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  • Postmortem: Softy Simness

    [11.02.17]
    - Roman Luks

  • Looking for volunteers

    I knew from the beginning that I would need volunteers to participate in my experiment. I set up a Facebook page Virtual Reality Research Brno and started messaging my friends. I tried not to spam everybody all at once, but to message just about 10 people a day. I also did not mass invite everyone all at once. I messaged a friend and sent them an invite. I used a template for the message but changed it over time. After some time the page had about 100 followers. All of them were my Facebook friends.

    The next thing I did was to join Facebook groups mostly for students (different universities and faculties, fields of studies/years, dormitories, volunteer groups, groups for advertising, free time and jobs). I created a Facebook event for the first week of the testing (week-long event), setup Doodle page, put a link to this doodle in Facebook event and posted this event in a few groups.

    The Facebook event reached 6700 people (461 viewed, 48 responded), but only 14 people registered on doodle. A bad conversion rate. 3 people did not show up. So I had 11 volunteers in the first week of the experiment. Also, there were issues with doodle (it was in beta with their new UI).

    Next time I changed my approach. I made a google sheet document with a calendar for registrationand all the important info in the box below it. I made Facebook event too. But this time I posted the link directly to registration calendar (google sheet) in Facebook groups. It was a lot better.

    In the following weeks, I continued to improve my registration calendar, information for participants and kept posting infrequently in the different Facebook groups. Even though I did not mass spam them all at once - about 10 proved to be a limit. After posting the same message for too many times, Facebook shows a warning to stop you from spamming. This led me to create a document with a few different messages to copy and paste them in Facebook groups. There were groups in which my posts were not welcome and marked me as spam. I got blocked for 24 hours from posting in any Facebook group. However, I found my way around it. You can comment on your post even when you are blocked from sharing a new post there. Commenting on a post pushes this post to the top.


    To make participation in my experiment more appealing to the potential volunteers I made an agreement with a friend of mine who runs a VR arcade. He printed discount vouchers to his arcade for me. And I inserted this voucher with an envelope and put a sticker on it. To have something to give volunteers, something for them to take home.

    In my Facebook post, I also targeted people who had never tried VR before, that they could give it a try for free. I also appealed to students to help a fellow student with his thesis. Some people were just curious about the experiment. These steps helped me to get 60 volunteers within 5 weeks. Over the summer holiday. Most of them were students. It was intense, I had almost no free time because I was testing on weekends too. But it was worth it.


    I continue to share interesting or funny VR posts in the Facebook page. I am not the only student doing experiments with VR at our university. A colleague of mine started testing a few weeks ago too. I made him a moderator of the Facebook page and shared my experience with him. I have also written a (Czech) document summing up my experience while looking for volunteers.

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