The pros and comic-cons of auto-sharing

Jack Blog

October 16th, 2013 By Caspar Mason


Ooops. The New York Comic-Con, with puppy-ish enthusiasm, has fallen foul of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, guardians of online privacy. As part of registration at NYCC 2013, social media account activation meant attendees’ Twitter accounts were used to send out breathlessly excited ghost-tweets. Predictably, many people objected and the organisers quickly backed down and apologised.


But that’s not what has piqued the EFF’s interest. Also nestling in the small print was consent to track individuals and their location via their RFID name badges, for internal use (for now, though the “possibilities are limitless”, say organisers). Now no-one is suggesting that this was for shady purposes: NYCC have said their primary goal is to unlock “a whole new level of awesomeness” for visitors. But the EFF are allergic to this kind of mission creep, and accuse them of “tainting the geek space”. Location tracking, they say, could restrict people’s enjoyment and free movement at the event. There’s a certain anonymity at a conference: people might not check out some controversial work, or cheesy childhood favourite comics, if they think this will be beamed out live. Or a young LGBT attendee, yet to come out to their parents but interested in that aspect of comic art, might not appreciate that piece of their personality being shared, perhaps with the world.

This debate has some interesting parallels with what we do. It’s a firm Jack belief that the digital and real worlds combine to create fantastic enhancements, especially to visitor experiences: in tech-aided networking, content personalisation and more. And there are some key differences between the brand experiences we create and Comic-Cons (less manga and fewer cosplayers for starters). But if people want to channel their inner Ghost Dog and slink wordlessly through our experiences…well that’s fine, especially if the alternative means holding back and not getting the most from it.

So there are some key learnings here:

  1. Visitor data is a piece of their life. Look after it.
  2. If you do want to unlock new levels of awesomeness, ask first. Manage expectations, and flag up anything unusual. If it truly is cool, attendees will love to hear about it.
  3. Let people take a non-digital path: offer incentives to participate, but don’t hobble the experience just because someone hasn’t given you the keys to their social media networks.