I’m a fan of continued education. I’ve carried on learning formally though the OU for many years. But the OU courses available in the US are few so I’ve been looking around for something else. Many of the available courses in New York that would feasibly fit into my schedule are the more practical or job related ones, not necessarily something that I was interested in doing – I just like learning. So I was thrilled to stumble upon MIT’s Open Courseware, which is a publication of nearly all of their undergraduate course work, from reading lists, lecture notes, essay requirements and answers. A wonderful way to work your way through areas that interest you. In my case, I think I’m going to update my Biology and Anthropology (my original degree) and take a look at Psychology, Comparative Media studies, History, Linguistics and Technology. Of course, that’s the plan – I just need to organise my life to have the time to do it.
There was Girl Geek Dinner in London yesterday ably organised by Sarah Blow. Ian Forrester did his usual superb job of videoing the speakers and here’s Maryam Scoble‘s speach. From reading the reports, it sounds like I missed a great evening. I was honoured to be mentioned, along with Nicole Simon, as one if the causes of Maryam taking up blogging. If you have not subscribed yet, go take a read – it’s well worth it.
The bar over the road from me has a wonderful Word of Mouth scheme for getting new customers. Every Thursday, it opens up the bartending role to guests – that is, anyone who wants to have a go. The only catch – you have to bring in your friends.
There’s a big sign up behind the bar, advertising Guest nights and suggesting you ask about it. The deal – if you want to have a go at being a bartender for the night, here’s your chance but you need to advertise it and bring in your friends to make it a fun night. There’s a 6-8 week waiting list at any one time, so there’s definitely a market. As the barkeep, you get to share in the tips – which means the regular workers need you to make a success of it!
They ask you to bring in about 40 friends, with the expectation that 20 will be the average. But of those 20, they expect 4-5 to come back and carry on using the bar. So despite the barkeeps potential dislike of the actual evenings (they usually take home less money) in the long run, it is far more profitable and keeps a steady stream of new customers coming in to the place. I was told that the average lifespan of a bar on the UES is 2-3 years. This one has been there 13 years. So if you are in the area, go visit the Trinity Bar
This set of games has to be one of the most addictive I’ve seen. But to you by Kempt for Sony Viao, it just takes the form of one game after another. All short and suite, some of them incomprehensible (you click and something happens) it just keeps you onthe page with all the different things. The email announcing it says the time spent is over treble the industry average. I can well believe it – it is so addictive.
And I was planning on writing a post about how all the virals I’ve been pointed to over the last few weeks have a similarity to them. This one, not so much and I love it.
How many video sites are there now? Plenty, and they are still popping up every week. YouTube is the biggest but Google are still pushing theirs despite buying YT, Microsoft recently launched theirs and Revver is going strong with the shared revenue model. Chris Pirillo takes a look at three key players in this string of videos. The key is to start them all at the same time, starting from the top…and let them interact.
I’m sitting here trying to keep out the way of the movers who are slowly packing up all my stuff (feeling guilty, I just make them tea every hour or so). My working space gets barer and barer; the desktop PC has gone, the desk (or what passes for one) has gone and the next thing they are after is the couch so it’s to the floor with me. Sometime in the future, it’ll all be unwrapped again. The cleaners have come round to estimate a fortune to clean the whole place and the letting agents have the keys to start showing people (I hope..need to cover the mortgage somehow!). I’m down to three suitcases and excess baggage charges
User Generated Content, Citizen media, particpatory content. Whatever you call it, it’s not going away and the number of advertisers jumping on the bandwagon with various degrees of success increases everyday. The BBC has been there for a while and now we have two stories demonstrating various successes.
In the first, BBC News 24 has started a programme made up of news stories sent in by the public, to “reflect the stories catching our audience’s eye and talking to them directly about the issues they feel really matter.”
In the second, the editor of Newsnight is suggesting that UGC has not been forthcoming for a 2 minute slot on his programme, a chance to get your message in front of 1 million viewers, and he is calling out for entries. In the comments, the lack of response is put down to many reasons: no publicity and short notice; lack of payment when the BBC gets the rights; different demographics of the Newsnight audience vs the typical 16-24 creator; a feeling that it is the BBC’s job to create not the audiences; a feeling that UGC should stay online not in the TV. Also, the difficulty and difference in creating a short video as opposed to a well crafted written piece.
I don’t know why the difference, these are all valid reasons. Maybe because the two types of programme need a different discipline. The first, on a ‘cable’ channel, just asks you to send in things as you think about them and additional work will be done by the reporters. The second gives a finite time for you to create a story that will be shown to a far larger audience.
Eric, over at CommonSense PR, has listed 5 key points about choosing a blogging consultant. Some excellent points there, especially about checking the blogging history of the consultant and ther references. I would add a further one, in that also check the variety and breadth of previous work. One thing I have found with digital teams for marketing websites is that sometimes the company can have a very long track record of completed projects but every single one is the ‘same’, they just changed the colours and the words with little or no creative thought. SO, when choosing a consultant check that they understand the media well enough to know that you cannot apply the same solution each time, each solution has to be created anew.
Today, I’m preparing to pack, the movers arrive on Monday to take everything away and put some of it on a boat that will hopfully arrive in New York in about 2 months. Unlike the last time I did this, moving to and from Amsterdam, a lot of the stuff will be put into storage. So I’m going round and putting things onto 3 lists, store, ship and take with me know. But the choices are not that simple. I’m not shipping my furniture, so the big items go direct to store. The electrical items likewise get stored as they will not work without voltage changers, so it’s probably best to buy new ones. I’m not taking all my kitchen stuff – which probably means I can live without it, likewise the paperwork/records/OU study stuff/diving equipment wetc. In reality I should probably get rid of it…and maybe I will when I come back. Likewise with the books I’m trying to convince myself to leave behind. I don’t really need to ship all 1200 of them, so I need to make choices about which ones I use a lot, which I will read in the next few years and which can wait till I come back (by which time the number would have grown anyway.
Some stuff I’m taking back with me now (travelling with empty suitcases definitely confuses people at airports). Extra cutlery, plates, saucepan, Christmas decorations, winter clothes. And a final few things I decide that I won’t risk to shipping – some jewellery, a favourite picture, a book of favourite poems I’ve transcribed over the last 25 years.
One last thing I’m doping is taking photos of everything. It’s far quicker to photo the titles of the games, CDs, DVDs and books and load them up to Flickr as a storage mechanism then write down everything, just in case. It’s a good job that I can set the photos to me only, otherwise people would be subject to 10′s of photos of nothing but book spines.
If you use Google to search for Jurys hotel, the first result is the main page for the hotel group. But the next few pages demonstrate the powerof a Search Optimisation strategy and 15 of the next 19 results are also jurys, but lying across a range of subdomains such as bristolhotels.jurysdoyles.com. But if you explore further into the individual city searches, ie using london hotels or bristol hotels they are more hit and miss in their results. You get a similar result when you look at Yahoo or Live Search. They appear to have 3 or 4 different domains and sub-domain structure, which takes time and effort to manage. This must be one of the more blatant uses of SEO, I wonder if the business objectives are being met?
Wired have a nice write-up about the team behind LonelyGirl15, looking at the background and possible future. The article mentions a few things that helped the success along, how they responded to the fans and how they managed the revelation that Bree was not ‘real’.
- they kept within legal bounds by not trying to sell anything related with the character and by never lying directly. The legal advice if someone asked whether she was real at the beginning was not to answer.
- they launched by responding to a video from Emily, who already had a following. The short video was creative enough to generate a lot of response and a call for Bree to post more.
- they built up an audience slowly, changing the story based on responses and ensured they established a presence int he community. A key insight was gained from their first ‘hit’, a video where Bree showed a lot of emotion. “Viewers wanted family and relationship drama mixed with a rich, mysterious backstory that could be explored and debated.”
- they provided mystery and the opportunity to explore – who was she, where did she live, what religion where her parents. The videos encouraged speculation and commentary.
- they hired someone to respond to emails full time (they are currently answering about 500/day). By asking about the emailers lives, they invited a conversation
- following the news that Bree was a fictional character there was some backlash and a lot of press interest. But they have continued the story, maintaining a healthy level of viewers for the series, generating income through advertising on their site.
- next steps involve creating a mystery, allowing fans to continue to speculate and comment, in the way that Lost does. They’re extending the world, producing content by other inhabitants, letting fans follow their own path through the information
There’s some key lessons here that content producers, including advertisers, can take away to apply to their transmedia properties. Interaction, conversation, letting fans run away with the content are all important in building an interest.
Due to my lack of electronic goods, my TV watching has been restricted to waht I can find and play on the laptop. Now, yes, downloads would give me copies to keep, but sometimes the instant gratification is what I need so I turned to the networks and their forays into online programming to see how good they are. I’m going to run through the majors to give you a taste of how easy, or hard, it is to watch. I’m using TimeWarner cable which is currently running at 4.5Mb down (although previous speeds have clocked in around 2 Mbps)
Finding the content
ABC: you can access the videos through a few ways. There’s a large button on the home page, the main show listing has icons to show which ones you can watch and you can get to the episode from the show page. (ABC also wins the prize for the most annoying to assess due the videos that autoplay on every page – at loud volume)
CBS: there are 2 routes from the home page, one to watch a series direct and one to a overall section on CBS video. They do not seem to have integrated the service as much as ABC as you cannot get to the video from the series information, even when there is a link to catch up on previous episodes.
NBC: this has the least routes in. From first glance it looks like you can go to the NBC video from the home page section below the fold but this only gives you interviews, clips etc. What you are after is NBC Rewind which you can get to via the Video navigation option or from the series page. NBC also offer you the chance to download a video player to your PC and download locval (DRM’d) copies of 2 shows, which manes you can watch whilst not connected but they will stop playing after a certain time.
ABC: has 7 of it’s primetime shows available. For each, the past 4 episodes are available.
CBS: It’s Innertube channel has the largest selection, with 14 different shows available online. For each, there appears to be 4 episodes.
NBC: NBC Rewind has 7 shows being offered in the full versions.
The Playing Field
ABC: launches a new window that has pretty movable flash display for you to to find your choice of entertainment. The videoplays in a window about 3×6 inches or can be expanded to full screen. ABC seems to have issues with band width detection at it continously flashes warnings that my connection is less than 500Kbps or 800 for the big screen. None of the others give me warnings. I have had issues with playing content, in that it goes so far and no further
CBS: again launches a new window, and plays the video in a 5×5 inch screen or in full screen. The qauality is OK for large screen and very good for small. No warnings about bandwidth but it has occasionally paused for buffering. Unlike ABC, the player also shows related videos, clips etc that you may be interested in. Navigation is easy and it is straightfoward to find your way around (once you’ve got there!)
NBC: Plays within the existing window in about a 7×4 window. The big screen version is not that much bigger, but you get it without the wrapper. However, one advantage over the other players was the ability to move between acts – so you can watch a bit and come back. NBC also offer their download service for 2 of their programmes (Studio 60 and Heroes) which plays in full screen.
ABC: the player has a title sponsor with a banner link, the programme is bought to you by the sponsor and then there are limited ads between each act (Not sure how many, not got that far in the playing!)
CBS: Each section has a title sponsor and they have an ad between the acts.
NBC: nothing new here, again they offer a title sponsor with a banner link whioch changes per act. Each act has an ad before it. Interestingly the standalone player does not have ads (which I guess means that they may charge for it soon?)
In general, I get disappointed with the ads as very few of them appear to have been adjusted for the web, they are just TV scrapes. There is a lot of opportunity for marketers to make something a wee bit different to capture the imagination..and click through.
In summary, I’ve not managed to watch ABC content yet, I prefer the NBC experience of the player and CBS offer the best package. It’s not better than TV on Tivo, but it’s still pretty good.
I had read about how bad Time Warner cable were but did not really expect it to be this bad. The first issue was the inability of being able to turn up within the 4 hour time span allotted to the order. The guy was only 20 minutes late, but it would have been far nicer if he had turned up 4hours and 20 minutes earlier. In my 10 days usage, they have already had 2 outages of greater than 6 hours. Not fun when trying to work from home.
Update: I’m pleasantly surprised that Time Warner have credited my with additional days due to loss of service. And that someone had looked up my account and worked out I have still not got the TV hooked up (still got to buy it!)
My second complaint of the day is with with Ikea, or more likely Urban Express, who they use as carriers. Waiting in today for a delivery (in the oh so work friendly delivery slot of 11-3) they turned up at a reasonable time but then tried to slip out without actually letting me check the goods. Considering they had forgot the mattress, it was a pretty big problem. When Ikea eventually got through to them, they had definitely lost it. So now I have to wait more time before I get to sleep on a bed instead of an airbed.
From my trip to Boston at the weekend I would recommend The Gryphon House Bed And Breakfast, in Back Bay. Friendly staff, lovely rooms, nice breakfasts. It’s not in downtown but the subway station is just round the corner and from my perspective the MIT campus was in easy walking distance. And if you are interested in baseball, the RedSox stadium is practically next door.
Another recommendation would be Joanne Wong of
citi-habitats.com, a New York real estate broker, who managed to find me a half dozen places to see at a few days notice that met my requirements and included landlords who did not mind the lack of a US credit history, walked me through the letting process and kept it all simple for me. Following up with a card and a voucher for a department store was just icing on the cake.
Not the Real World Anymore
Virtual spaces are more than sites for emulating the real world. They are becoming platforms for thought experiments — some of which involve fantasies we would not like to enact in the real world, others involve possibilities that we may want to test market before putting into practice. Much more than simulacra of Real Life or a 3D version of text-based Internet communities, online worlds represent new sites for considering questions of community and connectivity. Marked by user- creativity, online worlds balance, sometimes precariously, the rights of users with the rights of sponsoring organizations. As we move closer to the cyberpunk vision of a wholly parallel ‘metaverse’, questions of power, community, and property are coming to the fore.
I did not take notes on the intros which turned more into presentations about the worlds and attitudes. See the user biographies and the official blog for this info.
Josh: what is the attraction of an online world?
John: what’s the attraction of dreaming? Two things…connecting with people around the world with similar interests. You connect people on a global sense and you can find people that like what you like.. secondly the dreaming part…the virtual environments speak to brain on a deep biological level…we thrive in a 3d environment. We got it wrong in the 90s with people wearing gear on head…we can take just enough info and form a complete whole.
Ron: in general there is an aspirational quality…to find some of our hopes realised…it sort of widens pipeline of information coming in…online we loose the rich environment that we are in…we lose tactile, visual info and in a virtual space you can at least being to replace these. You can create visual cues, although not a subtle as rich…people develop ways of wishing to speak next etc…there’s more info///you can replicate more of daily experience
Todd: just to participate. participate in the media…people are using more media than they ever have.
Q: Are these global spaces? Are they a third or 4th place?
John: we’ve lost some of those places like bars etc the place where social capital is bridged…this can take the place…we have the opportunity to have a global audience…we can find the best matches for our ‘tribe’ we can have weak ties as well
Ron: some of the fun is the process of developing those ties
Q: is there a distinction in types and activities between the free ranging spaces like SL and WoW? How significant is story?
John: Sl is fundamentally a blank slate…it is an environment within which there are games. And the games can vary. There is 19th century England, there are zoning laws, if you say the word dude you will be bought to task. They make analogue watches. You have other role playing types. We like to experience stories, there’s room for all of things. At times I want to sit back and have a movie fed to me and …there’s room for all. People like to go between, from a game with predefined goals to just socialising.
Ron: interest in this sort of creativity is global…there’s this spectrum, between top down and bottom up creation. danah wrote about the value of being able to flex in and out of different social identities, disneyland is a whole lot of fun at times; there are design and management aspects that go into Disney that makes it very successful. Similarly, too, I’m not sure…I’ve also worked with Myst community. In a nutshell you have found this place…blurring this line between participant and player. How you create story space, as opposed to top down creative mandate, you’ve got participation with wide story space…create something that people can tell stories within the bounds. Tech is enabling us to look at the question now.
Todd: Virtual Laguna beach…just starting out. It was meant to be ‘flat’ etc, we went into this with assumption that there was a huge fanbase who would not normally participate in these kind of things. So what sort of games would these people work with. Working with Secret deodorant…it is a partner. The campaign to get women to tell their secret…they had a tv campaign and they created forum inside virtual leguna to talk about their secret…using machinima to record their secrets…we evaluate and then have an event to play the confessions. That ability to be showcased… plays out well for advertiser and for us.
Josh: We talk about these sites as places to explore thought experiments. Are these places for corporations…can we take things back to real world…or are the things real relationships in themselves and do not need to be experimental.
John: the concept that we are a single identity is an illusions. We are different at work, with family, with friends. Online environments are showing how fluid our brains are. I think the people in these environments are extremely real even if they seem a little weird. There is a beauty to people exploring different aspects of themselves. Unless everything is in a clear roleplay you should assume all these interactions are real.
Ron: simulations in respect to gameplay…simulations are learning experience and that is a large part of why we do things. This can be games to social skills. You can say that we take those skills back out of the world but in another sense it is the same stuff. We are not differentiating these experiences, no switch between real and not. That is coming more and more obvious, developing a richer interrelationship between two facets of lives.
John: I work with aspergers syndrome, where knowing social situations does not come instinctively…they can learn through practice and is terrifying…worked with online patient communities..loved using online boards etc to become social and dipping toes in water. Bought a group into SL which was private…create ideal social setting…one started making boats and selling it. They use the environment to practice social skills, they thought they were learning how to do it. They got confidence, they achieved something. Now when they go into physical world, it was still scary but they could do it.
Eric: testbedding, you can test marketing, people ar living out lives for hours and hours, they spend more time there than with products in real worlds. How do you make real products inside, treat them like real places etc. They are new hangout spots, the hottest places, accessible anywhere in the world. We can treat them like real people…
John: do not look at like a Petri dish, need to engage in conversations and realize there are social fabrics to them
Ron: that was one of the guiding visions at the founding at multiverse…that the cost to building was such a barrier…so independent teams could not make them… multiverse gives these opportunities. There was no way for indis and academics to do it. This gives a toolset for people to experiment.
Josh: there was article in Harvard Business Review…advertising and branding was about tapping into peoples fantasies. So is your avatar you…are the avatars actual representations?
Todd: they can be. If you understand why people chose there avatar you can market to that.
Ron: the emerging change in relationships between content creators and consumers…we are moving out of time when there were definitive answers and it is all becoming a flux with dynamic interaction and there will not be a solution that applies across the board.
John: it is important to give people freedom…In SL there is a place called Dublin that can be created….but you see people and giant robots in the place. You have a fluidity of how people represent themselves…it was all created by the residents…give people the tools to create what they want to create…what they do is not completely bizarre and is not completely mundane but somewhere in the middle. The create bars and streets and a dash of Through the Looking Glass.
Eric: widely successful show, went to the city of Laguna beach…the show producers. Took about 10-12 kids and they follow their lives and how they live around the city. We decided to take the show and make a virtual world. It is not exactly the same city, but majority of places in the show are there. There are restaurants, shops, everyplace in the show we try to map out. At the start of season 3 we were working about what it would be. We decided to build the city out, and when cast go to spring break in the show then we unlock the place in the world…you can do the same things. They watch it on Tv and then come in world and lvie the Laguna world. It was unbelievable how quickly…once they saw what the event was, they gravitate towards it. The kids are barely video game players, definitely not in 3d worlds. We gave them the basic tenements of how to walk, talk and shop. It is still an attractive place,,people come top meet up
Todd: in the testing, in this world we had people teaching us but we had to start completely fresh, teching how to walk and talk. Some of it was the shock that was actually happening as they do not do this. We had advertisers that were connected but they were doing it as a test. A lot of media outlets were interested in what we are doing. We were not trying to make the front of NYT, but there was interest.
Eric: ways we didn’t expect? When we first started, we tied it to the show, they would play out the show. They quickly formed own community, did own events formed own friends.
John: can they create own events?
Eric: yes, lots of clubs…we blocked out and let them book events. In the first month there was a birthday party and an engagement party…people went on dates. They made it their own very quickly
Todd: we did not expect it to be as much…because they were not used to it..but they quickly wanted to it.
Todd: one of the biggest challenges was giving up control
Ron; you audience are much more appreciative of a brand…the younger gen is a lot more media savvy.
Ron: the users have created some things…not ramped it up. We want to promote it, there has been some. Its an unbelievable new video medium…the characters respond well, it looks beautiful and that is what we spent a lot of time with people on show making sure we accurately reflected the show.
Josh: as transmedia, what the problems of creating this?
Todd: you have to do stealth work; not everyone if company is aware of the worlds; the system could not take it to get approval from all sorts of people; you have to get people to embrace it, who can help you further along. We are trying to play in their world.
Josh: is SL amenable to a transmedia space?
John: of course. People do, they can buy islands, it is vary doable. You can make it as open or as closed as you want. The first wave of educators wanted it closed…when in a new medium you create what you did in previous mediums. You can control permissions, you need to define for yourself how tightly you need to hold onto everything. Give people the tools, they will run with it. The most important thing to do is to realize they are full of real people, not just consumers.
Ron: multiverse toolset will allow people a very rich opportunity to create. At some level what I think we will see is a culture to encourage experiments.
Josh: what happens when the experiments end?
Ron: the quick answer is…it is becoming more dynamic world and some will fold…and lessons are learnt. The Myst space, having closed down, the users tried to reverse engineer, they went ot other worlds and created Uru diaspora. Cyan released a publically accessible version of the server to continue it. They are now re-launching it due to this community…there is whole range of things that could happen
Josh: what happens if Laguna beach cancelled?
Todd: we have great hope and faith that it will carry on…media does such a terrible job of letting people, to carry on with their love for the brand. If it does cancel there are enough people to keep this alive and hten who knows where it goes. It could turn into a whole other realm. It is very exciting.
Q: what do you think about threat to tax inworld transactions?
John: the government is interested in you getting cash. In SL, it is the same when you get US dollars from Linden dollars. This is all very muddy waters, how do they tax in world. In WoW everytime I kill a boar I pay a tax cos there is a value???
Ron: people in teen world (Laguna) more open to sharing and giving things. So when people come up to you and give you something digital should that be taxed?
Todd: in MTV there are people who go after this exchange of IP, meanwhile the mass of the company is not that way. Depends on who gets the more attention, things can move ahead sometimes form revenue. We look at putting the user in control but squeezed with revenue.
Q: the idea of multitasking and how the younger generation can handle more and more…my sister can handle 10 things at once and I’m 6 years older and can’t do any of that.
Todd: right, young are quite adept at multitask…but look at the numbers, adults are actually more adept than they think they are…look at the work world. People between 21-49 squeeze 35 hours in a day. Media is playing a bigger role, media is less a part of people over 25.
Q: SL economy…what kinds of things are people buying and selling? What is the driver for people to buy ‘food’
John: avatars, clothing, skins, devices, objects, anything you can imagine. Also services, real estate market, people have mad landscaping skillz who charge for this service. But why do people go to a bar, sit down. Here’s a restaurant that take s reservations and a chef prepares food a the table. Why? There is a prt of the brain that like certain things regardless of whether it makes sense. Whne you meet people, you end up sitting down. Why are there houses with roofs? It feels good. It somehow feels right having a pizza in a bar when hanging out.
Q: watching Laguna Beach, as it is tied to a show…do the creators of the show check in on the show, take a look at how fans are interacting with the characters.
Eric: the characters are not there. But we have bought in the cast as celebrity appearances. A huge part of the world is talking about the show, everyone has a strong affinity with the show. There is a lot of learning going on, not just virtual but other places.
Q: I’m looking at this and seeing an opportunity for soaps to crate a world to get people to react with characters, give the writers tools to see how people interact.
|Todd: I’m trying to kill the focus groups. The responders have learned how to manipulate this. It is not what it is about, it needs to remain objective. We screen show in world and get responses that way. At the beginning the creative people were not involved…but we crated it first and when they had something to react to and then we got them involved.
Q; coming out of MUDs etc, what sorts of responsibilities do you think you have regarding addiction? What sort of safeguards should be in the technology to watch out for things
Ron: these experiences are very positive, we do it as we seek to have positive results and often succeed. What is happening is a going awareness of culture and media and the interaction. The culture will continue to learn..
Q: what about the digital divide debate? You as the designers of these new public spaces have gone far beyond traditional designers of public spaces…they have fallen by the wayside….not a question but a general vibe about the overlap of the environments…the difference between my avatar and me can be vast and what overlaps are you seeing.
John: these spaces are very real…look at history of any new medium we think it is going to destroy society. We end up finding a balance. They are just different mediums.
Ron: the paradigms that work for our grandparents do not work for us…but this has been the case for awhile. …. I think it wonderful that teens are not constrained by peers in their immediate location…we are discovering all sorts of emergent stuff and we will continue to do so.
Todd: the digital divide? People are working towards new opportunities, they are not all predicated on people have cable tv and about devices that are more readily accessible. We are aware of the divide, some data shows it is collapsing or is growing. Other brands across the network are targeting these audiences.
Q: I’ve been thinking about Snow Crash…in that world you programming chops defined how you were in the metaverse, it was a single platform that everyone could be in. As these things become more pervasive and talking to each other, people will wan tot take their avatar with them. Is there another kind of divide among about people who can and cannot generate experiences in the world?
John: I suck at making avatars…so I bought this one. Anyone can create things and sell them. There are business opportunities…and that is the way to will be. There is the opportunity for specialisation if you give the tools, the market will solve those problems as it does in the real world
Ron: in the high end WoW your gear indicates what quest you have been in. In multiverse world you should be able to go to the worlds from same client and possibility with same avatar. We are developing a market place for content creators. There is adialogue between marketing and culture that is fascinating as well, part of the human culture defining itself, how we evolve culture,…ties back to individual experience.
Q: Transmedia aspects? How much control about people commenting on experience and community to support. How often do real world communities comment back in the space?
Ron: there’s an evolution, especially in MMOs, where you are tied into the community and my job is learning from the community. That is going to be more and more how content creation compnaies understand their role but interacting with their communities and establishing relationships.. the ones that will be successful…will be sincere.
Eric: we are actively in VLB talking to people, reacting ot people, we change how we do things, how we message things and who we talk to, we posted a forum link buried deep and we got 200postings in 2 days. We love talking to them, some of them we promote and we have a special club and are in constant communications. We love to hear it, they will make it a success.
Q: what are the 2-3 most effective and ineffective research techniques
Todd: ineffective: focus groups, quantitative surveys that are unmediated, you can field a survey and probe when required…where you get moderation to probe, combine qual and quan. Effective, observations research if great…so you see how people are using the worlds etc, costs more money but payoff is greater. Panels never been a fan of and try to avoid, less effective unless tied into something real.
Q: On topic of content creation and having customers doing things in the world that you did not expect? How do you let people create avatars with the things they want? And how do you decide what tools to give people?
John: anyone in SL can create anything anytime, as long as the land allows it. The tools are in the hands of every single user can create. Give people as general tools as possible not to hinder people. You can do what you want…the scripting allows extensions. We give people a touchstone but fromn where they go it is up to them.
Q: concept of IP in these spaces? If I;m generating income from one of the worlds, what makes a creator allow people to move things…and what about the copybot problem?
John: the copybot is not just SL, it is what is on your computer that is copyable. It is more of an issue in SL when there is a inworld economy. We are going to have more attribution etc. from the beginning, we have said that you own it, you can do what you want. We retain some rights to use images in marketing but that is all.
Ron: our goal is to empower range for the designers. There are all kinds of experiences. On movement between worlds…I’m looking for all sorts of emergent behaviour…looking at the multipass..maybe a few designers will join up and sell worlds as a package.
Q: to what extent to these worlds have plans to integrate with the larger information space with the net and leverage that as a way to navigate this information?
John: you can bring video and audio, you can use the scripting to pass info into and out of SL…eg flickr integration. The platform is open to all sorts of things,
The first session today is on Fan Cultures.
Once seen as marginal or niche consumers, Fan communities look more ‘mainstream’ than ever before. Some have argued that the practices of web 2.0 are really those of fan culture without the stigma. Courted, encouraged, engaged and acknowledged, fans are more and more frequently being recognized as trendsetters, viral marketers, and grassroots intermediaries. Fan affinity is being seized as a form of grassroots marketing, representing the bleeding edge of brand and property commitment. The sophistication of fan-created products rivals the professional products they honor, sometimes keeping defunct properties alive long after their shelf life might otherwise have expired. How is the increasing importance of fan behavior re-writing the media landscape? What kinds of accountability should media companies have to their most committed consumers? What kinds of value do fans create through their activities? What are the sources of tension that still exist between media producers, advertisers, and fans?
The speakers are: Diane Nelson, danah boyd, Molly Chase. Chair is Henry Jenkins
Henry: I had the experience of doing a blog search, and found a post about ‘normal’ people who watch tv, those who are fans who go out an buy things and the third is fanatics who get their cultural identity from the property. She misquoted, but it was interesting. But how do you define fans.
Diane: as new as everything is, it si all very much the same. the underlying themes are about understanding consumers, their motivations and respecting them. If there was a single definition, it is that there is a connection between a person and the property so that they feel a sense of ownership. It can be fanatical or can just be enthusiasm., It is important not to overgeneralise, you have to understand who they are and what drives them to speak with relevance and authenticity
Molly: respect is a running theme…you have to give them different expriences, gfrom the 2 min game to the year game. We cater for both. Speaking at the conference, people come up and say they speak Japanese to undersntad the shows but not everyone done so what are you doing for these people
danah: you have the agency to take things and mix them up; we feel as though all of this world, if we take parts of it we can make sense of it. A lot of the attempts to make digital bodies is an attempt to make sense, to put it in a form to share and show others something about yourself. When you see what people take on and are willing to appropriate to express themselves and other peoples reactions. A teenagers bedroom if filled with stuff, and the same things go on online and this info says somethings about them and marks them in relations to people. When you project you fanship out to there people it makes a social statements
Henry: How does this discourse give companies a better way of understanding their users.
danah: (overview of the history of social networks, especially the Friendster reaction to bands and how they did not help them and the myspace that offered to help bands). On myspace, it was the really hardcore indi rock kids who frist got on the site and they got their friends in, without the hard core fans, and they found the other things they could do. Music acted as a cultural glue and the site offered a wide vareiry of ways of interacting, allows the high participators to be in the same place os the ones who just want to hang out.
Molly: interesting on how fans use tech that you would not anticipate. They had a trading card community and introduced a trading game in 20003. they worked hard to allow people to find others; they had system in place to find exact players. They launched and it did ok but not what expected. So what were they missing? So they thought about it, and thought they do not care who they were playing against so they introduced an instant play, so they could play immediately and not find people. Use went up 20%. Kids already had a way to find people, they have these, they just wanted to play. Now they use prototypes more and do user testing we know that they will take on a life of its own.
Diane: there was talk about how isolating the web was, but the web is allowing the behaviours to connect. The behaviours are so fundamental and we need to step back and not overthink….the real thing to take into account is about control, they are going to modify and tailor the technology to suit there needs. We are moving form an industrial society to a social one, we cannot push things on people.
danah: the earliest waves of net culture were driven from an interest driven groups; they allowed people to come together with a shared interest. But real social lives have a funny network, they are not the same. you needed different ways to connect with different groups. SN structures are being built into sites, they create different ways, groups and me…so egocentric and topical interest group structures, and the 2 ways are starting to operate together. Allow you to move between them easily. This element has allowed traditional fandom to expand, to get people who don’t have a deep engagement to share as well, you are allowed to have a conversation about fandom because you are in a trusted group of friends.
Henry: we are seeing a changing relationship between media producers and fans,
Diane: it’s all about control. It is impossible in any relationship to demonstrate respect and trust without a dialogue. But the problem with a dialogue you may not like what the other person says. When creating content that is complex and the vision of a few and also coupled with financial goals and responsibilities you have an equation where one side is not that interested hearing what is said as ot makes difficult. The inference that UGC and professionally created content that is mutually exclusive??? There is still room for artists. The media producers may not want the dialogue in process of creating. The media compnaies need to recognise that when consumers begin to engage, you cannot turn that off; but difficult to deal with. Look at slash fiction and harry potter, how do you deal with this when it is primarily driven by children. The creator knows that the primary audien ce is children and is it ok to allow children to inadvertently wnader into an other area of fandom. Warner have learned, especially from potter, that you can’t simply make it black and white as every bit of expression os a good thing that will continue potter. But have to be prepared to say we are not going to condone, we are not going to tell you you canlt do it but we have a responsibility to the creators vision, we have to server the broadest audience. There are many properties where the the challnge is not so good; look at the matrix, their demo is more likely to be consistent and more manageable. It goes back to respect issue, if you fortunate to have a wide connecting consumer property you cannot shut it off but it is not as simple as leaving it wide open
Molly: working with a childrens property is difficult; we get emails complaints about some stuff and we find that people have taken the cartoons and made them porn. There are times to send out C&D; childrens stuff is a fairly easy one to make the call for porn.
Diane: opportunism shifts things to a different level; creative expression is one thing but intentionally trying to make money is different. How do you define exploitive and what is the responsibility of the rights owner. We have wonderful fan sites that are looking to make just enough money to run the site, we sometimes support that with small tthings, like tshirts, have to be careful with this. We have to monitor activity are they sustaining or are they trying to make profit.
danah: it is a question about who is trying to gain things by the control. Friendster wasadating site and they moved to stop people who were not dating and lkilledoff the hubs of people who just got hteir friends. When you start to kill off any attempt to create things. So what kinds of behaviour do you kill. Myspace kills profiles daily, such as hatespeach ones. The reality is these people are not connected so they donlt throw fits so don’t tantrum. It is important to have people behind those actions. Look at Tom Anderson, on myspace…it is all a hack, was running on coldfusion, in earliest days they did not do the normal tests on forms, people took it to change things . asmall group found out you could put any code in the profiles. Myspace noticed in about 24 hours…initial reaction was to stop, but they let it go and they watched. Tom acknowledgd it, said it was cool and asked them to be careful. They did not kill off bad stuff immediately…even when people started to phish, they killed off specific things, specific kinds of codes, but did not kill off the practice. They did not improve the profile creation etc, they just went with the copy paste culture; they started teaching people basic literature; give them the material to modify. Lots of sites are now up helping people to mod things. A culture is there about teaching people to mod things and is not about making it easy…it is very difficult to mod a myspace but an entire generation has figured out how to do it and support each other. When youtube started it had a lot of porn and myspace banned it, but fans reacted and then they announced that they had accepted it and the usage went right up. They stopped it because they did not realise what it was then supported it as it supported fan culture. How do you make that balance
Molly. Community is not always good, there are real life bullies and online bullies. Myspace can be stressful, how many friends do you have, do you have the right friends. It can be really negative.
Diane: on the batman movie, the script was very sensitive. A copy of the script was leaked, we found out that someone had the complete script and could prove it. There was a collective effort by fans online to make sure the script was not exposed. This was unusual; we respect the comics and we wan this experience to be great and we are going to self edit. The studio was fascinated.
Henry: a lot of restrictions are there to prevent damage to properties. Fans like property and this is a source of worth so how do fans increase the value,
Diane: they are the single biggest reason why properties are valuable. It is not a commodity…but can be until the fans see this and create value. I was hard pressed to think how fans can devalue a property; when they talk about it, spread it, embraces it, you have a momentum that any company should be thrilled to have. The value train should be pretty obvious (see transmedia) the real value is the cultural value. We won’t see harry potter again; it is a combination of a piece of art…and warner bothers started to engage it early and recognised that this is a property so owned by fans that if we did things to take ownership then we will be dead in the water. So we established guidelines to remind us about this. Put plan in place to say basic things, remind the franchises they needed to know the book, if you have questions about using the franchise then go back to the books. They put everything back to the books. We had to make conscious decisions about promotion partners, it did not need some things, we did not turn it into something Hollywood. The decision paid out in spades and is still paying out know. Recognising the value fans and make decisions that recognise that ownership
Molly: difficult to think of something where fans devalue. Look at Colbert and Hungarian bridge. Fans know their power and know the influence they have.
danah: looking at spaces where fans congregate. They need ads to stay alive. If some fans take it to the level of slash it can alienate the advertisers. If you have a diversity of fandom in one space and part is problematic and you don’t control it, it could spiral out of control. Tech companies go for separate or equal spaces, separate ages, or countries, as if this would solve it. Once you get images or videos look at the costs. You cannot afford it, consumption becomes a process and you have to rely on commercial monies and then you have difficult of diversity. Fans do not always approve of others fans activities. So for the owners at what point to the engage in the fan interactions. So how do you balance these anarchistic practices. Some of the difficulties come into the social plays in the economies around it.
Henry: so what role do fans play in marketing strategies? Some fans have noted the difference in treatment when a property is new vs a big success.
Diane: not an entirely fair assessment. Our recent batman and superman movies each had creators that were very engaged in property and fan bases and respected them.. there was dialogue that happened, eg Singer did a blog. He would show you anything. Had fan dialogue. To a certain extent it was controlled, but not from a marketing thing, which is brian determined the content, with a eye to what would impact in theatres. He was very inclusive with fans but not completely malleable.
If the fan stuff is driven by marketing, it will fail it has to be driven buy the creator.
Molly: the smaller the property the more fans have an investment in it. As a small network do not have much chance to put things out there, but try and do things. Have an explorer game, and did not include a map deliberately. So within days of launching a game, fans went out and created their own maps. They created venues to talk about the game. They are restricted in what they could contribute, but were interested observes. But we have not done a lot to seed things. On a summer campaign, there marketing dept put stuff on youtube…the legal dept sent a C&D – they did not communicate
danah: people put a lot of fake profiles on the site…then friendster did a fakester genocide. Then went and sold the rights for media compnaies to create fake profiles…and the fans went what the hell. Myspace never stopped it, which encourage…fans would create all sorts…if you best friend did not want one, you made it. On myspace profiles you show your friends, but you can’t show them all…myspace by letting you choose your 8 friends. Users wanted top 16, top 24 etc, the number one request. Myspace sold this feature to Xmen…if you make friends with xMen you can have a top 24. this drove friends to XMen…and you got all their bulletins. So you can post all the information this way. Now everything has a profile, that is used as a marketing tool and that now everyone ignores. When fans are doing as it is fun and interesting they are happy. When feeling they are being manipulated they are not happy. About half are under 18 and the most are under 35…there are tensions with the influencers…ie parents etc and those who want to abuse the users, ie marketers and paedophiles. Parents and marketers are flooding the system with ideas of how the system should be used so it feels like it is user manipulated not user generated.
Henry: fandom is global. Even if owners want to control access to locales. Is this changing the way media producers make decisions.
Diane: talking about it a lot at WB, but in terms of piracy. Not always easy or the right things to put things everywhere at once. Something we are grappling with, hits early in the cycle for marketing, ie trailers go global. Media companies are going to be forced to integrate or they will die. It has not changed the model yet, other than thinking of implications now. It is forcing us to better appreciate the consumers; do not assume they are stupid. We have to really work hard not to under appreciate the fans. they may want to see on the web, and the movies and the tv.
Molly: one of the biggest challenges early on was not to show a show in India as it would be offensive. Now cartoons are spread. Subtitles japans. Just because fans take copies, does not mean they won’t want to own the dvd. The window of introducing shows has come down, various issues. But getting this done is complex, getting everyone to work together at the same time. It is now more a matter of logistics then trying to manipulate the windows.
danah: there is an assumption that if you put it out there it will be global instantaneously. But creators are having to deal with this, understanding the reach. It does not mean that it is global, how do you balance global vs local. Information that has stickiness flows through networks and the majority of networks are local. Certain people have the power. Most people do not. Interesting question about how far content can reach. Marketers want to capitalise the influence agents. Things do have viral growth that is powerful but can be very slow. To what degree are people just surfing. Tags are the dumbest things…but are the pot smokers dream and you can just click and get content. A lot of search and surfing is random, looking for cool things. Teenagers click on links randomly to see where they get.
Q: biggest issue we have, about relinquishing control, it can be extremely negative. We have tonnes of fake profiles of our entertainers…so what sort of controls have been put in place in the communities to keep a handle on it. We want to encourage the fans who create these fake profiles but have control.
danah: myspace is outing in controls which is pissing off the fans. there is an opportunity to work with your fans to work with them and redirect the information. A lot of the band stuff on myspace is with bands who do not have money to do the site and engage the fans to push the stuff. With your situation it may not be as bad…you have people enjoying being the characters.
Diane: instead of thinking about controlling it look for the opportunity to tap inot to get information out. The sites have extensive reach to fans that have interest and can use it to get words out. Rather than controlling use the network to get the word out. Give people the alert that the profiles are not real.
danah: when fans are involved they do not want people to be manipulative, to make inappropriate stuff. The fans will do the legwork if you let them.
Q: there is confusion and trying to find the line between marketing and trying to support the community. For our generation we are resistant to commercialisation and the one behind us have grown up with far more. Are the youth so immersed in advertising you do not have to worry about crossing the line?
Molly: we have lots of restrictions around how we advertise (as a kids site) kids are brilliant at ignoring or taking on the marketing. The first question we get when launching things is what’s the catch. You have full episodes and people ask what is the catch…happy that it is advertising rather than subscription
Diane: you can never take for granted younger peoples screening process… so even if coming up with immersed experiences does not mean they are not savvy in rejecting. My hope is that there is some kind of greater onus to advertisers to up the bar in getting the message out. They are more savvy and can demand and reject advertising.
Molly: with advertising content is king. If not interesting then it will be rejected.
danah: teenagers are so used to it they blank it out…’you don’t make relevant ads so it is useless’. Look at revver, lonelygirl15, you get paid to share the videos if someone click so the ad. You put the video on your site and you get the money for ad clicking. In US, ads are the economy but it is not global, ie not making sense in china. Look at SN sites that are micropayment supported. We have a set of paradigms because we live here, the UK and Aus following this but different worlds elsewhere and have to think about this globally.
Q: pre-web the distinction about a fan was whether you were active. It seems to be altered into a seamless continuum, where you can just identify yourself as a fan and that is enough. Are we coming up with language/jargon to identify the active people?
Molly: a fan is someone who is seeking out people who have shared the experience. We have not come up with new vocab.
Diane: one of the things I have learned with harry potter is how deeply personal the connection is. Whenever the new movies come out, the office get calls from families who have children who are dying who want nothing more to see the new movie…they do things to help this. It gets very very emotional; the activity with which someone expresses the fandom takes different forms, there is such a spectrum that is so personal. There is something that people connect with…it comes out in all different ways. I would to figure out language but there may be no way to do it
danah: language can be done but the categories can be dangerous. Each individual has the nuanced understanding of being a fan, what it means for them…at the other end of it is signalling and the cost of signalling. Online I can say that I am the biggest fan in the world and what does it take to prove it. People learn ways to challenge what people say. Online everything comes performative. People hold a metal model of the complexity that does not ness have to be categorised.
Q: there has been discussion about monetising fandom; is this a happy marriage between fans and the legal ownership. Or can you see a point when they come into open conflict. Or second, (missed second question)
danah: when I look at it…I am excited that google bought youtube,,we are used to challenges about copyright being individuals fighting big corps and we are now going to see a big fight to work out the big issues. One is a copyright issue about ownership and you have the net neutrality issue…I look at this and there are a lot of legal interesting issues that will be fought out on scale now. In terms of the queering of it, there a lot of questions. So who is the audience, what is the space and you don’t have the traditional walls, you had to be in the know before… now anyone can access but what are the implications..
Molly: in terms of the rights there is no substitute for an open dialogue. So on the adult stuff, we asked for content and were upfront that there would be nothing in return. You have security in place to look at submissions or you ignore and it is frustrating
Diane: the music industry was the precursor the rest of the industry. Optimistic that we will get something that people will use…we need to acknowledge that it is coming in some form…it is not that consumers will win with UGC…it’s not that simple…fans respect the creations. There are degrees to which we acknowledge and it should…let those people who want to connect do so freely but not role over into other audiences who are not looking at it.
Danah: the networked publics have 4 properties.: .persistent, searchability, replicability and invisible audiences. These existed before and are really are part of everybody’s life and this complicates the relationships between fan practices and the industries connected to.. now it is searched for easily.. and you can see how it is being used. You can’t build the walls back…you are dealing with a gen that is growing up with that kind of life.
Q: as an interactive company we try and make sure that everything is engaging…but other compnaies do not…isn’t myspace partly responsible for curating what is on there…to keep it call. The agencies have to make sure they are making things cool…and clients who just want to do it cos its called and myspace where it is there environment and maintain a little piece of exclusivity.
Danah: myspace: you cannot pay attention to all that happens…tom is on there 20 hours a day but that does not mean they see everything. 2/3 of staff surf looking at site…looking for illegal activity = predators, hatespeach and copyright. They may not be able to manage all the stuff, keep it cool…it is a risk…the amount of stuff that is dumped there…there is no cost to create a profile…dans just ignore the trash…most of the users of myspace have no idea of the wide variety of stuff that is on there. Most users do no searching on site, look at friends pages…only search when bored. The direct marketing is killing things of. Phishing is much more insidious…bulletin advertisements written with hacked in accounts. Very disruptive…they are trying to keep up…
Q: to what extent do you think about migration from web to a mobile environment?
Diane: fans want to interact everywhere you can authentically and realistically give them the experience. It is not just about slapping a label on content, but it is suited for the environment we have struggled to do it at the quality level fans want. If you find the right content to serve up fans will absorb it as much as the rest.
Molly: a mobile becomes an extension of you personality…we take careful pride in creating content specific to the medium…we do original stuff that is relevant. The experience you will have an immersive online experience that you can check in with mobile stuff but not duplicating.
danah: In the US there is a huge problem with mobile and that is to do with carriers…they have complete control of the applications, so no one can put innovative social media on the phone which is harming the media. There is stuff happening outside the US, in japan, etc, fandom is on the phone as well. Young people by phone and repurpose it…in US we are obscenely behind rest of world and there are a lot of factors…I hope it will emerge but we will see it in Korea and China first. Pay attention to google looking at mobile phone OS. You need the neutrality of phone for the apps to do things. People want to do things but costs too much and is so difficult,.
Q: Is community and fandom part of the same continuum…and as trying to create community for content creators and are there lessons to be learned from fandom.
Molly: for animators the community is small and overlapping.
danah: community is one of the most problematic words…you see groups of people that come together…in fandom, prior to SN, the creators of the content had little access to their fans…and for many it is a powerful opportunity and the small bands begun to frame their community and leverage it. There is a symbiotic relationship between bands and fans…rallying the fans and the fans can display their friendship and use it. Forming those kinds of relationships is key…networks practices that do not rely on physicality have been key to success.
Q: has anyone looked at triggers to get people from casual viewer to a committed fan? Do the media compnaies have an interest in understanding
Henry: no science to it…a lot of research… there are a few frameworks…it is hard to measure emotional intensity… after 20 years not sure any closer to understanding…
danah: most of how you can measure is based on the traces they leave…which is about activity rather than emotional response. Facebook newsfeed let your friends now what you are doing…the experiments are raw and awkward but will begin dot be applicable in surfacing up traces.
Josh Green gave the introduction speach this morning – Viscerality and Convergence. A very image driven presentation so no live notes taken. The key message is about the reactions to technology; how we bash hit and play technology until it makes our rules. Look at the reactions, in images, the doctoring of the advertising, that happened in the reaction to the Zune. How people respond to being constrained or how technology relationship change your behaviour. How by buying an iPod it changed his relationship to music. That he can put lots of music on there. The relationship he has with the iPod feels social, he uses it to facilitate the social.
People are starting to get it, and what they are starting to get is the changed relationship. In a converged environment, the way that we relate to technology is changed.
Social networks let you be somewhere, let you rub up against people and get to know them, experience the social. Social networks have moved towards trust networks. Where style leaders for an individual are people you know and trust. moves away from the the wide network to the focused group. We are move more towards a tactile relationship, not jsut putting things out there and expecting you to soak it up.
The audiences does not equal behaviour; it is not a series of reactions. there is a transition of impressions to expressions. The audience now offer expressions of what they think. Fan fiction is consumer expression. People take the commodities and turn them into culture. The paradox is that media producers make commodidities..but in order for it to be successful it needs to be transformed from a commodity to a cultural artifact. But once it becomes culture you have to cede control, it is no longer yours.