Nov 242016
 

This morning I’m at the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group‘s Digital Solutions for Tourism Conference 2016. Why am I along? Well EDINA has been doing some really interesting cultural heritage projects for years, particularly Curious Edinburgh – history of science tours app and our citizen science apps for COBWEBFieldTrip Open which are used by visitors to locations, not just residents. And of course services like Statistical Accounts of Scotland which have loads of interest from tourists and visitors to Scotand. We are also looking at new mobile, geospatial, and creative projects so this seems like a great chance to hear what else is going on around tourism and tech in Edinburgh.

Introduction James McVeigh, Head of Marketing and Innovation, Festivals Edinburgh

Welcome to our sixth Digital Solutions for Tourism Conference. In those last six years a huge amount has changed, and our programme reflects that, and will highlight much of the work in Edinburgh, but also picking up what is taking place in the wider world, and rolling out to the wider world.

So, we are in Edinburgh. The home of the world’s first commercially available mobile app – in 1999. And did you also know that Edinburgh is home to Europe’s largest tech incubator? Of course you do!

Welcome Robin Worsnop, Rabbie’s Travel, Chair, ETAG

We’ve been running these for six years, and it’s a headline event in the programme we run across the city. In the past six years we’ve seen technology move from business add on to fundamental to what we do – for efficiency, for reach, for increased revenue, and for disruption. Reflecting that change this event has grown in scope and popularity. In the last six years we’ve had about three and a half thousand people at these events. And we are always looking for new ideas for what you want to see here in future.

We are at the heart of the tech industry here too, with Codebase mentioned already, Sky Scanner, and the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh all of which attracts people to the city. As a city we have free wifi around key cultural venues, on the buses, etc. It is more and more ubiquitous for our tourists to have access to free wifi. And technology is becoming more and more about how those visitors enhance their visit and experience of the city.

So, we have lots of fantastic speakers today, and I hope that you enjoy them and you take back lots of ideas and inspiration to take back to your businesses.

What is new in digital and what are the opportunities for tourism Brian Corcoran, Director, Turing Festival

There’s some big news for the tech scene in Edinburgh today: SkyScanner have been brought by a Chinese company for 1.5bn. And FanDual just merged with its biggest rival last week. So huge things are happening.

So, I thought today technology trends and bigger trends – macro trends – might be useful today. So I’ll be looking at this through the lens of the companies shaping the world.

Before I do that, a bit about me, I have a background in marketing and especially digital marketing. And I am director of the Turing Festival – the biggest technology festival in Scotland which takes place every August.

So… There are really two drivers of technology… (1) tech companies and (2) users. I’m going to focus on the tech companies primarily.

The big tech companies right now include: Uber, disrupting the transport space; Netflix – for streaming and content commissioning; Tesla – dirupting transport and energy usage; Buzzfeed – influential with huge readership; Spotify – changing music and music payments; banking… No-one has yet dirupted banking but they will soon… Maybe just parts of banking… we shall see.

And no-one is influencing us more than the big five. Apple, mainly through the iPhone. I’ve been awaiting a new MacBook for five years… Apple are moving computing PCs for top end/power users, but also saying most users are not content producers, they are passive users – they want/expect us to move to iPads. It’s a mobile device (running iOS) and a real shift. iPhone 7 got coverage for headphones etc. but cameras didn’t get much discussion, but it is basically set up for augmented reality with two cameras. Air Pods – the cable-less headphones – is essentially a new wearable, like/after the iWatch. And we are also seeing Siri opening up.

Over at Google… Since Google’s inception the core has been search and the Google search index and ranking. And they are changing it for the first time ever really… And building a new one… They are building a Mobile-only search index. They aren’t just building that they are prioritising it. Mobile is really the big tech trend. And in line with that we have their Pixel phone – a phone they are manufacturing themselves… That’s getting them back into wearables after their Google Glass misstep. And Google Assistant is another part of the Pixel phone – a Siri competitor… Another part of us interacting with phones, devices, data, etc. in a new way.

Microsoft is one of the big five that some thing shouldn’t be there… They have made some missteps… They missed the internet. They missed – and have written off phones (and Nokia). But they have moved to Surface – another mobile device. They have abandoned Windows and moved to Microsoft 365. They brought LinkedIn for £26bn (in cash!). One way this could effect us… LinkedIn has all this amazing data… But it is terrible at monetising it. That will surely change. And then we have HoloLens – which means we may eventually have some mixed reality actually happening.

Next in the Big Five is Amazon. Some very interesting things there… We have Alexa – the digital assistant service here. They have, as a device, Echo – essentially a speaker and listening device for your home/hotel etc. Amazon will be in your home listening to you all the time… I’m not going to get there! And we have Amazon Prime… And also Prime Instant Video. Amazon moving into television. Netflix and Amazon compete with each other, but more with traditional TV. And moving from Ad income to subscriptions. Interesting to think where TV ad spend will go – it’s about half of all ad spend.

And Facebook. They are at ad saturation risk, and pushing towards video ads. With that in mind they may also become defacto TV platform. Do they have new editorial responsibility? With Fake News etc. are they a tech company? Are they a media company? At the same time they are caving completely to Chinese state surveillance requests. And Facebook are trying to diversify their ecosystem so they continue to outlast their competitors – with Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, etc.

So, that’s a quick look at tech companies and what they are pushing towards. For us, as users the big moves have been towards messaging – Line, Wiichat, Messaging, WhatsApp, etc. These are huge and there has been a big move towards messaging. And that’s important if we are trying to reach the fabled millennials as our audience.

And then we have Snapchat. It’s really impenetrable for those under 30. They have 150 Daily Active Users, they have 1 bn snaps daily, 10bn videos daily. They are the biggest competitor to Facebook, to ad revenue. They have also gone for wearables – in a cheeky cool upstart way.

So, we see 10 emergent patterns:

  1. Mobile is now *the* dominant consumer technology, eclipsing PCs. (Apple makes more from the iPhone than all their other products combined, it is the most successful single product in history).
  2. Voice is becoming in an increasingly important UI. (And interesting how answers there connect to advertising).
  3. Wearables bring tech into ever-closer physical and psychological proximity to us. It’s now on our wrist, or face… Maybe soon it will be inside you…
  4. IoT is getting closer, driven by the intersection of mobile, wearables, APIs and voice UI. Particularly seeing this in smart home tech – switching the heat on away from home is real (and important – it’s -3 today), but we may get to that promised fridge that re-orders…
  5. Bricks and mortar retail is under threat, and although we have some fulfillment challenges, they will be fixed.
  6. Messaging marks generational shift in communification preferences – asynchronous prferred
  7. AR and VR will soon be commonplace in entertainment – other use cases will follow… But things can take time. Apple watch went from unclear use case to clear health, sports, etc. use case.
  8. Visual cmmunications and replacing textural ones for millenials: Snapchat defines that.
  9. Media is increasingly in the hands of tech companies – TV ads will be disrupted (Netflix etc.)
  10. TV and ad revenue will move to Facebook, Snapchat etc.

What does this all mean?

Mobile is crucial:

  • Internet marketing in tourism now must be mobile-centric
  • Ignore Google mobile index at your peril
  • Local SEO is increasing in importance – that’s a big opportunity for small operators to get ahead.
  • Booking and payments must be designed for mobile – a hotel saying “please call us”, well Millennials will just say no.

It’s unclear where new opportunities will be, but they are coming. In Wearables we see things like twoee – wearable watches as key/bar tab etc. But we are moving to a more seamless place.

Augmented reality is enabling a whole new set of richer, previously unavailable interactive experiences. Pokemon Go has opened the door to location-based AR games. That means previously unexciting places can be made more engaging.

Connectivity though, that is also a threat. The more mobile and wearables become conduits to cloud services and IoT, the more the demand for free, flawless internet connectivity will grow.

Channels? Well we’ve always needed to go where the market it. It’s easier to identify where they are now… But we need to adapt to customers behaviours and habits, and their preferences.

Moore’s law: overall processing power for computers will double every two year (Gordon Moore, INTEL, 1965)… And I wonder if that may also be true for us too.

Shine the Light – Digital Sector

Each of these speakers have just five minutes…

Joshua Ryan-Saha, Skills Lead, The Data Lab – data for tourism

I am Skills Lead at The Data Lab, and I was previously looking at Smart Homes at Nesta. The Data Lab works to find ways that data can benefit business, can benefit Scotland, can benefit your work. So, what can data do for your organisation?

Well, personalised experiences… That means you could use shopping habits to predict, say, a hotel visitors preferences for snacks or cocktails etc. The best use I’ve seen of that is in a museum using heart rate monitors to track experience, and areas of high interest. And as an exhibitor you can use phone data to see how visitors move around, what do they see, etc.

You can also use data in successful marketing – Tripadvisor data being a big example here.

You can also use data in efficient operations – using data to ensure things are streamlined. Things like automatic ordering – my dentist did this.

What can data do for Tourism in Scotland? Well we did some work with Glasgow using SkyScanner data, footfall data, etc. to predict hotel occupancy rates and with machine learning and further data that has become quite accurate over time. And as you start to predict those patterns we can work towards seamless experience. At the moment our masters students are running a competition around business data and tourism – talk to me to be involved as I think a hack in that space would be excellent.

What can data lab do for you? Well we fund work – around £70k per project, also smaller funds. We do skills programmes, masters and Phd students. And we have expertise – data scientists who can come in and work with you to sort your organisation a bit. If you want to find out more, come and talk to me!

Brian Smillie, Beezer – app creation made affordable and easy

1 in 5 people own a smart phone, desktop is a secondary touchpoint. The time people spend using mobile app has increased 21% since last year. There are 1 bn websites, only 2 million apps. Why are business embracing mobile apps? Well speed and convenience are key – an app enables 1 click access. Users expect that. And they can also reduce staff time on transations, etc. It allows building connection, build loyalty… Wouldn’t it be great to be able to access that. But the cost can be £10k or more per single app. When I was running a digital agency in Australia I heard the same thing over and over again – that they had spent a small fortune then no-one downloaded it. Beezer enables you to build an app in a few hours, without an app store, and it works on any platforms. SMEs need a quick, cheap, accessible way to build apps and right now Beezer are the only ones who do this…

Ben Hutton, XDesign – is a mobile website enough?

I’m Ben from XDesign – we build those expensive apps Brian was just talking about… A few years ago I was working on analytics of purchasing and ads… I was working on that Crazy Frog ad… We found the way that people would download that ringtone was to batter people into submission, showing it again again again… And that approach has distorted mobile apps and their potential. But actually so has standardised paper… We are so used to A4 that it is the default digital size too… It was a good system for paper merchants in the C17th. It has corrupted the ideas we have about apps… We think that apps are extensions of those battering/paper skillsets.

A mobile phone is a piece of engineering, software that sits in your pocket. It requires software engineers, designers, that will ensure quality assurance, that is focused on that medium. We have this idea of the Gigabit Society… We have 4.5G, the rocket fuel for mobile… And it’s here in London, in Manchester, in Birmingham… It is coming… And to work with that we need to think about the app design. It isn’t meant to be easy. You have to know about how Google is changing, about in-app as well as app sales, you need to know deep linking. To build a successful app you need to understand that you don’t know what you are doing but you have to give it a try anyway… That’s how we got to the moon!

Chris Torres, Director, Senshi Digital – affordable video

We develop tourism brands online to get the most out of online, out of sales. And I’ve been asked today to talk specifically about video. Video has become one of the best tools you can use in tourism. One of the reasons is that on your website or social media if you use video your audience can learn about your offering 60k times faster than if they read your content.

The average user watches 32 videos per month; 79% of travellers search YouTube for travel ideas – and many of them don’t know where they are going. By 2018 video will be 84% of web traffic. And it can really engage people.

So what sort of video do we do? Well we do background video for homepages… That can get across the idea of a place, of what they will experience when they get to your tourism destination.

What else? Staff/tour guide videos is huge. We are doing this for Gray Line at the moment and that’s showing a big uptick in bookings. When people see a person in a video, then meet at your venue, that’s a huge connection, very exciting.

We also have itinerary videos, what a customer can experience on a tour (again my example is Gray Line).

A cute way to do this is to get customers to supply video – and give them a free tour, or a perk – but get them to share their experiences.

And destination videos – it’s about the destination, not neccassarily you, your brand, your work – just something that entices customers to your destination.

Video doesn’t need to be expensive. You can film on your iPhone. But also you can use stock supplies for video – you’ve no excuse not to use video!

Case Study – Global Treasure Apps and Historic Environment Scotland Lorraine Sommerville and Noelia Martinez, Global Treasure Apps

Noella: I am going to talk about the HES project with Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh College, Young Scot. The project brought together young people and cultural heritage information. The process is a co-production process, collecting images, information, stories and histories of the space with the Global Treasure Apps, creating content. The students get an idea of how to create a real digital project for a real client. (Cue slick video on this project outlining how it worked).

Noella: So, the Global Treasure Apps are clue driven trails, guiding visitors around visitor attractions. For this Edinburgh Castle project we had 20 young people split into 5 groups. They researched at college and drafted trails around the space. Then they went to the castle and used their own mobile devices to gather those digital assets. And we ended up with 5 trails for the castle that can be used. Then, we went back to the college, uploaded content to our database, and then set the trails live. Then we go ESOL students to test the trails, give feedback and update it.

Lorraine: Historic Environment Scotland were delighted with the project, as were Edinburgh College. We are really keen to expand this to other destinations, especially as we enter The Year of Young People 2018, for your visitors and destinations.

Apps that improve your productivity and improve your service Gillian Jones, Qikserve

Before I start I’m going to talk a wee bit about SnapChat… SnapChat started as a sexting app… And I heard about it from my mum – but she was using it for sharing images of her house renovation! And if she can use that tech in new ways, we all can!

I am from Edinburgh and nothing makes me happier than seeing a really diverse array of visitors coming to this city, and I think that SkyScanner development will continue to see that boom.

A few months ago I was in Stockholm. I walked out of the airport and saw a fleet of Teslas as their taxis. It was a premium, innovative, thing to see. I’m not saying we should do that here, I’m saying the tourist experience starts from the moment they see the city, especially the moment that they arrive. And, in this day and age, if I was to guest coming to a restaurant, hotel, etc. what would I want? What would I see? It’s hard as a provider to put yourself in your customers shoes. How do we make tourists and guests feel welcome, feel able to find what they need. Where do we want to go and how to get there? There is a language barrier. There is unfamiliar cuisine – and big pictorial menus aren’t always the most appealing solution.

So, “Francesco” has just flown to Edinburgh from Rome. He speaks little English but has the QikServe app, he can see all the venues that uses that. He’s impatient as he has a show to get to. He is in a rush… So he looks at a menu, in his native language on his phone – and can actually find out what haggis or Cullen Skink is. And he is prompted there for wine, for other things he may want. He gets his food… And then he has trouble finding  a waiter to pay. He wants to pay by Amex – a good example of ways people want to pay, but operators don’t want to take – But in the app he can pay. And then he can share his experience too. So, you have that local level… If they have a good experience you can capitalise on it. If they have a bad experience, you can address it quickly.

What is the benefit of this sort of system? Well money for a start. Mobile is proven for driving up sales – I’ve ordered a steak, do I want a glass of red with that? Yeah, I probably do. So it can increase average transaction value. It can reduce pressure on staff during busy times, allowing them to concentrate on great service. That Starbucks app – the idea of ordering ahead and picking up – is normal now…  You can also drive footfall by providing information in tourists native language. And you can upsell, cross sell and use insights for more targeted campaigns – more sophisticated than freebies, and more enticing. It is about convenience tailored to me. And you can keen your branding at the centre of the conversation, across multiple channels.

There are benefits for tourists here through greater convenience with reduced wait-ties and queues; by identifying restaurant of choice and order in native language and currency; find and navigate to restaurant of choice with geo-location capabilities; order what you want, how you want it with modifiers, upsell and cross sell prompts in native language – we are doing projects in the US with a large burger chain who are doing brilliantly because of extra cheese ordered through the app!; and you can easily share and recommend experience through social media.

We work across the world but honestly nothing would make me happier than seeing us killing it in Edinburgh!

Virtual reality for tourism Alexander Cole, Peekabu Studios

Thank you for having me along, especially in light of recent US events (Alex is American).

We’ve talked about mobile. But mobile isn’t one thing… There are phones, there have been robot sneakers, electronic photo frames, all sorts of things before that are now mixed up and part of our phones. And that’s what we are dealing with with VR. Screens, accelerometers, buttons have all been there for a while! But if I show you what VR looks like… Well… It’s not like an app or a film or something, it’s hard to show. You look like a dork using it…

VR is abou

Right now VR is a $90m industry (2014) but by 2018 we expect it to be at least $5.2bn, and 171m users – and those are really conservative estimates.

So, VR involves some sort of headset… Like an HTC Vive, or Oculus Rift, etc. They include an accelorometer to see where you are looking, tilting, turning. Some include additional sensors. A lot of these systems have additional controllers, that detect orientation, presses, etc. that means the VR knows where I am, where I’m looking, what I’m doing with my hands. It’s great, but this is top end. This is about £1000 set up AND you need a PC to render and support all of this.

But this isn’t the only game in town… Google have the “Daydream” – a fabric covered mobile phone headset with lens. They also have the Google Cardboard. In both cases you have a phone, strap in, and you have VR. But there are limitations… It doesn’t track your movement… But it gives you visuals, it tracks how you turn, and you can create content from your phones – like making photospheres – image and audio – when on holiday.

Capture is getting better, not just on devices. 360 degree cameras are now just a few hundred pounds, you can take it anywhere, it’s small and portable and that makes for pretty cool experiences. So, if you want to climb a tower (Alex is showing a vertigo-inducing Moscow Tower video), you can capture that, you can look down! You can look around. For tourism uses it’s like usual production – you bring a camera, and you go to a space, and you show what you would like, you just do it with a 360 degree camera. And you can share it on YouTube’s 360 video channel…

And with all of this tech together you can set up spaces where sensors are all around that properly track where you are and give much more immersive emotional experiences… Conveying emotion is what VR does better than anything when it is done well.

So, you can do this two ways… You can create content so that someone not in a particular physical space, can feel they are there. OR you can create a new space and experience that. It requires similar investment of time and effort. It’s much like video creation with a little more stitching together that is required.

So, for example this forthcoing space game with VR is beautiful. But that’s expensive. But for tourism the production can be more about filming – putting a camera in a particular place. And, increasingly, that’s live. But, note…

You still look like a ninny taking place! That’s a real challenge and consideration in terms of distribution, an dhow many people engage at the same time… But you can use that too – hence YouTube videos all usually including both what’s on screen, and what’s going on (the ninny view).  And now you have drones and drone races with VR used by the controller… That’s a vantage point you cannot get any other way. That is magical and the cost is not extortionate… You can take it further than this… You can put someone in a rig with wings, with fans, with scents, and with VR, so you can fly around and experience a full sensory experience… This is stupid expensive… But it is the most awesome fun! It conveys a sense of doing that thing VR was always meant to do. When we talk about where VR is going… We have rollercoasters with VR – so you can see Superman flying around you. There are some on big elastic bands – NASA just launched one for Mars landing.

So, tourism and VR is a really interesting marriage. You can convey a sense of place, without someone being there. Even through 360 degree video, YouTube 360 degree video… And you can distribute it in more professional way for Vive, for Oculus Rift… And when you have a space set up, when you have all those sensors in a box… That’s a destination, that’s a thing you can get people too. There is a theme park destination like experiences. You can service thousands+ people with one set up and one application.

So, the three E’s of VR: experience, exploration – you drive this; and emotion – nothing compares to VR for emotion. Watching poeple use VR for the first time is amazing… They have an amazing time!

But we can’t ignore the three A’s of VR: access – no one platform, and lots of access issues; affordability – the biggest most complex units are expensive, your customers won’t have one, but you can put it in your own space; applicability – when you have new tech you can end up treating everything as a nail for your shiny new hammer. Don’t have your honeymoon in VR. Make sure what you do works for the tech, for the space, for the audience’s interest.

Using Data and Digital for Market Intelligence for Destinations and Businesses Michael Kessler, VP Global Sales, Review Pro

I’m going to be talking about leveraging guest intelligence to deliver better experiences and drive revenue. And this isn’t about looking for “likes”, it’s about using data to improve revenue, to develop business.

So, for an example of this, we analysed 207k online reviews in 2016 year to date for 339 3*, 4* and 5* hotels in Glasgow and Edinburgh. We used the Global Review Index (GRI) – which we developed and is an industry-standard reputation score based on review data collected from 175+ OTAs and review sites in over 45 languages. To do that we normalise scores – everyone uses their own scale. From that data we see Edinburgh’s 5* hotels have 90.2% satisfaction in Edinburgh (86.4% in Glasgow), and we can see the variance by * rating (Glasgow does better for satisfaction at 3*).

You can explore satisfaction by traveler types – solo, couples, families, business. The needs are very different. For any destination or hotel this lets you optimise your business, to understand and improve what we do.

We run sentiment analysis, using machine learning, across reviews. We do this by review but also aggregate it so that you can highlight strengths and weaknesses in the data. We show you trends… You will understand many of these but those trends allow you to respond and react to those trends (e.g. Edinburgh gets great scores on Location, Staff, Reception; poorer scores on Internet; Bathroom; Technology. Glasgow gets great Location, Staff, Reception, poorer scores for Internet, Bathroom; Room). We do this across 16 languages and this is really helpful.

We also highlight management response rates. So if guests post on TripAdvisor, you have to respond to them. You can respond and use as a marketing channel too. Looking across Edinburgh and Glasgow we can see a major variation between (high) response rates to TripAdvisor versus (low) response to Booking.com or Expedia.

The old focus of marketing was Product/Promotion/Price/Place. But that has changed forever. It’s all about experience now. That’s what we want. I think we have 4 Es instead of 4 Ps. So, those 4E’s are: Experience; Evangelism; Exchange; Everyplace. In the past I shared experience with friends and families, but now I evangelise, I share much more widely. And everyplace reflects sending reviews too – 60-70% of all reviews and feedback to accommodation is done via mobile. You can’t make better marketing than authentic feedback from guests, from customers.

And this need to measure traveller experience isn’t just about hotels/hostels/services apartments, it is also about restaurants; transportation; outdoor attractions; theme parks; museums; shopping. And those reviews have a solid impact on revenue – 92% of travelers indicate that their decisions are highly influenced by reviews and ratings.

So, how do we use all this data? Well there is a well refined cycle: Online reviews; we can have post-stay/event surveys; and in-stay surveys. Online reviews and post-stay surveys are a really good combination to understand what can be improved, where change can be made. And using that cycle you can get to a place of increased guest satisfaction, growth in review volume, improved online rankings (TripAdvisor privileges more frequently reviewed places for instance), and increased revenue.

And once you have this data, sharing it across the organisation has a huge positive value, to ensure the whole organisation is guest-centric in their thinking and practice.

So, we provide analytics and insights for each of your departments. So, for housekeeping, what happened in the room space in reviews; we can do semantic data checking for cleanliness, clean, etc.

In-stay reviews also helps reduce negative reviews – highlighting issues immediately, make the experience great whilst your guest is still there. And we have talked about travellers being mobile, but our solution is also mobile so that we can use it in all spaces.

How else can we use this? We can use it to increase economic development by better understanding our visitors. How do we do this? Well for instance in Star Ratings Australia we have been benchmarking hotel performances across 5000+ hotels across a range of core KPIs. Greece (SETE) is a client of ours and we help them to understand how they as a country, as cities, as islands, compete with other places and cities across the world.

So our system works for anyone with attractions, guests, reviews, clients, where we can help. Operators can know guests – but that’s opinion. We try to enable decisions based on real information. That allows understanding of weaknesses and drive change. There is evidence that increasing your Global Review Index level will help you raise revenue. It also lets you refine your marketing message based on what you perform best at in your reviews, make a virtue of your strengths on your website, on TripAdvisor, etc.

And with reviews, do also share reviews on your own site – don’t just encourage them to go to Tripadvisor. Publishing reviews and ratings means your performance is shown without automatically requiring an indirect/fee-occuring link, you keep them on your site. And you do need to increase review volume on key channels to keep your offering visible and well ranked.

So, what do we offer?

We have our guest intelligence system, with reputation management, guest surveys, revenue optimiser and data. All of these create actionable insights for a range of tourism providers – hotels, hostels, restaurants, businesses etc. We have webinars, content, and information that we share back with the community for free.

Tech Trends and the Tourism Sector

Two talks here…

Jo Paulson, Events and Experiences Manager, Edinburgh Zoo and Jon-Paul Orsi, Digital Manager, Edinburgh Zoo – Pokemon Go

Jon-Paul: As I think everyone knows Pokemon Go appeared and whether you liked it or not it was really popular. So we wanted to work out what we could do. We are spread over a large site and that was great – loads of pokestops – but an issue too: one was in our blacksmith shop, another in our lion enclosure! So we quickly mapped the safe stops and made that available – and we only had a few issues there. By happy accident we also had some press coverage as one of the best places to find Pokemon – because a visitor happened to have found a poketung on our site.

With that attention we also decided to do some playful things with social media – making our panda a poke-cake; sharing shots of penguins and pokemon. And they were really well received.

Jo: Like many great ideas we borrowed from other places for some of our events. Bristol zoos had run some events and we borrowed ideas – with pokestops, pokedex charging points, and we had themed foods, temporary tattoos etc. We wanted to capitalise on the excitement so we had about a week and a half to do this. As usual we checked with keepers first, closing off areas where the animals could be negatively impacted.

Jon-Paul: In terms of marketing this we asked staff to tell their friends… And we were blown away by how well that went. On August 4th we had 10k hits as they virally shared the details. We kind of marketed it by not marketing it publicly. It being a viral, secret, exciting thing worked well. We sold out in 2 hours and that took us hugely be surprise. Attendees found the event through social primarily – 69% through facebook, 19% by word of mouth.

We didn’t have a great picture of demographics etc. Normally we struggle to get late teens, twenties, early thirties unless they are there as a couple or date. But actually here we saw loads of people in those age ranges.

Jo: We had two events, both of which we kept the zoo opened later than usual. Enclosures weren’t open – though you could see the animals. But it was a surreal event – very chatty, very engaged, and yet a lot of heads down without animal access. For the first event we gave away free tickets, but asked for donations (£5k) and sold out in 2 hours; for the second event we charged £5 in advance (£6500) and sold in around a week. We are really pleased with that though, that all goes into our conservation work. If popularity of Pokemon continues then we will likely run more of these as we reach the better weather/longer light again.

Rob Cawston, Interim Head of Digital Media, National Museum of Scotland – New Galleries and Interactive Exhibitions

One of the advantages of having a 7 year old son is that you can go to Pokemon Go events and I actually went to the second Zoo event which was amazing, if a little Black Mirror.

Here at the NMS we’ve just completed a major project opening 4 new fashion and design galleries, 6 new science and technology galleries, and a new piazza (or expanded pavement if you like). Those ten new galleries allow us to show (75% of 3000+) items for the first time in generations, but we also wanted to work out how to engage visitors in these attractions. So, in the new galleries we have 150+ interactive exhibits in the new galleries – some are big things like a kid sized hamster wheel, hot air balloon, etc. But we also now have digital labels… This isn’t just having touch screens for the sake of it, it needed to add something new that enhances the visitor experience. We wanted to reveal new perspectives, to add fun and activity – including games in the gallery, and providing new knowledge and learning.

We have done research on our audiences and they don’t just want more information – they have phones, they can google stuff, so they want more. And in fact the National Museum of Flight opened 2 new hangers and 30 new digital labels that let us trial some of our approaches with visitors first.

So, on those digital labels and interactives we have single stories, multiple chapters, bespoke interactives. These are on different sorts of screens, formats, etc. Now we are using pretty safe tech. We are based on the umbraco platform, as is our main website. We set up a CMS with colours, text, video, etc. And that content is stored on particular PCs that send data to specific screens in the museums. There is so much content going into the museum, so we were able to prep all this stuff ahead of gallery opening, and without having to be in the gallery space whilst they finished installing items.

We didn’t just put these in the gallery – we put them on the website too. Our games are there, and we know they are a major driver of traffic to the website. That multiple platform digital content includes 3D digital views of fashion; we have a game built with Aardman…

We have learned a lot from this. I don’t think we realised how much would be involved in creating this content, and I think we have created a new atmosphere of engagement. After this session do go and explore our new galleries, our new interactives, etc.

Wrap Up James McVeigh, Festivals Edinburgh

I’m just going to do a few round ups. You’ve heard a lot today. We’ve got exhibitors who are right on your doorstep. We are trying to show you that digital is all around you, it’s right on your doorstep. I got a lot from this myself… I like that the zoo borrowed the ideas – we don’t always need to reinvent the wheel! The success of the Japanese economy is about adopting, not inventing.

Everything we have heard today is about UX, how audiences, share, engage, how they respond afterwards.

And as we finish I’d like to thank ETAG, to Digital Tourism Scotland, to Scottish Enterprise, and to the wider tourism industry in Edinburgh.

And finally, the next events are:

  • 29th November – Listening to our Visitors
  • 6th December – Running Social Media Campaigns
  • 26th January – ETAG Annual Conference

And with that we just have lunch, networking and demos of Bubbal and Hydra Research. Thanks to all from me for a really interesting event – lots of interesting insights into how tech is being used in Edinburgh tourism and where some of the most interesting potential is at the moment. 

Nov 212016
 
The band Cassia play at TEDxYouth@Manchester 2016.

Last Wednesday, I had the absolute pleasure of being part of the TEDxYouth@Manchester 2016, which had the theme of “Identity. I had been invited along to speak about our Managing Your Digital Footprint work, and my #CODI2016 Fringe show, If I Googled You, What Would I Find? The event was quite extraordinary and I wanted to share some thoughts on the day itself, as well as some reflections on my experience of preparing a TEDx talk.

TEDxYouth@Manchester is in it’s 8th year, and is based at Fallibroome Academy, a secondary school with a specialism in performing arts (see, for instance, their elaborate and impressive trailer video for the school). And Fallibroome was apparently the first school in the world to host a TEDxYouth event. Like other TEDx events the schedule mixes invited talks, talks from youth speakers, and recorded items – in today’s case that included a TED talk, a range of short films, music videos and a quite amazing set of videos of primary school kids responding to questions on identity (beautifully edited by the Fallibroome team and featuring children from schools in the area).

In my own talk – the second of the day – I asked the audience to consider the question of what their digital footprints say about them. And what they want them to say about them. My intention was to trigger reflection and thought, to make the audience in the room – and on the livestream – think about what they share, what they share about others and,hopefully, what else they do online – their privacy settings, their choices..

My fellow invited speakers were a lovely and diverse bunch:

Kat Arney, a geneticist, science writer, musician, and author. She was there to talk about identity from a genetic perspective, drawing on her fantastic new book “Herding Hemingway’s Cats” (my bedtime reading this week). Kat’s main message – a really important one – is that genes don’t predetermine your identity, and that any understanding of there being a “Gene for… x”, i.e. the “Gene for Cancer”, a “Gay Gene”, a gene for whatever… is misleading at best. Things are much more complicated and unpredictable than that. As part of her talk she spoke about gene “wobbles” – a new concept to me – which describes the unexpected and rule-defying behaviour of genes in the real world vs our expectations based on the theory, drawing on work on nematode worms. It was a really interesting start to the day and I highly recommend checking out both Kat’s book, and the The Naked Scientists’ Naked Gentics podcast.

Ben Smith, spoke about his own very personal story and how that led to the 401 Challenge, in which he ran 401 marathons in 401 days. Ben spoke brilliantly and bravely on his experience of bullying, of struggling with his sexuality, and the personal crises and suicide attempts that led to him finding his own sense of self and identity, and happiness, through his passion for running in his late 20s/early 30s. Ben’s talk was even more powerful as it was preceded by an extraordinary video (see below) of the poem “To This Day” by performance poet Shane Koyczan on the impact of bullying and the strength in overcoming it.

VV Brown, singer, songwriter, producer and ethical fashion entrepreneur, gave a lovely presentation on identity and black hair. She gave a personal and serious take on issues of identity and appropriation which have been explored (from another angle) in Chris Rock’s Good Hair (2009). As well as the rich culture of black hairdressing and hugely problematic nature of hair relaxants, weaves, and hair care regimes (including some extreme acids) that are focused on pressuring black women to meet an unobtainable and undesirable white hair ideal. She also spoke from her experience of the modelling industry and it’s incapability of dealing with black hair, whilst simultaneously happily engaging in cultural appropriation, braiding corn rows into white celebrities hair. V.V. followed up her talk with a live performance, of “Shift” (see video below), a song which she explained was inspired by the gay rights movement, and particularly black gay men in New York expressing themselves and their sexuality.

The final invited speaker was Ben Garrod, a Teaching Fellow in evolutionary biology at Anglia Ruskin University as well as a science communicator and broadcaster who has worked with David Attenborough and is on the Board of Trustees for the Jane Goodall Institute. Ben spoke about the power of the individual in a community, bringing in the idea of identity amongst animals, that the uniqueness of the chimps he worked with as part of Jane Goodall’s team. He also had us all join in a Pant-hoot – an escalating group chimp call, to illustrate the power of both the individual and the community.

In amongst the speakers were a range of videos – lovely selections that I gather (and believe) a student team spent months selecting from a huge amount of TED content. However, the main strand of the programme were a group of student presentations and performances which were quite extraordinary.

Highlights for me included Imogen Walsh, who spoke about the fluidity of gender and explained the importance of choice, the many forms of non-binary or genderqueer identity, the use of pronouns like they and Mx and the importance of not singling people out, or questioning them, for buying non gender-conforming, their choice of bathroom, etc. Because, well, why is it anyone else’s business?

Sophie Baxter talked about being a gay teen witnessing the global response to the Pulse nightclub shooting and the fear and reassurance that wider public response to this had provided. She also highlighted the importance of having an LGBT community since for most LGBT young people their own immediate biological/adoptive family may not, no matter how supportive, have a shared experience to draw upon, to understand challenges or concerns faced.

Maddie Travers and Nina Holland-Jones described a visit to Auschwitz (they had actually landed the night before the event) reflecting on what that experience of visiting the site had meant to them, and what it said about identity. They particularly focused on the pain and horror of stripping individual identity, treating camp prisoners (and victims) as a group that denied their individuality at the same time as privileging some individuals for special skills and contributions that extended their life and made them useful to the Nazi regime.

Sam Amey, Nicola Smith and Ellena Wilson talked about attending the London International Youth Science Festival student science conference, of seeing inspiring new science and the excitement of that – watching as a real geek and science fan it was lovely to see their enthusiasm and to hear them state that they “identify as scientists” (that phrasing a recurrent theme and seems to be the 2016 way for youth to define themselves I think).

Meanwhile performances included an absolutely haunting violin piece, Nigun by Bloch, performed by Ewan Kilpatrick (see a video of his playing here). As brilliant as Ewan’s playing was, musically the show was stolen by two precocious young composers, both of whom had the confidence of successful 40 year olds at the peak of their career, backed up by musical skills that made that confidence seem entirely appropriately founded. Ignacio Mana Mesas described his composition process and showed some of his film score (and acting) work, before playing a piece of his own composition; Tammas Slater (you can hear his prize winning work in this BBC Radio 3 clip) meanwhile showed some unexpected comic sparkle, showing off his skills before creating a composition in real time! And the event finished with a lively and charming set of tracks performed by school alumnae and up and coming band Cassia.

All of the youth contributions were incredible. The enthusiasm, competence and confidence of these kids – and of their peers who respectfully engaged and listened throughout the day – was heartening. The future seems pretty safe if this is what the future is looking like – a very lovely thing to be reminded in these strange political times.

Preparing a TEDx talk – a rather different speaking proposition

For me the invitation to give a TEDx talk was really exciting. I have mixed feelings about the brilliantly engaging but often too slick TED format, at the same time as recognising the power that the brand and reputation for the high quality speakers can have.

I regularly give talks and presentations, but distilling ideas of digital identity into 14 minutes whilst keeping them clear, engaging, meeting the speaker rules felt challenging. Doing that in a way that would have some sort of longevity seemed like a tougher ask as things move quickly in internet research, in social media, and in social practices online, so I wanted to make sure my talk focused on those aspects of our work that are solid and long-lived concepts – ideas that would have usefulness even if Facebook disappeared tomorrow (who knows, fake news may just make that a possibility), or SnapChat immediately lost all interest, or some new game-changing space appears tomorrow. This issue of being timely but not immediately out of date is also something we face in creating Digital Footprint MOOC content at the moment.

As an intellectual challenge developing my TEDx talk was useful for finding another way to think about my own presentation and writing skills, in much the same way that taking on the 8 minute format of Bright Club has been, or the 50 ish minute format of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas, or indeed teaching 2+ hour seminars for the MSc in Science Communication & Public Engagement for the three years I led a module on that programme. It is always useful to rethink your topic, to think about fitting a totally different dynamic or house style, and to imagine a different audience and their needs and interests. In this case the audience was 16-18 year olds, who are a little younger than my usual audience, but who I felt sure would have lots of interest in my topic, and plenty of questions to ask (as there were in the separate panel event later in the day at Fallibroome).

There are some particular curiosities about the TED/TEDx format versus other speaking and presentations and I thought I’d share some key things I spent time thinking about. You never know, if you find yourself invited to do a TEDx (or if you are very high flying, a TED) these should help a wee bit:

  1. Managing the format

Because I have mixed feelings about the TED format, since it can be brilliant, but also too easy to parody (as in this brilliant faux talk), I was very aware of wanting to live up to the invitation and the expectations for this event, without giving a talk that wouldn’t meet my own personal speaking style or presentation tastes. I think I did manage that in the end but it required some watching of former videos to get my head around what I both did and did not want to do. That included looking back at previous TEDxYouth@Manchester events (to get a sense of space, scale, speaker set up and local expectations), as well as wider TED videos.

I did read the TED/TEDx speaker guidance and largely followed it although, since I do a lot of talks and know what works for me, I chose to write and create slides in parallel with the visuals helping me develop my story (rather than writing first, then doing slides as the guidance suggests). I also didn’t practice my talk nearly as often as either the TED instructions or the local organisers suggest – not out of arrogance but knowing that practicing a few times to myself works well, practising a lot gets me bored of the content and sets up unhelpful memorisations of errors, developing ideas, etc.

I do hugely appreciate that TED/TEDx insist on copyright cleared images. My slides were mostly images I had taken myself but I found a lovely image of yarn under CC-BY on Flickr which was included (and credited) too. Although as I began work on the talk I did start by thinking hard about whether or not to use slides… TED is a format associated with innovative slides (they were the original cheerleaders for Prezi), but at the same time the fact that talks are videoed means much of the power comes from close ups of the speaker, of capturing the connection between speaker and the live audience, and of building connection with the livestream and video audience. With all of that in mind I wanted to keep my slides simple, lively, and rather stylish. I think I managed that but see what you think of my slides [PDF].

  1. Which audience?

Normally when I write a talk, presentation, workshop, etc. I think about tailoring the content to the context and to my audience. I find that is a key part of ensuring I meet my audience’s needs, but it also makes the talk looks, well, kind of cute and clever. Tailoring a talk for a particular moment in time, a specific event or day, and a particular audience means you can make timely and specific references, you can connect to talks and content elsewhere in the day, you can adapt and adlib to meet the interests and mood that you see, and you can show you have understood the context of your audience. Essentially all that tailoring helps you connect more immediately and builds a real bond.

But for TEDx is the audience the 500+ people in the room? Our audience on Wednesday were mainly between 16 and 18, but there were other audience members who had been invited or just signed up to attend (you can find all upcoming TEDx events on their website and most offer tickets for those that are interested). It was a packed venue, but they are probably the smallest audience who will see my performance…

The video being during the event captured goes on the TEDxYouth@Manchester 2016 Playlist on the TEDxYouth YouTube channel and on the TEDx YouTube channel. All of the videos are also submitted to TED so, if your video looks great to the folk  there you could also end up featured on the core TED website, with much wider visibility. Now, I certainly wouldn’t suggest I am counting on having a huge global audience, but those channels all attract a much wider audience than was sitting in the hall. So, where do you pitch the talk?

For my talk I decided to strike a balance between issues that are most pertinent to developing identity, to managing challenges that we know from our research are particularly relevant and difficult for young people – ad which these students may face now or when they go to university. But I also pitched the talk to have relevance more widely, focusing less on cyber bullying, or teen dynamics, and more about changing contexts and the control one can choose to take of ones own digital footprint and social media content, something particularly pertinent to young people but relevant to us all.

  1. When Is it for?

Just as streaming distorts your sense of audience, it also challenges time. The livestream is watching on the day – that’s easy. But the recorded video could stick around for years, and will have a lifespan long beyond the day. With my fast moving area that was a challenge – do I make my talk timely or do I make it general? What points of connection and moments of humour are potentially missed by giving that talk a longer lifespan? I was giving a talk just after Trump’s election and in the midst of the social media bubble discussion – there are easy jokes there, things to bring my audience on board – but they might distance viewers at another time, and date rapidly. And maybe those references wouldn’t be universal enough for a wider audience beyond the UK…

In the end I tried to again balance general and specific advice. But I did that knowing that many of those in the physical audience would also be attending a separate panel event later in the day which would allow many more opportunities to talk about very contemporary questions, and to address sensitive questions that might (and did) arise. In fact in that panel session we took questions on mental health, about how parental postings and video (including some of those made for this event) might impact on their child’s digital footprint, and on whether not being on social media was a disadvantage in life. Those at the panel session also weren’t being streamed or captured in any way, which allowed for frank discussion building on an intense and complex day.

  1. What’s the main take away?

The thing that took me the longest time was thinking about the “take away” I wanted to leave the audience with. That was partly because I wanted my talk to have impact, to feel energising and hopefully somewhat inspiring, but also because the whole idea of TED is “Ideas worth sharing”, which means a TED(x) talk has to have at its core a real idea, something specific and memorable to take from those 14 minutes, something that has impact.

I did have to think of a title far in advance of the event and settled on “What do you digital footprints say about you?”. I picked that as it brought together some of my #CODI16 show’s ideas, and some of the questions I knew I wanted to raise in my talk. But what would I do with that idea? I could have taken the Digital Footprint thing in a more specific direction – something I might do in a longer workshop or training session – picking on particularly poor or good practices and zoning in on good or bad posts. But that isn’t big picture stuff. I had to think about analogy, about examples, about getting the audience to understand the longevity of impact a social media post might have…

After a lot of thinking, testing out of ideas in conversation with my partner and some of my colleagues, I had some vague concepts and then I found my best ideas came – contrary to the TED guidance – from trying to select images to help me form my narrative. An image I had taken at Edinburgh’s Hidden Door Festival earlier this year of an artwork created from a web of strung yarn proved the perfect visual analogy for the complexity involved in taking back an unintended, regretted, or ill-thought-through social media post. It’s an idea I have explained before but actually trying to think about getting the idea across quickly in 1 minute of my 14 minute talk really helped me identify that image as vivid effective shorthand. And from that I found my preceding image and, from that, the flow and the look and feel of the story I wanted to tell. It’s not always the obvious (or simple) things that get you to a place of simplicity and clarity.

Finally I went back to my title and thought about whether my talk did speak to that idea, what else I should raise, and how I would really get my audience to feel engaged and ready to listen, and to really reflect on their own practice, quickly. In the end I settled on a single slide with that title, that question, at it’s heart. I made that the first stepping stone on my path through the talk, building in a pause that was intended to get the audience listening and thinking about their own digital identity. You’d have to ask the audience whether that worked or not but the quality of questions and comments later in the day certainly suggested they had taken in some of what I said and asked.

  1. Logistics

As a speaker there are some logistical aspects that are easy to deal with once you’ve done it a first time: travel, accommodation, etc. There are venue details that you either ask about – filming, photography, mics, etc. or you can find out in advance. Looking at previous years’ videos helped a lot: I would get a screen behind me for slides, there would be a set (build by students no less) and clear speaker zone on stage (the infamous red carpet/dot), I’d have a head mic (a first for me, but essentially a glamorous radio mic, which I am used to) and there would be a remote for my slides. It also looked likely I’d have a clock counting down although, in the end, that wasn’t working during my talk (a reminder, again, that I need a new watch with classic stand up comedy/speaker-friendly vibrating alarm). On the day there was a sound check (very helpful) and also an extremely professional and exceptionally helpful team of technicians – staff, students and Siemens interns – to get us wired up and recorded. The organisers also gave us plenty of advance notice of filming and photography.

I have been on the periphery of TEDx events before: Edinburgh University has held several events and I know how much work has gone into these; I attended a TEDxGlasgow hosted by STV a few years back and, again, was struck buy the organisation required. For TEDxYouth@Manchester I was invited to speak earlier in the year – late August/early September – so I had several months to prepare. The organisers tell me that sometimes they invite speakers as much as 6 to 12 months ahead of the event – as soon as the event finishes their team begin their search for next years’s invitees…

As the organising team spend all year planning a slick event – and Fallibroome Academy really did do an incredibly well organised and slick job – they expect slick and well organised speakers. I think all of us invited speakers, each of us with a lot of experience of talks and performance, experienced more coordination, more contact and more clarity on expectation, format, etc. than at any previous speaking event.

That level of detail is always useful as a a speaker but it can also be intimidating – although that is useful for focusing your thoughts too. There were conference calls in September and October to share developing presentation thoughts, to finalise titles, and to hear a little about each others talks. That last aspect was very helpful – I knew little of the detail of the other talks until the event itself, but I had a broad idea of the topic and angle of each speaker which meant I could ensure minimal overlap, and maximum impact as I understood how my talk fitted in to the wider context.

All credit to Peter Rubery and the Fallibroome team for their work here. They curated a brilliant selection of videos and some phenomenal live performances and short talks from students to create a coherent programme with appropriate and clever segues that added to the power of the presentations, the talks, and took us on something of a powerful emotional rollercoaster. All of us invited speakers felt it was a speaking engagement like we’d never had before and it really was an intense and impactful day. And, as Ben G said, for some students the talks they gave today will be life changing, sharing something very personally on a pretty high profile stage, owning their personal experience and reflections in a really empowering way.

In conclusion then, this was really a wonderful experience and a usefully challenging format to work in. I will update this post or add a new post with the videos of the talks as soon as they are available – you can then judge for yourself how I did. However, if you get the chance to take part in a TEDx event, particularly a TEDxYouth event I would recommend it. I would also encourage you to keep an eye on the TEDxYouth@Manchester YouTube channel for those exceptional student presentations!