Monday, April 20, 2009

ARLA you make me frustrated – give the people control and we will use it!

I think it’s time for another post - not only in one sentence with an attached picture or video - but one with some thoughts (not really deep, just thoughts). Time is a limited resource unfortunately, so product developers and magicians out there please develop time. I have two upcoming experiments that I’m really enthusiastic about. I look forward to share it all with you. The only thing I can reveal is something as boring as timing - around mid June. And it will take place in Copenhagen.

Once in a while I get really annoyed. Annoyed because somebody apparently do not understand the creation (behaviour and mechanisms) of a successful user-generated platform. When I first got introduced to cookipedia (wiki for food and recipes, surprise!) I was thinking: Finally, they get it. Arla the Danish/Swedish company producing dairy products and the ones being pioneers within corporate blogging in Denmark have handed control completely to their users. It makes sense for their territory and product range. Plus, they were acting very Web 2.0 like having a Beta tagline. Then I started to explore the site to see how they are dealing with this totally wiki and user-generated platform and got surprised.

As I see it they make two huge mistakes! Content cannot be edited by the users, Arla will control it. Don´t take the wiki like name then! Another thing that struck me was their rules regarding the tone. The tone should be serious and sober (alcoholics are not welcome apparently;-). What characterizes the internet is the no rules thing. I discussed this in an
earlier post. People are not kids. It´s your target group and most people know how to behave and communicate.

The community should develop in an organic way. And that would definitely add value (links, clicks, and mentions) to your community and brand. Some refers to it as
Googlejuice - the magic elixir you drink when Google values you more because the world values you more. The more links, clicks, and mentions you get, the higher you rise in Google´s search results, offering an obvious advantage for yet more clicks. I just Googled cookipedia and somebody must have been drinking the glass of Googlejuice, 37 Danish search results and very few (I only discovered one useful) linking to cookipedia, besides Arlas own site. An almost empty, a bit old and not very tasty glass of Googlejuice. Damn, missing opportunities...

This clearly emphasize their lack of trust for their users (or target group) - and their missing understanding for acting in a user-driven world. The strength about the internet is that its social. And so is life. Arla should understand that open-source is not equal chaos or quality being destroyed or mistrusted. We live in a new, open and distributed world, where your best customer is your partner. You should be open to your customers and make your target group be taking part in the product development or creation. There are plenty of opportunities. Open dialogue is the direct way to success.

And to quote Jeff Jarvis: The more you control, the less you will be trusted; the more you hand over control, the more trust you will earn.

I´m actually curious to hear what Arla has to say. What are the reasoning behind it. Lack of understanding, or?

I will contact them - and the full answer will be posted directly on my blog. I wouldn´t be surprised if they don´t answer me.

If you don´t mean it, don´t go there!

Editor`s note: Just discovered that cookipedia don´t have a contact formular on their site, beautiful!

Editor`s note part 2: Arla`s Danish site is temporarily out of work, they are in the process of improving it. What if Google was taking a short break?


Annette Flinck said...

Hi friend!
I must accommodate you on your post. Interesting and so true. Thanks for sharing.

See you sooner than you think (-;


Annette Flinck said...

BTW..looking forward to know more about the 'mid june' project :)

SorenT said...

Good points Christian!

We are trying to get some action with Arla. Tey are, though, "owned" by Kunde & Co :/

Tove Færch said...

Hi Christian.

Of course we will answer you, so here I am ... I'm Tove, responsible for Karolines Køkken and Cookipedia. You are so right in what you write .... we did a controlled cookiepedia (named it Cookipedia Beta in hope you didn't expect a full wiki on cooking), and we did it because we wanted to know the content. On our website everybody can comment on the recipes, and we have tried having very negative and damaging comments published. We were frightened, honestly! So we thought ... let's start creating some content and the soon after open the source for everybody to participate.
I see now that we were wrong. In more ways: Distrust is what we may gain, not what we hoped for. And I now doubt that we can take the right (and planned!) step towards Cookipedia as an open source as our economic situation is right now -
It's not that we in general are afraid of open dialog - more of us blog - mine is here: - and we facilitate another open source media where people with an interest in "healthy meals og the future" publish and share their thoughts and ideas -

Tove Færch

Christian From Hermansen said...

Hi Tove,

Thanks for sharing with me, and hopefully some of the readers. A true pleasure that you can see and admit some of the failures.

I think my frustration most obviously is grounded in companies not knowing how to deal with an Internet culture, simply put: to understand behavior and do initiatives based on these. To create something the users like and go into dialogue and collaboration with them – and do it with a long-term focus. Plus, there exist an enormous potential if you are dedicated and do it in right way. Arla are lucky to have a strong, well-known brand (I think), a wide product range and a target group that are dedicated to your products and cooking. This explains the potential!

I think a key issue is the fear of users destroying or poisoning something. But, you are dealing with your target group, your fans, people with an interest in you, so be open, trust the one`s that like you and you will see the potential. Commenting on a recipe is not dialogue…

The name is miscommunication to your users - as I see it. And beta is a term that explains development and constant improvement, not a term for going into an initiative with fear and anxiety (a controlled wiki).

My suggestion to you: Get a social media strategy, understand the behavior, and unify the different communities. Just to name a few. There are opportunities.

Pls get a contact button, so people are able to get in contact with you directly. Btw interesting initiative (

And I should just have a recipe for a piece of bread ☺

Anonymous said...

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