Why NSA Spying in World of Warcraft is Ineffective

A simple infographic illustrates the data quality issue:

Why NSA Spying in World of Warcraft is Ineffective
As always, all things Warcraft are trademarks of Blizzard Entertainment.

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What World of Warcraft Can Teach You About Marketing Cooldowns

cooldowns

In World of Warcraft, your characters have special abilities that are used with a mandatory wait between uses, called a cooldown. Some abilities have longer cooldowns than others, meaning that you have to wait longer in between uses, but the tradeoff for a longer cooldown is often a more powerful ability. For example, paladins (like the one shown above) can use a special skill called Divine Shield that stops all harm to them for a few seconds with a mandatory 10 minute wait between uses. At the other end of the spectrum is an ability called Sacred Shield that reduces 20% of damage taken but you need only wait 30 seconds between uses.

When it comes to marketing, our tools and abilities have cooldowns, too. Take a look at this brief, incomplete list of marketing tools:

  • Press releases
  • Email newsletters and promotions
  • Search marketing
  • Paid advertising
  • Earned media placements/bylines
  • Tweets
  • Blog posts
  • Facebook posts
  • Podcasts
  • YouTube videos
  • Direct mail
  • Cold calls

How often can you use each of these tools, assuming you have great content and great products and services? If you were to send out email promotions day after day, hour after hour, you’d burn your list to the ground very quickly. People would unsubscribe in droves. If you were to send out press releases, how often could you spend $200-$600 before you hit diminishing returns? (fairly quickly, actually) If you were to Tweet as fast as you could, how long before people got tired of you being the only thing in their stream and unfollowing you?

That’s what I’d call a marketing cooldown – the time you need to let a marketing tool or ability rest and let your audience reset so that you don’t suffer diminishing returns. If you’re putting together a calendar of marketing efforts, knowing the cooldowns on the various tools you have at your disposal would let you best determine how to allocate your resources in advance, rather than on the fly. Your marketing cadence would be timed to maximize the impact of each channel.

You’d know, for example, that your particular house email list (every list varies) has a 5 business day cooldown – that if you send more frequently than that, your unsubscribe or complaint rate goes up. You’d know that your Twitter followers drop off faster if every 9 tweets is about your company vs. every 22 tweets. You’d know that SEO has diminishing returns after a point and once you get close to that limit, your efforts are best spent elsewhere. You’d know there is only so much money you can pour into AdWords before it becomes less effective than other channels.

I can’t tell you what your marketing cooldowns are, because every company, every industry, every customer database is radically different. Some house lists don’t mind 3 emails a day, like the Help a Reporter list, founded by Peter Shankman. Other lists won’t tolerate more than a quarterly update. Invest time determining what your audience’s cooldowns are, and you’ll rapidly improve your marketing effectiveness.

Bonus: as you level up in World Warcraft, meaning your characters become more and more powerful, your cooldown times decrease. (assuming you gear properly, etc.) A level 90 character can use their spells faster and more effectively on average than a level 1 character.

The same is true for your marketing efforts – the better your products and services are and the more skilled a marketer you become, the more often you can use your marketing tools to promote them, because more people will actively want to hear about how you can help them solve their problems. Once you know where you stand in terms of your tools and their cooldowns, work with the rest of your company to buff up your products and services, and you’ll find that marketing them becomes easier and easier.


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Leveling the playing field for economic growth

A lot of people have wondered and speculated about how to achieve more economic equality, about how to level the playing field so that the 1% don’t continue to dominate the economy. While this is not a comprehensive solution, Blizzard Entertainment may have given us part of the solution.

For those who don’t play World of Warcraft, there’s an in-game market called the Auction House, or AH. People can buy and sell their fictional, pixelated wares to each other with very few constraints. It’s a free, open market in which people can attempt to create monopolies, control trade, work out pricing deals, everything you’d expect from a nearly rule-free capitalist marketplace. As in real life, there are those folks with access to better resources, better tools, better information, and more time who dominate the market, the 1% of the Warcraft economy. They have squeezed out much of the marketplace for the casual buyer or seller, offering their goods at low prices and using superior techniques and tools to always be the #1 sellers in their industries.

For consumers, this is a great deal. They can get their goods at the absolute lowest prices that the market can bear, because the moment a casual seller posts something for a lower price, the tools of the 1% immediately repost an item at a lower price. The consumer wins.

For the casual seller, this is not such a great deal. If you hope to make any gold in the game, you need to learn the various systems and tools to even be marginally competitive, and you still may not even keep up because you don’t devote hours a day playing the markets in the game.

On June 22nd, Blizzard’s Auction House APIs were being hacked. Some clever hackers figured out how to rob people, so as a precaution, Blizzard turned off many of the APIs for their Auction House. This didn’t affect in-game play at all – people could still buy or sell items without restriction. However, the API shutdown broke many of the tools that the 1% use on a regular basis:

US Earthen Ring Alliance - The Undermine Journal

This had an immediate impact on the markets in-game. The 1% weren’t relisting their auctions the moment they were undercut by a casual seller. They weren’t able to scan for abnormally low priced deals to buy out and relist at higher prices. They weren’t able to do anything that the casual seller couldn’t do in the in-game market. What happened?

For the casual seller, profits soared. For the casual seller, sales increased drastically. Margins increased. Being undercut decreased significantly. In my own listings, my profitability and sales volumes immediately increased by 400% overnight. The number of items I was undercut on in a 24 hour period dropped 60%.

What’s more important is that Blizzard’s API shutdown didn’t change the equality of outcome – no income was redistributed. No profits were confiscated. What the shutdown did was change the equality of opportunity, letting more sellers into the market and shutting down a technological and financial advantage that the 1% had over the 99% of the player base. When the APIs come back up, of course, the 1% will regain their advantages, but the short term market movements from leveling the playing field are undisputable.

Could something like that be done in real life? Inquiring minds want to know.


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