Results of 3 Experiments in 2017

21 December 2017 | 15 Comments

I test a lot of random stuff at Stonemaier Games. Some of these are grand, sweeping experiments, like how we stopped using Kickstarter in 2015 or how we made an empty box for Scythe because a bunch of people asked us to. Others are much smaller.

This year I wrote about various experiments on the blog, and as the year comes to a close, I thought I’d revisit some of them.

Experiment 1: Start each day with something creative (not e-mails, social media, or consuming content)

The original article on this topic was about how the first few things you do each day will impact your productivity and creativity for the entire day. So instead of starting your day with someone else’s to-do list, why not start it with something of your own?

I tried this for about a week, and it was fine. But such a huge part of my job is project management and communications that I felt like I was forcefully delaying those responsibilities. It didn’t feel right to make people wait. Plus, it’s satisfying for me to answer a question or resolve an e-mail chain.

So after a week, I went back to what I’ve done every day for the last 4 years: I wake up, get on the computer, and start answering e-mails and questions on social media. I’ve continued doing that ever since.

Experiment 2: Accept job applications without listing a specific job

The original article on this topic was about how I don’t want to miss out on great people with strong skills and a passion for Stonemaier Games just because I don’t have an official position I’m looking to fill. So I created a form where anyone could tell me what they think we should hire them to do.

This was 2 months ago. Since then I’ve received 54 applications from a variety of people who are looking to work for us as artists, social media directors, graphic designers, customer service, game development, etc…really, the outpouring of talent has been incredible.

So far I think I’ve only made one hire from the applicants (a very talented artist), but I love that the next time I need someone for a specific job or if I decide Stonemaier needs to hire someone part time or full time, I have an awesome list of talented people ready to go.

Experiment 3: Use live video to connect better with the Stonemaier community

The original article on this topic was actually from a year ago, but I recently wrote a more specific article about the use of Kickstarter Live on the Joan of Arc project. I’ve really been wanting to try a live video, but I never really seemed to find the right time to do it.

Well, I finally just did it. After Charterstone’s release date on December 12, I hosted a Facebook live video in the Charterstone Facebook group. Facebook made it really easy just to click a few buttons, and suddenly I was live! The interface was really nice–it’s very easy to see what people are writing and how many people are watching.

So I tried it again yesterday. I discovered that you can not only host a live video in a Facebook group, but also a Facebook page. Yesterday’s video was on the Stonemaier Games Facebook page (Facebook saves the video for people to watch later if they miss the live feed).

I’ve learned a few things so far:

  • People have kept me busy for the duration of both videos with a steady stream of questions, but it’s good to have some topics and visual props planned in advance to fill dead air.
  • It seems like a good idea to host live videos at different times of the day if I do this on a regular basis, just so you can reach people with different schedules.
  • I need to have a LOT more water available. I keep thinking 1 glass will be enough, but my mouth gets really dry when I’m talking nonstop.
  • I might try to make the videos a specific length rather than “until I catch up on the questions.” Both live feeds lasted around 90 minutes, which is fine for people who tune in for a few minutes, but if someone wants to watch it later…well, no one is going to sit around for 90 minutes to watch me talk. But 20 minutes? Maybe.

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What do you think about these experiments and results? What experiments would you like to see from me and Stonemaier Games in 2018?

15 Comments on “Results of 3 Experiments in 2017

  1. I agree with you on the checking emails and the social medias first thing in the morning. It just starts your day off feeling accomplished (even if you have to go to a day job right after like me)

    I thought your always open job application was an excellent idea as well. As long as you are up front about it like you are and say how you are not hiring but dont want to discourage very talented people from blowing you away to where you need to hire them. Also building up a future talent supply when you need to grow

    My favorite though is probably your implementation of live video. It takes your A++ customer service skills up to an A+++. Also keeping the videos to a planned length is a good idea that way you are not chasing the rabbit down the hole trying to answer every single question. And makes the non live video more appealing to watch if you didnt catch it live.

    Looking forward to the new experiments in 2018. And Merry Christmas!

    – Cody Thompson

    1. Cody: Yeah, it’s been a bit weird not to reply to the applications, though I think the page is clear that I’ll only reply when the time is right. I haven’t heard any complaints about that yet.

      That’s nice of you to say about the live video! I feel like I still have a lot to learn from it. :)

  2. I was very interested in the live feed but I didn’t know it was coming… and after watching for a few minutes I had to sign off to attend another meeting I had scheduled. I don’t know if it is reasonable but it would be really cool to have a scheduled live session, maybe with the time posted somewhere a week before or something so that people can put it on their calendar if it is important for them to watch it live. For me, that would most likely have meant I could have watched the entire thing as I would have been willing to schedule around it. And, along those same lines, a set end time as well as start time could mean people could count on attending the entire session.

    Doing it once a week or something at a certain time would work great for me so I don’t have to worry about it changing… it would just always be on my calendar for that time. I have a friend who used to attend these spaghetti dinner events on Thursday nights at a friend’s house. They were cool because the guy had a ton of stuff there to make spaghetti for whoever showed up… no need to RSVP. His house was just always open every Thursday night and whoever showed up would have some good food and conversation. I always thought that would be a really fun idea, but I travel too much to do something EVERY week like that. :) Doing a set time every week gives people an easy way to know when it is happening without having to constantly look it up, and might result in larger attendance. And, you could make the talks shorter if you were doing it often. The first time people will have tons of questions and it probably feels like they don’t ever stop. But I think that would be less of an issue after a while.

    On the other hand, I see how doing it at the same time has downsides too, as anyone who has a regularly scheduled event during that time wouldn’t be able to attend, ever. I’m not sure which is the better way.

    1. Cynthia: Thanks for sharing. I can certainly try to do better at announcing live videos in advance. Though I did that yesterday, and it ended up creating another problem, which is that if I tell people there will be a live video at a certain time and then things don’t go as planned and it just works better at a different time, it feels weird to change it (even if it’s better for me to change it).

      I’m usually very schedule oriented, but I’ve found that it’s easier to commit to doing social-media related stuff at more flexible times. Like, I always posted the weekly Charterstone updates on Wednesday mornings, but not at a specific time. That was really helpful for me, as sometimes I could write them first thing in the morning, but other times I’d have other stuff to take care of first.

  3. You could also have a form where people could ask questions ahead of time or request that you cover a certain topic that they want to know more about, or learn your opinion on. That way, you could have some interesting topics already in your mind before you start, maybe talk about those things between other questions… your other videos are kind of like that in a way, but this could be a little more interactive than that if you wanted it to be. It seems like it has the potential to be pretty entertaining for those who love your brand and who love to hear your thoughts on subjects related to our industry. I’m unsure if every session would leave you feeling like you were productive during that half hour or hour, but I suspect that over time some interesting ideas might come out of those interactive sessions and you’d definitely build a stronger relationship with the fans who watch it. There is something about seeing someone’s face and hearing their voice that brings a feeling of closeness that you don’t get from only reading blogs or websites. And live video even more so.

    1. Cynthia: I like the idea of getting some questions in advance or requests for a specific topic. I like that. It might be interesting to have some more focused live chats, like about a specific Kickstarter topic, game, or aspect of Stonemaier. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Experiment #2 is in my field, so I’ll add a couple comments to provide some additional info for anyone interested.

    I studied I/O Psychology in undergrad and grad school, and one of the topics is employee selection. Classic selection is what people typically think of – you have a job, with specific functions, and then you try to find someone to fill it. So, for example, your restaurant needs someone to cook a variety of foods, so you hire a cook. If your restaurant is larger, you split the task of grilling hamburgers from the task of baking cookies, and you hire a fry cook and a baker. When people apply, you ask them questions about their training and experience related to cooking, and maybe have them cook you something as a demonstration.

    Experiment #2 is more in line with a “placement approach”. In this approach you hire people based on characteristics you value (e.g. adaptability, conscientiousness, intelligence, empathy) and then assign them and train them within your organization. In practice, this can be a little more difficult (e.g. your lawyer needs specific education and licensing – you can’t just “grow into” that job), but has some advantages/appeal. One you’ve already touched on, is that you gather a pool of talented individuals ready to handle challenges and projects that arise. This can be very valuable as industry is frequently changing, including new industries emerging at unprecedented speed.

    Another appeal is that when people take an honest look at their jobs, they often find that a short time after being hired, their tasks include a lot of things that aren’t in the initial job description. This is often a combination of informal duties, career growth, and organizations realizing that the set of jobs they officially list does not comprehensively cover all the tasks the organization needs done. So an argument can be made that the assessment of more general skills and traits might be more useful if jobs are going to inevitably evolve anyway.

    Obviously it’s not a strictly dichotomous choice. There’s room for a hybrid of both, and the appropriate use of some of each approach probably depends on both the job in mind and the organizational structure and strategy.

    1. David: That’s brilliant! I’m so grateful that you’ve shared this. I didn’t know about method #2, but it’s really clever, especially given when you said in the paragraph about how people often end up doing a lot of things that weren’t in their original job description.

  5. I can understand you wanting to have shorter video content but I disagree with no one wanting to listen to you talking for 90mins. If the content is on topic and informative, I’ll watch for longer than 90min. And if you’re looking to make it more of a discussion like these blogs of yours to interact with peoples thoughts and experiences, that would be very engaging.

    1. Thanks for your input, Chad! I tried a 30-minute video this week (it ended up being more like 40 minutes), and I thought it went pretty well, though I’ll continue to experiment with different lengths.

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