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Tern TV report from Btween conference 2009

Between 09 tried to strike a good balance of story business issues in the multi media landscape.  It did so well, with an interesting line up of speakers and topics.

However, sometimes it’s hard not to feel like the event is trying too hard to be innovative and ‘digital’ at the expense of users’ experience.  For instance, every session had a Twitter feed on constant display on the big screen behind them – showing everyone’s chat in real time relation to the conference.  The idea was that you had tags that turned your twitter into either a comment or a question for the event –“we have decided not to have Q&A this year because they are boring” said Kat, the conference organiser.  All questions had to be digital….which would have been fine if it wasn’t for the fact that 99% of them weren’t answered.  It was also a huge distraction to have this feed on the background the whole time.

It also incorporated a speed-networking approach to its lunch-hour, which had people forced to spend a minute saying hello to one another.  This actually worked quite well, although the Claxton bursting your ears every 60 seconds and being forced to stop conversation and move on was a little annoying.  I met some contacts this way that I have since had follow up conversations with, which has been good.

It was disappointing that there were not more commissioners of content up on stage.  If there was a criticism of the speakers generally and the tone of the event, it would be that it had a more theatrical than in practice approach.  Also, a lot of the more daring questions were avoided around expectations of commissioners and what is considered to be a failure in the multiplatform world.

All that said, I did leave the event fired-up and with new ideas buzzing in my head.  By far the best sessions were; Marc Earls (Being Human) – getting the whole audience involved and demonstrating how we are naturally pack animals and how our digital consumption mirrors this; Walk The Walk, a preview of the new Purefold concept from Age 8 and Free Scot; and When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, which exposed the digital strategies for UK Film Council, Tate Media and Culture 24.  Matt Costello, a script writer for games, was also inspirational – by far the best person they had in the line up.  He talked about the vital elements for game design and how stories for interactive media should be written.

I had attended Btween in 2007 and felt that the conference had slipped slightly in its quality – it was less varied, and had less take away value to it.  The fact that you could get more or less the same experience by watching online versus the long trip to Liverpool to go in person also makes the whole thing less appealing to me in the future.  I would still recommend it to people exploring the cross collaborative approach to multiplatform content.

Simon Meek, Tern Television. June 2009

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