It’s been a while since we posted anything. So here’s a little roundup of recent happenings and a sneak peek at our mobile app to whet your appetites!
The big news is we recruited!
We recently hired Jake and he’s joined the Librarygame team in the capacity of a programmer, he’s been working closely with Sam to refine and optimise Lemontree in line with feedback, usage patterns and more importantly our own expectations of where the product should be heading based on our original vision for it, when we first started.
This effort has been leading up to the total overhaul of Librarygame from version 1.0 to 2.0. The new design is totally responsive and has a relatively new look with new achievements but that’s as much as I’m allowed to mention in this update.
Having people working on the project on a day to day basis is the lifeblood of the project and to be able to do that for the past few months has been a dream realised.
Jake being forced to acknowledge everything is OKAY! :D
Two new universities
We recently also signed up two top UK universities for Lemontree. The calibre of these universities and their standard of what they’re after is another confirmation that we’re heading in the right direction.
We’re not at liberty to mention their names just yet , but as soon as we do, we’ll let you know more about them. They are in fact the reason why we’re also launching the mobile version of Librarygame as two native apps in the third quarter of 2013.
Other news / issues
It’s coming up to over a year since we moved into our new office, as cliche as it sounds, having the larger space has really allowed us to grow and invite people into our space, we’ve been able to run workshops. fly RC helicopters and just have more space to think in.
On the client side, we’ve taken the plunge in being more selective about who we choose to work with. We decided to discontinue the relationship with one of our largest customers, again so we could focus more on librarygame.
We think if we’re dedicated more time to existing clients who appreciate the work we do, and refinining librarygame in parallel we’re more likely to convince other people to find budgets to sign up to Librarygame.
This is in contrast to just taking on large clients so we can pave our way in having librarygame as a side project. Side projects just don’t have the scale of what we’re doing here on a daily basis.
We also think, Librarygame should pay for its own way, it just so happens that we’re creating a new product category at a time when libraries are very cautious about buying software. It’s as if they’ve been burnt with library systems before and aren’t used to having software tailored for them to the extent we do. But we remain adamant that our approach is appropriate and its nice to see library systems vendors start to offer up partnerships too.
Just a quick one to say we’ve been extremely busy, presenting at conferences (Handheld Librarian, Internet Librarian International) + many individual libraries, as well as setting things up and working on the next version additions to Librarygame and talking to future partners such as the lovely guys at Librarything.
It’s an exciting time, but also a frustrating time. We’re used to incredibly short crunchy projects, and Librarygame has required the patience to see that libraries are slow to respond. What we deem as ‘long’ in our interactive development cycle is a relatively normal / fast pace in the library world, what we deem as potentially an unacceptably long correspondence chain before we get to any real decisions, is actually probably pretty normal too.
Anyway we look forward to updating you all soon on what we’ve been up to.
This post is part 2 of 3, it’s about our first hand experience of #ALA12
So after what can be described as a pretty gruelling journey, I arrived in Anaheim, safe and sound, and super excited about the days ahead for librarygame.
A good chunk of our time prior over the past few months had already been spent defining and refining what would be the documentation people receive when they’re ready to discuss a formal relationship with us.
In the lead up to the trip itself we were all hands on deck trying to unify and finalise these documents. Steve who worked on the original Librarygame illustrations, worked with us to illustrate some of the more abstract concepts and Sam had the onerous responsibility of pulling it all together while I was still mid flight.
The moment I was within my first WIFI signal, I checked dropbox and downloaded the freshly uploaded documents; flicking through them while waiting to board the plane to Santa Ana, was actually quite exciting. The Librarygame adventure seemed very official at this point and so did the responsibility of representing it well.
One part of the documentation we worked on, covers the technical setup and the other contains the contextual underpinnings of why Librarygame exists in the first place. We very much view these documents as snapshots of our design thinking. We’re sure there will be many more iterations of them, but for now they’re serving us well.
Documenting a system in development, where you haven’t quite finalised the business model or adopted the vocabularly of your customers is actually pretty hard. You’ve got to bear in mind, that we’re delivering a product that is very bespoke, so saying something that doesn’t quite pan out exactly as we’ve formulated isn’t great. In a sense they have to be quite generic but not the point of being irrelevant or mundane and they have to be quite specific without giving away everything or tying us down too much down the line.
The first night seems like a bit of a blur now, but I’m pretty sure I went over to see Dave, who’d already arrived there the day before for a quick meeting. Dave’s quite the well networked, well liked and famously bearded individual in library world so I was already saying ‘hi’ to people there on the back of sitting next to him and this was a theme that subsequently continued throughout the conference!
Back in my hotel room, I was pretty tired, but I decided to check out what I’d be doing the next day, turns out, not much- thankfully! The main bit of the conference, if you weren’t part of the existing committees / working groups didn’t start till the Thursday / Friday which was a relief as jetlag was running amok with my system and I had a few meetings lined up to prepare for.
Not dissimilar to SXSWi, ALA has its own session scheduler on its website, it’s not as pretty, but it was fairly functional and informative. To its credit, it was a million miles better than the clunky web registration for ALA membership, and it featured a pretty decent search function. It also did a really good job of suggesting sessions based on my interests that I’d set earlier in my profile. It was also a good idea to get a sense of who was attending the sessions. So +1 for its social features and having an abundance of information there to check.
The only truly overwhelming thing about it were all the acronyms for the various working groups and what not! It would take a good deal of familiarity with the breadth of ALA’s activities or maybe a seasoned ALA veteran to explain it all to you. I don’t claim to have even skimmed the surface but it was nice to see how library folk organise themselves and talk to ALA staff firsthand. I guess that’s step one on the journey.
The first day, I pretty much had to myself and I avoided any queues by registering in the immense building that is the Anaheim Convention centre, apparently housing 815,000sq ft of exhibition space. holy cow. by comparison RITH’s first office was a paltry 350 sq ft office if I’m not mistaken, and the current one is a more respectable 1000sq ft.
Speaking to friends
One of the advantages of being in a timezone so far away from your own is that it lets you connect with friends you have in that timezone at the start of their day! One friend I really wanted to speak to was Alex Kohlhofer, creator of Weewar, a serial entrepreneur, a maker and someone I’ve relied on for advice over the years. The conversation I had with Alex that morning sharpened my mind and sparked a few directions. Alex having lived in the bay area for a few years had some suggestions on how we could tailor our pitch better on the site and predominantly segment it for the different people we were targeting (I made copious notes to work from when we tweak the content). Alex also made a few connections for me which I’m very grateful for. Having never sought external investment for librarygame, its good to learn the lingo and learn how we should perfect our pitch if we’re going down that route.
Speaking to the RITH/Librarygame office
The eight hour time difference is truly annoying. Despite having spent a good few years working with clients in the states and having parents who live in a timezone different than my own. Its still not something you get used to easily. In the work context, when you’re temporarily on the other side of the world, and the UK is ahead of you, it has the curious effect of disorienting you. I’m a massive advocate of increasing the bandwidth of communication at work, and this particular time zone difference meant I could only have conversations with Sam at very specific times during the day and catch up with what’s going on in the office. At RITH we have several projects on the go at once, and I particularly like knowing whats going on in each!
So not having that is something I’m not used to (I need to get over that). So I either had to be up super early in my morning around 6-7am (the only way I could catch Sam, Alison and Gary in the office) or get online mid afternoonish to catch them in their evening. It’s something to bear in mind, we haven’t had that many enquiries from the west coast, maybe there’s a psychological timezone barrier at play?
The Exhibition Floor.
It’s actually nigh on impossible to express how huge this floor was, without taking wide angle shots from multiple locations, its hard to show it. I’ll let it be said that it would take you a good few minutes to get from one side of it to the next at a brisk space. It was absolutely teeming full of representatives, everyone from the major Library Systems vendors to comic book artists to people who make statues for libraries (admittedly some of those were pretty creepy).
I guess here lies one of the more valuable parts of the whole experience that I’ve told a lot of people about since coming back. Being on the exhibition floor itself allowed me to do a couple of things!
Two observations about the Tradeshow part.
The third and final part of this series will focus on the sessions / networking / opportunities, and what the outcome of going to ALA was for librarygame 1 and 1/2 months on.
This post is part 1 of 3, it’s about what we thought attending ALA12 would do,
and what we did in the lead-up to going to it.
Travelling on a hunch!
Declaring that we love libraries and librarians is an absolute given at Librarygame @ RITH HQ, we’re working directly with people we really enjoy hanging out with and not much needs to be said about that, we definitely like their company and we hope the feeling is mutual. So when you get an opportunity to hang out where 25,000 of them congregate, you’ve really got to make the most of it—as it won’t come by for another year!
As a firm believer in fortuitous encounters, this was the one place we thought we were most likely able to meet a diverse number of people who could point us towards learning something new and share insights that would serve us well, as well as us getting a chance to tell them a little bit more about us, without seeming like a hard-sell, quite frankly we’re inundated enough as it is.
So this year, after some deliberation and planning and following the recommendation of Dave, we decided to invest in one of us (myself) going to the American Library Association Annual conference which was to be held in Anaheim, using RITH profits.
You probably already know what we do by now, we make Librarygame, currently we have 1 x customer (the University of Huddersfield) with several more (well over 19) in the negotiation stage / discovery phase and very much eager to make it an integral part of what RITH does.
Let me just indicate here, that to a small business like us, going to America, represents a non trivial amount of money being spent, unless you really believe you’re going to get something out of it.. it’s a bit of a cost that you could actually invest in refining your product. It’s good to note with very little marketing, we’ve already managed to get ahead in promoting Librarygame with a fairly simple site launched a few months ago.. and an event we sponsored and featured on here. So in our diligent way, and we looked high and low to find super cheap tickets and set a modest budget of £1,500 / $2,330 for the whole thing including accommodation, this was decided on jointly by myself and Sam, while we discussed a whole range of other more pressing issues.
As a side note, in the interests of full detail disclosure! The conference itself was a couple of hundred dollars to attend, that’s with the ALA International Membership, and we found a nice hotel that had pretty okay reviews. The Comfort Inn (Maingate) on the flights from UK side, these guys seemed to have the best deal around for flights. admittedly, I had to catch three (not so fun).
Refining our pitch
One of the things that really focussed myself and Sam in the lead-up to the trip, was the basic process of refining our pitch and documenting things that needed to be documented clearly. All too often in larger companies, a product is tied into one team, department or product manager’s vision of what it has to be, and no one who’s involved in making it, gets a full chance to examine the possibilities from a variety of competing or shared perspectives. Personally I’ve always valued ideas being challenged, I figure if we felt comfortable enough to refine our own ideas in this way, not be afraid of voicing concerns or sometimes confronting our own assumptions, we’d be far more prepared and comfortable listening to customers and being adaptive to contextual requirements.
To most people who know how we operate and work, this is common knowledge but me and Sam have never been overly precious or protective about the origin or execution of ideas either, most things can change, everything gets a chance to be discussed to bring it in line with project aims. Time and budget permitting, every nuance of a project is allowed breathing room and gets optimised. We’ve never had Diva like attitudes about this or that. We really do take our time, and make time to try and figure out what’s best for the product and the customer, so this was no exception. By refining our pitch and polishing our documentation, We wanted to establish what the potential customers See, Hear and Experience first when they’re introduced to Librarygame.
Do our information dense elevator pitches get the point across for everyone?
“We make a gamification platform for public and academic libraries”
“We inject fun and playfulness into the experience of patrons”
“We make a game that’s played in libraries, it helps engage people”
“We make a bit of software that interfaces with your existing LMS, and adds a social discovery and gaming layer to the library interface”
Also important to note and slightly out of our immediate control was that Librarygame was being presented by the University of Huddersfield’s very own Andrew Walsh. So it was an opportunity to see how Andrew presents it from a librarian’s angle and get to hear the kind of questions that he had to field.
Actual Handshakes and plenty of opportunity for quick meetings.
First up, as we don’t live in the states and don’t have the luxury of hopping on a train or plane every other day, this trip represented the perfect chance to meet people face to face. One of the things we did was get in touch with the libraries and consortia who had already contacted us to see who is going and wants to meet up. Out of those, quite a few who have been pursuing getting a flavour of Librarygame customised for their libraries contacted us, and I was still arranging some calls and meetings while I was there, in a sense, in theory we would be all set before we even arrived.
Even if we had two meetings that led to work directly or indirectly, it would have been worth it! In reality we had many more meetings! *
Despite having sometimes worked with clients we’ve never actually met face to face at RITH, i.e. Christie’s, we’re a firm believer in the power of meeting people face to face, it makes you seem very much real, and you can develop a better understanding of their needs, operational hierarchies. Sometimes that conversation over some drinks about something completely unrelated to business, can lead to far better rapport and plenty of opportunity to learn the nuances of how to engage with an organisation as smoothly as possible.
* Due to commercial sensitivity and to honour the NDAs we have in place, we might have to completely anonymise their mention in later posts, or refer to the general gist of the meetings, as opposed to specifics.
This is a quick video we made before we moved into our new offices. We discuss how we’re floored by the response to http://librarygame.co.uk, officially announce Orangetree (for public libraries) and Lemontree (for academic libraries) and how we’re in the process of working out pricing models etc.
Since making this video, a few things have happened. 1. we sat down with our super duper accountants and did some calculations.
2. We visited the city of Glasgow in Scotland for the LILAC Conference and met up with some lovely Glasgow University Library folk and made a pilgrimage to the city’s awesome Mitchell Library, and of course Anderston Library, which is home to the Womens Library these days.
3. All in all we’ve been really busy corresponding to everyone who has either asked for some more information, or made serious enquiries about having a flavour of librarygame customised for them, or even just invited us round to see them (thanks for the flights too!!), you guys are a generous bunch in every sense of the word, we look forward to sharing more of the journey with you.
Really fascinating post on reddit today accompanied by an awesome picture and some interesting insights in the comments. This kid, clearly a young adult now, reminiscing his past and how he was motivated to read 100 books to get a Gameboy! Look at how happy he is! How amazing to be able to capture that!
We’ve always wondered whether something that’s so intrinsically worthwhile (like reading and interacting in the library) requires any other rewards, and whether rewards unrelated to the core of an activity really affect a young persons expectations of how the world should work.
Rewards and should be lasting, measurable, have a relationship with achieving mastery of an activity, and more importantly be personal. In the context of a piece of software that facilitates some of those reward facets and prompts them to happen, it’s no mean feat to get it spot on! If we’re going deeper into the gamification genre, how about being recognised/rewarded in spite of failure? (theres a controversial one!)
As we gear up towards marketing our offering of Librarygame in two flavours (Lemontree for academia, and yet-to-be-unveiled-tree for public libraries) these are the things that keep our brains whirring away!
The thing we want to do the most is encourage and reward the use of the library for the sheer pleasure it would induce and the lasting impact it would have but we can’t help but think about the broader themes of motivation and reward and how opinionated people are about their interplay especially in education. This article for example harks back to 2009 and defines some of these points in relation to school reward culture.
In the UK, in the context of behaviour management programmes, the disparity and inconsistency of the educational experience and the recent concept of schools governing themselves we wonder if there are any schools with a good deal of experience in implementing reward systems for younger kids through to young adults and whether this has had a favourable impact through their educational journey and life prospects.
Do you know anyone who’s done any longitudal studies in this area worth checking out? it surely can’t be a recent phenomenon.
We totally broke the two hundred and twenty five user mark over the holidays, and we’re looking forward to what 2012 has in store for us. Now that most of the kinks are eliminated, and all major functions are active, by mid January/early February we’re aiming to launch the targeted advertising of Lemontree in the physical library space.
Our little recon mission, looking in the nooks and crannies of the the University of Huddersfield Library gave us loads of ideas about visual placement and presence.
More importantly, we think the holiday itself and not thinking about lemontree/librarygame all waking hours of the day gave us a bit of breathing space and room for elaborating on ideas about where we’d like to head with it, the direct result are some killer new features that we’ll have to keep under wraps for just now.
Tomorrow, Iman is heading to the Reading Agency, and we’re utterly thrilled to be in their presence! We’ve got lots to learn, some stuff to show and potentially lots to talk about together. Ideally we’d love to work with them in some capacity as they seem extremely switched on, and nice. Ever since we started in fact, they’ve been on our list of people to talk to. Their presentations and reports have almost always illuminated our way,
Recently we were reading some encouraging statistics from them!
• 4,125 UK library sites + 573 mobiles
• 321.5million visits to UK libraries in 2009-10
• 77.9% of 5-10 year olds use libraries
• Children’s book borrowing has risen year on year for six years
• Web visits to UK libraries have increased by 87.7% over four years
• The number of volunteers working with libraries rose by 7.7% in 2009/10
• 760,000 children did the Summer Reading Challenge in 2010
source :Miranda McKearney, Director, OBE, Reading Agency
Incidentally, here is a link to the front end of the summer reading challenge for kids http://circus-stars.org.uk/ (warning has sound ) and a video describing other successful project of theirs groupthing
Update 1.1 has been streamed right into the live version as of 11.40pm last night, and other than minor updates I think this is it for 2011 updates till the new year.
As for this update to Lemontree
We thought it would be pretty crucial for users to be able to essentially comment on their activity, and within the library we think for now there should be 3 different types of commenting.
1. A regular comment when you have something to say
2. An actual factual review which evaluates, praises or critiques.
3. An annotation, for when you’re quoting something from that item.