Friday, June 06, 2008

In which Orange need to get their acceptable use policy sorted.

So earlier on today I sent round a glowing email about the World's first internet balloon race. I'm looking at widgets for my company at the moment, and I'm really interested in games that use the whole internet as a canvas. Here's (roughly) the text of the email I sent to my co-workers

Subject: Possibly the best use of widgets I've seen

It's an internet balloon race

Things that are good:

I found it because a site I visited had a tiny balloon bobbing in the bottom corner - the experience design is really delightful.

The 'add the widgets to your site' is seamless, and allows you to add to a huge number of sites without leaving the main area. It looks like they've outsourced some of that to a company that specialize in distribution and measurement of widgets:

The widget acts as a way for you to track your participation - so it's your interface to the game, but also displays your participation to others.

There are two parts to the participation element - so you can race a balloon, and add it to your blog etc, but you can also sign up your site to 'host' balloons for the race. I'm imagining this involves nice flash overlays of floating balloons like the one that led me to the site

So the widgets connect each player to their balloon, which could be anywhere across loads of signed up sites - driving traffic across partner sites. It's fun for the players, useful for the hosts, and spreads the message for orange.

This is only the third thing I've seen (other than MOO's Treasure Hunt) that uses the 'whole web as a canvas' - the other is PMOG , which requires the download of browser plugins.

Also, balloons! on the internet! Brilliant!

Bad things - the whole of the sign up site is build in flash. Why? Why?

And now I have another bad thing to add to my list. Here's an email from Orange:

Hi Kim,

We've taken a look at your balloon and we're sorry but we can't let it take part in the race.

It may be because the name or message contains some naughtiness.

To win a luxury holiday for you and your mates in Ibiza you can create another balloon at

The wording on my balloon that they have rejected is this:

"Hello, I'm Antonin. I might be a corporate shill for a dull mobile phone behemoth, but look, I am also a balloon. A Balloon. On the Internet. That's great!"

This is a fairly close representation of how I feel about the site. It's advertising, and I'm not a huge fan of advertising. It's potentially a little intrusive if you suddenly find your regular spots on the internet are being 'flash mobbed' by balloons. But, the thing is, it's such a good and original idea that I actually signed up, and embedded a widget over yonder, and on my Facebook page. I add very very few applications on facebook, so this should be a major triumph for their marketing department - they've involved a hard-to-reach demographic right off.


The instructions about naming the balloon say

'Write a nice message to get spectators to cheer you on'.

And then underneath the text field, they say 'We'll need to check your message before we put it up on the site, so nothing rude.'

There aren't any terms in the Ts&Cs that I can see which refer to what Orange may consider to be acceptable content, other than 'All Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions' There's isn't anything to say 'Orange may reject your entry, and you won't be able to re-enter.' It's just 'we need to check it'.

And there's no definition of rude. My message certainly isn't obscene. It's possibly a little cheeky, but really, is pointing out that the balloon is advertising for a brand that offensive?

At the very least, they need to clarify their community/acceptable use guidelines, and include some wording along the lines of 'messages that we feel might in any way damage our brand will be rejected. And if we do reject them, there will be NO obvious way to go back and edit the offending message, so you've blown your chance to enter.'

I think Orange may need to have a think about their approach to user involvement with their brand. If you give your brand to people in a game situation, they will play with it. They will sometimes play with it in ways that don't quite tally with your expectations. You need to allow them to do this, or you will loose the good will they build up through play.

For reference - my previous relationship with the brand: I was with Orange for around 9 years, and gave them up last year because they had no decent roaming data plans, and I'd won an N95.

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