation, to increase its reach.

The original blogpost is here. And here is the presentation (which is also available here):

I am very keen to hear your views: What do you think of this format?

What I am reading: Social Media Marketing – Theories & Applications

This weekend I started reading Stephan Dahl’s latest book: ‘Social Media Marketing – Theories & Applications’ (affiliate link here).

In the Introductory chapter, having discussed several well-known success stories such as Spotify and Groupon, as well as social media crisis such as #askJPM or #askBG, the author says:

“(M)any of the qualities ascribed to social media are neither novel nor did consumption co-creation and user generation start with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media apps. Consumer and interest groups did not arise following the ‘introduction’ of social media. Groups such as the Boston Computer Group (BCG), founded in 1977, were active long before social media or even the widespread adoption of the Internet was conceivable. (…) What can be said with some certainty is that the widespread adoption of communication technology has increased the speed of and lessened the effect of geographical boundaries on information exchange. This book aims to contribute to a more informed debate about the real impact of social media by looking beyond the hype and examining how current theories can be used to explain social media, and particularly, how such theories can help to develop effective and successful social media marketing campaigns.” (page 5).

I am loving this book, already. We really need a book that looks beyond all the hype, and that brings some (theoretical) rigour to the analysis of social media phenomenon, don’t you think?

What have you been reading, lately?

We need a new Facebook button. Or a new definition of ‘like’.

Last week, a friend lost a very close relative. She made a related post on Facebook, which quickly accumulated over 100 comments with various messages of sympathy and encouragement, and nearly 400 likes.

Likes! is telling me that to like something is to ‘take pleasure’ in it; which, obviously, is not what the well-wishers meant. Rather, clicking the like button was a short-hand for ‘I have registered the news’ or, maybe, ‘I am thinking of you’.

Like semiotics

I can’t help thinking that, with more and more people taking to Facebook to share the dark moments of their life, the company really ought to do something about this button. Get a new one, or find a more neutral word for it. Though, given the company’s focus on creating a positive environment and general lack of response to users’ concerns, we may well end up seeing a new entry added to the dictionary, instead:

like dictionary


UPDATE: Amy-Mae Elliott, writing in Mashable UK, argues that “Facebook needs a ‘Sympathy’ button“. I love her suggestion – it does the job, and is more neutral (and, thus, less likely to be hijacked) than the ‘dislike’ button many have been claiming for. Great idea. Facebook, are you listening???

When the world wide web was announced

This delightful piece of history was spotted by my other half:

Tim Berners-Lee; Internet; Predictions

It is easy for us to laugh, now, at the last “interviewee”. But, really, by any of the criteria traditionally used to predict the diffusion of innovations and the future impact of emerging trends, few could have foreseen the broad and ever growing effects of the world wide web in our lives. I know I wouldn’t!

I wonder which of today’s technologies and players will be tomorrow’s game changers…

UPDATE: as someone noticed on Facebook, this is surely a hoax (as the author’s name might suggest). Still, the fact is that many doubted the success of Tim Berners-Lee invention, right?!

Dear @marksandspencer: I am not a shoplifter

M&SYesterday, while I was doing some grocery shopping at my local supermarket, I couldn’t help notice the security guard. Every time I turned a corner, there he was. When I picked up some items and moved on, there he was. When my eyes were browsing the shelves for a particular product, there he was.

At first, I felt really self-conscious: is there something about me that makes me look like a shoplifter?

Then, I became quite angry: I am giving this shop my money, and they are treating me like a criminal?

Now, I don’t question their right to protect their property. In fact, I appreciate it, as I am pretty sure that any losses that they experience through shoplifting are passed on to me as the customer. But I am not a shoplifter, and I don’t like to be treated like one.

I felt really uncomfortable and cut my visit short, leaving the shop with a few essentials, and a lot of resentment. I can’t say that I will not be back, as I do like this shop’s fresh produce selection. And I trust them. But I will think twice about going in there for other products.

I would never want the security guard to be penalised in any way, as I am sure that he is just being over-zealous. Or, maybe, I am just being over-sensitive. Still, I can’t help thinking that something ought to be done, to improve the customer experience.

What would you do?

The others are paying more. Or not.

Earlier this week, I got a text from this lady, who comes round to our house about once a week, to clean and do some ironing. She was asking for a raise, arguing that her other clients pay her more than I do. You see, instead of going down the route of mentioning value or costs, she told me what others were doing. The norm.

Cue feelings of worry that she might drop me because I was paying less than others, and a certain amount of guilt that I wasn’t matching the others’ valuation of her work. And I promptly called my friends to check the new, higher rate that they were paying to her.

This article on Fast Company shows the effectiveness of descriptive norms. The article compares the effectiveness of two types of messages left on hotel rooms, encouraging guests to reuse their towels. Message one described the problem (i.e., waste of water). Message two described what previous guests had done (namely, used their towels more than once). The result? Around 25% more guests reused their towel with message two than with message one, as illustrated below:

The twist in this story is that, when I called my friends, they told me that they were paying exactly the same amount I was paying. Moreover, they told me that they had received the same, or a very similar, request from her.

So, now, I am wondering whether she was referring to other clients (she does have more, after all), or just trying her luck.

PS – For what it’s worth, I do understand her desire to get more money for her work. And I do very much value her work.