Mar 23

BlogHer Biz – Closing Keynote

Closing Keynote: Is the Ethos of the Social Media World Changing How We Conduct Business Online and Offline? Lisa Stone moderates this discussion about whether corporate leaders are seeing and leveraging more ideas generated from the outside in and from the bottom up as they lead their household brands into the future. Lisa is joined by iVillage President, Debi Fine, Google VP of Search Products and User Experience Marissa Mayer, Redbook Magazine editor-in-chief Stacy Morrison and WashingtonPost.Newsweek Interactive CEO Caroline Little for the discussion.

You are being charged with continuous innovation. Can you tell me one thing that you have done that was unthinkable

Stacy – we have built the site twice over the last few years. We used to do all the work inhouse; we were going to put all the magazine content online, we were going to have blogs; the website was first opportunity to set out my vision. Comments were going to be open, we were not going to edit etc, all of this was startling, asking about cannabilising sales etc. The benefits of getting people to read it outweighs any sales lost.

Caroline: we launched 2 participatory blogs, on religion, bring in all sorts of religious leaders, have experts respond, readers ask questions etc. it;s the second highest traffic blog we have done.

Debi: ivillage, the thinking was that ivillage and the today show were synergistic. they are building on each other; we were taking 2 major brands and trying to merge them and make the relationship productive. Trying to integrate without losing either value, it was important, felt is was important to create blueprints for success. It is just the beginning, using that blueprint across the network. As a newly acquired business, have to show up with what we can do for you, not asking favours. Had to give a fully baked, end to end strategy which is now getting traction. It needed to be reciprocal relationship and the today folks were ope to this. we are a content source as well now, we are making progress,

Marissa: as we look at tools that we have built, it is about powering the suers, look at blogger and YT. building a culture that empowers people who have ideas to take the ideas and make them reality, give the 20% time,let them think of their own ideas.

Lisa: do you hire differently, with social media changing how you work (or not)

Stacy – magazine publishing is like a miniature tribe, a slumber party. I’m used to a team that drinks the koolaid, so I hire people that get the same mission. i bought in a team that did not know exactly where I was going; we’ll find out who is good and not, I asked people to edit their personalities, understand what part of their lives belong to NY, what is public, I started to teach my team about managing my persona. When I launched the blogs, we just went to see who was good at it. We coached them, they did not have to do it. I told them I did not know what was coming next and we are working our way through it. You have to be secure in the fact I will figure it out, I tried to reduce their anxiety, keep giving me feedback and we will work it out. Content has doubled, and no-one has quit.

Marissa: Google has a unique atmosphere where teams are fluid, there is not a strong hierarchy. Analysts said to me that orgs tend to mirror the processes they put in place. In google, the culture resembles the networks we work on. People fill in with what they are good at; there is respect for experience and inexperience.

Debi – we have changed what we think of talent and culture. At ivillage, the reason we are seeing the the traction, as the team is hybrid in its nature, different from magazine, but far more similarities. Culture is driven by people and product and that is how you drive a product. We have people from many different backgrounds; there is loyal tenure and fresh perspective.

Caroline: there is a tendency to think the paper will never change; and even in our own group I saw this happening. I hired a skunksworks group, young people, extreme programmers, work differently from team This has been a challenge and gets people thinking in a different way.

Lisa: how often are you in reactive mode vs actually innovative:

Marissa: it varies. on whole, we are much more reactive than proactive. we have lots of users, problems we have to deal with. but a little bit of innovation goes a long way, that yields tools and products go a long way.

Lisa: what is the rate of return for the 20%

Marissa: I looked at last 6 months, what products came from where. About 50% of new features/products came from the 20% time, You do need to do reactive./operation work

Debi: it’s pretty equal, we have a business that has been there for over a decade and trying to lots of new things all the time. we are respectful of our heritage but doing due diligence of what should change. We are 6 mnths in, we are being wisely respectful an mindful.

Stacy: I’m not reactive, I don;’t live in same world. I am recontextualising the brand now; questions of context are paramount, I’m not up to minute. I think about women a lot of time. I spend a lot of time playing games online, the innovation comes from the mundane, thinking about women. You have to create delight, that what makes people come back. And on April 9th we’ll see some results

Caroline – we are reactive. 100% of the time. What I find important is to keep innovating. Contextualise what we are doing and where are we going.

Q: With all the innovations.brands, what have been the biggest hurdles measurement wise.

Debi: the toughest area is budget. We have to understand for ourselves and then communicate well throughout GE which is numbers driven. We have to fit into corporate structure. Education is focus.

Stacy – the Hearst digital group is new; we are in the honeymoon phase and we will figure it out later. They made a significant investment; it is early for us. 2 teen sites went live last monday and things are going really well, all inventory sold. The company is feeling confident.

Q: Content distribution..we have 3 destination media sites and a search engine to find the sites. What is the future, who is the key portal, are you dependent on the consumer knowing where to go or will we see more partnerships. exclusive content.

caroline: search on the web is a big challenge. I don;t think anyone will hold the door. Findability is a huge issue on a site, within a site. navigation and usability is one of the biggest challenges.

Lisa: the old model, build it, market it, hope they will come. is there a destination site anymore.

Stacy – I do not think there will be, except the super retailers. with redbookmag.com, it will never be a big giant. ivillage gave us a lot of traffic but replaced this by making simple content deals with MSN.com, drive 25% of online subscriptions. We get partnership deals. I’m not looking for a lot of big deals, looking at a lot a small sites as well. Create community by finding women where they are. The long tail relates, when talking about how big brand need to relate.

Lisa: Caroline, you have a ad network

Caroline: I don;t think like a destination site, we look t engage, our bloggers, trying lots of different things.

Debi: the portfolio approach is important, we are looking at existing audience and the new stuff. we are trying the new stuff ans see what sticks but in a way that is strategic

Lisa: Marissa – what is the future of search, where do you want to be

marissa: there will continue to be the notion of a destination site, with brands that have fans. a lot is about growth, finding new content. there are trends, we see breaking down paradigms. see google, netvibes, my yahoo, small modules of content. we have google gadgets, on macmac OS, vista, there are pockets of in that are coming important for distribution, they are less of a commitment. I would not make netflix my homepage, but will take a module to put on desktop or homepage. the commitment is less, I will make it part of my experience. the modules are interactive, functional, content flow by and that is compelling.
I think that search os just starting; keywords are limiting, instead of what the page is about. we want to see richer forms of interaction, contextual finding, desktop follows you and have modules that change as you go. new forms of asking the question and answering it, video and images etc. looking at how to bering back richer results and extend how people interact with google.

Q: Sue Thomas – I run online degree in new media. they students want careers in providing people with new media. Often those who write best for new media are not the traditional people. what qualities are you looking for?

debi: we talk a lot about what works and does not. There is a sense of urgency for immediate result. We can try people out and see if they work and get immediate response. they have to find a place their voice resonates.

Stacy – still think traditional trained journalism schools make the best, can be trained in formats but the core skills about research etc are still valid. You need a bit of everything…you also need to do sizzle copy, (hardest to find people) to do short and to do long form.

Caroline: we run online newsroom; I think abut flexibility. A print journalist may take video and photographs that go on site as well as story in paper. Think about how to tell story with different assets.

marissa:> You need to have the fundamentals, in a growth industry, new media can give all of these and so a lot of opportunities.

Lisa: what are people used for searching:

Marissa: mobile is very small and we may have to invent something different; keyword search is bad on the phone. Google has a lot of data from phones, look at Japan, they do train schedules, news, games etc, we need to put together something for the space, eg maps is the highest used tool. Find places. easy to find things. as we get gps on phone will get even better. Web-based searches are interesting, some come to destination site and others use the search box in the browser and in the desk top. The browser box, 30-50% use the box, a lot of people skip the homepage, so we have taken our doodles and echo them on the results page as people are skipping all the time.

Q: are you monitoring, how are you identifying people.

Stacy – no, not yet.
Caroline – we use technorati and we keep an eye on what is being said but not full monitoring.
Debi – when i think about the force of the consumer, that customer rules and has always done, but now with a much tighter hand, she’s in charge now, we need to be in a predictive state. Our users crated our ads.
marissa -obviously we are! google analytics, lots of tools. we are a data driven culture and less political. we have the law of large numbers. the designers, whose design gets picked becomes political, we can just run them both and do a/b testing and see what wins. really sophisticated tools. Google alerts was one of my projects, so I run it for google and see daily snapshots. assume the PR dept is aware of all the stories were placed, fro their reports you cannot tell which are largest etc, the alerts give me the digest of what is happening. I use that. Look at Tech, daypop, slashdot, you get a lot of excitement

Lisa: you describe something that is revolutionary -you tell us.

Stacy – but magazine covers have been done. there is precedence.
i
Q: how do you predict the audience readiness? once we do it we know the audience was ready, but how do you know what to pick?

Marissa: we look a lot at growth, we look at the trends, the growth. earlier eric asked which questions are products are successful. we looked at month over month growth, some were 5%, but that is what the web is growing at. Look at YT, MS they area growing really fast, 25%. less than 10% then not good, over 15% are great. Comcsore etc ad at actual number, but good at relative numbers, growth rates, has less to do with buzz but with broad growth over a number of months.

Q: are you paying attention to AI research, natural language processing etc?

Marissa: by background is AI; a lot of the researchers look at it, we think that is where the big wins will come from.. Look at our overall infrastructure. Look at our spelling feature. it is built off our query stream, we look at patterns, we can do amazing corrections over time, Now we see people using google for spelling. We offer it in 140 languages, This is a UGC effort. we do 20-30 languages and take volunteers from round the world to translate. Weather Underground offered more languages than google – it got people to help, now we get people to help on the pages. Spell correction is in about 50 languages.

Q: you are all ad supported, so how have all these changes affected your outlook

Debi: Advertisers are more interested in integration; align assets with advertisers. they are looking for us to be solution driven. The expectation is for us to address their solutions. The onus is on us to align assets, and raise the bar with performance.

Stacy – I worked in the bridal market, it was deeply colluded – buy ads, get dresses in mags. I challenged this strategy. We worked away from a million dollars of unprofitable ads. And changed it. Bridal was so backwards it was ahead of its time. I want to have relationships with advertisers, they are not ness smart enough in what they want. I don;t run a magazine I create a tribe of people, I know women, I can help you advertise. I can drive it forward and create the partnerships, it is experiential not an advertising platform. All about being the driver seat.

Caroline – it’s a little different for a news organisation. it’s a fun time for integration, and innovation.

Q: UGC on sites – what is the future on sites like yours.

Debi – we are open that we are aggregating content. you need the receptivity of audience and the organisation.
Caroline – about half of our blogs are by non-employees. I want more content like that on our site.
Stacy – when we relaunch..you;ll see. YOu have 2 layers. You tell us, what is your recipe, what do you do after a bad day. In magazine, it;s been there for a while. We are inviting specific bloggers, doing blogs to tell stories.

Lisa: you are describing how you are educating advertisers? And the former audience are educating us. Where do you see yourself in 1, 2, 3 years.

Marissa – changing the paradigm of computing for people. storing everything on google, accessed from anywhere. Makes sense to store in the cloud. Easy to share, facilitate sharing. this is our vision. making computing portable.
Debi – our audience is loyal, we have no1 site in UK and that is our blueprint for moving forward.
Caroline – we want to make the difference to keep news gathering alive and well.
Stacy – I have no ideas, but want to reinvent the mag, that we are relevant.

Mar 23

Blogher Biz – RFP for Engagement Measures.

An RFP for the Measurement Industry

Where is the blog measurement tool that could measure more than “eyeballs”, more than “authority” via inbound links, and could begin to approach measuring influence and relevance? Jory Des Jardins moderates this discussion between Amy Gahran, Elizabeth Lee and Jenna Woodul as they scope out what is, is not and ought to be available.

Jory: there is no way to measure influence, this panel will take a look at what is there and what is missing. There is a large disparity of opinion across different groups. We want to look at the different ways and get to some agreed place.

Jory: so what are we dealing with. As head of business dev with Blogher, I work with a lot of companies that want to measure the blogosphere. We work with traditional ad servers, we get the traditional stuff, but much cannot be tracked – ajax etc screws page views; a blog post is different to a page view, how do you value this? Is the page view dead?

Amy: no, but it is on lifesupport. They are useful, but not on their own, need context.

Jory – agencies are doing it right any more? You said the old agency mindset is no longer useful

Amy: all page views are not created equal, nor are all blogs. Technorati authority look at page views and inbound links to assess authority, this is stupid. you may have a blog with 200 hits, which come from the influentials, than that counts. Sports and pop culture, is that influential??? but high page views. Agencies, look for easy solutions, need more context than page views.

Elizabeth – I work with edelman; looking for the influentials. it is not static. you need to understand each individual, look at the partnership opportunities. Our won network asks this, looking for something similar to traditional media, where there are long term relationships. From a agency, pageview will always have some value, but putting it into larger context, commenting, blogging etc. Web is best representative to track WOM, with standards and structure behind research.

Amy -the same blogger may be influential on some topics and not others within a genre.

Jenna – useful, if you get 1% post to page views, then they are engaged. It is about the people, what are they doing, are they coming back, what actions are they doing when they get there. In early 1984, with AppleLink Community, late at night, one person, would keep hundreds of people online over night. so whatever the technology, it is always the people. It is about the engagement that keeps people coming back.

Jory: with Blogher, we got a lot of people set up with advertising. the stats that the bloggers had did not match the stats of the 3rd party ad server, by 40%. Bots and spiders do not get tracked by ad servers.

Jenna – we charge people based on pageviews. So when billing, customers did not want to pay for bots etc. We had to convince them that there was value for that. We see spiders, from search engines, so how many are new, how many return, so we can see how much the cost was for returning from search engines.

Q: how do talk to clients about identifying the top clients?

Elizabeth – we recommend doing in depth research; we recommend some online monitoring, could be one time to ongoing. we try and map out who talks and who listens. for niche topics, there may be a blogger just for that topic or part of the category. Who is listened to? it is part of much larger research picture. Then you have to see if they are open to be engaged by you; we develop different types of lists for different reasons.

Amy: I go about it a little differently; i go about backwards. I see who is listening. As specifically as possible what are the goals and who do they need to reach – what is the specific group. I try and find the discussion forums and see what they are saying and what blogs do they recommend.

Jory: Who uses technorati? Almost everyone. So what’s wrong with it?

Amy: they do not do a good job for relevance. icerocket and spear are better, does not filter out blogspam.

Elizabeth – use authority level to remove spam

Amy – i get better results to begin with icerocket/spear,

Jory – they all pick up slightly different.

Q: (Toby) Technorati can track different feeds for the same blogs, can confuse measurements.
Q: I still have not been able to claim my blog, so don;t like them…

Jory – so influence. So lets define. What do you look for?

Jenna – it is engagement, what do other people do as a result of that. the more engaged a community, the more sense to do things. Loyalty is 45x higher for those that get involved. They buy about 57% more, that come 9x more often stay 5x longer. A recent ebay study, looking at people who had ot been int he community. invited half to join the community, the active participants spent 54% more, did 4x as much listing and sold 6x as much. (and the lurkers also increased). See Harvard Business Review/Community 2.0 conference.

Elizabeth -the process of inciting change in thinking and behaviours, from source that is relevant and has a audience with vested interest.

Jory – it varies by the client..

E: one would be relevant frequency, how relevant is it to what you are seeking. How often do they talk, how close a match. then there is reach, but relevant reach, who is listening. Also identity, qualifications of the blogger. What authority do they have?

Amy: go to writeconversation.com, see the posts. organisations are busy about worrying who they are influencings and don’t worry about how it is influencing the organisation. when it comes to things that effect economics and other things, there are accounting systems, I was thinking about how influence can come into your organisation. So ideas can come in (R&D), insights from diverse perspectives, you get validation and motivation from people paying attention(HR). There is good will. (PR) And there is trust. (money/Sales) All of these things can be related to internal departments. Instead of through traditional metrics take to the accountants, to HR etc to see how to measure.

Jory: So Alicia, Harper collins, what challenges did you have bringing blogging over to them.

Alicia: the resistance was 2fold; publishing was traditional. they want to keep control and control how they look in public. blogs are not easily measurable; how do we do ROI. My response was you can;t, it is qualitative. We did an experiment, when we had one book with no media and we had virtual book tour with 40 influential parenting bloggers talking about this. Initially the feedback was fear (internally). they wanted to ask to take posts down, we did not let them..but there was a lot of conversation. Our amazon ranks jumped from in 1000s to 200s. there are a lot of people who do not see blogging as powerful as a newspaper review. It is slowly happening.

Q: I know the NYT are reading my blog for ideas and stories. this influences out as well. I comment in the papers.

Jory: How do we make it concrete?

Elizabeth: when we do audit, we recommend and then ongoing monitoring. you get valuable consumer insight. we recommend a full scale audit, so you get a benchmark, get measures at the beginning. we go out and determine what the client is looking for; is it the brand or the topic, the subtopics etc, look at competitor set. Look at how much chatter, how much relevant chatter. then what exactly are they talking about. Find out what they are really interested in. Next, who is talking about the stuff. Where are they talking, where do they choose to talk. After that, then links, citations, where are they getting the info, what do they share. finally tone and sentiment, we use tools and the human eye. We always tell clients about technorati, boardreader.com, Buzzmetrics is a partner; they have brandpulse; intelliseek is another tool they can provide. Brandpulse helps automate searches in the space, but is a heavy investment, so for smaller people, look at agencies that spread out the costs. Buzzlogic, their definition of influence changes – relevance (how keywords match up), occurrence, popularity (inbound links) attention – relevancy of inbound links. they have a algorithm and can be tweaked according to your objectives. They also map connections, between the influencers.

Jenna – Visible Technologies allows you to reply to people from an interface (Truview and Trucast) ; allows support representatives to reply (buzzlogic does this as well). Allows you to track things.

Amy: i deal a lot with news orgs and independents; I’ve got some low tech tools. Look at the server logs; google analytics is OK – visualisation is nice and it is free. Best way is omniture, still pay but worth it. Great interface, easy to use. All give you the referrer logs. very useful to see where people are coming from. Have a desktop feedreader, to allow opml import and export; this allows me to share search feeds across people; I have not found web based service for flagging and sharing items in a group. I use Newsfire on the mac. Comment tracking tools are important, but mostly suck. Co-comment is buggy, works well in general. co.mments is also there. I tend to use both of them.

Q: (Anil) your brand does not get that many mentins normally. SixApart may get 250 posts a day, I spend time going through it. I delicious things, I have an internal blogs. I just search on icerocket, sphere, setting things up, it’s like dashboard. I do the saem search on lots of tools, save each one on a tab and open regularly. There are only 2 of us, we do it quite well. we bookmark after answering, so we can track. On boards, people feel it can be intrusive, that they are in a private conversation and do not like big corporates butting in.

Jenna – if you have moderators on boards etc, get them to manage it and get them to pull out things.

Q: Is there something that is not an enterprise cost?
A: Buzzlogic appears to be a reasonable cost. It seems to be the most affordable tool found yet.

Amy – use your brain and use them well.. What are your goals; the more specific you can be about your goals then more specific the communities that you are targeting; then budget is more effective.

Q: (Michelle) – feedburner, you have your eggs in one basket. is there an alternative?
A: nothing really bought up

Jory – how about listening

Amy: it depends on situation and timeframe. you have to prioritise. I work with papers etc, and a lot of reporters were not happy with blogging; a friend of mine was not happy but then started to relax, to ask for opinions. He worked the environment beat, not a lot of space in paper, so started posting on blog, getting tonnes of comments, and the editors then allowed him more space in paper.

Jory: How do you make case for corporations? How do you create cases.

Jenna: they all have different reasons. if looking for buzz, then page views is important. Others are doing research, doing online events; eg a car company found out that moms wanted a extra cupholder which kid can reach. Campbells launched a soup, sent product out, got invaluable information. If other users are answering the questions, you can see how much support costs are being saved. Each customer wants something different.

Jenna – we are looking at creating an engagement scale…so we say the level of engagement. So we would like to track over lifecycle of a user.

Elizabeth: we are looking at it, trying to rank. We decided to build a proprietary tool to do the measurement, to match activities and input and output. We want an organised way to track and are working our way through it.

Amy: In the last session,Lena West said you cannot quantify ROI without looking at the whole daisy chain. So can we get an addon to linked in or something to track the networks? It would be cool to have a tool to track what we do and the results, track influence and favours. (this is a real application, Hilary Rosen -from the LWord. Ourchart.com)

Mar 23

Blogher Biz – Effective Blogger Relations

Notes from this session (and there is a hand out I’ll type up later)

Forget “the” A-List, Find Your Blogging A-List: Effective Blogger Relations

Identifying relevant bloggers in your space. The tools to determine their authority & influence. Effective outreach without backlash. Featuring blogger Elise Bauer, marketing consultant Susan Getgood and Michelle Madhok, longtime expert on women online.

Susan: So why would you reach out to bloggers?

Michelle: bloggers have a diffusion media; understand what is the volume of the traffic and how influential is the blog. Not about impressions but who you impress. Have to work out if right place for you.

Susan: if bloggers link to you, the inbound links are gold for SEO results; they are disproportionally influential in the marketing stuff?

Q: so what sort of communications?

Susan; they are like and not like a journalists; they are also the audience and potential customers. They have a different stake in it. A reporter may not use the product. They may not be as objective, not as nice i you screw up.

Elise: never form letters. Often they are not addressed to me, no intro. Even if know name, then not distinguishable; we share pitches across the food bloggers – we laugh at the form messages.

Susan: I get 4-5 press releases a week as I am a list. Nothing else. you have to be relevant. if someone writes a blog about food, about scratch cooked, don’t send cake mix.

Q: Issue with numbers that may be influential, how to narrow them down to fit in the work day.

Susan: bloggers are like the journalists; there are 10-15 journos on your A-list. bloggers are the same thing. You have to find which ones are right, what they write about. What are the ones that focus on what I have to write about. You have to read and know the blogger. Tailor what they are saying, only 10-15 that are worth reaching out.

Michelle – please do not send hard copy press releases. As PR, publish RSS feeds – with contact info so I can get back to them. Know the ecosystem you want to be in. Look at Quantcast, as a blogger get on it.

Q: Elisha (harpeCollins). I read the blog for a long period of time; some bloggers don;t have name on the blog, so I can;t address it to them,

Susan: if you read regularly, it will be pitched correctly. Write to them as a person. I have never written about a product adn I get all kind of product pitches.
Michelle – try whois.

Q: is there an easy way to figure out who are the top mom bloggers
Susan: start with Blogher or come to the conference!

Susan – if you reach the 10-15, they will write about it, they have an spreading influence.

Elise: I got an email from someone asking for site visitors and page views. I wrote back asking them about why, who are you, how much money do you make??? It was a PR person, representing a company, pushing products. Do not ping anon and ask traffic!

Susan: never ask a blogger to write about you and your products! See the sheet for dos and don’ts.

Q: (origins) we get emails from bloggers asking for info, 3-4 a week. So sometimes when they ask to be on the list, I’ll just send them a releases as I don;t have time to craft personalised. IS that OK?

Michelle: last week origins invited bloggers to an event, but there is still a divide between journos and bloggers. I love Lancombe, they had a big blogger event, they have a RM mailing list; talking about the blogger buzz and sends their mailing list to the blogs.

Susan: this is making your outreach exclusive, something that you are not giving to reporters. They launched greenstone and did a set of conference calls, asking a question of Gloria Steinem. They were giving access to something not normally there.

Q: (Beth, Conde naste) what about anon tips that may or may not be from a publicist. It has worked (ie Gawker). I want attention

A: Michelle – will publish if a good tip.
A: Susan: think about who you are reaching out to. if it is a site that attracts anon tips, then OK. Others it works. Think who your reaching too, talking the way they would like to be talked to.
Michelle: some mags are sending mass emails out to bloggers, see our new mag, link, see our new vid, link to it. So I write back asking them to link to me first. It is not a one way street , you have to generous.

Q: how can you wrestle with all the fast changes, how you change the topics. How can you invest without getting screwed
Susan: read backwards in time. you have to have an understanding of what they are writing about.

Q: I work with Amazon.com, met with Robert Scoble recently and asked the similar questions. His advice: Look back at who may have written about stuff recently, who has launched a similar product.

Susan: monitor keywords as well. See who is writing about it, you will catch new stuff.

Q: so what about linking back, how to do it?

Michelle: it depends what you are after. I think quid pro quo. Similar linking. needs to be a supportive back and forth; it has to be on par if relevant. Bloggers have enough influence as print.

Susan: so what does work?

Elise: working on a carnival, Cook with Tea, asking if the blogger was working on a post and saying would be happy to send you some tea, Adagio Tea. When dealing with smaller blogs, that are not used to being pitched. They get excited about it, will mention you. They sent different levels of gifts based on page rank (i figured out later). They never asked for a link, for a mention. just aske dif could send tea.

Susan: there is benefit on both sides; they have no obligation to write about you.

Q: Liz from Mom101 – KY Spray Mist. Approached me, sent this lube to all these parents and bloggers, cos it was hilarious and fin they got coverage all over the place. keep in mind how high interest the posts may be. KY may be more interesting to write about then pineapples – can they have fun writing about it.

Q: one of my clients is an alpha dating site and they want to invite relationship bloggers to sign up and try it. and that could be a lot of effort/barriers to do as a ‘first date’

A: Susan: ask the bloggers. Ask them feedback on the site, ask for their advice, they may not write about you but you will be info back. You may not get a hit the first time, but work at it

Michelle: think what you can offer the audience, what offers you can do for the readers.

Q: (Anil, Six part) Get the basics right, get the names right, eg look at what the mail merge does! It gets obvious whether there is respect.

Q: a friend advised the PR people not to chase up if not writing up.

Elise: I only write about things I don’t like when want to advise people not to waster time and money. I HP printer did not work!

Q: (HP) bad stuff is just as valuable feedback, can follow up how to make it better

Q: (Harper) I review fiction. Someone sent me an erotica book, something I did not normally cover. I have site guidelines, I will not follow up. I worked 3 floors below this person and had to remind them!

Susan: ask them if they want the products first

Q: (Redbook) It can be burdensome to get product; we ask about sending things back. We get a lot of samples, we appreciate that. This is someone saying we have faith in the product. Look at the size and practicality. But it can take a long time to get to it; it does not mean we do not like it…one follow up is reasonable, there is so much product; you get the repeat contacts,those are the ones I may put aside; it;s not my job to teach them how to do it as there are so many people who do it well.

Q: is there an agency that focuses solely on bloggers etc

A: there are people focused on it…..(missed this)
A; Pierce maddy is one that does it
Susan: it may not be right at the time, you may get results

Elise: follow up could be asking if received what sent, but not chasing write ups.

Q: you have to connect across the outreaches. PR and blogger, some people do many roles.

Q: (Fleishman hillard). How do you balance your outreach – blog or print?

A: Nicole (Cosmo) you have to work with contacts, everyone is structuring it differently. Cosmogirl has the staff writers doing the web stuff; so send stuff to the regular ones. Know your company.
A: (RedBook)everyone is doing it differently. We have hired bloggers, so different content. I’m happy to serve as clearing house for the bloggers. And other magazines may have a different views.

Michelle: I send out weekly emails of ‘i thought you would like to see’ sending back to PR people.

Q: we are used to chasing with traditional media; and you don;t get clippings with blogs
Elise: I send out links to the PR person that I have written. I will return favour and tell you I have written

Susan: offline is going online. And you can reach out in the similar way to when they were print only. Have to read and understand how they write and get pitched. Know what they care about, we have to be more deeply emersed

Q: do not live and die by technorati and alexa – I asked the Pr agency. they only sent out stuff to certain ranked blogs,

Elise: you don’t ness know the full influence from alexa rankings. Influence is more than links. It’s who they influence. think about relevancy as well; some of the smaller bloggers are happy to receive the stuff and write about it I get pitched every day and it goes straight to trash, write only if like it The smaller ones may take more time and write about it, and give you valuable links.

Q: (HP) it’s hard to educate the old world ROI POV, that it i more valuable to go to a focused blog.

A Susan: does it move the needle. if you get sales it is working. So why are you reaching out. It has to drive sales.

A: Elise: SE ranking is a result; one product I loved, i got on other food blogs. The rank went from 17th page to first page in 2 months though being talked about.

Q: this is how offline networking moves into online networkings, we help people build business.

Q: I help small companies transition; it is an evolution…

Q: (HP) it’s about longterm and explaining the benefit. we want people to keep coming back for a lifetime, all the stuff, not short term spike.

Susan: think about influence. if you only need to get to 10 people, you look to where they read. they may not be a perfect niche; there is not one for every single possible interest. It’s not the size of the audience, but their readers.

Michelle: you can see the ecosystems, using Bloglines, see what everyone reads. Find the common sites.

Q: if you want me to write, let me know the keywords, put them in the info. that helps me and you.

Elise: you can ask them (if you have a relationship, find out the keywords)

Susan: as a blogger, you can ask; put on your blog guidelines. Describe what you want.

Elise: use the words in the release.

Q: HP – so what can we do to help bloggers, what do I feed back

Michelle – share out the love, point to the bloggers writing.

Elisa: when I ask for producer, send me the expensive one, not the cheapest. Send the one that you want to appear in photos. don’t skint, you are trying to impress me.

Susan: if you have your own blog, write nice things about the bloggers, link back to them. You have to care and write about them.

Michelle: don;t send samples if you can’t spare it, as I may not be able to send it back. Eg an underwear company that wanted the underwear back!!!

Q: (redbook) i send things back as I do not want burden of accepting an expensive gift). We are bloggers and professional journalists. PR companies should ask me what I want, find out what I will write about.

Q: Sheryl(Club ophelia). do the same rules apply to teenagers, in building out the list?

Q: (Cosmogirl) we are trying to build a community stuff, looking for teen bloggers, to help with this. Looking at technorati and finding stuff that is not ness applicable. they do not have the best attention span, what is good today may not be good tomorrow. Find the networks as well, not just the specifics.

Q: do people pitch you on political issues? Are you open to that?

A: Mom101 I wish there was more. I;d rather write about issues that affect all moms rather than canned peaches! It is huge untapped opportunity.

Susan: Nokia had a blogger outreach site, with the stuff that they have for bloggers. You may think of that.

Mar 23

BlogHer Biz – How to Build Your Audience

How to build traffic by leveraging technology and building robust community. How to optimize your site to build search engine traffic. How to use syndication (RSS) & subscriptions to build recurring traffic. How participating in the bigger blogging community drives traffic and comments. The works. Featuring mega-blogger Elise Bauer and Vanessa Fox, who can address the issue of SEO from the biggest SE of them all, Google.

Only made the second half of this; busy having hall conversations as you do. So I missed Elise and came in to listen to Vanessa.

Vanessa looks after webmaster central for Google.

So why is search important? With search your audience is telling you exactly what they are looking for; this is not broadcast advertising. People are looking for what you have.

You’ve all probably used google?? (laughter results). We want the searcher to find exactly what they are looking for, our goal is to get them off our site and onto yours.

First of all we have to know the pages exist. First, the discovery process, we follow links from other pages. So having a blog really causes a lot more people to link into your site. Reading this magazine yesterday, there was a question from a reader asking about a blog on the corporate site; the example was a site the jumped from 81 to no 1 on the search after blogging. Keywords links drive ranking.

You can also submit your sitemap; we accept an RSS feed as a sitemap.

Q: dynamic sites/CMS? A: there are scripts you can add to your site that helps build the sitemap which we explore. Really helps the site assessment.

You want to make sure your pages are crawlable. can we access the pages?

Q: my ecommerce site is ranked but not my blog? Why not? A: have you been able to tell if the sites are indexed? I’ll show you a few tools to see what you can do.

You need to be access pages and there is another aspect of getting text from pages. Blogs are easy, they are text; we ar a text based search engine. Flash and images are a problem. For blogs you can have video and audio; js or ajax also causes problems. So turn off everything and see what the text is. And it is not just for searches; look what you can see over the mobile device. You have to think about screenreaders, other access points. Putting the extra elements in there – think about what is necessary. Have a graceful failure point.. We are working on improving our ability to crawl ajax, but not there yet. Provide the alternatives.

Q: What about text in images.

A: We can read alt tags – so use proper language. Don;t use logo as your alt for the logo. We look at caption and description around it.

Once it is in there, We crawl, calc page rank and we build the index.

We look at what pages are linking to it, are those sites relevant for the search. Links should be relevant links, not just high rank links; relevance is as import. With blogs it is much easier; you write about stuff and interesting relevant sites link back

Think about the content and what you write about it. What words do people use to look up your site, your product. Use them in the writing. Looking at a site for real estate, which is a search term the writer was after, nothing on the site was about real estate, just houses for sale. Look at what people are using.

Here are some tools: wordtracker.com, yahoo keyword selector, google adwords selector tool. etc etc (links will be on blog, google.com/webmasters blogs..) Slide links will be posted on BlogHer.

So about the LOng Tail. Blogging is great way of capitalising on the Long Tail.
Look at what searches are been done, don’t ignore the longtail terms.

The older style of site was a a home page pyramid, starting there and moving through. Now, entry points are multiple. you don;t rely on one page, they can start everywhere and anywhere.

Zappos got 21% of searches for shoes; Nike got 1%, was ranked 14th for ‘shoes’. But a year ago when you looked a the site, there was nothing there at all, the only reason we knew about it was other people linking to it. It was all flash, not text to index. So when you link, you should use good words! Do as search for ‘click here’ see how useless that is. Make sure the anchor text is good for links you do internally.

Q: my friend showed me a shoe site with the terms all ‘hidden’
A: so this may not last very long and we will probably remove from index. Look at the guidelines, we don;t allow sites that show us something different to waht the user is using. So putting white text on a back ground can be seen from crawler but not user. This will work for a short period of time, we will find it and remove from index. Go to webmaster tools and sign up, you can see where you are. You can say you have fixed it and be let back in.

Q: how about the image, video searches?
A: we still index text; we have a tool for putting metadata on your images which feed into the image searches – Image Labeller.

Q: is there a tool to see how your site is indexed? A:we have several things; I’ll do a quick tour.

Q: I’ve been highly ranked for a number of terms, then suddenly disappear? Why?
A: we have changed things, we are re-indexing every day, not every 6 months. There may be other things going on; the tool swill help you pinpoint the problem.

Looking at Nike again, there’s no shoes in the text as seen from search engine.. Look at Zappo – it has about 15 mentions – in relevant places.

Make sure your title tag is descriptive; the description tag is import – get keywords in the blog posts. Make sure each is unique.

Think of search engines as another browser – you have to design site for that as well.

Links, both in an out, help us get a better idea of the context of your site.

Avoid link exchange/link farms – that will get you banned from index.

Buying links – we think of those as advertising, so not included in page rank.

Blogs are great for links, it’s updating, you talk about interesting things. make sure your blog links back to corporate site where appropriate.

Q: text links vs image links?
A: text links are the way to go; if using images make sure the alt is relevant.

Mar 22

BlogHer Biz – some case studies

From the BlogHer Business conference, being held in New York over the next 2 days, some quick fire casestudies of different sizes of companies using social media to support their businesses

Susan Getgood and Shirley Frazier – GiftBasket Business Blog

There are 2 blogs on the giftbasket business; have lots of information about this business. a $4.8billion business. I help educate people, find plenty of news and share out. I speak around country on this subject, help people find their niche. One is Solo Business Marketing, for people who work alone and need marketing advice. I have an experimental blog, laughingchow.com, all about photography tips, helps people have a good time. Uses wordpress.

Q: so why blogs and not a ‘website’

A: they are complimentary to a site; SBM started as a promotional tool for my book, and then added on a website. GBB was the site first and added the blog to complement. I get very few if any comments, but I get a tonne of traffic coming through.

Q: so how do you measure results.

A: it comes from the sale of my educational materials. They sell well, I have the best selling books on gift baskets; I follow people from blog to the site to the sales. the other part is through the passive revenue, I use multiple ad serving idea, and GBB draws a fair bit of revenue. GBB people do not know what is a blog is, but they come to the site, see the contextual ads and click on them. the third way is from speaking engagements, they increase. before the blogs I had 20-25 engagements a year, now they are almost doubling. the blog gets more traffic through search engines. they get cited quicker than the sites, people can find me, when looking for specific niche topics.

Q: so blogs have been successful

A: I was dragged kicking and screaming, but very successful.

Q: so what advice would you give the solo business people?

A: be proactive in having and maintaining you blog; it was difficult for me to understand at first, but kept looking it up and learning. the sweat is worth the effort. it;s like running your own newspaper; it;s nice if the press finds you, but this way you have your own voice, can solicit opinions, its good to share your voice around the world.

Q: do you get people coming who do not know what a GB is?

A: not really, but get a lot of referrals for people who are just starting.

Elena Cantor interviews Caroline Little from Washington Post

Q: we were talking about newspapers that were getting it. at the washington post.com you;ve been doing it a while

A: we publish newsweek, post and slate. we got on the web 10 years ago; a lot of what we were doing 3 years ago was just re-purposing paper info, but i felt we were not doing enough. the post is a local newspaper but the web is global, so 90% of the readers come from outside the market and never see the paper. I felt we needed to reach out and utilise the web. we’ve made mistakes, but it’s important to make mistakes otherwise you are not doing new things.

Q: so when did you decide to be blog friendly; when you were weighing those risks, what were you saying to the journalists.

A: the risk side internally was not that much. suddenly the journalists had a whole audience that they never had before. we opened everything up, There were issues about pay etc, but most people were happy. A lot of grief came from when we had bloggers who were not from the WP, but comments came that these people did not write for paper, and were representing the WP.

Q: mistakes?

A: one of our writers had alleged plagiarism problems, which was difficult for all of us. When we posted comments, we have had a lot of issues in our politics area, we had some totally irate people, the comments were useless at some point, we shut down the comments as they were mean and threatening. and we written up for shutting down, we were the first to do this and we got slammed.

Q: so what is the opinions out there?p
A: we have taken the position that the web is open; our role is to help people in navigating the web; hopefully we provide enough of a road map that people will come back to us as we contextualise it. we link out. Other sites have taken the route that they never link to a competitor, we link to other news sites. We do link to competitors, why wouldn’t we. There are different approaches about how you will provide news, what to put behind walls and we would kill our national aspirations if we did all of this.

Q: so how are you evaluating?

A: I evaluate based on …we won an Emmy last year, we have a lot of rewards, our audience grows, our revenue grows, Our goal is to make revenue to support the newsgathering. but it is working

Q: how are journalists reacting to change?

A: it’s across the board. some want it to reflect the papers, others think it is the coolest things and want to do more

Q: where is it going?

A: the paper may not go away, and we have to think about news gathering on multiple platforms. the paper delivers the most revenue and that tends to be the most dominant mindset; apart from the economics the audience story is so different and we have to be thinking about reaching in different ways and it is tough coming from an entrenched position but we have a shot.

Q: you link to bloggers if they link to you

A: that is our benefit, if we can help, people are having a conversation; people are talking about important issues; we have 12m readers online, we never had this before.

Q: when you started this, so what is the biggest surprise?

A: the more successful you get the harder it is. surprised at success in multimedia as not a core strength. there is an intimacy that comes with blogs, its a different way of reporting. video that works well on the web is very intimate, we do not have a lot of boundaries and it is interesting to see that media evolve.

Lena West interviews Carmen VanKerckhove

A: New demographic is an anti-racism company. I have 2 blogs, one about intersection of race and pop culture, and the other about anti racism parenting and a podcast about americas addiction to race.

Q: why open a public free for all about race in america?

A: i stumbled into it. I had no strategy. I started the blog before the company. I was inspired by angry asian men blog; i wanted a blog like that to track media representations of mixed race. The podcast was the same way, we wanted our radio show. we are open and honest, we joke, it is not PC, so we separated the two, then we realised that our brand was our attitude, we do not make it a scary subject, you can treat it casually. at this point we needed to tie it all together. The blog was too much of a catchall, so we decided to focus and split into 3 different ones, The new one deals with race and workplace issues.

Q: you started without a strategy…but how are you doing now. How do you do it!

A: I’m really passionate, it does not feel like work. They are not just marketing tools, they are a core part. I do seminars, i do grassroots as anyone can join in these conversations. I do lot of timed blogging, blog in spurts and then they come out throughout the week.

Q: so how stay time relevant?

A: the preposts are not ness time sensitive. I also publish my delicious links daily. that gives me some relevant content is I run out of time.

Q: what are your results?

A: I have got a lot of media coverage, CNN, Newsweek, etc etc. Established my reputation and I get called upon to give my opinions, Speaking engagements have increased, clients have come through blog or podcast, I’m starting to see a payoff, all this time I’m seeing a strong connection.
I got interest from daytime talkshows and a book agent. I don’t have huge amounts of traffic, Racialicious has about 1500 a day month. the Anti-Racist Parent blog about 2-300 a day week, not huge amounts, podcast 1-2k downloads per episode. so you can accomplish a lot in your niche without huge traffic.

Q: what’s the one thing you wish you had known?

A: don’t forget your traditional email newsletter; there is still value in this. Put on your homepage. I always have some kind of free offer. I have so many sign ups since doing the offer. Make it obvious who you are and what you do, so people can contact you. I idiot proof my sidebar, make it clear what I do, It cuts down confusions.


Maria Niles Interviews Staci Schiller from Wells Fargo Bank.

Q: please give us some history?

A: it started in 2005, we delved into Stagecoach island, we saw comment sin blogs etc and thought it was another way to talk with customers. we have a lot of history and our first blog was about the 1906 SanFran earthquake. we thought it would be a short site, we thought it would die after the anniversary. we continued to get traffic on the site and it evolved, into a disaster preparedness and advice site. From there we were hooked. We decide to keep going.

Q: and now you have more?

A: the Student Loan DOme is about college financing and managing debt. its a pretty wide audience. we researched and found few people talking about this; there is a lot of angst, We looked at it from an education POV, providing guidance. A good opportunity to talk to people in a new way. Our customers were online, we wanted to be there.

Q: how do you manage all of this, in a highly regulated industry

A: the SLD is multiple audiences, have bloggers at different phases of life. I did not have any debt, so wrote a post early on explaining this. We try and make it a humanising piece of the bank, with names and faces and stories. It took a lot of convincing for the compliance and legal people, we had to be persistent about it. Compliance reviews every post I put up, this is a bank.. they are doing that to protect me and the bank.

Q: what are the results?

A: The earthquake blog continues to evolve, it looks at history in general, traffic continues to grow. On the SLD traffic grows, we get spikes at certain times of the year.

Q: any challenges or successes?

A: one of the rewarding things is that the community has embraced it. I’m a real person, and people come and seek advice and i feel fortunate that I can o this.

Mar 22

Blogher Biz: A brief history of Social Media

Notes from the first session, which a combination of introduction about the jargon and social media and discussion from the audience.

A brief history of social media

What is social media?

the title is the state of the social media world…so let’s see what you were talking about over lunch about your case studies.

1. Dove, Evolution, was not just put a video on YouTube, they did UGC ad on Superbowl. Linking SL and RL, asking questions in SL being relayed to a press conference.

2. Blogher…one of the best SM case studies, that came from te community of women, saying it was wrong that women bloggers are not heard. Twitter is a good study = microblogging your daily activity.

3. Burning questions – how to track and measure and get and understand ROI.

4. BQ: now you have the blog how do you make it relevant to your audience, how do you get a new audience, how do I get them to interact. How do you keep staff motivated.

5. Forwarding happens a lot, sometimes when people are too embarrassed to comment (eg a recent one about a penis festival in Japan). the ones that gor forwarded can be regarded as better, as it could be capturing a new audience.

So, did anyone hear of something that surprised them? No…

Twitter is being used in the’wrong way’, there are lots of different ways to use it. But we are business conference, so here’s a few things – the 6 word twitter contest, the news feeds, the weather on twitter. So you could use it to give updates….

So some of the use explore about when you go to far, when to engage without crossing a line.

A brief History.

at the beginning, around 2000, we assumed that we could build a site and no one would go away. In 2002, the portal deals were not working, the internet does not ness keep people. Web2.0 is about eeping people, about making it more relevant to people.

In 2002 Heather Armstrong was dooced, the next year Scoble was hired for Microsoft. In 2005 GM started a blog; a the last Blogher GM brought cars along, they bring it to you/ The blog was a big stepping stone, laying out their problems.
2004 we had kryptonite issue; this was apivotal moment for companies and blogs; got reported on NYT from blogs breaking it.
2006, a little strange. Walmart had jounalists blogging without disclosure. this was not just the fault of the agency, of Walmart but also the bloggers as bloggers should be more savvy.

(and here someone did ask waht is flickr)

So what’s the line between citizen journalism and blogging

A: jounalism is not a role it is a series of practices; anyone can commit acts of journalism; we do not have licenced journalists in this country. Try and hide things and it will come back to bite it.

People often say we need a code for this blogger and that blogger; but professionals have codes and if you are blogging as part of a profession, you follwo that code.

Q: what about outside the US? How about China. Who is working with RoW traffic. Who caters for a wider interest than US.
A: in 2007 their are more people with access than here.
A: Minty, we provide parenting advice, UGC, and almost everything is outside the US.
So with a global audience, daypart is irrelevant.

Where are we today?

We are slightly more cutting edge then general enterprise world. 65% have a blog, 25% use video/audieo (out of the audience). Enterprises are far less. 63% of enterprises (a porter novelli survey) were blogging cos they thought they should. similar to having a website cos you have to. 57% did not have blogging guidelines. 76% have noticed an increase in traffic and attention. 71% were not happy with their interaction (but f they are doing cos they think they have to, they have no incentive)

One person had a conversation with an author who was scared about having a blog cos they may leave comments. And why wa he wanting a blog – to be part of the conversation. Can;t have one without the other. But talking to a lot of people go to the fear factor.

Q: we have been working with Macy’s, doing a project for black history month, got involved with bloggers, fashion bloggers, who got to speak to their favourite designers.

So who is reading. Pew says 39% of US readers read blogs, even if they do not know what it is. 24% of genY read blogs. more and more it has B2B implications as well.

Buzzwords…lets explain

Web2.0 speaks to an ethic. we allow comments, participations
Open source is ‘user generated’. it is participatory, community generated, not a free for all. They key is learning how to shepherd the conversation, make it useful
These are ‘push’ technologies; RSs, Twitter, etc are all push, giving the content where you want it, not where creator wants it.
Widgets are spreading, a great way to get your content on other site. but it is difficult to measure your effects, no page views.

A-list…we’ll explore tomorrow, usually means a ‘known’ list of prominent bloggers, but whom are not really known outside a small group.

Influence – there is no one way of measuring, it means something different to all.

Longtail…what social media can all be about;

[Many people had heard of all the words, but they were new for many as well]

Now onto values buzzwords. Blogs and SM are just tools; you can do plenty of things with them. So how do you measure a new way of doing things; you no longer push, you have a conversation with your customer. Look at authenticity, community, conversation, disclosure, engagement and transparency. They all come down to trust and respect. you have to approach different topics in different ways. Be clear on what and how and why you are doing it.

So why does i matter and how has it changed our work? It’s impossible to capture all the ways it has changed, Our credibility of brands etc depends on how you appear in the new distributed media, matters more than what you put on corporate website. Working with consumers is key to determine how you are received. So how when working in real time, with changing tech, how can you still achieve profitability. So if you don;t focus your budget on the fact that the internet is the majority medium, you need to change that,

Back to the audience…open discussion on what happens next?

Comment: NYT, recently started publishing permalinks, without registration or payment, you can blog it, and WSJ does not do that. You point people through and hit paywall for WSJ. Hopefully, more major news corps will get it and allow their content to become more popular.

Comment: I don’t talk about stuff if I can’t permalink. So I won’t talk about products and news I cannot point to

Comment: we have to balance SM tools and where our audience is. Look at USAToday. WSJ audience is probably still reading on the train from Connecticut. so if we get too far ahead of audience, what can we do.

Comment: a lot of trends with blogs and communities is the changing face of learning; you move away from a course/book and now people can take learning into their own hands. It will change how corps/orgs are going to do learning and training.

Comment: working with environmental journalists who were technophobes, did not use laptops etc; but give them smartphones, then they were away. Had to find the right form to make it easy.

Comment: anyone here have thoughts about changes to how mind works; anyone talk to teenagers about how they use it.

Comments: (professor from De Montford) we are working on a theory of transliteracy, across all media. divisive to say somethings are tech based and some not, it’s al the same kind of things. It’s about stripping away domination of print and going back to multiple ways of communicating, stripping way barriers.

Comments: blogging is more than just the publishers; readers are going to consume in a number of different ways. you have to meet many needs. The exciting part of tech is unification of tech and the spreading out, giving multiple ways of reaching content. we live in the echo chamber, we get it but much of the world does not. We should be figuring out how to deliver the content in the way that the readers do. do not coerce the readers to do it your way.

Comment: I disagree, as many of us in the room are on the front line with consumers/customers.

Comment: at TED there was a great conversations bout copyright laws. It is about allowing people to co-create and remix, that could be part of the future.

Mar 22

Blogher Business Conference

I’m sitting here at the start of Blogher Business conference getting introduced to the format and kickstarting the day with some networking. I’ll be blogging the sessions throughout the day, subject to connectivity.

Mar 16

SXSW – Is Google Evil

Read this from Ewan, notes from a SXSW Music Panel on Is Google Evil? With no consumer representation on the panel and no questions from the floor without being written down and screened by the moderator

and I forced my question into the discussion flow. “Can we ask who represents the consumer on this panel?” The answer? “No you can’t ask.” (Eric Rice has a chain of thought blog posts starting at the above link as well). I’m sorry, I’m going to debate strongly that it should be asked. Turns out the audience was on my side and wanted the question answered as well. Result? End of Panel, thank you for coming.

Mar 16

Conferences, diversity and planning travels

Now back to the reality of work after SXSW, I’m looking at where to go next. And with prefect timing, an email from Reboot arrived in my inbox this morning. This is an event I’ve attended for the last 2 years and intend to go again; it seems to fot quite nicely with some other travel I need to do to Europe.

And for those who challenge the diversity of presenters and attendees at tech conferences (although this is not really a tech conference) here’s your chance to do something. Thomas is calling for contributions:

Like last year there isn’t a final speakers list or a black box creation model. reboot is a platform for bringing the European (and beyond) community together, a platform for conversations and relationships, a platform for sharing visions and meeting the people you never knew you’d meet.
So the platform is all yours, and this is an invitation to participate and help co-create reboot..:
– an invitation to submit topics you would like on the agenda for reboot,
– an invitation to submit pointers to interesting people you know in your country or industry that has something to contribute, and help us recruit them to come as speakers or participants,
– an invitation for your proposal to host or present if you’ve been doing some interesting thinking the last year or have created something that’s worth sharing,
– an invitation for you to help make sure that we have the people that have open minds and are ready to make a difference at reboot. To connect Europe, to widen the community, to add perspective.

Want to see someone speak – get them involved, suggest them, encourage them. It’s not just up to the organisers, it’s up to you too.

I’m also planning on going to Gnomedex, an event that currently has an attendance of 95% men. Although gender is not the only variable used when discussing diversity, it’s often the most visible. This is another conference that plans speakers based on attendees, so there is a further opportunity to influence what you see.

Mar 14

SXSW – Creating a Global Microbrand

Again my rough notes; this was one of fun ones here, i recommend you grab this podcast when it comes out.

Blogger Hugh MacLeod has espoused the notion of “The Global Microbrand” or a small, tiny brand that sells globally. The Global Microbrand is nothing new but with the advent of the Internet and blogging it’s much easier for merchents and even consultants to reach a global audience. For many, blogging is an avenue to creating a personal Global Microbrand and getting off of the corporate hamster wheel. This panel will focus on the two most well known stories — English Cut and Stormhoek — showing how blogging has changed the rules and allowed small players to break out and play to a global audience.

Hugh MacLeod Blogger, gapingvoid.com
David Parmet Owner, Marketing Begins At Home LLC
Gabe Rivera CEO, Techmeme
Kathy Sierra CreatingPassionateUsers

David: please give us some a definitions

Hugh: a small business, but instead of local community stuff, it has a global community of customers and users and people who care about them. as a blogger it is tempting to think you could not have that with out the web. but not true, look at holland and holland, shotguns, that cost about $120k; their reputation is world wide and everyone buys from there eventually, if a shotgun geek. make 200 guns a year. they do not want to grow further with guns, but are extending in other ways. been around about 200 years. now you do not have to wait that long to be there with the web. now I’m recession proof, income from all over the planet. can build community with a blog. I don’t have a boss anymore and no-one can tell me what to do. i have a constituency of several thousand people, some give me money and some don’t. it’s not about how easy it is to make money, the key is freedom and personal sovereignty. I don’t have to work in a cube in a glass building with a dickless boss.

David: so how does techmeme fit in?
Gabe: it’s fueled by people’s global microbrands (GM). it’s a news site, there’s a lot of news sites but a lot of other kind of people who are not really trying to report news but are also writing stuff ..with an identity that transcends their job, that translates into excellent future opportunities. a lot of these people have great first hand knowledge, or axe to grind (which can make news interesting). Robert Scoble is an excellent example of a GM, a following that moves with him. he has a personal brand. look at Jeremy Zawodny and Matt Cutts, they got into a war about who was copying whom [their respective companies]…an inside account about what it was like to complete in these companies. they come out as voice of companies even though not their day job. do this to promote own GM, but provide content that is for the good of the web. As a GM you are not going to advertise, so you have to create content that people will link to and value. create stuff that people want to repeat, that people want to augment, put stuff out there that people want to attack or bash.

David: Kathy, on tips on how to grow GM

Kathy: i was inspired by Hugh, 2 years ago, the big moment for me when I had a higher ranking that my publisher. (O”Reilly) on Technorati I would not have started if I had not lost my job at Sun.. now I would not go back. the rules I follow may not be agreed with, other people have had success with some of the things I say not to do. they come to me all the time, asking how to get readers. so here are the 7 virtues of the GM

Be grateful.. the single most important one. every moment people give us attention to read us…so with 55m blogs..for someone to spend 30 seconds on yours..i never stop being grateful, it is a gift and the day I forget this is the day it stops.

Be Humble: a lot of people find this difficult. don’t make it all about you. you have to give something back. our job is to make people feel better about themselves, not us. we want people to think that they rock. you want the reader to say that they are brilliant, not that the product or company is brilliant.

Be Patient: we did not think about monetising, we thought about giving what we could give. give them info that is helpful. see what happens. you have to wait. took about a year, year and half to have bigger ranking than hugh

Be Brave: you need to grow thick skin, the critics come out with popularity, they can be brutal. I got slammed and I started pulling back..I needed to take own advice, do stuff that is love or hate, not mediocre.

Show respect: recognise the value of time you give me is really worth a lot. enchant your users. give your readers superpowers. respect what people are coming there to see.

Be generous – giveaway your knowledge, what i get paid to do, is the stuff i do online as well. I help people with presentations, send them slides, will talk and advice. tell people how you do what you do. Do a learning blog..if you can teach people how to do it. we give away what we can, be inspirational and motivational. it;s the outside expert syndrome..f someone says says it it is more meaningful. remember talk to the brain not the mind, therefore don’t blog the cat..dont; name drop! It;s not about you. the people who have taken it, have been pretty successful.

David: the blog is a resume. you will piss people off who may be potential clients…but there is a flip side.

Audience Questions:

Q: how do you demonstrate that you are grateful.

Hugh: if they leave a really nice comment, then I will quote it. readers can tell whether you find them interesting. I’m bad a responding in comment section, I wish I was better. you try and be nice. I don’t put up with trolls, I will tell the to fuck themselves. I quote in follow up posts, I”ll link to URL, I’m comment. you get all these interesting people and you can learn so much from them. link to people who read rather than the a-list.

Q: you don’t have time to respond all…so how give back without an overload point?

Hugh: with great difficulty. I took Stormhoek to bloggers. i want people to think it is real. offered to all bloggers. you don’t have to be an influencer, we sponsored geek dinners. we wanted to start a conversation, believe good things would happen down the road. 2 years ago we were selling 40k cases a year..and now we sold 40k cases last week.

Kathy its been quite some time since I could keep up with comments. I’m trying to respect peoples time with posts I make. I do graphs so that people can get idea without reading post do it, get the idea, respect the time, I don’t post all the time; if I’m busy and can’t add value, I won’t clutter the feed with posts for posts put quality not just posts.

Q: (Tara Hunt) it s a problem of volume, of being important, you read too much, have followers…it was an important step when I stopped reading techmeme. the more readers I got, the less care I took. I had to let go of the drug. the relationships are more quality.

Hugh: before stormhoek, I was working with Thomas, tailor. I built him a blog. his business tripled inside 6 months. now he gets 3 more suits for every order..he has 6mnths waiting list to get on waiting list! he does not care about Technorati rankings, trackbacks. he does not care about the technorati mafia. he cares about making the best suits in the world and his customers. when I talk about a GM, I’m not talking about consultants with blogs, I’m talking about people who make products.

David: it’s not about reaching the most people, it’s about reaching the right people.

Hugh: at the beginning we were following the numbers with English Cut…then we focused more on the business. Tara’s transition from numbers to letting go is the same.

Gabe: forget metrics and then you find your own footings..then you do better.

Q: (Brian Overkirk) can you talk about the other things that come from it. stories about the tiny victories that mean a great deal

Kathy: i year ago I posted about my seizure disorder, i blogged it, and a reader wrote to me with advice and a new drug I would not be here without that advice

Hugh: David was a blog reader, left comments, he lost his job and blogged about it, so I blogged about it, asked people to hire him. with english cut, i started a traveling service where thomas would visit in NY hotels. we needed PR, I knew nothing about PR so I asked David. David was them working for us, we got in NYT which tipped the scale and we were taken seriously. he’s not this fantasy tailor blogger. next thing Scoble and Shel Israel were righting a book, talking about Thomas, David and I hooking up in the book. and now David has the reputation of being The Suit Guy.

Gabe: when I launched in 2005 I was reading a bunch of blogs I found useful, I had a lot of respect for people writing the, over time, every single one of those have said they have found my site useful and that is personal success for me.

David: its about meeting people..it;s about being able to convince my kids they don’t have to works a the big glass building with dickless death…

Q: I get a kick out of being here…a kick because you come to know people, it may be a one way relationship; you can figure out that you have similarities,in cube land you forget there are people like you.. it;s not about how often you publish…snot sure how long you have..so do it with quality. I appreciate what has come out of panel, i see so many people trying to be popular..2 quotes come to mind…Jerry Garcier – at first you worry about copying and then you get your own sound. and the other quote was stop worrying about the best you can do and start being the only one. so, you are all awesome

hugh: go back 2-3 years…we all started hitting critical mass, we’d spent a few years writing and then we had a business week article and the next thing you know this may be real. i get to write what want, i have the readers I want and I am grateful for that. it makes me happy when other people make a good go of it. and real jobs do suck the more people who find something remarkable and can express it to the world the happier this would well be.

Katthy: i always try and take it one step further…my job is to make someone be kick-ass at what they do. take focus off myself, i did not want it to be about me, it’s about helping others. I’m happy now, I reaching more people and that is what is rewarding to me.

Q: (Chris Messina) i find helping people kick-ass the better I feel. I wanted to share an anecdote….I started at LesBlogs in Paris…I thought i had to sound really smart, be really articulate, but then I went out (drinking heavily) with Tom Rafferty and he had told me to stop thinking about having an audience and think about 3 or 4 people you are writing to, as an email.. once is abandoned the idea of writing to a large audience…I was able to get a lot more out of it personally and were able to speak with a clear voice. I used to work for Flock…the work I was doing there represents me, the people i work for reflect what me is. once flock stopped representing me and my values. , I left

Hugh: questions for you.I think the best way to get approval is not to need it

Chrsi – I had to give myself permission.

Q: you say that blogging is a great way to make things happen indirectly, look at twitter, social objects etc. what is your take is.

Hugh: a had this idea, i did this cartoon. ” if you talk to people the way advertising people talk, they would punch you in the face.” [one of the cartoons I rotate as my desktop at work] you start a conversation, you start rather random. i started putting cartoon out in hi res. they can be printed. is ell things, but you can still download. you’ve taken the time to read my stuff and I want you to enjoy it.

It’s all about love!!! and don’t forget to google social object.

Mar 14

SXSW – Will Wright Keynote

These are the live notes from Will Wright’s Keynote. no context or analysis yet.

Some insiders believe that SPORE may be the most ambitious most highly anticipated computer game in history. USA Today calls it “gaming’s giant leap.” The New Yorker says it explores the “limitless possibility of life itself.’ And the New York Times, suggests that SPORE ‘deserves to be seen as a work of art.’ Drawing on inspirations that range from the SETI project to the Eames movie, The Powers of Ten, SPORE takes gaming to an unprecedented scope and scale to the concept of life itself. You begin as a microscopic cell struggling to survive in the primordial soup. If you can evolve, growing and gaining intelligence, you can travel a vast galaxy deciding the fate of entire planets. Join us as Will Wright, the visionary game designer behind SPORE and arguably the most celebrated game designer of our time will discuss his plans to bring to life vast beauty and possibility offered by our universe, and create a game that encourages every player to consider his or her place in the galaxy. He will also address the challenges of developing a narrative in non-linear and linear mediums, and explore his inspirations for the game. This session should not be missed.

I was not intending to present Spore, I was preparing a presentation of story. But then read the speach notes…so I will mash them up.

I’ll tell you I hate the stories my computers try and tell me. Novels have been the model, I’ll tell you about the nature of story. I look at the world as a simulation, things cause changes in other things, a dense web events, but a story is a causal chain. stories are unchanging and linear. games are mesh, many interactions. movies are visual, games are interactive. when we take control away from player we take the most important thing away. moving interactive to passive. games are a branching tree. we try and find the compressed rule set to give all the possible options when we design and build games for computers.

There is topology difference btw games and story – dense to open. you can present a dramatic arc with movie when all viewers feel the same. the game arc is very different, it is not a dramatic arc, you can repeat things all the time. we think linear drama is more compelling than interactive.

Stores based on language, empathy, imagination.

actors are emotion-sims, emotional avatars

Film has a rich emotional palette as they have avatars – joy etc, games appeal more to the basic instincts. pride accomplishment, guilt, expression.

Appeal is empathy for film whereas games are agency, i can chose what happens in games. both build models on different ways empathy vs agency

you are stuck in a timestream but we want to move experiences outside either outside place or time. story allows learning

experiences – play or story – an abstraction – models – help predict further and change behaviour

the best way to prevent the future is to predict it

stories start out, with characters, the structure is fuzzy at this point. once it starts you see the sequence and all acts narrow the range of possibilities. In your head you imaging eh the possibilities whilst watching films,

at the end, you start amplifying, dramatic amplifications, at the end of start wars there are 2 major possibilities. – will the rebels be blown up or the Death Star.

the biggest obstacle in interactive is that in linear the director knows the end state; interactive you don’t they are chaotic systems, Stories show causal chain as it is relevant, with interactive you can’t. film makers are playing with this causal chain; much in literature, films such as magnolia or timecode show multi threads. I like films that take a massive left turn, change the expectations. Momento plays with causal chain. each point causes you to reevaluate what you know. deeper in the story you were having to reconstruct what happened.

Groundhog day is a brilliant film, it felt the most like a game. goes through he same things again. with restarts. the director knew future and past, you could skip over things you filled it in. we should do this in games. let players skip levels if they keep failing. The real world does not have a restart, but it makes games interesting

Game stories can be branches or gated; early adventure stories…pick your pages. branching models. they get expensive if you deepened the story

Gates – within level have freedom, then have to get to next level etc. have different topologies. you have subgoals etc. and you have hybrids btw gated and branches. all of these things just throw data at problem.To double experience you need 4x as much work

New approaches are generated stories, have story fragments, have a trigger and result conditions, you can put the bits together to put story together. got more potential than has been explored; not clear what level we want to do.

Player stories…they are unintentional, subversive, expressive. players have stories about how they were playing in a game, describing what they did. Players come across bugs etc and they make the back story for it. Subversive stories are where players are trying to push out the envelope. they get excited about finding exploits. Expressive…they are like the sims, they have an intentional message, I developed a character in GTA, I hung around, finding what I wanted. I did not like messages, just wanted to hang and tell stories

With Sims, players they would be verbalising the story as they played it. they were dealing with parallel simulation but turning into linear stories. players were good at creating stuff and showing off; we put a site to collect the stories. they were like small novels. Then there’s the whole machinima movement. They are entertainment and meaningful stories, allowing people to express what is happening in their life.

so we have storytelling and story listening. with interactive entertainment, it’s more interesting to me to think about listening to stories, teaching computers to listen. let computers get understanding, understand the theme. the computer learns the story that is in the players head. you can look at stories at different levels, have the computer understand, is it girl meets girl or teen slasher etc. if we know the goal states we can present obstacles, to amplify the drama. if we can parse, present, influence/assist and then replay as a movie. we can change the the environment, drive events to clarify he story. I suspect this is more likely to happen with a lot of parallel learning, watching millions of players. this is close to truman show. the computer is like the director of the truman show. It can control environment but not violate freewill. the truman show and groundhog day are both closest to games,

Looking into the future there is this concept called the magic circle; everyone respects the rules of the game, those outside the circle do not ness respect the rules. in the circle you agree to follow them.

stories are similar, they sit around together and have similar things. storytelling has evolved, as has story.

We went from small groups, to epic with films and then started circling back to home, ipods etc, back to being a small group. we can do fractal stories, 3 min things from YT. stories circles change in time space. diversifying across platforms. there are many game niches and story niches.

Linear entertainment is watched at a fairly similar percentage across ages; interactive participation has a strong peak in the younger groups. Games are not just about story and sports, are now evolving as hobbies, tools are increasing and we start to fulfill design aspirations. players love making content. They like making, sharing and collecting, people like organising the power of collective effort is amazing, there is a quality vs quantitative; most is crappy, some OK, some great. as tools be better we should be able to increase the quality of what they are doing.

Players are building mental models in their head and we now have chance for the computer to build models of people, how they play, what they do, how they move, what they buy, what networks do they do.

We can build fairly elaborate models predicting behaviour. give tools when they can build things and then get the computer to amplify…the asset they build has value.

So take what they have made, see what other things they may like and bring it back into he world. move player away from being Luke Skywalker and playing a role and to George Lucas and making a story.

With Spore, we wanted to make the universe a game. There has been a lot of friction for players to create, so in this case the process of creating is the process of playing the game. we want the game to share automatically. we can build an infinite sized worlds.

[there followed a demo of the world, building, creating, moving between the dimensions of gameplay]

i want the game to bring up issues for players, history and future of life. philosophical implications are huge. i think of the games as elaborate montessori tools. how can they learn. this is a phil tool so that you can think about life. so what happens when you have your planets – we have weather, geology. climate etc. you can terraform. and you can destroy. game play at certain levels based on my favourite science fictions, eg the monolith tool from 2001 to raise intelligence etc. As I travel I can build up an encyclopedia of everything I have seen. over time you can explore larger and larger areas, se the entire galaxy, things are built b the players.

technology is an extension of the human body, computers do a lot of things, but importantly they extend our imagination. we use for entertainment, education communications, etc. so how does this impact? we go through a major shift every now and again, social changes, etc technology is driving paradigm shits more often, the rate is more frequent, political changes, social issues, environment issues, warnings etc about what is happening,

games have a reputation as a time waster, but they can much more, they can change how we see the world, how we behave. we can navigate the future with a little more intelligence than we could before.

Mar 13

SXSW – MMORPGs in Austin

Over the years, Central Texas has emerged as the mecca of massively multiplayer game development. Why did this happen and what does this mean? How will the massively multiplayer market change in the next five to ten years — and, assuming such changes occur, will Austin be able to retain it’s position as the geographical leader of this genre?

Moderator: Gordon Walton Co-Studio Dir, BioWare Austin
Gordon Walton Co-Studio Dir, BioWare Austin
John Blakely VP of Dev, Sony Online Entertainment
J Todd Coleman Dir, KingsIsle Entertainment Inc
Shannon Cusick Orbis Games LLC
Richard Garriott NCsoft Interactive

Q: what advantages does Austin have?

Cusick: networking, companies already here, relaxed attitude, environment, resources. College students; existing gaming industry
Blakely: about 30 or so known game companies in Austin. talent base is here; getting people with that experience is invaluable. lots of support from state government. talent pool is stressed and this is a great place to attract them.
Coleman: talent pool is the biggest attraction. and austin is pretty sticky, people want to stay even if move away from your company. Austin is also ripe for deals – known, resources, community leverage etc.
Garriott: agree with everything said. and there is another special aspect – thought technically competitors we are all very friendly, especially in MMO space. these games are big, take a long time, relative infrequent and so rarely head to head. also no signs yet at being at saturation, so successful games help each other. Churn rate is under a year, so all these games out for multiple years, every game that has had over 100k subscribers still has that, even after 10 years for some year. each new release does not cannibalise. it’s a rapid growth segment, and with good conscious we can root for each other.
Walton: talent is mobile, people get brought in. it is totally environment based; we have high tech meets creativity meets tolerance. you can be weird here, there is tolerance for it. a lot of places that were making games are making less than before, we used to be spread out and now we cluster

Q: what are the disadvantages?

Garriott: i see a problem, our demand for certain education levels, skill sets and experience has tapped out the market and cannot find a wide variety of people, such as 3d artists, 3d software engineers. in some specialties we have to compete, with outside town, state and country. have opened large office in china to get talent pool. definitely not cheaper and easier but truely cannot find staff I need.
Coleman: harder and harder to find people which I why I keep stealing them from you richard. need to educate people in general about how big the games industry is in Austin and how much an impact it will have. music and film get the press but games is a staggeringly large impact and does not get press.
Games are growing and this will continue to be a burden.
Walton: we need hits to attract talent, as we have not had a lot recently. Financing side, we only have small publishers in town. we are not where the money goes but we are where the work goes. the digital distribution gives us an advantage

Q: who are our competitors
Cusick: california, (SD/LA) and east coast. Baltimore etc.
Blakely: seattle, consoles etc. WoW growth, people will go there. I keep a close watch on Blizzard.
Coleman: I don;t spend a lot of my tome thinking about competition in this space. the job os to come up with a creative vision and see it through. who is doing things, similar, is not as important, the biggest thing is losing people and then they would have gone to austin not another city
Garriott: our biggest competitor is ourselves, we will live and die on game quality and how we educate how big the industry.
Walton: West coast, aligning with Asia which is a centre of gravity.

Q: Where do you see the MMO market going 5-10 years?

Garriott: that’s one product cycle?? it eveolves slowly; I hope my new game shakes it up a little; most MMOs are built in model of everquest, they are refined but in similar. that is the first thing that needs to change. we need to bring in elements of other kinds of gameplay.
Coleman: you’ll see different business model, ads, freeplay and pay for powerups etc. you will see some implosions, there us a lot of money coming in, attracting investment, you are starting to see deals going to teams that have not done it before. and what we do is not easy, you have all these problems. every hard problems is there to solve. as well as the tech issues it still needs to be fun. we will see a lot of large losses, with really dramatic wins, and interesting play out of places we do not expect.
Blakely: the console..what does MMO mean on console. there is a shared experiences etc so how d we tackle that. we need less traditional play and we need to deliver the new stuff.
Cusick: want it to be as big as hollywood and this the place to be.
Walton: they are still in their beginning as our iteration cycle is slow, so when we think about MMOs they are part of one big landscape. there is opportunity to branch out. The tools are getting better which means that smaller teams can do stuff; only huge hi cost teams have been able to do things for a while. those are the opportunities.

Audience Questions

Q: traffic and housing will impact life quality…would like to understand…content creation in SL, is this a way to bring in creative types? what is your comment on SL environment and is anything going on in Austin about this?

Garriott: when thinking UGC I think of pen/paper and D&D. the early adopters were all good story tellers, small audience. as it expanded you lost the storytellers and it was no longer fun. the majority of UGC is not exceptional and is abhorrent to wade few. but we only employ a small % of the talented people. so provide a tool set and let the creative excellence bubble up. the largest MMOs who have tried UGC have failed in the sorting process..we need to solve this. we need to filter and push the good stuff. there needs to be an economic feedback loop to drive to the good stuff.
Blakely: We announced our Home at GDC; we need to provide tools that allow people express themselves. still a puzzle we are trying to work out.
Walton: the concept of ownership is very sticky. if I won something in a game I am stuck in the game, so tapping into it is important.

Q: Perplex city – we are sending people on quests, we have developed a permanent large world. everyone seems to be ending up in the same areas but approaching form different areas.

Walton :not everyone is going after massive audiences, may 80% of us are. mass markets are not where most MMOs and ARGs are going forward, a lot of niche markets.
Cusick: most of our stuff is niche, but we would like to do mainstream stuff.
Blakely: gameplay has roots in a community of shared story. It;s a new thing about story telling, all mediums coming together. Look at the Heroes community. we will see more of this across all mediums.
Garriott: as attractive as find metaverse games, but it is never going to be a best game as a particular niche, ie games are cool in one part of offerings that are out there.

Q: it was difficult to build games and have a life outside how do you ensure the workers have a life?

garriott: I spent many years with 12+ work days 7 days a week. once i could afford it, but now I have many more interests. for the last game we have a policy against crunch mode, we keep demands low, no more that 8-10 hrs a day. I think we have a well managed overtime policy; we manage the crunches well, we think lifestyle is important
Cusick 0I’m a firm disbeliever in crunch time
Blakely: we try and be smarter about how we do games, looking at new techs, educate the investors, publishers etc. mange the efficiency. Keeping it measured and predictable etc. in an increasingly competitive environment you need the talent to stay around.
Coleman: if you kill people up to launch, then when it launches it is dead, you need people on top form then.
Walton: yet to see creative business that can run to a schedule; we have good intentions, the challenge will remain to do what we set out to do; there is never enough time or money. we are purely managed, have little foresight about times and crunches are always a possibility. have to be s,art enough to minimise it, years away from being able to build a plan
Coleman: not sure you ever can build to plan.

Q: you made a comment that austin is where the work goes not the money – can you elaborate why and what can the city do to help?

Gariott: we are one of the publishers, compared to west coast we have close to zero publishers. They go through investment and withdraw from outside publishers. we have to get them in town to keep them here. None of the things for other industries have been offered to hi tech industries etc have not been offered to the game industries, eg tax benefits.

Q: the film board has said the same the other day, the same thing that the game industry are looking for, can someone do the same thing?

Garriott: I’m a convergence sceptic, but while there are some concept artists that can do art, that is the beginning and end of convergence; the same people cannot do both industries.
Coleman: skillset is difficult to cross over but IP is not. there are some cross overs from distribution, PR etc. but a lot of key differences.
Blakely: we are part of Sony Pictures..we find it tough to cross over. look to invest here, but money will always go back to west coast.
Walton: he who has the money makes the rules. the money is not here, it is Dallas, Houston. you need to finance it here or you just be a job shop.

Q: Are Sony doing a good job of promoting the games division?

Blakely: yep. our chairman has done an amazing job of letting us run our business. They are hands off, but look for opportunities to leverage IP. we have shared resources on recent products. Still a challenge internally figuring out the corss overs.

Mar 13

SXSW – Pervasive Electronic Games

Pervasive Electronic Games

Julian Bleecker (USC/Near Future)
Dennis Crowley (Dodgeball/Google)
Aaron Myers (USC Interactive Media)
Kevin Slavin (Area/Code)

This panel presents and discusses unique aspects of the design issues and technologies involved in developing “pervasive electronic games.” Pervasive electronic games are experiences that move game play into the real world, outside of the usual venues in which electronic gaming occurs. Moving from sedentary venues (living room, video game parlors) into more quotidian spaces is made possible by the proliferation of mobile communications devices, ubiquitous network access, global position sensing and electronic location tagging.

Julian: motivaton for these come from play forms, from children’s games, before electronic games etc. Been looking at different kinds game gestures; noticed that gestures are similar to electronic games. the RL gestures can inform online games. also been looking at how game interfaces have evolved. looking at how RL activities can them become a game.

Aaron: representing MobZombies, a game with a simple premise. you are guy with an exposed brain being chased by a bunch of zombies. you move around in RL to move character in the game world. Use 2 sensors to co-ord motion – a digital compass and an accelerometer. there is a continuing growing hoard of zombies you need to avoid and bombs to stop them. we are working on a version that can work i=on a mobile form. it works on a Sony Vaio thing now but looking for a phone version and a streamlined version of the sensor rig. looking to release as a kit for people to build own games etc.

Kevin: (reprised his PSFK talk – but the audience seems to be more appreciative). underneath pervasive games is an instinct to lie radically about where we are or to develop instinct. Games meet a need; most places are real, most stories are not. But places are becoming fictional. the need for stories does not stop with tech. You see geocaching, superstar, Games with computers in them, not the other way round.

Dennis: Dodgeball is about knowing where your friends are, where they have checked in, encourages rendezvous behaviour. Developed as my thesis project, working on games with Kevin to pay the rent. tried to take some of the game elements and add them to Dodgeball. mainly stats. introducing some of these competitive elements drove usage. Grew up on games; competition with brother. So how do you make real life into a video game; made Pedometer wars; record the stats and see who ‘wins’ by walking the most. has potential to change the way you experience a public space. got to elevator or stairs…then you may win more..walk more. condition you to change behaviour. but the pedometer was dumb, not networked, got boring. At the same time or so Nike+ came out; tracking through shoe, you can see your runs etc, lots of stats so I’m in love with this. then started adding multiplayer stuff, can make challenges. Extra motivation to run! Then started to be able to plot runs – but not really location aware so have to plot on maps. One day I was running and saw a graffiti and thought about the ability to run at graffiti and get super special powers…but got lazy and did not work out. Now go skiing most weekends…now in competition for skiing, eating, runs etc. Bought GPS, on phone and garmin. Got data off..every 15sec takes a reading and gets a download. Collected all the points, mapped out the mountain. now I can map myself or others to the map and turn the skiing into a game. Thought about RC PowerAm…putting those powerups and putting on the mountain…play games about getting to the powerups etc. No real time feedback etc but looking for it next year. Waiting for NIke+ plus GPS plus connectivity to enable this game to go to next level.

Audience Questions

Q: when is Dodgeball coming to SaltLake City
Dennis: don;t know but looking to expand all the time!

Q: How much does it cost and what traffic. are they happy with ROI? (Sopranos)
Kevin: yes, rest take offline
Q: what were the measures?
A: a new way if talking about it etc..take offline

Q: there are blurring of lines between these and ARGs?
Aaron: our games have tighter link to digital games; response to your actions. ARGS typically don;t have this dynmic, physical to digital
Kevin: 2 things that are different – a lot of args focus on puzzle solving, collective intelligence, not ness the types of things that we focus on, we look at systems that people use to play instead of constructing distributed narrative.

Q: How do you solve the discovery, how do you let people know it is OK to play?
Kevin: one is event based and one is pervasive in on all the time. and there is something all the middle, ie an infrastructure for ad hoc events, always available for people to take part. so how do you discover you have tetris on phone? it;s business problems; another is to have a physical aspect.
Dennis – it;s difficult to do as pick up games at moment as equipment is niche, as they tech becomes more ubiquitous its gets easy
Aaron: not sure if mobZombies can be pickup. one of our motivations was to make people look silly and not sure where to go now.
Kevin: with Plunder, the resolution of real world is large and the likelihood of people being together is low; so proximity foes not have to synchronous, it can have what happened here at some time.

Q: where do you see this going?
Dennis: I see NYC as a whole bunch of magic squares, geographic triggers, when you go by something will happen. van get more people to interact with the world, with people in same areas. it;s all about location, all the work I’ve being doing is on this. We are still closer to this, but soon devices will be location enabled.
Kevin: the phone is location aware, but we cannot access. it is not tech problem but a business problem. I want to see the business problems solved.

Q: any general principles to bring people between real and virtual?
Dennis: nned to get dots on map and then you can start things happening.

Q: will location based devices stop you from exaggerating and lying about where you are. any thoughts about this?
Kevin: the goal is to misrepresent yourself, not to lie to others. the question is about how to harness for imagination, not flase information.

Q: In Perplex City we started looking at location etc, in the UK we can get access to data but in the US there is a major business problem that means we could not do it here. we started looking at making it ourselves.
Kevin: you have to understand how retarded we are in the US with all this stuff. there are very few reasons to be optimistic in the short term. the handsets have gps, but a problem in city. we like wifi positioning its free and you can get pretty accurate.

Q: a lot of these games are multiplayer, looking at engaging communities. what about multiplayer for mobZombies and how can running across a mushroom augment your running
Aaron: single player etc, tech reasons affect multiplayer.
Dennis: for a single player it can be power up…but still applicable as compete against yourself. Potentially looking at interactive, letting location elements give me a different experience.

Mar 13

SXSW – Convergence Culture an conversation with Henry Jenkins

Whole new cultures are emerging around convergent media, an example of which is The Matrix Trilogy, the narrativeis which is contained, not just in the films, but also in comics, animé, games, and web sites all serving acommunity of participants – they’re actually more than “fans.” Henry Jenkins’ latest book, Convergence Culture, isan in-depth review and critique of several evolving transmedia cultures, their quirks, and their impact on ourperceptions.

danah boyd USC Annenberg Center
Henry Jenkins Dir, Comparative Media Studies – MIT

what henry has being doing is looking at fan fiction, wwf, remix, media production, collapse of production and consumption, has produced 3 books, writes full posts everyday. my goal is to interview and provide insight into what he does and how it relates to you.

Q: your early work about fandom you approached as a fan

Q: can’t remember when I was not a fan. at college i was in the culture and active as a fanboy. My wife and I were both star trek fans. In Menagerie, spick got very emotional. I looked the behind the scenes, Cynthia looked a the psychology. we approached it in different things. when in grad school i was an active fan. but fans were not held in high esteem by academics, we were held as dupes. I’m tired of being to get a life and wanted to write a book about the passion that drives the fan world. 20 years ago fans were marginal to the cultural I call them rogue readers, describing how they see things.

Now the fans are central to the ways of culture. web2.0 is fandom without the stigma. it’s social community, that shares knowledge, that remixes, that appropriates culture. we were doing it in our basement 20 years ago and now businesses are making money. participatory culture that was so exotic then is central to what we do today

Ql so what role has the net played?

A: more people can find a way into the fandom; it was not highly visible before and now more people are finding their way in. expansion is step 1. now you can talk and watch in real time, a world of collective intelligence . within 2 mins of a show starting you can follow a conversation online. For Twin Peaks, the papers were saying it was too complex, the online fandom wanted more complex. sharing and collaborate means that we need more complexity. the biggest change is the collective viewing pattern leads to greater demand to complexity. convergence culture is trying to describe the moment of time when the audience becomes central, power from the collective power and they demand more, more opps to participate, more back story

Q: as remix etc, it becomes available to the creators themselves, but many are not happy. they get sued for copyright

A: start with the premise that the media producers have lost control. and my friends can do what we want and the likelihood of you stopping me is zero. have to get over this and moving to where you take advantage. let fans appreciate the properties, increase their value. look at the browncoats, the studio billed them for use of images on tshirts..the community then sent the studio a bill for their time for marketing. it was more value to empower them. we are seeing whole spectrum o attitudes, from C&D to enfranchisement, use them as vanguard for publicity. control over IP is a battleground that will determine if our culture will become participatpry and what the terms are. it;s been under corporate control, etc, we need to find rationale for it…in many of the free speach groups advocating for electronic freedom have not embraced fan fictions not tech. put as much effort into defining bittorrent as to fan fiction. no one is standing up for fiction writer etc. we need more participatory vulture and we need to get behind it

Q: this bullying is part of an larger issue about asserting power. you have written a lot about young people and how they are participating

A: fan culture is part of a larger culture of online production. people share product, we shift from spectators to producers. so what does it mean to turn these kids lose in a world with a large power and reach where they have little knowledge or guidance. the DOPA act would strip schools of ability to provide access. we fought to close digital divide, about access. now we are there, but is it unequal access. they can;t store, low bandwidth, filtering, restriction s on networks etc. the participation gap. you cannot acquire skills that you need in this culture. its been reintroduced as part of protecting children in 21st century. it will have an enormous impact if it passes. even if you believe that myspace is crawling with predators..but are kids more safe if parents and teachers can guide them or if we turn them lose outside of adult supervision and locks out the 43% that want to get into he space at schools. it is a bad piece of legislation. this is the example of gov going after youth participation. they are being hit by studios and by gov. when we think of social networking as engine driving wealth production t is also the thing under fire for fans and young americas. so ‘you’ and your right to participate is under siege

Q: DOPA is not the only legislation that is an issue. in CN all social tech will need to put in age verification..anyone under 18 will need to get parental permission for any tech that allows them to connect to people. so what role do parents have in this conversation…so you see a scenario that allows for protection that would be frustrating

A: fear sells, the politics of fear is the one issue that both parties agree on..that our kids would be muzzled. politics of fear has a gender dimension..we are afraid of our sons and for our daughters. as a society we need to say were tired of being led by fear. macather institute is looking systematically how young are using the tools, looking at the culture. 50m$ we need to get the info out and use it to challenge the fear-mongering and call attention to the mechanisms that fear is being propagated, we have to pull together across the partisan blogs, it is not a right left issue. this is preserving the instruments of democracy we all need to protect this.

Q: role tech can and should play in civic engagement. where do you see online democracy going?

A: we are seeing line between part culture and part democracy blurring. the language of politics is not eternal, it shifts over time. we are in a world where a particular culture gives people a new language and politic become remixed. democ is a special event..vote every 4 years. we need democ to be a lifestyle and something we love day in and day out. find how we integrate into every day life means we need to talk as different we feel more confident as producers rather than citizens. as American Idol caused us to think about musics, maybe we need democratic entertainment to see it through this world. so photoshop for democracy, people respond in real time in ps, the peoples editorial cartoon, they do not follow the norms…we see vicious use of imagery

knowledge as product or knowledge as profit? wikipedia is a monument to participatory culture. but you need to understand process of how knowledge is produced..can teach people about the the process. the power of collective intelligence is better than one. the ethics of being part of wiki, working through the issues and trying to create space for participation. we were talking to wales about history, globally history, and different perspectives. english lang history had to arrive a shared perspective, there was an multiple perspectives, there is more multiple viewpoints on wiki then many traditional national books. if we can figure out he ethic that allow it to work then we can begin to put together how to create shared info space to deliberate n national issues. put people to gether you get different options. need to tap how wiki doe sit to get at a cohernent national policy instead of name calling.

Q: critique to wiki is challenge to what is real and not, UGC etc, UNC break up on website. (see the stuff). was it real or not? awkward video. it was ahoax. it was atest to see how far things reached on web. a lot of people were used- they want this to be real.

A: my 25yo son does not use youtube, no idea why…look through lens of 19th c ..look at humbug…presented to public where there was dispute about status…he promoted things as being under dispute, come and see for yourself. put barnums mermaid in context to the platypus being discovered which was real? with YT it is a mixed media economy, amateur profession, legal , illegal etc we are trying to sort out the status, it comes to us without context. but it is produced a grassroots media literacy effort. something really exciting may come of it if we can stop being angry about being faked out. how do we decide what is fake, teach people how to think about evidence, construct arguments, interpret reality. what skills do we need to teach to people to do that that is a challenge.

Q: with rise of MMORPGs, emmersive environs etc so what is important to consider there.

A: fascinated by SL. my avatar takes about 20lbs off me..i;m working towards it through exercise. it is a new centre, plenty of opportunities. it;s like a medieval carnival where people stepped out of their normal life. think about SL as carnival we step into all year round, so what kinds of transformation can take place. we can do thought experiments. we can try out new ideas, economic, identity, we try them out, see what they feel like. e carry that energy back into the RL. we can create experiment, try social relationship. if simple escapism, its less interesting over a place for social experimentation.

Mar 13

SXSW – Web2.0 to Web3D

Wagner James Au Online world Journalist/Blogger, New World Notes/nwn.blogs.com
Robin Hunicke Lead Designer, Electronic Arts
Robert Scoble Evangelist, PodTech.net
Susan Wu Charles River Ventures

Is Neal Stephenson’s “metaverse” here, and is it the Net’s next generation — or just a glorified game? Once gamer-only turf, 3D virtual worlds like Second Life and World of Warcraft are now attracting millions of players– and millions of dollars from corporations, academia/non-profits, and government agencies, interested in the marketing, research, and prototyping possibilities. Is this the future of the Internet, and if so, where do we go from here?

Wagner: some examples – Rupture=WoW plus MySpace. create a social world that sits on top of the MMO, could be an identity placeholder. CyWorld, 18m accounts, 90% of South Koreans under 30 have an account and log in daily. have an identity and an avatar. SL – lots of mashups with HUD and web data. eg a digg ratings tool for objects, can track what people like, there are others with places. Twitter is in SL as well, with twitter huds.

Robert: Twitter is like the doubling penny; twitter was doubling in size every month.there’s a lot of things that are doubling. SL does not have a large audience but it is the doubling effect that is interesting. There are some principles that I look for, that I am attracted too. The audience knows a lot, there;s more SL knowledge in audience than in the panel. when the audience is smarter, things get better. on the book, we sent it to the audience before the editors and we got it grammar checked and fact checked. and we got better product than if we had sent it straight to the editors. and it makes people own it and they start being an evangelists. that attracted me and my some to SL, he was building things very quickly getting adept. Families want to work together with their kids, they want t build together, my some took to it faster than I ever could so, one principle can your audience can get involved and extend the world. And encouraging that game companies getting into it, letting users build stuff, ie Sony Home world. Different to WOW where you cannot build. the other interesting thing was the physical architecture..each island was a linux blade user, which could hold around 50 or so. compared to the centralised worlds, the would can grow out. the early behaviour was interesting, people would try for a small , but it was boring. but the business model is dragging people back, I can sell things and monetise it. I can get people to come back in the system and there is a profit motive for me as a content producer to get people there. OUtback, an australian world, is coming out later this year. one problem is that people think it is just software and they can cone it. but it is not, what makes propel interesting is the people that are involved. Twitter was seen as lame as there was no one to talk to, once you have the the people it becomes interesting. it is a way to interact with friends. it is the audience with the technology..and thats what is interesting. I hang out and build stuff with Eric Rice, we can share together even if not in same place. So outback is attractive as they may be able to fit more people in, but need the people. Outback could 10000 people on one world.

Susan: on P2P you are not going to have an item based business model?

Wagner: Robins works on EA, SIMS.

Robin: in approaching MySIm i thought a lot about user interaction, and what people could bring into the game. it;s a user created experience, we have designers that will be in the world but you can customise. games are strongest when you can be the designer. Thinking about the panel, I wonder if web2 to 3d would be a good thing and I’m not sure. I wanted to think about my user experience. I like being able to find things differently, so not sure. If you had unlimited bandwidth what would you do? Combining all the worlds; as a content provider it would be awesome if they could deliver the focused experiences and open it up to creativity. it would be a lot of realities, 3d could be awesome to share everything. but the constraints are the aesthetics, constraints are not obvious, so what kinds of constraints should we be thinking. in WOW there is a lot of UI, In RL, we do not see everything, so would a 3d would be more real if you could not see anything. Look at the wii, it is simple people think things will work that the right thing will happen and that is about removing all the clutter. in this reality, every user is a designer. think about the time streams – can a user parse all of this. look at the costs…look at how many servers run to run the worlds – think about the energy costs. i like that we are always in augmented reality. 3d is possible but is it right. why would we go 3d, why are we not thinking about small lightweight techs that allow presence and not just want to create everything again in RL.

Robin – looking at gender difference, it could be culture whether girls go to consoles or creative stuff. do we want to solve the current problems, or do we think about the experience our kids will have. I have a lot of benefits from this world, but not a lot of other people do.

Susan; we as a tech society see tech as the solution.

Robert: eric talks about story creation, about an online story experience with the 3d tools.

Susan: yesterday we talked about avatars, it changes the experience to being an interactive narrative. it changes the perception, the skills about game design and relevant to product design

Susan: lets not male assumptions about 3d; in next 3-5 years every media is going to be building a 3d world. looking at SL and deciding that that is the model. it;s a misinformed model. studying how people are evolving online. 1st. information sharing to interaction (2.0) so to me 3.0 is immersion. the cognitive barriers between peoples online and offline lives are dissipating. everything we do onine is real. we need ot create products that create better online engagement. 10 years ago, a text MUD was really real to me, i had an immersive time there. what is hitting our brains is the content and the stuff we add on top help with engagement or detract from them..the text based MUD is when I had the most immersive environment. Nw. MySpace is an MMO, same kind of interactions. Gaia is web2.1 – interaction with avatars, text that evolved into a rich community then with a graphical layer on top. Telp, Flixter, we make transition from web page to web place. we will demand more emotional engaging, more immersive, more emotional experiences. so is 3d the answer..it;s just a tool, not appropriate for all situations, there are different ways t think about presence, such as social or collaborative presence. my BlogLog is 3d social presence. Twitter is 3d social presence, you can feel you are part of some greater environment. do all virtual worlds look fully 3d. things can be simpler,. webkinnz etc. A recent study looks at factors in immersion – 1 was role engagement, its about storyline and engagement. last on the list was physical presence. average player is 22 hrs a week in environment. But now, kids are far more comfortable living online than we are different understanding of time, identify and place. brain plasticity makes it impossible to predict the future.

Wagner: about environ friendly…having virtual worlds may reduce travel. IBM use the world for meetings. Avatars help with the meeting dynamics.

Robin – getting avatars to emote is extremely difficult

Robert – there is an architect teaching in SL, can build models.

Robin – when you can build a structure, you have an analogy, Matt brown, a designer, says be aware of the obvious example, so architecture in 3d is easy, IBM meetings may not be right. I hear a lot of ‘that will never work’ so what works for our kids what makes them more whole?

Susan: twitter demonstrates that texting allows connections.

Audience Questions:

Q: can transportation be reduced from virtual worlds.

Robert: hearing it for 20 years that computers will reduce travel.
Robin: I have to do some travels..I travel way more because of games etc.

Q: immersion in the narrative; I fascinated about how you understand what people do with sport; it connects people on one level. what is you advice on building a NFL community online.

Robin: you need to understand the relationships; what role does team play in your daily lives. need to understand that relationship before can give advice
Robert: i like hanging in tailgate parties, so help with that?
Robin: let people share their expressions.

Q: meetings conferences etc has drawn me to virtual worlds. where do you see SL going, eg with voice. companies etc.

Wagner: numbers of SL predicted around 3m next year (assume can scale). companies are having to struggle for relevance, most people are ignoring this. Electric sheep L Word island, where people can watch it is doing well, one of the few. we will see more small communities emerge.

Q: interesting in conversion between desktop and console based worlds. open vs closed worlds. can’t take characters worlds.

Robert: xbox team did not see a market, console is not a precision experience, consoles are distant.
Robin: console is about relaxing, hanging out, far more social less precise and tweaky than pc experience. control is different between the 2. we are going to have problems as designers and users. we need to look at what aesthetics are and do as much as possible without all the clutter.

Mar 11

SXSW – Building a Community Ecology

Moderator: Jake McKee Lead Samurai, Big in Japan
Virginia Miracle Dir Word of Mouth Mktg, Brains on Fire
Rebecca Newton Global Safety & Moderation Mgr, Sulake.com
Terrence Ryan Moderator, suicidegirls.com
Betsy Whalen Dir Mktg, Discovery Education

Jake: why did i use the term ecology? working with communities, they are mini ecosystems, they require a certain amount of balance to survive. btw what community needs and what company needs.

Rebecca Newton: Habbo Hotel. Have 24 habbo sites and 15 million teenagers. social/virtual world for 13-17yo.
Virginia Mircel. works for brians on fire. a naming, identity and WOM marketing firm. create identities and personalities for community movements. Works with the fisketeers, a scrapbooking community. wanted to find a way to emotionally connect with customers. 60% of posts coming from GenY, although full range is 20-70
Betsy Whalen, works with Discovery. works on educator network, helps educators to integrate Discovery products into the classroom.
Terrence Ryan – moderate suicide girls community. started as a punk site and morphed into a alt-porn site 😉 Public userbase is 50/50 male/female, although the anon demo is mainly male.

Q: What would you do if a marketing team said they want fans to come to an offline event and help out….as they have no budget for ‘offical’ help.

Virginia: so whats in it for them. they want to feel like they are included. The PR team wante some public acts of crafting..they were good ideas but not generated by community. we spoke to some of the leaders int he community and told then waht the goals were and posed it to them; the project was changed and they still achieved the saem goal. at the end they thoguht it was a co-creation but it was a difficult balance. we included out advacate int he brand as she understood the brand.

Betsy: we have this issue coming up alot. we are the education devision…we wrre giving them products. we foudn that the teachers were turning up at the stores and talkign about it, they were telling people to watch the shows. once the network picked up onthis, we started workign witht he teachers who did want to do this. we ask them to particiapte and it makes them more connected,

Terrence – we have a very rabid community. when we got the first anniersay, it was supposed to be small. but peopel were coming from allover the countr. w e adtated and set iup local groups, meet weekly. we have to conintually adpat to user demands.

rebecca – we don;t advocate meeting offline (even f marketing group has occasionally thought about it). you have to be careful of the liabilities etc. meeting offlien could also break the magic.

Jake the recurring theme is the constant adjustment.

Q: if you canlt create own hub, how do you coinect it all together.

Jake: I worked with lego, adult community. we did nothing on the official site as there was enough happening. you don;t keep the standard voice, you share what is haoppening with you compnay. get them to indersntad the reality. constant mantra is everyione goes home happy. and that invludes the compnay.

Virginia: ex Dell. fokes who are trinaiend on how to reach out, answer questions. reach out and share. but if you are delaing with fear about having own community, byt fear not having a voice, then you have to create a community space.

Rebecca – what is happening, is that communities are driving a product and corps cannot control it. if they are afraid they are going to be in trouble as it is the buyer that is in control and have a big say. they need to be paying attention to the feedback

Terrence: we give people myspace templates, we keep an eye out.

Jake: you build a relationship…and its something you do anyway. so think about how you would approach a normal relationship. share your ideas and thinking and they get to know you. you have to make clear that you are willing to listen.

Q: microcommunities…how do you leverage them.

Betsy – we started with 5 members. we did a lot of stuff the that they would not ness be able to do that know. they focus on tech, not actions. we stay focus on customers with common interests.
Virginia – size does not matter – its whether you have a niche to feel, we created it to fill the need. only have about 1200 members, incredible active and a thriving part of the business
Terrence – we have timebound groups, associated with festivals. we combined them. and help during dead points.
Virginia – some are only timebound and that is OK
Jake – you have to define your success. you get caught up in discussion about numbers and cool techs, not the community

Q: how do you get them in and make them stay. (targeting 8-12, games.

Rebecca. we run a disney space, 8-10 yo. you wont get too many under 8. they’ll come there, they will need to do some drive to web, but they are online. you may have safety issues, not just getting people.
Jake: I’m always surprised about how much I don;t understand. they have multiple accounts. parental involvement is key, to connect together. make it easy to share. al prices of content can be passed around. an easy tag line to let people share.
Rebecca – let them create their own games look at club penguin, keep it simple. allow them to create own stuff.

Q: education component of community. for fundraising and advocacy. any experience of online fundraising and setting experience. what happens when things go wrong. (off-limits or things you did not envision)

Betsy: we did a couple. one that is complete disaster and one if ok. be very clear on what you site is and what is done. the community will start to develop their own vision and decide for you and usually its 10x better than you imagined. we tried to raise money for an effort and we basically did a call out to donate. [people did not invest. the second one we did making change for katrina. we went to community, told them their goal, tell us the best way to do it. it was about teachers and kids thinking about ways to get community involved, it became a classroom project. lesson learned – give clear vision, basic rues and let community discuss to, they will come p with stuff.
Virginia: develop leaders in community, design community. people join by making a relationship with leaders and then get sent a joining link. they work to keep personal connection.
Betsy – don;t be scared to have your members make a commitment to do things. we give people training materials and our teachers go out and do face to face training with other communities. don’t be scared to ask
Jake: give some context, then it makes it easy for people to work with. everyone likes some boundaries,.

Q: how do you deal with offensiveness

Terrence – we have flags, with have rules, we can warn and ban. you are in someone elses place of business and there are limits to what you can say. people do get upset and thing it is being restricted or it is not air. sometimes you have to put your foot down
Betsy – you have to set what abuse mans. some companies do not want people saying bad things about the company on their website. we had situation where people were removed, the community rose up and began saying things back but we rode it advised and it slowly came round
Jake – you can get n flags on some things and flags on things you would not even think about. helps you set policies

Q: Member conflicts – can you share some occasions about a feud?
Terrence – a lot of time like dealing with children. you have to separate and put them in corners. i have to go and talk to the people and get them to leave them alone. we have real world interaction.
Rebecca – worked with israel interactive…it was the worst year of my life. had to deal with lots. habbo has an ignore button. nationality, there as gangs etc. the kids all wanted ban tools, so changed name from ignore to ban chat.
Jake: one of my examples at lego, we did not do a lot of communities on the site, i published contact details etc. had open door policy. I was the trusted third party and got all the middle bit. I had to get out of the process, like standing between your wife and sister,,not a good idea
Terrence i had public breakup with model and people now come to me about relationships

Q: so how about people inside the company, how do I build micro-band within a company and you compete with paid work.

BEtsy – we’ve just started this. start small in manageable chunks. we wrote the first post and showed propel how easy to was to get responses. get the key influencers involved.
Rebeccas – if they know the bosses are looking, then that can work.
Virginia. try and pin down how participating can help in their other work. once people saw hoe much feedback they got not everyone wants to help
Jake: never seen one that started big go well.. have to start small.

Mar 11

SXSW – Digital Distribution of games

Alexander Fernandez CEO, Streamline Studios
David Burks Mktg Mgr, Seagate Technology
Dan Connors CEO, Telltale Productions
Craig Allen CEO, Spark Unlimited

Q: Does p2p count as distribution? what is it?

Craig: yes. in it’s purest sense its about creating commerce. To get the big companies you have to go to the publishers. there are a lot of people in the chain who may not care about your product. if you want to innovate there is not a lot to point to, you can;t get people to take risks. they want to do things that are proven. It;s not that you can’t do it, its a tough sell. so digital distribution removes some of these middle men, it;s a chance for rebalance; you can diversify the content.

Dan: more a logistical plan – stored on web and delivered direct to consumers. what the hosts and to what devices are going to establish what digital distribution is going. it’s all in play at moment. a sysmbiotic relationship now.

David: we see the clearest defintion is moving away form a physical form. that the direction the game consoles are going with otehr content etc, it’s a matter of time before the game content goes inthe saem irectiona nd it is a matter of figuring out the business models.

Q: what are you doing:

Dan: we have launches recent latest episode. first it is broadcast as part of subscription model, then sold on the website and then at the send of the season we will package it up into a single product. w e are spending and making money at the saem time. we have top of mind presence from releasing things on the web.

Q: you will sell at stores?

Dan: yes, we have a relationship with a publisher.

Craig: we are not doing anything yet but it is in future. we are excited about it, but we are doing big games for next gen consoles and we throw it over the wall and hope they like it. a lot like movie making, but may go like magazine etc and we get multiple channels for distribution, to be able to build relationship and have a strong dialogue with the digital consumer. they are vocal. you can taylor it, you can change and down the line you have a strong product. you can find out early if it will not work and better manage investments. have to wait til console base matures to the point where this is a strategy – 2-3 years.

Q: we have open and closed distribution platforms. what are your pros and cons. start off with closed ones.

Dan: on open platform, conversion costs are low. but it competes a lot. On the closed sites, then you have a high conversion user. On a PC, average everything on, including casual, then 1-2% and xbox live is about 20%. On causal, its found more randomly. on xbox they are looking for something particular so higher conversion. but you can;t set up how you get presented etc. there’s not a lot of products on closed system yet and it will change – so how do you get noticed in the future. there’s not as much freedom to advertise yourself.

David: people need to store things; we get asked for larger and larger drives for consoles. there are convenience opportunities. you can try before you buy with downloads etc. the online is good news for consumer. so how can we get there sooner. MS and Sony are not ness motivated to make it happen sooner.

Craig: you need to know your audience, who the core are. look what happened with mix tapes. now we have 50$ games…less than 10% of people who buy finish games. you have to give people value. where I think it will evolve o is like the seasonal TV market; people will talk about the good levels on a game. you spend money on what you want. you can’t subsidise crap. you have to build good stuff to get people to buy in this model. It’s an exciting place as we are on the cusp of having an open market.

Q: dan talked about customer ownership and value creation. you have more touchpoints with your consumer. how important is it for developers and content creators to be with the customer.

Dan: you can be topical, we are in a tight feedback loop, we encourage them to feedback, give them content for UGC to mic, building a community is what it is about. the shared interest is our target. we use a lot of the techniques to keep them coming back and interested, plus giving them something they can buy every month.

Q: are you using tips from other communities. can we learn stuff from music industry?

Dan: itunes is doing interesting things. but people are using this now to sell retail product. we are focused on doing things…digital distribution and episodic. itunes and single songs is good. they bought singles back works in the web… user reviews works. they have linked experiences together. the other key thing is the hard ware piece as well and has been adopted at a huge rate and is not there on the games side fully yet.

Q: who will win – MS or Sony ? or is it someone else

Dan: Nintendo has a shot. xbox is all over it now. Nintendo has momentum at the moment. Sony are doing stuff. so we will see!

Q: Dave, is there an opportunity to get involved in a different way beyond storage.

Dave: like a gaming harddrive at a vendor, loaded up with games. we launched DAVE that stores and communicates. can be used for viral and p2p distribution, demos etc. Everything that was analogue is going digital. pipes and tanks are all over.

Craig: piracy is another issue for us as an industry. physical copying has been one challenge. and digital makes it worse, how can producers protect their model. the gaming social community can create a protection to the revenue model. if you can disconnect and go I can steal. but if have to be connected and participate there is an opportunity to protect and have a revenue model. you can use media virally to create interest and convert to revenue model when they want to participate. you’ll see more of this cross pollination. the games industry and social connection groups will become new drivers of media as will be able to own consumer. PS Home becomes an expression of you digital lifestyle. you can reward people for participation this will be the big shift with media companies becoming tech companies.

Q: in Asia there is a tendency to give game away for free and then the add-ons are paid for.

Dan: xbox does, I think micropayments are coming. a cheap initial purchase, create relationship, it’s a smart way to go. a lot of software products were given away for free at the start. You have a base…and your marketing spend can reduce.

Q: can you launch a multimillion game via digital distribution now?

Craig: it;s possible but not advisable. you need the hardwear install base is maximised and the right number of connected users who would download. we are heading into the age of access, but need to wait. once there, a subset for game is them viable. At the moment the inventory is a risk, we have to pay for hardwear.disks etc. that is a huge burden on the capital. digital distribution i need the money to make the game not the disks. I have a predictor for growth. I can get loans on game success.

Audience Questions

Q: there’s a lot of PC digital distribution there. and they are locking in, there’s incompatibility. everyone wants to own. and there;s conflict and multiple accounts etc

Alex: remember they are fighting for you
Craig- they put up barriers to keep you. but if it gets too confusing then people go away. look at TVs..it’s too confusing. i it becomes like that then we have done somethings wrong. we need a simple turnkey approach for media.. barriers to commerce gets in the way of revenue.
Dave: the open architecture lends itself to the clutter, the closed systems make it more streamlined but little choice.

Q: Piracy…can you explain what you meant.

Craig – they pirate cos there is a lack of understanding or their is a significant barrier or inequity. a lot of piracy came form not being able to serve consumer needs. the commerce system did not meet needs. we have a blockbuster model cos that is vs walmart wants to hear. try something experimental, you need to be a big publisher.

Q: is there a lower resistance if in a episodic structure.

Dan: it’s a low price point, very web friendly. as they come back regularly, you can tell if they are pirating as well.
Craig: you have a personal relationship and easier to want to pay. on the big stuff, it;s difficult to get people to try, the barrier to sampling is 50$. Game sampling allows you try things and see if you like it.

Alex: you buy something and it sucks you cannot do anything about it.

Q: at GDC last week, the developers were excited about digital distribution, enables new innovation, new developers.

Craig: you can balance financing, creative etc. the layers of publishing puts difficulties in getting games up. there are different models growing up, people wanting to fund development.

Alex: dan, you jumped right in. why did you do this

Dan: it does look like we thought it would people were investing; we needed to build company from ground up and we built for it. the most exciting things have happened online and started with the independents online.

Q: Dan Dig dist has been around for a while. a lot of stuff has been worked through. biggest question is about user experience, how do they manage the full stuff. most are user side, the hardware stuff has been answered a lot.

Craig: the safety, monitoring etc will become an issue. for connected worlds. UGC and co-creation is going to create a lot of policy issues for a lot of people. minors, etc. people will create inappropriate content. so how do you govern, what are the risk and liabilities. the legislation will not catch up.

Q: What are your thoughts of selling the other stuff?

Dan: we give them added bonuses for the other stuff, tshirts etc

Q: how viable is the shareware model?

Craig – it depends on what your goals are. keep resource and cost down and it works well.

Q: PC games and older games. there is a lot of push back with invasive things on computers (steam) is the industry listening to their pushback.

Dan: understanding what users wants is key. the older audience is our core target. People also need to understand what steam is trying to do, with hardware fingerprinting etc, to balance security needs with user comfort.

Craig: we see a huge amount of people not being served. need to get beyond core gamers.

Mar 11

SXSW – LonelyGirl15 discussion

David Hudson Editor, GreenCine
Miles Beckett Producer, Lonelygirl15
Mesh Flinders Producer, Lonelygirl15
Greg Goodfried Producer, Lonelygirl15

Miles: a short format, about 5 videos a week. a popular serial drama.

Greg: there’s the top level show; then there is the interactive element, teaching the characters as real people. you can send private messages and we answer you back (my wife does that); you can text comments. they can make their own videos and interact with characters. we know the big plot points but there is a lot a smaller things that we use feedback on. eg bree giving a piece offering to Daniel after 1000s of emails back. (video: piece offering Aug 21 2006) got 650k views on YT. over course of week 1.5m-2m collective views per video.

Miles: that video was representative of what LG was. cheap video cam and bad mike.

David – can we back up and give a talk about the idea..

Miles: I was a plastic surgeon internship; saw rise of video on web. started own company to make content; on YT all the time, saw there was an audience there. wanted to create videoblogger, did story with mystery element. had idea in feb or so. met Mesh at party, shared idea and went from there.

Mesh – wanted to be a filmmaker; did internships etc. won panavision new filmmakers award, but still living hand to mouth, making ends make. about a year ago got hired to write first paid screenplay. when i heard the idea the first thing I thought about was Wells and War of the World, using new tech to tell a story. a cool way to make movies. we’ll do it for a few months, generate buzz and we will make a film about it. and that was kind of naive.

Greg – I’m a lawyer. met Miles in feb 06 when he was starting his company. Miles told me his idea; after hashing out the idea they asked me if they could be sued. he advised probably not, but yes shot. advice was don;t try and sell nor ask for money. he came onboard. we got together and did the show.

Miles: we thought it was good idea, if we could get a good story and actors then people would want to watch. we did not know the audience at the time as it was still techy and we did not know if the the reveal would drive away audience. we have a rabid fanbase, 30-50k people to day of people obsessed. when it revealed it was fictional, we gained a huge audience. some went away. we have 70% female, 14-40, cluster in mid 20s. I saw it as an opportunity for entertainment and tech. we have continued this and made it more elaborate. video 2 is Feb 10, 07. shows change in how it was a girl in bedroom and is now a more deeper, richer show, outside the bedroom. far more mystery. bree had to leave due to parents being part of The Order. we massively ramped up the plot. we realised we had to tell a far more compelling story. instead of the movie, we do it on the web. we shoot everything as if it is real, everything is shot as a character.

Greg: a character we had in London, we had to do everything in Uk time, we were loading video at 3am in morning to fit into character.

Miles: we see the video as being the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the experience. they are 2 minutes..but people spend a lot of time.

Greg – we do ARG elements, we do puzzles, the community join in to answer the puzzles, ie opening a flash file, with a riddle. feed across the video, and site. We weave in UGC. we show fan videos on site. people create themselves as characters. we invite them to tell stories. (showed UGC, which is driving an ARG etc)

Q: what kind of interaction are yu seeing around UGC?

Miles: there is not a lot of functionality around the UGC on site. You load stuff as a response and it is not that easy to follow a persons content. we are doing a rebuild which makes it easier to admin your own storylines, vote etc. we have discussion in forum and chatroom, wiki.

Q: how do you pay for it?

Miles: i was working 3-5 days a week on clinics, but slowly reducing hours. got money from parents to pay actors so did not have to work (and be recognised). we were running out of money through fall, we got some fan donations, we have some investment now which helps and we are goign to an advertising model, and there is going to be product placement. there are post roll videos etc

Greg: it makes sense for them to use real products as they are set up as real people. it is a natural fit to have product placement. we can have access to brands for arg elements, partnerships etc to build real world elements.

Q: where are you distributing. where are you trying to go?

Greg – still YT and website. we are trying to build out a syndication model, which are open to monetisation. we want to drive people back to site as where all the functionality is.

Miles: the video only will be on the other site; the rest of the show and the deeper stuff is on our site. we are using tech features as part of the narrative. we had 35k people hit our chartroom the first time..we had about 20 rooms open the first time and people were relaying etc. people talked to the characters. We introduced Jonas as a fan and people debated if it was a show part etc.

Q: production values?

MIles: you can do a lot with time. we started with a desk lamp and a window; people debated whether or not we were real at the beginning cos of the lighting but it was just a lot of time. we shot from the character pov..depends on what kind of camera they would have.

Q: did you become famous?

Miles: we are represented by CAA (?)
Mesh – I’m using LG to write my own feature this year. we are developing film. still at early stages. we’ve only just got time to start thinking outside of LG. the first 6 months were a blur and 24/7.

Q: are you where you wanted to be?

Miles: this is exactly it. this is my dream. tech and film.. this is perfect we are in a good position right now, we have access to the traditional channels. after the announcement we did a tour of the Hollywood stuff. we got some offers, but turned them down. we really want to do internet and interactive and most people we talked to did not get it. we did not want things being an issues. we found people who wanted to share vision and invest.

Mesh: the technology is a door opener for people who did not have the money or knowledge to make these before. people can do it with a web cam and your little brother. we are only just realising what the possibilities are.

Q: did you guys participate in Lost ARG…any ideas from this?

Greg: i did not know what an ARG was 4 months. Now, they are really cool. we attracted the ARG community who thought we were making an ARG, and they started investigating us. a month after the first video, people started selling stuff. we trademarked it. people found it, under his dads address. they started to dig in. they ‘stalked’ the family. we wanted to control press for reveal. the community was passionate but we had to point them away from us. we are going to do more arg stuff. live appearances are in the future, it;s a resource issue. we write, shoot, edit, so the more elaborate stuff we are waiting so we can do it right.

Q: can you express your creativity more now the cat is out the bag?

MIles: the initial thought was to create fictional video blogger I did not know how much they would think about it; I did not realise how much people would dig. as the press got more and more intense it was incredible stressful.. we did not know what the reaction would be, we anted to be cool not fool people. once out of the bag it was liberating,

Greg: we now have more freedom and they are not analysing everything. they got a botanist to look at plants, they analysed where we bought things from. we want to wrap our arms round these people as they will stay, they invested in in

Q: what was the backlash?

MIles there was a little backlash for far less than expected. people seemed to know it was fake all along. it got far more in depth. the vast majority knoew it was not real but were suspending disbelief.

Greg: the numbers are larger now, so people are still in it. we made a decision to answer all the questions to Bree, but answered none of the ones to the producers/actors. People are talking about it as a tv show now, not a web hoax.

Q: how are you handling the ‘fame’ between the 3 of you, the actors etc

Greg: we are closer now then before. Miles add I want to stay in the space, Mesh looking for other stuff. we can do a lot in a short time and then let people do other stuff. Jessica is under contract and is getting work, jessica just shot a film in Feb so we shot everything in Dec.

Miles: it was an emotional rollercoaster. a t times we loved at times we hated.

Mesh: we could not talk about this to any one except with each other. we could only share with each other. i could not talk to my girlfriend (and we broke up) this was a big risk and it paid off in spades. we are best friends now.

Miles: we are uploading a video live. we are running on wordpress…and here’s us loading live.

10 seconds later..there were 2 responses. all going First! it goes from firsts, to discussion, then just general chat, then it goes for chants for new videos.

MIles: we post randomly. they live on our website. we have email, we have an rss feed. none of us are programmers,

Q: how did yo get publicity to start?

Miles: we used YT social network. we had created character on site and talked and commented in character for a few weeks. then we did a few responses to popular people. when we put the first one up, we already had a few 100 people. subscribed. we were active on commenting, adding friends. this was part of the story telling. after that, were these videos good.

Greg: we are getting hired to do this now for other people.

Q: you are turning down deals etc, you are monetising..are you running into problems with cpm etc.

Greg: we are feeling out the model as we go. it;s work in progress

Miles: the web model is different to tv…cpm on tv depends on quality. that model is startign to apply to us, advertisers prefer to be on lg15 and will pay it.

And that was that…

Mar 10

SXSW – Production 2.0

Production 2.0

looking at how to make money from video blogging. I was 15minutes late to this..again and did not catch all the names. Some are in parentheses when I grabbed them)

Q: there a re growing pains, and you need to take time to focus on things.

A: it is worth it to pay a lawyer to stop being screwed. you don’t want to lose your brand have someone to own your content.

A; when they are trying to define new media is so tricky….’anything transmitted electronically’ needs to have a good eye.

Q: david, what have you come across to look out for?

A: David. it depends on where you start from? there are certain things you can do when you don’t need an extensive amount of help. once you reach a certain level of success you do need to start taking care, trademarks etc. companies will do ad sales networks that can turn your productions into profit. there;s a lot of competition out there, we made the decision to build own network sales early. we sat down and did the take a break and look at everything, to see if really viable.

Q: when do have a good level of viewership?

A: diggnation is most popular – 2 guys sitting in a couch drinking beer.cost is low. time and beer cost money. it comes down to keeping it simple. have enough to have a property with enough viewers that people want to reach your audience.

Q: you don’t need an audience..you need a promised audience.

A: if you have an blog or own notoriety you can use that to break the deal….

A: (baron) by having an individual sponsor to fund show, it’s compared to advertising. that is the most advantageous for the content producer, the audience and the sponsor. you can split it to being happy with what you have, or seeing the potential of where you want to be. but as it starts, it gives scoble and his audience a chance to be effective for seagate. the amount of time with one sponsor allows you to be close to them and get ot know them and also pick one that suits your audience. it;s a really good model for people. le;s say you don;t have a production company and are ready to make the step. so instead of going to do vs etc, if you can start a relationship with a single sponsor then you can focus.

Q: are we taking about personality as scoble is well known,

A: there’s a blog about raw food, sustainability..they got real big, real quick cos they were doing something that other were not.

Q: did you guys think of your audience first or the idea first.

A: (Ninja) we thought of ourselves first; we were frustrated,wanted to have control. there is a scaleability in terms of sponsorship; each instant needs a little exploration. need to see what is out there before making the decision. you can explore models. Keep the dialogue open with peers and audience

Q: what format do you think will break out?

A: if you create a show and there is enough people who want to watch your video on their device – you’ll make it in the format. People have their favourites.

Q: how many views does your blog get and when does a advertiser starts paying attention. what numbers do you need to do?

A: depends on what you are making and who the sponsor is? and what the subject is.
A: if you have niche topic, then you can go after the companies. depends on your target.
Q: do sponsors care about length?
A: convergence continues, length increases beyond the current favourite 5 mins etc.
A: (Baron) best way to make it a success is to focus on the show and make it as best you can be. it will stick out in the audience. most conversations are about how to make it better. even with all the business we are doing, still thinking about how to make rocketboom better, my number 1 thought.

Q: anyone tried a subscription model?
A: Baron – another thing we are going to try. Kotke tried last year. this hots one where I think this is going. no one has yet demonstrated how to leverage it in micropayments. About to try for donations. and to channel them into areas when they pay want to pay monthly fees.
A: I think Ze is doing it successfully. It;s pretty non-offensive.
A: on diggnation, we asked for donations. for rev3, we offer shows early to those who subscribe. there is revenue but not sustainable.
A: Baron – its takes testing and experimentation.
A: it;s incentives – not preventing people watching show entirely, but about giving back if they give to you.

Q: starting a tv network, for college cause audience. so how do you reconcile creating art for yourself and something for an audience.

A: art is for yourself, for an audience, you have to do some compromise.
A: none of us is doing something we are not passionate about.
A: a lot of people come into this as they want to produce stuff; if it is just for the money, may not be interesting for long.
A: but don’t be afraid tyo try things and fail.

Q: you all produce hi qual lo cost. do you want to become the jerry bruckheimer?
A: secretly, yes.
Q: was this an ambition before you got to videoblogging.
A: most on panel were yes and yes – want to increase production values, and be the jb.
A: i slowly increase quality through getting better equipment. but still looks to do things cheap as well. I’m getting to point when i start seeing what I need.

Q: when creating content, and had to bring people in, how did you handle the business side of it.
A: (barron) still not got into visit where had to give up equity. you can look at value in different ways, eg licence for many years; there are many ways to structure it and that is all about being creative etc. answers are there, you have to discover them

Mar 10

SXSW – Attack of the ARG

Update: This panel was one of the ones I most wanted to see whilst I was here. I’m starting to get my head round the space that is alternate reality, but only dipped my toes in the water in the more ‘amateur’ games. The commercial side is not one I’ve had too much experience of, the ones that are tied into a brand. But thise are the ones that most people start with. I played the Prague files and am looking at Perplex City 2; I’m also working with a friend to see if their story can be turned into a game.

I really enjoyed hearing from the professionals, who turn out these games for big corporates. One of the brands I used to work for was in the consideration process for a 3 month ARG, but we never got full commitment. Everyone loved it, in the abstract, but putting money against it was a problem It was a bit more than 1% of the marketing budget mentioned in the talk though. It was also driven from the agency, not the client, so in hindsight that was a major issue. Many of the clients discussed below seem to drive the need themselves, so have the motivation.

When you look at the demo, with a high percentage of females, and the time spent with the brand, this model of marketing could be useful in so many ways, working to cut through the clutter of ads today.

Dan Hon (Mindcandy) Perplex city
Brian Clark (GMD Studios) Known for art of the heist for Audi.
Evan Jones (Stitch media) Known for regenesis
Brooke Thompson (Giant Mice) Known in community
Alice Taylor (BBC) (Chair)

About 25% in audience are story tellers. More were bloggers and journalists. A few even admitted to not knowing what an ARG was.

Brian – a lot of ARg have been in advertising, for big sponsors. treat as opportunity online. you have a different relationship online. it’s an opportunity to use feedback and change story of product in real time based on audience feedback.

Evan – working with TV production companies enhancing their stories into interactivity.

Brooke – came into ARG from a social degree, looking at the online communities. Working with unfiction, argn, and now taking it into more serious games. games that do something other than just entertainment.

Dan: main product is perplex city. in first city was about treasure hunt and story. into puzzles, codes, social engineering (against actors). Big on story and narrative. Audience is 50/50 male female.

Alice: ARGS about 5 or so years, came out of a number of gaming communities, a tthe same time. an emergent development. they can last for for variety of times, PC ran 2 years, others are shorter etc. started in marketing and gaming.

Q: are they promotional, games or what

Dan: so what are books for, websites for. we are experimenting at using a lot of media and using a new platform to tell stories. weaving it together to create a coherent experience

Alice: why have marketers picked up on it. it;s far more work than sticking an ad up?

Brian: budget shifts away from broadcast to interactive. quality of interaction has more impact than sheer number of reach in a tv ad. an arg can produce session lengths of 30mins or longer, high repeat visits. it;s still measurable. In the way you would measure PR and the web. look at community discussions. More immediately provable from an ROI, but not ness from a revenue generating for story telling.

Dan: continuous partial attention…Linda stone talks about how everyone in the room is acting..we are doing multiple things at same time.. you see this with tv and online etc. what arg offers is the potential to reach people across a number of different media.

Evan; arg take advantage of natural state of web- hunting for bits of data and assembling knowledge.

Alice: 50% of tv watching is about tv on in background (BBC research in UK), change from 10% in 50’s
So far, it sounds like we are talking about always connected people

Brooke :you have to computer literate for most ARGs. you have to have a functional understanding of how to find and assemble info from online (hence can make a good training tool). companies love it as have a huge number of women involved, in both playing and development. different games attract different demo

Dan: PC peaks at 26; people following the story were different form those doing the puzzle cards. Higher proportion of women following story. puzzles were from 10-80yo, huge range of ages.

Brooke: you can customise to audience by writing different story

Brian: it’s like asking who is watching tv

Evan: the interaction, the felling of being in the story is an empowerment thing that hits a certain need.

Alice: where do you see ARGS going?

Brian: last weekend there was an AGR festival in SanFran. the people behind lonelygirl were there..the people in the arg community thought it was an ARG, when they found it was not they launched one..which was asked to be the official one.

Evan: different levels. certain games at mainstream etc. different models,

Brooke: we are going to see them spread more into TV. they are going to spread into education, to help people learn how things work. it will spread out.

Brian: academia are interesting. in the infancy stage, just developing

Dan: it;s hard to get into games in the middle. been looking at tv etc and trying to learn how people get into the things, help you catch up. it may happen in more bitesize chunks to make it more accessible, to make it manageable, has a start and end date. you know you can play the episode etc

Evan: it’s too easy to get into a rabbit how and not knowing what signing uo for, this gives more control

Alice: size/money etc

Brooke: worked on matrix game. 125k players, had high production values. under 10k budget, 7 people, 4 of them fulltime.

Dan: everyone has a content problem. you create a passionate audience. the audience sucks up content. just in time content creation. keeping up with everything. this is really user centered design – watch what players are doing and constantly adapt.

Brian: have rewritten almost everything halfway through, in response to audience and their better ideas. so can change stories in the middle.

Evan: it’s about working with partners, bringing them along.

Alice: when does this go horribly wrong?

Brian – every time. because of the chaos of the real world, you have to adjust. you always have to figure out how to recover – quickly. take it as reality and adapt it.

Evan: exposing yourself to a committed audience…you have to stay in game sometimes it works, but it is a dangerous territory to walk through. but it can be used for entertainment but worse

Brooke: one of the biggest fears 5years ago…lessened now. you have to make sure people know it is a game and that they can trust you

Brian – people should not listen to people on the web telling them what to do!

Dan; you can get bad pr very quickly. these are very connected very passionate people. put one foot wrong it;s bad. when it goes well, you get all the passion, all the creativity. it’s great. the treasure hunt was hard for the PR company to get around..they lined up interviews before it was found..and could not understand that it was not done to order. we try and be safe but we do real world things. to work well you have to give up an element of control. it can get risky, the bad things can happen but this is where the fun stuff happens.

Audience Questions:

Q: user engagement and passionate user experiences etc; commercially applied – awesome, can see why a corporate client would want this. but when things go wrong, its bad. so how do you sell the high production values etc, don’t know how many people get involved.

Brian – you can plan, the amount into media can help predict audience. if you can’t afford to experiment with 1% of marketing budget you will fall behind. it’s the ones that are potentially behind who are willing to experiment.

Dan: on PC that is not a problem. the beast was skunkworks – not known about it. at MC the phone is ringing, everyone wants one. but there is a different set of people being approached who need to think about it.

Q: ARGS and public safety. are they the bridge btw the living and the street?

Evan: we always found it most useful to add an extra layer; before going into real fiction they need to take a moment and remind people that is is a game. have always pointed people that way. getting people to acknowledge that it is fiction.

Brian: we know the ARG genre has matured when the legal defense is an arg..people are looking for the influences, they say it for books, video games etc.

Q: games that matter and interact in a real way. for education etc. what is the budget…how can we do it

Brooke: keep your eye out in the next few weeks for something on climate change. See jane mcGonagle keynote last week. There is a game being developed called world without oil. get people to talk about things and explore it.

Dan: the things you can get people to do when they are in the story is amazing. characters put in peril…people try all sorts. gets people to do things they would not always do.

Brian: have to avoid edutainment trap. perception that serious games aren’t fun

Q: lg15 was interesting; a fundamental principle is about being in the know? how do you see it co-exisitng as more commercial

Brooke: the secret knowledge is one motivation
Brian; we are trying to give the audience something to do. the simplest is to take the narrative and break it into a 100 pieces and hide it. the audience has to assemble it. so it;s about sharing and collaboration etc, ie finding something out and bringing it to the rest of the community.

Dan: with PC there was a lot of sharing, even though a lot of money for grabs. it;s also about the discovery process, is it real etc..it’s at the start and we will start to evolve into entertainment more, it is fiction, it;s about the narrative.

Brian: for big games, they expect a sponsor. and people look to find out who it is.

Dan: the audience expects them to be tied into a brand. PC and Cathys book are the only ones that are not tied into the brand.

Q: work for major media community and we have problem of the opposite..people wanting them for their shows (ie lost experience). what costs and time do you take to build them. do you do it for new shows?

Brian: have done new stuff. took pilot money and turned into website. (freaky links). it was heavily trafficked before it was cancelled.

Q: so how do you get people to it?

A: have an interesting, episodic content. a year before hand.

Alice: is it difficult to set up quickly?

Evan: one game had a turn around of 2 months. but the caveat, it’s more successful from how early it gets into the creative team.

Dan: an example of how things can go wrong. things are separate. things are not linked. you have to have everything together at the early stages or a very disjointed experience.

Brian – costs depend on budget. you design the games around the budget. most is millions….

Q: how do you measure organic growth, WOM.

Brian: that is what happens

Brooke: there is a core group of people at unfiction that do get tagged.

Brian: recruting more players is one of the subgames

Dan: 2 elements – fun games want my friends to ow..plus you need to get people on board to do things.

Q: how do you build games to suit products etc, how do design the games

Evan: it can be more of branded entertainment. the story may not be directly related to a brand.

Dan: there are stories which are retrofitted, or a complete new experience where creatives are part of it.

Q: are the players of the games the direct target?

Brian – it’s broader than that. see American idol and the difference betw the audition peiple, those who vote and those who know it exists.