Update on the Worlds first Social Auction…

May 7, 2009

Yesterday about this time, I launched the first Twitter-powered online auction using twitter+google spreadsheets+google forms+this blog.    The fun thing is I didn’t have to write any code to do the experiment and I put it together literally over a couple of hours while watching TV.

You can view the item here. http://snipr.com/socialauction
You can view the bids here http://snipr.com/hhedj. (powered by google spreadsheet)
You can bid here (powered by google forms) http://snipr.com/hhed2
Day 1 update…2k visitors and converting to a charity auction!
I was really surprised that bidding for the Koala Webkinz reached the $29 mark in the first day.  This is only one datapoint I realise and folks are experimenting, but I’m encouraged by this first datapoint.  Thanks to everyone that participated directly via bidding or re-tweeting.
The intent of the experiment was to learn more about the intersection of twitter+auctions, not to make a profite selling Webkinz, so I wanted to announce today that all proceeds of the sale of the webkinz will go to the Lustgarten foundation who is 100% researching a cure for Pancreatic cancer.  I have a good friend plus an aquantance that have been diagnosed recently and many folks are familiar with Randy Pausch’s plight with the disease via his famous Last Lecture video and book.
Checking the blog and google analytics, a little over 2000 unique visitors have seen the auction since I launched it.  I looked at our eBay data and the average visitors to an auction in our system (not fp) is around 45 – so again an interesting first datapoint.
Thoughts on the experiment
So my original thesis was that Twitter’s ability to communicate openly in a synchronous+asynchronous fashion plus the social/community ‘graph’ aspects would make it a good ‘platform’ for auctions.  I think that is really playing out even more than I thought.
One nice thing about the google spreadsheet+forms being relative free form is that people were able to jump bid (e.g. bid more than the .50 min increment).  However, the free form (e.g. you can’t force or use a formula for a value) has downsides:
  • People can put anything in the fields – it isn’t constrained to text/$/etc. One joker kept putting in some sports-related thing instead of a bid!
  • The spreadsheet is a weird way to look at bidders to me – I guess I’m used to looking at them in reverse chrono order vs. chrono
  • Of course there’s no verification system or anything so I’m manually watching for random behaviour around that and backing out those bids.
Of course I’m manually having to do some tweets to underbidders and what-not as the auction progresses so that should be automated as well.
I’m curious to think if sellers out there think twitter could be an auction platform or if I’m barking up the wrong tree. Let me know in comments what you think.