• "I think recognising this – when there is a path from a crisis that involves risk but rewards you hugely – with something you wouldn’t have imagined, is at the very heart of design. It’s certainly an incredible feeling when it works, when the judo-flip flows just so, and you end up somewhere brilliant." Yeah. I really, really need to trust that more when I feel it.
  • "Though adept at mathematics and engineering science, his inventions were all human-centred and focused on the experience and enjoyment of the user. He abandoned his design of a steam motorboat engine, for example, because once he had developed it to rival diesel power it lost its suppleness and "was not a nice thing any more". His car suspensions and the cycle developments were entirely aimed at providing a superior experience for the user. He was very taken, through his association with Bridgestone, with the Japanese sense of the "spirit" of an artefact, reflecting its origins and the care with which it was made. He liked the idea that by seeing and using something one can detect this "spirit", which fitted his own conviction that manufacture and industry are morally rewarding. "Man should make things … Make a profit, of course, but don't take the money gain as the prime judgment."" Great paragraph from this obituary of Alex Moulton.
  • Wonderful article about Hackney – and, specifically, a natural history of the borough as it is right now. The history of social housing throughout the area is particularly interesting; also, I found the distinction between "gentrification" and "yuppification" useful. Ignore the title – it is a meaty piece, with about 2% of it being about hipsters.
  • "…if any one of the participants at the meeting starts to deviate away from the subject, repeat themselves or get a little carried away with their topic, the "Scrum master" presents them with the baseball cap to wear – the idea being to "cap" the conversation at source! This indicates that the person presented with the cap is now prohibited to speak until asked to contribute again, or until the cap is passed to someone else during the course of the meeting." Iiinteresting.
  • "Everyone seems to be compiling lists of the best games of the decade, so here, with minimal special pleading or argumentation, is mine." Steven Poole's list is good, though two entries for the MGS series is one too many, IMHO. I'd swap one of them for something Harmonix-flavoured.
  • "This is a list of old game releases. These games were priced at nearly $50 a year ago, now probably a lot less. Why buy a new game when there are plenty of fun games out there worth renting or buying for less?" Games released twelve months ago this week, by Andre Torrez. He's right, you know – games don't have to be about nowness all the time.
  • "It’s pretty difficult to talk about what you’ve got wrong. When you’ve been working on something like School of Everything very intensely for two years you can’t really blame the mistakes on anybody else. But the truth is that we need to rethink because we haven’t managed to make the idea financially sustainable yet." And so they're doing out loud. It's a big move; I hope it works out OK for them, because they're definitely Good People.
  • "In the desert 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles is a suburb abandoned in advance of itself—the unfinished extension of a place called California City. Visible from above now are a series of badly paved streets carved into the dust and gravel, like some peculiarly American response to the Nazca Lines (or even the labyrinth at Chartres cathedral). The uninhabited street plan has become an abstract geoglyph—unintentional land art visible from airplanes—not a thriving community at all."
  • "On the contrary, the quick wins of some big ticket consulting sessions sell our discipline short by pretending that design is some magical elixir that can be poured into a situation and zammo everything is fixed up. Like accounting, medicine, and just about every other profession, design is a practice which is persistently useful at regular intervals. If anything, during this transitional period where business and government are slowly coming to terms with the potential yield of having design as an integral part of the conversation it behooves us to collectively seek longer engagements, not shorter." Some excellent stuff from Bryan Boyer.
  • "As a real-life pro skater, you might spend three hours out of every day practicing. Three hours trying new tricks, screwing up and the ground abruptly slipping out from under you. Imagine living your life in that fog of frustration, embarrassment, adrenaline and pride. Now let's imagine you got really sick, swallowed, like, nine Paracetamols and passed out in bed. THPS2 is what you'd dream." Quinns goes misty-eyed over THPS2, and he is right to do so. It was wonderful.
  • "It’s pretty common to want SQL queries against a particular table to always be sorted the same way, and is one of the reasons why I added the ordered scope to the utility scopes gem… Well now you can specify default ordering, and other scopes, in edge rails directly in your ActiveRecord model." Hurrah!
  • "With the recent addition of dynamic scopes, however, you now have a way to both quickly specify query logic and chain further conditions. The naming works in the same manner as dynamic finders and the chaining works in the same fashion as conventional named scopes." Ooh. New in Rails 2.3, and passed me by a little.
  • Really rather good series of tutorials on the FCE4 basics.
  • "So here's my theory: WoW doesn't resemble a film. It resembles, rather, a medieval cathedral. And a magnificent one: it is the Chartres of the video-game world. Like a cathedral, it is a supreme work of art that is, on a brick-by-brick basis, the creation of hundreds of artisans and craftsmen, many of whom will be long gone by the time it comes to completion; indeed, since WoW is in a state of permanent expansion, it may not ever be "complete". All those programmers are the modern-day equivalent of stonemasons, foundation-diggers and structural engineers."
  • "This December, the Eisner-winning artists behind such acclaimed projects as "Sugar Shock," "Umbrella Academy," and "BPRD: 1947" will present "Daytripper," their first original title from DC Comics' Vertigo imprint… The comic, which jumps around moments in the life of Brazilian aspiring novelist and newspaper obituary writer Brás de Oliva Domingos, will follow the main character as he explores and evaluates his own existence and attempts to discover the answer behind the mystery of the meaning of life itself." Oh. This sounds good!
  • "So much city thinking seems mad keen for a return to city states; autonomous islands, connected to each other through finance and fibre but not to land that surrounds them. It's a little bit collapsist; let's wrap the city around us while we still can. But maybe we could think about network technologies as a way to reintegrate rural and urban rather than accelerate the dominance of one over the other. Perhaps all this brilliant city thinking could lift its eyes a little and look beyond the city walls – I'd love to see what we'd come up with then."
  • "Stacey is an easier way to create a portfolio site. No database setup or installation files, simply drop the application on a server and it runs. Your content is managed by creating folders and editing text files. No login screens, no ‘cms’." Elegant – perhaps even more so than some of the stripped-down Ruby static-site management tools I've seen.
    (tags: php cms simple )

“Campaigns you can interact with”: not ARGs, and perhaps better off for it

16 October 2008

Katy, over at Kitschbitch, writes about Nokia’s new “transmedia” advertising campaign, and comments on it’s ARG-iness – or rather, its un-ARG-iness – and feels disappointed, saying:

…given that Nokia were the trailblazers of using immersive play to engage with consumers, doesn’t it feel like they’ve missed a bit of a trick here?

I was going to comment, but my comment grew and grew, and it felt like a post in its own right.

I’m not sure I’d agree with some of Katy’s criticisms. What’s emerged as a “traditional ARG” has basically consistently turned out to be very engaging for a tiny number of users, very costly to run, and usually exhausting for all concerned. They’re difficult to sustain and few companies ever go for a second ARG.

So a “campaign you can interact with” is a much more realistic interpretation of an ARG, you could argue: it requires far less involvement to get people in, meaning that your advertising dollar reachers more end users; it doesn’t require too much of a long term committment; it’s not community driven, meaning people can have the experience on their own, without having to invest time in building new relationships; whilst it’s interactive, it’s a constrained form of interaction, meaning it’s easier to control and keep on the rails.

The one thing it does have in common with an ARG is that it’s timeboxed: it runs for six weeks. Want to play it after those six weeks? Tough. That’s actually one of the biggest problems facing ARGs: getting away from that timeboxed nature.

So whilst it’s not the bleeding edge of ARG design, it’s probably a much more practical decision for an advertising division on Nokia: it’s less of a loss-leader than another Beast or ILoveBees; it’s engaging a broader degree of consumers but at a shallower level; it’s an order of magnitude or three less complex than a full-blown ARG.

I’m not necessarily convinced by the implementation, but I don’t think the lack of scope is reason for criticism per se; if anything, the “simple ARG” is perhaps harder to get right than the long, complex narrative that you can fix in retcon later on. The upfront budget – advertising, filming, media costs – here is bigger than most ARGs; the running cost is smaller. That sounds like a sensible way of keeping costs where you’re in control of them.

And so I think I’d argue that it’s actually more innovative than throwing a massive ARG budget at the problem: they’re trying to learn from ARGs to see what an affordable, practical interactive campaign, made by advertising/digital media agencies (rather than ARG agencies) might look like. That’s got to be worth a point or two.