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Last five things that brought me closer to transmedia guru Jeff Gomez


The shortest distance between two people is a story

This is part two of a two-part post written by Mitesh Solanki – Click here to read part one. In part one, we looked at the first five things that brought me closer to transmedia guru Jeff Gomez. They are:

  1. Threshold assessment
  2. Story telling with campfires and firewalls
  3. Transmedia is not (common stereotypes)
  4. Transmedia is
  5. The audience

This post explores the ‘last 5 things’:

  1. Success criteria
  2. The grand narrative
  3. A character’s aspirational drivers
  4. Distant mountains
  5. The story canon

(Please note, this post contains excerpts from my notes taken when I attended X Media Labs’ Jeff Gomez Transmedia Masterclass 2011)

6.0 – Success criteria

Take Out: What may seem an obvious list of things to ‘tick off ‘ to ensure a successful transmedia activity, is by no means child’s play to ensure all the elements hum beautifully simultaneously – and therein lies the craft of a genius.

The criteria, or the main 10 attributes to a successful transmedia activity, include:

i. Break or remove the frame

– to exist beyond the screen frame and create the sense that a rich story is constantly continuing beyond the frame

ii. Story arc development

– a story arc will help to effect change by moving a character from one situation to another. There are many ways to develop an arc, for instance an 8-point arc, a 3-arc animation, or a traditional 3-act structure. The point is to have one that starts and ends, unlike stories such as ‘Lost’ that didn’t really have an end point (because the writers were probably paid one episode at a time).

iii. A convincing presentation that takes ‘the world’ and the viewer seriously

– reads as authentic and can stand up to scrutiny of a serious viewer, which means a lot of things including logic across the story (things need to make logical sense). The logic doesn’t have to make sense in the real world of the audience, however if there is new logic that would only exists in the ‘story world’ then it needs a convincing presentation.

iv. Extensions that maintain quality and brand integrity

v. Timeless themes that are simple and artfully presented

– often when there is so much to say, to address every aspect can end up making the overall effort useless

vi. Interwoven-ness

– this is where the content needs to call out to other media areas by using interwoven story-lines that are continually revolving across platforms and product lines

vii. Theme

– the cultivation, validation and celebration of the fan base, and satisfying their needs (as outlined in part 1 of this two part post, under Audience Needs)

viii. Relevance and careful segmentation

– there are cases of transmedia extensions that do not fit with the audience segmentation, like for example if a character is extended out of the frame, then that character extension would need to communicate with the fan base of that specific character, which isn’t always the same fan base as the entire story – think the fan base of Spock versus the fan base of Star Trek, or the fan base of Lenod Nemoy versus the fan base of Spock, or the fan base of one Pokémon character versus the fan base of them all.

ix. Detail matters

– best practise is detail. don’t underestimate the power of evidence (demanding detail), for example some 5 year olds can name all 750 Pokémon.

x. Creative visionary and I.P. stewards


7.0 – The grand narrative

Take Out: The grand narrative should give a sense of what the story universe is all about – it’s not always about the character or actor, but should be about something that is long lasting.

Other tips on grand narrative:

  • Bad forms try to take all the elements and give it to you raw (almost expecting the audience to figure everything out for themselves), where as the good forms will give it to your audience with some connection to the ‘tree-like-base’.
  • It is not always about characters, but it is always about you (audience).
  • If a brand is trying to connect to the grand narrative of a story, then the brand will need to search for its soul and make it recognisable to the audience.
  • The grand narrative is very ‘Joseph Campbell’.

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8.0 – A character’s aspirational drivers

Take Out: A characters aspirational drivers are themes – usually 1 to 2 primary drivers, and 1 to 2 secondary drivers – that connect with the heart of a character (and these drivers must exist in public culture).

I do not feel comfortable to list the entire list of a character’s aspirational drivers – that I was so grateful to learn during Jeff’s masterclass – as these things are one of the more truly unique aspects of his class (you’ll just have to ask Jeff to give you a class). However, to get the point across, I will share just one two examples of a character’s aspirational drivers, they include:

  • Inner Pride (outside average but inside you, is a skill)
  • Silly Outrageous (like a cartoon character)
  • Belonging (like Lady Gaga and unlike Madonna)

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9.0 – Distant mountains

Take Out: A distant mountain is a reference to a thing that you don’t know too much about in the context of the known surrounds. It creates mystery about what is beyond, and it makes the known world feel more real to the audience. You know it’s a crappy story when you can see fake-ness in the surrounds.

Examples of distant mountains include things like the ‘ring’ in ‘Lord of the Rings’, or when you first hear Obi-Wan Kenobi make reference to Luke’s father in Star Wars.

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10.0 – The story canon

Take Out: The canon is the essence – the grand blueprint – of the story’s mythology. The challenge is not to have one, rather how to maintain it with all the other stuff going on. You need to combine all the elements of the story canon so that it is transferable and organically woven in to the iteration of a property (no matter how minor).

Good examples of a story canon are character playing cards that often contain all the stuff that’s needed to summate the canon, like for example: Log Line, Overview of story world, Hero profile, Supporting cast, Bestiary, Locations, Special items, Magic and super science, Archetypes (messages and themes), Chronology and Distant Mountains.

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There you go. 10 amazing attributes that brought me closer to the transmedia guru Jeff Gomez. I look forward to see him when he tours in 2012 (fingers crossed!).

The low down on Jeff’s transmedia credits include: Avatar, Tron, Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean, Hotwheels and Coca Cola’s The Happiness Factory. Links to: XML Masterclass XML Jeff Gomez Transmedia Master Class 2011, and Jeff’s profile Jeff Gomez CEO Starlight Runner Entertainment.

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3 ways to demystify UX is to think about emotions, umbrellas and airports


Recently I have had to, on multiple occasions, explain the difference between UX, IA, UI, and ID etc. I have observed, for some people, this field is shrouded in mystery and I hope this post dispels confusion and creates clarity for you.

For someone who is new to UX, I think it can be a confusing service to buy. While UX is increasing in awareness and value, emerging technologies and transmedia trends are creating conditions that I hope will force a reboot for how this field practises its practice, and how it communicates its service to people who need to buy it.

With experience in the field comes greater value. And I think practitioners in this space are keen to demonstrate their value to gain more experience, especially if a prospective project offers an opportunity to revolutionise the traditional UX process (equals kudos).

Until your key decision makers (senior leadership team) are familiar with the process and why it works, or until they agree on how it could work better, a killer project can come to a stand still – leaving your opportunity wide open for a competitor.

My first key learning: Differentiate UX from UI

I think the first thing you need to do, is understand how to differentiate between UX and UI. Here are three explanations that make sense to me:

1.0 – Emotions versus pixels (courtesy of Arturo Toledo)

UX Design – Emotions

User experience (UX) is about how your users perceive your website, application, product, etc. If they have a good experience, they’ll like your company and your message, service, or product. If not, they’ll probably go somewhere else.

UI Design – Pixels

User interface focuses on the actual elements that interact with the user – basically, the physical and technical methods of input and output. UI refers to the aggregation of approaches and elements that allow the user to interact with a system. This does not address how the user reacts to the system, remembers the system and re-uses it.

2.0 – The Umbrella (Coutesy of Todd Zaki Warfel)

UX (User Experience) is an umbrella term that refers to pretty much any activity/discipline associated with product or service design. This can include: User research, Usability testing, Information architecture, Interaction design, UI design, Visual design, Prototyping, Development, Experience and content strategy, Service design and delivery.

UI design is an activity/discipline that focuses on the way someone interfaces with the system—graphical, physical, or otherwise. UI is an activity/discipline that is part of the UX umbrella

3.0 – Airports (Coutesy of Jason Putorti)

User experience design would encompass every interaction from taking a ticket from the parking structure, to walking from your car to the terminal, to checking into your flight, to checking baggage, to walking through security, to grabbing some food, to boarding your flight. Whoever is in charge of the airport experience, needs to consider all touch points. The airport in this case is considered the system.

User interface design, would be designing an interface for the ticketing machine that prints out your boarding pass.

My second key learning: Know the studies

My second key learning was to understand the studies in this field (and how/why they fit together). Be careful if you ask a practitioner to explain the differences, as each person in this field has a different perspective (created by the discipline they studied, their learnings from how they arrived into this space, and the types of projects they have previously worked on).

As an overview (courtesy of Barton Smith), here are a few of the studies and fields in this space:

Studies:

    • User Experience Design – how the user thinks and feels
    • Information Architecture – how the system is organized
    • User Interface Design – how the content is organized
    • Interaction Design – how the user and device act and react
    • Visual Design – how it looks

Some or all of the above studies can be applied across of the following fields:

    • Architecture, when related to buildings
    • Interior Design, when related to internal spaces
    • Industrial Design, when related to tangible objects
    • Graphic Design, when related to text and images
    • Application Design, when related to digital I/O
    • Web Design, when related to the browser

For the more visual (and not 100% accurate), here is a way to imagine how these studies and skill sets cross over each other (courtesy of Dan Saffer)

My third key learning = map an ‘arm rail’ process

My third key learning was to understand the process and use it as an arm rail (not a bible). Common challenges to map a process include:

  • How to find your way in (and out) without getting confused?
  • How to map a process that works for your project?
  • How do you know, what thing should happen next?
  • How many different specialists are needed?

It can be tricky to navigate this space and end up with exactly what you need. On a limited budget it can be frustrating and confusing, which is why it is common place to hear people say: “let’s just build the wireframes, throw on the designs elements, and let’s get on with it”.

Depending on the complexity of your project and its budget, I think this approach can bring your project to its knees. Especially if you build wireframes and realise you need to change everything and start from scratch. It can be expensive go back to the drawing board if you have already spent your wireframe allocation to build a set of wireframes that were not UX tested. I think this is why there are so many websites on the internet that last a few months and die from lack of users.

Here are a couple of interesting ways to see the process as a visual diagram. These were made a couple of years ago, however they are helpful to get your head around the basics elements. I suggest you use them as an ‘arm rail’ to help craft your own process that would work best for your project.

This image below is Peter Morville’s UX treasure map (it links to a comprehensive explanation of each symbol and how to build each part). I like this visual because it depicts the exploratory nature of this field.

This image below is a UX process tunnel by . While it is different to treasure map above, it provides a neatly packed process for how to to get from one end to the other.

I have learned that it is important to acknowledge there is no ‘one’ process map to follow. The best practice is to tailor a process map specifically for your project.

The houses that last the longest are innovative with material, design and usability (often the most expensive and take time). Whereas the houses that do not stand the test of time are not innovative with material, design and usability (and are cheap to build and happen super quick) – i think of these as package homes built from a cookie cutter mould.

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First 5 things that brought me closer to transmedia guru Jeff Gomez


The shortest distance between two people is a story

This is a two-part post written by Mitesh Solanki – the last five things (that brought me closer to Jeff Gomez) will feature in part two.

(Image courtesy of Brad Trent, NY)

Not so recently, in August of 2011, I attended X Media Labs’ Jeff Gomez Transmedia Masterclass. Megan Elliot was kind enough to invite me as a guest (thank you Megan!). I think he should tour again next year and I hope this post will help to make that happen.

The low down on Jeff’s transmedia credits include: Avatar, Tron, Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean, Hotwheels and Coca Cola’s The Happiness Factory. Links to: XML Masterclass XML Jeff Gomez Transmedia Master Class 2011, and Jeff’s profile Jeff Gomez CEO Starlight Runner Entertainment.

I was fortunate to learn from the number one transmedia guru, who begun his class with an ancient proverb – The shortest distance between two people is a story. Key take-outs from the day were underpinned by this notion, and the truth of this proverb rang loud and clear by the day’s end.

The first of its kind in the world, this one-day masterclass promised to deliver practical, how-to, hands-on training to help ramp up your income with transmedia storytelling. The session promised you would learn how to:

  1. Take titles/stories/films/media/brands across multiple platforms
  2. Evolve them into high quality persistent narratives
  3. Which in turn generate multiple revenue streams for you

This promise attracted a few dozen transmedia consultants in Sydney, who were all keen to learn how to crack the IP and revenue issues. The masterclass delivered on this promise (plus more) and I want to share the headlines with you as I am intent to spread the word and help secure a 2012 tour with a larger and wider audience.

However, it is tricky to write this post as I am treading a fine-line: I do not want to give too much away and risk compromising Jeff and XML, yet I think I need to share some of it to give you a taste. So, without giving too much away, I hope Jeff and X Media Labs don’t mind if I share with you, some of the ‘headlines’ from my key take-outs.

The first 5 things that brought me closer to Jeff Gomez, are:

1.0 – Threshold assessment

  • Take Out: Learn how close you are to someone and map out the threshold outline. Then learn how to cross the threshold (with good intentions).
  • Why: Not only can it help to win over a bully (as it did for Jeff), but this assessment can help a brand to get closer to its audience.


2.0 – Story telling with campfires and firewalls

  • Take Out: We all want to be heard. And we all like it when we know that something or someone can hear us. Naturally, when this happens, our mentality says “Let’s all join in”. This then creates a longer lifespan for stories and drives loyalty and engagement.
  • Why: As humans, when we became self aware, we drew on cave walls to express ourselves and tell our story. Then we sat around campfires to tell stories, however in the beginning we were appalling at it (as ‘speaking’ was a relatively new skill). To help us out, the shaman would pull stories from tribe leaders, or from the audience voice, and they would tell our story to us. Nowadays, technology allows us to create our own feedback loop, just like the shaman did in the campfire days when we were learning how to talk.


3.0 – Transmedia is not (common stereotypes)

  • Cross dressing
  • Scavenger hunting
  • Rocket science
  • TV on the internet
  • A game or alternate reality (with points, winners and leader boards)

 

4.0 – Transmedia is

  • Unfolding a narrative
  • Extending the narrative
  • Placing the narrative IP in the middle of all touchpoints
  • Three or more narrative storylines existing within the same fictional universe on any of the given transmedia platforms
  • Appealing to and validating the torchbearers
  • Allowing for co-creation and co-ownership
  • Allowing the audience to make a small phsysic leap between each layer (so the experience feels more like reality than a contrived and fake experience)

 

5.0 – The audience

  • Needs to be cultivated, validated and celebrated
  • Will always have something to say
  • (especially youth) are used to being acknowledged
  • Take everything as fact (especially if growing up with technology)
  • Needs a dialogue
  • Needs a theme


The last 5 things that brought me closer to Jeff Gomez will feature in part two and will include: success criteria, the grand narrative, a character’s aspirational drivers, distant mountains, and the story canon.

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X Media Lab – Global Media Ideas @ Vivid (Opera House)


Why should you attend this event?

The ‘Global Media Ideas‘ event is an annual international summit at the Sydney Opera House that ‘caps off’ Vivid Sydney – a festival of light, music and ideas.

I don’t claim to know what the ‘X’ in X Media Lab stands for, however if I had to guess then I would say it stands for a ‘high quality experience’. Personally, I think the ‘X’ is all about ‘crossing’ everything possible – crossing skills, crossing the T’s, crossing your comfort zones, crossing people and mediums, crossing your learnings potential, crossing ideas and global locations, crossing time and challenges etc. Some people describe it as an ‘X’ factor!

The Lab is what this is all about. At all times the focus is on you and your ideas. You may be challenged and steered into new ways of thinking – but the sole aim is to actively help you define and achieve your goals to accelerate your commercial success. You can nominate your project for the lab here: http://www.xmedialab.com/project-application
There is a good chance that I will put myself out of business by saying this, however if you are unable to afford the services of a strategy type person (like myself) to help you with your business, then you must participate.

..Being part of X|Media|Lab is like winning the startup lottery. Having one to one sessions with some of the biggest minds in the industry gave us invaluable strategic insights that have helped shape our business thinking both now and in the future. Since X|Media|Lab our online creative community, The Loop has grown beyond our wildest expectations..
– Pip Jamieson (@theloopoz), Director at The Loop, Sydney

..The XMedia crew always source an incredible array of speakers from all around the world – diverse, inspiring and, even better, surprising.  The format of the event – very short speeches – culls any dross, so the speakers are always ‘too the point’ and impactful.  Its a great way to meet and source talented folks you want to work with in the future (from a range of disciplines) and we’ve certainly made use of the opportunity on several occasions“.
– Marshall Heald (@marshallheald), Head of Online & Content Distribution at SBS, Sydney

The emphasis of this upcoming event is on practical world-class solutions: what works, what doesn’t, and what you should be planning for this year and beyond. It is not a one-way flow of information – the program is designed to enable you to connect personally with thought leaders, mentors and potential business partners, handpicked from around the world – including Silicon Valley, Shanghai, London, Hollywood, New York, Tokyo, Seoul, and Singapore.

It is an intense information download and relationship building event for communicators in the digital age. There is no filler, no pitching and no panel – just solid, actionable content that you can take away and apply to your business or organisation immediately.

If you go, you will learn how to take your business to international markets. You will learn how to apply learning from cutting-edge case studies of what’s happening now in creative ideas and innovation in media and technologies – including: mobile, social, gamication, location based services, branding and immersive environments, augmented and virtual realities.

If your role is any of the following, you should place it on your to do list muy rapido: Games Designers and Developers, Mobile Services, Web and Social Media Professionals, Creatives, Brand Specialists, Marketers, Technology Wizards, Investors, Media Analysts and Strategists.

View an Executive Summary video of last year’s ‘Global Media Ideas’ event here: http://vimeo.com/14931406

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Have you lost that black feeling?


How do you feel about black?

Please forgive me for the lack of posts on my blog – looks like the last one was august 2010. Reason being I have been booked solid since mid last year with helping half a dozen agencies with most of their accounts. It’s been so much fun!

Finally, today is when two rare and famous things happen at the same time: 1) I don’t need to be anywhere for the entire day, and; 2) I am well rested and not a comatose wreck from said activities (insert pathetic request for sympathy).

Therefore, the first thing I had wanted to do on this very cool day was to apologise for not posting anything on this blog for ages- and so began the search on Google Images using the term ‘busy’.

First picture I found was of a pair sneakers (‘Nike Busy P Air Force’) – inscribed on the side “ISN’T ALL THIS BLACK BORING?”.

It made me stop and think about a tonne of things, including how much black is in my day to day (think: car, shoes, socks, jeans, shirts, eye and hair colour, my macbook, wallet, phone, thoughts, etc) and this got be curious. I want to know what it means for you.

What does the colour black mean for you?

Who owns the colour black?

How do you feel about the colour black?

Describe what happens when you see the colour black on someone (or as the colour of a car)?

I would love to read a story about you and the colour black.

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‘Worlds Best Countries’ Verses ‘Vision Of Humanity’


These are two sets of interactive info-graphic maps that measure each country against each other using loads of indexes.

It is interesting how almost all of the indexes are mutually exclusive. It’s funny to imagine what would need to be different in our world for the the content to be reversed (a world where Newsweek media posts ‘Vision of Humanity’ and an Independent NGO posts something similar to the World’s Best Countries’).

1. The World’s Best Countries (According to Newsweek)

Newsweek recently unveiled a fascinating interactive info-graphic that enables users to click through a thorough study that ranks nations by health, education, economy, and politics across the globe. Finland came in first place, and Switzerland and Sweden trailed closely behind.

www.newsweek.com/the-worlds-best-countries

2. Vision Of Humanity

This interactive website focuses on the major issues facing us in the 21st century and tries to bring a balanced approach with factual information that is positive and solution based. They hope to help you make better choices to create the kind of future in which you wish to live.

This year 149 nations of the world have been ranked by their peacefulness and the results have stimulated some very interesting analysis.
www.visionofhumanity.org

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The lowdown on apps [infographic]


Online MBA created an interesting infographic that explores how these millions of tiny programs filter our world, and why there are so many of them being developed.

Of interest to me:

APPLE DENIED: 37,466 apps are no longer available for download by Apple.

PUBLISHERS: 42,403 publishers of apps (averaging 4 apps per publisher).

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