Having engaged a few people regarding these happening-hangouts, I am encouraged to think about how the actual hangout will occur. However, I do not want to fix on the details since I believe this should form from the process of co-creation once we enter into phase 2. At phase 1, we are simple scouting, conducting a feasibility check, checking out the lay of the land, specing the opportunity space. Thus, what follows are ‘visioning’ experiments, imaginary projections of how the experience of ha-ha may feel to prospective players.
encounter film channel
It’s 2020 and there are ha-ha’s on TV, a kind of eco-political reality-TV show. The most powerful is hosted by Jason Silva, where 10,000,000 participants have a couple of hours to decide what to do with $100 million, every week.
Purdesh doesn’t go for that scale of game-show. She thinks it is fake, and what are the chances that your idea will ever end up getting the votes? Nope, she is happy with playing on the net, through various small-scale specialist piped through Youtube channels. This is the real home of ha-ha’s, not TV. She’s particularly interested in film, and she’s party to a longer term sequence of ha-ha’s in the production of a full-length indy feature film. Each week, everything is being decided, from the script up. The direction of the film can be altered from week to week. Like the script of Lost, she’s been told, but that’s ancient history. Because they are rolling it out over a two months, and they are in week 3, there’s a lot to determine. There are other channels which provide more flexibility in terms of changing directors, actors and virtually every parameter of the film production, but the quality suffers in terms of production, actors and so on. This film, working title ‘Encounter’, has been promised TV airtime; one of the facilitators is a si-fi Channel Commissioner, another is a professional producer, and they are joined by the director or writer or main actor.
Purdesh’s contributions have been noted: not only have her votes ended up in the ‘winning’ results, but one of her ideas regarding a character actually won in week 2. She is effectively responsible for a character, a girl called Reyka, and she has been invited to co-write the script as an ‘advisor’. If that character remains, which means further developing the plot, she will remain engaged. She’s written herself into the script.
There are forty-thousand people playing this ‘Encounter’ ha-ha, distributed through three threads, writers, production, and sets (both real and virtual), which is $400,000 a week. Because she is contributing to the script thread, Purdesh has the opportunity to take out some money, but she thinks the experience is worth more, connecting with ‘professionals’, getting her script-writing skills an airing. It’s a start. There are plenty of people who are contributing without taking any money out, so that most of the money goes into getting the best graphics and sets in the sets thread. After all, success for the production depends on it looking good and not just to the 40,000 regular participants. It’s got to have professional standards for a TV airing.
It’s 2015 and ha-ha’s are as ubiquitous as kick-starter. There are several sites, but the most popular is happening-hangout.com.
Dirk is plays two ha-ha’s a week. A regular tech-orientated ha-ha hosted by Hermione Way from Techfluff.TV. There’s around 120,000 regulars to the show, and they decide what new prototypes to take to production. Dirk really liked the start-up that came second the previous week, a watch-sized phone, and he’s funded it on the slower kick-starter track. Techfluff ha-ha is one of the most popular fast-track channels. Dirk plugs in to the hangout, votes start-ups he likes on a complementary site, a special instance of the stack-overflow system, and watches Hermione Way and her guests talk about the options. There are usually a few prototypes that rise up initially and these end up escaping from the rest, and the comperes draw Dirk’s attention to those which are lost in the shallows of the long-tail distribution. Several times Dirk has switched throughout the hour when a new item appears.
Dirk particularly enjoys watching how a contender shifts from pure voting to when people commit to making it happen. Teams form as players offer their expertise. Because it is all tracked, reputation is everything. Gone are the days when players would say they would code this bit of the app another design the interface, and then nothing would happen. Big let down. With reputation systems tracking player’s contributions, such gaffs weren’t allowed to happen. Dirk himself had contributed to a few start-ups, producing some short music patches on time, and his reputation stats were building gradually. This made him cautious about offering his skills to the more obvious early winners, contributing his skills to those lower down hoping that they get a final rush. Dirk is currently contributing to several start-ups which didn’t make it to the cut but got enough airing to attract his and other’s attention.
The beautiful thing about these ha-ha’s was that you just didn’t know what was going to arise that night. Techfluff-TV had a policy that once a prototype made the cut, the top three four or five main contenders, they weren’t allowed to be entered again. Others ha-ha’s didn’t have this imposition, and though you had the chance to vote and enable your favourite start-up week-in week-out, it got a little political. Which is why Dirk liked Techfluff. It was light enough and fun enough.
The other ha-ha Dirk participated in was a local one he was heading up himself. He hosted it most weeks and brought in guest facilitators. They had a regular viewing of around 200 players. So they were making weekly decisions for around $2000. It was a local network, mostly his school friends, but there was a mix with friends, students, parents even. They had upgraded a local community centre, put new tablets at the local primary school, but most of the winners involved organising some awesome parties. It was becoming so regular, it was starting to get boring, which is why Dirk was inviting this guy Girvin from the coast on the show this evening. Girvin was a player in a local group in his home town, and he had been funded to come to the big city and drum up interested in a big party, more like a festival.
Dirk didn’t really care where the money went. A lot of the suggestions didn’t involve much money, and he’d roll it over to the following week. He was never very interested in where his $10 went, even though it was all transparent. As a host of his own ha-ha, he realised what a hassle it was to redirect the money to those who needed it to fulfil the chosen activity. It was a head-ache deciding who should get what when the activity was chosen. He’d like to switch to the other mode of money-flow which didn’t centralise with him, where players simply directed their entrance fee directly to those who made a claim for it. But his friends were lazy bastards and they didn’t want the hassle. Looked like other ha-ha’s managed it, and most of them were older. They could deal with the higher level of trust and the responsibility to ensure the money got to the right people. It was just a higher level of granularity of respect, something which Dirk wasn’t interested in himself.
2013, and ha-ha are being trialled for a few weeks. If they don’t hit 1,000 regular players, whether in one ha-ha or across multiple ha-ha on the happening-hangout.com site, the experiment would be over.
Annamie was asked to host a ha-ha with her network. She put out the invitation to her friends and colleagues. The challenge was simple: $10 and one hour to make a decision about what they could do collectively with $1000. A friend was interested in the process and agreed to guarantee the first show of $1000; regardless of how many people turned up, the amount to be decided about was capped at $1k. No pressure for Annemie. If people didn’t pay their ticket, it didn’t matter, so she felt relieved that she wasn’t ‘selling’ anything to her network.
The people who wanted to take part, booked a ticket, and they were informed when the happening-hangout was going to take place, and their requirement to have a quora.com membership. Most players turned up 5 to 10 minutes early, though the hangout was open 30 mins before it began. Various technical hitches were overcome before Annamie, Stephan and David were engaging on the hangout, and it was broadcast live on air. They would splice the youtube recording with views of the quorum site for viewers who wanted to watch the show afterwards.
During the show itself, the three facilitators were kept on their toes by the various suggestions offered by the players. At first the contributions were rather slow, but Annamie suggested some alternatives and Stephan himself wrote up his idea which got a lot of traction. Half-way through a suggestion triggered off a flurry of activity and the facilitators had a hard time simply reading through the offerings. It was like a chain-reaction, and though it flustered Annamie, David was laughing. It didn’t matter what they thought, since the system would take care of itself.
They had three main contenders towards the end of the hour, and the tables were turned as David pleaded with everyone to vote only for one of them. The true power of the system was that they reached consensus. They could always try another activity the following week. What was important was that they fully realised their power as a collective, aligning to one target. This wasn’t politics. He didn’t want anybody to feel that they were ‘losers’ because they had just been pipped by a few votes. It required self-discipline. The vote swung suddenly in the last minute when Stephan made a startlingly simple observation about one of the activities, how one naturally led to the other.
They money from ticket-sales, $860 was put forward to the next ha-ha which was to be hosted by another facilitator and populated by another network. There was an open invitation to the Purplebeach participants; how many of them would return for the following week’s ha-ha? A decision was made to stick to the ‘gift-it-forwards’ system initiated by Annamie’s friend: ticket-sales paid for the following event, not this one. Thus, it was up to the participants to invite new players in order to increase the amount they would play for in the following week, thus taking the edge off the necessity to invite people for this coming ha-ha. It felt healthier.
provisional mock-up site
This is what the mock-up looks like. The real one enables participants to host their own ha-ha’s, as demonstrated by the above ‘visioning’ examples. We have a open-hangouts planned for each Monday through August, starting on Monday the 5th at 7pm BST.