Sep 04

London 2012: Handball

Another new sport – HANDBALL. Which is completely insane. This is like water polo on land – lots of ‘accidental’ collisions and elbows and pushes and all that. A pretty violent sport. And hard work, as they need volunteers to clean the floor every now and again, as the umpire sees a particular damp patch from sweat. Or blood!

London 2012 Handball

I got reasonable seats, pretty close to the action at one end. But they were behind the protective netting – so photos weren’t brilliant!. But plenty close enough to see all of the pushing and showing.

The handball took place in the Basketball Arena, although previously it had been in the Copper Box. As the matches got closer to the final, I’m guessing they upped the capacity. One thing about the Basketball Arena is that it’s at the other end of the Park from the main entrances. I’d followed the instructions and decided to ‘Alight at West Ham’. Which meant a 30 minute walk before I even got to the Park, which would be followed by at least another 30 minutes. But that night, I’d had a bad back, so the time I got to the gate, I was limping quite badly. And now the wonderfulness of the volunteers kicked in. my limping was commented on, I was asked if I wanted some help. I expected to get a lift on one of the buggies they were using. But no, it must have been a quiet night because next thing I knew, a wheelchair was pulled into action, I was wheeled around to the mobility station and presented with a mobility scooter. I had wheels!!!

My scooter

During the trundle up the park, i stopped at some of the Sponsor pavilions and checked out their disabled access. Had no problem getting into the couple I tried. At the Arena, it was easy. There was parking for the scooter, and after the venue just picked it up again and trundled back.

London 2012 Handball

Jul 28

London 2012: the torch relay

London 2012 Torch Relay

Our office is in Southwark and on Thursday 26th July it was perfectly placed for the torch relay. Just after 10am,t he torch was due to go right by the office. Some crowded the windows for an overhead view. Caroline and I decided that we needed a ringside seat. So 45 mins before, we headed outside with our chairs for a meeting – and, to be fair, we actually did have a meeting, before packing away and getting ready for the torch to come by. Right on time, the sponsor buses made their way past

London 2012 Torch Relay

And then finally the torch..just a brief glimpse as it ran by to the kiss point on the corner

London 2012 Torch Relay

And on Friday, we had another chance to see the flame, as it came down the Thames on the Glorianna. A slight mistiming meant we were slightly too late to see the flame go by the closest point, but a mad dash down the bank got us to London Bridge where the final (but one) stage of the relay was to happen, as the torch got passed to City hall for safe keeping before its star turn tonight.

In both instances, what was so, so apparent was everyone’s enthusiasm. This was an EVENT…something everyone wanted to be part of. They stood on balconies and in windows, on cheery pickers on on top of walls. They ran down the side of the towpath and tried desperately to get a glimpse of what was happening at London Bridge, standing on tiptoes to peer over the heads, or raising arms high to snap photos in hope of getting a shot. The buzz was palpable and excitement was high. This was not just tourists, but office workers and local families, out to take part in the biggest event they are ever likely to see in London. Let’s bring on the Games, London is ready!

Torch Relay

Torch Relay

Jul 24

London 2012: Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

I’m still on the reserve list for the Olympic volunteers. I’m not happy about it and I’d rather be taking part, but one compensation I did get was a ticket to the Opening Ceremony Technical Rehearsal the Monday before the games start. This was to be a major test event for the ceremony and for all the transport and organisation around it. So how did it go?

Transport: Travelled in from London Bridge to Stratford; returned Stratford to Waterloo. Had no real problems either way. Getting there was straightforward – although the station may not be a easy to traverse during the games. Getting out of the stadium was harder; somewhere between 40 and 50 thousand people exited the Olympic Park at 10.15 all looking to get home – with the Central Line broken. There were queues, but they kept moving and I got right onto a train and got a seat. The train was filled up completely before it started moving, so it was a pretty warm journey back. There routes to and from the station were well supplied with friendly Gamesmakers keeping everyone informed. However, I see issues arising if the trains are kept regular, because the queues and jams will quickly build.

Olympic Park

The Olympic Park: Slightly underwhelming. Lots of concrete, no where to sit around the stadium. Outside of the Stadium island, nothing was open and it looked pretty sterile – although the wild flowers were good. I was only in the bit immediately around the stadium and the rest of it is supposed to be better, but nothing brilliant there.

Olympic Park

The commercial bit: almost all the stalls were open around the stadium itself. This was the first time for all of them and they seemed to be doing Ok for the main. When I approached the bar, the servers were calling me over, so they could have their first customer. Later on it got a bit more hectic – a lot more queues were seen. This seemed to be a combination of slowness due to not quite sure what doing, slowness due to Visa restriction – and the payments, which were NOT fast – and the bars running out of soft drinks and water so people being turned away. Water IS going to be a BIG problem – there were long, long queues for the few water fountains that were available, so I think something needs to be sorted there

Olympic Park

The Gamesmakers: definitely some first day nerves for some, but overall everyone was brilliant. Bright, bubbly, keeping everyone moving. I did see a few occasions of them not quite knowing what to do and passing it along chains, but for a first day, think they did OK.

The Ceremony: Wow. Just wow. I’m still buzzing from it. But you are going to have to wait until Friday because we all promised to #SavetheSurprise – and watch the hashtag on twitter on Wednesday evening for peoples reactions. I wasn’t sure going into the evening what to expect and the first part did not fill me with confidence. The very first bit was slow and full of some of the clich√©s that have been talked about. But then, it took off and kept delivering. We didn’t see everything, but what we did see was absolutely amazing. Watch it!!!

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

Mar 27

Comparing the census – 1911 vs 2011

I’ve been researching my family history for a lot of years’ starting with trips to London to look up birth, marriage and death certificates and pore over the micofiche of the various censuses (censii???).

Today, it’s a lot easier, the national records are all online and I can sit on the couch and do almost all my research. Which is ironic as I now live in walking distance of the National Archives so a trip to do research does not need an all day trip down to London. I pay for access; if you go to the archives you get the same records on computer but for free.

I’ve been able to trace family all the way through, back from 1911 to 1841, seeing how many children survived, how the jobs stayed consistent across the years, how little some people moved. In the 1911 edition, they introduced a new piece of information – how long has a couple been married. Makes it a lot easier to track down the marriage certificate. Even better, the scanned records are now the original from the household, not the summaries. So you can now see an example of your relatives’ handwriting.

The 1911 census from James Hickman, my great-great-great-grandfather.

I was interested in doing the 2011 census; it would be the first one I’d have the chance to complete. I was either abroad or not the householder for the previous ones. But I was so disappointed. It was not the elegant single form just after the basics. it was a long, complicated set of pages, after all sorts of information about jobs, religion and the house I lived in. I vaguely understand why they want this (although not particularly happy about who is processing the data), but it seems to have grown because it could.

But I’m also disappointed for the future family historian. The information will ONLY be available online – you can complete it fully digitally if you want, you don’t need to fill in the form. There is a strong possibility that the data won’t be there in 100 years time, that it won’t be accessible. And the historian will not have the original documents to review, something that is always recommended when investigating digital records. It’s a shame that we’re not keeping that connection – I love the fact I can research digitally but have misgivings about moving purely that way for such important records that are supposed to last a century at least.

Jan 01

Past and Future

It’s the end of one year, the start of a new one. Traditionally time to set New Year resolutions, those vague statements of things that you’re going to change. I decided a few years ago that resolutions are too woolly, too easy to get out of, so I try and set goals, or objectives if I want to put them in business speak. Measurable, achievable, and relevant. Not all are set at the start of the year, they get added to and changed. Last year, I did not publish them, but I think it is time to do that for 2011

So how did 2010 go? Not too bad, although the first half of the year was better than the second in my achievements.

1. Visit 5 new places in the UK. It’s too easy when your own country to ignore it, to not appreciate it. So a goal was to visit some new places, to get a wider understanding of the place. I tied this in with my love of cathedrals and taking photos as my ‘reason’ for some of the visits. This was achieved, with visits to Sheffield, Rochester, Salisbury, Winchester, and St Albans.

2. Go to an F1 Grand Prix. This had been a vague idea for a while, but eventually got it organised with Sofia for a trip to the Belgian GP in Spa. An absolutely brilliant trip, really enjoyable despite the rain. In 2011, we’re planning on going to 3 races ūüėČ

3. Lose 1 stone. It’s not secret I like my food and my wine and I don’t like exercise. This combination has inevitable consequences and I carry too much weight. So I set myself a manageable target at the end of Q1 to lose some of that and over the next 4 months I managed to do that. Not through making too many changes, but by going to the gym, doing some running and just eating a little more sensibly. Due to job changes and injuries to my feet, the gym fell by the wayside in August, but having just weighed myself again, I’m glad to say the weight is still off. One little tool that helped me was the ShapeUp phone app, which allows me to track food and exercise – just tracking it means you think about what you are eating and drinking.

4. Be able to run 5k. I hate running, loathe it, far prefer to be yelled at in an aerobics class than go for a jog. The last time I ran any distance was cross country in school, so setting myself this goal was ambitious for me. But I managed it, slowly. I even did a fun run early in my training, the Sports Relief mile. Not a lot for most people, but a concrete achievement for me!

There were some other achievements and changes in 2010.

1. I finally went back to Australia. I was last there in 2005 and always said I’d go back, using airmiles that I’d accumulated flying back and forth across the Atlantic. The only problem with using these is getting them booked. I tried in 2008, but failed. In 2009, I checked on the 1 year out date and found one seat on one flight on one day in the whole of October and got that booked immediately! Three weeks travelling between Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney was just lovely and as the first ‘holiday’ I’d had for about 4 years, greatly appreciated. (By holiday, I mean just doing touristy stuff, not rowing or conferences or family visits)

2. I got a new job. This was not in the plan at the start of the year, but with social media being one of the hot areas this year for jobs, I was receiving a lot of approaches from recruiters (via Linked In, a brilliant place to find new roles) and I took a few interviews, one of which led to my new role in Momentum, something I just could not turn down.

3. Made a whole load of new friends via Twitter. I’ve been on Twitter for 4 years, a long time in social media. That account has let me meet new people, go to some great events and have a lot of fun. This year, I started a second account focusing on F1 and through that have virtually met a lot of great people and then met them in real life at Spa. They’re now fast friends and we’ve got some good things planned for 2011.

4. I sorted out my driving licence at last. I’ve not driven a car since 2006 and not seen my original driving licence since I moved back to London in 2003. At the end of the year, I finally found my licence and got it replaced with a brand new photocard version, so now I can hire cars and be a bit more mobile in 2011 instead of relying on public transport. (interestingly, when applying for the replacement, I thought I’d have to send in a photo. Instead, they pulled out my 9 year old passport photo from a government database somewhere and just used that)

So how about in 2011? What are my goals for the next 12 months?

1. Lose 1 stone. Again, not a huge target, but it’s achievable with minimal changes. I’ve got the iphone apps all set up, with Shapeup for food tracking and Runmeter for walking/running tracking and I’m writing up my exercise plans.

2. Do 6 planned walks over the year. Last year, I did 3 group walks, which I found a good way to get some exercise and meet new people and just get out and about!. So I’m going to double that number, through a few walking groups in the areas.

3. Visit 5 new UK places. Another repeat, but just carrying on with the theme of cathedrals. I’m thinking at least Canterbury, Bath and Chichester..we’ll see about the others.

4. Do 5 new experiences. The first is getting set up, a driving experience at Silverstone. I’m looking at Burlesque dancing classes, cooking classes and a few others, but open to suggestions!

Update 12 Jan: I’m adding a new goal. Unsubscribe from all of those newsletter emails!

Jan 01

What I did this year

I’ve been looking back at this year’s Flickr photos to see what I did this year – and I did a lot. So as a summary and a reminder for myself, here’s my activity for the year. When I put it all together, I think I had a good year for just getting out and doing things. All the links are to Flickr photos.

Winter Walk Dec 26th 2010

Dec 08

Christmas Windows at LeWeb

One thing that LeWeb does is bring you to Paris in December, when there’s lots of Christmas decorations. Along Boulevard Haussman, the department stores compete for your eyeballs with their window decorations. Her’e’s the one that caught my eye – it’s dancing Teddy bears to the sound of Abba.

Dec 06

Le Web 2010

It’s December, that means it’s time for Le Web, the Parisian based tech conference. This is the 7th (I think) running of the conference by Geraldine (and Loic) La Meur, which started off focusing on blogging and has expanded to cover the whole of the tech scene, not just web but mobile connectivity as well.

This is my third time attending. I was at there in 2005, 2008 and now this year. There’s a huge difference between 05 and what I’m expecting this year, from a fairly small, tightknit event to one that has 2400 participants from much of the EU, North America and a sprinkling from the rest of the world.

So what to expect? There’s definitely some of the usual suspects providing speakers- Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Microsoft, Google etc. Many more of the sponsors are also talking. The risk of this, at any conference, is all they do is a sales pitch which does not engage, so here’s hoping they bring soemthing interesting to the table. One thing I do know about this conference, is there’s usually something unusual and thought provoking as well, whether a visit from a potential President to a presentation on Love. I’m looking forward to talks about Thought Controlled Computing and Mobile and social gaming.

But if you aren’t making the trip to Paris, you can still catch up with all that is going on. The 2 days will be livestreamed by Ustream – on LeWeb and lewebplenary2 – and follow the action on Twitter with #leweb or #leweb10. There’s also a huge list of bloggers/tweeters in multiple languages, who’ll be covering the event with live blogging, videos, audio and images. I’m looking forward to having you along for the ride

Sep 09

Google Instant Search Results A-Z

From the UK, here’s the top results for each single letter. It’s interesting what it says about the UK (or is it just my results?). Top online retailers, internet services and TV programmes.

  • Argos
  • BBC
  • Currys
  • Debenhams
  • eBay
  • Facebook
  • Google Maps
  • Hotmail
  • ITV
  • John Lewis
  • KLM
  • Lotto
  • MSN
  • Next
  • O2
  • PayPal
  • QVC
  • Rightmove
  • Sky
  • Tesco
  • YouTube (yes, it is the top result for u)
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • BBC Weather
  • Xbox
  • YouTube
  • Zara
Jul 06

Getting the Olympics


The news comes through, originally uploaded by RachelC.

Five years ago, a colleague and I ran down to Trafalgar Square in our lunch break to join the crowds waiting to see if we had been awarded the Olympics. And we had! Here’s the crowd just after the announcement.

Jun 22

Watching Football online

I think STV wins on this, far fewer clicks to get to the content

STV (as recommended by Ewan)

  • Go to STV home page
  • Click on ‘live now’ in programme listing
  • Go to page, watch some ads. Start the football


  • Go to BBC home page
  • Click on ‘what’s playing now’ in programme listing
  • Click on ‘Live on BBC one now’
  • Click to start the football (or one more click to have popup video player(my preference)


  • Go to the ITV home page
  • Click on bottom nav home page link in main banner. Go nowhere. Click on text link.
  • Stare at page trying to work out where link is
  • Click on ‘live’ link. Go to ‘live page’
  • Click on ‘Join now’ Go to a page full of texts, facts, chat topics, video replays, live stats
  • Try and work out which link to click
  • Find link. Click. Get to page with live chat. Ads start running
  • Start the football, on a page made slower by running lots of social elements and scripts that threaten to kill the browser.
Mar 14

SXSW: Extending your brand, there’s an app for that

Extending your Brand, there’s an App for that.
For many, brand extension into the digital realm means a Web site, a banner add, a viral campaign. But applications can extend conversations and perceptions of a brand, as well as add to discussions and ideas in compelling new ways. How can applications help your brand and idea be more authentic,…
Rob Girling, Adrian Ho, Shiv Singh, Brian Morrissey

SS: Social Media lead at Razorfish, we currently have reduction in form size, but no reduction in functionality, we are developing mobile solutions for almost all the clients. we are not the 3rd gen of mobiles design, where the core interface is buttons, and streaming and a pulse interface.
RG: Co-Founder of artefact. being working on apps for the last 20 years. come at this from the tech and UI perspective. thinking about how to make a grate app is what we do, which is diff to how marketing has developed things from the past. One thing recently is Seesmic Look, Twitter for neophytes. It’s a branded channel, so brands can build content on top of their tags that are happening. It’s not about building an app, it could be about reaching through an app to get to your audience.
AH: 3 yo company, founders were all ad people, we are reformed. It is around the idea you can take the same money that you spent on commas and spend it on doing things for people and have the same success. My background is strategy. We try and solve business problems by doing things, so for Nordstrom, teen girls, when they want to spend lots of money, they would take pictures and send pictures to their parents – OR would dress up and take photos for touchscreens. So we created something that could take photos, edit them and let them be sent out.

BM: we are going to be talking about the future. what do you see going on right now?
AH: the biggest change, it’s about the information, about how people use the products. Less of the brand perception is not about the imagery and commas but about what they do.
SS; I would extend that further, the biggest change in last 3 years, is trust in big brands has dropped dramatically, thanks to financial crisis and consumer empowerment. Brands are not defined by what they do (marketing, PR, launches) and more by how consumers talk and relate to them. A lot of questions about fundamentals of marketing, advertising etc

BM; so where do apps fit in there?
RG: the days of brands trying to get your attention and hold it with traditional methods are gone. if you are not trying to actively engage your customers, provide utility, you are not going to have a lasting relationship. you have to understand them, their pain, look for opps to delight the. It’s not another channel to push out the message, you have to provide them.
SS: Only partially agree. I like toothpaste, I use it everyday, but I don’t want to have a 2 way conversation with colgate. I care about that I have a memory point when I next buy it. It is important to see the type of brand and if it is high or low consideration.

BM: what can brands learn from popular apps, that are not brand apps.
AH: the lessons that brands can learn from 4sq is not the one they think they are learning. SO people want to connect with friends and they should not get away form that. there are times you can help..but they should not go through you. Typically brands would say this is fantastic it is another place we can connect but it is not a great place for brands to be playing.
SS: so how many of you consider yourself experts in social media (a quarter). (More in mobile). You can’t be into social media if you are not into mobile as well.
RG: I want to add a diff point, what we should be learning is about incentivised behaviour and social status. there is a lot of buzz about reward systems for behaviour. they get something back for checking in, for changing behaviour. that is the beginning of a massive trend, that will snowball in the next few years.

BM: so I want to go into your favourites. A lot of apps are serving the same place as microsites, they are disposable, So what is the role for the campaign like, ephemeral apps.
SS: if you have an app that is a microsiste, it is a total failure, an app coming from a brand has to be entertainment driver – without eh brand as a sponsor or it has to be utilitarian, like the food ordering apps. For it to play role of microsite is a waste of time and money
BM: Adrian are you seeing this> It was the facebook app, now the iphone app.
AH: I would agree on microsite thing, also, I think the entertainment model of using apps is flawed for brands, it does not do the behaviour change, A lot of advertising is about trickery, about changing behaviour. Apps in general, they reward change, that may be useful for brand. A utility based app is much more direct, allows you to behave in a new way. an entertainment app is different, it is about you making you feel different about eh brand, so not a great use for apps,

AudQ: is the brand manager of the future technologist or marketer?
RG: if what I said about apps is true, the technology component cannot be ignored. it’s maintenance and shipping cycle and complexity that the marketing industry is not used to yet. I still think the brand expertise to have the insights and empathy with customer will still rule the day however.
SS: Knowing customers is getting harder by the day and that is of paramount importance. With mobile apps it should get a lot quicker and easier to build and the tech should be commoditised.
AH: the debate about who controls is interesting. from tech, an app is designed to allow you to do things so there is research about making that possible, Marketers come at it about telling you things about the brand that is good to know. they often collide. It is in the middle it will come together, if you allow technologist to do anything, you get usable apps that are not differentiated, so you need the marketing that flavours it with the brand.

BM: so apps you like?
SS: Bundle helps you understand how people spend money. you can info about how other people just like you spend money, the app does not translate the website. The app is Vice Tracker is about changing the spend behaviour. allowing people to be more mindful of how they are spending, against their friends. I can track behaviour, see friends, comment on their behaviour, gives a leadership ranking, on who has the most vices. the idea is that apps can serve a strong educational purpose, in this case managing our vices in a fun game like fashion, it has a social piece, a game like interface, game mechanics, that is what makes it powerful. There are incentives, tied into cause marketing as well.
BM: are the points are what are driving people on 4sq? is it changing behaviour.
SS: there are more to life than incentives and points. it is a shortcut….it is not just about incentives, they do help, there are successful that are pure entertainment or utility, it does depend.

BM: so now into the sucky part.
SS: New York Times. I’m a big fan of the NYT. I feel the app misses things. the content is amazing and great to have it on the phone. I wish they would ask me for money for it. It has no location aware functionality, can’t understand why it doesn’t, so news has a local component. It does not have social features, cannot comment, share, cannot see top rated articles, can’t mash them up, it is a glorified news reader, take tout he content and it is nothing. It does not let me filter by my social graph. it could be better.

RG: . the zippo lighter is about what I don’t like about apps, but I’m using it as a good example. It’s very cheap/simple, and has 3m downloads. Not doing very much, but understanding the platform, early and quickly to get something there. My real good example is Shop Savvy. It is a barcode scanner. you can go into a store, and you can find the cheapest price in the web to get it, also if there is a shop nearby where you can buy it cheaper. `so incentive to get it. save money. they understood the customer, they are wanting to purchase it something, we know where they are, then sell that info to advertisers, so they can discount or offer something.
SS: you talk about shop savvy being a platform for brands? is this an pop for target etc to build their own. So AUDQ about if brands should build or sponsor?
RG: I tend to believe that the loyal Best Buy shopper, is not really a real scenario (i.e. once a month or more for this) is not real. Being part of the ecosystem is better than owning every part of it.
SS: the criteria I use, is it a passionate brand, there is a lot of passion around it. does it have great content or a lot of utilitarian use, does it change on a frequent basis. if it meets these 3, then it is a good reason to build one.
RG: the Merc AMG is an example of what I don’t like. The luxury brands are putting out the microsites as apps. They are links‚Ķa video, sound effects and some photos and that is all. There are a tonne of these, brands that have spent years building classy momentum around brand and then they offer you this. It’s is nothing. You may use this once. It is less rich than the site. it is lame. There is nothing to it.
BM: what could they do to make it useful?
RG: this is a passion brand, where the lust is high, but what I don’t see anything about social integration , no community of users, no attempt to connect them, no attempt to say Merc is listening or cares. If I was going to buy one, I may want to talk to other owners, look at second hand market, understand the brand.
AH: Apps like this are advertising – potential owners. With apps you can actually target owners as well. the biggest sales go to existing owners, so an app that makes driving Mercs even better would be good, tap into data etc. this is what happens when advertising people take on app design.

BM: Your example is different?
AH: they don’t run advertising, they created an app that allows you to take pictures when hopping, save it to your cart to get later. it’s a direct relation to sales, we know business impact. My bad app is the GTI driving game. as a tool for branding, it goes against an impressions based model. Of those who downloaded, the idea is that some portion will remember and then take some action and eventually test drive. It is a waste as most who use it will never do anything with it related to the brand, except maybe a good feeling.

BM: so the biggest challenge is campaign vs software development? The budgets may not change soon?

SS: it will change when it proven to have value. A single brand app gets little traction, the ROI is questionable. it is easy to slam marketers for not doing this, but it comes down to metrics, there is not enough education or decision but there are not enough metrics either.
RG: the metrics today are a lot more like PR metrics than traditional marketing etc, I do think that new metrics will be required. e.g. engagement with app in a month. and the tracking of that. When they do use it, you have an engaged user. those metrics don’t properly show up with this yet, and they need to do this.
SS: the biggest metric is not CPMS, CPC, but Cost per BUZZ, and that is not enough.
BM: is that what success looks like (refers to a flurry graph)
AH: we are measuring a lot with advertising metrics, we expect apps to delver scale that advertising does. they will not do this. the reach is limited. we need to figure out new ways to measure ha they are delivering, then you will start to see things do look better. Apps are designed to look good but offer no value, a lot of stuff on that, so if you offer something that allows someone to do business with you easier, then it has a longer lifestyle.

BM: we are talking a lot about iphone as a platform, a few years ago, it would have been facebook.
SS: it is mobility does not mean a sacrifice in functionality. the facebook app is one of the most popular on the iphone. the apps are being downplayed by facebook as well, so not getting as much traction.
RG: a lot of the apps have screwed the privacy issues, with a rogue app stealing info, left me not happy in the platform. Not the best for developers, a lot of things difficult about the facebook universe. the mobile apps universe is more mature and the idea of it being with you all the time is the most compelling thing, it’s powerful;. facebook is still one foot int he desktop experience and not with me all the time.

AUDQ: how will the iPad impact it?
SS: there will be an impact, a lot to do with your posture. you will have more space, different posture and gestures. Not used to it yet.
RG: just the larger canvas, is something.

AUDQ: What steps to increase stickiness of apps?
RG: there’s no lipstick answer, there is no small thing. you have to do your homework. What is the opportunity. It’s the user-centric design, try and figure out a way to make some utility. Charmin did one‚Ķan app to find toilets and to review them. for moms with kids, a good app. it is relevant.
SS: don’t frontload all the advertising PR push etc, that is when you see a reverse hockey stick. think different marketing and PR levers.

Mar 14

SXSW 3 days in

It’s the start of my 3rd full day at SXSW and again it’s a completely different experience from all the others. Friday was spent at an off-site event, Tweethouse. Saturday was spent in panels and today there’s going to be a mixture of panels and parties, at least when I get started on the day.

At the BBC Digital Planet panel, which was actually a recording for the radio/web programme, it was mentioned that this year for the first time, interactive has outsold music, with nearly 15,000 attendees. It feels like it! The conference has spread over 4 venues, the halls feel more crowded and from what I’ve seen there are far more first-timers here than I’ve ever spoken to before. Despite the financial woes of the last year, this is obviously the place to be for anyone involved in digital in any form. And there are all sorts, I’ve met coders (the guys keeping foursquare up and running), publishers, freelance web designers, consultants, social media people (there are a lot of them, there always has been), advertising and marketers, and just general web folk.

I’m on track to meet my objectives for the conference, which are simple – meet at least one new person (for a long chat that is likely to be followed up with further connections) and learn at least one new thing. I’m half way there with 3 days to go, so looking promising. I’m luckier than many I believe, in that I pay for this myself so there is no external pressure to justify the ROI. to me, this is definitely geek spring break! No conclusions yet though on how this is all working out, who will win the location app battle or whether At&T will keep the mobile network going, although they seem to be doing well so far. but it is on track for being another successful and enjoyable event for me.

Jan 31

January Update

January is over, we’re 1/12 of the way through the year, so time for a monthly update.

Gym: I’ve finally activated my corporate gym membership, going consistently through the month, so much so that I’ve unlocked the Gym Rat badge on Foursqure ;-). I’ve been doing a combination of classes and running on treadmills.

New Cities: None this month. However, I’ve decided to extend that ambition to new things. To that extent, I’ve visited Chiswick House for the first time, which, considering it’s just round the corner from me is pretty sad. I also took part in the Walk London walks. They had a special weekend promotion, with lots of guided walks happening, so I did the Wimbledon to Richmond one, all 7.5 miles of it.

Wimbledon to Richmond

Other activities include attending a talk on Taking Video Games Seriously, organised by Tom Watson and attending a Quest TV pub quiz, particularly beneficial as I won a Wii (for doing some really embarrassing pub dancing).

Finally, I attended the gathering of photographers in Trafalgar Square, protesting that we’re photographers, not terrorists. All in all, a good month.

I'm a Photographer, not a Terrorist

Jan 26

Taking Video Games Seriously

A discussion panel held 25 Jan 2010, Westminster Hall

(WARNING – Liveblogged at the time, so may not make 100% sense)

Chair: Tom Watson; Tom Chatfield, Philip Oliver, Sam Leith

Each panellist gave a talk about their position on games, it them moved into a series of statements from floor combined with some questions.

Tom Chatfield: Taking Games seriously. a difficult things to do well, how do you have a discussion about a medium that is all about fun; so there are lots of serious things you can learn, politics, training, education, but at the same time it is dangerous if they are only worth talking about serious things, no other art form has to bow down to this idea, that it has to be serious. A challenge is you want to talk serious things about fun, about why they play. There are serious tools out there, there are some awful ones as well. A lot of issues when people think they are a kind of voodoo. So if you have a boring meeting held in 2nd life, then it will be not be fun (because it is held in a ‘game’). This is not the way these things work. we have to get away from idea of magic, games which have a magical bewitching effect on users. that we can’t analyse, just fun. So what is a mature debate about games? We need a new or different language for talking about fun and play.
We can’t use the language from around other media and expect it will be useful. I think of it as Wing Commander 3 syndrome‚Ķso if you have a boring game with a series of cut-scenes based on Star Wars, the thought that it would be fun is wrong. The assumption that this makes it good; this is a woeful misconception about games. This is one reason why difficult (to have serious conversations), they reach for the language of film. (Lots of other art elements) play their part in one of best games, e.g. Portal, stunning vocal, art style, etc, it is wonderful because the elements of other media are subservient to dynamic of game and it is those dynamics we need to nail to have a good discussion. Another problem, debaters assume that games have a magical seductive effect, it is about switching off; reason why Wii has been useful, is that it is giving the lie to the notion that games are only ever brighter graphics and louder sounds and realism. These games are for fun and entertainment, a Wii is very good at entertaining and engaging. To get to fundamental point, when you are playing a game you are engaged in an experience and this makes it understandable that there is a divide between those who play games and those who don’t. if I try to explain WOW to my mother, who is not a gamer, I have to tell her about the story and tell her about a whole other set of rules and conventions that I participate in. She sees me playing this game, not moving much, shouting abuse over a microphone and this is misleading; we need to be aware of how misleading this is to those outside, that we are not sitting there getting an unsophisticated, mindless experience. It is hard to convey the experience and you are interacting with imaginative modelling of the world, a symbolic imagining, figuring out the rules, a new set of rules to work out with other people, they are experimental as well as engaging. we learning all the time, in the company of other people. It is not good or bad, not moral, but is about engaging, learning the use of social faculties, it is a category error to assume games are magical, flat, passive and we have to find way to talk about this as an active experience, it is hard to get right. (According to media) you would think that sinister people in a gaming company just do things to addict 9 year old..this puts games in same mental bracket as heroin. They don’t realise it is very difficult to make a hit game, the great titles are rare due to the highly active component. The power comes because of the investment people are willing to make in the game role, which leads to games as tools for learning and training. If people want a discussion then you need to get serious about what is happening, the social aspect, the modelling, the testing, the compelling and elaborate experience that is difficult to get right, they are a new refinement of play and you need to look back at human fundamentals about why people want to play games.

Philip Oliver: I’m the expert a the coal face; will start with background. I’ve known nothing but games. I have twin, Andrew, fairly competitive, loved tech and creative. At about 12, 1980, had apple 2e, played Pong, Pacman, then had zx81, worked out we could program our own games,,,,this was a fascinating challenge, when we only 2 TV channels to distract us. We tried to outdo each other, we published from 1984, as listings in magazines and then on cassette tapes. We were expected to follow our siblings to uni, but we made decision to make games, which most people needed explaining to them. We could not see that uni would give us much, there were no courses, this was new, we needed to get on and do this in the new industry. Our dad gave us a challenge to earn more than him in the first year and if they did, then no need to go to uni. We met Darling brothers, worked a lot of hours developing games for them and Codemasters. We did not really get to socialise a lot – 20 hrs/days, 7 days/wk. we were schoolkids earning 10-20k/month. In 1990 we decided we need to form teams of people, bring creatives etc, we decided to start hiring people, We hoped to find creative, passionate people. We got lucky with some of our early games, we were trying to even it all out, create a stable environment, allowing people to pursue careers without roller coaster of finances. Blitz is now big, outsources, 10mil turnover, 200+ people. We’ve done it all, all consoles, iPhone to PS3 and everything in between,, we cover all genres, many studios specialises, we took a diverse strategy. so no matter what the fashion, we can do. we do a lot of family games‚Ķ.we have a lot of licences. We released Biggest Loser – sold 500k copies in 12 weeks, we do mature games as well, we are proud of this. newspapers keep latching in to this, that all games are violent shooters. but they are not. The next game, 18 certificate, it targets audience correctly (with labelling). We do casual games, a market that is really growing. lots of individuals can now get into market, with causal games, iphones etc, there are plenty of ways in. Then there are serious games, training games, education. e.g. MOD to train doctors and nurses., e.g. triage after a bomb. A game is a lot cheaper to deliver than traditional triage. (the people have come out with high scores) The entertainment industry is US and Japan, all the big stuff we do is US client in dollars. They did not take games seriously when I started and they still don’t. I am convinced that games are the Hollywood of 21st century. We thing MW2 took more money than Avatar in first weekend (not sourced fact, opinion)) who is taking it seriously? There are a lot of governments, the British gov is starting to do it. (But in other countries) US etc, there is a lot of go support, they see it as a future industry, in UK, there is not. Businesses need to do it. there are a lot of visualisation tools, e.g. I have on iphone Westminster Hall visualisation – good for stuff you have not yet built as well. for training, there are so many areas that are expensive to do in real world..police, fire, army, navy, etc In a game you can make mistakes and learn from them. For advertising‚Ķwe made the Burger King Games‚Ķ12 weeks sold 3.8million copies of the 3 games‚Ķwas a massive advertising success, profits went up 40% as a direct results of that. Education, can be used more, far more fun. people retain more if fun. It is quite poor at moment, as no joined up budgets commissioning games. it is a lot of research for teachers to do, we need centralised budgets to commission great games for use in classroom. If kids are interested in video games, to become a designer for many is dream job, but teachers say it is not a proper career. NO. It is a growing industry and these skills are useful for this and for many others. The drop off in people doing programming is horrendous, the business needs people programming, ITC is boring..the hook is games and they are not getting encouragement. Parents need to encourage the kids, get them to learn the skills, to get them in the industry. if we all took seriously then we in UK can be leaders in an exciting growing industry, part of knowledge economy, creative, is green and growing and exciting. we need all engaged and taking seriously and make sure we keep value and jobs in UK.

Sam Leith: when I was‚Ķinterviewing Wil Wright, an interesting and strange guy, he told us about the medieval description, of someone who walked into a room, saw someone bent over an object, physically there but mentally absent, transfixed by an object..they were reading a book, this was the first time the onlooker had seen this and concluded their soul had been taken by devil. Something very similar seems to be the reaction to games to those who don’t play. it seems weird‚Ķ.they make the funny faces‚Ķit feeds into the fear and apprehension in the media. It is new..and for a long time, 2 things going on‚Ķthere is only one story (in media) – the violence in videogames, that it makes kids sociopaths, violent etc, that sort of hysteria of creating what it effects to deplore. it feeds into marketing in a weird way, as there is only one story‚Ķ.so something that has a launch weekend as big as MW2, there would be wall-to-wall coverage if this was a film. but MW2 would have had almost no mainstream media if it had not contained the scene of shooting in the airport‚Ķ.you can’t but suspect that was in there to get attention There is childishness in some of the ways they are marketing which is a response to some of the ways they are understood. the 2nd things is their invisibility. so something as big as MW2 should be part of mainstream culture and conversation, but there is a strange relationship between mainstream an games. So Jonathan Wendell, formally the No1/ biggest gameplayer in the world, he played Quake with all the blood and guts turned off, he turned it into something simpler as it runs faster, you could beat people better if it runs faster. There was a game called Carmageddon, you drove around and got points for killing pedestrians. It was agreed in parliament that this was not a good thing. So they changed the blood colour to green – and said it was zombies, so this was OK. It’s OK to shoot Nazis, but no-one else. so there is concern over moral content of the game‚Ķin most cases it is not the game that forces you down one way, but allowing you to choose one without constraints and that becomes more so as they get sophisticated. So Eve Online, huge teams of people play, so one gang infiltrated a corporation, killed their leader, stole all their good (worth real money) and there was nothing in the game that encouraged this or stopped this‚Ķso the games are do what you will. Grand Theft Auto 4, you can play for 100s of hours without attracting police‚Ķthere is a huge amount there about how people behaviour..and the moral questions, and the ownership of items, real world value‚Ķinteresting from behaviour, economics, etc. There is work-play thing, a lot of things we do in games looks like work‚Ķeg levelling up in WOW. We see them as terms of other art forms, not all comparisons are entirely misleading, but leans you look for things in games that would be better somewhere else. Eg films, games being classified by the BBFC‚Ķif you consider games as work of art‚Ķof cultural artefacts, so recognise what they are like and what they have in common and talk about them formerly. My background in literary crit, makes me think about how we think about games‚Ķ.if you think of WOW as a film, you miss a lot. if you think of it as a cathedral, then different perspective. When you are talking about games, it is not one thing, one type of thing.. there are dozens….now games are diversifying, with wii, with casual, we are at a moment when gaming is moving into mainstream, diversifying.

Tom Watsom: Interesting comments about the things PR have to do to get it into the mainstream. As an aside, Guido Fawkes emailed said he was the UK champion at Asteroid in 1980!!!! The Palace of Westminster would be a brilliant place as a shoot-them-up setting..a 1000 rooms… a gothic palace……all these people discussing good and evil.

(Ed Vaisey joined panel)

TC calls on Derek Robertson: In Scotland, we have Consolarium..Scottish games-based learning, working in it for 3 years. I don’t agree there is a poor choice of games, we’ve been using off-the-shelf games‚Ķ.Nintendogs, Spore etc, there are plenty for children’s frameworks, we’ve had success nursery to secondary school. We are running a national contest for game design‚Ķserious games misses fun and entertainment

PO: you are using games that are accidenta;…..I think there is better to be done. e.g. age of empires is used, fantastic…..but they are side effects.

Nick Palmer: (an MP who had published Their Finest Hour game) I had published commercial games‚Ķ.(in a meeting last week I saw) each country has their own hangups that are different and moralshow they look at games. In US, fundamentalists worry about sex – shooting is fine. In Russia..the Duma is considering banning games in schools as some are about WW2 and you can play as a German. We should not attempt to occupy position that all games are OK..we are engaging in opponents’ arguments, they say all games the same, they are not‚Ķ.there are games I would not play or defend..we do need to get industry accepted as serious medium. Take a position about how de games don’t have to be boring and dull. So where politicians can help without spending money is in giving it an esteem it does not currently have. The effect of popularity is most people have played a game..but many trivial games, they have spread that is reinforcing the idea that games are trivial‚Ķ.we are looking at games Olympiads, ways of reminding people that games are all sorts.

(Next speaker works for Welcome Trust): Sneeze is a game we did recently….about viral mechanism..I share about serious games concerns…you need to be in spaces that are controlled by audience..entrainment games….e.g in GTA you pick up about NY. We did a very successful about viral spread.

Alex (Hide an Seek): I want ask panel that if you could nominate 1 game that in sophistication, nuances, intent, that you think is worth taking seriously?

PO: Wii FIT. business sold enormous number and made people thinks games are not just shooting….20mill in a space than many thought did not have a purpoise

EdVaisey: only has a Wii Fit

TC: Flower.. on PS3. based on flow. move controller in space, direct wind to blow petal round landscape. it is a new vision in games, something anyone can pick up and interact at own speed artistic without being hi brow, they get immersive experience, very beautiful…no hurdles…like ii fit..people can get it instantly.

SL: for richness, WOW. or Elite, fantastically good

TW: don’t play this a lot..Rolando on iphone‚Ķ.physics. motion etc, allows you to graph. Sam, you can’t say Elite, that was 20 years ago!

(Talker from West Mids Regional Dev team, I think): Games as an industry, we punch over our weight in what we provide to business, we want make sure we can back winners..on serious games, about disengagement we need to find more ways to do this

Audience Comment: There is a map of parliament in Countrerstrike (fan made)‚Ķ‚Ķ.I’ve written about Little Big Planet, Portal, Braid etc..but what games used to be very good at is telling a story, and less so. so Grim Fandango, my wife can watch. so today we have MW2, better to attack for story line‚Ķ.people bring up Bioshoock which is not the most complex

SL: FPS have some story to tell..the way games tell stories, there may be a drop in popularity, in films and books there is more a sense of times arrow, but games about iteration etc,,,stories are more modular….like choose your own, different paths…they tell stories in a different ways. Eg final fantasy series tell stories effectively. Therr is a MA in writing in Edinburgh Napier that has just started,,,,about different ways of narratives, looks at game writing as well. There is more games writing talent in the long run..initially games were written by the programmers, who were not writers.

TC: Grim Fandango was a miniature apex in game the idea that it is growing up with its audience. the first games were text games, they lead to point and click,,,,to new games, grim fandango, 20 years of tradition. there is always a year xero stuff, when you change tech, go to 3d etc, you build up to next apex etc, you see new stuff now….you are starting to see this younger train of games building up to takes time to build up tradition

Graham (??): In seriousness about games….I go to a game-based learning conference….when we look at use of games in learning, schools, it seems that gov or their agencies are queasy about this. we have seen negligible support…the home access programme, ignored the fact that many homes had consoles (which access web). given the reaction. of papers like the Metro about gaming platforms, so would go use consoles to get online. A DS costs 100£….so there are ways….it is not about creating games for learning, it is about getting in the hands….

TW: I agree with a lot of your analysis and some of them are missing opportunities to generate new ideas etc

EV: What is encouraging‚Ķ..people are coalescing around games in a non-partisan fashion‚ĶI don’t play games very often, Defender was the last game I played until I got the wii a few months ago. Too often I hear questions about politicians not admitting they play games, as if they are embarrassed. the games industry are getting out and engaging and this is changing the political environment. The games industry are getting out and telling us – future industry, regional, still just one of the leaders, so is what not to like. There is a cultural gap, that echoed about rant of games based leaning, I’m 41,one of last gen where games was not part of the early experience. a lot of officials are the same, so they do not understand how games relate across a whole range of policy areas. People need to get in front of people and bang the drum, there is a consensus of principles involved in supporting games industries, their is no money, but about giving games a voice at top table,,,so extend film council? (setting up new quango is difficult and where is the money). Look at extending the financial support, tax credits, etc, VC support, a matter of debate‚Ķ.there are practical obstacles, getting a uniform voice and still getting it through the treasury, which is always difficult. 3rd element people are talking about is about skills and the right courses, and make sure people are those the industry want to employ, need to get right course accredited‚Ķthe climate has changed,,,,and will continue to do so.

TW:so Dawn, captures imagination of kids with video games (she’s an educationalist) how do you manage this?

Dawn: use common sense, it is lacking from media and politicians…so use common sense. we would not take games (like that) into classroom, even if my kids play them. In England, move to more games in classroom, is being self funded, Ofsted love it..I asked the kids what hey would say they relate to them it is realm, gives them a social connection, they all know it is my way of getting to secretly learn….using a game of the shelf, is good, kids see through an educational game. so we use mario cart to do physics and friction….

Michael??: PEGI…it is with you (the politicians) protecting games, by giving an appropriate age system for games, for playing online etc, ….it is great to have discussion…for me and for ELSPA it is about having confidence that games are a serious part of culture, learning,entertainment etc. it is one of our challenges that we new to this world, so many different things we need to touch on and evangelise and convince people….we need time, we are doing our bit. they are making huge strides, the number of negative stories has declined
. wee need to stop being hurt games, be normal gamers doing a normal things.

Aud Q: So about licences and age limits, we have, so it is not recognised that parents buy it the games..where is the rebuttal for that kind of action….

TW: the debate in parliament, is about the rating system right and what responsibility the industry has to promote that. so the change will happen and then we need to get the system there, the idea there about the ratings…

EV: it’s all part of the mix, that there are games you would not want you games to play‚Ķ.Ian (Duncan Smith) said about bad parenting to play or watch inappropriate was the one that was reported

TW: wrap up time

TC: I was fascinated to see how the coubtries games act as a mirror to their fears, games are youngest and much divisive of media. I look to when we can say more than games are bad or good, and wait for people to discuss them properly. The pace of tech change brings us face to face with this issues regularly, games are 40-50 years, print took 500. it is difficult,,,,but valuable. If 1484 people would argue about how not learning the stories and information, damages conversation and society, there is plenty to lean about things. Already the boundaries between gaming and non-gaming is much more permeable than is given‚Ķ.most people don’t connect Farmville and scrabble as video games. If they see things on a spectrum then they can stop seeing them as their worst fears, They can start to appreciate games. We can measure and learn about from games‚ĶIn US 8-18 yr. olds, 7.5 hrs a day on entertainment system..future looks like this and games are one of the best ways to use this, to be part of the world‚Ķhaving a proper discussion with out falling back on cliches is absolutely needed to make games apart of the world.

Dec 10

Extreme Gaming from Epson

I like this video – I should do as it came from the agency I work at. It’s been fun watching the development process, the highs and lows of defining the scenarios, the legwork in getting the games. I think it turned out well.

Nov 21

FOE: Unboxing the Medium

WARNING: Liveblogged and not checked

What counts as ‚Äúradio‚ÄĚ when it comes via podcast rather than over the air? How do we create ‚Äútelevision‚ÄĚ as the limitations of spectrum scarcity slip away and content is delivered online? Media is determined by conventions that emerge from both technological constraints and cultural practices ‚Äď the technologies of content delivery shape the industrial and the creative modes that define something like ‚Äútelevision.‚ÄĚ In a world of convergence, the basis for many of the conventions that define media are in flux. How can we come to understand and redefine the industrial, consumption and creative practices of media as convergence works to erode some of the distinctions between them? How is radio affected once it moves from the Hertzian waves to the podcast? What happens to the comic once it moves from the page to a Playstation? How are audiences responding to and shaping these shifts? And how are business models adapting to these changes?

Joshua Green ‚Äď Research Manager, Convergence Culture Consortium; Panelists include: Dan Goldman ‚Äď Illustrator of Shooting War (Grand Central Publishing [US] and Weidenfeld & Nicolson [UK]); Jennifer Holt ‚Äď UC Santa Barbara, co-editor of Media Industries (Wiley-Blackwell); Brian Larkin ‚Äď Milbank Barnard College; Avner Ronen ‚Äď CEO & Co-founder, Boxee

  • JG: (Reads the intro above – asks the panel to respond). We used to have clear understanding of what media were; is convergence eroding the differences? What implications are there?
  • AR: from Boxee; a NY start-up, started from personal frustration, using digital media in living rooms and no good solution to bring stuff to TV. We wanted to create a new kind of experience on the TV, to access to all the content that they like. When we started we did not know we would generate so much unease for the industry. We found ourselves in the middle of a big sea change – freaking out abut the TV being a screen connecting to the internet.¬† Reaction from most is to resist change; even though history of change in TV is that it is for better.¬† to answer the thesis, we think everything changes once connected and maybe the biggest change is around the creative process. It is a huge industry and it is all based around the existing model; it is around the platform and once the platform changes, then everything needs to be considered. We are where Tv was in 50s – when T was radio with a screen. We need to take advantage of the medium, there is a disconnect between creative and technology; the new gen of creators will have a different world. franchises will be built will be bigger than anything we have on content; the future of content producers is bright. The size of the industry will grow. the content will grown and the money will grow
  • BL: (Shows images from Indian films, Nigerian film industry, African film distribution).¬† Do research in Nollywood.¬† Nigerian and Ghana have pioneered the video film process; a practice of traveling theater,¬† there was a rise in cheap tape technology, at the time of structural adjustment. TV industry was at bottom. There was a confluence of events, so you got dramas on video. The rise of armed robbery reduced cinemas in the south (which were taken over by Pentacostal churches – who had a lot of editing and filming expertise).¬†¬† In mid-90s there were about 50 height 2k films.year, now about 1500/year. Nigeria sees itself as a major media content producer, would like to see itself as a regional dominator. All very cheaply, in about 2wks, released a week later. There is no canon. Because of piracy, you have to get it out quickly and make money on 2 weeks.¬† It has an enormous domestic market.¬† It is powerful in anglophone africa and moving into francophone. The Nigerian film industry is aware of this, but has problems monetising the industry. It has created 2 things in convergence culture. It has a form unlike any others, it is about domestic consumption – videos in the home. It has¬† anew form of viewing practice – the video parlour, a space that can be anything from a space with a roof where 20 people may watch, or a room in a house, It sits in between the private of house and the public anonymity of the cinema. In places, women are banned from cinema, but can watch this.¬†¬† In my work, if you build a media model, how might that be if look at Nigeria. for instance, in many parts of Africa, there is little distinction between religious and secular media, they converge. In west, there is a big christian media, but we segregate it when talking media, no matter the size or the models of monetising.¬† In Nogeria it is difficult to make that separation; they came from Nigeria, in a world not tutored in Afircan film aesthetics. The issues about witchcraft etc have become prominent. Most of the criticism in Nollywood have come from people trained in Film schools, they see it as cheap, bad, too much about witchcraft etc. One of the reasons witchcraft is so prominent is one of the ways to save yourself is to give your self to Jesus Christ – the savor is the pastor. the aesthetic link to Christianity and the distribution links are all connected.¬† The expansion of church and the video distribution over laps.
  • JH: my interest is looking at convergency and transmedia through the lens of legal issues and policy.¬† Look at how cable and broadcast and film, and telecommunications, have come together through a particular set of legal and regulatory pathways. So what has allowed the tyrannical transmedia nightmare that is Hannah Montana..why are we subject to it on so many different levels. I came interested about how the same proportions of studios that owned cinema in the 40s when they were forced to divest was the same in the 80s.¬† I’m thinking about the implications of TV that is giving us this transmedia, tv is what is keeping these companies afloat. Domestic film is only about 3% of their annual earnings. So for NBC Universal , the most profitable bit is USA. regulation has been protecting cable companies at the expense of film and broadcast.¬† To me, I’m interested in looking at the impulses of TV business models, the importance of transmedia, plus the history of cable through lens of regulation and policy.
  • DG: I write and draw comic book. My interest with this place, is about the changes, from music, to film/.tv to comics. I think the tsunami of digital distribution has not hit yet.¬†¬† Been a professional comic creator for a number of years, a self publisher, gone onto the web. Something called Shooting War has gone from web to a major publisher.¬† the elephant of the change that is happening, I’ve circled. The contrast is so clear. With Shooting War I published from ??(96), i posted weekly and could watch direct when people watched it and that beat the distribution of hard copy comics. The web comics that succeed the most are strip based and gag based, not long form. The internet had been used in a simple way to replace the Sunday funnies; the cartoon syndicates has crumbled, and now the political cartoonists are losing work. As the delivery method changes, the business models follow suit and the landscape changes.¬† I’ve been doing long form things. I did a project called 08, (about election),I covered the whole election, went on the road a little.¬† During this, I was begging publisher to get it printed, but they were slow. After election, I’d been working to get the comic as an iPhone app, but publisher won’t wake up to this being viable. The contrast to digital vs brick and mortar,..they promoted it a little, with a front of table buy, but you had to go into the store – and only in the see it. It did it OK. It was a stronger than Shooting War, but it was slow and flawed with the marketing.¬†¬†¬† I’m fully digital and portable.¬†¬† So how is the change manifesting?¬† the change to the audience and the work?¬† It is easy to take the stuff and slap it into a new container but where is the fun in that?¬† this thing that is happening now, this is our time to change things, our time to shine. It is a missed opportunity, and I’m not going to do this. I look to format my work for digital devices and it is almost a responsibility to jump into this new water. So I’m launching a new series…will show artwork that shows a digital version and how it will work across both. It makes sense to figure out the multimedium workflow before you start . red Light Properties – the story of a family run realty offices. they sell haunted houses.¬† The art is in illustrator (lineart), photoshop (colour), Miai 3d modeling (Background) all bought together in photoshop. On digital, you can do microreveals and the page can print it will look like the final page. Motion Comics….look like cheap animation…would take the pictures and move them around etc. this pisses me off. If the comics are done well, the reader will hear the voices and music, not the same for everyone, so don’t like the Motion comics.¬† They are clips, which means you are not in control of time you take to move through the piece, you are not passive, you can’t take time.
  • JG: the first consoles frightened the TV people, as you could do different things with the TC. Brain Clark asks if anything is new? Is this new, or is this a different set of circumstances?
  • DG: I don’t see this as a collapse. There are opportunities. Beyond replacing one structure with another, at least in terms of my stuff, the media is old and we’re adding twists. There are no new ideas here
  • JH: the problems are not new, nor the crises in business models. If you take the long view there are clear cycles of expansion and contraction, They have had to contend with that and with business models in desperate need of regeneration. Issues of convergence are not new. There have been cross over as far back as you can think of. They are just another burst in the cycle,
  • AR: but when tech comes about it is usually disruptive. And now we have a critical mass of screens in different sizes, connected to the same network. The content is digital and change is inevitable, you have to adjust. So animated comics may be poorly made but there is space for it.¬†¬† All the traditional boundaries are artificial; what tech is great at is taking out inefficiences in a model. And that is what has happened in the music business – eg albums vs a single track . Newspapers are inefficient. I’m traditionalist as I get a weekend paper, but news is digital.¬† Tech and users are ahead of the industry. It will catch up, but not sure if good and bad.
  • BL: with rise of ska and rocksteady/reggae, that was about sound systems…you would use the record to attract people to your sound system; the cheaper sound systems could not go to US all the time to copy US songs, they asked the Jamiacan people to copy the sounds. they made records with no vocal, so DJs could make their own (which birthed hiphop). then the industry changed. We are now in a crisis of reproduction…in jamiaca, the event driven sounds system has driven a lot. we have gone back to a point where the production of music is driving people back to live events, as that is not copyable….Technology does change it, we have to understand how tech pushes and how it intersects with cultural practices…
  • AR: so there are users. Users care about it big time – they care about the content, not the channel, the time. then there is innovation about the creative side; if everything is connected and on demand and it is cheaper to produce you will see the creative embracing the tech. Tech provides different in eastern europe a better connection as developed later. In africa will it be cable or mobile 4G? IN asia the change will be very quick and very significant?
  • JG: if there is continuity here, if these changes are driven by cultural practices, so why is the industry constantly employing this discourse of crisis, so why do tech shifts set everyone running around like hair on fire
  • JH: some lost 70% of revenue..that is a crisis. new ways of delivering content, they do not seem eager to embrace. Fear of cannibilising other revenue streams is not a visionary strategy…so how do they come up with a digital distribution strategy.
  • AR: the issue is money. Cable is average $65/onth from video subscription,. no one wants to disrupt it…as public companies living quarterly, no one wants a dip…so can’t live with investors. this is why it is hard to incumbents to adjust.¬† The best thing we have as users is there is not much they can do to delay this. the internet is hear to say.
  • JH: looking at 2008 reports, they had to prepare shareholders for their losses and there will be more.
  • JG: you describe boxee as a disrupter…
  • AR: we are not trying to be disruptive to a business model. we say what we think, which upsets them. We are just saying they need to be where the users are.¬† You as a content owner can describe what business model you can use. the lack of content online is not a tech issue, but a business model issue. So take existing model and put it on the internet. Consumers are going to just want to pay for what they want. If you are an incumbent, then you have to adjust your mindset and get on the offensive.¬† If you are a content creator, and you think about subscription is better than advertising, then do it. create more.¬† Change your thinking..with the internet you can go anywhere, you can go globally and build a brand there.
  • DG: there has been a perception that web content is free…but with phones there is not that same pushback about spending money.
  • AUDQ: how about national boundaries to content? (eg hulu, iplayer)
  • AR: the web breaks down the barriers. if you don’t show it, then the watcher goes to torrents.¬† People go around the blocks.¬† the best way to fight is too offer content in an easy way and people will pay.
  • Dg:¬† torrent is practically a free platform, so give it tom them and you can have premium tiers. So if you give people something for free they will help you keep it going, make it clear that i will go away and you can get involvement.
  • JH: we have to learn the lessons of the music industry..we have to have some faith in the long term. The music industry and others have not learnt it.
  • BL: written about how piracy has been central to the Nigerian film industrian..when the film industry produced it, the only people who could distribute were pirates.¬†¬†¬† Piracy created the infrastructure that allowed the film industry..but they still don’t know how to deal with it yet, eg piracy of western tv vs local films. you can buy stuff online in NY/London but no idea if any of the money goes back to source. If the film industry can get a cable channel in London, then they can get some revenue
  • JG: you rise a point of a flow out and back from regions….could Nigerian video parlour suggest a new way of showing in the west.?
  • BL: there were lots of Indian cinemas when I grew up; with videos they all died. Now multiplexes have screens just for bollywood films, there is something about film going, I’m surprised it has not taken off, especially for niche films.¬† When Nigeria went to video projection, they could show far more.¬†
  • JG/AUDQ: isn’t content just content? What is the relationship between content and media?
  • DG: having things traveling with you is a great idea – the ability to dial into boxee. As you move between devices, having your network across all the platforms means you can vary the experience depending on where you access it. you can experiment..
  • JG/AUDQ: what held them back?
  • JH: fear held them back…it’s not the biggest companies that are the innovators…it is the smaller ones. It is usually smaller companies that do innovation…
  • DG: when a system fails…new things come up.. Solutions are tried and then dropped…
  • AR: they do experiement…eg Disney put content on ipods, pout shows on line….it may seem too small or too late, but it is major move. not sure if we would have made same or different decisions with billions of dollars at stake.¬†¬†
  • AUDQ: 3 strikes rules?
  • AR: there are still ways to take it away…, net neutrality, etc, with bad government decision, would not want to live in place with good internet.¬† you will see people moving.
  • JH: Net neutrality is a regulatory miracle at the moment at the moment…it is so important to be aware of how fragile this is.
  • Ar: we don’t have net neutrality properly today, there are companies that shape traffic.
  • AUDQ: this panic about new tech disrupting businesses. has been used strategically to get copyright protection etc, is that part of the discourse now?
  • JH: Yes, I see it as part of protecting America..
  • AUDQ: perspective on relationship of artists with companies?
  • DG: it is probably in artists best interest to try both and see what works best. There’s no reason if you can’t get someone to pay you, then it is easier
  • AR: there is not one model that will win. the web opens up more opportunities though, you can monetise without a major label. It depends however on the scale of what you want to make. But low cost end, then take a stab at goign direct to consumer.¬† Infrastructure is going to get better.
  • BL: many artists are in the same positions as companies; they are in the same position of giving up money. You need the balls to try something new. If you put a lot of time and effort, the returns are small, do you want to get money, it is not about ust giving it away for free. No one know what the future will bring. In Nigeria, the film makers are in a big battle with distributors, the money is normally put up by them..the film makers are triyng to wrest it back, the gov trying to regulate it with distribution licences.
  • JG: .what do you think about policy? (also a round up)
  • Ar: I do think about it, for net neutrality and the impact of satellite. I have no plan in working through regulation, it is not something we could contemplate. I’ve spoken with FCC(??) occasionally,¬† the team there lives in the same world we live in. we don’t have resources to fight a battle but think we have a team that speaks our language.¬†¬† We have a business in boxee that is difficult to scale internationally, the content is geolocked, if we don’t have local content then we can’t move. I’m fascinated by social aspects of media distribution…what will happen it will be global, we will become smaller more connected world.
  • BL: Nigeria does not have a lot of media regulation? Key issue is about censorship, eg about northern states that adopted sharia law. the industry was based on the north, but it was banned…it is an issue of control, they don’t know how it will play out. they may pack up and move, but not very easy there. the ways in which the industry will go will depend on these legal dynamics
  • JH: legislation impacts different to technology. Follow the money – more important than any philosophical view of the government…it is part of our mission to equate things like web access to phone calls etc….it has limited some of the big ticket productions but there are a lot of opportunities
Nov 21

FOE: Producing Transmedia Experiences: Participation & Play

WARNING: Liveblogged, not checked.

While much of the discussion around transmedia tends to focus on the idea of non-linear storytelling, this panel will explore the idea that transmedia experiences ‚ÄĒ narrative-driven and otherwise ‚ÄĒ are also characterized by a high degree of audience participation, decision-making and collaboration.¬† As users engage with transmedia narratives, worlds and experiences across multiple platforms and spaces, participants make a series of personal choices that shape and define their experience and understanding of ‚Äúthe whole.‚ÄĚ

If we assume that transmedia experiences introduce new opportunities for the audience to participate, what are the new opportunities and challenges for the creators and owners of these transmedia properties?¬† One of the most overt forms of transmedia storytelling, the Alternate Reality Game (ARG), often makes participation a central and defining aspect of transmedia experiences, and creates opportunities to engage participants in play, performance and game-like systems.¬† How can these interactive and participatory experiences be planned for?¬† What is their function in the larger transmedia experience, and how do we understand the relative roles of the ‚Äúauthor‚ÄĚ and the ‚Äúaudience‚ÄĚ in creating transmedia experiences?

Moderator: Ivan Askwith ‚Äď Director of Strategy, Big Spaceship; Panelists include: Frank Rose ‚Äď Wired contributor and author of Welcome to the Hyperdrome (W. W. Norton, forthcoming); Jordan Weisman ‚Äď CEO and Founder, Smith & Tinker; Louisa Stein ‚Äď San Diego State University; Mia Consalvo ‚Äď MIT; Ken Eklund ‚Äď Writerguy, World Without Oil

  • IA: one of the problems, from yesterday, transmedia definition is very board..when is and isn’t it.¬† It became difficult to tell who decides. Instead of that, can we look at another sets of words, the audience, the creator. Are we lookign for a better vocabulary, to explain things?¬† Old questions without expanding we get old answers and it looks like it is broke.¬†
  • KE: game designer, used to work on commercial products, now work only on AR space. Enamoured of verb play instead of noun game. The game is a process of play, many games lose track of that, have too much grinding in them. My focus is to make an experience, connection with audience, not focused on product but the process of playing the game and transformation of audience when they play.¬† trying to be the Jimmy Wales of game narratives.¬† Did World without Oil, a crowd sourced narrative. Made me aware there was an opportunity out there. I introduce a new concept, story makers, people who know a story needs to be told, but not in telling it themselves, trust audience to make their own process.
  • MC: A games studies scholar. looking at new media and popular culture. early work at online fan comms, now game players and the worlds they play in. Write book on cheating in games. did not define cheating – it is negotiated and complex and changes. fertile ground to explore. More recently, looking western players of japanese video games, plus how a subgroup of them invests in learning about Japan and japanese culture. Interested in how games can be the space for cultural exploration. Looking at a casual MMO, called Bonosphere (not sure of Sp.). Manly women over 35, but interested in younger players, so looking at conflict between younger and older players.
  • LS: Explore how audiences and fans, especially girls/Millennials engage in transmedia text and story telling., Looking at shifting definition and participation in transmedia.¬†¬† Looking at types of participation and play in something like Mad Men vs something like gossip girls where the industry sends text out in character etc.¬†
  • JW: designer of games, find ways to tell stories, also started with¬† desk top games etc. Moved at virtual entertainment in 80s; built virtual world centers with Disney. Mid 90s went to the PC for games, moved to Microsoft entertainment. Did the Beast/AI, (told not to) great platform to experiment in telling stories over the internet. Started 42 Entertainment, now with Smith and Tinker, trying to do projects for kids.¬†
  • FR: writer for Wired. currently doing a book about how the internet is changing storytelling. I don’t think someone quite knows, but every new medium requires about 20-30 years for people to figure out what to do with this. Internet is not any different.¬† We can see directions that it is going, non-linear. participatory, often game-like, and drillable, offers an opportunity for a new kind of fandom, either casual to see the surface, if more committed able to go deeper.
  • IA: a lot of work focused on ARGs and what happens if subverted by marketing.¬†¬† I’m interested in starting with, going back to World Without Oil as it deviated from ARGs before it.
  • KE: I became interested early, I saw the intense interaction, the play that occurs. The real powerful thing that happens is the connection with the players. I was thinking about that with UGC and the leverage that can happen in financing projects, if you can get UGc you need less money. This became important when looking at a proposal; suggested a create a game narrative that got people to submit themselves. So the hook was about the next oil crisis, what would it look like. Gave you the minimum amount of information and asked you to send your stories. It posed a what if scenario. I did not target transmedia, just accepted it was the way it was. I had a phone, a site, etc, I accepted the world is transmedia and opened up as many channels as possible. I had to be agnostic, make it as open, get people to tell stories who would not normally. I looked to see if people were playing then that was my job done properly. It is not just a collection of stories, It was a process, each day was a week in story time, so you submitted something today and it could change as it goes.¬† I had a team of experience ARG people, but we were just playing, they were not trying to game us as we did not know what would happen, it was an experiment. We would have a huge network combined into a mass which describes what it would be like, with stories form 1000s of people. For a completely fictitious thing, it was really authentic, they were writing abut the 10% oil crisis and 90% their lives.¬† It was a mythology extractor, got people to write abut how the world worked, how we would do when it arises.
  • IA: What was the funding?Who asked for it to be done? What was the set up
  • KE: ITVS, public non-profit, through association of public broadcasting. No brand involved, but it can be done with a brand. the mission was to tell stories?
  • MC: what was their reaction?
  • KE: they wer eover the moon, very happy., they had world wide press.
  • JW: was the theme of oil from them ir you?
  • KE: from us, I looked for something that was in everyones lives?>
  • IA: there was a high comfort in experimentation?¬† But with 42, what..there were marketing objectives…how did the marketing imperative shape it?
  • JW:¬† the Beast was not a marketing programme. It was conceived as they had a need, MS had a licence to make games on the movie IA.¬† IA was not a ‘game’ movie…for the 18=35 demo male who would by xbox, this was not the game. I used it as a mechanism to get the back story. there was an interesting world that Spielberg created. the theme, mother’s love, the definition of humanity, a universal theme. We have¬† a history of defining humanity so we can exploit was it is not human, we viewed this as a way of getting a deeper subject. we needed a back story to create a context. That was the challenge, to give context for the games. I said how I would do that but they said this was the dumbest thing they had seen!¬† So, they would not let me spend money on it. So I went without permissions and pitched ot Spielberg and Kennedy, they were excited about a new way of telling stories, they did not see it as marketing. It was a story in the world without ruining the plot of their story. Kennedy sent him to Warner brothers and told them to write him a cheque.¬† The marketing dept were having some trouble and later in the game it did help with marketing.¬† Why so Serious, or Year Zero, in both cases were started by the creatives, not the marketing depts. Eventually someone has to pay for ti and marketing dept gets stuck wit the bill, it was about telling stories.
  • IA: When you approached Spielberg it was about telling stories in a new way, instead of make a story
  • JW: the ‘classic’ ARG is in between, there is a strong creator component, we write a story, create all the evidence and then we throw the story out and just publish the evidence, the audience find the evidence and they tell the story. the story they tell is not the same as the story we wrote a they interpret the story differently. it is like an archaeologist, they tell the story of the evidence they find. we keep re-writing as we find more evidence. That is the process of the story. Not as freeform as Ken, but sits in the middle, a collaborative between creators and audience
  • IA: when making a ARG, or co-ordinating the components, are you making decision about where people working on..or you build in hooks for it? but people don’t always wait for hooks
  • LS: you describe an ARG as opening an audience to control what narrative to get told and waht the narrative that always intended. You were told it should not conflict to the film..openness to a degree but still tension as one singular primary story that needs to remain sacrosanct. And that is a distinction from producer side. that there¬† should be this singular narrative and as long as you crate something without interfering that is desired transmedia experiences. But especially with fan experience there is tension, about canon and multiplicity, not just of openness abut also allows closure, you can have interpretation of main text while there is still a fetishisation of the primary text. it is more flexible approach to the process…
  • FR: I’ve spoken to the Mad Men is a rich and ironic case..Mad Men is about the the end of command and control in ad space…it is ironic that the creator of the show is confronted with this.¬† Struck by how seriously how the twitterers take their role. Betty draper researches her tweets quite carefully, so everything she says reflects what BD would do.¬†
  • LS: the Mad Men is exemplary of one end of the spectrum as they are invested in canon narrative and reluctant to create larger narrative. Minute, day to day narratives that departs a little, getting in their head.¬† Other RPGs in fandom would not be so concerned with staying close to canon.
  • MC: those kind of fan activities, fan will jump in, even after conclusion of runs. They use new techs to exploit connection in different ways.¬†¬†¬† Eg a group On Loise and Clark, created fiction, series etc, they created a award show for best fan fiction.
  • JW: there has to be an initial critical mass, a work has to inspire an audience to contribute. can come from TV, movies a novel, a crowd sourced place. You have to start with a clarity of vision to create the emotional connection, the critical mass.,.¬† RPG was like this, You created a world and some characters and handed it over asking them to make stories. you had to make sure what you did, did not go against the audience. We tried to publish things that did not go against what players did. We tried to set some levels in the universe, we would write here and let people write in other sections. We have to look at stories in the same way, look at how to collaborate.
  • LS: a shift, when introducing IP, how can you have this model with IP is a problem
  • FR: you can envision a sliding scale, one end complete author control, at the other, a platform for people to tell their own stories,
  • JW: in terms of IP, it becomes an interesting issue…in the Beast, there was a minor character,¬† and the audience became fascinated by it. About nightmares, the audience posted their characters, and we started to us them The audience saw their stuff reflected in the character and it became inclusive.¬† Being able to move things up into canon and down is important.
  • MC: it acknowledges the fans, that your participation matters, you can tell that they have taken your ideas into account.
  • KE: alarms go off for me. I’m aware of the relationship between players and creators. I get alarmed when slider in the middle or when boundaries are indistinct or are arbitrary. If a line is placed they take a risk that the line is seen as unfair. We talked about aberrantly audience, it is those who take issue with where you put the slider,.
  • IA: there are two ways…you can see there are places we are going to tell stories and you can tell it around…others where it is open.some can set rules for a world and others can’t…
  • KE: with World Without Oil we tried to look at things in 4 hours, we judged the stuff. the team was to respond to what happened, to call attention to the good stuff. There was only one thing we could not we were kid friendly and we had to send it back. Everything we linked to, so they could see there contribution was part of the site. We weren’t judgmental about quality, we did exercise some gentle pointing, the power of recognition is the most powerful thing,
  • JW: but you were still controlling canon….you made decisions about what was happening
  • KE: it was not monolithic..
  • JW: keeping it local helped…but if you say all airlines shut down then there is canon to create a guide..if you want continuity with emotional investment, then you have to add control
  • LS: it sounds like WOE embraced the contradiction
  • KE: a story teller wants to tell a story, a story maker lets the story come to them
  • MC: did people to video, images etc?
  • KE: it was mostly text, but there was a lot
  • IA: one of the challenges to make a story participatory instead of narrative, there a large part of audience who have no interest in driving it or making decisions, who want to know the point, Is that still possible in participatory stores or is that different?
  • FR: it is up to whoever is creating to set roles and expectations.¬† If you are a Star Wars fan, you want to know canon even if you want to make your own. you don’t ness want to vote on it. You want a story to be told to you you can then respond to it. With what Ken did, it was clearly stated that you were created the story
  • JW: it was still a framework, and Ken out out info each day and that helps creates an arc.¬† As much as we change medium , there is still the requirements of arc, of momentum etc.
  • LS: can we talk about these different modes, the difference of a story that resonates about mythological extraction from canon, or created…from diverse communities etc…..
  • MC: for me, the stuff came from people in different cultures laying together, for many of the players it was a place to practice their japanese etc on the other side of things, games are competitive, and guilds were limited by nationality , you would see racism emerging as teams create… you would get many arguments emerging etc.¬† they were creating their stories, there was no inherent PvP, it was Pv Environment.
  • JW: most game have those dynamic, the concept about being know and recognised and most games offered that opportunity to be recognised. Most games still operate in that manner. One goal of playing with ARg was to not offer the opportunity, that any thing furthered the whole game. that was how it worked in the macro level but it did not stop people just trash talking each other.
  • FR: an interesting variant is The Office, a pseudo document, in the show there was a online game, where you could sing up as an employee to the game. You were given tasks to perform, things to write, you were paid in virtual currency and could buy things for your office etc. Designed with game mechanics to get people involved. Something that video game designers etc use all the time…it was clearly tied to the story telling, where the audience was given a structure to create own story in parallel.
  • AI/AUDQ: What is the tension between explicit rules and breaking the frame of the story..
  • jW: witht he first one we did not announce, there were no rules, there was just the content, the creators were obscured. One of the early challenges was a group professed to be the creators of the games told everyone was doing it wring (game jacked) the team asked what we should do…we decided that as we believe in the hive mind they would arrive at the conclusion they they were not real.¬† you had to set it up from the beginning as a collaboration of the audience, the difference between an immersive fiction and a hoax. Se tup to fool the audience, you look to debunk this, you set ht hive mind against you and you cannot win. you have to be careful to invite people in through suspension of disbelief. you will still be tested, to make sure you are worth trusting with time, it is a fuzzy space but with good intentions.
  • KE: this is one of the slider issues, in the middle you have this. In World Without Oil, there were no rules, you had to do your own.¬† the players are invested, they want to make it work.
  • MC: playfulness, I want to touch, it may be a game and people not sure what the rules are and you are giving people the opp to be playful, give people opp to get deep in or just touch lightly
  • LS: not ness one hive mind but there are multiple hive minds.¬†¬† People approach things differently,¬†
  • AUDQ: Can brands like Verizon and Best buy do this? There was recently a levis thing, plus Verizon also was doing it…
  • LS: we are seeing models that are between things, eg Gossip Girl and Bluefly, you can shop based on the show etc. you can have production of transmedia text by products and products leading to new stuff
  • JW: there has been a lot of stuff with compelling stories already. Many have done work creating experiences around a brand. Still you have to come to what that creative work is.. it is doable, places that have physical places like best Buy would be great.¬† the ‘classic’ ARG is a limited format, that needs so much from audience, that is a big ask, from an audience, only a small percentage. As a format, it is relatively limited and there has been a lot of exploration and there has been a lowering of the bar.
  • KE: if brands are just thinking it is about them, then they are limited, but if they think about the relationship or the narrative then it is possible.
  • JW: it is also about release of control,
  • AUDQ: One of interesting things with Why So serious, when it came to the physical world., it was risky, so how did that change the game,
  • JW: it was about every medium and that includes the physical world. It was much more extensive with I Love bees and we had months working with lawyers on this, we had to scout everything. Using physical world with big brand ups the risk quotient…
  • AUDQ: based on IP issues, what do you think about The Guild,
  • MC: I think it’s cool. I enjoy good stories; if their are companies that create these stories that they want to invest our lives in how can they not expect us to play with it?
  • JW: if you are lucky enough to create something that people care abut, you have to expect people to be invested in it.
  • IA: How do you foster participation and play for anti-fans?
  • JW: is there an anti-fan? if you care about it enough to participate but change, then you are fan
  • LS: there are people who love to hate things, you don’t have to foster it, it just happens,
  • JW: don’t pressure it, there’s no advantage¬† to taking it away or reacting to it
  • KE: anti-fans have a legitimate gripe..they are an opportunity. A friend plays WOW but he and his friends all hate it, they are waiting for something to come along that is better. People want to be fans of stuff and they are. There is a level of abstraction that many people take for granted, but many can’t, what can we do as game designers to do non-competitive games, without tension
  • AUDQ:¬† Multiplicity rather than canon, multiplicity is a little more like perspective in the real there that emergent quality in World without Oil, the hero commenting on it.
  • KE: they looked at people who posted about a neighbourhood that was fine, or in trouble and aksed why they were fine and in trouble. They did not look for a hero to save them. There were ‘hero’s’, there were popular players, who were regarded as knowledgeable.¬† They had comments and thanks etc.
  • AUDQ:¬† in putting people together in real-world, even with real world clues meant to be bought back to online. Do args become more involved in real space, when real space become part of the story?
  • JW: with Smith and Tinker we are trying with this. Our tech dev over last 30yrs, you cannot move the tech, now with mobiles, you carry the web in your pocket, there are opps to connect people that way, opps to create unique game play. There are good examples of this being built.¬† We are just at the beginning, it is the most exciting part of what is coming up
  • MC: but there is risk. the online space allows people some freedom; working out ways of doing this is key.
  • JW: it is not just in the park, but in your room with multiple people.
  • LS: with fan coms etc, a web that extends from space to the web
  • FR: one example of this real space game play, in Year Zero, that game ended with a very specific real world experience..a group of people who came to a place and were driven somewhere they knew not where. They thought they were being recruited into army (In game)…the reward was a concert.
  • KE: a lot of people in the museum world are interested, a museum is an asset, you can do stuff in the real world. If you have a local client with a local community then lots of opportunities.
Nov 21

FOE: The ROI of ROFL: Why Understanding Popular Culture Should Matter to the C-Suite

WARNING: LIVEBLOGGED so not checked. (Also this was a fairly chaotic panel, so not everything captured)

Too many corporations outsource their understanding of culture to trend hunters, cool watchers, marketing experts, consulting firms, and, sometimes, teenage interns. The cost is in the billions, for data and insights that often don‚Äôt help companies better understand their role in the cultural landscape. In his forthcoming book Chief Culture Officer: How to Create a Living, Breathing Corporation, Grant McCracken argues American corporations need a new professional ‚ÄĒ a Chief Culture Officer ‚ÄĒ to prioritize cultural knowledge into the C-Suite level. American corporations need to look not at the internal culture of a company but instead outward, understanding entertainment, leisure, and word-of-mouth trends. This panel will explore how major brands and entertainment properties are, or should be, listening to the patterns of popular culture to make their brands, products and services more responsive to and reflective of the desires of relevant audiences.

McCracken will introduce the concept of the ‚ÄúChief Culture Officer,‚ÄĚ followed by a panel discussion of the promise and pitfalls of applying cultural knowledge to a for-profit infrastructure, how the humanities intersects with this mission, and the benefits and limitations of concepts such as ‚Äúthe CCO‚ÄĚ for advocating deeper cultural knowledge into a corporate setting. What new trends are developing that might impact the appeal of a brand‚Äôs products or services tomorrow, or even today? How does corporate America understand the developing etiquette and ethos of social media platforms? What benefit does knowing popular culture bring to brands and entertainment properties? What are the benefits to our society if brands are more tapped into cultural trends?

Moderator: William Uricchio ‚Äď Principal Investigator, Convergence Culture Consortium; Panelists: Grant McCracken‚Äď Chief Culture Officer: How to Create a Living, Breathing Corporation (Basic Books); Sam Ford ‚Äď Director of Customer Insights, Peppercom, and C3 Research Affiliate; Jane Shattuc ‚Äď Emerson College; Leora Kornfeld ‚Äď Research Associate, Harvard Business School

Starts with presentation from Grant McCracken (very quick presentation that was difficult to capture)

  • GM: we want something more from a corporation; we want a more porous corp, that listens more carefully and is more responsive; in all matters and in cultural matters.
  • GM: Inside the corporation there is a sense….you could buy in cultural intelligence or by buying up startups.¬† but the dynamism of future is too quick for this to happen.¬† the silo corp feels like a joyless place to those inside it. They ask people to forget contemporary culture when they are inside it, an act of self-willed amnesia.¬†¬† They bring in knowledge but are forced to forget it.¬† But there is a vested interest.
  • GM: Quaker bought Snapple, buying something for the warm channel, but failed to understand it and had to see for $1.4b less than they paid for it.¬† They failed to understand the alternate trend. They had spent a lot of money and examined it strongly but were wrong.
  • GM: outside the corp, we see it as cool-hunting, catch-up, preying on culture. the corp falls out of synch, separated out of the culture, can be cluelessly, miserably shut out.
  • GM: In facebook, Zuckerberg claims all the photos on the site and caused a blacklash.¬† Chris Hughes – the empath, was away at this point. Facebook got it right because of Chris Hughes, he had an intelligence that allows him to think about culture and what people want from it.¬† He moved to the Obama campaign…the old regime asked him to fundraise.¬† Hughes challenged them on this – social media gives you into every nook and cranny, get the network to send the message out to the world
  • GM: so the corp is fully participating, no more rights and power than anyone else. It should be a producer of culture not a consumer, that people want to work their, they don’t have to forget culture.
  • GM: so long term strategies, Cluetrain, co-creation etc
  • GM: there’s Weberian gesture,,,,a corp is littered with failed projects….a corp has to appoint a senior manager who has thepower and resources to do this. put them in the C suite. you would hop they have a deep knowledge of American culture, not just the bright shiney object.¬† Only some part of cultural intelligence works this way. So the hot stuff is about 20%, the rest of the proposition is vast.¬† you have to know the latest AND the deep foundations.
  • GM: politics begins with a declaration of the possible (Stpehen Duncombe).
  • GM": a re-animated corp could be a fascinating producer of culture.¬† Most of all it is a place where people want to work.


  • WU:¬† in the first chapter, you talk about various examples, eg I heart NY. One way to look at is to say it is about an instinct, but is it training, study.¬† Some have a nose for it others can be trained.
  • GM: there will always be naturals. People who are good at it have a vested interest in keeping this knowledge, traiing. Look at film schools, lots of training, so are the good people naturals or training. It seems to be wring to think……it feels to me that one of the things we take for granted is that peopel are mre cultural literate…that’s soem indication…..the rise of media literacy tells us that people have masters the grammar of culture.
  • WU: is it a language….is it a way to converse
  • SF: language matters quite a bit. we have had discussions. Spreadable media…language matters and how you frame it from the beginning.¬† Language matters in measurement, setting up what you are going to do. William is framing question about what training.¬†¬† What GM is saying is that it should not just an outsourced resource, but they should make the org as a whole smarter. That many have struggled with in the past as many companies outsource marketing, advertising etc.¬† Talking to someone yesterday, trying to give a strategy, he was not interested, he wanted me to think of something and go do it…he was too busy. the question that GM is raising is it possible to place value on learning about culture.¬† Traditionally we don’t place value on cultural knowledge, so what do we do.¬† How many places have sites locked?¬† can get to these different sites. (eg Twitter etc). I talk to people and they can’t solve this issue. There is the feelign that employees will just surf facebook – it is not an issue of access it is an issue of trust in employees.¬†¬† There is a suspicious nature of cultural knowledge,.
  • WU: you talked about outsourcing…so a Chief culture Officer, if we think of a corp as culture, then a CCO has a different issue..the CCO understand the org, the triggers, the data flow. It is nice to be able to siphon this off.
  • GM: the corp is famous for shooting the messenger. The average CMO is the go to blame person.¬† In my worse moments, I think I’ve just created a better target.
  • JS: in the TV industry, the creative act is with the writers etc, there is no CCO, not in the marketing people. People go to LA and get immersed it. they no longer in the culture of outside LA, so creativity and cultural change drives out.¬†¬†¬† TV shows pull people who are immersed in culture, they come in and last a year, it is a liquid pool of employees; there is no way I can make something sophisticated that can be understood…..
  • GM: I love this idea that there is a cheat into the system, they realise people from traction, then come back in, they get the culture out and they throw them out again. It is a difficult and damaging process.¬† If you had a more porous corporation, then you would not have to fire/rehire to get the culture back in.¬†
  • JS: but how can a CCO exist in the corp if they don’t live in the culture
  • GM:¬† you may be right, but this is a questions…it should not be difficult…you build the position to people remain in touch. Otehrs can feed things in.
  • SF: the CCO in theory to CCO in practice is the tensions…so you look at what happens in the C suite schedule. Do you get a calender you get stuck in. Is there time for cultural knowledge. this is the real cultural difficulty that is not understood, . Corp america knows it needs to happen but don’t understand what it was.¬†
  • LK: doesn’t this sound like 1999 again, with all these weird job titles.¬† all they want to do is show you how cool they were…the new facial hair etc..How do we get away from the conception to someone with credentials..I did not find that in the book….some of these things are key to grasp…See the Wedding video….that all have seen..the music was by Chris Brown…big selling artist who had a scandal. it was used in videos without being licenced. It was a home video made to be seen by 15 people…so someone at Sony made the good idea…they did not issue a takedown notice, they put an overlay notice. It improved Chris Brown’s sales and his reputations.
  • SF: To turn this question around a little…Cultural knowledge is beneficial to ways to make money and new ways to become knowing of risks before they happen. But why is CCO good for the people? the books gets at some of those ideas..could this trend help pull corps into a more cultural aware space.
  • JS: popular culture and your definitions….Pop culture usually happens on the margins. My students are wonderful pirates, the take over of culture. You say it is the people’s culture…you say the margins resist and the corp absorbs…
  • GM: at LK question, this is not Cool, cool is the enemy.¬†¬† people I’ve talked to..are not in it for the cool, just interested, curious. it is there for the tapping…with SF, the issue of benefits, I have no defence, corps that are more responsive…they either enter the conversation or has no connections.¬† On popular culture and resistence..I cast the notion very wide, (as an Anthropologist), it is all culture, I don’t want to privilege the resistive part, it is all part of it. it is part of the general culture, it has gone wide.
  • JS: but popular culture..the people, the people who are outside, ot in power. Once in power you are part of a high culture.¬†¬† The power in corp comes form that resistance, innovation happens in the margins.
  • SF: one thing you say on the book, the idea of makign the corp breathe in and out. On media corps are pushing culture out, through shows etc, popular culture will play around with that, will resist etc, then the corps again will become responsive to it..but corps are on a respirator, so how do we speed up the process, we can’t corporatise popular culture,….
  • WU: this is about issues about thing I stress America. A lot of corps are multi-=nationals. what do you do with a corp where cultural products circle the globe.
  • GM: the fact that there is something like a global culture…it may be possible, We will have local specialists to speak to local cultures. Even f things were still, it would be impossible for US changes all the times..and that is why you need a¬† ziggurat of advisors….
  • SF: the academic model…they all have their own specialism, that we know one areas, the academic conference gives you time to hear about other areas. that model doe snot work well in corp america, a series of carefully guarded case studies. So does this play about how corps change, how they change. Should the CCO come together and share?
  • LK: the idea of ownership is what our culture is based on….
  • GM: the gift eceonmy…the old model is dead – finding and keeping to yourselves in dead.¬† We are looking at a change in our culture…mainstream, avant guarde etc,…this is breaking down, so invention takes place on both sides of the divide.
  • AudQ: don’t hate on cool…it comes off as the same kind of degrading….it’s like ‘ism’ is different to corp culture is weird..the person on the scooter may have some good ideas.¬† People who indulge in difference is something a CCO has to take time to touch that, be participant.
  • GM: well said..a CCO should be the beginning of the end of the vilification of someone for their own end..well said
  • SF: for my purposes..maybe cool is the wrong terminology, a CCO is not the trend spotter…
  • Aud: Piers (PSFK) is doing a good job so he is important
  • AudQ: Metrics..without a way to prove the CCO is making money, how do you evaluate them?
  • make themselves useful, so you could not get rid of them. Managing some revenue stream, innovation stream is critical. You are the barometer int he box, you can think deep thoughts,..
  • SF: it only works as well if it is cross-silo.¬†
  • WU/AUDQ: what is the place of ethics,,,does the CCO need an external ethical check?¬†¬† There is apushback in university, that has an ethical tint…form business it is about talking 2 years not next quarter.
  • GM: being more responsive and engaged there will be ethical issues. the CCO should not be a moral guard-dog, everyone should be doing this.
  • AUDQ: is a CCO a misnomer..should it be a trend officer, cool hunter etc.¬†¬† isn’t this why you have college interns?
  • JS: students are often a liquid cultural exchange, huge number of people. Not sure, are you talking trends etc. what is the depth you are looking for
  • GM: there’s trends that stream through as well as the depth, the full body, it is the full navigational stuff. just the latest things is just what is cool now.¬†
  • LK: if you have to know the metephors….
  • AUDQ: Samsung hired a bunch of kids to play and invent…gave them power in organisation. to create new products.¬† There’s a lot more in the process to bring culture in and CCO is too formal
  • GM: P&G have a skunkworks, everyone has a different way of doing it.¬† CCo makes sense to me as it obliges a corp to make the max symbolic gesture it can do . They already bring in interns…it is a gesture of good faith
  • AUDQ: Blocking sites…does understand digital culture fall under CCO?
  • SF: would not just have to be outsourced….we can;t limit this to new, trendy etc, it is much deeper than that. fast and slow culture is there.¬†