Professional Studies Assignment 1 – Sixth Post: Jo Lush

On November 21st, we were visited by a digital media project manager and Bournemouth University interactive media production graduate Jo Lush.

Jo told us a lot about how her career evolved after graduating from Bournemouth University. The most interesting part of Jo’s presentation to me was the use of development methods in the professional industry.

Iterative_development_model_V2

At university we are encouraged to use an iterative development method. The advantages of a method like this are quite obvious, by working over the design again and again, more problems can arise and be dealt with before the product deployment. This process of backtracking can be very important to bringing a high level of polish and professionalism to the final outcome.

Despite this, Jo tells us that most agencies use the Waterfall method.

800px-Waterfall_model.svg

 

This method has a lot in common with the iterative method, most of the steps are identical. The main difference being there is not backtracking involved. If a problem arises it is fixed along the way and production continues. The closest thing to backtracking is the maintenance step, this is mainly to fix faults and improve performance. Jo tells us the reason why the waterfall method is for more popular is because the lack of time teams are given on each project.
Jo states that most digital artefacts are created this way, and compares the method to that of building a house :

  • you can’t draw the plans until you know what you want
  • you can’t start building it until you have the blueprints (wireframes)
  • you can’t put the walls in without the foundations
  • you can’t decorate until you’ve built the walls (design, UI)
  • you can’t move in until its all been signed off by the building inspector (bug and beta testing)

I understand the benefits of an iterative design method, and with the necessary time I think it is typically the best choice. But I haves doubts that this is a good method to be taught to new students due to the lack of adoption in the real professional world, using the waterfall method for preparing myself for a career after graduation may be more beneficial to me.

 

References

Wikipedia. 2013. Iterative and incremental development. [online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iterative_and_incremental_development [Accessed: 9 Dec 2013].

Wikipedia. 2013. Waterfall model. [online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterfall_model [Accessed: 9 Dec 2013].

November 27, 2013
Professional Studies Assignment 1 – Fifth Post: Andy Touch

On November 14 we were joined by previous graduate and workshop lecturer for Digital Media Design at Bournemouth University, Andy Touch.

Since leaving Bournemouth University, Andy has joined Unity Technologies as a Product Evangelist, which consists of giving talks and demonstrations around the world to advertise Unity’s products and services.
After graduating from Bournemouth University, Andy created a list of goals, one of them being if Unity ever offered him a job, to take it no matter what.

The job listing for Andy’s position at Unity stated that it required at least 3 years industry experience, Andy had just one month. Andy describes this as a means of filtering, keeping down application submissions for jobs to make sorting through them much more manageable. When applying for our first jobs after graduating, Andy tells us not to be put off by this requirement and to apply anyway.

When it comes to the old saying “its not what you know, its who you know”, Andy tells us this is only half true, you really do need the skills in order to work at the position you apply for.
The first half however, is also equally as important. According to Andy, companies will ignore nine out of ten job request emails, no matter what skills we possess. Meeting someone in person is a hundred times more affective, but how does someone like me meet people in the tech industry?
Some recommendations from Andy are:

  • Meetups
  • Events
  • Conferences
  • Hack days
  • Game jams

At these events Andy tells us to make friends with everyone, even going as far to by people coffee and alcohol. In doing so people feel more obliged to talk to you, and if they are still rude, then you are probably better off not working for them anyway!
Aside from bribing them with drinks, Andy says ask to use people’s work, show an interest in what they are working on, people like other people to use their work and it also helps to create a talking point.

So if all this networking pays off and you land yourself an interview, what next?
Prepare for a test – every interview that Andy has been to involved a test, for example; recreate Pong or Wipeout in one hour.
Know what you are talking about – don’t lie if you don’t know, interviewers will notice! Admit you don’t know, research it later  and email the interviewers.
Research your interviewers and company – and if possible, try to make friends with them.
Use the companies products – actually want to work there, enjoy what you do and show some enthusiasm.
Don’t be arrogant, don’t be negative – this reiterates my first professional studies post, don’t be a dick.

November 19, 2013
Professional Studies Assignment 1 – Fourth Post: Michael Hawkyard

On Wednesday 30 October we were visted by Michael Hawkyard, the New Business Director for Amuzo and a previous graduate from Bournemouth University. Amuzo (previously 4T2 Multimedia) are a local, twenty-two man casual games studio based in Bournemouth, Hawkyard tells us initally, Amuzo was set up with a “blagged office and computers”. Originally  a web games design company, they now mostly create apps. Their biggest client to date is Lego, but they have also worked with Mobil, Warner Brothers and the BBC. A point that Hawkyard covered at some length was pitching, and stressing the importance of being able to successfully pitch ideas to potential clients. Within the last thirty days, Amuzo has manage to acquire £75,000 government funding from a single pitch. In order to have a successful pitch, Hawkyard highlights some important areas:

  • allow time for questions – if the people are unclear about areas of the pitch, this is a great time to explain. During a Games Lab pitch, Amuzo were given thirty minutes, it was suggested the presentation should be fifteen minutes long followed by a fifteen questions and answers section. Hawkyard’s presentation was only twenty seconds, in which he spoke about some of Amuzo’s previous work and stated that their product will create jobs. Hawkyard has immediately captured the attention of the panel of judges, representatives from EA, Crytek and Rebellion, who proceeded to ask him all the questions they need answers to, and the pitch was successful.
  • be confident – confidence really reflects on your company and product.
  • never ever pitch live stuff! –  live demos often go wrong, especially if it the code is not finished. Handing a controller to a panel of judges is not ideal, games typically have a big learning curve at the beginning, when the learning is over the full enjoyment of the game becomes apparent. A typical pitch would not allow enough time for this. Hawkyard suggest showing a video of the product, this way you have controlled what the judges will see, and if the product is currently not in a working state or if it hasn’t even been started on, a mock up could be made in After Effects etc.

November 13, 2013
Professional Studies Assignment 1 – Third Post: Richard Wallis

Richard Wallis is a TV Production lecturer at Bournemouth University (2013), he has accumulated numerous amounts of year working in the television industry and is currently also an Associate Senior Producer at Twofour.

Twofour (2013) is one of the UK’s top independent television and digital media agencies.

Wallis covered a lot of interesting points during the lecture, some of the things that were particularly interesting to me and I’d like to highlight, were the statistics for internet enabled devices and the increasing budgets spent on advertising online, but as this is a professional studies assignment, I will cover the professional points.

A point raised by Wallis was convergence, how things in the media world are becoming more cross contaminated, one example being job titles and roles.

The roles expected in professionals working in the industry are increasing, Wallis listed some examples of opportunities in digital media content for converging TV, these included;

  • editorialised content

  • supporting and developing fandom

  • social interactivity

  • game playing

  • consumer advertising

 

This fits more inline with what Laurence Topham told us in the previous professional studies lecturer, that working at The Guardian, he is expected and needs to have a broad range of skills.

This is interesting to me, as it completely contradicts what Tim Wright said on the first intensive day of professional studies lectures. He suggested that we find something we are good at and specialise in that area, don’t try to learn everything.  A point akin to the jack of all trades, master of none idiom.

I can see the advantages in both points of view, having skills in multiple areas is extremely useful, but to spread one’s attention across too many fields could be detrimental in mastering each skill, a fine balance needs to be found.

 

References:

Bournemouth University, 2013. Richard Wallis – Bournemouth University Staff Profile Pages [online]. Bournemouth University Staff Profile Pages. Available from: http://staffprofiles.bournemouth.ac.uk/display/rwallis [Accessed October 30 2013].

Twofour Group, 2013. Twofour Group [online]. Twofour Group. Available from: http://www.twofour.co.uk [Accessed October 30 2012].

 

October 30, 2013
Professional Studies Assignment 1 – Second Post: Laurence Topham

Laurence Topham, a former graduate of the Digital Media Design degree (then known as New Media Production) at Bournemouth University has worked at the Guardian newspaper as a documentary filmmaker since 2008 (The Guardian 2013). One of his biggest digital media works for The Guardian to date is the interactive documentary, Firestorm (2013), which includes photographs, articles, video, interviews and maps.

Laurence tells us that Firestorm took some inspirations for the award winning interactive documentary Snowfall (2012) from the New York Times.

Firestorm was filmed in Taz Mania and revolves around one family’s ordeal with bush fires in early 2013.

Laurence told us a lot of facts that I found quite interesting during the making of Firestorm which I will aim to highlight here.

Firstly, only around 10% of material that Laurence produced was actually used in the final product, this includes video and footage and photographs. There was even a whole range of interviews with other characters also affected by the bushfires that was completely cut, the reason behind this was to focus on the main story, the family.

During the final stages of the project, Laurence physically created storyboards using colour coded post it notes. He said having a tactile feedback from the storyboard offers a great advantage over a digital version.

Firestorm had ten different prototype iterations before it was finally finished, according to Laurence, this was during the final week leading up to the deadline.

In order to see how the product would be used, and to know if any changes were needed to be made, a user testing lab was set up in order to monitor users.

The testing lab consisted of a room with a two way mirror, in which twenty people with computers were asked to use the product. Various cameras were set up monitoring each person, concentrating on the users hand, eye and monitor.

With the feedback collected here, changes in order to help the user were made, on of the most important being a “scroll down to continue” message at the bottom of the page to help guide users who didn’t know how to navigate to the next section.

In total, Firestorm took three months to complete, in comparison, Snowfall took six.

Firestorm has received 750,000 views, with an average viewing time of twenty minutes, though only 60% of users actually made it to the end. This raises an interesting point, though Firestorm has a linear narrative, being interactive, users have the ability to view sections in any order they wish, even missing some out. Relinquishing the control of the narrative to the users was a new attitude that Laurence had to adopt.

References:

The Guardian, 2013. Laurence Topham, documentary filmmaker | The Guardian Open Weekend | theguardian.com [online]. The Guardian. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/open-weekend/laurence-topham [Accessed 21 October 2013].

The Guardian, 2013. Firestorm: The story of the bushfire at Dunalley | World news | The Guardian [online]. The Guardian. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2013/may/26/firestorm-bushfire-dunalley-holmes-family [Accessed 21 October 2013].

New York Times, 2012. Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek – Multimedia Feature – NYTimes.com [online]. New York Times. Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2012/snow-fall/#/?part=tunnel-creek [Accessed 21 October 2013].

October 21, 2013
Professional Studies Assignment 1 – First Post

“following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain” (dictionary.com 2013).

The prior text is a dictionary definition of professional, which boils down to; if you are being paid for what you are doing, then you are a professional. But is it really that easy to become a professional? I think there is a huge difference to being “a” professional and being professional.

One of the main points that was raised in the intensive day lectures was a point from Helen Zaltzman, that was “don’t be a dick”.

So is being “a dick” not professional? Why would an employee’s attitude matter as long as their skills are adequate? Professionalism is also how you act, and how you act reflects upon the company you are working for and representing. Therefore being professional will make you a more desirable hiring opportunity.

An example in the digital media field of this would be the hiring process from the well loved shoe website Zappos. Zappos has a very highly regarded customer service, consistently achieving satisfaction scores of 90% or more (Stiglitz 2012). CEO Tony Hsieh states “Our corporate culture is our brand” and aims to protect their brand by offering new employees a cash incentive to not work at Zappos (McFarland 2008).

New employees are put through an intensive four week training program. During this time, employees are exposed to the inner workings of the company’s culture, strategies and processes. After around one week, Zappos then make their offer to each individual; “If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you have worked, plus a $2,000 bonus.” (McFarland 2008). This sounds like a great deal, but only 3% of trainees accept this offer. This is a clear show of confidence from Zappos which also inspires loyalty and pride in new employees immediately from the offset.

Reputation and brand perception is so important to Zappos, that they are literally willing to buy off unprofessional employees, this should be enough inspiration to aspiring professionals.

 

References:

Dictionary.com, 2013. Professional | Define Professional at Dictionary.com [online]. Dictionary.com. Available from: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/professional [Accessed 7 October 2013].

McFarland, K., 2008. Why Zappos Offers New Hires $2,000 to Quit. Bloomberg Businessweek [online], 16 September 2008. Available from: http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2008-09-16/why-zappos-offers-new-hires-2-000-to-quitbusinessweek-business-news-stock-market-and-financial-advice [Accessed 7 October 2013].

Stiglitz, K., 2012. Customer Satisfaction is Not Dead. Vertical Response [online], 11 July 2012. Available from: http://www.verticalresponse.com/blog/customer-satisfaction-is-not-dead/ [Accessed 7 October 2013].

October 7, 2013