Tag Archives: sxsw

SCVNGR CEO Seth Priebatsch: The Game Layer Is Coming – @TechCrunch

Priebatsch, who maintained an apparently super-human energy level throughout his talk, discussed how many of the gaming mechanics seen in the virtual world will be applied in the physical world to create a so-called “Game Layer”. “It’s brand new and has not been built,” Priebatsch says. “The last decade was the decade of social — it took connections between friends, family, and coworkers and put them online. It’s called Facebook. The social layer traffics in connections.” Conversely, Priebatsch says that the Game layer traffics in influence — “It will influence where we go, what we do, and how we do it.

Another issue: reward schedules. Priebatsch explains that rewards have been shown to be very effective, leading to spikes in engagement and activity. But it’s not a perfect system — handing out rewards can set users up to expect them everywhere. Without the reward as an incentive, people often stop checking in (he points to the Gap/Facebook deal as an example, and says that he believes many of the users who participated in that deal have stopped checking in).

Priebatsch closed out the talk with a demonstration of what he calls communal gameplay and communal discovery. Everyone in the keynote hall was given a colored card — there were a handful of different colors, and the cards were distributed at random. The audience was then asked to swap cards with their neighbors so that each row of seats was the same color. The audience was given 180 seconds to pull of the task, and they did it with a minute to spare.

TechCrunch writer Jason Kincaid captures all the major points from Priebatsch’s keynote. While some were put off by his boisterousness, I think SP, SCVNGR, and the #gamelayer are going big places.

Seth clearly has an axe to grind with the institutions of academia. Having dropped out of Princeton, it’s far from something he’s embarassed about; instead, he jokes about it during presentations and wears it as a badge of honor.

I give him a lot of credit for the points he makes about the aspects of game theory already at work in education. The notion of switching from a punishment system to an achiement system opens up the door to all kinds of exciting posibilities for engagement.

Imagine a system where resources and investment were rewardded with a similar investment from the institution? A practical example is honors / AP classes. Currently, they’re generally either admitted by testing, or based on grades. But many who have the aptitude for higher-level learning are held back by unrelated issues with the academic system (learning habits, access to equipment, etc), and many who are admitted into such programs get there by default, not by choice. A system like the one SP describes, where all students start at 0 and ‘gain expeience’ as they learn things, a natural self-selection takes place – those students who are more actively engaged and responsible for their own education will naturally shoot into the higher values, unlocking additional access and features.

That concept could be extended into so many fun & engaging educational activites!

Disposable art. Beautful design & advertising from SXSW, pt. 2: Posters

Some of my favorite posters from SXSW. 

These things get put up all over the place – primarily on circular structural columns, stacking up 4 and 5 layers deep before being peeled off, but soon many areas turn into adhoc bulletin boards.  It can actually be tricky to get good shots of these as they get damaged and abused, which is part of what I found so interesting.  All this effort goes into creating unique images on high-quality stock, only to be used for 5 days, then discarded.

Back to normality, early SXSW thoughts

I’m finally decompressing from SXSWi. It’s 4AM of the day after I got home, and I can’t sleep, so clearly it’s the perfect time for this post!

Here are the big trends and why:

Social gaming.  We’ve all been hearing about it for long enough to know this was already coming, but Austin was plastered with everything from a social gaming keynote, to panels, talks, strategies, startups, apps, roleplayers, hashtags and enough buzz to spin off into it’s own mini-event next year, somewhat like SXSWedu has.  The short version is, game mechanics are here to stay, primarily because engagement and activity levels are through the roof.  Pushing short-term rewards is also a dangerous game, however, Seth Priebatsch of SCVNGR reminds us in a very well-received keynote. (Here’s another really interesting TEDTalk he gave in 2010, with a message very similar to his sxsw keynote).

Group texting.  Whereas the last years have been characterized by mass-communication tools like Twitter and Foursquare, this year we saw an inceasing trend towards localization, curation, selection, and sub-grouping.  Group texting is but one example of this trend, with upstarts like GroupMe and Beluga squaring off much like Foursquare and Gowalla did last year (GroupMe appears to have won).

QR codes.  OMG QR WAS EVERYWHERE!

Decline of social?  As I already predicted, terms like “social media” weren’t really part of the lexicon, it’s all so ingrained in what we do.  Any app or website being pushed had a social component; with this standardization, I think soon we’ll be describing products which aren’t inherently social as antisocial (think, Word or Excel).

Managing the online persona.  With so many more heads in the social media industry in the past year, topics like “How to manage your Corporate vs. Personal Brand” were numerous and very popular.  As someone who took over a corporate account after having begun my own well before, I’m always thinking about how to manage this complex issue.  The social consensus seems to be, “Where There is Authenticity, Anything Goes.”

Mass adoption and rapid change

Twitter as a medium for all kinds of different applications really hit tome for me here.  Interesting features at the Frog Design party, as well as exhibits throughout the ACC and trade shows, played on the sheer volume of Tweets in the area with interesting visualizations, graphs, and interactive displays.  With new apps like HeatTracker, built on top of Foursquare and Gowalla, which in turn are built on top of Twitter, a whole new vision of how social media function is starting to appear.  With massive, hyper-connected mediums like Twitter all openly available and digital, we’re becoming able to catalogue and organize information in new and exciting networks of like-minded users, allowing even more specific and nifty apps which slice out a certain chunk of the graph to handle really well.  My picks: foodspotting, localmind, Qonqr, Hashable, Yobongo, HeatTracker, locaii.

The wide adoption of Twitter at SXSW in specific is just a great example of this.  SXSW really “sold” me on the value of location-based mechanics, some of which I’ve always viewed with contempt, because I’ve never had the ideal use-case of many relevant connections happening in a hyperlocal area, having lived essentially in the suburbs for the last few years.  I could instantly see the appeal of LBS in a very widely-adopted crowd. 

But many of my friends are’t really into the whole idea of LBS, especially becoming familiar with how the more flamboyant users’ use of it can feel like spam.  It’s really amazing to see how quickly a rapidly deployed technology, like Twitter or FourSquare, can become part of popular culture; by numerous metrics discussed at a few different panels, services like Twitter and Facebook activity can spread through a culture by orders of magnitude faster than older technologies like newspaper and television – but those who haven’t already adopted appear likely to do so at only marginally increasing rates over time and similar exposure.

So, the challenge seems to be, bootstrapping a user-base into existence in areas deprived of the intense incubating effect a gathering like SXSW, or being a tech hoptspot like SF or NYC, can have.

Education Editorial

The issues of location reminded me of the unique advantage of a university, and the importance of fostering adoption of social technologies in children and adults in education.  All students and teachers are already within a very clearly defined, intellecutally connected network, on many different levels: the social graph of their interconnected class schedules, the systems like Blackboard many use to communicate privately, P/TA and school boards connections to local government, etc.  Academics are already used to the operation of these kind of networks, so the learning curve would be simple. 

As our students begin to use these tools in a constructive and responsible way (and, here’s a great opportunity for educators and administrators to advise them, a relationship which benefits everyone), their interest will disperse throughout the world as they graduate and leave their institutions, pollinating the tech workforce and cities they move to with the games, apps, and LBS services they love, and, significantly – will continue to be using to stay in touch with their friends for purely personal reasons. 

The educational->professional synergy taking place for today’s digital natives is just startling, and a tool educators must be using! Damn the painfully slow academic machine.