Archive - Sep 2009

September 30th

#nygames – Thinking about Games

I am riding on the train to the city. I am listening to Calaveras, “Ready to Fly”. I’ve worked on my writing a little and I’m thinking about the #nygames conference. This is a conference for electronic games, the sort of games that sometimes get a bad rap. Yet as I think about it, my thoughts go back to a discussion I had with a therapist yesterday. She was talking about the importance of games as a bonding experience for couples and families. We need to play games together to relax, to have fun with one another and to bond.

Typically, when people talk about these sort of games, they are thinking about Scrabble, or some card game. They aren’t thinking about World of Warcraft. Yet World of Warcraft can also be a relaxing, bonding time for couples that don’t mind fighting together against members of a different guild instead of fighting amongst themselves. I’ve always been most drawn to electronic games that have a social component, and I hope to find interesting new developments in this area.

Likewise, casual games, which are not typically thought of when people lash out against electronic games provide an important moment of relaxation for a frazzled stay at home mom when her toddler gives her two minutes of peace. They can also provide an interesting marketing opportunity for brands that wish to reach those mothers that make many of the buying decisions for a family. Will branding in electronic games be discussed today?

Another interesting area of games is the educational games. My children grew up on them and have excelled. Although I always joked with them that they needed to be able to write any computer game before I would allow them to play it. I never held fast to that rule, but it caused them to stop and think more seriously about their relationship to computer games. At the conference last year, there was a great discussion by an iPhone game developer. I noted then, and in a recent post, that I would love to see broader discussion about building games for mobile platforms. I also hope there will be at least some sort of nod to the educational value of games.

The other complaint about electronic games is that it is breeding even more sedentary couch potatoes. I’ve only played Wii tennis once, but I got a great workout and got whopped by a teenager who knew the remote better than I did. Sure, there are games that are not social, that are not relaxing, that are not educational, or are not good exercise, but there are lots of good games that are.

Is it time to rethink our relationship to electronic games?

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Wordless Wednesday

Flowers at the Fair, originally uploaded by Aldon.

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September 29th

#nygames Pregame

The New York Games Conference, #nygames, kicks off Wednesday at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. I attended the conference last year and wrote about it in the games section of this blog. I intend to attend this year’s conference, and if there is sufficient connectivity perhaps even live blog parts of the conference.

The first panel will be analyst presentations. Last year’s conference started off with a very informative discussion about gaming trends, and I hope this year’s conference first presentation will be as interesting.

This will be followed by a keynote, “The State of The Casual Games Industry" by Tal Kerret, Chairman of the Board and Co-Founder of Oberon Media. Oberon Media lists themselves as “the world’s leading multi-platform casual games company”. One of the best speakers last year was from an iPhone game developer and I pondered how iPhone and Android game development compared. I hope that Mr. Kerret will talk a bit about casual games on mobile devices. I’m also mildly curious about interactive TV casual games, but I wonder how significant such games are.

Following the keynote will be various panels on distribution, monetization and social aspects of gaming. If there are particular aspects of the conference you are interested in, please let me know so I can try to cover them. I look forward to a long an interesting day.

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September 28th

A Geek's Review of the Starbucks iPhone App

The latest Starbucks apps for the iPhone is generating interesting comments on several different fronts. It seems as if there will always be innovators and early adopters trying out new technology when it comes along, even if it doesn't provide immediate benefits, in the hopes of some future benefit. There will also always be laggards and late adopters criticizing them.

I do not have an iPhone. It is too closed of a platform for me. I still use a fairly old rather dumb mobile phone. However, I have changed my habits even as a result of this older mobile phone. I take pictures and videos from my phone and send them off to sites like Flickr, Facebook and YouTube and I send text messages to many different systems.

So, when people ask, "Why not just use a card?" in response to the latest iPhone Starbucks app, I have to ask, why not just use a human teller instead of one of those new fangled ATMs?

People have complained that the new app is cumbersome. Yes, technology innovations are often cumbersome when they first come out. They often end up serving different purposes than they were initially designed for or what some of the laggards think they are for. As an example, a person on a financial technology community website did ask “why not just use a card”, thinking that the iPhone App is primarily about payment systems. Yet on marketing websites are wondering about how well this promotes Starbuck’s brand.

As a technologist, I find a few things interesting about the application. 2D code reports that it uses QR codes in an innovative way. It displays a QR code on the iPhone which can be scanned by a different device. Usually, I think of mobile devices as a QR code scanner instead of a QR code display device. It will be interesting to see who else comes up with interesting uses of mobile devices as QR code display devices.

The thing that I’m least interested in about the Starbuck’s app is that like the iPhone itself, it appears to be yet another closed system. If someone makes this more of an open micropayment type system, then I’m much more interested. If I could transfer money from my Starbuck’s account to a babysitter’s account, a pet walker’s account, the account of a blogger who wrote something brilliant, or any other person I might want to make a small payment to, then it becomes a much more interesting social application.

Right now, I’m not rushing out to get an iPhone, or another Grande Decaf Cappuccino, but I’m not going to bash the Starbuck’s iPhone app. Instead, I’ll sit back and watch to see who takes the innovation to the next level.

(Cross posted at DigidayDaily.)

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Navigating the CT Media Ecosphere

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the future of journalism here in Connecticut. Back on September 14th, Colin McEnroe talked about the decline in local news coverage, and asked about whether or not local bloggers are filling the gap. Then, on September 22nd, Tom Brokaw spoke about the Future of Journalism at Yale. Two days later, Where We Live ran a segment on Hyperlocal journalism, which was followed by a panel, “Hyperlocal: News In My Back Yard." sponsored by PRSA-CT.

These discussions have become more common and fairly predictable. No, bloggers haven’t filled in the gaps. Some will say that they aren’t even journalists, and the discussion will turn towards how journalists can make a living these days.

I do agree that bloggers have not done enough to fill the gap left by the decline of traditional news organization and I have a few suggestions for bloggers interested in this. First, for the time being forget about whether some representative of the waning wing of the fourth estate considers you a compatriot. Get out and cover the news. Cover the stuff that others aren’t covering. Go to local school board meetings and provide information that doesn’t show up in your local papers and that you can’t get simply by watching the recordings of the meetings on your local government access channel.

Beyond that, go out and get some training in journalism. I strongly recommend courses that the Investigative Reporters and Editors provide. In their commitment to investigative reporting, they welcome bloggers to their organization and their classes. While you’re at it be sure to take the online course Online Media Law: The Basics for Bloggers and Other Online Publishers at NewsU developed by the Media Bloggers Association, the Citizen Media Law Project and the Center for Citizen Media. It is a free online course that I believe everyone doing online media should take. Then, get out and collaborate with other news organizations. I am fortunate that various traditional news outlets pick up and carry some of my blog posts.

The legal issues are important for bloggers and citizen journalists. Recently, a fellow blogger in North Dakota received his first subpoena to turn over information that he considers protected under North Dakota’s shield laws. It illustrates why the NewsU course is so important and why the question about who is a journalist is so important.

I made a comment on Where We Live about volunteer and paid journalists. I believe it is useful to look at journalists in a manner similar to how we look at firemen. Large cities have fire departments staffed by professional firemen. Smaller cities will have fire departments with professional firemen, which are supplemented by volunteer firemen. Small towns have volunteer fire departments where professionals only arrive if there is something really big going on. Yet even with that, the volunteer firemen often receive great training. We should be looking at this model for news organizations.

The issue of how journalists get paid is very significant. A recent article in Editor and Publisher reports that journalists are losing jobs at three times the rate of other workers. There has been recent talk about what can be done to address this, including President Obama expressing concern about the future of journalism. At the PRSA panel, I mentioned Spot Us which is a great organization to raise money to fund investigative reporting.

Yet there are other important issues that need to be considered in the future of journalism that too often get overlooked. Recently, I received an email from the Waterbury Republican American. This is not a paper that I typically consider leading the way on journalistic reforms. However, a note at the bottom of the email caught my attention. It urged readers with questions, comments or wanting to advertise to contact Kevin Johnson, Online Sales Manager.

I was curious about how many papers have ‘online sales managers’ and what sort of experiences Mr. Johnson had had to make him a successful online sales manager. It seems like too many news organizations simply take their print sales managers and ask them to sell online ads as well, without really understanding the differences between print and online advertising. Indeed, there is little about the Republican American site that would make you think they have made any great progress with online advertising, with the exception of the peel away ad for their dining guide.

The peel away ad and the dining guide are good examples of what can be done to improve online advertising by local papers. I spoke with Mr. Johnson who acknowledged that he had grown up in the world of print advertising, but has spent considerable time learning about online advertising. When he came to the Republican American, he came in as the Online Sales Manager, and besides spending time finding advertising he spends a lot of time mentoring print sales managers so that they can be more effective in selling online advertising. It seems to have worked since the Waterbury Republican American has had a substantial and impressive growth in online advertising revenues.

It is not only sales people and advertisers that are having difficulty connecting in this new media ecosphere. As more and more people leave traditional news organizations, it becomes harder for public information officers, communications directors, public relations staff and others to find the right people to pick up their media advisories and press releases and write about them. To address this problem, I’ve created CTNewsWire. This is a Google Group where local and state officials, candidates, agencies and other organizations can send press releases and media advisories about things of importance in Connecticut to bloggers, citizen journalists, and anyone else who wants to subscribe to Connecticut related releases. The list has been going for several months and continues to grow.

The media ecosphere around Connecticut and around the world is changing. There are lots of great opportunities to sit around and discuss these changes. However, here in Connecticut we are seeing some interesting efforts to move beyond the discussions and actually take action on ways that we can keep the media ecosphere vibrant in our state. If you’re a blogger, I hope you spend more time covering local events, and perhaps get some training in reporting and join the CTNewsWire. If you’re an advertiser, I hope you press the local news organizations to provide better and more innovative advertising opportunities, and if you are a newsmaker, I hope you find ways, like the CTNewsWire to reach out to some of the new players in the Connecticut media ecosphere.