Thinking About: Checklists

Before Morgan Freeman made a silly movie the bucket list concept was making waves. Books like 1000 Places to See Before You Die were popular back in my days working at a bookstore. People like having a connection to something larger than themselves. All of society of based on that principle. Having a checklist of places you’ve visited is handy and marking them off the list or a map from time to time gives you a feeling of accomplishment.

When Facebook first began allowing extensions on the original homepage, before the News Feed, it seemed like everyone had enabled the world and United States map to show off the countries and states they had visited.

Hardball Passport has taken this to the challenge of ballpark visits. Not just keeping track of which parks you went to but how the games turned out.

In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Brothers” Data, the android, meets his creator, Dr. Noonian Soong. As Dr. Soong attempts to explain his desire to have a legacy, he walks Data through the decision tree of parenthood and history.

DATA: Old things?

SOONG: Old buildings, churches, walls, ancient things, antique things, tables, clocks, knick knacks. Why? Why, why?

DATA: There are many possible explanations.

SOONG: If you brought a Noophian to Earth, he’d probably look around and say, tear that old village down, it’s hanging in rags. Build me something new, something efficient. But to a human, that old house, that ancient wall, it’s a shrine, something to be cherished. Again, I ask you, why?

DATA: Perhaps, for humans, old things represent a tie to the past.

There are moments in life mean different things to different people, but everyone has a few tucked into the back of their mind that they wait for, prepare for, and hope will cross their path in the future. Something as simple as a voice modulator or a fan: you have to do a Darth Vader impersonation.  Or maybe Christmas tree shopping lets you break out a Linus speech. Maybe you finally get a chance to correctly chime in “Dude, you’re getting a Dell!”

One of these white whales for me was the cellular peptide cake. With mint frosting. Going back to the Star Trek well, there is an episode where Data has a dream that features an appearance from Counselor Trio as…a cake.

As someone with very limited art skills recreating anything that needs creative efforts is often beyond my skills. I can muddle my way through things from time to time. I can make a normal cake. But when it comes to the artistic effort, my final results often turn out like Homer’s – nothing like the picture in my mind’s eye.

Taking up this challenge was on my bucket list. And this weekend I set myself to the task. One box of funfetti, some frosting, and several bottles of food coloring later, I completed my masterpiece:

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In addition to visiting the Star Trek Experience before it closed, including walking on the bridge of the NCC-1701-D, this is another large item crossed off the bucket list. And the cake tasted pretty good too.

Thinking About: Glossophobia

If you have watched TV this month, especially the first few rounds of the MLB playoffs, you are probably familiar with this ad for the Nexus 7 tablet. While the ad campaign began this summer with a longer spot, it has been during the fall that the campaign really began to take root influencing search behavior.

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Using the wonderful Google Trends tool, it’s easy to take a quick look back in time to get a perspective on how successful the ad has been. I don’t know about you, but I did not know the term glossophobia before seeing the ad. Thankfully for the star of the promo, he happened to know the term that described his affliction but not necessarily what it meant. Or he just enjoyed hearing the definition again.

Regardless, glossophobia existed as something of an online footnote over the last several years.

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However, the results really picked up in September and October. For anecdotal reference, there were ten MLB playoff games aired from October 3 to October 6, where the glossophobia search reached its peak.

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Will the ad campaign translate into sales? Maybe. The Nexus 7 is a nice tablet in my experience. At the very, Google has funded an educational campaign that taught people that glossophobia is the fear of speaking in public.

Thinking About: King Richard’s Faire

Immersive events are everywhere these days. Whether it’s one of the bi-coastal PAX weekends, San Diego Comic-Con or one of many local Comic Cons, Dragoncon, or a renaissance faire, cultural events creating a world are happening all the time. Cosplayers and fans dress up at conventions, movie launches, and any time that going out in costume is appropriate in a way that I don’t remember growing up, which makes sense, because many of these events either didn’t exist or took place on a much smaller scale.

When you arrive at King Richard’s Faire, a renaissance festival in Carver, Massachusetts, the atmosphere is designed to bring guests into another world. Almost.

There are period buildings set up, actors roaming the grounds, craftsmen and women selling swords and clothes, storytellers, artists, and more. Attendees arrive in costume, some for fun, some to join the atmosphere, and some obviously to be seen. This elite group can even be better dressed than the pros and sometimes, like at PAX, they are an even bigger draw than the pros. At PAX, this is the Ghostbusters, complete with proton packs, or a woman in an intricately built robot suit.

But the fun falls short at one important place: food tickets. KRF is unapologetic about their pricing structure: “Food and beverage tickets cost $1.00 each and are sold in $5.00 lots only.” If you’ve ever been to an amusement park or event with this sort of structure you know there is no redeeming value to it. Everyone is upset. And I’d like to say, needlessly.

Rather than having the concessions stands, all with themed names and offerings, take everyone out of the moment with a clumsy cash exchange that results in wasted tickets and disappointment, they could leave the real world at the door.

The place to charge for food, say one “meal” worth, is at the gate, where money has to be exchanged. At the entrance to the faire, as an additional to the ticket, either a higher overall price or a second higher tier, include a number of period styled coins. Each coin has a value within the economy inside the park and can be exchanged for food and drink purchases.

The coins could be designed with a number of faces and phrases, shapes and sizes, and serve as an extension of the theme of the event. Rather than pulling out greenbacks or a Visa to buy food tickets, you’d pull out a small sack of collectible quality, themed coins, that enhance the experience of being taken to another world.

No interest in buying the food? Fine, you walk away with a small set of collectible coins, which, you can be sure, will have followers trying to complete their sets over multiple visits or years. Still hungry? Well, you can buy more coins inside the park of course. Just like tickets can be purchased today.

But if you are interested in eating on-site, since you usually can’t leave (and there’s nothing around King Richard’s Faire specifically if you were able to re-enter) you trade a number of coins for the food items you’d like, built in to the price. If you want more, purchase more coins!

By treating the coins as valuable, sought after, commodities, people won’t be stuck with three “wasted” dollars in tickets from their day out but a small token of the renaissance. The coins that are spent could be reused every year, with different years gaining more collectibility as time passes. New coins would be minted for each year to change things up and keep the collection growing.

Coins could be traded among the attendees like Disney pins, but also have a value of their own. They would have purchasing power, collectibility, and keep the experience integrated. After all, people attend these events to escape. Why frustrate that when it would be so easy to make another part of the day magical?

When Disney began to offer a McDonald’s stand inside the park, that broke the illusion. Pulling out a credit card and fighting “the man” over inconvenient ticket exchanging in a medieval town? Annoying. King Richard’s Faire prices the tickets in packs of five to boost profits. That pain would still exist. But keeping a small commemorative coin, that could be traded, sold or reused in the future: less pain, more fun, and a tangible memory of the trip.