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.
okay so with very little promotion in 21 days we’ve managed to get
133 items have been borrowed. (this wasn’t active in week 1)
413 e-resources have been accessed,
44,585 points scored and 333 badges unlocked!
So to promote Lemontree at the UoH we’re doing a spot of reality point collecting.. by being present on the plasma screens dotted around the place, and customising the visuals one school at a time, I don’t know how we’d go about this if we didn’t know so many people there in each school. Thanks to Jay Bowker @ Business School for being so prompt and taking these photos of the plasma displays where these little call to actions are displayed!
Interestingly within about an hour of posting these up, we had a surge in the business school, primarily one user who has valiantly been defending the business school in a bit of frenzied fashion by borrowing lots of books and returning them really quickly.
Technically what he’s doing is a bit naughty- but it is sort of playful and this kind of thing happens all the time and is only by a tiny minority of users! We were thinking of implementing the ‘cooldown period’ feature for each item borrowed after we saw him doing it though!
For our friends who are a bit surprised why we’re not writing a pitch document for this Birmingham Library game thing.. well its quite simple really, a couple of factors.
Firstly as a company (RITH) we’ve never chased pots of public money. We’ve started a new policy of refusing to work on speculative bids for local govt. etc.. and we’ve never really pitched for work full stop…! People work with us because they know what we do, they pay us, we get the job done. It’s less messy this way and the focus is on the work not on finding the correct things to say in a pitch document or competing and giving away our creative analysis and strategies away for free.
Secondly, we dont enter into competition with any of our friends! Never done it, never will. During the course of considering this brief and researching around it, we realised that one of our friends have had time to consider it and are submitting their proposals for this. We suggested the possibility of doing something together and sadly the prospect of 3-4 way partnerships didn’t sit well with some of our friends’ other partners at the late stage.
So there you have it. Despite the brief almost being made for us, we’re not participating in this process.
In a sense its a shame we only heard about it when the public call happened which wasn’t that long ago! some heads up would have been nice, as our intentions and the space we’ve been operating in was public knowledge for some time as far back as early 2010, and more recently at SXSWi 2011! ahh well.
Good luck to everyone involved, we’re definitely up for consultancy for whoever wins the pitch! ;)
** update ** just had a look, the mighty and frankly awesome ‘preloaded' who were doing stuff and winning awards when we were still in uni, won the pitch! we're excited and curious to see what they do!
** update Nov 12** met with Rebecca at ILI12 and had a play with the game they’ve made. It’s a beautiful fun micromanagement game on mobile.
We think libraries and the people who work in them play an incredibly pivotal role in a civilised society and we’re in the really fortunate position as a small company to be doing something to help with our flavours of Librarygame™
…a society where the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake is considered desirable, where reading is cherished and encouraged, where people can find out more about their area by exploring their local archives, where there are bright, civilised library staff on hand to help with these goals.
- Why save libraries by James Delingpole
yep we’re totally behind the statement above and many more like it, but we thought we should elaborate upon a sort of roadmap and mission statement, to be quite specific about the steer and directions we’d like to be taking in the near future, seems like the thing to do if we’re actively not participating in writing pitches, refining and subsidising the development of our own offering and well within the spirit of frankness that we set out to maintain with this project.
Whether it’s public libraries or academic libraries- our first objective is to help make the experience of using the library more engaging and attractive and get its activities more noticed on channels where its not currently being noticed. We’re doing this as a means of getting low/non use potential users to find space for using the library in their incredibly busy digital lifestyles.
We’re also doing it as a means of rewarding those who are already using the library with enhanced utility, in the form of a service based offering which recognises and highlights their loyalty and assists in their discovery and use of the library. If we’re being optimistic, perhaps this is ultimately one means of sparking microsocial interactions amongst patrons in a space that traditionally engenders solitary experiences.
We’re fully aware that we’re operating in a highly contested space of social interactive services that vie for a slice of everyones attention, but we also find the spaces that libraries can create to be quite compelling in themselves so it’s not just providing a layer that leads to nothing, it’s a layer with a fundamental experience attached to it that is full of intrinsic value. It’s providing yet another method with which to filter and curate existing collections and to interact with others while we’re doing so, with the key differentiator that it will be playful, memorable and enjoyable!
How we’re doing it
We’re designer / developers and more fundamentally interaction designers. There are all sorts of ways in which library interactions can be affected and a sense of utility, microsocial interaction and flow can be achieved.
Using the language of games and the mechanics of gaming (competition, leaderboards, messaging, reciprocity, collection) in the design of interactions, would be potent forms of achieving this goal.
Our master plan for the Academic edition, currently in operation at the University of Huddersfield, in the form of Lemontree (which has been up for about a week) is to:
1. Keep refining the existing offering and finish adding the features that we have planned. next on our list are player to player interactions and the activities which also enrich the catalogue.
2. Look at integrating the interactions even more with the academic experience, a form of Edu.RPG with the library at its hub and the main quest giver!
3. Work with specialists to support more library systems and interoperate with other services. we’re obviously really keen on talking to Talis, Axiell and SirsiDynix as well as the people behind enrichment services such as librarything *which we love* and organisations that share some of our core values and beliefs such as the awesome Reading Agency who we’re meeting in January!
We made a little video in the RITH offices to talk about Lemontree, bear in mind, its the end of a very very busy working week, and we’re both a bit flu-ey
After a good few hundred or so additions and tweaks. We officially launched Lemontree our flavour of Librarygame™ for the University of Huddersfield this week!
The feature that took the longest amount of time to test for was integrating with Facebook. Everything is now working and we already have students and staff registered and using it representing 6 of the 7 schools at the University.
Users have managed to unlock certain achievements like the early bird one which we’re really fond of, for getting into the library before 10am x 5 times, and we’re already tweaking and refining things in response to usage and feedback.
If you’re not at the University of Huddersfield. you can have a look here but sadly there’s not much you can play with without a library card and associating it with your account.
Although Lemontree is an exclusive for the University of Huddersfield right now, we’re interested in hearing if other institutions or public libraries might benefit from it and want to get talking to us. if so here’s a form :)
Here’s iman’s account of that:
Brendan as well as being a good friend of mine, is someone who doesn’t hold back any punches. He’s a straight talking, no bullshit kind of guy, who makes things and inspires others to do the same.
…he asked a really important, question.
Whats the benefit to the students?
I have to say, although it didnt stump me much, its the kind of question that if you don’t have the answer to makes you sound rather stupid. The last time someone asked me a question as decisive as this was actually also in relation to the library work I was doing in 2005..That, was none other than Don Norman himself!
In the midst of the sheer amount of development we’ve been doing, its been a while since I pondered on it, so this prompted me ponder some more on, as a valuable exercise I present it here… after all Lemontree is first and foremost, a user centric venture, predicated on the fact that libraries are there for their patrons, and we’re trying in our own way to make it more appealing and better for everyone.
So here’s a summary and edit of what I wanted to say
Making it functional and visually pleasing go hand in hand.
Most screen based interfaces in libraries aren’t really that attractive and it will take a lot of hammering and shimmying to get them to be as aesthetically pleasing on the eye as well designed commercial interfaces. Although people get used to how something looks visually, a lack of visual sophistication doesn’t go unnoticed especially when something nicer looking comes along. Today you can bet a lot of your users are using amazingly slick interfaces on a daily basis so the barrier is set very high!
One of Lemontree’s unique draws from when we started was how it could offer a very visual interface. The very first presentations we did focussed on this. While explaining what the concept was we were showing glimpses of what could be. People tend to gravitate towards well designed interfaces and we think this was key to Lemontree’s adoption by Huddersfield, we’d like to think it wasn’t just the concept.
It’s a no brainer that people expect things that they interact with enjoyably to look beautiful, subsequently, we think the more time we expend on this aspect while keeping functionality well catered for is time well spent. Generally you can improve on functionality by paying attention to the way something looks and visual sophistication will be rewarded by users coming back to your interface again and again.
Visuals in Lemontree can be broken down into the following components
..of the above we’re in the last stages of refining all but the last one.