The Butterfly Effect: Keeping Your Audience Engaged Through Random, Unpredictable Experiences

When it comes to the widespread adoption of nascent technologies, I often obsess over “what if” scenarios. Examples?

  • What if QR codes were simply used for its initial purpose of checking inventory?
  • What if Matti Makkonen never had that pizza in Copenhagen where he outlined an alerting system to ride over GSM networks called Short Message Services?
  • What if gaming industry vanguards like Jeffrey Dickstein, Jay Coen and Chip Blundell decided to adhere to the status quo and continue to license from brands for in-game integrations of their respective logos and products verses creating the in-game advertising paradigm?
  • What if Noah Glass told Jack Dorsey he thought 140 characters was a waste of time?

Wikipedia defines the butterfly effect as the “sensitive dependence on initial conditions; where a small change at one place in a  nonlinearsystem can result in large differences to a later state”.

Above all innovation that we’ve experienced over the last 10 years, I look to digital conversation as the truest catalyst for change. In it I see innocuous, yet powerful dialogue that at any point can spark the “large differences” we now expect from small change. The challenge? There is no true linear model that provides the blueprint for change. It is truly, a randomized process.

  • A tweet that documents the bloodshed of a peaceful protest in Cairo turns into a full on revolution, powerful enough to overthrow a government regime.
  • An artist who turns the slums of Rio into a portrait that highlights those living in them and subsequently a TED talk that captivates the world
  • A down on his luck homeless man whose struggles with drugs and alcohol cost him a career who agrees to allow a random driver to videotape his talents from a highway median
So how do you map success if you’re a proponent of change? I believe you can’t. In fact I feel the best you can do is prepare for the desired outcome you seek. The magic of transforming a position to a platform others can rally for, is the true sense of authenticity which is impossible to replicate. There are a million twitter clones, a plethora of reddit wannabes, but they all lack the gravitational pull that made their originals so great. It’s almost indefinable yet when you experience it, you know it almost instantaneously.

I’ve been a fan of Augmented Reality applications since the first of the branded experiences made its way to our shores. Yet in a world away, I discovered something so powerful I felt it deserved a video (above) and a blog post. Hopefully this isn’t classified as a random rant and you too see the value of what I’m trying to convey. The best discoveries are randomized.

That is all. Now go discover!


  1. Dean Hillestad · May 12, 2011

    “The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the publicity” George Carlin

  2. Allison D. Duncan · May 13, 2011

    The real question is how do you effectively and consistently do this without leaving your niche? Is it even possible to do that without sometimes going outside of your ‘marketed niche’?

    As a nerd, the niche can be incredibly huge, so this is a real problem with my own blog. There is just so much out there that is cool and interesting. So it’s incredibly hard to weed the list of topics down and still do the Unpredictable Experience effect.

    Allison Duncan
    The Nerd Connection

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