What is the Public service internet?

Myself and the Hon's

Its been thrown around a lot and if you search for the term public service internet you will click on something from Adrian Hon or Dan Hon. You will see stuff from others like chromatrope and even my own posts in searches. Or good searches will reveal related terms like Digital public space from newspapers like the Guardian and of course straight from Tony Ageh.

But not much from the BBC, so its quite exciting to finally see something more official.

BBC R&D researching the public service internet and looking for partners who share similar values.

Apply for a workshop/space with us at Mozfest 2014

MozFest

There are a number of connected things in my head right now, maybe I should learn how to do hyper-connected mind-maps to make more sense of these different ideas.

Mozilla has gone through a lot over the years, specially in the last few months with Brendan Eich. However its trying to make a mead for its self by sticking true to its core values, this they call the Mozilla Manifesto.

The Mozilla project is a global community of people who believe that openness, innovation, and opportunity are key to the continued health of the Internet. We have worked together since 1998 to ensure that the Internet is developed in a way that benefits everyone. We are best known for creating the Mozilla Firefox web browser.

The Mozilla project uses a community-based approach to create world-class open source software and to develop new types of collaborative activities. We create communities of people involved in making the Internet experience better for all of us.

As a result of these efforts, we have distilled a set of principles that we believe are critical for the Internet to continue to benefit the public good as well as commercial aspects of life. We set out these principles below.

The goals for the Manifesto are to:

  1. articulate a vision for the Internet that Mozilla participants want the Mozilla Foundation to pursue;

  2. speak to people whether or not they have a technical background;

  3. make Mozilla contributors proud of what we’re doing and motivate us to continue; and

  4. provide a framework for other people to advance this vision of the Internet.

Well meaning stuff and the principles go even further, but its worth noting a few things I have observed recently which I feel the Mozilla Manifesto could be a good place to start from.

Dan Hon in his talk at TedXLiverpool talked about Epiphany in technology. There was a phrase I heard him talk about which was Humans as a service. This isn’t a new concept but its getting talked about in few places right now.

Airbnb are modern versions of housing clouds delivering housing as a service, and similarly, Zipcar and Uber are car clouds, offering consumers transportation as a service. Anything can be clouded, if we put our minds to it.

Yes even humans can be a service. You only have to look at Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and to a lesser extend Taskrabbit (both which are not available in the UK or Europe because of EU labor laws, something worth remembering). Ultimately this is all leading to dehumanising
experiences which leaves us humans in the cold and the algorithms in control. As Dan said, the systems and algorithms are so complex we dare not question, we just go with it.

Now lets dig into to Mozilla’s manifesto principles…

The Internet must enrich the lives of individual human beings.

Individuals must have the ability to shape the Internet and their own experiences on the Internet.

Transparent community-based processes promote participation, accountability and trust

Magnifying the public benefit aspects of the Internet is an important goal, worthy of time, attention and commitment.

Where does Humans as a Service fit into these principles? No where I would argue.

Another lens…

The ethics of personal data is something I wrote about on the BBC R&D blog a  while back. Most of these principles tie into ethical problems with the silicon valley style of running a business. Another thing I highlighted in my online dating talk from Primeconf and Adrian Hon touched upon in his talk from TedXLiverpool.

The notion of continues growth, growing fast and money as the ultimate metric is very much Silicon Valley bubble dreams which frankly I would rather not be a part of. I would suggest its slightly anti-human in nature?

Ok ok... so I’ve said all this but what can you do about it?

This is a call to arms, myself, Jon Rogers, Jasmine Cox and others are spacewranglers for the Mozilla Fest this year. Under the banner, Open Web with Things

Here’s some of themes I’m thinking (not necessarily the group).

Its not simply Internet of Things, but rather a web with things included. Those things can be digital, analogue and even humans. I’m thinking

  • Looking at the moral and ethical aspects raised by things
  • Considering the human aspect in (the Internet of) things
  • Morals and ethical aspects raised by things
  • Personal data ethics
  • Ethics in Internet of Things
  • Human friendly wearable policies
  • Storytelling with things in the time of moores law (grabbed that from Dan Hon)

Sound exciting? Sound like something you should be involved in?

Yes it does and if you got an idea for a session or workshop which fits our general trajectory? You should tell us about it here. The best ones we will pick and they will take place in our space along with other related workshops.

If you don’t know anything about Mozilla Festival you can find my thoughts here and learn much more here. Or feel free to get in touch with me… You got till August 22nd. So what you waiting for? Get thinking and writing.

Are ARG’s dead?

The 3rd Olympic Ring description

Arg’s or Alternative Reality Games, are really interesting and form a very tight and rich experience for thsoe who play them. But the mass adoption has stalled and tailed off as creators go for something more simple and easier to craft aka Transmedia.

So what happened? Is the genre dead before it really got going?

Well I saw a really interesting post on ARGN (alternative reality gaming network) written by friend Adrian Hon of SixtoStart. When ever I see him (usually at conferences) he likes to quiz me about what the BBC is doing regarding taking storytelling forward. And I like to question him about moving away from ARGs.

My feeling is there is much more potential/fuel and in the ARG genre and it will come back in another form. But I do share a lot of the points Adrian identifies in the post…

Most companies in the business now disavow the term ‘ARG’, preferring the trendier but frequently reviled and frustratingly vague term ‘transmedia’. In that context, it’s not surprising that people are happy to say “ARGs are dead” because it helps distinguish themselves from the old-and-busted crowd.

I can agree with that… I mentioned ARG at the recent Transmedia London festival and it was really interesting to see peoples faces from a panel member. Some were confused and some were shaking their heads disproving. When I was asked what transmedia is to me, I said something about it not being about screens but surrounding the person(s) with an immersive story. Like a ARG I would argue…

But for everything I like about ARG’s there is some serious problems and things which need to be ironed out. Adrian does a really good job covering the main ones…

1) Increase accessibility. People remain genuinely intrigued by ARGs, but they’re put off by the comparatively massive level of time commitment required to get involved. Yes, people will happily spend dozens of hours watching TV or playing video games, but those require less attention and crucially, they have a much quicker payoff. A good game or TV show will have me hooked in the first five seconds, and I know that I’ll have fun even if I just stay for 30 minutes. ARGs need to be more transparent and more accessible. If that means the end of ‘TINAG’, so be it.

Yes the best ones are when you can dip back in and help out, then take a less detailed role. I cant stand the chase element of ARGs. This is something I expressed with Larkin-about‘s ARG when I first met them. The best ARG’s have many layers just like great films. For example Donnie Darko you can watch and just enjoy the 80’s style highschool fun but theres a layer underneath which is about something much darker. Too many ARGs are like a Micheal Bay film or even something too deep and meaningful.

2) Make money. No-one is going to take ARGs seriously as a creative or commercial venture if they can’t get players to cough up cash. There’s absolutely a place for ad-funded or sponsored content, but good quality movies and TV shows still find millions of happy viewers willing to buy tickets and DVDs. Why not ARGs? Focus on the platforms where people have demonstrated a willingness to pay, like on iOS, Android, and Facebook, and learn from the successes of other apps. There isn’t much separating The Room – an incredible blockbuster iPad puzzle game – from being a full-blown ARG (the same applies for Zombies, Run!).

Although I don’t know too much about this side, he’s right. They need to be sustainable, be that with funding, adverting or paid for by the audience. Too many are made to flip and sell or made to be a one off. This leads to scummy people entering trying to cash in on the genre, like SEO and social media. All these one off’s pollute the work of others and make it even more difficult to be taken seriously.

3) Take the best and discard the rest. How can you replicate the immersive sensation of a good ARG at a low cost? Do you really need to have video, or can you just use audio? Do most people really enjoy decrypting hexadecimal strings, or are there more compelling challenges you can provide? Can you fake the experience of calling up real phone numbers or writing to real email addresses?

Absolutely too many copy cats… Another phone drop, another treasure hunt, yawn… seriously. Its lazy and boring. Innovate and push away from whats known. Its like when Perplexcity’s purple treasure hunt ended in a character from the group jumping into a helicopter. Mind blowing but how can you better that? Think! Creativity and think about the audience/participations not your own ego.

4) Think about scale. Almost all ARGs are live and cannot be easily replayed after the fact. That makes it difficult to make money, especially if you don’t have a big following. Imagine if Angry Birds or Farmville were only playable from April to June 2010; that’s what ARGs are like, and it’s mad. If you are going to run a live ARG, be sure to keep your costs down and charge players an appropriate amount for the privilege of getting personal interaction – no-one bats an eyelid at paying $25 or $50 for a theatre ticket, and the same should be true for a live ARG.

This is one of the most destructive thing I’ve known in ARG’s and one of the points I keep banging on to Adrian… Scale, repeatability and sustainability. No company is going to take this seriously if the resources are peed up a wall never to be seen again! How do you replay it and improve on it each time.

I have suggested an ARG framework before and somewhere along the line it fits with the notion of Decentralized systems. Stroytellers want to tell there story and don’t want to reinvent the book everytime.

Even the games I’ve played like the rings one (picture above) I was lucky enough to be in Manchester where the ring was found. For everyone else it was far less interesting. Plus the cost of creating and putting those rings in art gallerys around the world. Its not scalable and if you go about it that way, it never will be.

Total respect to everyone involved in the genre but its going to die before its gotten a chance to develop and spread its wings…