Deloitte TV+ paper, some notes

A new paper out today from Deloitte called ‘TV+: perspectives on television in words and numbers‘ which covers some subjects close to my heart. I was particularly pleased to be invited by the Guardian to appear in some brief podcasts discussing it (along with Tess Alps from ThinkBox, George Entwistle from the BBC, Richard Welsh from Bigballs Films, Sally Quick from UKTV, James Bates & Paul Lee from Deloitte, all chaired by the brilliant Aleks Krotoski).

The PDF itself is secured, making it hard for me to copy and paste some choice quotes for you. Oh well. Here are some rough notes anyway.


TV as “the super medium around which all others revolve”.

The primacy of TV is defended in terms of hours of consumption, but I think there may be more to it than that. Would would it take for the internet to become the primary medium? Hours of consumption? Reach? Share of total advertising spend? We know that the share of advertising revenue spent on TV, press and internet are now about equal (26-27% / £4B each) with internet spend just slightly below the other two. TV has been stable, press has been falling and internet has been rising. What happens next year, if internet overtakes TV spend? There’s an argument that we could be very close to the moment when the Internet becomes the primary medium for advertising. That doesn’t necessarily make it the primary medium for culture, but I’d argue we’re moving towards that too. [According to Ofcom, the percentage of 8-11 year olds who would rather give up TV than internet is 15%, and rising. Even more striking, “children aged 12-15 are now as likely to miss the internet (24%) and mobiles (26%) as they are to miss TV (24%)”. Interesting times ahead.]

1.) TV+ proliferating portable screens

Increased opportunity to watch TV thanks to increase in access to mobile devices, apparently. Hmm. My view is that just because someone can watch TV on a small screen doesn’t mean they will always want to. I’d expect mobiles devices to be largely used for clip-snacking rather than people watching 30 minutes of TV on the move (though no doubt there will be some more of that too).

Colour e-ink capable of fast refresh rates. (Imagine something like a Kindle, but in colour and capable of video.) This will indeed be amazing. I’m still not sure we’re going to be watching whole episodes of X Factor in the park though. Personally, I think the power of mobiles will not be in watching TV, but as a second screen allowing you do browse, chat, buy etc simultaneously and individually, without cluttering up the big shared living room screen. Million Pound Drop had an online game (by Monterosa for Channel 4) allowing you to play at home. With good on air calls to action they had 12.4% of the TV audience simultaneously playing on their second screen. For advertising, things like the Honda Jazz app and the Heineken ‘Star Player‘ game are just the start.

2.) TV+ social networks

“Social networks and television complement each other” Couldn’t agree more. Both for TV makers and advertisers, the opportunities here are massive.

Popular programmes are what drive social chatter. – I can certainly confirm that producers and commissioners are very interested to know “did we trend on Twitter last night?” But some interesting ones are thinking about how to make sure their programmes work well online too. Seven Days was deeply flawed in many ways, but a format that tried (and arguably succeeded) to ensure people would talk about it and share it online. The BBC, too, puts a lot of effort into helping people know where the online conversations are happening online (whether it’s linking to the buzz about each programme from its official web page (like this), or putting a hashtag on screen at the start of certain programmes).

35x more time spent watching TV than using using social networks. (more people are watching TV, and for longer, than using social networks). This is probably the fact with which TV execs in Edinburgh will be reassuring themselves in Edinburgh this week. I’m not sure this helps us understand the underlying patterns though, for two reasons. First, because TV viewing figures measure “presence rather than attention” (to quote the brilliant Matt Locke), and time spent watching TV is very different from time spent conversing, sharing, creating, etc. And second, because the average time spent online is not a particularly useful measurement. I’ve been re-reading Clay Shirky‘s Here Comes Everybody recently. He writes “the most active [in social systems such as Wikipedia and Flickr] tend to be much more active that the median participant, so active in fact that any measure of ‘average’ participation becomes meaningless. There is a steep decline from a few wildly active participants to a large group of barely active participants, and though the average is easy to calculate, it doesn’t tell you much about any given participant.”.

Conclusion: “Television and social networks could each exist independently of each other” … but “the two media are strongest when working in parallel”. Yes.

3.) TV+ technology

PVRs: people think they’re watching fewer adverts but actually, they’re watching more. (As with ‘TV is not going away’, this is actually something people have known for a while.) It’s a good fact though.

47% of 16-24 year old PVR owners always, frequently or occasionally stop fast forwarding through ads if they see an advert or trailer that interests them. – Interesting to think of opportunities to develop advertising that works well on PVRs. A three minute spot, with 18 seconds of film played out at 1/10th normal speed, would be really annoying unless you were fast forwarding it. Let’s not make one of those.

I dispute that claim that YouTube is now “focused on professionally produced content, with television programmes featuring prominently”. I’d suggest that the vast majority of YouTube’s content is still people “broadcasting themselves”, despite the (very sensible) moves to showcase professional content too.

4.) TV+ advertising

TV advertising remains strong.

“This is why the most successful campaigns tend to run across multiple media – each complementing the other, each reaching the target audience in a different context, but all conveying the core message.” – Spot on. At work, we call this an integrated campaign.

5.) TV+ shopping

TV is about as important as recommendation by a friend, while ‘I came across it on FB/twitter’ are very low. Interesting, but I think there could be a bias in that survey against recommendations made online, especially as social networking becomes mainstream and not something people think about as a specific activity (just how they stay in touch with some friends).

All in all, a really interesting piece. Well worth a read.

BAFTA Film Awards 2010

I was fortunate enough to be invited to help out the BAFTA online team during the Film Awards on Sunday. I spent the afternoon and evening tweeting as @baftaonline and helping their team keep their Facebook page updated.

Initially, I was mainly sharing photos from the red carpet, which meant wandering around with an ‘access all areas’ pass and trying grab pictures of the buildup while staying (unsuccessfully) out of the way of various live news cameras. Here are a handful of the photos I uploaded to Twitpic during the afternoon.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic Share photos on twitter with Twitpic Share photos on twitter with Twitpic Share photos on twitter with Twitpic Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

I was only slightly hampered by not having much of an idea of who everyone was, and during the busiest time on the red carpet it was a struggle to get a photo and tweet everything. Fortunately, the Bafta/BBC TV crew I was embedded with were very helpful in confirming names of people I was unsure of, etc. Conscious of a fast-depleting iPhone battery, I was alternating between an iPhone and my Canon camera, grabbing snaps and video of whatever looked interesting.

Red Carpet Kimberley Walsh Guy Pearce on the Red Carpet James Cameron on the Red Carpet Andy Serkis on the Red Carpet Edith gets her make up touched up

Once the ceremony began, I went upstairs to the media room where I sat with the BAFTA online team watching the ceremony and backstage interviews live. I was updating their Twitter and Facebook presences with the award winners as they were announced and the response to these live updates was overwhelmingly positive. Rob (BAFTA’s online editor) had proposed a very clean, cut down style for the announcements which worked really well for giving it an official, definitive tone. Keeping it short meant it was more likely to be retweeted too.


During the ceremony, I had a list of who was announcing what, and had to fill in the blanks with the winner as they were announced, tweeting and updating Facebook as quickly as possible. This was pretty stressful, though obviously also an awful lot of fun. I soon found a rhythm and was pleased to be using a laptop where I could quickly copy and paste blocks of text between various windows. The iPhone is nice, but it would suck for this sort of work.

Backstage Carey Mulligan Backstage Kristen Stewart Backstage Backstage

There was some frustration, among people watching on TV, that the twitter stream was acting as a ‘spoiler’ for the event (though I should point out this was massively outweighed by vast numbers of people expressing supportive, grateful thanks for the instant updates). I think the call (which was, of course, BAFTA’s to make) to announce live, rather than in sync with the TV coverage, was the right move. People were looking to @baftaonline for the definitive results when rumours were circulating on Twitter, and it wouldn’t have made sense to wait. We should probably have been clearer as the ceremony began that the tweets were going to be out of sync, to reduce the risk of people being surprised by spoilers.

Once the ceremony was over, and I’d reluctantly handed back the iPhone, I found myself on the stage itself. This was, frankly, even more surreal than the rest of the day. Watch this video below to get a sense of what it was like.

Later in the evening, my wife and I attended the Film Awards party, which was great fun.


On returning home, I discovered I’d been seen by the BBC News cameras 3 times. As Ian H pointed out, it’s a bit like playing ‘Where’s Wally’.

In the news (1 of 3) In the news  (2 of 3) In the news  (3 of 3)

This makes five times, to my knowledge, I’ve been spotted on TV. (The first and second both being on the set of Watchdog in 2008.)

So, all in all a fantastic day and what little stress I did feel was entirely exciting. Thanks to everyone at BAFTA for a brilliant time.

TV scrobbling and attention data – What’s Dale been watching?

Dale Lane's TV Scrobbling chartsI love it when people take control of their own attention data. Dale Lane has set up a lovely TV scrobbling service in his house, allowing him to capture and share what he watches on TV.

The overlap between rich information visualisations, attention data and television is fascinating. I’m not surprised to see Dale doing it based on his impressive track record with visualising home power consumption.

I’ve been running MeeTimer on my laptop for about 9 months now to spy on my own browsing habits (and had a stab at visualising that data last year), which I continue to find very useful. Did you know that in the past month I’ve spent an average 15 minutes visiting Gmail every day, but only 9 minutes using Google Reader? Nor did I.

Dale’s project brings the same sort of self-analysis to his TV viewing, and there are plenty of interesting discoveries. He cuts the data by channel, by time, by day, whether it was recorded or live and so on.

Dale Lane's TV Scrobbling charts

Publishing not only what he (and his family) watches, when and for how long is an astonishing amount of self-revelation and probably more than most people would be comfortable with. On the other hand, I now know that he’s watched the lastest Never Mind the Buzzcocks for less than 10 minutes and I now want to ask him about that. In the same way that sharing travel plans on Dopplr leads to more opportunities to meet with friends and hence more beer, sharing your viewing with your friends creates lots of conversation starters (useful for you), plus a chance for social discovery to uncover new gems his friends would otherwise have missed (useful for the broadcasters).

Dale Lane's TV Scrobbling charts

Be sure to also read his explanation of why he wanted this system, how it works, and future plans, which include thoughts on how to detect who is watching what.

For Dale, this is all made possible because his home entertainment system is also a computer. That and the fact that he’s a very talented hacker of course. For most people, this automatic capture would be a difficult thing to set up and it raises some interesting questions about the future for personal attention data. Should YouTube,  iPlayer or 4oD  provide me with a list of what I’ve watched, or is it up to me to capture that? Will Canvas allow users to make use of their own attention data?

Imagine if future set top boxes spat out convenient XML of exactly what we’d watched, so we could all decide ourselves what we do with our data. Wouldn’t that be useful?

Update: Tristan Ferne has done a similar (though more manual) thing for nearly all of his radio listening in 2009. Meanwhile, Matt Locke points out some work he commissioned in 2005 from live|work for the BBC about user data.

“The unanimous decision was that the BBC shouldn’t use personal data solely as a source for marketing information, but that they had a responsibility to enable the public, as individuals, to own, and get value from, the data trails we all leave behind”.

Hurrah. I also know I’m not the only person at the BBC who is excited about continuing to build on that kind of thinking.

Mustache TV

Mustache TV

Jesse Thorn kindly sent me a ‘Mustache TV‘ as a thank you for supporting Maximum Fun. (Disclaimer: I donate a small amount of money each moth. As you know, I’m a fan, and a card-carrying member of the Maximum Fun club and "a proud adherent of the principles of The New Sincerity").

Mustache TV’s lovingly detailed instructions include a scoring system (3 points for a clean-shaved man, 5 points for a lady, 6 points for a world leader) and it turns out to work quite well for games too. Lots of fun.

Mustache TV - Spaced Mustache TV - Mirror's Edge Mustache TV - The Wire

Online drama

I’ve been thinking about online drama recently.

There are traditional online video productions, which are essentially video made for the web. Good examples are Dr Horrible and The Remnants. Both high quality videos made to be distributed online, both created during the writers strike last year. (No coincidence there I think).

Then you’ve got your Alternate Reality Games. I’m going to assume you already know (or will quickly learn) about The Beast, Majestic, Starlight Travel, World Without Oil, Why So Serious, The Lost Ring etc. Three specifically interesting examples…

I Love Bees‘ (2004) was ostensibly a radio drama, but one distributed using payphones around the world which the ‘audience’ became players of a game in order to follow the story. Implausibly difficult for anyone to follow alone, it worked as a community experience with players working together to find, record and share the fragments of story being played through payphone around the world. It was commissioned as a viral campaign for the Halo 2 game.
Hear the story from start to finish here, and read more about the background from 42 Entertainment or the predictably detailed Wikipedia entry.

Perplex City‘ (2004 – 2007) was
“A city obsessed with puzzles and ciphers. A game that blurs the boundaries between fiction and reality.” An ambitious treasure-hunt ARG project, supported by the sale of collectable puzzle cards. Though not necessary to play the bigger game, the cards did provide some of the clues and integrated with the imaginary universe of Perlex City. Particularly of note is the fan-run wiki which the developers ended up relying on as the canonical record of what had happened in the story.

We Tell Stories‘ (March 2008) was ‘Digital fiction from Penguin’ built by Six To Start.
“Penguin UK is launching its most ambitious digital writing project to date. In collaboration with fêted alternate reality game designers Six to Start, Penguin has challenged some of its top authors to create new forms of story – designed specially for the internet. … But somewhere on the internet is a secret seventh story, a mysterious tale involving a vaguely familiar girl who has a habit of getting herself lost. Readers who follow this story will discover clues that will shape her journey and help her on her way. These clues will appear online and in the real world and will direct readers to the other six stories. The secret seventh story will also offer the chance to win some wonderful prizes…”. This was most interesting

Incidentally, there’s a long history of Alternate Reality Games being used to extend and enhance TV experiences too.

Online drama using social networks are an ever growing field. Here are a few that have caught my eye:

lonelygirl15‘ (June 2006 – August 2008) was “the first of many shows within the fictional LG15 Universe, tells the ongoing story of a group of young adults fighting against a mysterious secret society called, The Order. … On the LG15 website, community members can interact with the characters and each other in the forums, chat rooms and comment boards, and can create their own community generated videos and storylines that add to the ever expanding LG15 universe.” (If you’ve always wondered what it was about, there’s a 300 word plot summary you might enjoy. Also worth knowing that in its early stages it was a perfectly believable story of a normal girl, and there was a fair bit of controversy and discussion when it was discovered that she was an actress. Easy to miss, when looking at the story now, but it was controversial at the time). LG15 also involved a small amount of product placement (sorry, product integration), though this was taken a lot further in later spin-offs…

Kate Modern‘ (July 2007 – June 2008) was “an interactive online drama which ran from July 2007 – June 2008 and was produced by the creators of lonelygirl15 – EQAL. During it’s highly successful year long run it was nominated for two TV Craft BAFTA awards, a Webby Award and won the Broadcast Press Guild Award for Innovation 2008”. A spin-off from lonelygirl15, Kate Modern ran for two seasons. (Review). Product integration apparently allowed Kate Modern to turn a healthy profit. (Season 1, 2007, was supported by MSN, Tampax, Pantene, Gillette, Orange, Paramount Pictures UK and Buena Vista International UK. Season 2, 2008, by Toyota Aygo Platinum, Cadbury Creme Egg, Warner Bros & Skittles.)

Sofia’s Diary‘ (March 2008 – June 2009) has run for three seasons on Bebo, was broadcast for about a year on ‘Fiver’ but recently dropped Sponsors have included Sure Girl and Transport for London. (More info)

The Gap Year‘ (May 2008 – August 2009) “The brand new daily reality show, from the makers of Big Brother”
(another Bebo production, this one in conjunction with Endemol. Sponsors include Sony PSP, Trident and Doritos).
Freak A Freemantle co-production with MySpace. ‘The first UK online drama from MySpace’. Launch date: 20th July. Brand partners include Tampax and Red Bull.

Hollyoaks: The Morning After the Night Before‘ (July 2009)
Is an online video drama made by Channel 4 in partnership with the Home Office to promote the Know Your Limits sensible drinking campaign. Character profiles on Bebo and episodes online at “Hollyoaks: The Morning After the Night Before is a brand new Hollyoaks drama … It’s all happening here on All of the episodes will be online, and you can find out behind the scenes gossip right here too – with exclusive interviews, spoilers, photo galleries, behind the scenes videos and more. Make sure you check out Josh , Sasha and Dave ‘s Bebo profiles, keeping you up-to-date with what the gang are getting up to in between episodes… “ (The 12 episodes will be released online every Monday, Wednesday and Friday through July)

What has the BBC been up to? A couple of recent examples:

Proper Messy‘ (January 2009) A teen drama from Switch.
“Proper Messy was an exciting new interactive drama where YOU could influence the story … As well as weekly episodes on BBC Two there was loads of stuff on bebo and extra exclusive vids online each week. If you were aged 13-17 you could have also signed up to get texts EVERY DAY from the two main characters Imogen or Jake. … This is where things really got exciting – if their texts stirred you into action you could reply and your comments could have influenced the decisions they made. And, what was even better is that it was all free!” (Review)

‘The Well’ was announced just yesterday. “BBC Switch has commissioned digital production company Conker Media, part of Lime Pictures (whose credits include Hollyoaks), to create and produce an interactive, digital drama thriller for its teen audience. The Well will air in the autumn in the Switch zone on BBC Two (Saturdays 12noon-2.00pm) and extends online at where the audience can immerse themselves further in the story, exploring a spookily atmospheric recreation of the main drama location in a multi-level game.”

‘Psychoville’, exploring the possibilities of comedy on the web, have strategically dropped a few website addresses into their episodes and site, and encourage viewers to explore the web looking for answers to a weekly question.
“The mysterious stranger knows what you did: stop your secret going public by answering the messages below. Keep an eye out on TV and scour the internet for character websites you will need to visit. Answer the questions correctly to continue and come back after each episode for a new question.”
So, not quite an ARG (and actually, I notice that I’ve drifted away from Drama too. Maybe I’ll make another post about Comedy soon), but it is a great way of exploring the world of Psychoville and discovering things like Mr Jelly’s homepage. The results are every bit as darkly funny as you might expect.

Going back a bit further, CDX (2006) is an ‘interactive film experience’. (Read an article about it from DigitalArts or a review in Joystiq) hough some thinking about games from the BBC is a post I’ll save for another time.

What else? More BBC online dramas: Signs of Life from 2007 (“Buffy meets Horoscopes“), Wannabes from 2006 (” an interactive web-based soap opera“).  Torchwood did an ARG and Dr Who didn’t (even though a prominently placed phone number made many of us think they might have).

So what about the future? Only time will tell of course. I’m interested to hear of other examples though, and what you think works.


[image: skooal on Flickr]

I went to a BAFTA event tonight, cunningly titled ‘3D: the next dimension in TV and Games?’. It served up a panel of Andrew Oliver (CTO and founder, Blitz Games Studios), Colin Smith (Technical Analyst, ITV), Brian Lenz (product design and innovation, Sky), chaired by Guy Clapperton (freelance journalist who has been writing about 3D TV for the Guardian).

The event began with a chance to learn about the three major approaches to full-colour 3D display today, and a chance to try out a couple of them. They are:

  1. Active LCD shutter glasses darken one eye, then the other, in sync with the alternating image being shown on a standard display. This halves the effective frame rate by sharing the display across both eyes, and being an active system requires power to operate the shutters and also to be in sync with the display. Expensive glasses, but off-the-shelf (though high-end) screens or projectors. [more on wikipedia]
  2. Passive polarised glasses work much like the old red and green glasses, but using polarised filters rather than red/green means you get a full colour experience. It means cheap, passive glasses but complicated and expensive screens and projectors. If you’ve seen a colour 3D movie, this was probably the way it was delivered. [more on wikipedia]
  3. Autostereoscopic display is a stupid name for a screen which displays 3D without needing glasses by use of a lenticular or ‘parallax barrier’ layer in front of a specialised (usually LCD) display, presenting a different image based on viewing position. No glasses, but a very limited viewing angle. [more on wikipedia]

Of the three systems, all have benefits and drawbacks. There were no autostereo (i.e. glasses-free) products on display in the room, but the one I tried a couple of years ago was far lower quality than the two passive and active glasses systems I tried tonight. Both worked beautifully well, and in my quick test it was difficult to distinguish between them in terms of quality. Perhaps I need to see a more recent example of an autostereo display. (Any suggestions?)

For the other two, it’s really a tradeoff between cheap glasses and an expensive screen on the one hand, and a cheap(er) screen with expensive glasses on the other. Scale matters too; fitting out a cinema for an audience of hundreds is obviously a very different problem to kitting out your personal games computer, with equipping a living room TV (for broadcast or games) for a family of 4 falling somewhere in between. Does anyone out there have enough experience with the two technologies to have a preference for home use? I would have lived to see the same source being shown on both systems to compare them properly.

Technology: tick. What about the content? Starting with games, it’s simple enough for existing 3D games to be rendered in ‘real’ 3D rather than being flattened to a flat screen. It’s rendering problem, and since the graphics card in your computer already knows where the various objects are in three dimensions, spitting out the required output for any of the available 3D display systems is already possible.

To prove the point, Nvidia had provided an Nvidia ‘3D Vision’ equipped PC running Burnout Paradise in stereo 3D, and I must say it worked beautifully.

While rendering 3D games in 3D may be a more or less solved problem technologically, Andrew from Blitz pointed out that it’s also a design issue. Existing games have not been designed for 3D display, and while it works for some, Blitz wanted to start with a simple game designed for 3D and explore from there. They have a commercial release coming in the next couple of months; a console game which is a platformer with the 3D limited to just a few planes. It’s an intentionally simple first stab at a form in which they know they have a lot to learn. Andrew’s point was that games designers, like cinematographers, now have a new toybox of tricks, techniques and conventions to start playing with to get the best results out of 3D displays.

In television and film, stereo 3D content is equally easy in the case of computer generated (and hence a great many 3D movies so far have been CG), so perhaps it’s unsurprising that ITV’s biggest exploration of 3D TV so far seems to be building on Headcases, a satirical computer animation created in 3D, which obviously translates to stereo 3D telly very nicely (as I can confirm, having enjoyed a few minutes of it tonight).

Sky, meanwhile, have been using their existing infrastructure and experimenting with shooting everything from boxing to ballet, Gladiators and Keane in 3D.

The idea of taking existing 2D content and adding 3D perspective to it was mooted. Colin from ITV and Brian from Sky were both eloquent on the subject, saying that the filming and editing techniques used in creating good 3D content are not the same as in creating good 2D content. Eye strain is caused by making it difficult for the eye to resolve what you’re seeing, and cutting between shots forces people to re-focus, so 3D content will probably involve fewer cuts. The phrase that (I think Brian) used was “linger longer”. Taking what works well in 2D and simply 3D-ising it was repeatedly compared to Hollywood’s fad in the 20s of ‘colorization‘, something everyone seemed keen to avoid.

Brian (Sky) seemed tantlisingly close to wanting to announce something. He talked about getting past the experimentation phase and into the production phase: “we know exactly how to get there, it’s just a question of timing and conversations with TV manufacturers. You’ll see things happening in the next couple of years, for sure”. And later, “We’re not at the point right now of announcing a launch, but if the possibility of being part of another revolution in the way people watch TV is there, we want to be part of that, and we will be there, sooner rather than later.”

Other random points of interest…

  • Someone from the audience pointed out that the idea of a fixed ‘ocular distance’ of 2.5 inches (to match your eyes) between the camera lenses, is a myth. He pointed out that in fact, 2.5 inches is one of a myriad of distances that you’ll need to create depth, depending on what you’re filming. The panel agreed, saying that anything from a few millimeters to thousands of miles could be used, depending on the scale and distance of the thing you’re filming.
  • Where do you put subtitles? Andrew (Blitz) – found that ‘Hollywood 3D’ (‘things jumping out at you’ from the screen) can be too much, and they like to limit it so things very rarely seem to come out from the screen, especially because subtitles, heads-up displays etc, work well at the 0 distance, ‘on the glass’.
  • Colin (ITV) – “this is a significant evolution”. He adds that in the film industry they say it’s the biggest evolution since colour. A bigger jump than SD (Standard Definition) to HD.
  • The DTG (Digitial Television Group) is leading the first consultation into 3D TV, is the consortium of consumer electronics manufacturers and broadcasters that will probably be responsible for bringing the industry together around common standards for 3D TV.
  • There are some great terms in this 3D TV business: ‘inter-ocular distance’, ‘decreasing binocular disparity’ and ‘multi-view auto-stereo’ were just three that I wrote down.

Great event. Fascinating stuff. Glad I went.

Update: Alan Patrick was there too and took much better notes than I did.

Update 2 – disabling comments on this post for now. Too much 3D TV spam.

Second screen: this works for me

It’s Wednesday, so it’s Apprentice night again. Tonight I’ve been using Visible Tweets on an open laptop next to the TV.

Apprentice - second screen

Ray was complaining about motion-sickness with Twitterfall running in the background. Visible Tweets (thanks to Andy for the tip) is a nice alternative.

Eye-catching, simple and beautiful in full screen mode, it’s less comprehensive than Twitterfall but does show a selection of recent tweets at a pleasing pace. Here how it looks:

Press the red button now…

In focus and in control

Press the red button now

This month, I’ve mainly been playing Burnout Paradise and rewatching The Wire.

Apprentice Live Predictor

For the next hour I’ll mainly be watching the Apprentice.

Except I won’t. Not just watching anyway. A few weeks ago, I talked about the Apprentice and Twitter and if you’re anything like me, you generally watch TV with a laptop open. This is sometimes known as a ‘second screen’ experience (I even recently heard it called, heaven help us, ‘double dipping’).

There are quite a few examples of social telly projects out there, and that list is far from comprehensive. Mac Morrison has been thinking about the web and live TV as an event and reminds us of Tom Coates’ thoughts on social set top boxes from way back in 2005.

Well, now there’s this. You might like it. The Apprentice live predictor is quite simple really. You predict who you think will get fired, can change your mind at any time, and score points based on how long you were backing (um, what’s the opposite of backing?) the person who finally gets the finger.

It’s not a competition (really), it doesn’t influence the show (it couldn’t possibly, since the show is pre-recorded) and it’s not (really) chat-around-content as some of the social telly examples were, because the messages are pre approved and hand picked by the site editor. That means that a secondary game, which I found myself playing last week, becomes trying to leave a comment witty enough, quickly enough, to get picked by the host/edtior.

The predictor is a nice example of participation around live television which isn’t just about adding open chat around a video stream. Fun, game-like elements interest me a lot more really. I think the best bit is watching how the fickle public prediction changes in response to the candidates doing and saying stupid things.

It’s been running for the last three weeks. In case you’ve missed it until now, here’s what it looked like during the closing minutes of boardroom scene last week. I waited for a week before posting this, to reduce the spoiler risk.

Apprentice + Twitter = data flood

Series 5 of The Apprentice started on BBC One last night. Wondering what the web would be saying about it, I enjoyed the two-screen experience by watching the programme on TV while also looking down at a laptop on my lap with tabs open on Anna Pickard’s live blog on the Guardian, the Apprentice message board, and, of course, Twitter.

Initially, I thought I’d be able to regularly search to keep an eye on people using the word apprentice, or the #apprentice tag. (Of course, searching for the word ‘apprentice’ gives both, so what’s with the fuss around hashtags? Surely the ultimate tag is one you use anyway, without having ugly markup around it?)

With new updates appearing about as fast as I could read them, and sometimes faster, I turned to Twitterfall. Now it gets fun. Here’s a capture from early in the episode.

By the end, it was updating at three times that speed. In fact, Twitscoop tells me that during the boardroom scene that forms the climax of the show, there were 300 updates per minute using the word ‘apprentice’.

Apprentice trend (via twitscoop)

5 messages per second is more than I can manage in real time, but I did spot some lovely gems in there.

top trending twitter topics at ten pm

By the end of the show, 4 of the top ‘trending’ (e.g. currently most popular) words and phrases, according to Twitter search, were apprentice, Sir Alan, theapprentice and Anita.

The Apprentice was always going to be popular on Twitter, but I’m impressed at the scale here. Of course, most of the time you don’t care what everyone is saying about the Apprentice, just what your friends are saying. And that’s what Twitter’s good at. The ability to tap in to this real-time flood of info is pretty powerful though, even if it’s getting hard for one person to be able to even monitor it in real time.

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