When I was a kid – programmes about the future always had Jet Packs. But Sunday’s Home of the Future programme didn’t have any – though it does reduce one family’s energy use by 40%.
Working with Amplified, Christian Payne (@documentally) and I were asked to see whether we could help to generate conversations and wider interactions around a TV show, and more particularly to see whether we could help to add more members to and raise awareness of an innovation challenge which is sponsored by E.On the giant energy services company. The challenge, E.ON Innovation is about finding new ideas to help the UK save energy. It’s based around a Channel 4 TV programme “Home Of The Future”.
Amplified is a Not-for-profit; a social business, we have a network of freelancers (me included) who use social media to ‘cover’ events aiming to enable and encourage community participation around events, conferences and public conversations.
We are independent. We do loads of events, mostly for Charities or 3rd sector organisations; sometimes for big public organisations; occasionally for big companies. Our experience with bigger organisations, especially public companies has varied. Bluntly, if it’s about PR spin and ‘control of the message’ then ‘we’re out’ (as they say…) if it’s about conversation, good intentions and opening up then we’ll have a go.
We did our due diligence. The opportunity came through a conversation between Roland Harwood and Steve Lawson of Amplified on Twitter – actually they were talking about Jazz, I think, and then the idea of Amplified helping with the E.ON Innovation project came up. Amplified has worked with Roland and his 100% Open business a number of times before and he helped with Amplified getting started while he was at NESTA. Christian pinged his various networks asking about E.ON – you can read his post about it. I got stuck in to the websites.
I spent time on the Home of the Future website, read the background on 100% Open’s involvement and spent more time on the E.ON Innovation website and I read the Terms and Conditions. The Ts&Cs were interesting (bet this is the first time you’ve read that!).
You can submit your ideas on the “Open ideas track” where they can be seen by the members of the site and they can be openly discussed and voted on – with obvious impact on any potential rights you may have – and you’re eligible for the prize. There’s also a “Private venture track” and the document says “Private submissions are suitable for those who wish to enter into a business relationship with E.ON. You won’t be eligible for a prize.” If you go this route – 100% Open becomes your Agent; you can sign them up to a confidentiality agreement and your idea doesn’t get seen by E.ON until both you and 100% Open agree. The site makes it clear that you need to think carefully and take independent advice. In other words, you need to be a grown up about this stuff!
I like this approach. It’s completely transparent. And the other thing is – there’s no shortage of ideas; getting them to turn into something tangible is the difficult bit. As early stage and Angel investors often say “Ideas are easy; execution is hard”. Sometimes, collaboration and involving others can be a way to move things on; and you always have the option not to share stuff. For well developed ideas or businesses that have an existing product or service then you can opt for the private track.
We agreed terms of reference for Amplified’s work; we’d Tweet, do a liveblog, have editorial independence and use the same protocols we have developed in our other work on events. We’d use our judgement. The liveblog would focus on the programme and we’d have conversations around it and the E.ON innovation ideas. Then we’d review it – see how it was and have a chat with 100% Open about it – which is what we’re doing this week.
It was an odd experience – but fun. Normally with Amplified we are at an event, working as a team and there’s a lot of interaction; side chats and banter. And we’re in the same physical space as the participants at an event. This time it was all online; and it was fast and furious. The time really flew by, I watched the programme with my family; hearing their comments and following the timeline on both hashtags and monitoring the liveblog. The show itself is very ‘wow gadget’ and a bit light on implications – it’s entertaining. The fact that they’ve reduced the family’s energy consumption by 40% even with 3 electric cars and all the gadgets is impressive. I watched it again on C4+1 as my lot went off to do other stuff. As I’d seen the programme once already, I had a bit more time to look at Twitter and see what other people were saying.
We talked about it over a family dinner. Someone had tweeted (Christian, I think?) that it’s when you see programmes like that and other people’s responses to it – you realise that not everyone is an early adopter! My kids thought that it was only a bit in the future – and we talked about how difficult it is to see what might happen. We all know that we have to look hard at ways to save energy.
We also talked about all those programmes when we were kids – Tomorrow’s World, Horizon; and that we were promised jet packs. We were certainly promised jet packs!
Here’s the Liveblog – let me know what you think, especially if you have views about Amplified’s involvement: