Posts Tagged ‘Digital Lounge’

The Citizen Designer

Posted on: October 28th, 2010 by Fransgaard No Comments

Lately I have been thinking about The Citizen Designer and after hearing the great talk by Emma Jenkins at last night’s Digital Lounge I decided to write my thoughts down.


“What? How many thousand pounds for a website? My neighbour’s son can do it for 50 quid!”

As a digital professional this is most likely the first Citizen Designer you’ve run into, but things have changed quite a bit over the last few years. Today the citizen designer is a real threat as well as a real potential.

I guess the definition of a Citizen Designer is anybody who creates anything unique whether it is a knitted shirt using own pattern or  a home brewery using own recipe.

For the purpose of is article I will only look at the digital citizen designer and only those who create something unique. For example:

Farmville: Regular user
Farmville: Citizen Designer
Nintendo Mii: Regular user
Nintendo Mii: Citizen Designer

The Citizen Designer lurks in everybody

Before we only had the neighbour’s socially inept son who didn’t see blondes, brunettes or redheads but only code. Let’s face it: he was never the threat he was made up to be.

But Citizen Designers are increasingly being represented by a wider part of the population and they will continue to gain in numbers as creating digitally becomes even easier.

MySpace has been a leader as it allows users to add their creative input to the interface. With the new MySpace being launched there is no reason why they shouldn’t be able to steam ahead as the citizen (website) designers preferred choice.

A few computer games have explored the possibilities of the citizen designer. Second Life was the early lead allowing users to create digital assets and sell them for real money.

My favourite example is Little Big Planet for several reasons:

  • Its low entry level means users can quickly and easily get creative by dressing their sackboys and sackgirls
  • For more advanced users game offers incredible freedom in creating assets for the game
  • And it encourages users of all levels to visit other people’s planets and explore their homemade levels and creations.

I recently pick the game up again and landed on a user generated planet that had completely removed the actual gaming element. Instead its creator had spend what I can only imagine to be a huge amount of time creating the most beautiful, luxurious furniture that you could freely bring home to your own planet.

Truly professional work that I am sure people would have paid for using for example a system like Flattr… Makes me wonder why a payment system, real or virtual, is not in place in Little Big Planet already.

The Citizen Designer hiding in other professions

The ability to digitally create with ease have also opened the doors for a more immediate competitor namely other professionals. Often these people are triggered by a “hang on a minute…” moment when listening to a digital professional who are swimming a bit too far from the truth while explain how uber-incredibly hard it is to create a website, html email or similar.

For example:
A client company wants a forum. They hire a digital agency to create the forum and a community professional to help start the conversation on the forum.

Solution 1:
Agency explains they will first design some flat visuals; get client feedback; amend the visuals; build the forum; deploy the forum; then train the client staff; the write design/development guidelines; hand it over and then charge a massive amount of money.

Solution 2:
However, the communication person thinks: “Hang on a minute…” and proposes that to avoid spending a huge amount of money upfront why not just deploy a Ning, Social Go or one of the many other plug’n’play forums out there. Many of these offer quite substantial re-skinning options and some even the ability to use own domain name.

Result:
Client happy (agency probably not).

The communication person was able to confidently suggest a readily available system requiring  very little digital knowledge.

Another example is small start-ups or charities facing huge cost from traditional digital agency as they try to purchase a dynamic web environment, maybe they even have an already thriving facebook group or twitter stream.

Such a small organisation may have have hired a freelance photographer or copywriter who also goes “Hang on a minute…” when hearing about the polished and expensive proposals of the agencies. Instead they may suggest using flavours.me to launch a quick site using different social channels as means to populate the site. The flavors.me system would especially play well with a photographer.

And even among digital professionals the Citizen Designer creeps in. For example in the shape of a web designer who learns how easy it actually is to deploy a WordPress CMS system.

And digital professionals can learn from this. It is all about being the lazy web designer and using what is out there on the web.

How to leverage the citizen designer

Why is the power of the Citizen Designers not supported, encouraged and even harnessed yet?

They are everywhere yet very little as gone into supporting them, which I find odd given the clear value of Citizen Designer generated content and assets.

I mentioned the lack of an economy in Little Big Planet. Farmville, the other example does have the economy but does not give the tools and freedom to really encourage citizen designers.

Here are a few ideas of how citizen designers could be supported for the benefit of all:

A straightforward example: Dressing my Chocobo
Square Enix just launched a Facebook game called Chocobo’s Crystal Tower which is about raising big, mostly yellow birds called “Chocobos”.

The game offers people the option to dress their Chocobos without any impact on the actual gameplay. Imagine if the game gave users the ability to design clothing/equipment themselves and share them with fellow Chocobo breeders. Items could be put on sale for Crysta (Square Enix’s virtual currency) at your very own Chocobo shop.

The value to Square Enix would be any transaction of Crysta to other games or real money. The other, potentially bigger, benefit is the ability to offer a much wider selection of items to choose from making the gaming experience richer for all users.

Yes, it would be similar in essence to Second Life but have a much easier entry point as it is Facebook-based and has a much simpler gameplay.

A more complex example: Locative art and geo caching
However, the idea of creating digitally doesn’t have to be limited to sitting in front of PCs. William Gibson’s latest trilogy (Pattern Recognition, Spook Country and Zero History) covers the idea of locative art which is art using augmented reality tied to specific locations, possibly to re-enact a historical event.

Now, combining that idea with Scrawl, an iPhone tool that lets you “draw” in the augmented reality space will give Citizen Designers (Citizen Artists??) the tool to participate.

Finally, mix that with Geo Caching, which is a location based sport where participants use GPS to find defined points in the world. You would end up with a global game of user created treasures for other participants to find. Further more imagine adding the secret brand concept to the game. Now wouldn’t that be something?

Wouldn’t this all fit neatly with the concept of The Game Layer on Top of The World?

Follow-up on Rishi Saha’s presentation at Digital Lounge

Posted on: June 9th, 2010 by Fransgaard No Comments

I am quickly becoming a big fan of Digital Lounge. Not only do they seem to be able to dig out quality speakers, they also seem to be able to encourage said speakers to really deliver the juicy stuff.

The latest Digital Lounge featured Rishi Saha, Head of New Media for The Conservatives. I’ve heard Rishi speak before but it was aimed at clients rather than digital professionals. And in many ways the difference is similar to how David Cameron speaks to the general public and how he spoke at Ted; He spoke in sound bites at the more public facing instance and more from the heart and in bigger conceptual strokes at the one aimed at industry people.

Anyway here are a few of my take aways from Rishi’s Digital Lounge. They are tweet shaped as I, as many others,  was tweeting these during his talk. Enjoy.

Prior to 2005 all parties had this silent agreement that if none of us worry about digital communication then it doesn’t exist. However, The Conservative Party wasn’t doing great after the 2005 election and Digital was identified as a way around hostile (towards tories) official news environment.

Digital demanded silos being demolished within the party’s culture. People had to get off their high horses and work together to formulate a combined and coherent strategy.

Digital presents an opportunity to give people better and faster news in competition with the mainstream press. In fact, soon our reach of The Conservatives email marketing will rival those of the big newspapers (the Sun and the Mail).

Getting to know your audience challenges established digital conventions.

  • I think this one is very interesting. Often we, as seasoned digital professionals, make assumptions about how a user group behaves based on experience. However, digital moves so fast that actually asking the users may well show that what we know is no longer how it is.

Show internal sceptics how we will rule digital and prove that digital will not rule us.

  • I wonder whether this is in fact what often stops clients going all out on digital? Whether they are afraid it will run wild and out of control.

Often the things most effective are the ones mainstream media is less interested in. Example mentioned was: When was the last time you saw an article about SEO in a regular newspaper?

Digital industry is some times suffering from an inferiority complex, somewhat driven by the fact that digital is seen as the cheaper (but more measurable/effective) option. We need to get past that and step up and lead the strategy.

  • I don’t 100% agree with this. There is a conversation going on whether digital or traditional print should lead strategy and I think the discussion is redundant in that it should be a combined effort otherwise the product won’t get the complete 360° attention it needs. But there is no doubt digital need to play a much bigger part than it currently does… and I do agree that digital does have an inferiority complex.

Digital communication focussed on the voters (audience) rather than targeting main stream news such as traditional PR would.

Reach the floating voters (undecided audience) with SEO because they are online looking for answers.

Make it easy for the Slacktivists, the ones who aren’t mobilised … but would like to. Reach them via their friends.

Make activists part of it. Give something back (ie. let them meet politicians) make them feel good about spending their money, make them feel it is the right thing to do. in turn they will support and defend you against negative comments.

Don’t forget the bigger picture: Was Twitter mass communication during the Leader’s Debate? With 40,000 vs. the millions watching the TV debate, No it wasn’t. It served a purpose but a limited one.

  • Goes back to measurement. At the end of the day measurement and tracking is nothing without the intelligence and will to decipher and make decisions based on the numbers. And yes, some times it means killing your digital darlings.

All the above is what I took away from the presentation. If you feel anything is missing please feel free to share.

Is privacy the new currency or is it a non issue?

Posted on: March 1st, 2010 by Fransgaard No Comments

At the recent Digital Lounge meet-up in London, starring Mark Curtis from Flirtomatic, a man in the audience asked the fantastic question: “Is privacy the new currency?”

Privacy sure has taken a lot of beating recently and it is something we are all concerned about… or are we?

Maybe privacy concerns is just an issue for our generation while for teens it is really a non-issue because they’ve increasingly growing up with their whole life being published on the internet.

I read somewhere that teens don’t know/use the word “Social media”; it is simply not a separate entity for them, it is just the way things are.

And talking to teens I get a feeling that: “If it is not online, it didn’t happen“. Just go to a music concert and you’ll see the impact of this new virtual social life by looking at the sea of small screens of mobile phone pointing towards the stage.

Why would this mentally change when they grow up? I don’t think it will, especially not with digital becoming an ever more integrated part of our lives.

What will become more and more important is our lifestreams, our electronic foot print. Stupid things the future adults are doing now as teens will stick with them as a digital tattoos.

And even when services appear (and they will appear) that can help us to remove our digital history, it will still raise eyebrows in a future employer if you are suddenly “missing” 2 years’ of online history when everybody else has a online trail for everybody to see.