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Monthly Archives: November 2007

I’ve become quite addicted to Twitter. It started off as a nice alternative to constantly updating the ‘status’ on my Facebook, as I found a nice little app that would post my Tweets into my status saving me from doubling up on my pointless thoughts during the day.

If at this point you are wondering what Twitter is… Check out Caroline Middlebrooks Twitter guide, it has everything you could possibly want to know.

Since using it I have begun to see that it has many uses that may not immediately jump out at first glance. For one, it is a great way of taking the temperature of tweeters out there. There are websites that let you search for key words and see what the most popular thing is that is being tweeted about on a given day. It reminds me of when AOL leaked the search engine queries of users of its browser, therefore exposing the things people were searching for and ponder the sometimes surreal thought processes these people must have had as they were searching. It is interesting to see what people are feeling the need to tweet about. Looking through tweets is like looking into the minds of literally millions of people.

But Twitter isn’t just another form of social media for you to share useless information with people (although a large percentage is just that… Including most of mine); it is a powerful platform from which you can broadcast… In real time. This in itself makes it useful for keeping viewers (or followers as they are referred to in Twitter) up to date with whatever it is you want them to know. Whether that may be a character from a TV series Tweeting in between episodes to keep you up to date with what they are doing, or whether it is a news channel keeping you informed of breaking news. Each bit of information comes in bite sized chunks like SMS text messages and interestingly (and unlike email or other subscription based broadcasting) you are able to take a look at specific followers Twitter feeds too, to gain insight into your audience. Twitter is delivered online and on your mobile, you can send and receive Tweets via your mobile phone which adds another powerful platform for broadcasting to.

With Twitter being a great way to reach out to an audience, it can also become a form of nanomarketing – planting small almost invisible seeds into audiences so that they share and pass on things in a way that is more subtle than a viral campaign. Instead of trying to ram messages down their throat, establish a relationship with them by creating a connection. It’s still early days with this and it is by no means a tried and tested form of marketing – in fact the term ‘nanomarketing’ itself could be seen as a wanky bit of terminology that basically means that you’ll make a small amount of effort for no quantifiable return. I however think that as part of an arsenal of social media tools it has the potential to punch through in ways regular blogging never will.

I stumbled upon this great post from The Morning News where Amy Tieman’s work with children designing their own laptops was on display. How cool are these laptop designs and where can I get one?

At the moment there does seem to be a spotlight on innovative user interface design with Nintendo’s Wii & DS and its gesture recognition, alongside Apples iPhone leading the charge. Electronic paper is also finally making a break through which seems ironic as it is interface at its most simple… replicating paper.It makes me wonder whether there is some take out from this in regards to multiplatform production. It seems that re-booting the users experience with the media so as to grow the competence with the technology, is having a positive effect and finding users that would never in the past have found an entry point.

My wife is a great example in that she recently has been asking me to buy games for her Nintendo DS… This in itself doesn’t sound that remarkable, but her past reaction to me and my gaming habit was akin to a mother who stumbles upon her sons porno collection… a mixture of shame and bewilderment.

Maybe in our search for more complex and innovative challenges to throw at our users we are missing the opportunity to step back and really simplify the experience but offer innovative ways of interacting with it.

Last night I spent 4 hours playing through Valves Portal game on the Xbox 360. For those that don’t know it is a puzzle game using a 3D first person shooter engine (Source Engine) created by the guys that brought us Half Life 2. It has the perfect balance of educating the player to the games mechanics and creating a subtle at first but increasingly intriguing back story before well and truly blowing the player away with the twists and turns in the story line. All the time, however, maintaining a simple interface. There were no more than four actions besides movement the player had to consider (jump, crouch, fire orange Portal, fire blue Portal). The rest was about lateral thinking and puzzle solving. Skills which are not exclusive to those who are computer game literate. It’s the classic ‘less is more’ approach to user interface, storytelling and aesthetic… Absolutley fantastic entertainment at the same time. By far my Game Of The Year so far.

Now it’s time for the Jurassic Park quote (I know you’ve all been waiting for it)… Multiplatform at the moment seems in danger of trying to be everything to everyone. The appetite for online, games and mobile to sit alongside a TV programme is so strong that the danger of there being multiplatform content where the needn’t be any, is pretty high.In the words of Jeff Goldblums character in Jurassic Park:

Dr. Ian Malcolm: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

So everybody and their dog wants an ARG. Seriously. If you are wondering what an ARG is then I suggest you check out the detailed Wikipedia entry on them. Basically they are Alternate Reality Games, games which tend to pull in all sorts of media including online, TV, radio, books, mobile, real world events… You get the picture.

Now in the past there have been some big hits in the world of ARG’s. I Love Bees was an ARG for the computer game Halo 2 and according to Christy Denas stats 3/4 million people took part with 2.5 million of them just casual participants. Now stats are always questionable and in this case there seems to be some discrepancies between 42 Entertainments stats and those of Jane McGonigal (who says here that there were 600,000 serious players), but which ever way you look at it, this shows that there can be serious numbers involved when people chose to jump on board and get into something like an ARG. Of course ‘I Love Bees’ is an example of an ARG that attracted a large audience, many of the other well known ARG’s failed to achieve anywhere near those numbers, rarely getting above the 50/100,000 participant mark. I think it is fair to say that the higher the amount of interactivity demanded from the user, the lower the figure will be for participation.

Earlier this year the BBC made ‘Frozen Indigo Angel’. It is seen as a success story in the way it managed to cross so many platforms including Youtube, radio, real world events (Radio 1’s Big Weekend) and managed to get some great press coverage to boot. Whilst the project managed to break boundaries within the walls of the BBC, it still didn’t gain the sort of audiences that I believe TV producers want to eventually be reaching. It did make giant steps towards harnessing opportunities in the multiplatform world and it is with this transmedia storytelling approach (taking users from web to radio to real world event) continuing the experience beyond a single media, that the net widens and the opportunities to find an audience increase.

There is also a middle zone where projects such as Lonelygirl15 & KateModern exist, which, whilst being considered to be ARG’s, in comparison, demanded a lot less interactivity from the audience. This potentially is the reason why they both managed to gain a larger audience than other examples of the genre, with KateModern getting over 2.3 million viewers according to one of its creators Miles Beckett.

What I now find interesting is watching the industry try and harness the evolution of the ARG genre. Stats for ARG’s such as ‘I Love Bees’ & ‘The Beast’ show high participation, but looking at other examples in the genre this isn’t always the case. When you also look at the cost for bringing media rich ARG’s to market, the figures don’t always add up.How do producers manage to find a larger audience, keep them focused and also give them an incentive to interact and continue to interact?

The more I think about it, the more I come to conclusion that a lot of it has to do with bottlenecking. Let the users go out, explore and share the experience with others and then bring it all back in (the bottleneck) so that this information can be filtered back to the lower level participants. This way incentives can be spread out across an experience with new users being collected at the bottlenecks and then let out again to play. These bottlenecks could be real world events such as Radio 1’s Big Weekend, they could be TV programmes, books even radio programmes. Instead of there being just one big pay off at the end of the ARG, have many smaller events scattered throughout so that there are more ‘kicks at the can’ so to speak, more bottlenecks to create focus for the players. The broader the appeal of these bottlenecks the more likely they will be to attract a casual audience and therefore have a broader range of players. It may be that ARG’s just don’t and won’t scale well and that there will be a slider scale stating that the more we ask the audience to have to do, the less of them will want to take part. Maybe projects such as Lonelygirl15 and KateModern represent the mainstream (for now) and with baby steps the audiences will be pushed towards more and more interactivity?

I personally think there could be a bright future for ARG’s in that they offer a way to interact with material that other forms of interactivity don’t. They build communities around brands and offer a great way for a brand to live on beyond the purpose it was created for. There has been an ongoing discussion around the fact that ARG’s work best if audiences find them on their own, if they are in some way hidden from the mainstream so as to feel secret and unique. I think there needs to be a balance between this and the fact that secret and hidden does not always lead to mass participation. People need to know that something exciting is going on, they need to be wound up and let go. Marketing & PR will have to play a large part if ARG’s want to gain a larger audience and become a realistic opportunity for large scale projects.

That being said it is great to see that the interest seems to be there for ARG’s to be investigated by producers who may not have been attracted by the genre in the past. Perhaps with the appetite for new and innovative ideas to break through the current broadcasting arena there will be some ground breaking projects that truly tap into the broader audience and introduce them to the world of Alternate Reality Gaming.

Welcome to my blog. THE blog when it comes to my Multiplatform shenanigans.”What is Multiplatform?” You may ask. Good question. I work in the TV broadcast industry in the UK as a developer working with TV, Online, Mobile, Gaming and Radio… Hence the ‘Multiplatform’ bit.

In the ever changing world of TV production things have had to broaden out so that ‘content’ reigns supreme and the platforms for which it is made are becoming as diverse as Kylie’s hot pant collection.

The purpose of this blog is to bring together things of interest to those I work with and those who are interested in the exciting goings on in the world of multiplatform production. I hope to post interesting sites and news I have found alongside any insights that I gain in my day-to-day existence as a developer.

This is my first stab at blogging so any pointers, abuse, advice and support is always welcome. Please keep an eye on my Del.icio.us feed as well (over on the left sidebar) as that acts as an initial ouput for my discoveries, I’ll aim to expand on things of interest in the blog, but in between it’s a great place to find cool stuff. I Twitter too (when I remember) so follow the link (in my Blogroll) if you want to keep track of that.

As far as the ‘Monkey’ part goes… I’m sure it will become self explanatory over the coming posts.