Conducttr Blog

I was motivated to create this post because of the launch of Scott Walker’s Shared Storyworlds site which I’m keen to see become an important resource. I’ll leave Scott to define what a shared storyworld is and I’ve discussed crowdsoucing and collaborative storyworlds in some detail in Section 4.3 of my book Getting Started in Transmedia Storytelling (it’s available for free).

What I wanted to address in this post was the issue of motivating the right participation from the right people. Using words like “amateur”, “professional”, “user-generated” are unhelpful because in today’s creative environment someone’s role is very fluid. For example, if an artist who makes art as a primary source of income decides to contribute to a shared storyworld without immediate financial compensation does that make her an amateur?

For me, a successful Shared Storyworld will seek contributions from people with the right skill level and the right enthusiasm. Where ability and enthusiasm are mismatched the most likely outcome will be contributions that do not meet the desired quality threshold or the owning author will find herself paying for contributions that do. Or continuing to contribute her own content.

Fans, Collaborators and Contract

In the first diagram (above) I make the distinction between a “fan” and a “collaborator” as the ability to be a canonical contribution to the storyworld. (While “collaborator” might not be the word Scott might use I think it’s a helpful word to use in thinking of how to build a shared storyworld – see the second diagram).

The Contribution of Fans, Collaborators and Contractors

This is not to say that fan contributions are not be encouraged but they should be regarded more as a gift – it’s an act of affection. It’s why one woman and her child drove 7 hours to Austin to give Rovio CEO Peter Vesterbacka two homemade Angry Birds ceramics – it’s not a canonical contribution, it a gift. And this is how most user-generated content might be viewed (as a gift to the community): motivating this behavior is quite different from motivating collaboration.

The third diagram illustrates the corrective action you may need to take if contributions are either not forthcoming or are not of the desired quality.

Migrating Fans and Contractors to Collaboration

Finally, here’s my 8 steps to building a shared storyworld from the perspective of motivating someone to contribute to your world:

  1. Inspire – first and foremost you need to capture attention and seek to ignite in the participant a deep routed creative urge to be a part of something amazing
  2. Reassure – with many competing projects and opportunities, participants need to be reassured that their contribution will count. That is, that “something is going to happen”; that the project has momentum or endorsement or credibility or all of these otherwise many may feel their contribution could be a waste of time
  3. Inform – tell the participate how she can contribute and describe the processes for submitting work and having it accepted. The process needs to be fair and transparent as this will help reassure.
  4. Entice – tease collaboration from participants by offering a spectrum of ways in which they can contribute to the storyworld. Don’t just ask for “stories” or “illustrations”, also ask for small specific focused contributions. These are easier to complete and are more likely to be in canon.
  5. Recognize – thank everyone for their participation whether it meets your quality threshold or not
  6. Rally – be supportive of the community and ensure that comments from community members are constructive and not hurtful or spiteful
  7. Reward – find a way to reward participation in addition to any commercial arrangement you may have agreed
  8. Educate – if you find that participation is high but the required quality isn’t, consider ways to improve the ability of your contributors by recommending further reading or courses or even holding your own seminars or online discussions and courses.

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