Past Apprenticeships

Tacos & Beer Workshop: How UX Strategy + AI Could Solve Bartering

By January 8, 2013 July 31st, 2016 No Comments


“There may be many people wanting, and many possessing those things wanted; but to allow of an act of barter, there must be a double coincidence, which will rarely happen.”
William Stanley Jevons, Money & the Mechanism of Exchange (1875)

Do you know what it means to enable the double coincidence of wants? This idea, attributed to the rather intense Victorian gent pictured above, is the central challenge of bartering – the difficulty of finding a match between what two sides want to gain and trade away. Barter enthusiasts look to the Web to provide more double coincidence opportunities, with most thinking primarily in terms of matching supply and demand. But this perspective is simplistic and misses the greater opportunity – that bartering is made up of a colorful multitude of human experiences and drives and isn’t just about satisfying purely economic wants and needs. The working hypothesis that the TradeYa team is testing is that their unique UX+AI approach will open the doors to capturing the rich variety of social, psychological and cultural motivations that attract people to barter – that the future of bartering will feel a whole lot more like online dating than an Internet marketplace.

Applying this UX+AI approach to the double coincidence challenge is the overarching goal of TradeYa’s crack team of apprentices. The teammates were in an eager and focused mood when they met for the first time together for an intensive workshop on January 2nd, 2013. During a whirlwind 3-hour presentation (check out the packed whiteboard agenda above), the 8 apprentices were onboarded by Jaime Levy and TradeYa CEO Jared Krause. They dove into the history and philosophy of TradeYa but also several methodologies and tools that will be vital for the apprentices to learn as they work to refine and perfect a freshly launched Minimal Viable Product in just 30 days.

This workshop also involved a LOT of discussion about funnels e.g. funnel design for customer acquisition, UX funnel design, and an especially nifty red funnel Jaime uses for adding oil to her car (actually a demonstration of the central metaphor of channeling customers through UX+AI guidance). This was all tied together by the Funnel Matrix dashboard that the apprentices will access through a central cloud-based hub for tracking and connecting customer discoveries to truthful analytics. (See the screenshot of the Funnel Matrix below.) The team also learned about their Guerilla User Research techniques, in which pairs of apprentices with laptops will interview participants in cafes while also updating their findings to a shared project spreadsheet.

Tacos and beer followed the workshop, and the dinner conversation proved just as important to the Lean UX thought process. I enjoyed watching the apprentices spontaneously lead a wide-ranging and spirited debate with Jaime, Jared, and each other over practical and philosophical questions about the different possibilities of online barter: What do Jaime and Jared have against alternative currencies? Why don’t they experiment with displaying monetary values of barter items on their site? Should TradeYa drop its time limits on users’ postings? The dialogue also gave Jared a chance to share his extensive research into the psychological and cultural dynamics of barter, how that research affected TradeYa’s past customer acquisition schemes, and the lessons the apprentices can draw from their results.

This workshop and dinner was a conversational opportunity – a double coincidence, if you will – to be challenged by diverse ideas and fresh viewpoints. It is also what makes Lean UX Strategy an education for startup leaders, like Jaime and Jared, as well as for the apprentices. I look forward to covering more fun debates in the weeks to come.

Zhan Li, USC PhD Student, Researcher and Project Blogger.