Dec 312011

Originally published Oct 2011 in Wired Magazine ‘Change Accelerators‘ by Gary Hayes

Image by Gary hayes

Grab some nibbles, pour yourself a drink, and sit down. You’re now ready to immerse yourself in a TV show. And then you notice that CSI Miami is placing Facebook photos of your aunt, uncle, and cousins onto the desk of a perp. Lean forward, and keep your eyes peeled, updates from your Facebook page are about to be incorporated into your favorite TV show’s narrative. (Your best friend becomes the suspect!) As you immerse yourself in the story, the story immerses itself in your social world. In this context, online meets offline and your family and friends will never look the same again!

While this opening scenario sounds like pure fantasy, it’s not. It’s actually based on Warner Brother’s Aim High, an upcoming web series that will integrate pictures, music, and information from a viewer’s Facebook page into the video. One might call it the ultimate transmedia vanity blockbuster, where viewers are watching and playing with their own distributed, but connected story fragments. If this trend continues, soon we’ll be interacting with TV and games mashed up with our own social networks on big and small screens everywhere.

Since 2003, tools that allow people to easily create, upload, and share personal content are now commonplace. With so many people sharing their lives through networks, there is a social story revolution unfolding. There are more photos taken every two minutes today than during the entire 1800s and, as my Social Media Counter shows, most of this new content is created by individuals who used to be called the audience.

Since the late ’90s, the vision of interactive TV has been to meld this viewer-generated content into shows, particularly live TV. Today, we are taking the greatest evolutionary steps in broadcasting since the advent of live TV. In my presentation, “The Gamification of Social TV,” I examine the ways audiences are becoming more and more integrated into media, such as shows, films, games, and live events; first, there is the social level, then the participative, and finally, the inclusive.

Real-time conversation about what’s happening on TV has pretty much been with us since the beginning of mass TV in the ’50s. However, nowadays we have advanced well beyond the cord-tethered telethons of yesteryear. Today, advanced technology, like text voting, allows shows to measure the sentiment of the crowd sitting at home, not just the studio audience, in real time.

Andy Warhol famously predicted, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” That future has arrived: We can all be stars in our own lifetimes, even if it’s just among our social network. We have become our own entertainment hubs, around which our friends and media circulate. Broadcasters and service providers have caught on to this trend, and now, entertainment-based social networking websites, like GetGlue, allow viewers to check in to movies, TV, and music. These personalized hubs fueled by recommendation and loyalty are allowing viewers to lock their worlds to TV space.

Not surprisingly, marketers are also taking notice of the advantages presented by social storytelling. A recent example is the Rommy Gulla Facebook video campaign run by Panasonic Australia. To demonstrate a new Blu-ray recorder’s ability to store 28 full days of HD content, the company developed a Truman Show-esque, promotional Facebook campaign encouraging input and social sharing.

Other online services, like Hulu, are also allowing users to bring media directly to their networks and take root inside Facebook itself, creating a forum for friends to share video content seamlessly. At the other end of the spectrum, there are options like Beckinfield Mass Participation TV, which takes social media to the nth degree by inviting users to film themselves as the stars and extend the web show format. This concept borrows from the realm of social alternate reality games, such as a World Without OilTruth About Marika, or Conspiracy for Good, which have been allowing users to write themselves into scripts and become the activist hero for quite some time now. Social media storytelling has deep roots in multiplayer role-playing gaming; in fact, the fastest growing game on Facebook at the moment is Sims, the $4 billion franchise game, where players inhabit and merge with social experiences in an alternate character-driven world.

Is alternate character acting the future? The film industry is not far behind in embracing social films. Earlier this year, Toshiba, Intel, and their ad agency Pereira & O’Dell took a gamble onInside, an interactive film experiment starring Emmy Rossum directed by D.J. Caruso. Now some people are speculating about whether or not social films are the next big thing in Hollywood. Will we see a social film revolution where plot dilemmas are handed over to the audience to experience and solve?

When it is done well, traditional storytelling married to social media is very powerful: It takes those people who want to go beyond a behind-the-scenes DVD extra into the story. While we watch to see if integrated social media entertainment will really take off, there are still some issues to consider, such as, is it invasive for characters from shows to enter an individual’s social networks? and Can a TV blockbuster become too personal?

That said, for now, I’m off to watch an episode of House, where I’m the patient!

Jan 172011

Social media is a humbling experience much of the time. For one it is a super fast barometer of many aspects of our digital persona made up partly of a) our online influence, b) what people ‘feel’ about you (sentiment) and c) who we are connected too but more recently with the introduction of Twitter Lists we now have an element of ‘labelling’ aka ‘tagging’. Like most I am not keen on being pigeon holed, filed and rubber stamped as ‘this kind’ of person or someone who only ‘thinks/creates/is involved’ in those things, but I was fascinated this morning in doing what Laurel Papworth did some months ago, looking at how others saw me based only on my Twitter activity.

I have currently been added to 700 lists (which I think is up in the top 10% or so?) –

the key of course is that these lists are created un-prompted by those they follow, they have selected ‘you’ quietly in the background to be a part of a personal filter, carefully structured by users who want a way to distill the vastness of a 140 character universe of noise, that is twitter – making lists for themselves of a few key personal influencers through to hundreds of sharing tweeters across several lists on quite broad topics, the lists themselves followed by thousands.

There were over 6.5 million twitter lists at the start of 2010 so I suspect at least double that for 2011 according to TNW and there are hundreds of tList directories on the web now such as ListAtlas that focuses on the most popular lists such as 22 000 following the @bieberarmy :: justinfollowplease list of 91 fans who “want to be followed” by JB himself or  38 verified world leaders compiled into this list @verified :: World Leaders followed by 15 000 or so. But back to my own little world…I am not sure if the lists below represent ‘who I am’, especially as 75% of my twitter activity is sharing links, but they certainly represent areas I work in and am interested by.

… without further ado – I quickly used TextWrangler to pull out key words and broke the 700 lists (I am on) into smaller ‘categorised’ batches. This serves as a one stop shop for me to dip in and out and decide which lists I will follow and for you to possibly find ones you may find of interest.

What do your lists say about you?


  1. The most listed Tweeters on 37 lists about Transmedia
  2.!/aliciakan/transmediatweeps Teaching me a little bit more about transmedia, everyday
  4.!/matthanson/screen-bleed Media theories & futures in a multiplatform world.
  5.!/brand_candy/transmedia-storytelling People interested in transmedia storytelling
  6.!/bulldogmi/isthistransmedia A list of crossmedia, transmedia and storytelling tweets
  11.!/FilmThreat/transmedia-artists A self-updating filtered list of people I follow (generated by!/formulists)
  12.!/FLB_AlainThys/media-innovation tweets about media innovation, crossmedia, transmedia and other interesting media developments
  13.!/frank_tentler/transmedia-avangard List of Transmedia and Transmedia Storytelling Avangard on Twitter
  14.!/geoffreylong/transmedia Scholars and practitioners in transmedia.
  15.!/helloflow/worldoftransmedia all people you want to follow on transmedia storytelling!
  16.!/ivanovitch/transmedia People working in, interested in, thinking about Transmedia.
  17.!/jlsimons/transmedia TM
  18.!/KH_enthu_Ziasm/transmedia well, are you transmedia ready ?
  19.!/melaniemcbride/gaming-transmedia-10 Makers, observers, researchers and players of games/transmedia.
  21.!/nwangpr/transmedia This list follows those who are exploring new storytelling opportunities for brands and agencies.
  23.!/onceuponaword/transmedia A list of people who regularly tweet smart things on transmedia
  26.!/Pixel8studio/transmedia Stories to be told.
  27.!/pseudonymDK/transmedia Important people to follow to learn more about transmedia
  32.!/nativeshell/trans-incidental Transmedia news and peeps


  1.!/thatgreg/new-media-2 People actively changing the way media is created and ultimately consumed.


  1.!/AaronMarshall/augmented-reality Cool folks tweeting interesting things about Augmented Reality.
  3.!/Balubab/augmented-reality Augmented Reality universe
  6.!/chrisgrayson/augmented-reality-peeps People & Companies involved in Augmented Reality, as well as AR Blogs
  18.!/siyann/immersive virtual worlds, augmented reality, immersive experiences
  19.!/dromescu/ar Augmented Reality
  20.!/jlapoutre/mobile-ar Mobile Augmented Reality


  2.!/9dimension/brightside bright ppl
  3.!/owlark/interesting-people-a1 Great people: listed or interested
  4.!/InShot/thought-leadership James Grant Hay’s Thinking Out Aloud
  10.!/LMurphy140/from-far-far-away non local interesting
  13.!/MikeFreyParadux/bloggers Bloggers! Check these wonderful blogs by interesting tweeps.
  14.!/OwenKelly/people a miscellaneous assortment of interesting people
  15.!/paolonieddu/insight-and-cool-shit Links to interesting stuff

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Nov 122009

Will the integration of Social Media into TV give the tottering Broadcast giant a well needed injection in the arm, or is it another doomed hybrid?


Sky Social TV on XBox Platform

This pretty detailed post below looks at twenty or so of the best offerings that glue TV and Social Media together – whether its live chat on the TV screen or playing a game on your laptop/mobile/games console in sync with the TV show here are most of the already existing services in this space. We have seen two key audience behaviours happen in the past 3-4 years that change the status quo – TV on one screen, social media on the other.

UPDATE: The Guardian UK did an follow-up interview with me in reference  to this post. The article by Mercedes Bunz is called The X Factor marks the start of TV becoming social – “Emerging media producer Gary Hayes discusses the Twitter buzz around shows such as The X Factor and its implications for TV’s future”

Firstly the increased use of social media real time, communication tools (such as Twitter, SMS and Skype IM etc) means there is now a growing roar off in the distance. The viewer back channel, real time social chatter, “did you just see that”, “I don’t agree with what he just said” and most worrying for broadcasters “I’m not going to watch this again. Agree?”.

Continue reading »

Feb 032009

rocketoncomedyIf RocketOn grows at its current rate it may be the follow-up to Twitter as a real time, web 3.0, animated avatar, 2D web integrated social application.

It will of course need much more sophisticated friend and group management and the following/followers paradigm would work wonders here. But no doubt the company have lots on the boil along these lines?

I have written for the past year or so about those half-way house virtual worlds, avatars that exist as a layer above the traditional, flat 2D web in posts here and here.

Leader of the pack of these ‘parallel’ virtual worlds (I still prefer layered btw!) by some way is San Francisco based RocketOn which now has 114 000 unique active users of the service that primarily operates as a browser plug-in. CEO Steve Hoffman has told me of some key developments that will lift the service firmly out of beta. First and foremost are six major new partners that will expose RocketOn to more than 2 million potential users.

RocketOn Launches Beta with, Hypster, Online Flash Games, Hotspot, faceDub and Boosh Magazine. Parallel Virtual World Platform Goes Live – “Imagine what it would be like if you could join a virtual world on your favorite site and interact with everyone on that site,” says Steven Hoffman, CEO of RocketOn. “And what if you could also take your same avatar to any other website and meet people there?” The result is a parallel virtual world that spans the entire Internet, where users rocket through cyberspace with their avatars and interact with virtual environments on any site they choose.

rocketontrafficdemoHaving used RocketOn for some time on and off it reminds me of the web equivalent of the flash-mob – adhoc social gathering where you share brief experiences with others, ‘above’ web content, sometimes very compelling. It is fascinating too that there is a strong female demographic (67% in the US) suggesting parallel worlds being seen as (and used) as social vs ‘gamey’ space. More interesting in the stats is the high proportion of 12-34 year olds – often the ages where usage of social virtual worlds tends to dip. So RocketOn is definitely feeding on the traditional Facebook and MySpace network.

So the real time social element is best suited to comedy music, video and casual games where a live, real time’ness is key. Being able to call your friends together for activity and discussion around primary content in this way perhaps turns the back-channel (as in textual chatter) into the front-channel (where physicality comes into play). There is something about synchronous fun (and learning, there is a killer app hidden here for remote learning folks) over full screen video too – so RocketOn over full screen web video starts to remind me where IPTV was meant to be heading back in 2004! Participatory TV via the web back door anyone?

Here is the official press release that is going out today Feb 3rd

rocketonhypsterParallel Virtual World Goes Live

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — February 2009 — RocketOn, Inc., a venture-funded startup located in South San Francisco, is rolling out its virtual world platform by embedding virtual worlds on partner sites. RocketOn’s partners range from comedy, music and game sites to community networking sites and college magazines.

“Our goal”, says Bryan Suchenski, partner manager, “is to build social interaction and community on our partners’ websites, thereby weaving a virtual environment into the very fabric of the Web.”

RocketOn has built a platform for easily embedding virtual worlds into partner sites, allowing their users to interact in real-time with one another. Every partner site is part of the overall community, and with the click of a button, users can take their avatars anywhere they like on the site.

“Imagine what it would be like if you could join a virtual world on your favorite site and interact with everyone on that site,” says Steven Hoffman, CEO of RocketOn. “And what if you could also take your same avatar to any other website and meet people there?”

The result is a parallel virtual world that spans the entire Internet, where users rocket through cyberspace with their avatars and interact with virtual environments on any site they choose.

“What caught our attention about RocketOn is the potential for a new type of real-time social interaction on our site,” says Cahit Onur, CEO of Online Flash Games. “We felt this would help build customer loyalty and extend our brand into the virtual world space. We’re happy to be working with RocketOn and are open minded about new projects and ideas.”

RocketOn is announcing six partners now, with more to come in the near future.

ROCKETON’S PARTNERS INCLUDE: is one of the Web’s leading comedy sites. It combines the best collaborative filtering tools along with exclusive, original-themed content, best-of-the-best lists, and timely topical material.
Hypster is a music discovery site, offering Facebook, MySpace and Friendster users a personalized music player and playlists.
Online Flash Games is a popular Flash games community.
HotSpot is a community networking site to meet new friends, where users can store or share photos, create blogs, and share interests.
faceDub develops fun and easy software that allows users to insert their faces into any scenario.
Boosh Magazine is the newest name in college entertainment. Boosh puts a unique twist on the whole ‘college magazine’ market and comes direct from a network of student columnists across the country.


RocketOn is a venture-funded startup that is pioneering parallel virtual worlds. Its management team has worked at top game publishers, including Sega Sammy (SGAMY) and Electronic Arts (ERTS).

If you’d like more information, please contact:

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