From the Studio to the Home

I’ve just finished giving a presentation at the Conferenz ‘Digital Media & Content Summit’ in Auckland. While it was a lot of work putting the presentation and supporting document together, I found it quite a rewarding experience to be able to capture my thinking on the subject of Digital Entertainment.
The conference organisers are publishing my whitepaper and presentation notes on their website, but I felt it would be appropriate to also distribute them here to gain additional feedback on the topic.

So please feel free to download the documents, have a read, and let me know what you think. This is open source thinking, but an example of what I’m doing in my current role.
Note also the disclaimers in the documents, this is not a company policy statement, it is “free thinking” around what the future could look like and what challenges and opportunities exist therein.

Please note that the presentation is a ‘Notes View’ of a Microsoft Powerpoint slide pack and as such doesn’t have the transitions or builds of the slides, so things will look a little.. strange. I did try to host this on Slideshare, but it doesn’t handle builds either so, let me know if you have ideas as to where it can be hosted to represent the actual run through.

WoW – A Chinese Gold Farmer Article…

I’ve heard references to a movie on gold farming via The Instance podcast, but this is one of the first major papers I’ve seen to carry an article on the virtual goods trading phenomenom.

It’s been awhile since my last post on this subject, so seeing the $1.8 billion figure quoted was interesting, given that around this time last year when I wrote, it was projected that there would be a $5 billion market for non-subscription revenue (i.e. virtual goods trading) by 2011. That’s still 4 years away, looks like we’re well on track, of course, if gold farming offends your sensibilities, you could always start up a player community centric website to support an MMOG, then sell it for over $1 million. That’s what WoWHead did, and now they’re part of the same conglomerate which owns the 2 other major World of Warcraft community sites, Thottbot (my personal favorite) and Allakhazam.

So what you ask? Well, Affinity Media – the conglomerate which now owns 3 of the most trafficed player sites for World of Warcraft used to own IGE, which is/was one of these gold dealing companies. They now claim that they have sold that company and based on that, it appears that the people over at WoWHead are now comfortable selling their online property on to Affinity. So, a well designed site, rich with publically avalible information, embracing a niche community is worth some good (real world) coin. Who said community content would never make anyone any money?

Virtually there

Todays entry was sparked by a story from WoW Insider, one of many sites which features in my RSS feeds. The column, from Azeroth Interrupted, tells a story of two brothers who are using the WoW universe to reunite and learn about what has happened in the many years that they have been seperated.

This got me to thinking of my own WoW interactions (I use that word because it scares me less than the ‘addiction’ word 🙂 ). I’ve been playing for little over a year now and have made many friends, some of them quite close and most of them I’ve never met in real life. My collegue Karen started around that same time as me (in fact, she babysat me through the Night-Elf starting zone and explained the acronyms that everyone was using) and we are both Guild Masters (well GM2’s) in our guild Searing Sun (Guild Site / Armory Profile). It’s been loads of fun and we’ve even got my wife to play after much initial reluctance – and now she’s loving it! (and hating it, pretty standard feelings for most WoW players I think). Anyway, on the back of this ‘getting to know each other’ story, I started reflecting on the relationships that I’ve made in the game. There was the husband and wife team who invited me to their guild whose marrage since dissolved (along with the guild), there was the annoying twink guy who bugs my banker toon whenever I log in to check my auctions with continual duel requests, and there’s my other family – the people in my (our) guild. Things in our World of Warcraft guild have taken a turn of late, and I too must admit to starting to become disengaged once more…

Backtracking a little for context, WoW is a game which used to have a level cap at 60 (i.e. you could get to Level 60 and that was it, no more levels for you – go kill some super l33t monsters to get awesome gear so you can… kill some more super l33t monsters).
At this point a number of our high level players branched off to for an ‘Elite’ guild so those characters could focus on end-game raiding. Things get pretty serious in these kinds of guilds as people are solely focussed on gear and, due to the difficulty of the monsters you must now face, mistakes by anyone can kill the whole party. We stayed in our guild, happily helping out the lower levels get to 60, and building our own alts (other characters). Then came the release of the Burning Crusade, with a level cap of 70 and a whole new world to explore and better gear to get. The ‘Elite’ guild had imploded by this stage due to a number of reasons, but mainly due to the personality issues between the members of the guild, some who were taking things too seriously, some who just wanted to enjoy their game. These guild members all went off to join other guilds, and we got a number of them returning ‘home’ to us. With their experience and drive, we all started heading to 70, then trying to get the reputation and quests needed so we could all head to the big scary end game zones (where the cool gear drops). We found ourselves getting ‘too serious’ and we’d lost the culture of assistance which we’d previously been so proud of. Our guild master (mistress?) pulled the plug on the drive toward raiding, asking us to focus on recovering our previous culture. Interestingly, the week after she did this we started getting a large number of new recruits, I started back on leveling up my priest alongside my wife (who also plays) and all was well… almost.
The people who were looking forward to raiding (and I count myself amonst that number) started to leave, unrelated reasons of course, we lost our main tank (MT) and main healer (MH) to another guild on another server where they were going to meet up with their friends from school, our Raid Leader soon followed them, others left for raiding guilds within our own server. The interesting thing was, by and large, most of them left one or more of their alts in our guild, so they could come back and say hi. Our raid leader even went so far as to create an identical character to the one who had left, albeit without the level 70ishness and the funky gear 🙂

And now, on our guilds forum is a posting from our guild master – she too has left the server to follow her friends. She has been the rock on which the guild has been built and the glue which has held it together. Following her announcment, we lost 2 more of our high level players to the same server and it will be interesting to watch and see how the guild reacts to the news over the next few weeks and months. It’s with a heavy heart that I watch the changes which are happening to my group of close, but virtual friends – What started out as an investigation into the psyche of MMOGs and the people who play them has almost become a lifestyle. I am missing the people who have left already and am tempted, if they don’t plan on playing their alts too often, to start looking for a new home myself – time will tell, we’ll wait and see.

Spending time with my digital memories

I spent the last 3 days at home looking after our youngest son William who had the chicken pox and during that time I did a little bit of a tidy up of our digital photos and, during that time I reminded myself, yet again that we have HEAPS of photos, but finding any particular one, on any particular subject is pretty hard.

This then lodged itself in the back of my head and, as a result – two technologies have jumped out at me since then.

The first concerns the accessibilty and display of this data, and the vapourware representation of Microsoft Surface certainly struck a chord in our house.
“I’ve found our next coffee table” I announced to Amanda, then played her ‘The Power’ section of the demo from the above link.
“Wow, that’s cool – when could we get that?” was the response (and from a non-geek, that was certainly high praise indeed!)

Leveraging the display device of surface (and I’d be interested in open source alternatives I could cobble together earlier than waiting for the official product release), is the technology discussed in the clip below from the recent TED talks (I love the TED inititive)

Check out the presentation below… and imagine what it could mean for your collection of digital memories.

[Edit: Here’s a link via my collegue Justin – nice find, interesting if you want to learn the workings]

Can the end-user be trusted?

One of the undeniable truths of backups is you never really respect their worth, until you lose data that you value(d).

Interestingly enough, as more homes become more digital centric, more forensic data recovery services are cropping up to save people from themselves and that accidential, click happy spree that we’ve all enjoyed (until the sickening reliasation hits that we have deleted the ORIGINAL digital photo / video / document that we’ll never be able to recover  (by ourselves)).

Don’t get me wrong, I love that fact that I have 300+GB of digital memories avalible from a central location in my home, and displayable on a number of screens throughout – but I’m ever mindful of the possibility of hardware failure taking them all away in a heartbeat and so I do have a fairly stringent backup procedure in place. One of these measures is via scheduled backups of my machines to my shared network storage, but that only fires when the machine is left on. Another measure is a Windows Home Server, which I am on the Beta programme for (so I don’t really know how much I can discuss without breaching the NDA). If you are interested, the developers are keeping a blog of their progress prior to launch which makes for interesting reading. My point is this – my memories are no longer kept in an analogue format which I can pickup off the bookshelf as I run, screaming like a little girl, while the house burns down around me. My memories are increasingly being helf on fragile pieces of magnitised material, spinning at ridiculous speeds, and – if it wasn’t for the magic of external hard drives and USB connectors, the only copy of these memories would be held in my home. (Note to self, refresh my offsite backup – and say hi to my folks while I’m picking up/returning the external HDD from their place)

So – what’s the solution to this ‘eggs in one basket’ approach?

  • An offsite backup regime like I run (via a USB HDD and infrequent trips to my parents) is fine, but only as long as I remember to do it – and it would really suck if my house burnt down on the night where I was pulling my digital memories backup onto my external HDD, or if that unit also suffered a failure when I needed to restore.
  • Perhaps then a transfer via the network to my parents place? Well – that would work if they had an always on connection, but the initial sync would destroy both of our data caps, and the smarts around historical copies would be hard to implement as well
  • So – what about an online community such as Flicker and/or YouTube where I can upload my stuff? Well – resolution issues aside, if I wanted to share only with a select group – they would need to join that community (who honestly needs yet another identity to remember?) – and, what’s worse – these communities could have the plug pulled at a moments notice (it’s happened before)- and THEN where is your data sitting?

Which brings me back to my original question I posed at the top of this blog (see, I got there eventually) – “Can the end-user be trusted?” My feeling is no, they can’t, or at least I as a sample size of one, who does appreciate the need for backups, form speaking to some of my friends and collegues I can extend this statement to say we (royally, as in ‘most of us’) are bad at doing backups – if we have to think about doing them, then they don’t get done.

So, when the Web 2.0 bust comes along and whole communities of user generated content are lost (as predicted by Laurel in this blog post) there will be crying and gnashing of teeth. And out of the ashes, the phoneix of Web 3.0 will rise blah blah… My question is this – can we as an online community afford to lose this content?, is it an intergral part of the history of how content has grown in the online space?, will any Web 2.0 companies stand up, place their hands on their collective hearts and say “Yes – we believe your content is important, and this is how we plan to protect it should our business model/service fail”

Any takers?? – I’m off to backup my blog database…

To HD or Not HD – That is the question…

Given the work I’ve been doing over the last few years in the DVR/PVR/Television space, I’m now being (rightly or wrongly) sought out by my friends and family for advice as to what to buy when they’re replacing their Television sets. I’ve written an entry on this previously, but figure it’s probably worth another post as my thinking on the matter solidifies.

I’m of the opinion (which is subject to change pending convincing technical arguments, or a Lotto win) that buying an HD set is a good idea, but not worthy of sinking the kids education fund into at the moment as there are still a number of up and coming technologies (aren’t there always?) which require serious consideration.

So – my current response to inquirers is “get an HD set, and make sure it can do HD, but don’t spend too much as you’ll be wanting to replace the unit in around 5 years when OLED or SED make it to market, and HDMI 1.3 (or whatever supersedes that) becomes commonplace.”

The biggie here is to make sure the screen does what you’ve asked for as sales people seem to be economical with the truth and, while being technically correct, HD ready and actual HD display can be different. To this end, I’ve added a resolution table to the end of my ‘Getting High‘ post which you should check off against to ensure your display will do what you want it to. Once you’ve established the resolution you want to run, for goodness sake – make sure the set includes an HDMI port which inturn needs to support the HDCP content protection ‘standard’ – otherwise you’ll end up with a device on your wall which can display HD content, but no HD content which is broadcast (or purchased as a HD-DVD/Blu-Ray/Whatever) will be allowed to get sent to it. There’s some links in the last sentence there – follow them and get informed so at least you know what you’re talking about when the sales guy in the local electronics store tries to tell you about high-definition.

Yet another WoW Podcast launches

Well, this week my RSS reader finally picked up the first show from ‘The Epic‘, this isn’t a news and views shows like my favorite WoW podcast audiocast ‘The Instance‘, but probably worth a listen to as their intention is to cover more in-game strategies. Their first show sounds… well, like a first show, the presenters talk over each other, the show lacks structure and their site is REALLY hard to find as the site doesn’t appear to have any form of search engine optimisation done on it, so good luck if Googling – you may be better off following the link in this post 🙂

If you’re a PvPer then you may enjoy the long discussion about the new honour system, they discuss mods (or the lack of them) and chat about the new patch – in their special first show fragmented kind of way. I think I’ll perservere with listening, at least for a few more shows and hopefully in that time they’ll find their feet and the presenters will lose their uncontrollable urge to make comments and talk over each other (blah blah blah Sophia blah blah blah me me me…).

Anyway, a good first effort – I can’t really complain too much as I’ve not got off my a$$ to do an audiocast which may or may not be better, so good on the crew from The Epic – I await your next show with great expectation.

Edit 18/02/2008: Still waiting… mind you, I’m no better, I’m transitioning my WoW blog which never really happened back to my main blog location.

For those who are interested, here are the RSS feedlinks for WoW Audiocasts I listen to:

Oh – and for my fellow guildies RDiva, Cyd and the other ladies of the guild… be sure to check out Women of Warcraft

Have you registered your lounge & RFID tagged your friends and family?

In the continuing saga of the MPAA riding roughshod over the general public comes this wonderful article via my friend Trev which covers the latest lobbying of congress by the MPAA.

Dan Glickman want to regulate things before they get too far out of hand and the MPAA loses control like they have with online sharing of copyrighted information. “We have a right to know what’s showing in a theatre.” says Glickman. If passed by congress (the same group of people see the internet as a bunch of “tubes” [MP3]), this would see home theatre equipment manufactured in the future requiring technology to directly inform the MPAA of what was being shown and specific details fo the audience. You’ll need some motion sensors and biometric technology to help them out with this too.

Now, for those of you who are thinking that your setup isn’t flash enough to be defined as a home theater, get this – the MPAA defines a home theatre as:

“… any home with a television larger than 29″ with stereo sound and at least two comfortable chairs, couch, or futon. Anyone with a home theatre would need to pay a $50 registration fee with the MPAA or face fines up to $500,000 per movie shown.”

Glickman (and by extension, the MPAA) doesn’t believe that you should be able to buy a DVD and invite people (including your own family) to watch it as it denies them the revenue they would have otherwise generated. He concedes that since it’s not feasible to expect everyone to have their own copy of a DVD, that the ‘registration fee’ is a “fair compromise”.

Oh – if this has you shaking your head in disgust and vowing never to upgrade your gear to this new ‘enhanced capability’ equipment, the bill also seeks to ensure that existing home theatres be retrofitted with the same technology, unless the owner is willing to take responsibility for directly informing the MPAA and receiving approval before each viewing.


Thank goodness I live in New Zealand and not America and our government won’t be swayed by such ridiculous notions… oh, hang on… bugger.

Crikey… A PC built “specifically for World of Warcraft”

Heh – it must be a sign, just a few minutes after posting my first entry in this blog, my RSS feed catcher popped up this story from Gizmodo.

Widow PC The PC costs US$1495 and it’s main selling feature is a funky network card designed to improved network performance… SERIOUSLY people, your home network is unlikely to be presenting you with much if anything in the way of lag, the problem lies past your sphere of influence and 30 or so hops away across the vast wasteland of routers and switching gear which makes up that magical thing we like to call the interweb.

But still, if you’ve got the money and like the look… purchase away.


Seperating the worlds

Well – I’ve been playing WoW for 9 months now and during that time I’ve written a few posts in my other blog. I’ve covered the long suffering of my wife, the fascinating world of in-game economies, and how fast and vast some of these immersive online communities are growing

Things in-game have taken a turn for the ‘more involved’ and so I felt that it’s time to separate out my and create a dedicated (and themed) blog on Blizzards brilliant World of Warcraft.

Edit 18/02/2008: Hey, look… this hasn’t turned out to be a happening thing, so I’ve moved the old blog content back into Rob the Geek. These things happen…

Some of you will be yawning and thinking ‘yadda yadda yadda, another Warcraft blog’ and you’re right – that’s precisely what this is, you can probably click away to another corner of the web if you were looking for something special as my intentions for this blog are somewhat selfish, I’m planning to use this as a musings point, and to capture some of the interesting things I learn in my in-game and real world research into the World of Warcraft.

First things first, I need to tweak up this theme so it’s not so… ‘Hogit’, it’s a great theme, but personalised for the original author – who’s nicely written blog (in character) you can find here. The theme you can grab off this link at sourceforge.

If you’re going to personalise the template for your use, you will also need to find the Warcraft webmaster files and change the ‘Hogits Story’ logo (logo.gif) to something more reflective of you (or your character(s)). Other things which need changing to personalise the theme are the post-author-*.gif and the sig-*.gif graphics. I intend to do another post on this later once I’ve found the base graphics I need and had a look at the template code.

So anyway, that’s about it for my first post in this blog, I’ll introduce my characters and do some posts around what I’ve found useful in the future.

* Characters
* Talents
* Skilling Up
* Tactics
* Guilds
* Gameplay / Community
* Annoyances (bloody bots!!)
* Mods / Addons
* Rolling your own website

Righto, that’s enough of a top of mind list to write about in future posts. Until next time…