The Conference (web, Facebook), an event organized by the Swedish Media Evolution (web, twitter) will be the first conference to use the innovative socual micropayment service Flattr (web, twitter) to allow attendees to reward (or flatter, from where the name “flattr” comes from) sessions, speakers, exhibitors and other participants that make a valuable contribution (e.g. a speaker delivering a great presentation, an exhibitor with an original interactive booth or a good question during a Q&A session by a fellow attendee).
I talked with Martin Thornkvist (profile, twitter), Market Intelligence Advisor of Media Evolution and Linus Olsson (twitter), co-founder of Flattr, to discuss the benefits and opportunities of applying Flattr in a physical situation like this one.
Flattr entered public beta about 1 year ago, is enjoying a strong(er) success in Germany and among bloggers (your typical early adopter) and according to Linus, the biggest challenge they are facing could be summarized as “We thought that we would have a system where people can receive money, so we would get lots of people who wants money and less people who wants to give money, and it has been proved to be the opposite so it’s actually quite easy to find people that want to support something and it’s quite hard to convince people that create something that there are people who are willing to pay for it“.
The concept of Flattr
The service is rather simple but it relies on a change of paradigm (that some might call utopian). Create an account, put a bit of money and every time you click on the Flattr button associated to a production that you find valuable, your appreciation will transform into a micropayment at the end of the month. The service will equally distribute the money in your account among all the contributions you flattrd. For more info on Flattr visit their website.
Why Use Flatter at The Conference
Martin got the idea to use Flattr in an offline environment while he was attending SXSW in Austin, Texas.
“Flattr was used by an artist that was busking on the street. So instead of the old guitar case, there was a sign next to the musician saying “you can flattr this artist here” and then a QR Code, and I figured we could do this at the conference at well”.
And that idea became a live experiment that could prove very useful for the media community gathering at The Conference.
“Mediaevolution is an organization that works with media industries and focuses on issues or factors that are affecting them all, so for us it’s always a key thing to also walk-the-talk and enable products and services to show how good they are whenever we do things”.
Expectations: Flattr as an Ice-Breaker
According to Martin, the action of rewarding other people -be it speakers, exhibitors or just fellow participants- creates an action that can stimulate the networking dynamics of the event, as meeting other [interesting] people is the most valuable outcome of an event. People will be able to show appreciation for others by scanning the QR code on their badges or through Flattr’s iOS App [soon available on iTunes], which will also act as the agenda for the conference.
“We are organizing this conference to enable people to meet and meet people they’ve never met before, so we hope that the QR Code on each and every participant will be kind of an ice-breaker, you know “may I flattr you?” and also for use to give speakers and the sessions appreciation so it’s both a kind of a Digg thing or a poll and also we hope it’s an icebreaker for people to talk to each other and give each other appreciation for example when you introduce a person to another or if you ask a good question or say something cool.”
On the practical side, Flattr requires that you add money to your account (just a few euros will do) to “flattr” someone/something, and of course you need to have an account to receive those appreciations. Linus explains that “you can receive flattrs without having an account with money on, but you can’t click the button if you don’t have money to give. Each and every click on a flattr button actually means it’s a payment or it’s a donation […] so as a producer you can receive flattrs but you can’t give because a flattr actually is money.”
“A Like button doesn’t mean anything. Flattr actually means something.” Linus Olsson
It’s People Dynamics
The most interesting thing about The Conference’s use of Flattr is that it pushes the concept that online and offline interaction are two sides of the same coin. Several companies still treat both worlds as different, while it’s just different channels to connect with real people, doesn’t matter if they are standing infront of you or hiding behind a screen.
Linus: “With a flattr account you can both give money and receive money because we think that on the ‘net […] there is no real difference between creator and consumer: everybody creates, even though they maybe not think of it as a creation – a twitter status update is a creation and there are lots of people that tweet and followers see value in those tweets.”
Flattr Applied to Events
The micropayments service allows to move beyond the concept that the only value is created by those standing on stage, which was mostly valid during the past century where content was a scarce factor. Linus remarks how this becomes an attractive playground to expand the use of Flattr: “It’s also the visitors and the meaning between the visitors and the knowledge that people share with each other and I think that’s applicable in lots of contexts but for an event that has all participants participating with something is of course a very good target. So for example on The Conference there’ll be an unconference track where everyone can join in, and maybe the people that get the most flattrs might not be the big speakers”.
Reward Those Who Create Value
Flattr can be seen as a democratic but also financial way to compensate those that provide value. It could be a stimulus (and maybe a way to finance those in the beginning of their career) for speakers that deliver an amazing presentation but also to, say, a blogger writing an interesting review of the event. Often you have a lot of people participating (talking, writing blogposts, etc) but not really adding value. Flattr becomes a tool to provide feedback on valuable participation.