Innovation @ BBG http://www.innovation-series.com Fri, 20 Nov 2015 18:47:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.6.1 Usability Research aims to create a better Radio Free Asia website http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/11/20/usability-research-aims-to-create-a-better-radio-free-asia-website/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=usability-research-aims-to-create-a-better-radio-free-asia-website http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/11/20/usability-research-aims-to-create-a-better-radio-free-asia-website/#comments Fri, 20 Nov 2015 16:07:16 +0000 Xi Rotmil http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6589

Every time a person has a great experience with a website, a web app, a gadget, or a service, it’s because a creative team made crucial decisions about both design and implementation—decisions based on data about how people interact with a computer interface.

During August, September and October of this year ODDI and Radio Free Asia collaborated on an in depth user experience review of the the RFA desktop and mobile websites.

Radio Free Asia broadcasts domestic news and information of specific interest to its listeners in China, Tibet, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Burma.  All broadcasts are solely in local language(s) and dialects.

Remote testing sets the stage.

ODDI used the CrazyEgg platform to get an overview of user behaviors during the month of August. 15 pages were followed for a total of 150,000 impressions. This allowed us to see where people were clicking, and where they were not. We also got an idea of how many people scroll down the pages and where most people stop. Finally testing allowed us to see where those users are coming from to begin with, and who clicks on what the most!

Remote testing gave us an overview of users interaction with the pages, and where some follow up with in-person testing might be useful.

From there ODDI:

DEVELOPED TEST PLAN

We sat down with the RFA team and agreed on the test objectives, the questions used in the test, and characteristics of the people who will be trying out the design.

CHOSE A TESTING ENVIRONMENT

Radio Free Europe provided an excellent partitioned room. Video and audio was delivered from the testing room to the observer’s room via network connections.

FIND AND SELECT PARTICIPANTS

The best place to perform these kinds of tests would be in the target countries. Since travel and recruitment would be prohibitively expensive, we sought out English as Second Language students at local universities.

Most of our participants did not know anything about the site prior to the test, and we are grateful for their fresh and valuable insights.

We recruited six participants to test the Chinese Web site and six participants to test the Chinese Mobile site: they were screened to be:

·         Native Chinese speakers

·         Very active news seekers when in China – especially those who visited blocked sites

·         Particularly interested in sensitive Chinese domestic news

·         All under 30

We also recruited six participants to test the Vietnamese Web site and six participants to test the Vietnamese Mobile site: they were screened to be:

·         Native Vietnamese speakers

·         Very active news seekers when in Vietnam ­‑ especially those who visited blocked sites

·         Particularly interested in sensitive Vietnamese domestic news

·         All under 30

The final group, while adhering to the screening parameters mentioned were an interesting mix of backgrounds, including students majoring in electrical engineering, environment science, computer science, applied math and information technology, who also displayed a range of feelings and reactions to the website.

PREPARED TEST MATERIALS

In the test materials, we included specific background and warm up questions to ask, prompts for follow-up questions, tasks, as well as closing, debriefing questions that we want to ask each participant and an evaluation survey.

CONDUCTING THE SESSIONS

rev-test1

Each session was videotaped with one camera attached to the phone to record the user’s taps and gestures while a second one was focused on the user’s facial expressions. Observers in a separate room watched the live video feed and took notes.

We used software called Morae for in-house UX testing on tablets and mobile phones. Morae allows us to capture video — with more than one camera angle — and record scoring as we go. Having video of a participant’s hand movements allowed us to do a more accurate and thorough analysis of how they reacted during certain tasks. Also, since it was in-person, we asked follow-up questions immediately after a task to find out why a participant might have been confused about a task.

We also had a team of people from Radio Free Asia, who were observing the tests in a separate room and participated in the test by asking questions through Morae’s chat window at the end of each session.

The tests consisted of a detailed hour-long interview in English with a subject using his or her phone. After a short introduction, the user was asked to perform 9 tasks on the RFA mobile site. These questions and tasks were videotaped and timed (through Morae) to assess the ease with which the user could interact with the mobile site.

Participants were told they would be videotaped and asked to sign a photo release.

After an initial introduction and discussion of web news, each participant was read a set of instructions. The tasks were given to each participant one at a time on separate sheets of paper.  He or she was asked to read each task out loud before attempting to interact with the website. Mobile users were asked to bring their own phones and used them in the test.

The tests were administered in English, but each participant engaged with the website in their native language.

A native speaker in Mandarin or Vietnamese was on hand if the participant had trouble putting his or her views into English. About half the participants took advantage of this option. Some particularly taciturn participants were debriefed in their native language to ensure the test team was getting all of the results and not suffering from a language gap.

Participants were not coached by the moderator. When something did not go well, they were asked to assess the website and offer advice on how the user experience could be improved.

Occasionally at the end of a task the moderator revealed what should have happened, and asked the participant how the website could be improved.

DEBRIEF WITH PARTICIPANTS AND OBSERVERS

rev-survey

At the end of each session, the moderator asked: “How’d that go?” Also, we invited observers from RFA to pass follow-up questions to the moderator or to ask questions themselves. We also prepared an evaluation survey for participants to fill out.

ANALYZE DATA AND WRITE UP FINDINGS

When we looked at those observations after the test, the weight of evidence helped us examine why particular things happened. From that examination, we developed theories about the causes of frustrations and problems. After we generated these theories, RFA team members can later use their expertise to determine how to fix design problems.

OUR FINDINGS AND SUGGESTIONS

The quality of design is an indicator of credibility. 

Our overall suggestion is to refine and redesign the site. Three users mentioned that RFA’s website looked like a blog or Facebook page, and they doubted its trustworthiness for that reason. Our tests show that elements such as layout, consistency, typography, color and style all affect how users perceive a website.

In addition, the RFA design is three years old and needs to be updated. Among the changes that research suggested:

  • Refine typography and visual hierarchy to be easier to read for mobile first, since this is the most challenging device to design for.
  • Add timestamp to news articles.
  • Create a shorter page, heatmaps show 50% of users are only viewing 25% of the current page.
  • Icons and text do not have sufficient touch/clear area for touch screens on smart phones.
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Listen to VOA audio programs over your cellular voice connection with the VOA Mobile Streamer apps http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/07/07/listen-to-voa-audio-programs-over-your-cellular-voice-connection-with-the-voa-mobile-streamer-apps/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=listen-to-voa-audio-programs-over-your-cellular-voice-connection-with-the-voa-mobile-streamer-apps http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/07/07/listen-to-voa-audio-programs-over-your-cellular-voice-connection-with-the-voa-mobile-streamer-apps/#comments Tue, 07 Jul 2015 14:16:59 +0000 Will Sullivan http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6515 The award-winning ODDI Mobile Team is excited to announce a new product launching in July, the VOA Mobile Streamer. This audio-only experience is available for Android and  Apple mobile devices and serves broadcast audio news in more than 30 different languages.

Besides offering hundreds of radio news programs on-demand in more than 30 different languages, the app also offers live 24/7 radio streams of more than a dozen languages. There’s also a bunch of smart features like a low-bandwidth mode that saves on download time and user costs, and deep social media platform integration, but the true killer feature of this app is its simple, unique design that allows you to listen to audio over data *OR* cellular voice connections.

For VOA audiences in emerging markets this is especially valuable since mobile data rates are very high and connections are often poor quality so streaming is not always an easy proposition.

Why are we doing this? What is the unique value of the Mobile Streamer for VOA & its audiences?

  • It allows us to better serve and connect with audiences in low-bandwidth countries using click-to-call cellular/voice minutes to get our audio content, instead of having to stream it over costly data connections in emerging markets

  • It offers a new way to experience VOA audio content on the go through a unique and refreshing design offering a very non-traditional news app experience, especially for younger audiences that might be turned off by the more traditional news approach.

  • It offers a passive, hands-free way to consume VOA’s content in the background while commuting to work or doing chores or other tasks.

  • It helps showcase the depth and breadth of all the thousands of hours of VOA audio programs we produce each week.

  • It allows us to leverage our partner, AudioNow’s, international Interactive Voice Response (IVR) infrastructure, phone numbers and tools to expand our content reach for new audiences.

Try out the VOA Mobile Streamer now on:

The VOA Mobile Streamer will join our fleet of dozens of free, innovative mobile apps for high- and low-tech audiences around the world. Check them all out here!

 

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The illustrated stories of women struggling for human rights http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/07/01/illustrating-women-struggling-human-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=illustrating-women-struggling-human-rights http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/07/01/illustrating-women-struggling-human-rights/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 17:31:32 +0000 Xi Rotmil http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6542 Earlier this year, the Office of Digital Design and Innovation (ODDI) collaborated with Radio Free Asia and created  “It’s not Ok” – a collection of portraits of Asian women caught in the struggle for human rights in their communities, some willingly, others forced by circumstances.

ODDI UX studio head Steve Fuchs and senior designer Brian Williams were invited to illustrate the stories of these women.

“We wanted to create a series of distinctive portraits, using a variety of mediums and techniques. This goal was rooted in both the desire to treat each story as unique as well as the practical limitations of using the available reference photos and videos,” Steve and Brian wrote in the Artist Statement.

To know more about the creative process and details of this project, we interviewed both Steve and Brian.

Why did you use illustrations instead of photos?

Steve: For some women we found an abundance of photos documenting their public struggles, for others we found virtually no visual reference, as they struggled alone.

Also, rather than just having a photo, I think the illustrations can be more engaging.

 

Challenges

Steve: Capturing the essence of a person from a video or few photographs, is a challenging prospect. When the subject of your portrait is a part of a larger narrative, the project becomes even more daunting.

Brian: As Steve mentioned, one challenge was the limitations of what we had to work with. Some of these women are really well-known human rights activists, so they’ve been extensively documented and there are some really great reference photos that we were able to find. But other women are not well known. They really don’t have any photograph or reference. So how do you draw a portrait of someone without knowing what they look like? Or if you do have a photograph of them, it’s such a tiny one that you can’t see their face. That was definitely the case with Jiao Xia. So it was more about illustrating the scene from a story where she was protesting.

jiao_xia

Jiao Xia paid the ultimate sacrifice, divorce, for the love of her husband.

Process

Steve: For this project we used a variety of mediums: pen and ink, watercolor, pastel, scratchboard, pencil, and computer to not only reproduce a likeness, but illustrate an individual story of courage.

IMG_7286

Work in progress.

Brian: we wanted each of the portraits to be different, and unique. So we just kind of pushed each other to come up with new solutions, to find new ways to draw the portrait.

 

How do you and Brian go about drawing a character? Is it a combined effort?

Steve: We looked at each other’s sketches making suggestions, it was very collaborative.

Brian: A lot of times, for illustrations you kind of work in a black box where you don’t get a lot of feed backs. And in this case, because we were both partnering on illustrations, it was really nice to be able to bounce ideas off, to do some sketches.

Steve: We tried to do as many different styles as we could, because each case is different.

After we did these initial sketches, we ran them by the individual language bureaus at RFA, because there are some cultural contexts, and cultural sensitivities that we do not know. For instance, the portrait I did for a Tibetan woman, I had it done in a Tibetan painting style, and turned out it is very offensive. The Tibetan’s feel their culture and art has been monetized and exploited by the Chinese. I toned it down, and took the illustration a different direction.

 

How long did the whole process take?

Steve: We made 12 drawings and it took six weeks in total.

The second edition, which is made for the International Women’s day, is more compressive because of the deadline. It took us three weeks.

 

What’s your favorite piece?

Dechen Pemba makes sure that Tibetan voices not heard inside China can be heard online.

Dechen Pemba makes sure that Tibetan voices not heard inside China can be heard online.

Steve: My favorite is the Tibetan woman Dechen Pemba. She really liked it and used it as her Facebook profile picture. As I said, because of  cultural sensibility, I had to change the original drawing. In the end, because we worked with the RFA Tibetan Service, we got something better.

Gao Yu is a veteran journalist in China who has been repeatedly imprisoned but never silenced.

Gao Yu is a veteran journalist in China who has been repeatedly imprisoned but never silenced.

Brian: I really like the one I did for Gao Yu. On this one, I know I want to do one that is more collage based. Sort of cutting out shapes and then putting them together, I started with the portrait. Because she’s a writer, so I put the keyboard there.

What’s next?

Steve: What we are hoping to do after this is to do something that moves. RFA has a project going forward on human trafficking. We are hoping to do some 30-second animations for that.

Brian: They’ve hired a team of documentary journalists to produce a series of video, and we are trying to take excerpt from the interviews, and produce a series of animations – something that hopefully will help pull people into the story through social media and from there they’ll see the longer documentary.

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Radio Sawa selected as a finalist for the 2015 Appy Awards http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/05/26/radio-sawa-selected-as-a-finalist-for-the-2015-appy-awards/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=radio-sawa-selected-as-a-finalist-for-the-2015-appy-awards http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/05/26/radio-sawa-selected-as-a-finalist-for-the-2015-appy-awards/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 16:36:56 +0000 Will Sullivan http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6522 Sawa ChatRadio Sawa, the all-Arabic streaming music and news application we created with the team from MBN Digital was selected as a finalist in the 2015 Appy Awards for “Radio/Audio Apps” and it’s competing against Disney’s Frozen Karaoke app and HuMX: Human Mixtape app that uses iBeacons to customize audio experiences.

Radio Sawa just launched version 1.1 a couple months ago and is getting close to it’s one-year anniversary since launching last June. The new version added another live stream, so now there’s 8 total, added push notifications, performance improvements and more audio on-demand podcasts.

Radio Sawa was also selected as a finalist for the GSMA Global Mobile Awards earlier in the year for “Best Mobile Music App.”

Download all the BBG’s award-winning mobile apps at: http://apps.bbg.gov

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How Alhurra drives more mobile, desktop, social shares and app installs, with just a small, strategic ‘Push’ http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/05/18/how-alhurra-drives-more-mobile-desktop-social-shares-and-app-installs-with-just-a-small-strategic-push/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-alhurra-drives-more-mobile-desktop-social-shares-and-app-installs-with-just-a-small-strategic-push http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/05/18/how-alhurra-drives-more-mobile-desktop-social-shares-and-app-installs-with-just-a-small-strategic-push/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 14:50:45 +0000 Will Sullivan http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6509 The digital team at Alhurra has found an effective way to easily, free and smartly grow their audience from content they are already producing: Push Notifications.

They sent their first push when Nelson Mandela passed away in December of 2013, and continue to do it at the present time and over time have found that besides driving people to read stories more in the award-winning Alhurra apps, but sending pushes they can generate surges in mobile web, desktop web and social media traffic to stories they chose to push, as well as drive new app installations.

Below is one of the best and unique examples from Alhurra, one of the most digitally-first minded BBG entities, proving a story that did “ok” when it was initially published on the web can explode in popularity 2 days later on the mobile website and social media — from a simple nudge via their mobile app Push Notification.

Alhurra published this story about how ISIS makes its money on August 25th:
http://www.alhurra.com/content/where-isis-get-its-funding-from/256556.html

Two days after publishing it on originally on the web, they sent it out by Push Notification through the Alhurra app and it drove:

  • 112,000 more pageviews on mobile

  • 25,000 more pageviews on desktop

  • There were more than 12,700 social shares for the story on Facebook and Twitter

How did they start engineering these social and mobile web surges? 

1- First, create the audience expectation by being consistent and regularly deliver value with your pushes. The Alhurra web team sends out a Push Notification for a relevant and important news story at a strategic time during the day when the audience is awake and active (Some days they’ll send several Push Notifications to different stories, especially as important news breaks on busier days or as a huge story is updated with new information). The critical part of this is to be consistent and make sure you’re not just pushing every story to push stories. They should be important and interesting stories that deliver value for your audience or they will turn off notifications. Push is a very personal tool, so be careful and mindful of your audience’s needs, interests and time of day.
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2- Alhurra App audience members get the breaking news Push Notification on their device and read the story in the Alhurra application.

3- If the audience members like the story or think others would be interested, they easily share it on their social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, and through email using the Alhurra application.

4- The audience member’s friends and followers then see the story, interact with it and potentially share it too, creating an amplifying effect. Bonus incentive: Also, if audience members open the story on a mobile web browser, they will be prompted to install the Alhurra App, which also helps grow the App audience.

5- This snowballs and helps drive more and more traffic by social media, mobile web sharing and app installs — all originating from Alhurra’s smart and very engaged Push Notification strategy, and also driving new app installs to interested users.

Bonus Alternative Method for Re-Engaging App Users: Another way to get users to re-engage with the application after installing it is promoting the apps Home Screen Widgets, which allow users to get the latest headlines from their preferred service easily, without launching the app. Users can even customize which category sections and how frequently the Home Screen Widget should update. Android is currently live and supports this and in the Umbrella 3.1 version of the apps, we’ll add support for automatically feeding our news into the Apple Notification center widgets for Apple devices, further expanding the reach of the BBG entity’s content.

All of the BBG entities (and anyone building apps) can learn and optimize their workflow for this tool to create a force multiplier of audience growth. Learn more about the BBG mobile products at:
http://apps.bbg.gov

ODDI Mobile Release Manager, Bo Kostro, and Billy Sabatini, Marwan Sadiq and the MBN Digital team helped with the creation of this best practice report. 

 

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ODDI rockstar Scrum Master shares his Agile expertise at GSA DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/05/18/oddi-rockstar-scrum-master-shares-his-agile-expertise-at-gsa-digitalgov-citizen-services-summit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=oddi-rockstar-scrum-master-shares-his-agile-expertise-at-gsa-digitalgov-citizen-services-summit http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/05/18/oddi-rockstar-scrum-master-shares-his-agile-expertise-at-gsa-digitalgov-citizen-services-summit/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 12:45:25 +0000 Will Sullivan http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6489 I’m proud to announce that our own ODDI Scrum Master extraordinaire, Ashok Ramachandran, has been asked to share his expertise at the upcoming and sold-out GSA DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit. Government leaders of all levels — from federal to local municipalities — will be attending to learn more about topics ranging from 3d Printing to Human-Centered Design. Ashok is speaking on May 21 at 12:30 p.m. about “Agile Methods in Opening Government” with Bill Brantley from the Department of Agriculture.

AshokAshok has been in our office for just under two years and has made an exponential impact on the products and services we offer — especially on the mobile team, where he’s helped us manage multiple teams on-shore and off-shore, launching more than a dozen award-winning products from low-tech to high-tech in more than 60 languages, often with multiple products rolling out at the same time. At the same time, he’s also miraculously worked as Scrum Master for multiple other teams with dozens of developers, designers and stakeholders helping ship live products for the BBG marketing team including a new CRM system, BBGDirect.com and digital publishing technology tools working with a few other small federal agencies (The State Department and Department of Defense).

“Ashok is one of the best scrum masters we’ve ever worked with, he has kept the Mobile Team focused and executing on multiple projects at the same time.” Bo Kostro, ODDI Mobile Release Manager said, “He works hard on meeting the deadlines and removing blockers.”

Ashok has been key in the execution of our fleet of mobile products and the team’s #AlwaysBeShipping attitude and culture;  we’re proud to have him making a larger impact sharing his expertise with other government agencies.

The Citizen Services Summit is sold out for in-person attendance, but the there’s still remote attendee seats available here.

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Alhurra and VOA Java apps prove wildly successful growing audience quickly in emerging markets http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/05/07/alhurra-and-voa-java-apps-prove-wildly-successful-growing-a-large-audience-quickly-in-emerging-markets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=alhurra-and-voa-java-apps-prove-wildly-successful-growing-a-large-audience-quickly-in-emerging-markets http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/05/07/alhurra-and-voa-java-apps-prove-wildly-successful-growing-a-large-audience-quickly-in-emerging-markets/#comments Thu, 07 May 2015 18:10:32 +0000 Will Sullivan http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6475 While the mobile and media industry loves to over-hype fleeting technologies like Google Glass and Meerkat, serving the BBG audiences in emerging markets requires that we focus on user experience and building for not just the elite — and that often means building for very old or low-tech devices like Java phones.

Over the past few years, the ODDI Mobile team has launched and evolved the award-winning flagship fleet of mobile and tablet applications available for the most high-end devices on Android and Apple IOS (as well as supporting old versions of the operating systems back to Android OS 2.3 and IOS 5), and this Winter we launched an improved lineup of low-end device products on Symbian and Java phones to round out our technology offering. One thing we didn’t count on when launching the Java apps was the swift adoption and audience growth — in some markets faster than more modern smartphone products.

In Middle East and African markets we’ve seen ‘hockey-stick’ growth surpassing the weekly installation rate of our larger, flagship smartphone apps. For instance, Alhurra for Java phones already more than more than 50,000 downloads across all the app store markets in less than 3 months since we publicly launched them.

VOA’s Java app has also done exceptionally well in Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Iran, Egypt, Pakistan and Nigeria — and we recently received a shout out from the BiNu store for the app’s surge and top rankings in African and Middle East markets. RFE similarly does well in Iran.

Not bad for a very low-tech, text-and-image experience, but that’s the reality of these media environments, mobile networks and what these audiences need.

Try out all the Java mobile apps for the 6 BBG brands for yourself:

Learn more about the awesome ODDI Mobile team’s products at http://apps.bbg.gov/

 

 

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ODDI Mobile team selected to present at Government Mobility Application Fair http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/05/06/oddi-mobile-team-selected-to-present-at-government-mobility-application-fair/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=oddi-mobile-team-selected-to-present-at-government-mobility-application-fair http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/05/06/oddi-mobile-team-selected-to-present-at-government-mobility-application-fair/#comments Wed, 06 May 2015 17:46:56 +0000 Will Sullivan http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6470 The ODDI Mobile team has been selected as one of 10 government agencies to showcase their work at the 2015 ACT-IAC Mobility Application Fair in Washington, DC on Wednesday, May 27th at the Renaissance Downtown.

Mobile Release Manager Bo Kostro shows off the VOA AppMobile Release Manager, Bo Kostro, and Director of Mobile, Will Sullivan, will be showcasing the team’s work along side more than 40 exhibitors and 25 federal agencies to demo their products and digital work. There will also be an event keynote delivered by Greg Godbout of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The official announcement details more of the mission of the ACT-IAC group:

Federal agencies are continuing to embrace the use of not just mobile devices, but wearable technology for mission execution. With the increased use of all things “mobile” in the government, there has been a surge in the development and use of mobile applications in order to enhance operations. The American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council is pleased to announce that its Advanced Mobility Working Group (AMWG) will be hosting the 2nd Annual Mobile Application Fair on Wednesday, May 27 at the Renaissance Washington in Washington DC.

Learn more about the award-winning mobile products from the ODDI Mobile team at: http://apps.bbg.gov

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Meerkat, Periscope and the Gamification of Live Streaming http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/04/27/periscope-meerkat-and-the-gamification-of-live-streaming/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=periscope-meerkat-and-the-gamification-of-live-streaming http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/04/27/periscope-meerkat-and-the-gamification-of-live-streaming/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 17:23:00 +0000 Randy Abramson http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6428 Periscope and Meerkat are barely months old and they have already become the ‘platforms to most likely to replace your TV/browser/mobile stream/favorite YouTube channel.’ Why have these platforms grown so quickly? Because the streams are personal and interactive, but most of all, the entire experience is fun. Live video streaming is nothing new, but pre-Periscope/Meerkat streaming was far from a ‘fun’ experience, neither for the people shooting the live stream (which required a decent amount of configuration and prosumer equipment, at the very least) or for the viewer who passively watched streams with the exception of those that included chat modules that often competed with the stream for your attention. Periscope and Meerkat are easy to use for both the shooter and viewer and the entire experience has addictive game-like qualities for everyone involved. Here are the fun gamification challenges for both the viewer and streamer:

Gamification for the stream shooter:

Can I pack a room?
On Periscope, after a certain number of people join your stream, new viewers get a ‘room full’ message that blocks them from using the chat feature. This is frustrating for the viewer, but it reaffirms that the host can draw a crowd.

Can I keep up with the comment stream?
Watching someone like Jack Smith IV (@JackSmithIV) of the observer.com on Periscope can be exhausting. Users continuously fire questions at him, personal and work related and Jack attempts to answer each one, alternating between brash opinion, keen insight and snarky defense, all while continuously smoking cigarettes.

Can I get keep the hearts flowing?
On Periscope, when users see things that they like, they tap on the screen and hearts float up the side to show their approval.

What’s my score on the Leader Board?
On Meerkat, each broadcaster is assigned a score and the app displays a Leader Board that shows rankings. Time spent on Meerkat and the number of viewers you have impact the score.

leaderboard2
The Meerkat Leader Board – the ultimate in live stream gamification

Can I get all followers to do what I ask them to?
Once you have a loyal fan base, is it possible to get viewers to read an article of yours, follow you on Instagram, share your website URL, etc.?

Can I get more followers by broadcasting?
Ultimately, increasing your number of followers is the most addictive part of Periscope and Meerkat. If you missed out on getting a big following on Twitter, you get another shot with these new platforms.

Can I get my stream featured on the Welcome page?
It’s not clear yet on how Periscope or Meerkat is featuring streams on the screen users see when they launch the apps. There will be a future where getting your stream promoted on the Welcome page of the app will be worth as much as page 1 results in Google.

Gamification for the stream viewers:

Can I get into a room before the chat room is at max capacity?
If there is a celebrity broadcasting on Periscope, you better get there early if you want your question answered!

Can I get my comments answered?
Even if you get into a stream’s chat room, you still need to say something interesting enough for the host to acknowledge you.

Can I get the streamer to do what I ask or show me something?
One of the most popular requests on Periscope is ‘Show me what’s in your fridge?’ Enough said.

Can I make the host stay on longer?
Often the host will say they have to get going, but an interesting question can keep them on the stream.

Can I rattle or stump the host?
This can lead to either hysterical laughter or flat out disgust, depending on the question and temperament of the host. Either way, the questions are embedded in the video for all to see.

But What Does All This Have To Do With Journalism?

Both of these platforms are still young and we’re starting to see various news outlets experiment with the tool. Some broadcasters are doing quick, informal recaps of trending stories and a handful of anchors have set up streams of their broadcasts in real time. There have been some breaking news stories on Periscope, but those broadcasts are competing for eyeballs with the intimate ‘ask me anything’ sessions that Jack Smith IV or billionaire Chris Sacca broadcast on a regular basis. Chris and Jack have mastered the gamification points listed above and audiences keep coming back for more. As a journalist for the Observer, Jack Smith has been keen to interact with his fans on a personal level, but he also makes mention of his digital work on the Observer site, Instagram and other platforms. He says that the Periscope fans have been anxious to consume that content and have been passionate sharers of his work.
Jack Smith
@jacksmithIV has found a regular following on Periscope by broadcasting daily

When you try to cover hard news with Meerkat and Perisocope, you get something that is interactive first, broadcasting quality second. Video is shot in portrait mode only, comments obscure the view of your broadcast and the user is free to float hearts (on Periscope) and unfiltered comments up the side of your video, even during the most downtrodden of events. There are other streaming tools that journalists should explore. StringWire, for example (a NBC owned app), allows for multiple mobile device input, landscape shooting and a mixing console where a producer can control the view of what users see and download clips for editing. StringWire is an incredible piece of broadcasting technology, but the interactive components of Meerkat and Periscope are absent in their early version release. StringWire is more about showing the news. Meerkat and Periscope audiences become part of the news and if they are winning ‘the game,’ the broadcaster might actually let the audience drive the camera views and the broadcast itself.

As a viewer, I’m drawn into Periscope and Meerkat streams that I would normally not seek out through Google search. I can sit shotgun with a parasailor or watch the bustle inside a Swedish restaurant kitchen. Hard news has always competed with whimsy for attention, but the number of cameras on the ground has just increased tremendously. News organizations will have to engage with viewers and build trust and allegiance in a way that they’ve never had to do before. As the young kids say, Game On!

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Alhurra app redesign wins international recognition from Society for News Design http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/03/27/alhurra-app-redesign-wins-international-recognition-from-society-for-news-design/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=alhurra-app-redesign-wins-international-recognition-from-society-for-news-design http://www.innovation-series.com/2015/03/27/alhurra-app-redesign-wins-international-recognition-from-society-for-news-design/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 17:42:38 +0000 Will Sullivan http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=6424 The Alhurra Android and IOS mobile and tablet apps were recently recognized by the Society for News Design’s Best of Digital competition with an Award of Excellence in the “Redesign” category.

The Alhurra app redesign, executed by the ODDI Mobile Team in partnership with MBN Digital, featured revamped branding and an interface featuring larger, bolder images and typography, a new tablet-optimized interface, a live video streaming channel, enhanced push notifications and redesigned user-generated content offering audiences tools for submitting video, photos, audio and text directly to the news organization in breaking news situations.

“This award is the result of an organization filled with amazing content partners, a team of fantastic designers and developers and a QA and support team that executes excellence and focuses on every detail to create a great experience for Alhurra audiences,” said Will Sullivan, Director of Mobile for the BBG. “SND is the big dog in news design and we are so excited for all of our hard work to be recognized in the industry alongside pioneers like NPR and The New York Times.”

“We are extremely proud of this recognition of the SND Awards. We always strive for excellence when it comes to generating content and delivering it to our audience,” stated the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN) President Brian Conniff. MBN manages and operates Alhurra Television.

The Society for News Design (SND) is an international organization for news media professionals and visual communicators who create print, web, mobile publications and products. The Best of Digital Design is an annual competition that rewards skill, innovation and high-quality digital journalism. The competition was launched in 2002 and invites entries from all news sites published anywhere in the world.

  • Download the Alhurra apps and learn more about all the other ODDI mobile products at:
    http://apps.bbg.gov/
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