Last Orders at The Fantastic Tavern (#TFTLondon)

About a year ago, I wrote about a fantastic concept called The Fantastic Tavern (TFT), started by Matt Bagwell (@mattbagwell) of EMC Consulting (ex-Conchango – where I also have some history). Since then I’ve been to a few more TFTs (and written about them here) and they’ve got bigger, and bigger. What was a few people in a pub is now a major logistical challenge and Matt’s decided to call it a day. But boy did it go out with a bang?!

Last night’s TFT was at Ravensbourne (@RavensbourneUK) – a fantastic mixture of education and business innovation hub on London’s Greenwich peninsula. I was blown away by what Chris Thompson and the team at Ravensbourne have achieved, so I’ll write about that another day. Suffice to say, I wish my university had worked like that…

Last night’s topic was 2012 trends. Personally, I thought the Top Gear-style cool wall (“sooo last year, tepid, cool, sub-zero”) was way off the mark (in terms of placing the trends) but that doesn’t really matter – there were some great pitches from the Ravensbourne students and other invited speakers – more than I can do justice to in a single blog post so I’ll come back and edit this later as the presentations go online (assuming that they will!)

The evening was introduced by Mike Short, VP of Innovation and R&D at O2/Telefonica who also sits on the board of governors at Ravensbourne and so is intimately involved in taking an institution with its rooms in Bromley College of Art (of David Bowie fame) from Chiselhurst to provide art, design, fashion, Internet and multimedia education on Greenwich Peninsular, next to the most visited entertainment venue in the world (The O2 – or North Greenwich Arena). Mike spoke about O2’s plans for an new business incubator project that O2 is bringing to London in the next 3 months as O2 looks at taking the world’s 6bn mobile device subscribers (not just phones, but broadband, payment systems, etc.) to connect education, healthcare, transport and more. In an industry that’s barely 25 years old, by the end of the year there will be more devices than people (the UK passed this point in 2006) and the market is expected to grow to more than 20bn customers by 2020.

Matt then spoke about the omni-channel world in which we live (beyond multi-channel) – simultaneously interacting on all channels and fuelling a desire “to do things faster”.

Moving on to the 2012 trends, we saw:

  • A. Craddock talking about smart tags – RFID and NFC tokens that can interact with our mobile devices and change their behaviour (e.g. switch to/from silent mode).  These can be used to simplify our daily routine to simply enable/disable functionality, share information, make payments, etc. but we also need to consider privacy (location tracking, etc. – opt in/out), openness (may be a benefit for some), ecology (printable tags using biodegradable materials) and device functionality (i.e. will they work with all phones – or just a subset of smartphones).
  • Riccie Audrie-Janus (@_riccie) talking about how, in order to make good use of technology, we need to look at the people element first.  I was unconvinced – successful technology implementation is about people, process and technology and I don’t think it matters that kids don’t understand the significance of a floppy disk icon when saving a document – but she had some interesting points to make about our need to adapt to ever-more-rapidly developing technology as we progress towards an ever-more complex world where computing and biology combine.
  • @asenasen speaking about using DIY healthcare to help focus resources and address issues of population growth, economics and cost. Technology can’t replace surgeons but it can help people make better healthcare decisions with examples including: WebMD for self-diagnosis; PatientsLikeMe providing a social network; apps to interact with our environment and translate into health benefits (e.g. Daily Burn); peripheral devices like FitBit [Nike+, etc.] that interact with apps and present challenges. It’s not just in the consumer space either with Airstrip Technologies creating apps for healthcare professionals. Meanwhile, in the developing world SMS can be used (ChildCount), whilst in Japan new toilets are being developed that can, erhum, analyse our “output”.  Technology has the potential to transform personal health and enable the smart distribution of healthcare.
  • Matt Fox (@mattrfox) talked about 2012 becoming the year of the artist-entrepreneur, citing Louis CK as an example, talking about dangerous legislation like SOPA, YCombinator’s plans to “Kill Hollywood”, Megabox (foiled by the MegaUpload takedown) and Pirate Bay’s evolution of file sharing to include rapid prototype designs. Matt’s final point was that industry is curtaining innovation – and we need to innovate past this problem.
  • Chris Hall (@chrisrhall) spoke about “Grannies being the future” – using examples of early retirement leaving pensioners with money and an opportunity to become entrepreneurs (given life expectancy of 81 years for a man in the UK, and citing Trevor Baylis as an example). I think hit onto something here – we need to embrace experience to create new opportunities for the young, but I’m not sure how many more people will enjoy early retirement, or that there will be much money sloshing around from property as we increasingly find it necessary to have 35 year and even multi-generation mortgages.
  • James Greenaway (@jvgreenaway) talked about social accreditation – taking qualifications online, alongside our social personas. We gain achievements on our games consoles, casual games (Farmville), social media (Foursquare), crowdsourcing (Stack Overflow) etc. – so why not integrate that with education (P2PU, eHow and iTunes U) and open all of our achievements to the web. James showed more examples to help with reputation management (spider  graphs showing what we’re good at [maybe combined with a future of results-oriented working?]) and really sees a future for new ways of assessing and proving skills becoming accepted.
  • Ashley Pollak from ETIO spoke about the return of craft, as we turn off and tune out. Having only listened to Radio 4’s adaptation of Susan Maushart’s Winter of Our Disconnect the same day, I could relate to the need to step back from the always connected world and find a more relevant, less consuming experience. And as I struggle to balance work and this blog post this morning I see advantages in reducing the frequency of social media conversations but increasing the quality!
  • Ravensbourne’s Chris Thompson spoke about virtual innovation – how Cisco is creating a British Innovation Gateway to connect incubators and research centres of excellence – and how incubation projects can now be based in the cloud and are no longer predicated on where a university is located, but where ideas start and end.
  • The next pitch was about new perspectives – as traditional photography dies (er… not on my watch) in favour of new visual experiences. More than just 3D but plenoptic (or light field) cameras, time of flight cameras, depth sensors, LIDAR and 3D scanning and printing. There are certainly some exciting things happening (like Tesco Augmented Reality) – and the London 2012 Olympics will e filmed in 3D and presented in interactive 360 format.
  • Augment and Mix was a quick talk about how RSA Animate talks use a technique called scribing to take content that is great, but maybe not that well presented, and make it entertaining by re-interpreting/illustrating. Scribing may be “sooo last year” but there are other examples too – such as “Shakespeare in 90 seconds” and “Potted Potter”.
  • Lee Morgenroth’s (@leemailme‘s) pitch was for Leemail – a system that allows private addresses to be used for web sign-ups (one per site) and then turned on/off at will. My more-technically minded friends say “I’ve been doing that for years with different aliases” – personally I just use a single address and a decent spam filter (actually, not quite as good since switching from GMail to Office 365) – but I think Lee may be on to something for non-geeks… let’s see!
  • Finally, we saw a film from LS:N profiling some key trends from the last 10 years, as predicted and in reality (actually, I missed most of that for a tour of Ravensbourne!)

There were some amazing talks and some great ideas – I certainly took a lot away from last night in terms of inspiration so thank you to all the speakers. Thanks also to Matt, Michelle (@michelleflynn) and everyone else involved in making last night’s TFT (and all the previous events) happen. It’s been a blast – and I look forward to seeing what happens next…

[I rushed this post out this morning but fully intend to come back and add more links, videos, presentations, etc. later – so please check back next week!]

Where next for Microsoft Kinect?

Last week’s Fantastic Tavern gamification event included the opportunity to win an Xbox 360 and Kinect and Microsoft’s Andrew Spooner (@andspo), a Creative Evangelist working with Xbox, gave an update on the latest Kinect developments.

Dancing with Invisible LightKinect is now (officially) the World’s fastest-selling consumer electronics device. That’s quite some achievement. I described how Kinect works in an earlier post (3 cameras including one RGB and two 3D motion depth sensors, 4 microphones for directional audio) but Andrew highlighted Audrey Penven’s photographs demonstrating the infra-red light patterns that Kinect uses (Audrey’s image is shown here under a creative commons licence).

After some initial unauthorised hacking, Microsoft has now released an official software development kit for Kinect, allowing Windows developers to develop new uses for the sensor [although there isn’t yet a commercial model for it’s use as a PC peripheral]. Andrew demonstrated some simple skeletal tracking but some of the examples of Kinect hacks (pre-SDK) include:

There are some pretty cool projects there – some are just geeky, but others have real, practical uses. Now that there is an official SDK, Microsoft is suggesting that we’re only limited by our imagination… and that’s probably not to far from the truth!

“All you need is life experience”

[Alex Kipman, “Kinect brainchild”]

Andrew finished off his presentation with a video where Kinect becomes self-aware. Of course, it’s not real… but it is amusing… and it does make you think…

Game on at #TFTLondon: level 3: the four Ms of gamification

Yesterday, I wrote about the ubiquitous gaming culture, the second in a series of posts from The Fantastic Tavern (TFT)’s gamification evening. Now we move on to the final level – examining the 4 Ms: of mystery (easy learning), mastery (hard learning), membership (making it social) and meaning (a story with a beginning, middle and end).

At TFT, four speakers each gave a lightening talk on one of the Ms so, here’s each in logical (not chronological) order…

Mystery

TFT’s founder Matt Bagwell (Global Creative Director at EMC Consulting) started out by describing some characteristics that might describe mystery in gameplay: Where am I? What is the story? Make it compelling by building in reward/failure – make us feel on the edge, in flow (one of the tenets of happiness) and compel us to play.

Matt told us that, for mystery we need:

  • A goal.
  • Rules.
  • Increasing difficulty.
  • Voluntary participation.

Golf is a simple game – the goal is to put a ball in a hole. Add some rules and increase the difficulty hitting the ball with a club and putting the hole a long way away. Then introduce elements such as other players, handicaps, etc.

Mystery is about the goal. But some games are actually about working out what the goal is! Mystery is about the player, their role, and what they are trying to achieve. Why are you here?

In short, mystery is about creating new worlds for us to discover; designing in some flow; and make us work hard to unlock it.

Mastery

Richard Sedley (Commercial Director at Foviance) took this topic, explaining that games are about engagement; capturing moments of attention and elongating them; repeating interactions to strengthen involvement.  The aim is to achieve flow – to match skills and satisfaction.

There are various game mechanics but rewards alone don’t make for engagement. When people use a wastebin, they like to toss it in – to make it a challenge, some fun – that is mastery.

Richard outlined three techniques to make mastering a challenge both fun and engaging:

  • Set a task – collecting can be fun and motivating. An example is the Get Started page for Dropbox, which allocates additional storage space to users who have carried out all of the activities.
  • Create hurdles, obstacles and enemies (but not brick walls) – build on levels.
  • Reward randomly – build in variable reinforcements but don’t use a fixed interval – use variable intervals and rewards.

Membership

Tom Hopkins (Strategy Director at Fortune Cookie) explained that, to understand membership, it’s often useful to look at the opposite: exclusion, alienation, being an outsider and how the resulting feelings drive human behaviour.  Clicking to sign up for something, or Liking something or someone on Facebook is not membership. Think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and belongingness.

Social identity theory shows that we define ourselves through membership of groups; and we may have multiple group memberships.  We need to consider both inside and outside the groups – what do the groups’ enemies look like?

An example is the Mac and PC advertising that Apple used for a number of years – it creates vitriolic feelings between members of the two groups. Generally people are either in or out of groups like these [I’m unusual in being in both groups]. Another example is the Stanford Prison Experiment – proving that artificial tribes can be powerful (even if they are arbitrary).

Ultimately though, Tom concluded, membership must confer some form of identity.

Meaning

Alex Lee (Creative Partner at Kempt) gave the talk on meaning, starting out by describing different types of games:

  • Core games, like Street Fighter, are typified by being difficult. They require the player to acquire skills and they punish – even the language is punishing with “lives”, “continues” and “game over”.
  • Casual games are becoming dominant – things like Angry Birds and Farmville. They generally don’t require skills, but time (and maybe currency)

Some games are about status – they reward everything so that the player earns more of something, has new opportunities, and can progress through the game. Alex gave an example that involved breeding celebrity puppies but I prefer the example of the pottery game that my children play on my iPad. They make pots, sell them (virtually), earn credits, buy more colours and patterns, and make more pots, to sell, etc.

We can gain meaning from slight of hand – a feeling of success – or by rewarding – rewarding failure as well as success.

Even health apps like Nike+ [or Runkeeper] are games that provide meaning when we’re exercising – they don’t chastise us, but talk in our ears and reward us for small achievements.

Another real-world gaming example is Weight Watchers – allocating points to “spend” on food, rewarding with real results – and now it’s gone online.  Movember is another example, growing a moustache, but having fun at the same time (and with meaning).

Alex left us with some food for thought on gaming and meaning: how do people feel about Just Giving? When you donate, how do you feel about the value of donations either side in the list?

Wrapping up

That’s it for this series of posts – if you want to read more about the science of gamification, check out my post from Michael Wu’s talk at Digital Surrey – and if you’re interested in future TFT events, find out more at The Fantastic Tavern site (or @TFTLondon).

Game on at #TFTLondon: level 2: the ubiquitous gaming culture

Last week, I wrote a post about The Fantastic Tavern event on Gamification. That post was a bit light on details, so I’m now rewarding you with a move to level 2.

James Wallman from The Future Laboratory spoke about what they refer to as the ubiquitous gaming culture, starting out with a quote from Seth Priebatsch, CEO at SCVNGR and, as I hunted around for the source of the quote it seems he’s spoken about it at both SXSW and TEDx:

“While the last decade was the decade of social… where the framework in which we connect with other people was built…  This next decade will be the decade where the game framework is built.”

Remember 6 years ago when the first Facebook [or LinkedIn] invitations went out? The ones we ignored for a while until we saw that all our friends [and business contacts] were there… well, that social framework is in place now and, in an age with many messages, the way that brands will connect and change consumer behaviour is
game mechanics.

James broke his talk out into trend drivers, trend impacts, trend consequences, and trend futures so, looking first at the trend drivers – what is making this desire to gamify things happen?

To start with, gaming changes people’s behaviour. In trials with burns victims, it was found that gaming isolated the patient from real world (and hence provided pain relief) more than any other medium. Then, consider the blurring of work and play (“bleisure”) – we often check our email on a smartphone when we’re not at work? [go on, admit it]. The social game market has massive potentially monetary value (Inside Network says it’s a billion-dollar business) and John Riccitello, CEO at Electronic Arts is right on the money when he says that:

“Every new device ends up being a game device”

(in a market that’s grown from 200 million gamers, to over a billion.)

Moving on to the trend impacts – i.e. the implications of gamification – brands are incorporating game play elements into applications, products and campaigns.  Remember all those social networks that didn’t make it to the big time (Friendster?) – James suggests that today’s gamification is like those early social networks: an exciting, novel, concept.

From simple examples like the Braun/Oral B SmartGuide – a monitor with a display that changes according to how long you brush your teeth to the City of Melbourne’s interactive treasure hunt (to get people off the beaches and into the CBD) governments and commercial organisations alike are looking to gaming to control, nudge and monitor our behaviour.  Take, for example, Toyota’s A Glass of Water app – designed to improve our driving and reduce fuel consumption… or London commuters can play the game of Chromaroma through a link with their Oyster Card (the London RFID travel card), earning points for getting off a stop early, or using one of the many “Boris Bikes”.

Looking at trend consequences, gamification will change our social and economic structures – James cited examples like Macon Money from Macon (pronounced Makin’) in Georgia, USA – an innovative approach to community building that uses a local currency to build personal connections and support local businesses.  There’s even the possibility that people will pay to work (play + labour = “playbour”): Internet Eyes is one such example – a website where people pay a fee to watch live CCTV footage and are rewarded for spotting and reporting crimes!

So what trend futures does gamification offer? Research shows that a person’s behaviour in real life mimics their behaviour in the real world. This leads to the concept of “playfiling” – profiling through play.

James gave another example of gamification: New York’s Quest to Learn school. The school describes itself as school for digital kids – applying games techniques to digital learning. At work, when we don’t know something, we ask questions of our colleagues…. so why not at school? Quest to Learn works in 10-week problem spaces, with pupils co-operating as a team and playing games to learn. In terms of engagement, it’s now within the top 3% of schools in the United States.

James’ final example also came from New York – a clever foursquare hack called World of Fourcraft, that turns the city into a giant game of Risk – hopefully we’ll see something like this in British cities soon [are there some programmers out there that want to create a real-life game of Monopoly by mashing up Foursquare and Chromorama? I guess without the property purchases and the going to jail…].

In conclusion, James Wallman described a ubiquitous gaming culture toolkit for digital marketers:

  • Put game mechanics at the heart of the brand.
  • Consider engagement over time – get people to come back.
  • Combine online and offline activities.
  • Engage through the “4Ms” of mystery (easy learning), mastery (hard learning), membership (making it social) and meaning (a story with a beginning, middle and end).

My next post (“game on at #TFTLondon: level 3”) will take a look at the 4Ms of gamification – and if you’re interested in future TFT events, find out more at The Fantastic Tavern site (or @TFTLondon).

Game on at The Fantastic Tavern (#TFTLondon)

It’s been a long week… not just the normal work stuff but two great events meaning some late nights and I’m just not as young as I once was… in time I’m sure I’ll blog about Thursday’s CloudCamp and give some more details on last night’s Fantastic Tavern (TFT) but, for now, here’s the highlights on TFT.

Gamification. I wrote about that after a recent Digital Surrey event and it’s pretty big. Big? Hell, last night’s Fantastic Tavern needed a night club to house the 300 attendees – I only wish I hadn’t had to leave to catch a train home when the music started… anyway, if 300 people want to come along and learn about gamification, that gives some idea as to how hot the topic is right now.

Apparently, there are more than 10 million people in the UK who play games for more than 20 hours a week [they must be insomniacs, or don’t have kids/jobs with long commutes…] and some games are now so heavily played they feature rest rewards!

We all like the feeling of flow – that balance between skill and satisfaction that produces a neurological hit… so why is reality so dull? And that’s where gamification comes in, building out the game layer to cover education, leisure and work. Bringing in game dynamics and reapply them in the real world.

Last night’s TFT featured a talk on the ubiquitous gaming culture that is developing around us before we heard lightning talks on the four Ms of gamification (mystery, mastery, membership and meaning). Then, putting that into practice, we split out and brainstormed some topics to gamify Cancer Research UK‘s valuable work in a world where an increasingly cashless (and cash-strapped) society is giving less.

And just to prove the point, an old-school gamification method (i.e. a raffle) was used to get us to give up our cash for Cancer Research and win a Microsoft Xbox 360 system with Kinect.

I’ll write some more on the ubiquitous gaming culture and the 4Ms soon (I’ll try to line up some posts for next week, together with something on Kinect) but, if you’re interested in future TFT events, find out more at The Fantastic Tavern site (or @TFTLondon).

Crowdsourcing a digital future at The Fantastic Tavern (#TFTLondon)

Earlier in the year, I blogged about my first visit to The Fantastic Tavern (TFT)  – a meeting of people to discuss ideas, over beer, with the common theme being that we all do something in “digital”.

Last night’s meeting was an opportunity to crowdsource ideas for the enablement of the digital future on London’s Greenwich Peninsular. When people think of Greenwich, they tend to think of a Royal Borough, Victorian architecture, Greenwich Park and the prime meridian but Greenwich Peninsular is an area of reclaimed industrial land on which stands the O2 Arena and the Ravensbourne Hub Digital Innovation Centre with plans for 3.5 million square feet of business space, 10000 new homes, schools, healthcare and other community facilities, the Thames cable-car link to the Siemens Pavilion at eXcel, a cruise liner terminal, beaches – and the opportunity to make Greenwich an exemplar for future living.

I won’t talk about the ideas that we brainstormed – that’s between the taverners and the Digital Greenwich Advisory Board – but the whole process seemed, to me, to be a model of how crowdsourcing can work to drive innovation.

Around 50 taverners were there, broken out into four groups in an open spaces brainstorm to look at education, governance, business/commerce, and community. People could move between conversations and the ideas were written/drawn on huge boards. At the end of the evening, each group presented their topic and, inevitably, that generated even more discussion.

Hopefully, what we came up with provides inspiration for Greenwich Council. At the very least it was an opportunity to experience a real-world crowdsourcing event – one which seemed to me to be very successful indeed.

If you’re interested in future TFT events, find out more at The Fantastic Tavern site (or @TFTLondonNYC).

My first visit to The Fantastic Tavern (#TFTLondon)

Some time ago, I used to work for a company called Conchango (now EMC Consulting UK).  It was a great place, with some really fantastic people, although I’ve lost touch with many of them in the intervening years. Even so, some of the guys and gals at Conchango EMC Consulting [sorry, can’t get used to the bland corporate name for such a creative company] pop up from time to time on the same social networks as me (online and physical) and I’d started to see reference to this thing called The Fantastic Tavern (TFT for short).

TFT is run by Matt Bagwell (@mattbagwell) and Michelle Flynn (@michelleflynn), and when I asked Michelle what it’s all about she suggested I come along and see. Last night I did just that and found the whole event quite inspirational (although the free beer probably helped too!).

The Fantastic Tavern sounds rather magical: like platform 9¾ at London Kings Cross station; or something from a Terry Pratchett novel. In reality, it’s a meetup, in a pub, with two themes: beer and ideas. The people who come along are called Taverners and we all do something digital – whether it’s as practitioners, clients, or in agencies. The rules are simple: have a drink; exchange ideas; but no selling!

Last night’s TFT was entitled “What happens now?” and there were ten speakers, each given a few minutes to talk on their chosen topic, which was then rated on a care graph (do we care? vs. will we take action?). Don’t ask me what happens to that information later (it was my first visit) but it might have something to do with future events.

The diversity of topics was pretty wide – but they all had something in common – they were genuinely interesting!

My first visit to The Fantastic Tavern was enlightening – and I was genuinely in awe of the creative talents that surrounded me. I’m definitely planning on being at the next one (even though it involves schlepping into London… or New York!).  Find more at The Fantastic Tavern site (or @TFTLondonNYC).

[Updated 14 February 2011 with full speaker names/organisations and links to presentations]