Daniel Ravner

Head of Digital,

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TV by the people - Can the audience come up with a better show than TV professionals?

Yesterday I've started an experiment from within the TV industry. It's about creating and developing a TV show through crowd wisdom. "Audience Wisdom" if you will, and it's the first time such an idea is actually tested.

I'm relying not only on the collective brain power of hundreds; I'm also assuming crowds are semi-professional TV people, considering the dominance TV has in popular culture.

This project is linked to Ted not only in the spirit of practical innovation but also in the form of Lior Zoref - a crowd wisdom researcher who recently gave a TED talk on the subject.

Would love your thoughts on the subjects, how feasible do you think the concept is, what kind of shows you think is relevant to a collective process or any other insight.

If you have ideas for a TV show or would like to join the group please visit www.tvbythepeople.com

  • Mar 29 2013: It's an excellent idea going outside the 'box' for new ideas. You're right in that you don't have to be a professional to have new ideas, professionalism is choosing the few that might work and then making the proper assault. Good luck!! I will put my thinking cap on and get back to you (as a non-professional, of course).
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    Mar 29 2013: From what I have seen crowds are not wise. I suppose if the answers are collected from individuals it might be of use?

    But mostly I look to TV for entertainment, I think professionals are better at creating entertainment.
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      Mar 29 2013: How do you mean “not wise”?
      I know that for the “wisdom of the crowds” to bring something new to the table, it usually has to be a nice amount of people (round 700) and there has to be a process. Under those terms the crowd notion is tested
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        Mar 30 2013: Groups of people are stupid. A riot is an extreme example of this. It is a safety in numbers mentality a do not stand out mentality.

        I have also seen this in marketing where they will do a focus group, in which the individual will unwittingly acquiesce to the groups thinking. This renders the focus group irrelevant.

        This is much of a speaker being able to influence a crowd.
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          Mar 30 2013: While I don't think I would say "stupid," here, I agree with the thrust of what Pat is saying. Research suggests that group brainstorms and focus groups are a poor way of generating creative or clever ideas, because of a tendency to conform within groups.

          This is not to say that team work doesn't make great sense, in which the team is deliberately composed of people who bring different strengths to the table that are vital to understanding of a complex problem. Different strengths and knowledge is not enough. These strengths and knowledge must be pertinent to the problem.

          TV as a case, though, may well be one in which it makes sense to pay attention to concepts from watchers, if one has the wherewithal to sift through them. There is a theater locally that on something like a quarterly basis poses a question to subscribers like, "describe a time that..." They then build a concept around some of their replies.
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        Mar 30 2013: E.G. Nazi Germany the people were rendered stupid by a dictator where the citizens would do things that were not in their own best interest, the 92 riots here in LA people were rendered stupid by the riots where they would do things that were not in their own best interest, soccer games where the people will riot and even execute the players for losing, irrational exuberance where the citizens of Holland paid 10 times the annual salary of a craftsman for 1 tulip bulb, a lynch mob.

        Stupid could be defined as an extreme case of ignorance that overrides the person's survival instinct. This is not the case with a functioning group with a rational purpose and goal.
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          Mar 30 2013: Pat and Fritzie, I can’t argue with what you are saying but I feel as though it’s the start of the argument/definition. Not its end.

          People behave differently in a group. It could be bad but it can be great (for the most part the group inhibits rude behavior. Having people around has a big chunk of what makes our everyday life sociable)

          That being said, there is enough knowledge on how to counter negative impact of a group (focus group done right are excellent source of knowledge) and enough information on how to make the best out of group (Wikipedia)

          Relating to TV by the People, we designed a process that tries to balance between having everybody heard and also having a clear guidance to take the process forward. the main tool is a deadline. Desicions are made until a certain point and were moving on to the next item on the list...
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        Mar 30 2013: A group can create bad behavior easily as with the examples I gave. I wonder if they inhibit good as well? More to the point they inhibit the individual. I will also say that most if not all good comes from an individual alone or acting in concert with other individuals as with an organization. This is different than a mob, group, crowd or collective. And not to be confused with people going about their business and exchanging with their fellow citizens.

        Having been to a number of focus groups and knowing something about marketing I have not seen that knowledge displayed that Wikipedia is pointing out.

        It seems to me that you are in the entertainment business consequently if what you do is entertaining you will probably do all right. I disagree with the innuendo that wisdom can be derived from a crowd.
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    Apr 2 2013: Good luck with your project, it should come up with some great ideas. Can I offer a few thoughts.

    The concept of having lots of people come up with ideas, of which a few are developed and some produced seems fairly similar to the idea behind the BBC Community Programmme Unit, where professionals developed and produced the chosen idea. This idea morphed, over thirty years, into the Video Nation. It would be worth checking out experiences from there.

    I have to declare a vested interest I wrote a book called 'Anyone can make TV', when I was working as a TV professional. The reason I wrote the book was because I believe people stories are important. But when they are excluded from TV, which is still mainly the dominant medium for storytelling, peoples can come to see their beliefs and values as somewhat less important.

    Too many professionals who come to crowd-sourcing, or community involvement to use a more dated term, think first of political stories, of viewpoints which challenge official and establishment voices. That need not be the case. There are I am sure many subjects, with great stories to be told, which have so far not made it through to TV screens.

    From my experience, most people can be semi-professional TV makers in that much of the technical skill can be handled by technology.

    Where they need help is in how to tell their stories on TV: How they will need a range of shots, how they will need to edit them into a coherent statement. How TV can be much more effective when it touches people emotions. People who do not work in the industry also need to understand the etiquette of how to use other peoples work, and what they can and can not control. It is also worth explaining to people in simple terms why you cannot say or show anything you like on TV, there have to be limits.

    While for TV you have to work within the framework of slots and strands the web offers the possibility of adding colour and depth to whats broadcast.
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      Apr 2 2013: Thanks Seamus.

      In this particular project, while were interested in hearing everyone’s stories and ideas, we will probably end up developing an entertainment format (Reality or Game show or the likes, only hopefully better and different approaches to those genres)
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        Apr 3 2013: What a pity. That sounds so much like whats out there already.

        The best bit of crowd sourcing is engaging with lots of new minds, some of whom will have fresh ideas.

        There have already been TV shows which have crowd sourced clips for entertainment, similar to Mark's example, and I have seen example of game shows using viewers clips. The web has had quite a few web cam reality shows which have been used for source footage for TV shows.
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          Apr 3 2013: I agree, but that's not what were aiming for. Were not asking for clips. We are creating a show, from scratch and we will build it stage by stage with the group. The Reality and Game show genres have a huge spectrom and I hope we can offer something new in that area. Im very open to other genres, the only thing is that drama feels less optimal for this process.
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      Mar 29 2013: Thanks, Awaiting your thoughts/ideas
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          Apr 2 2013: Nope. You can post as many as you like... and as for the space limit (500 characters) that's cause we want ideas that are initial enough so that the crowd can find enough ünexplored space"thay can add their voice to create
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    Apr 4 2013: Daniel, I have always heard American TV pros do not want ideas from the general public as it brings up sticky payment issues. For instance, when I go to the website of NBC, I believe they even say right out, please don't send us ideas as we can't read them.

    Is Israeli TV different in that they will accept ideas from the public, or perhaps they are the same and you are making an exception for this project? If Israeli TV is different, and stations generally take ideas from the public, why would they be different from American stations, any idea?
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    Mar 30 2013: Have you watched Ray William Johnson on YouTube? That's essentially what his show is. Fans forward viral videos to him and he in turn cracks jokes for 3 - 5 minutes twice a week.
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    Mar 30 2013: Daniel, There is .. IMO ... no such thing as crowd wisdom. OWS was started by organizers in Canada ... it had a specific agenda and organizers / managers to guide it in the proper direction. After it went big it lost direction and appeal. The crown lack the direction / guidance it was getting ... crowds do not think they follow / react.

    Unions have a big meeting .. a crowd ... the speaker gives them only limited choice and then conviences them that their choice was correct .. there was never a choice .. the decision was made by management long before the meeting was called.

    What you are seeking is opinion / input from individuals .. not a crowd. It is a lot like submit a title for this photo. Once a concept is selected the public phase is over unlike a crowd that you can whip into a frenzy. Much like presidential elections in the USA. You have no voice, no input, you check the box, I will do the thinking.

    Professionals can develop anything. Prior to investment there will be surveys in all market areas. If it is not profitable you woud never get a sponsor ... the "baby" would be doa.

    Your marketing people already know what is hot today and have a lead on what will be hot tomarrow.

    Compare what marketing tells you before you announce the results and see what the match is.

    Nice jesture ... the bottom line is money.

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      Mar 30 2013: Hey Robert,

      Im not sure if there are exact definition for what a crowd is or the process that qualifies as "crowd sourcing". I’ve read and learned about it and took from it what I thought might work (and this is an experiment. I don’t claim to have all the answers yet, which is what I find exciting about it)

      That being, I can definitely say that this is NOT a submit your caption competition. The gathering of ideas is the first phase. The fun part is where all those who submitted ideas are welcomed to a close group to develop the entire show together…

      Also, the bottom line is not money. If it was, I would turn to the brilliant and experienced professionals working with me and ask for new TV show formats. This is a creative attempt that strives to be financially viable, for the company behind it and for the participant in the experiment, so that more out of the box thinking will take place
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    Mar 29 2013: Well, it seems like a terrific idea, although I'm rather blanking on what I'd like to see. Do you have any ideas, Daniel?

    I haven't owned a television for thirty years. I do enjoy talk radio here in the states partially because it is participatory, the audience can call in and get on the air and talk to the host/guests, which I have done many times. How this would work for TV I don't know, most people have a phone at home to call in but not as many have a camera to send in a real-time visual image.

    One thing that interests me about myself: here in the States we talk humorously that there was a kid in every neighborhood who would eat anything for 25 cents. At age 53, I'm kind of like that. I walk a great deal, and have little hesitation about eating leaves and bugs I encounter on my walk. I will eat live snails, shell and all, if I encounter. I don't know how this could become a TV show, although I believe in Britain there is a show about foraging, where the host shows you plants you can pick growing wild that will add flavor to your prepared dishes. Well, come to think of it, that might be an excellent show for a place where they don't have it already.

    What actually is TV like in Israel, news, are there lots of religious shows, are there dramas and situation comedies?
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      Mar 30 2013: Hey greg, in order of question marks:

      I’m actually not sure what I would like to see. I guess something that on one hand qualifies as entertainment (reality, game show and the likes) and on the other hand something completely new. The entire point of this project is to see what new end result do you get when you create a new process.

      As for the eating everything for 25 cents. Bring it on…submit the idea in the website. Maybe this is the start of something (creativity like creativity, you never know what will get the process going) There’s no exact show like this but the concept of daring people to do stuff for money is around (fear factor)

      As per Israel. The popular culture and its TV manifestation are very western and more American than European. No religious shows (most of us here aren’t religious) Many comedies, dramas, Game shows and realities. We are actually one of the biggest TV show exporters to the world: Homeland (Showtime) , In treatment (HBO) Still Standing (NBC) The bubble (BBC )the common denominator (Channel 4 UK) just to name a few are Israeli creations that were adapted worldwide….
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        Mar 30 2013: Now let's see, Daniel, is it okay to give you ideas here rather than going to the website?

        Yes, I always thought the eating anything for 25 cents could make a great cartoon, there's a lot of places you could go with it, the other kids could bring the eater bigger and bigger things to eat, until he was eating whole planets. Or he could eat all the weaponry in the world and bring world peace. Or eat his loved ones and be sad.

        The foraging idea is different. There really are people who well know the plants they can pick in the wild or growing by the roadside to add to their "civilized" dishes at home, in fact some of these people make a living teaching this knowledge and practice to individuals and groups. Andy Hamilton is a "master forager" who has, or had, a show on BBC in England where he would show viewers what they could pick. He has a website, selfsufficientish.com.

        When I lived in L.A., I had a friend on the next block who was a pretty nice fellow but a heavy crack cocaine user. Most morning he would get up and go through the alley trashbins looking for empty cans and bottles he could redeem for money. When he had twenty dollars he'd buy his cocaine. I'd often bump into him and walk with him as he gathered containers, and we'd talk. He was actually quite bright and interesting. I often thought that might make an interesting TV show, or at least a few programs, just us walking through the alley and talking about ideas, people, but I couldn't figure out how to do it, since what gave it extra interest was his drug habit and he didn't want that on TV.

        I think possibly a show about the life of alleys, especially in big cities where there is a lot of life in alleys, would be interesting. Any show about walking would interest me.
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          Mar 30 2013: Hey Greg. Im afraid you’ll have to go through the website. Having everything gathered in one place allows me to have a much more orderly back office. Also, there’s the development team (for the idea we will end up going with) and the communication inviting you tp that group is being sent using the site infrastructure. Bring your idea to our alley
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        Apr 1 2013: Well, somehow, Daniel, I tend to only want to spend a certain amount of time on forum-type websites, and TED meets my needs the best. But it's always good to get an invitation.

        Is there some financial issue involved? For example, if you use an idea I give you on TED, perhaps you would have to pay me? Whereas, if you use a "crowd's" idea, you don't have to pay, because it's not clear who came up with the idea? Although technically, you should pay everyone in the crowd a portion, because they all contributed?
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          Apr 2 2013: The cotributer of the idea we end up developing gets ownership in the format, credit and related revenues (as are four members of the tem)
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        Apr 3 2013: Re "the cotributer of the idea": well, if it's developed by a crowd, how do you differentiate the one "contributor"? How is it different from just creating a website that says give us your idea for a TV show, and if we use it, we'll pay you? That website might interest me, somehow I'm not as interested in the crowd idea for myself.
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    Mar 28 2013: I had an interesting comment from Cedric Lamesh placed my on my FB page, to which I responded. Here it is:

    I think you will have a lot or work To gather all the ideas... And i think that if there are professionnals, there Is a reason why
    No, seriously, experience of Users Generated Content shows us that you will always receive 95% of bad ideas.... But there are some genius that will maybe succeed In surprising you!

    Very Good Stuff Anyway!

    I'm not really setting out to see if professionals can be replaced (I’ll be out of a job) I aim to see if something great can come out of many non professionals working together (that’s the premise of crowd wisdom)
    I also think that most ideas wouldn’t be great but I think it’s the same with professionals. The absolute Majority of creatives’ creative work doesn’t become a format.
    I think it’s an experiment worth taking with a feasible creative process and clear business model at its end.