February 03, 2014

Episode Eight: We Build Worlds

1. We Build Worlds

For anyone hoping that this was going to be an in-depth examination of Weyland-Yutani, I'm sorry to disappoint you. First off, the news that Marvel, the Disney-owned powerhouse movie studio née comics publisher has launched a developer API[1].

Now, I might be sounding a bit breathlessly hyperbolic here, but this feels like a pretty big deal. In reality, it's probably a significantly less big deal than I'm making it out to be, but hear me out: check out the documentation here for entity types[2], specifically the events, stories and characters types.

It's the beginning of an API-addressable description of multiple (because this is comics, natch) fictional universes. Who did what, where, when and to whom. Across what story lines. And while some of the feedback I got on Twitter appeared to be along the lines of "yah boo sucks, there are no authoring tools" that feedback seems to miss the point, to me: this is programmatic access to a universe and you get to build your own authoring tools. You get to shard off (terms of access and licensing notwithstanding) and build alongside, or in, the Marvel universe. 

This reminds me a bit of the BBC Mythology Engine[3] which is another fantastic example of the BBC doing something very hard, in a very correct way, years before anyone else would figure out what to do with it...

[1] http://developer.marvel.com
[2] http://developer.marvel.com/documentation/entity_types
[3] http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/researchanddevelopment/2010/03/the-mythology-engine-represent.shtml

2. The Internet
Which also leads me on to this observation, one that's been bugging at me about the whole state of 'internet' in the UK. One of the reasons why I was interested in moving to the US was a question of scale: what you can achieve, for a fixed amount of investment, in terms of "success on the internet", for certain values of "success on the internet". Experience at Six to Start, especially with the broadcasters we worked with, felt like they rapidly tended toward some sort of zero-sum investment in "the internet" in part because 20th century broadcasters are necessarily constrained by geography. NBC, as a broadcaster of a first-run program like Heroes does not necessarily care that it's creating buzz in Germany. Its market is the US. And so the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV care only about their home broadcasting territory. And the thing about the UK is, to borrow a phrase from Douglas Adams, is that's it's really small. Like, really, really small. There are "only" around 63 million people in the UK. Top broadcast shows typically[1] (warning: reckon alert, citation needed) scrape into the double digits in ratings. For the equivalent amount of investment in the US, you're going to get a multiplier in terms of daily or monthly active users of whatever product, service or entertainment offering you're providing. All this goes to show what knowing your audience is (and why investment in something like GDS makes sense - when you're building something for all of the UK), and why it feels like a lot of national internet "stuff" has missed the mark: they haven't known their users enough.

3. The Day Job
Paper, the new app from Facebook Creative Labs came out today. We've been working closely with the team on the launch for the past few months. Here's a pretty interesting story from Fast Company[1] about their Quartz Composer-based Origami tool, which (from my own eyes) has been a great tool for them to get the gesture feel of an app right.

[1] http://www.fastcodesign.com/3025932/facebook-develops-a-photoshop-for-interaction-design-and-its-free-for-anyone-to-use

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And that's it for today! I have a snotty baby and am recovering from yesterday's Sportsball (yay! The team sportsed the hardest!) so fingers crossed for more tomorrow.

Dan