Apple Masters
Dana kicked off Friday morning to sing the praises of the AppleMasters program, of which he is a member. Various people, from Muhammad Ali to Lauren Bacall meet as part of it. He explained how that helped him get some of the speakers and access to wonderful stuff. The opening speakers for Friday and Saturday, Douglas Adams and Howard Bingham, came courtesy of that program.

Douglas Adams
The first speaker was Douglas Adams, the author of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and other books. I have heard him speak before and knew he was a good speaker. He was Master of Ceremony of the Software Publishers Association award ceremony many years ago when I got my first Codie award for my Demo program, so I have a special place in my heart for him.

Douglas Adams
Douglas Adams
He spoke without visuals in the middle of the stage where there are no lights (letting him see the audience), constantly moving. This made taking pictures without flash difficult. (I try to take pictures without flash so I don't break the mood with my picture taking and to get the feel of the light we saw. Since I took well over 1000 pictures during the festival the flash would be annoying.)

A wider view
The whole stage
Since he was a special speaker, and many of you readers know of him, and he had things to say that others referred to frequently, I have a detailed writeup of my notes about his speech. (Talking to other attendees, I realized that they took more notes during his speech, too.)

You can watch a streaming RealVideo clip of him starting the speech, but it's less than a minute long since my video camera battery ran out...

He spoke about the evolution of interpersonal communications from one with a lot of feedback (you can ask the storyteller a question) to one where you can't (you couldn't ask Walter Cronkite what he meant, because that's the way it is with radio and TV) back to communication with feedback with the Internet. As we go along, he told us to make the most of the limitations of the media in which we work.

In the midst of his talk my cell phone went off again. This time I had forgotten to set it on "Silent", so it made some noise. Flustered, I answered "yes..." It was a call from home: "Power just went out, just to let you know." Well, I guess we didn't avoid the hurricane completely. The winds kept up for a day after the eye passed Boston and tree limbs continued to fall. (It came back on a couple of hours later, I learned at lunch.) From Myst to the real world.

(For another person's view of this morning, watch Shelley McIntyre's slideshow. RealPlayer G2 required.)
(To read some of Douglas Adams' jokes, read the detailed writeup of his talk.)

Carolyn May  
The second speaker Friday was Carolyn May, a producer of enhanced digital TV and Internet projects. She talked about a project she worked on with Intel Corporation and PBS. The task was to create a digital TV companion to Ken Burns' documentary about the architect Frank Lloyd Wright (PBS has a web site dedicated to the movie but not the DTV project). This was a research project, and money was not a constraint. The purpose was to see what could be done and to stimulate people's imagination. It was broadcast for download to special set-top boxes along with the documentary, so only about 100 people, outside of the funders, actually got to see it. We, though, got to see a demo.

Carolyn May at a computer screen
Carolyn May showing us the demo
I missed the intro to her talk and walked in as she started the demo. It is put together like the best of the educational CDROMs, combining navigation, images, film, and voice-over stories. While this was done in a new media, they tried to link the old to the new. For example, Frank Lloyd Wright's grandson did the narration ("My grandfather would always..."). The technology's job was to serve the content and ideas. Compared to the movie broadcast on TV it had enhanced content -- you could go deeper to learn more about something that interested you.

Interview with Mike Wallace
Video clip of interview, with thumbnails in the bottom right for more
They used IPIX walkthroughs to let you view one of his buildings then click on a thumbnail of a part of it to hear a small presentation about that aspect of the building.

Description of one building
Their experience was that lots of viewers would watch the documentary through and then explore the "information space" provided by the DTV enhanced material. "Beauty then Intellect" I believe she said.

One thing that made this so wonderful was all the material brought together in one, coordinated place. This was no mean feat. There were immense intellectual property rights problems. She worked 8 months, 14 hour days, much of it to get the material and enough rights to do the test. (The actual production was about 12 weeks, and cost $350,000 she said.) They solved some problems by not making it generally available on the Web -- many rights contracts only last 3 years. A copy of the project is in the Smithsonian as an example of early enhanced TV, but only viewable on a kiosk of some sort.

The audience reacted very strongly to this project. They loved the mixture of lots of stories presented as short movies, together with the navigation and the simple, beautiful design of the screens. They wanted all stories to be told this way. They also mourned the fact that they and the rest of the world won't be able to get their hands on the results of this work (for intellectual property reasons).

I was struck by their success (looking like the great stuff from Corbis in the CDROM world) and how regular people could use tools like Trellix Web and RealSlideshow to craft web sites that would follow in this project's footsteps.

Melissa Joulwan
Organic Online's senior associate creative director, Melissa Joulwan, showed how her company approaches the building of web sites for clients. What she stressed about her company is that the editorial department is involved from the first. They develop fictional characters and scenarios to guide them in their design (much as you are supposed to for any product design as I understand it).

Melissa Joulwan
Melissa Joulwan
Her points: "Organic Storytelling":

   User Profiles: Characters based on research, one or two of which serve as the "muse" for the site.
   Conceptual Models: The theme, based on business objectives and target audience, guides development.
   User Scenarios: The "plot", exploring the muse's experiences using the existing/proposed web site, highlighting strengths and weaknesses.

She quoted Disney Imagineering:

When a myth or story is created, it may present itself in the form of a basic outline, oral or written story, or even a poem. Because it is primarily a design aid -- an inside story told only within our halls -- the mythology may never be known to park guests. But it is there to support the structure of the story, just as steel, wood, and concrete support its physical structure.

Now that we knew what they said they did, she showed a proposal that they did for Blockbuster Video.

The characters were two members of the Connelly family, the young son and the mother:

Karen Connelly, age 39, uses...
Family member acting as their muse
Then she walked us through some scenarios as the son looked for an action movie:

Melissa pointing to something on the screen
Melissa showing their prototype
It was very compelling. They got the account. Audience members then asked questions. "How big was the home page, how long did it take to download? How did you hook up the database?" Her answer: This was just a demo, done in 4 days. In a demo, who cares if you can really implement it... I asked about usability testing. She said they use it, both usability testing and focus groups (they are different). However, when budgets are set, usability is one of the first to go (a mistake, I feel).

Heath Row
The morning ended with a presentation by Heath Row, associate editor of Fast Company, the magazine. This was Heath's first time speaking at a conference, and he was nervous. (He does, though, speak in groups a lot -- that's part of his job as you'll learn.) His magazine likes to run stories about corporations, and also about storytelling within corporations for beefing up presentations. (He has a web page with lots of links to articles about adding storytelling to your work.) An article in the magazine about last year's Digital Storytelling Festival was responsible for lots of the attendees finding out about it and attending this year.

Heath Row
Heath Row
Heath had no visuals. He just stood in the dark stage and spoke (I lightened the picture above digitally -- something I haven't taken the time to do with most of the other speakers who ventured into the more lit podium.) He opened with taking our picture (like I often do). You can see the results on his web site in the page about his speech, the September 17th entry (where he also has a link to the outline of what he originally planned to talk about).

Heath and camera
Heath and camera
He said he was interested in the collaborative narrative development.

Rather than just sell us on storytelling, he told lots of stories about companies using stories. He told stories about his company and how he got to do what he does (you just do it and ask questions later). He told the story of a company that literally buried its relationship with a bank that turned it down for a loan. The CEO put all the papers and giveaways from the bank in a coffin and buried it in his backyard while everybody watched. Heath talked about being careful about making the stories true -- in this case, when asked why they didn't do a burial at sea, the CEO's response was "we might have to dig it back up in the future".

He spent a lot of time talking about his main job: Running Fast Company's "Company of Friends" program. This is a network of about 20,000 readers of the magazine who meet on-line and in person. He talked about how people can group themselves around only certain magazines. You don't say "Oh, you read Time Magazine, too? Let's talk!", but you would with his magazine. It's a different type of magazine. It talks about strategies for dealing with being in a company. It lists people's email addresses along with their names, encouraging interaction with their readers and subjects.

The Company of Friends ("CoF") is organized geographically, by interests and other ways. But the geographical organization is the most important because, he feels, local grouping is important to allow easy face to face meetings. This is not a religiously cyberspace-only endeavor. It wants to work the best way possible to be a success. He finds that the on-line tools are driving people to face to face meetings. They have "cells" that meet. He mentioned Roger Schank's book "Tell Me a Story: Narrative and Intelligence". My notes say "Lots of war stories" -- he told us about this company and that.

Heath is starting on a 3500 mile road show to meet with members of CoF in the Southern United States. He'll be driving in a donated Saab "wrapped" like a bus in their logo. He'll be staying (during the week) at CoF member's houses -- part of his "punk rock band experience to keep expenses low." And he's telling the story of his road show every day on his road show web site. He asked for someone who took notes, so he could have them for his report (since he wasn't taking notes on his own talk). Up shot my hand (big mistake). I got chosen, so I now I forced myself to write a lot and have him looking here to see if I told his story correctly. We'll see when he reads it.

He opened the floor to questions: What are they like? The most loyal readers but also most critical. What's the story behind the name (CoF)? It's the working title. About CoF: Last longer than the magazine -- relationships last, they are longer lasting than all sorts of other things.

He talked about his future challenge with CoF which is to tie it tighter to the magazine.

Time to break for lunch. This time we had pizza. I had one of the already made slices: artichoke and garlic with a salad bar on the side. Yum!

During lunch each day, GoGaGa Radio, an Internet radio station, broadcast live from a room just behind the theater where we met:

An interview with equipment showing
An interview
They interviewed various participants. Notice the different affect that Don Wrege has while he's working vs. partying Wednesday night:

Stern look  Shelley and Don
Don working and playing

Next: Friday afternoon >