Crowdsourced Investment Campaign to Buy Pabst Brewing Co. Fizzles

In 2009, an ambitious campaign to purchase Pabst Brewing Company was launched by executives at two advertising agencies. Brian William Flatow and Michael Migliozzi II of The Ad Store & Forza Migliozzi respectively, came up with “an interesting experiment in crowdsourcing.”

The duo intended to bring together fans in order to raise $300 million make the purchase of Pabst possible. The concept was simple. Using social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to get the word out, Pabst fans (of legal age) could visit and pledge between $5 and $250,000 towards the acquisition. Investors were not required to transfer funds until the goal of $300 million was reached.

The campaign generated an overwhelming response, gathering about 5 million fans who pledged to invest a combined $200 million at its height. However due to a major oversight, the federal government halted the venture. Flatow and Migliozzi failed to register the public offering with the SEC before they started to sell shares to the public, a violation of federal law. The Securities and Exchange Commission reached a settlement with the two ad execs this week and the pair agreed to stop sales.

The dynamic nature of crowdsourcing allows it to be utilized in new and innovative ways, but this presents new legal challenges to companies and regulating bodies. The attorney for the two ad execs was quoted as saying “it never dawned on them” that they needed to register the offering without any shares being sold.

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The Next Evolution in Crowdsourcing

As we get closer to reaching the critical milestone of 40,000 testers in the uTest community (any day now!), we knew we’d have to find ways to scale our community programs in order to manage, vet and engage our enormous pool of expert testers and QA professionals.

Well, we didn’t have to look very far! The answers were right in front of us — where else but within the uTester community itself. As Matt said, “We found inspiration in seeing the enthusiasm and personal pride that resulted from members advising, supporting and training other members in our tester forums.”

From there, we launched three new initiatives – Sandbox, Crash Courses, and Test Team Lead – which catapulted uTest into the next phase of crowdsourcing, one that is self-sufficient, self-teaching, and self-policing.

One that is “For uTesters, By uTesters.”

For example, the Test Team Lead program gives uTest members the opportunity to earn paid leadership roles, mentoring and helping other testers succeed in their work. Crash Courses provide community-generated training materials to raise the skill level of community members and their eligibility to accept more work. More than 50 Crash Courses have been written to advance tester skills and further their careers.

Check out some early thoughts from the media on TechTarget,, TheDailyCrowdsource.

Details on each program after the bump!

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v3.7 – Test Team Lead

Over the past few years some seriously amazing testers have joined the uTest community, and today we have one of the most talented and diverse testing communities in the world. Some of our testers have taken us by surprise with their skills in areas like load automation, usability testing, and even general leadership. It’s that last area that has us most excited and is the reason behind today’s release of the uTest platform.

Test Team Lead
For a while, we have experimented with giving select and trusted members of our community additional privileges to help make our projects run more smoothly. Testers have been quietly helping our project managers with tasks like answering questions on projects, keeping testers focused and in scope, and making sure bugs match the customer’s expectations. With version 3.7 of the uTest platform, we have formalized that experiment into a new role within the community – the Test Team Lead (or TTL for short).

The TTL is not a replacement for a uTest project manager and their role will be mostly behind the scenes from a customer point of view. However, their contributions will be instrumental in helping to deliver high-quality testing results. Project managers will rely on the TTL to handle background tasks necessary to keeping a diverse community of testers in-line and on-task. This will free up the project managers to better help customers manage their test cycles, understand their bugs, and get the most from the uTest community.

Test Team Leads are select members of the uTest community who undergo an extensive training process. Among our best testers they are the best, but it is more than just their testing skills that qualify them as a TTL. They must also demonstrate leadership, communicate clearly, and be effective at organizing and motivating other testers.

Changes in 3.7
Starting in v3.7 of our platform, uTest project managers will be able to invite a Test Team Lead to projects of their choosing. The Test Team Lead will join the project just like any other uTest project, but their role will be different. Instead of reporting bugs or completing test cases, they will be helping other testers, answering questions, and keeping the project in scope.

TTLs will have a greater degree of privilege within the uTest platform, including the ability to use Tester Messenger to communicate with other testers and the ability to use Customer Notes to leave comments for project managers and customers. A TTL will not be able to approve or reject bugs, and project managers will still be responsible for the overall success of a test cycle as well as be the primary point of customer contact. Not every test cycle will require a TTL, and project managers will use their discretion to decide when a TTL will be needed.

While version 3.7 enables this new role, this is a much bigger evolution for our crowdsourced testing platform. We’re excited that our community will be taking a more active role in organizing itself, and we think this is a great way to inspire and deliver excellence.

While we have some good ideas in our product pipeline, we’re always looking for more. Do you have an idea for future product releases? uTest community members can join our tester forums and check out our Platform Feedback section. Customers can contact their project manager directly or drop us a line.

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How To Get The Most From Crowdsourcing (and uTest)

What’s the best way to make use of crowdsourcing? Well if you ask the guys at Doritos, they’d probably say “sparingly” based on their latest episode. But if you ask us – which is exactly what did – we would offer some more specific advice.

For one, most companies don’t know how to apply crowdsourcing “in practice” because they don’t understand it “in theory” – but that’s a blog post for another day.

In the meantime, if you’re planning on using the crowd to solve real-world business problems and have questions about the associated costs, time commitment and other areas, you would be wise to first read Polly Schneider Traylor’s latest article title “Forget the Cloud – It’s All About the Crowd.” Here’s an excerpt:

Software testing site uTest charges its clients per test cycle, which varies depending on the project, according to Matt Johnston, vice president of marketing for the Boston-based company. Using uTest is often 30 to 40 percent less expensive than hiring testers or outsourcing to an offshore provider, says Johnston. The testers are also paid handsomely for their work: “Our top testers are earning more than $5,000 a month, part time,” Johnston adds.

The benefit for small businesses is a fixed cost that won’t change dramatically over the course of a project. Here are some tips to keep in mind if you’re thinking of implementing crowdsourcing for your business:

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Done to Death: The Most Overused Buzzwords in Tech

Don’t tell the uTest bosses, but I’ve been secretly working on a side project that’s going to change the world. A paradigm shift, if you will. Here’s my idea: It’s a killer, cloud-based, SaaS platform (developed in an agile framework of course), that will use an on-demand model to revolutionize social media 2.0 through crowdsourcing apps.

Wait, what?

Buzzwords – like the ones above – afflict technologists more than other any profession. Not only do they confuse our customers, employees and relatives, but they tend to limit our own ability to truly think outside the box and innovate.

And with that I raise two very important questions. 1.) What is a buzzword exactly? 2.) What is currently the most overused buzzword in technology?

The first question is easy to answer. Wikipedia defines a buzzword as:

“a term of art or technical jargon that has begun to see use in the wider society outside of its originally narrow technical context by nonspecialists who use the term vaguely or imprecisely. Labelling a term a “buzzword” pejoratively implies that it is now used pretentiously and inappropriately by individuals with little understanding of its actual meaning who are most interested in impressing others by making their discourse sound more esoteric, obscure, and technical than it otherwise would be.”

That seems about right. The second question is a little more tricky, which is why we decided to ask the uTest community as part of our weekly What Do uThink poll question. Now bear in mind that the technology buzzword lexicon is big – really big – so the list here is admittedly very small. Nevertheless, here’s what our community considered the most overused tech buzzword (after the jump)…

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