Dell Swarm: social network buying groups

May 27th, 2009

Dell is exploiting social networks in a new marketing scheme being tried out in Singapore. If you agree to buy a laptop on Dell Swarm, the discounted price drops as others join your “swarm” and also buy. Here’s how Dell describes it:

  • Start by picking the laptop you would like to purchase. Be the first buyer to join a Swarm and you’ll enjoy a price lower than Dell.com’s best discounted price (after cash rebates).
  • Join a Swarm after, and you’ll enjoy a new, lower price – as will all previous buyers. To see the range of prices, simply slide the Swarm price bar downwards.
  • Once the swarms closes – which is when the limit of 15 buyers or 72 hours is reached, whichever is the earlier, the price is then finalised. This final, lowest price now becomes everyone’s purchase price – including yours!
  • To get the maximum discount, grow the Swarm by Sharing with your friends. You can share via Twitter Or post a note on your Facebook® profile and tell all of your friends Point others towards your Swarm using Digg, del.icio.us and other tools. Or simply send your friends an email directly!
  • Not ready to buy yet? You can also choose to Follow the Swarm. You’ll then receive updates via email. As well as through free SMS alerts.

We’ve seen this idea on the Web before (e.g., see Group Buying), but it is usually framed as a tool by and for consumers rather than a marketing strategy employed by vendors. This could be a big win for Dell. If it is, others will follow. The penetration of online social networking systems is much greater now and finding ways to exploit them for marketing is irresistible.


Ratsimor PhD: Bartering for goods and services in pervasive environments

January 5th, 2009

We’ve been working to get the dissertaions of our recent PhD graduates online. The latest one is Olga Ratsimor’s 2007 dissertation on bartering for goods and services in a mobile or pervasive environments. Here is the citation and abstract. You can click through on the title to get a pdf copy of the dissertation.


Olga Vladi Ratsimor, Opportunistic Bartering of Digital Goods and Services in Pervasive Environments, Ph.D. Dissertation in Computer Science, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, August 2007.

The vision of mobile personal devices querying peers in their environment for information such as local restaurant recommendations or directions to the closest gas station, or traffic and weather updates has long been a goal of the pervasive research community. However, considering the diversity and the personal nature of devices participating in pervasive environments it is not feasible to assume that these interactions and collaborations will take place with out economically-driven motivating incentives.

This dissertation presents a novel bartering communication model that provides an underlying framework for incentives for collaborations in mobile pervasive environments by supporting opportunistic serendipitous peer-to-peer bartering for digital goods such as ring tones, MP3’s and podcasts.

To demonstrate viability and advantages of this innovative bartering approach, we compare and contrast the performances of two conventional, frequently employed, peer-to-peer interaction approaches namely Altruists and FreeRiders against two collaborative strategies that employ the Double Coincidence of Wants paradigm from the domain of barter exchanges. In particular, we present our communication framework that represents these collaborative strategies through a set of interaction policies that reflect these strategies. Furthermore, we present a set of results from our in-depth simulation studies that compare these strategies.

We examine the operation of the nodes employing our framework and executing these four distinct strategies and specifically, we compare the performances of the nodes executing these strategies in homogeneous and heterogeneous networks of mobile devices. We also examine the effects of adding InfoStations to these networks. For each of the strategies, we observe levels of gains and losses that nodes experience as result of collaborative digital good exchanges. We also evaluate communication overhead that nodes incur while looking for possible collaborative exchange. Furthermore, this dissertation offers an in-depth study of the swarm-like inter-strategy dynamics in heterogeneous networks populated with diverse nodes displaying varying levels of collaborative interaction attitudes. Further, the bartering framework is extended by incorporating value-sensitive bartering models that incorporate digital goods and content valuations into the bartering exchange process. In addition, the bartering model is extended by integration of socially influenced collaborative interaction that exploit role based social relationships between mobile peers that populate dynamic mobile environments.

Taken as a whole, the novel research work presented in this dissertation offers the first comprehensive effort that employs and models opportunistic bartering-based collaborative methodology in the context of serendipitous encounters in dynamic mobile peer-to-peer pervasive environments where mobile entities negotiate and exchange digital goods and content.