Official Announcement: SCVNGR trek is done!

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Yep, it’s finally finished! I put in lots of work and I’m thrilled with the outcome. I’m still interested in any feedback that users would like to share, but I think that it will be a fun experience for most people.

Even though the trek itself may seem simple and fun to do, there were a lot of decisions that went into planning it.

Why SCVNGR?

Mobile technology and location-based gaming is growing in popularity and I don’t think it’s going away for a long time. I wanted to see how I could use that technology to help get people outside and to an organization I care about (and work for), the Urban Ecology Center.

There are plenty of other location-based mobile games for smart phones out there, but when I learned about SCVNGR I knew it was exactly what I was looking for. SCVNGR allows you to string together a series of “challenges” into a trek. Challenges must be completed in a specific location and can include responding to an open-ended question, answering a question with a specific right answer, taking a photo, or scanning a QR code.

Although many people have smart phones these days, one of the really fantastic things about SCVNGR treks is that they can be played via text messages. So, those of us with “dumb phones” don’t feel excluded!

In addition to being exactly what I was looking for, a SCVNGR staff member was extremely helpful in helping me get set up. After learning that Marquette has a SCVNGR trek for it’s campus, I got in touch with the guy I thought was responsible for setting it up, Tim Cigelske (@TeecycleTim). Turns out that a guy named Jeff Kirchick (@jeffreykirchick), the Universities and Independent Schools Specialist at SCVNGR set it up. Tim got me in touch with Jeff (Thanks, Tim!), who was happy to hear about my interest in SCVNGR. He also granted me capacity to create a trek, something you normally have to pay for (Thanks, Jeff!), and had a lot of helpful tips and pointers for trek creation.

With that, I began building the “Explore Riverside Park” trek.

Trek Overview

This trek is meant to be a fun way for visitors to experience the Urban Ecology Center through a mobile gaming medium. I had three main goals in mind for the trek:

  • To help people discover some of the unique, fun and educational features of the Urban Ecology Center.
  • To teach users something about the organization and about nature in a fun way.
  • To get people out into Riverside Park and help them to gain some appreciation for it.

The Challenges of creating “Challenges”

There are tons of things to do at the Urban Ecology Center and many features of the building that are worth pointing out to people, but I really wanted to focus on some of the main highlights and leave a couple of things for people to wonder about and ask one of the knowledgeable employees or volunteers. A little human interaction never hurt anyone!

I also found it difficult to point out some features in a way that makes sense in the SCVNGR challenge format. For example, the flooring on the second story of the building was salvaged from a local school gymnasium and is over 100 years old. Pretty cool, right? But how would I point that out in a challenge? I couldn’t figure it out.

So, I narrowed my many options down to 6, and I think they’re pretty good! There are three photo challenges, two specific text response questions, and one QR code challenge. Even though I think the QR code scanning is fantastic, I limited myself to only using one, because those challenges are not available to people playing via text message.

Overall, I think it’s a fun balance of building exploration, education, and nature exploration. I created this fun promo video so you can see for yourself:

In addition to video, I created a prezi to give an overview of SCVNGR, the Urban Ecology Center, why I created the trek and to show some screen shots of the SCVNGR app on my iPod touch. Feel free to take a look at it:

And here are some of the screen shots of the app:

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So, go, play the trek! Have fun! Then tell me about it!

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SCVNGR!

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I just saw Gamer Revolution, a documentary that highlights the disturbing fact that lots of people spend more time in fantasy gaming wolds than they do in the real world.

That’s why I’m so excited about mobile, location-based games like SCVNGR! It’s still a game, there are points and everything, but you have to get out of your house and explore your city to play it. With SCVNGR, you earn points by doing things in real life and engaging with the real world.

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Personal Branding

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A sample of the old branding that needs to be updated. Eew..

As a graphic designer, I’ve studied branding and even created lots of branding material. Logos, business cards, letterhead, brochures and other collateral materials to match a brand. As a visual communication student, I even created all of those materials for my own personal brand. But, extending that style to digital media is tougher than expected (especially because it is in dire need of an upgrade!).

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Socializing Advertising

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The Social Network is set to hit the theaters this Friday and it has already cast the spotlight on Facebook. While most media are focused on whether or not the film is factually based, which is a pretty fascinating debate (see this article in New York Magazine for more info), it was refreshing to read an article in this week’s Bloomberg Businessweek about how Facebook is changing they way advertising is done on the internet.

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“Social media marks the end of an era for companies. An era when controlling the message was even an option.” – Bruce Turkel

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At this point, we all know that social media is allowing people to publicly express, well… anything they want. Businesses are still in the process of adapting to this “new” social arena in which customers influence each other more than marketing messages do. In the beginning, companies worried about the ability of unsatisfied customers to voice their opinions in such a public manner. This was especially true after musician Dave Carrol’s United Breaks Guitars youtube video went viral with over 9,000,000 views. (See the story on CBS here)

But some companies are starting to “get” how to use social media. AT&T recently sent out an email to 10 million of it’s customers announcing some new upgrades and asking for comments on their facebook wall. They must have known that they would receive negative feedback, but they seem to be embracing it. According to Marketplace, they have a team of 24 people dedicated to responding to these facebook posts. Welcoming the rage of unsatisfied customers is a huge shift in the way a company can use social media. And a brilliant one! Marketing analyst, Bruce Turkel sums it up nicely:

If you don’t provide them with the wall, in this case, or any other opportunity, do you think therefore they’re going to be quiet?! People are going to get their message out whether they spray paint it on a wall — a real wall — or they type it onto a Facebook wall.

So, kudos to AT&T for using social media to encourage customers to express their dissatisfaction (or to praise the company, if they wish) and for providing a forum that the company can respond to. It is wise to acknowledge that unhappy customers will make their feelings known. This way AT&T has a chance to address the issues of their customers and creates the perception that they are listening to their concerns. If nothing else, perhaps it will prevent people from bashing AT&T on other sites. Overall, inviting and responding to criticism via social media seems to have been a smart move.

You can see the evidence of AT&T’s facebook comment response team working hard here: AT&T on Facebook

Be sure to read or listen to the Marketplace Morning Report story A lesson in AT&T’s Facebook approach.

Emerging Media Mind Map

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This mind map represents my thinking about emerging media so far.

http://www.mindmeister.com/61373136/emerging-media
Note: I’ve tried many times to embed the mind map, but can’t seem to get it to work. For now, please follow the link above. I’ll keep trying to get the embed code to work.

I’ll be updating the mind map as I continue to learn about the many forms of emerging media that exist and as new forms come to my attention.