Next Generation Product Development Tools, Part 17

In my previous post I made the assertion that besides monetary reward, everyday people would increasingly endeavor to acquire 3D modeling skills as a consequence of two non-monetary incentives: social reputation and personal empowerment. I’ll briefly touch on the first in this entry.

The Future of CAD is Social Networking Awareness

I’m not sure that in the wake of instant messaging, blogs, online multi-player games, MySpace, Flickr, Facebook, XBox Live, Twitter and all the other “social” applications which now permeate the Internet it’s necessary to devote much time to making this argument. For anyone still having doubts that average people want to both create 3D content and share their creations, look no further than last week’s news of Spore‘s “Creature Creator” success: over one million designs uploaded to Sporedia (Link), the game universe’s content database (which is separate from the related videos swamping YouTube – Link).

There’s no obviously good reason to upload creations to the database; Maxis isn’t paying gamers for their creations. But for many – if not most – the reward is simply in the potential recognition they might receive from either a positive rating or encouraging comments left on their creation’s individual webpage … or on their YouTube video; some of which have over 100k views and hundreds of comments.

Of course, this business approach is generating accusations that Spore is now part of the Internet’s new “sweatshop” culture. As perceived by Newsweek‘s N’Gai Croal (Link):

what they all have in common is a somewhat surprising willingness to work for little more than peer recognition and a long shot at 15 seconds of fame.

Whether these 21st-century worker bees can be said to be having fun (is it really entertaining to update a Wikipedia entry?), there’s no question that their moonlighting has value even if they’re not being compensated.

But as long as so many of you are willing to work for free, the proprietors of these virtual sweatshops will happily accept.

Obviously, this trend isn’t appreciated by journalists. But I don’t recall this level of concern back in the 1980’s when the graphic design community was broadsided by low-cost desktop publishing tools; changes which foreshadowed the current situation for all content creators.

I haven’t read any mainstream articles on ripping 3D content from videostreams, and rarely see mention of content theft occurring in Second Life … because, I guess, for most journalists those issues aren’t really very important. Assuming, however, it’s not just sour grapes and not just about newspapers laying off large chunks of their workforce and trying to sell assets to remain in business, why all the attention now?


We’ve never before had the tools to leverage so much personal, non-obvious, non-monetary incentive into focused, monetary business advantage. Think of the Internet as a big-ass magnifying glass; when those individual rays are focused properly something gets burned.

When a simple mouse-click aggregated over millions of people can form the basis for a business plan, those who find themselves on the receiving end of focused competitive efforts are naturally going to level accusations of “sweatshop” tactics; whether or not it’s accurate to do so and whether or not perspiring individuals have compelling motivations and justifications for their activities.

People like N’Gai Croal are just going to have to wrap their head around the possibility that for some individuals making 3D models for Maxis beats leasing out their passive eyeballs to mainstream media.

If one assumes that “Social Networks will go 3D“, it’s a short leap to imagine all the different ways social reputation and peer recognition attached to 3D content will insert itself into a variety of networks.

This isn’t to say that all 3D CAD applications will include social networking capabilities. I don’t believe they will. However, the decision regarding whether or not to include such capabilities will become increasingly significant as “sweatshop” business tactics evolve.

2 thoughts on “Next Generation Product Development Tools, Part 17

  1. Hey, interesting perspective to think that user gen content like Spore creature creator can be considered Sweat Shop…

    I think it’s just great design, it’s in peoples nature to tweak and tinker and giving them the social tools to share their 3D works and making it simple just adds to the end user experience.

    When I have fun making my 3 leg giraffe thingy I don’t consider it work :)

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