3 ways the Internet can scare the shit out of you

miércoles, 29 de junio de 2011 - Publicado por Manuel en 14:29
If you pay attention to the news at all, specifically in terms of the movie industry, you might think that the movie industry is not going through their best period. Hollywood has become a moneymaking machine, spawning sequels, prequels, and other quels of well-known (and potentially profitable) movies.

And the situation is even worse in the case of horror movies, with about 80% being basically the same movie, except for changing the name of the psychokiller/monster.

I will now show you three ways the Internet can help you to stay awake during those long exam periods, basically by giving you nightmares.

1. Hotel 626 flash game

This is an oldie, but every time I play it, it manages to make me feel uncomfortable. This online game puts you in the place of a hotel guest, who is awoken in the middle of the night by weird noises coming from the corridor.

This online game knows how to create the right atmosphere to make the player feel immersed in the situation. It is only available after 6pm, (when it´s dark and creepy outside), and the game suggests that you to turn the lights off in your house, turn the volume up on the speakers and start playing. You know, the scarier the better. 

You probably will be dead by then

You can play the game here. Webcam is recommended!. 

2. Marble Hornets

It started in 2009. A Youtube user called Jay started posting some videos a friend of his made about a short movie called Marble Hornets. As Jay keeps checking all the tapes, he realized that his friend was not ok, and that weird things happened to him. As Jay keeps uploading new videos, abnormal events take place: people disappearing, creatures chasing not only Jay´s friend, but also Jay himself, all kinds of things that leave you wanting to click next to view the next entry. Here goes the first entry, I strongly suggest that you to view them all...if you dare. Just click here to see Marble hornets´s Youtube channel.

Which leads us to...

3. The slender man

Just watch this.

It´s a documentary about a mithologycal creature called "The slender man". There have been rumours about it for a long time. A man with no face, wearing what seems to be a suit, and having long arms with long claws. It seems that this creature likes to stalk kids and to drain the life out of them.

Where is it?

It´s at a point where it has become well-known, like ghosts. But the cool thing is, it´s just an Internet creation.
Everything started with a post in the Something awful forum, when users were encouraged to create a mythical creature. After one user proposed this horrible creature, the other users got really excited about it, and started to develop a myth around this creepy concept.

That´s all folks, good night.... and sweet dreams!.

4 key points to consider when managing a brand reputation online

lunes, 27 de junio de 2011 - Publicado por Manuel en 1:36
Nowadays, everything that matters seems to come with an online tag attached. Online banking, online threats, online gaming, online videos, and so on. Also in marketing of course. As a take out of the Digital Business Master I´m enrolled right now,  Engaged by my Social Web professor Enrique Dans, I would like to say a few words about how to manage your brand reputation, with a model that I will call, PLEW for example.

Just don´t panic, ok?

Prepare. This is the crucial step, and an step that many companies forget about. Many companies, especially those whose business are not linked at all with the Internet, consider the Internet as a place where they have to be. But before hiring Community managers or paying IT consulting firms millions to promote your brand reputation online, it would be wise to consider if it makes sense for your brand. Are you a small law firm based in a small town? Probably online brand reputation is not the first of your concerns. If you are selling clothes for 15 years old kids in Spain, probably it would be wiser to use Tuenti rather than Facebook as a main Social network channel.

Listen. Imagine a party at your company. You are the boss, so you are known by your employees. Recently, you took some decisions that some of them would like, and some of them don´t. You arrive to the place a few hours after the party started, so everyone there is talking, probably about you. You could arrive and prentend nothing is happening, and say Hi! with a big smile, and how much you love them all. The reaction of course, would be mixed, with both real smiles and fake ones. That is what happens with brands in the online world, with the difference that people don´t need to show fake smiles. A wise advice for both offline and online world. Listen  before talking.

Engage. Once you start to manage your brand online, comes the hardest part. I wont talk too much about how to make online users like your brand, there is plenty of information on the cloud. But a key point is this one. Online PR is similar to offline PR. You contact a few media agencies, newspapers and TV networks, and you let them to spread the news you want to spread, normally with an economic amount involved. Substitute those agents with bloggers and online influencers and you got it. With the difference that most of them wont be interested in "selling their soul" for a few bucks. Better be nice then. You can read a really interesting article here.

Wait. And finally, don´t expect online reputation to yield benefits in a matter of days. It takes time to build a community of engaged users, and it takes time for search engines to organize the information. And you need to take care of both every single day. Do it, and your brand will see its benefits.

Videogames: What awaits us.

lunes, 6 de junio de 2011 - Publicado por Manuel en 1:22
Good news, videogames Geeks! E3 is here, and it´s going to be legend-,  wait for it, dary!. Ok, now that i got your attention, i wanna talk a little about the future of videogames, and how I vision it.

We have reached a point in which videoconsoles innovate, and are benchmarked, in three different areas:

-Graphics, the more real the better. Actual generation of platforms have reached almost state of the art graphics. An example is the famous Shift 2, a PS3 car videogame which is claimed to be "More real than reality". Take a look if you wish.

Impressive, uh?. So I can´t see graphics as the main competitive advantage for the next generation, but a required user specification.

-Games. This is one of the actual drivers for the customers to favor one console rather than other. Proprietary games are specific to one platform, and attractive games are what gamers look for in the end. But nowadays, just a bunch of titles are of this kind, with the vast majority being multi-platform. So, even if this key driver will still be used by platforms to leverage their investments in game development (hardcore gamers like franchises after all), I think this will not be enough.

-Interaction. And this is the final driver I can see. New generations are only starting to change the way we play, or with who we play. From single player, to MMOG, and from a single controller pad, to the Blue ocean strategy of Nintendo Wii, offering new ways the players can interact with the games. 

IMHO, this driver will be the next thing. Im going to list here a few ways that next generation of consoles could use to INNOVATE, with capital letters:

-3D. Probably a must have in the next generation. Being so strongly pushed by Film industry, content providers just hope that everyone adopts this technology for screens as the standard. No matter that the technology is not perfected yet, with some users feeling what is called "3D motion sickness" when watching 3D movies. 

-New haptic devices. As Nintendo Wii showed us, controllers are not the only way to interact. Microsoft Kinect could be the next standard (reducing the lag issues of course). Your body as a controller. Just that.

These two were easy. But I think that these are not breakthrough, so there must be something else. Lets see.

-IMMERZ. Im not pretty sure about this devices, which are capable of  "providing the user with a directional full sensory immersive experience and a heightened emotional, sensory response to whatever entertainment they are enjoying" According to them, of course. Basically, Immerz offers stereo audio speakers, connected to the user´s chest, who will tremble and feel the sounds as if they were real.

-The CAVE. The Cave Automatic Virtual Environment. Basically, consists of a room with screens at every wall, ceiling , and floor, showing 3D images, which change according to where the user in the middle of the room is looking at. 
I have used this technology at the CeDint in the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, and the perception of reality is amazing. In a simulation used to treat people suffering from Fear of heights, we were forced to climb a really big tower, and look down from the above. When I pushed my friend, we reacted as scared as if he was really in the tower.

-Up to this point, by combining the technologies I have been talking about, we would be able of interact naturally with a virtual environment, which would be perceived as real as it could be. The last point to interact, would be of course being able to move, run, or jump. Virtusphere solves this issue. By setting the player in an sphere, the user can move freely without moving from the same point (and hitting the wall, with painful consequences).

The cool thing of these technologies is that they already exist, and it is feasible to combine them all. The problem though, is that the estimated cost of all together would be about 20 million dollars. Which I will pay as long as I have them.

You can find a more technical foresight of the videogame industry in Gamasutra.

Google Places is not Foursquare

jueves, 2 de junio de 2011 - Publicado por Manuel en 1:02
One of the strongest buzzwords in the digital environment is Solomo, Social, location and mobile apps. Well, one of the flagships pushing this trend is Foursquare, the geolocalized social network. For those of you who does not know what Foursquare is about, here is an smart video about it.

No doubt, Google also wanted to be there according to their evil plan to be in every field related with Internet. Google launched Google places for Android as an app, and as a mashup with Google maps for other users. Even if its sold as a similar option to Foursquare, there is a main difference. Google Places is not a social network. This point can be seen when you consider these two points.

In FS, the first thing to do after you sign up is to find your friends. To achieve this, FS kindly ask you to connect with your Facebook, Gmail,Twitter, and Yahoo accounts, and adds to your list those friends already using FS. Of course, after that step it asks you to invite all your friends to FS, saying that "the more friends, the funnier it gets". That process looks pretty similar to the one Facebook follows for new users (and established users btw).In Google Places on the other hand, after signing in, it offers you a map with a search bar.No connection with friends as a must.

One of the things that make FS so popular are the badges, that means, achievements obtained after checking in a concrete place. This leads to a feeling of satisfaction for the user, similar to finishing an stage in a videogame. And of course, those achievements could lead to the user going to a sponsored place instead of to its competitor store. Which is what every business is about, even a fancy one like this.More over, the connection with other applications provide FS users with a way to communicate their recent achievements, bringing more potential users to the network, and therefore to the places FS want them to go.  The personal profile in GP is poor, just with the number of reviews/ ratings you did. FS on the contrary, shows to the people how many badges you have, how many check ins you do per month, and so on. Healthy competition I would say.

So for the moment, GP act more as an aggregator for established review sites, like tripadvisor. Which is nice, but as a user, it´s more relevant an opinion/rating from a friend than how many stars unknown people give to a commerce. What FS did is to move rating business from crowdsourcing (reviews as an average of  all the users) to friendsourcing (reviews by friends).Maybe this is just an entry strategy for GP, to offer something different  FS is not delivering, and once it gets enough users, start offering more relevant, friend related reviews to the users. Will Foursquare survive?.

Apple set to unveil cloud music service

miércoles, 1 de junio de 2011 - Publicado por Manuel en 11:29
Good news, Apple loyal fanboys!. Your beloved leader, CEO Steve Jobs is expected to unveil iCloud Apple´s cloud music service at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference on 6 June.

It is thought iCloud will scan users’ hard drives for tracks and allow them to store their music in the cloud so that it can be accessed even when they are not at the same computer. One could say that this movement is a reaction to Google  launch of Google´s Music, the same concept, but by the doodle company, which is available now, only in the States and with an invitation.

As you may be aware of, Google and Apple have been battling for the past year, to conquer the most promising field in this time of digital convergence we are living in, that is, the smartphone segment. Two companies investing in R&D like crazy, one with an open point of view for innovation, the other  with the opposite, paranoid culture. Both companies deploying the weapons for the final clash, trying to build their ecosystems as if they were webs to choke the enemy.

One Apple to rule them all

People that know me know that I am not precisely an Apple lover. Paying more for a shinny wrapping its not for me. Moreover, I´m of the opinion that an open ecosystem, where many players play with the games you provide them, is a better strategy than just being obsessed with control, and having a word in everything. Especially when time to market and being the first mover can be decisive to gain the consumers love.

But with this, there is an issue that moves the balance in favour of the white apple. Google´s approach for their Google´s Music app, at least in the beginning, is to provide a platform where users can upload their music, to listen to it on the device of their choice. That means, the user has to own physically the music in his hard drive. Probably in his desktop/laptop.

On the other hand,” Apple has secured deals with the four major record labels to run their music on the service”, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Google and Amazon have yet to agree terms with record labels. Some people say that the main succeed of the Ipod, was that users could upload their own music, which then lead to the users to buy the Iphone and discovering the Itunes store, getting more and more inside of the platform, which of course guarantees compatibility among the devices. With this Icloud, Apple launch the definitive move in the battle for music. Listen to whichever kind of music you own, or you bought, in whichever device you have. Maybe even in a Chromebook? .

And what´s for the Music Labels, you may ask?. Well, obviously, this is not a cost for them, with Apple  in charge of or the logistics of the new channel. But it could be an extra revenue. I dont know the details, but I can imagine that labels will get some benefit depending on how many times each song is played in the new service. And the songs in that service have already been bought by the user, but Apple is paying the labels again for upload them in the cloud. So for each song that the labels sold once through Itunes, they are automatically selling it twice, with no cost for them. Apple charges a fee to the user, and the user can listen to the music he/she had already pay for. In one word, Nice!.

“The Hobbit” Films Get Titles and Release Dates

martes, 31 de mayo de 2011 - Publicado por Manuel en 10:55
Good news for the fans of the wizards, rings, and small people! Yesterday, Peter Jackson, director of the masterpiece The Lord of the Rings movies, announced the titles and release dates of the long time announced “The Hobbit” movies. The first one, called “The Hobbit: An unexpected Journey” (as a wink to the book´s first chapter, An unexpected party), to be released in Dec. 14 2012, and the second, called “The Hobbit: There and Back again” (as the book written by the main character Bilbo Baggins), to be released in Dec 13, 2013.

Are you talking to me?

My first reaction when I knew that Peter Jackson convinced MGM to divide the adaptation of the book in two movies I felt just the opposite as when I knew the LOTR books would be adapted in three books. At that time I was excited, willing to see a lengthy adaptation to an epic history, with plenty of room to create a film as much as accurate as the book. On the other hand,one of the reasons The Hobbit is a really good book,  it´s because is an small book, full of action. LOTR, even if an epic book, it´s sometimes too long.

So I started to crunch some data to see how this 320 pages book could be spread in two movies.

As you can see, there is an average of 850 words per minute of filming in the three LOTR movies. The Hobbit has 95k words, so assuming a duration of the new movies of an hour and 40 minutes (100 minutes), these are the results:

It seems that Jackson will need to be “creative” in order to deliver an acceptable movie. Some people say, that there are many things in the Tolkien´s universe that do not form part of the main books, and that those parts could be added as parallel plot lines, exploring the life of Aragorn before LOTR for example (he does not appear in The Hobbit).

As a big fan of LOTR as I am, my opinion is, this is bullshit. There is no way Jackson can make an accurate adaptation of TH in two movies. More over, if LOTR movies had the support and the boost these movies achieved, it was not because of grandma and grandpa going to the theater to check what people is talking about, it was because of the many fans that recognized a great, faithful adaptation made by a big fan of the books.

But of course, Hollywood lives by two words, blockbusters and franchises. So what would be better than a movie with an established base of fans, a sure bet in a world threatened by piracy and in constant change? The answer of course, it´s two movies. But will this strategy work?. According to Box Office Mojo, in the next chart you can read the budget and revenues of every LOTR movies (values in blue are assumptions).

With revenues 10 times as high as their budgets, these movies were great blockbusters. New Line Cinema was satisfied for sure. But Hollywood producers are greedy, and there is nothing they like the most than getting a successful and good movie, and squish it to get as much as money from it, by releasing sequels,prequels, and other equels. If The Return of the King had a budget of 93 million $, each of The Hobbit movies will have a budget of 250 million $. If MGM want to obtain as much as profit, let´s say 10 times, each one of the new movies should get 2500 million $ in revenues. The biggest blockbuster of all times, James Cameron Avatar, got 2700 million $. Even if not impossible, it is a difficult task to achieve.

HBO announced the second season of "A Game of Thrones"

lunes, 30 de mayo de 2011 - Publicado por Manuel en 4:48
In a not surprising move, HBO announced the release of the second season of A song of Ice and Fire series next year, just after the first season premiere.

Yeah, I played Boromir in the LOTR, and he died. Why do you ask that?

A game of thrones is the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire cycle, an epic fantasy saga compared with Tolkien´s LOTR, with every new release being a best seller.

HBO is a US based television network,owned by Time Warner, focus in providing content to an adult audience, from boxing shows, to PG-13 tv series. HBO is most known now for its original series, most of them being received with great success by critic and public. With TV blockbusters from The Sopranos to Rome, HBO created a new format in TV, based in 1-hour dramatic series with explicit content, with higher budgets than its competitors. As an example, as of 2005 ,  the award winning Rome tv show costs were about 8.75 million dollars per episode, with an average of the industry of 4 million in 2005.

HBO moved one step further late in 2010 by announcing the release of a tv show based in a Game of thrones. This movement was, in my opinion, a perfect alignment for the company. First, because these books have already a loyal base of fans, that would be excited to see how their imagined universe became real.Second, because these novels are as explicit as a book can be, and HBO fans really like the image of “we censor nothing” that this channel shows. Third, because those loyal readers and those HBO fans are probably the same people.

Lets talk a little about money. One could say, “hey, but those people who like epic fantasy books and action tv shows, are not the ones downloading illegally movies and stuff?” Well, that is partially true. But Internet users are not yet the main revenue source for HBO.  The core business for HBO its still being a cable TV channel, offered in bundle with other channels as a part of the offer of telecom operators selling entertainment packages with Internet, Cable TV, and landline. Then it comes license sales for other tv channels (generally outside US). After those revenue sources, HBO realized that video on demand, online streaming sales are also important, specially once you have an established channel (HBO GO, a VOD online platform). More over, there even exists an iphone/android app, so smartphone users can watch their favorite tv shows on their devices. And finally, once the tv show is not a novelty, here it comes the DVD/Blue ray sales, collector´s edition and so on.

By looking at the numbers, A Game of thrones has been successful with the tv viewers and it helped it mother company to boost its benefits in Q1 2011. So how to capitalize the production costs (around 4,5 million $ per episode) of a popular product.

Of course, the easiest way is to keep broadcasting it as long as there are people interested in watching it. HBO showed the premiere of AGOT about 4 times the first week, in different time ranges, and in every HBO channel(like HBO latino for example).

And the second way of course, is to keep going with a successful franchise. And that is the reason why, even only after the first episode, HBO started the pre-production of the second season. Hopefully they will continue doing as good as they are doing now.