A deep-dive on incentive design

In this piece, I break down observations of how consumer platforms incentivize participation and where they go wrong.

The status quo: bad incentive design is dangerous

There’s no denying that incentives shape peoples’ actions. And peoples’ actions dictate outcomes. At the outset, it’s important to clarify that there is no perfect set of incentives. However, there are better and worse ones.

If you want to harness the power of YOUR crowd, the most important thing you’ll need to do is…


There’s a renewed interest in a more contextual, associative, networked future for the internet. One that breaks us from restrictive digital gardens. One that’s healthier, freer and safer. This piece includes a curated set of provocations based on community discussions in a limited working group focused on why the internet is broken and what needs to change.

Weavings by Rafaël Rozendaal

Today’s digital public spaces amplify the inequities of physical public space. It’s a game of the top 1% driven by who can generate the most “viral” content. …


A Fix for the Feed?

Serendipitous use of the internet is slowly going extinct as we replace link-hopping with the algorithmic-feed. Ranked results and recommendations have become the dominant mode of exploring information online. In this piece, we break away from this paradigm, and present Wikigraph. While a “search engine” returns a ranked list of results, Wikigraph returns the most relevant sub-graph of pages. Such an application we term an “exploration engine.”

Check out the demo project here: Giantgra.ph

Intro

The introduction of the “feed” in modern social media has been controversial. At its core, “algorithmic curation is ultimately about power…


Most of us are content curators, not content creators

We are empowered by the digital ecosystem because we are provided with the tools and spaces to exercise our agency as active and creative consumers and producers of culture. However, the normative perspective on creative expression online has focussed on a given level of engagement and creativity of an individual expression. Forms of “modest engagement”, which don’t involve creating entirely new content for example, aren’t thought of as an opportunity for learning, identity formation, belonging and individual autonomy — but they are.

Searching, adapting and sharing information and cultural goods have become central for the generation of value online. However…


Mark Zuckerberg Facebook SXSWi 2008 Keynote (credit: Jason McELweenie)

No. Social media companies should be able to use personal data for targeted advertising. Hang in there — I’m going to explain why.

Utility and Personal Freedom

Targeted advertising is not evil. In fact, I think targeted advertising is net positive. There have been countless times where I’ve discovered my new favorite item through an Instagram ad and jumped on the opportunity to buy it. Without the ads, I’d have never come across it! Better targeted ads mean better discovery, shorter paths to purchase and higher user satisfaction. In utilitarian terms, better ad targeting leads to greater overall user happiness!

Some would argue that…


a Lancia vs a Ford — what are the parallels with European vs American startup cultures?

I spent the summer deep in the trenches of silicon valley as a Summer Fellow at Lightspeed Venture Partners in Menlo Park. Having spent my pre-MBA career in the tech scene in London and having deep roots in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in EMEA, I thought it would be interesting to discuss the contrasts I saw across these two ecosystems.

Firstly, we need to acknowledge the structural differences between the two ecosystems:


I’ve got Nostalgic by ARIZONA playing on this flight to Atlanta and I’m tearing up. Music has the ability to trigger emotional connections unlike anything else. Extensive research has been conducted on how music is used to regulate arousal and mood, to achieve self-awareness, and as an expression of social relatedness. (Schäfer et al, 2013)

One’s taste in music has long been seen as a window into one’s sense of self, and place in society—Robert Prey

Nostalgic by ARIZONA struck a chord with me for a number of reasons — it triggered vivid memories of past relationships, imagery from my…


As the elevator door opened, I saw Susan (YouTube’s CEO), her husband, three of her teenage kids and her bodyguard. Susan greeted me excitedly:

“oh hi! I really liked your idea!”

This story is from almost two years ago. It’s a moment from a bigger experience from my time at Google. Let me rewind.

Creator Innovation Week is an initiative that connects different organizations within YouTube to work on ‘innovative’ product ideas. When I was at YouTube, I worked alongside a stellar team of partnerships, UX and software engineering folks to design and build a content curation feature for the…


I’ve been thinking about the future of residential spaces and the concept of ‘owning’ a home. What could it look like in the future? Below are some of my thoughts.

First, I want to recognize that the perspective on home ownership changes drastically when you jump between contexts. There isn’t really a global trend. Or if there is, global usually refers to a handful of high-end cities, or high-end communities within major cities. For example, aspirations to long-term home ownership are still very much alive and well across Cairo, but not so much in the London young professional scene. …


Every day, we make approximately 35,000 decisions. [1] It is undeniable that technology has played, and continues to play, a huge role in making our lives more convenient. However, information overload and the sheer abundance of choice that the internet offers only adds to the decision fatigue epidemic. Research has shown that our cognitive resources are scarce and we tend to feel depleted by decision-making. [2] Machine learning (ML) is helping to limit the effects of information overload on crowdsourced review platforms, making them better decision-making aids. The machine learning megatrend is moving review platforms towards becoming recommendation platforms, as…

Jad Esber

co-founder @ koodos & fellow @ berkman klein centre. prev. google, youtube, harvard, cambridge. www.jad.me. subscribe to koodos.substack.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store