March 13, 2011

#SXSWi Session Notes: Sunday Keynote with Christopher Poole

Filed under: SXSW — Emily Reeves @ 1:59 pm

These are my raw notes from this session.

Speaker is founder of 4chan

Started in 2003 as an image sharing community of people who are interested in. Japanese animation.

15,000 people a day browse the random feed.

4chan is anonymous, no registration. Nothing prevents you from contributing. There is no archive, making the content a constant waterfall. So something can poop on the site and pop off quickly. When the community embraces something, it stays up there. Survival of the fittest.

A very creative culture on 4chan. It is an image board. To start a topic, you gave to start with an image. There are about 50 different topic on the site: photography, animation, adult.

Founded 2003. The message board hasn’t gone anywhere in the last 10 years. Looks just like it did years ago. Wanted to re-imagine what the message board can be. 4chan is not going to win any design awards. It is a gatehouse, basic website. What makes it special are people co,ing together and collaborating on comic creation. Riffing back and forth. The process of arriving at that product is really fascinating.

Loss of the innocence of youth with these social profiles that follow you across the web. You can’t start over with each new town, new job, etc. You can’t re-create yourself. If you fail, it stays with you.

Disagrees with Zuckerburg’s opinion that anonymity is cowardly. Instead, it allows you to experiment. At 4chan, people are all judged equally.

4chan has become a place where people come to hang out.

Refrigerator Magnet game, shared experience, community. (like crowdsourcing, sort of)

Recently launched Canvas. Using Facebook Connect for verification, bit still allow for posting anonymously.

People on Canvas are not using Photoshop, which evens the playing field.

Typical community is 90% lurked and 10% contributor. It is more balanced at Canvas because it is way to use.

My Little Pony is really popular on 4chan right now.

Chat doesn’t build durable conversation.

Build a community slowly. Build a community worth scaling.

#SXSWi Session Notes: Better Crowdsourcing: Lessons Learned from the 3six5 Project

Filed under: SXSW — Emily Reeves @ 12:09 pm

These are my raw notes from this session.


Started late 2009, when the idea of life streaming was gaining momentum.

Crowd sourcing: inspiration, collaboration and co-creation.

Six Items or Less: asks women to wear six items for a month. Turns from a relationship with clothes to a relationship with themselves to a relationship with consumerism.

Tumble vs. Posterous. Partnership was with Posterous, they supported us because they were smaller than Tumblr, willing to do more. It helped to go where the people aren’t. We are featured 18% of the time on Posterous, whereas if they had been on Facebook, they might have been lost.

Start with a simple and easy to understand idea. Anyone can understand this and participate.

Collaborative production. People want to work on really interesting briefs. New ways to form a new community and try new new things in a safe place.

How do you structure the acceptance of the idea: setting standards for how ideas are submitted to make it easier for the curators to go through it.

It is a problem when your volunteers don’t read the guidelines, follow the rules or understand the stories. Ultimately they were asking for 365 favors. Asking people to do things a certain way. Wanting people to contribute in a way that they don’t on any other channel. When managing people, you have to push them; that is where the good work comes from.

In crowdsourcing, the work belongs to the community, so you have to relinquish some control. Giving away ownership is actually quite rewarding for the participants. In the Six Items project, there is a lot of self loathing that happens and the one thing Heidi won’t tolerate is bullying.

The doesn’t have to be a gaming component to get people to participate. Sometimes it is just a growth hierarchy.

In advertising, you have to earn your way up to better shops and bigger titles. Crowdsourcing lets people work around that. It holds up people that are really passionate, but haven’t had a voice before. Offers networking opportunities, too.

Managing as growth continues means bringing up people within the community. Empowering people with scaling.

Have seen copycats of 365 project and they are okay with that because it brings more attention to the original project.

Just launched a local version of 3six5 in Chicago.

#SXSWi Session Notes: Designing iPad Interfaces

Filed under: SXSW — Emily Reeves @ 10:56 am

These are my raw notes from this session.

Head of User Experience


The first toy you had as a child was really some form of an interface.

Common interfaces: calculator, computer mouse closed the gap between user and interface, tablets with stylus went even further, and then touch tablets took the user directly to the interface.

Touch is direct, removes ambiguities, leverages forms.

Four elements of form: size, shape, form, mechanics.

Shows video from YouTube of 2 year old figuring out how to use iPad very, very quickly. Shows how compelling the form of the iPad is, even to a two year old. The physical form of a device lends itself to how you interact with it. The physical device invites you to play with it.

Form follows function. – Louis Sullivan, architect

Objects have behavioral interactive clues: chairs, doors, drawers, lenses, Rolodex.

Form informs function.

Looked at 80 apps in preparation for today’s presentation. A lot of variety, a broad spectrum.


Target app. Brings physical world elements into app.

Audi app. Form factor lends itself to exploration. Replicates the physical space of the showroom floor. Can go onto the car. Content is not deep, but that is more engaging and you want people to snack on the info.

Epicurious app. Replicate a flip book.

Page view carousel.

MoMA. Makes you feel like you are actually staring at art on the wall. Can swipe across a timeline of artists. Replicates the experience of going to a museum and being able to get up close.

Flipboard. Stories are represented as physical tiles. Snack on content.

CNN. Presenting news as if it were a board with stories tacked up on it. Give users the ability to skim headlines. Big pictures.

Reuters. Video strip at the bottom. Physical recreation of newspapers. A lot of photo galleries.

Wired. The notion of a layer, ability to navigate back with direct access to other stories.

Courtside. Physical replication of being at the game. Layers. Can watch a game live or pre-recorded.

The best navigation systems are the ones that hint at common constructs, hint at physical experiences, it is okay to reuse familiar web/mobile concepts.

Navigation schemas that are drawn from familiar constructs are relatable.

Gap. Grid feels very free form. Tells you that you should be exploring and the order doesn’t matter. Interface that makes use of discoverability easy.

Gilt. Commie apps show presentation of products in extremely big tiles. If you tap on the tile, it spins and gives a different view of garnet. Discoverability. Lean on web conventions, buttons that give drop down menu alternate view.

Auditorium. Bits of info fed to you in a progressive way. Can launch iTunes. Designed on the premise of relaxing and getting into the music. No rules, up to user as to how to navigate. Giving users a sense of infinity.

The Daily. Makes it clear that there’re interactive elements you can be playing with. Carousels are pumped up. Each row moves independently. Becoming a convention. Invites exploration.

NPR. Gives cues to show more content. Split screen content. Layers. Buttons at the bottom ten to be non-contextual.

Yellow Pages. Even they are adopting a different approach that allows for discovering businesses. Tiles that flip and bring info to you.

ABC News. Unconventional. Spherical in nature. How to get people to explore and read more articles. No fixed principles. Still sticking to the rules of disciverability and something familiar that implies how it should be used.

Principles: intuitive, visual affordance (cues to suggest interaction), user feedback, fewer options (even the news applications simplify what they show on the first screen, becomes less overwhelming and intimidating).

Simple, intuitive navigation makes them discoverable.

Pulse. Tells you what to do. Being explicit and providing users with a quick snapshot of the navigation.

Food and Wine. gives a quick snapshot of navigation. Help guide gives tips on gestures.

Wired. Wall of pages. Can deep dive into any article. Inspired by print, but training users on new interface paradigms.

The Daily. Carousel used to spin the articles, there is no question what you should be doing when you get here. It is huge, which makes the cues extremely learnable and clear.

Twitter. Overlapping screens that cascade.

Marvel. Comic books. Explicit instruction would have been good here, users didn’t realize there were different things they can do.

Don’t understand how powerful navigation help guides can be. Repetitive application. Explicit in-context instruction.

User instruction built in insure that navigation is learnable.

Navigation system should be relatable (hinting at physical experience, not replicating it), discoverable, learnable.

New form factors bring about new interaction behaviors. The form of then iPad help users interact with content differently.

#SXSWi Session Notes: Decision Trees: YouTube’s New Breed of Interactive Storytellers

Filed under: SXSW — Emily Reeves @ 9:27 am

These are my raw notes from this session.

Hacking YouTube to create “choose your own adventure.” the videos become video games.

It starts with figuring out the decision tree and how many videos you can reasonably make. Then scripting it out properly. Did an American Idol one that had 57 videos, which was too much.

Clever does not equal good.

Sprite did an interactive video sponsorship/promotion with music artist Katie. Cost as much as a television commercial, but actually hit their demo and considered it a success.

Engagement: 400,000 people went to the Antoine Dodson game. 459,000 played the Lindsey Lohan. For the American Idol one, 463,000 played.

How do you keep people playing longer? Be clear, very quickly what the instructions are. Explain that there are a lot of combinations, so you want to play multiple times.

A video game shouldn’t be over 2 minutes long.

Within YouTube, use invisible hyperlink annotations on top of the graphics that you create within Final Cut or Photoshop.

There is no limitation on the number of annotations you can put on a page. So, for example, 20 wouldn’t be a problem. Good use for an end slate, link to all your other videos rather than the YouTube recommended videos default. Anyone can use annotations, don’t have to be a techie to do that; use the spotlight tool to do this. For the YouTube demo, the font can never be big enough. With annotations, you can only link to other YouTube videos. There is a new annotation that allows for linking to Twitter, but they look totally different. The work around to that is to put a link in the top of your video description.

Currently, these don’t work on mobile.

Using YouTube video for produced video, but will lead you to UStream for live streaming pieces of the story. Eventually leading up to live meet-ups.

White label player experience.

Not currently getting permission to use others’ likeness in parody. If anyone featured wanted the videos taken down, they could get them taken down and we would have to counter sue, which is probably not worth it.

Advice: keep a foot in traditional media for now. Major brands just don’t take solely digital executions seriously. Need both for now.

Advice: pick a lane, pick a demographic and focus there. Can’t get everyone with same execution. What am I trying to accomplish? Don’t just aim for “hits on YouTube.”

Check out Chad, Matt and Rob on YouTube.

March 12, 2011

#SWSXi 2011 Day 2 Experience

Filed under: SXSW — Emily Reeves @ 9:33 pm

The second day of SXSW 2011 is now complete. It was a much longer and fuller day than yesterday with sessions beginning at 9:30 AM and ending around 6 PM.

A few general observations:

  • It is even bigger than last year with more people, more sessions and covering a larger geographical area (requiring more walking). It is overwhelming, exhilarating and draining all at the same time.
  • Location is not going away; it is becoming even more relevant and everyone is trying to figure out how to get mainstream audiences to see its wonderfulness and start using it.
  • Game play — social, location-based, fun — is growing, growing, growing.
  • There is so much going on here in Austin, and I am only experiencing a small sliver of it. The rest of it, I am reading about just like everyone else at home.  I didn’t see Jake Gyllenhaal yesterday, nor did I see Ashton and Demi or Conan today.
  • I have figured out that my iPad is sufficient for note taking/blogging throughout the day, so I am relegating the laptop to the hotel room for the rest of the trip. I need to lighten the load on my shoulder. So, that probably means no more live-blogging, but instead just posting my raw notes at the conclusion of each session (like I did the second part of this day after my computer battery died).
  • I packed seven pairs of shoes and will probably wear just one pair all week.

Today, I covered the following sessions:

  • Location-Based Game Design
  • Banking on Big Brands/Celebs for the Web
  • Brand Journalism: The Rise of Non-Fiction Advertising
  • Seth Priebatsch of scvngr Keynote Presentation
  • Storytelling Through Advertising: Engaging Players in Online Games
  • Metric-Driven Design

I either live-blogged or posted my raw notes for all of these sessions to this blog. Outlined below are my key takeaways and thoughts from each session.

Location-Based Game Design

Here is the link to the official session description and here is a link to my live-blogging session.

Key takeaway: Gaming is going to continue to evolve with the integration of real world spaces with online activity.

Foursquare was just the beginning.  Check-ins are just one type of “play.” Location and play are moving closer together and the game possibilities are pretty cool. For a non-gamer like me, the best example of this was Seek & Spell. With Seek & Spell, the user establishes a game in their existing space; letters are then dropped into the defined space on their phones.  The players have to run to that space physically to pick up the letter digitally. They then have to spell words with letters they collect. With multiple users participating and all seeing the same available letters, there can be physical running races to collect the letters.  Here is a video demonstration:

Seek ’n Spell gameplay video from Retronyms on Vimeo.

The presenters talked about other games they are developing that integrate location and gaming, so I am definitely not doing justice to their talent and creativity. But trust me, it is cool stuff.

Banking on Big Brands/Celebs for the Web

Here is a link to the official session description and here is a link to my live-blogging session.

Key takeaway: When working with celebrities for paid endorsements, engage them as part of the process rather than treating them as paid talent and your brand will reap the rewards.

Best quote of the session: “In the creative community, if you are not creating, you are waiting.” — Kevin Pollack. Celebrities are, at their core, artists. They don’t want to be paid to show up. They want to be paid for their art. They don’t always get the opportunity to feel like artists in Hollywood, to have their voices heard and to contribute to the process. Offer that and they are more likely to be a true brand ambassador.

Brand Journalism: The Rise of Non-Fiction Advertising

Here is the link to the official session description and here is a link to my live-blogging session.

Key takeaway: Content is king and even brands have to participate in content generation to get noticed in the stream.

Content from a brand is not something consumers seek out. Brands and agencies don’t know how to generate content. When content generation (aka, journalism) is done wrong, it can hurt a brand. Content generation is exceptionally difficult for a brand to do (hint: those that are doing it are hiring trained journalists). All this can be pushed aside when content generation is done right.

Who is doing/did it right?  Pepsi Refresh Project, the Church of Latter-Day Saints, Ford Bold Moves.

Who is doing/did it wrong? Chrysler. Mainly for their agency firing the person who tweeting the “f” word and for Chrysler firing the agency. The panel unanimously agreed on this point. Chrysler made a mistake by making such a big deal out of this.

This was, by far, my favorite session of the day. Bob Garfield was delightfully clever and a great panel moderator. The panel was chock-full of really impressive ad guys.  The conversation was relevant to current events. I usually dislike panel discussions, but this team did it well and did it right.

Seth Priebatsch of scvngr Keynote Presentation

Here is a link to the official session description and here is a link to my raw notes from the session.

Key takeaway: Last decade was all about social; the coming decade will be all about gaming. Gaming can influence and change everything we do from business to school to world-wide change.

Basically, Priebatsch’s point was that game mechanics can be used in any situation to drive results from the targeted audience. Incorporating a different rewards system, involving team/communal aspects and instilling time limits all are ways of changing the way people engage in various activities, thereby making them a game rather than a chore.

Storytelling Through Advertising: Engaging Players in Online Games

Here is the link to the official session overview and here is the link to my raw notes from the session.

Key takeaway: A ton of people are playing online social games like Farmville, the majority are women (moms), and the game companies are willing to do just about anything to integrate a brand into the game (given the right amount of money, I am sure).

Maybe it is finally time to suspend my disbelief that real people are actually spending a significant amount of time playing these social games. There are too many stats telling otherwise for me to ignore it any longer. The presenters at this session had some really compelling case studies showing brand integration campaigns into their games that had seemingly valid results from brand “likes” on Facebook to product movement off the shelves of 7-11 stores. An unanswered question was: did product continue to move post-promotion? Probably not. And, I think we need to see if there are behavioral overlays to the user demographics before investing any money, though. So, my skeptcism lives on.

Metrics-Driven Design

Here is a link to the official session overview and here is a link to my raw notes from the session.

Key takeaway: Design for online consumption (more action driven) and use is different than design for print (more aesthetic). And metrics matter. They really matter.

Google tests everything, down to 41 different shades of blue to see what will get the most click-throughs. There is a reason for that and for their success. The exact shade of blue can make a difference. Metrics are more than page views and time spent on site. They are the action steps that users take through the site. Testing varying versions is the only way to figure this out.

More coverage to come tomorrow.

#SXSWi Session Notes: Metrics-Driven Design

Filed under: SXSW — Emily Reeves @ 6:00 pm

Here are my raw notes from this session.

Presenter tells the story of Doug Bowman leaving Google because of the 41 shades of blue type testing. Data showed that there certainly was a difference in how the blues were used. The click through rate for green content is less than the click through rate for blue links. Data suggests that the darker the link, the better the click through.

Bing’s blue was worth $80 million to them. These discussions matter.

Intuition driven design verses data driven design. Most designers are intuition driven. Aesthetics are how they sell their work.

When it is data driven, every design decision is tested. You don’t do things like trust your gut.

Reasons metrics are a designer’s best friend:

1. Metrics reduce arguments based on opinion.

2. Metrics give you answers about what really works.

3. Metrics show you where you are strong (and weak) as a designer.

4. Metrics allow you to test anything you want.

5. Clients love metrics.

Which metrics to use? They will be as unique as your business.

Google Analytics are high level views; there is not any actionable data for design decisions. They are vanity metrics, like hit counters of the 90s.

The Usage Lifecycle: for example, interested, trial/beta user, customer, passionate customer (varies depending on your customer and business). And there are stages/hurdles in between each one: acquisition, conversion, engagement, satisfaction.

With metrics, you are measuring how you move people through this cycle.

Acquisition Metrics:

How much didn’t cost for you to acquire that person? What is the lifetime value of that customer? And, how do these two compare.

Performance acquisition metrics: comparative metrics, revenue by channel, revenue by acquisition. Email is the best performing acquisition channel.

Conversion funnel analysis: How many people make it through each step/page of the conversion and where are you seeing the drop off and how does it need to be fixed to increase conversion?

Engagement Metrics:

Page views
Unique visitors
Returning visitors
Registered users
Time on site
Daily active users

Cohort analysis: break up your users based on segments when they started. So you can see if engagement is improving over time.

On Facebook, a design change on the deactivation page prevented 1 million people from not leaving the site. They added a message that said: these people are going to miss you.

Satisfaction Metrics:

Referral through Net Promotors Score. This one question is a very good indicator of how satisfied your customers are: how likely are you to recommend this product/service to a friend?

Emergent Metrics:

Once a FriendFeed user found five friends, they became very active users. Once FriendFeed understood that, they made a design change to integrate a find friends tool. It was part of the stream.

At Blogger, they looked at the number of posts as a key metric.

Look for the one thing that really drives a lot of other activity. (Like a tipping point.)

#SXSWi Session Notes: Storytelling Through Advertising

Filed under: SXSW — Emily Reeves @ 4:19 pm

These are my raw notes from this session.

Storytelling and advertising through social games.

Zynga’s mission is connecting the world through games. Has 57 million daily active users. World’s largest social gaming. One in 5 Americans are playing social games.

Average browser time per user per day is 68 minutes.

Farmville audience is similar to the audience size of American Idol. Farmville is the new daytime TV. 40 year old mom is the new hardcore gamer.

55% of all social gamers are women. 53% are between 24-54 years old.

Gaia Online

1/3 of revenue comes through ads and sponsorships.

An avatar-based community. Builds both the game and the network. 30 million users.

Finding likeminded souls when playing these online games.

Gaia users: 60% female and 40% male; 90% 18-24 years old

Why are playing social games?

They are easy to play. If you can use a mouse, you can play these games.

They are social. Cooperation not competition.

Everyone wins.

It is free.

What is in-game advertising?

Integrated and seamless. Enhances the game and users don’t even realize they are interacting with the brands. One of the most successful brand sponsorships was with Nike. Nike shoes would make the player run faster.

“Sponsored features” not banners. Scion cars allowed for customized cars on Gaia. It made the feature better.

Aligned with user goals.

Engagement with the brand

Discussion about the brand.

Zynga looks at advertising as content.

“Social glue” = integrating the online game with the real world. Case study: 7-11 partnership with Zynga. 3 million redmptions. Beat projections. Most successful co-redemption ever according to 7-11. (Question: did any of those users go back to 7-11 after the promotion?)

Case study: Farmers Insurance. All Farmville users could get a Farmers blimp on their farm for a week that protected their crops. Farmers KPI was Facebook likes. After this promotion, they were the most liked insurance brand on Facebook.

Reasons for success:
User choice
User reward

Truly believe that social gaming will lead to social good. $3 million raised for Haiti. One day turnaround for Japan relief. Have built a school in Haiti by allowing Farmville users to donate school supplies.

Gaia had an Alice in Wonderland promotion. 87% of users responded that they enjoyed seeing and participating in the promotion. 515,000 forum posts. Users spent over 5 minutes in the flash space for Alice in Wonderland.

People love to take surveys and polls.

(I would like to see behavioral overlays to the demographics of these online gamers.)

#SXSWi Saturday Keynote: Seth Priebatsch of scvngr

Filed under: SXSW — Emily Reeves @ 3:19 pm

My computer battery has died, so no live blogging. But here are my raw session notes for this keynote.

Seth is founder and CEO of scvngr, which has 1 million users.

“The Game Layer on Top of the World”

(I think Seth’s favorite color is orange: computer, sunglasses and computer.)

Last decade was the decade of social: network has been built as Facebook.

Next decade is the decade of games and will traffic in influence. Seeks to act on individual motivation. Has the opportunity to have more influence.

Game Layer Can Influence
1. School
2. Customer acquisition
3. Loyalty
4. Moving location based programs into the mainstream
5. Global warming

1. School is a game.

But engagement and cheating are a problem. Game mechanics can fix these problems.

Grading doesn’t motivate engagement; grades are failing as rewards. Instead, approach it as a progression, focusing on the end result. You don’t lose, you just don’t get as many points.

Cheating is currently being fought with a game mechanic of disincentives. But you only get punished if you get caught. So people find a work around to keep from getting caught. To get people not to cheat, you change the game. Princeton keeps people from cheating by integrating an honor code and allowing the students to be the enforcers.

2. Customer Acquisition

Dissecting Groupon:
Free lunch
Communal gameplay

Free Lunch
Too good to be true? We are naturally skeptical, but we see the catch: a certain number of people must buy. 95% of Groupons tip by 8 AM.

Communal Gameplay
Based on the idea that you can give someone a complex problem and through the community, anyone can solve the problem.

Creates a spike in activity the closer it gets to zero.

All of these elements, plus an email list = Groupon.

3. Loyalty

All about status. American Express does a great job with this through their color-coded card.

“The Level-Up” means you get more for less the more you use the service. Scvngr just launched a beta using this principle.

Exclusive ownership is like playing the game Risk. Inclusive ownership flips this on it’s head and creates a society among all the people that have checked into the same place (Whrll trying this).

4. Moving LBS Mainstream

Location-based services are not mainstream, but everyone is trying and pouring a ton of money into it.

The strict rule of LBS is that you have to be at a place to play. If we ease this rule, will we get more people engaged?

Rewards schedules idea: what do I get for doing this? This is why we have seen all LBS introduce a rewards system. Rewards spike engagement and activity. However, after getting the reward, people stop checking in when there is no reward availability. All LBS are considering this problem now.

5. Global Warming

Taking impossible problems and make them at least possible through a game. Priebatsch now going to demonstrate with an audience game.

Very good game has a prize. If the audience wins, scvngr will donate $10,000 to the National Wildlife Federation.

Problem: colored cards are scattered through the audience. Audience has to trade to get one color per row in 180 seconds. The audience won. The power of communal gameplay can overcome:

Lack of communication
Trading patterns
Restricted movement (couldn’t stand up)
Decentralized resources
Wealth (some people had multiple cards)
Joint goal

The results:
Part of something bugger than yourself (epic meaning).

Game dynamics are powerful.

#SXSWi Live Blogging: Brand Journalism, the Rise of Non-Fiction Advertising

Filed under: SXSW — Emily Reeves @ 12:26 pm

This is a panel discussion with Bob Garfield, Brian Clark, David Eastman, Kyle Monson, Shiv Singh.

#SXSWi Live Blogging: Banking on Big Brands/Celebs for the Web

Filed under: Bookmarks — Emily Reeves @ 10:47 am

#SXSWi Live Blogging: Location-Based Game Design

Filed under: SXSW — Emily Reeves @ 9:20 am

This is a presentation by Dokogeo founders.  This is only my fourth session but my third game-based discussion, but so far the learning and discussion has been applicable beyond game design and is making my brain think a little differently.  Hopefully, this session will do the same for me.

March 11, 2011

#SXSWi 2011 Day 1 Experience

Filed under: SXSW — Emily Reeves @ 9:31 pm

Today was the first day of sessions for South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) and it was tough waiting until the 2 PM start time.  My anticipation had been building for months: I was ready to learn! And share!  I have been resting up, drinking lots of water and charging all my technology (first lesson of SXSW: ABC, “always be charging”).  I had my comfortable (yet cute) shoes, my badge and my messenger bag packed as lightly as possible (which is still heavy, given my high maintenance and always be prepared attitude).  I just needed the sessions to attend.

Anxious to get out of the hotel room and into the crowds, and more than ready to eat, I headed to the Austin Convention Center around noon.  Yesterday, I spotted a grilled cheese stand (The Big Cheese) and had been thinking about it ever since. With my grilled cheese and jalopeno chips in hand, I ate my sandwich while standing and staring at the gigantic Samsung screen that was streaming all tweets, checkins and photos tagged with #SXSW or #SXSWi. It was mesmerizing.  And egocentric:  SXSW attendees didn’t need another reason to talk about and tag their experiences.  But now they had one; because who doesn’t love to see their name in a really large font?

With belly full, I set off to find the room for my first chosen session: Turn Your App Into a Cooperative Game. I was 30 minutes early for the session, so I had a great seat and time to get my live blogging session set up.  The room filled quickly to standing room only.  Gaming discussions are prevalent on the schedule this year and based on the turnout for this session, it looks like they will be popular.

The early arrival to stake my claim on a chair was to no avail in this first session.  No sooner than the room was full, the presenters had us play a game that required a fruit-basket turnover of the entire room.  I managed to find another seat, but I did not participate in the remaining games in an effort to keep that seat.  Although I was a little flustered, I did not let this ruin my excitement for the remainder of the day.  Outlined below is a summary of today’s learnings.

Cooperative Gaming

Cooperative Gaming at SXSW

Cooperative gaming is the idea of working with and as a team toward an end result rather than a competitive game that pits individual players against one another.  (Farmville is an example of a cooperative game.)  According to the presenters, Buster Benson and Thor Muller, cooperative gaming has become popular because of its social nature and the innate sociableness of humans:

“You win in cooperative games by connecting to people. They work when you need diversity to get to the desired outcome: different skills, different ways of thinking, etc. Games get better when there is more team diversity.”

So, not only do people like to play cooperative games (because they feel productive), but they learn how to better work together (because they need each others’ specialized skills to reach the goal).

Google’s Marissa Mayer

Next session up with with featured speaker Marissa Mayer, VP of Consumer Products.  (See my live blogging notes here.)  Ms. Mayer focused on the relevance of location data: “The future is the power of here.” All related to location data, she provided the SXSW audience with some development updates to Google Maps for Mobile, introduced Hotpot, touched on augmented reality, and discussed the layering of location context to Google Goggles.

Google's Marissa Mayer, Featured Presentation

Some highlights from the Google Maps portion of the presentation included:

  • “Location is becoming more important in search.”
  • “The mobile phone acts as a cursor connecting the physical and digital worlds.”
  • 40% of Google Maps usage is mobile.  This year, for the first time, on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, mobile usage of Google Maps surpassed desktop usage.
  • There are 150 million users of Google Maps for Mobile.
  • A demonstration of the enhanced Google Maps for Mobile application that allows the user to pinch and pull down to a 3-D view of the buildings the user seeks to find.

Hotpot is a ratings and recommendations service that launched quietly three months ago.  Now with three million users, it is linked to Google Maps and Google Search to provide robust data for the users.

With augmented reality, users will enhance reality with digital content related to the space they are standing in at the moment.

For Google Goggles, Ms. Mayer hinted at the possibilities of improved image searches using location data.

The bottom line from Google: location, location, location.

Games User Research

The third and last session of this first day was on games user research.  (See my live blogging notes here.)  Admittedly, I was a little out of my league in this session, but it was interesting nonetheless.

The session was led by a panel of researchers for video game development.  These researchers worked on Guitar Hero, Halo and Call of Duty.  So, apparently, they know what they are doing.  These are the people that work directly with end users to test usability of games.

They had interesting anecdotes:

  • “I know I have a good game when the kid actually pees his pants because he doesn’t want to stop playing the game.”
  • “When a seven year old girl cries because she can’t find the ‘quit game’ button, then you know that it is not obvious to her to press the ‘escape’ key and a button needs to be added to the menu bar.”

But, they also conveyed principles that can be applied to all forms of research:

  • Don’t ask the wrong people about your game: if you pull someone who plays golf games and and ask them to give you feedback on a “shooter” game, you will get bad data.  Bad data is worse than no data at all.
  • Narrow the focus of the research and test for one goal at a time.
  • Behavior target rather than demographically target (“A 70-year old man who plays Quake does so very similarly to a 14-year old boy who plays Quake.”)
  • Have the designers watch the consumer interaction with their games; designers create a game that is fun for them, but seeing how the real consumer reacts can be eye-opening.
  • Everyone thinks they can write a questionnaire and very few actually can.  Changing the order of words changes the way people think about their response to the question.  Trained researchers know how to do this; interns do not.

My favorite part about this session was the new terminology I picked up: “shooter games” (involves guns), “twitch gamer” (based on reaction times), and “dual thumb sticks” (I still don’t know what this means).

The iPad 2

The hot topic today was the iPad 2.  Apple set up a surprise temporary store in downtown Austin just for SXSW attendees.  Since I did not spend my first day of SXSW 2011 waiting in line, I will not have the new iPad and  I know I am going to be super jealous when I see people carrying their new iPad devices tomorrow.

How I spent my day instead:

More coverage to come tomorrow.

#SXSWi Live Blogging: Games User Research

Filed under: SXSW — Emily Reeves @ 4:48 pm

Panel discussion about user experience for games and more.

#SXSWi Live Blogging: Google’s Marissa Mayer

Filed under: SXSW — Emily Reeves @ 3:25 pm

Marissa is Google’s VP of Consumer Products.

#SXSWi Live Blogging: Turn Your App Into a Cooperative Game

Filed under: SXSW — Emily Reeves @ 2:05 pm

The first session of SXSWi for me this year.  This is a presentation by Buster Benson, Health Month Founder and Thor Muller, Get Satisfaction CEO.  Standing room only in this session.  Gaming is going to be a popular topic this year.