Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Continued socialisation of TV

NewTeeVee has reported that a new service called Tunerfish via Comcast is emerging and it's being billed as Foursquare for video.

While I'm a little ambivalent towards Foursquare (mostly because of its hijacking of Twitter feeds) I do really like that Foursquare is using gaming mechanisms to build community and this is what Tunerfish will supposedly do for TV.

To understand the potential for a service such as Tunersfish take the example of the Lost finale and its corresponding Twitter-stream (graphic on right from NewTeeVee). For Australia the TV show Q and A has ridden the Twitter-stream well incorporating the #qanda hash-tag into its show each week.

You can see that by combining Twitter and TV the once solitary act of watching TV by yourself is becoming a much more social affair. Tunerfish aims to tap this social wave and amplify its effect by game-ifying (I'm gonna TM that!) it.

Like browsing my Twitter feed to find out what people I follow are watching, Tunerfish will aim to be a social discovery mechanism where you find out what your social circle is watching. Now, for myself, I don't have Pay TV so I only have a limited number of channels to watch, but even still the idea of finding our what shows are popular and then watching them by totally legal and broadcaster friendly means is a good one.

Tunerfish is in private Alpha at the moment so I don't know how it really works but the idea of adding game functions to a solitary/social activity is a catchy one.

From a personal perspective the only question I would have is that will it be service agnostic? Because it is being developed by Comcast will someone need to watch TV via a Comcast service or will it be a generic web app for all to use?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

User ratings and its influence on consumption

Along with all the cosmetic changes going on at YouTube at the moment one of probably the most symbolic changes has been the removal of 5-star ratings and addition of like/dislike buttons.

The change is for the most part unsurprising, the majority of YouTube clips probably only require a like or dislike, critical reviews of videos are not generally a done thing on YouTube.

The symbolism of the change shows that YouTube's two major stakeholders - publishers and consumers - are not interested in monitoring ratings or worrying whether a video is 3 or 5 stars. This acceptance of a lack of critical consideration of videos on YouTube is essentially an admission by YouTube that it is a 'fast moving video portal' - users consume high volumes of short videos with little consideration in-between.

If this is the way that YouTube is going then good for them on selecting such a model. The only problem I have with this is that it totally dis-regards its whole YouTubeEDU educational portal. YouTubeEDU was created largely in response to the likes of iTunesU and Academic Earth, video portals for long-play academic presentations.

Academic Earth for its part has taken a very definite line in its user ratings that sets it way apart from the new YouTubeEDU. Academic Earth users get to rate the presenters as if they were students, with typical A to F academic gradings.

iTunesU is a little more varied in its approach and from what I can understand individual users can rate academic presentations via their 5-star iTunes rating system they use for all iTunes media.

As can be seen though, the user ratings system you choose for your media can inform the consumer how they are to consume and consider their consumption. Give a consumer a throw-away ratings system and they'll follow suit.

I may be making a mountain out of a mole hill but I really think that the YouTube user rating changes has signified the wane in its experiment in long play educational videos. It will be interesting to see how it continues.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Taking science to the people

I was never a big science student in school - my young brain just didn't compute maths, physics and chemistry. So for me, and this is in the late 90s - not long ago - that's pretty much where science ended (apart from stats which through marketing I learnt to lurrrv).

Back in the day that's all that Science had to offer, there was science hard-core or science fiction and that was it. Science fiction was fun but as the plot was based more around impending alien death, the science of the story never really came through

But what I'm seeing more and more today is that science is learning how to open the door to the lay-people like me and expose a whole new generation to the wonders of science without the need for PhDs or mammoth left brains.

For me two examples really stand out. The first example is the socialising of science for the masses. NASA has been an excellent exemplar of this through its pro-active use of social media and willingness to share discoveries. Probably the most famous example of this is the Mars Phoenix Twitter account where in plain English first-person prose the Rover narrates its discoveries to all who want to listen. To see the extent to which NASA shares its discoveries see their Connect page. Another example of taking real science to the masses in much the same way is the CERN laboratory and the implementation of the Large Hadron Collider, you can follow the world's biggest laser beam on Twitter.

Secondly, social creations of science theory have really stepped up in the past couple years though with concerted efforts to build engaging and accessible ARGs and serious games.

Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) with a science bent have brought the real world of science into an intriguing new realm that is part science fiction but with science squarely the focus of the narrative. Examples of recent implementations include World Without Oil  and an ARG currently running in Australia called Bluebird. Bluebird is an ARG developed to further the understanding of Climate Change and the role that Geo-engineering might play in combating it. It's a great concept and by bringing real-world science and debates into a fictional narrative it exploits all modern-day engagement techniques for the youth demographic but firmly puts science as the main character in the story.

Lying somewhere left of ARGs comes serious games. With less narrative and more emphasis on game-play, serious games are attempting to both teach participants information while in a role reversal of sorts, many serious games also try and learn from the experiences of the participants too.

Two examples of serious games that came to light today, that both strangely have similar plots, are Participatory Chinatown - a 3D immersive game aimed to improve the master planning process for Boston's Chinatown precinct; and CityOne - a Sim-city like game developed by IBM to teach people about real world city planning problems (it's fixing leaky pipes time - no more aiming for the ritzy hotel on your block!).

In summary, science doesn't need to start and end in the text-book and many organisations are learning that some of the biggest scientific wins can be made simply by getting lay-people to understand concepts and actively participate in their solutions.

While I can leave many of today's complex theorems to the real boffins, I'm happy that I can now participate in science on a social level.

Image credit: nasa1fan/MSFC