Conversation about National Theatre Wales around the web

We’ve been working with National Theatre Wales and people who belong to their community – including office staff, production staff, cast, venues and “people formerly known as audience”.

Last year we built the community side of NTW’s website on Ning, with graphic design by the folks at Elfen. (Hoffi made the front page and listings pages.)

It’s worth noting that members of the community have the clear choice of making their posts public (open to be read by anyone who is looking) and many are doing so. The community is open to anybody on the web who wants to sign up.

But obviously with the web as it is, people are publishing their own stuff about National Theatre Wales and its productions around the web – not just on NTW’s community. We want to encourage this, it’s part of what NTW wants to achieve.

In fact, with NTW we have purposefully assigned a short tag to each production for use around the web – of the form ntw01 for production one, ntw02 for production two and so on. People are starting to use these tags already, in order to make their thoughts and posts more findable.

We also want to help the community to be aware of this other interesting stuff – videos, Twitter posts, blog posts, photos, audio – where relevant. “Online conversation” is a metaphor that has become popular on the web – and it does have some explanatory power. We want to give that conversation the best chance of being seen by groups of people who might be interested, so they can take part if they wish – wherever they choose to post their responses.

Here’s Tom’s post on the NTW site about the production tags and how posts, photos, videos and so on are collected on the NTW group for each production (and also a Netvibes page):
http://community.nationaltheatrewales.org/profiles/blogs/talking-about-national-theatre

Take a look at the group for ntw01, A Good Night Out In The Valleys for an example of live search results from around the web. If you’re wondering how the live searches work on the groups, we made them with Yahoo Pipes. There is a chance of a few false positives turning up, as with any web search. But on the whole we like the way they’ve turned out.

We’ve included the services which seem to be the popular ones for discussing theatre. In theory more publishing services, e.g. Audioboo, could be added to the results if those services start to become popular.

So there you go, one small part of NTW’s online strategy which we’ve been working on.

National Theatre Wales programme launch today

Our friends (and client!) National Theatre Wales are launching their 2010 programme today.

More info from director John McGrath on the community site.

Join the online chat and watch the live video stream, see Catherine Paskell’s blog post for info on that.

National Theatre Wales conversations in full flow

We’ve been working with National Theatre Wales on their online community strategy. Earlier this year we unveiled a social site based on the Ning platform.

It’s similar to Facebook in some ways except that it allows a level of detailed conversation probably not possible before. We’ve had many people join and, importantly, participate on there – actors, writers, directors, technical people and of course audience (like me).

NTW wanted something which would complement and support their work and their ethos of boldness, openness and experimentation. National Theatre Wales are like the host of a party – on the site there’s a great deal of freedom in the topics you can discuss. Feel free to sign up and try it.

If you want to be precise about terminology you could say it’s both a “social network” site and a “social networking” site. It’s a subtle difference in wording but a big difference in practice. In other words, it not only supports existing connections between people (like Facebook friends) but encourages new connections to form between people who wouldn’t otherwise know each other. (If you’re interested in some background to this distinction, check out USA-based researcher danah boyd’s thoughts in this area. Not for everyone but you might like it.)

So it’s been fun to work on the site – with NTW and their visual branding partners Elfen – and now see people discussing things and blogging about theatre and related topics. And it’s genuinely exciting to think that people will meet “in real life” and work on new projects together as a result of this online community and the various groups it now holds.

Currently we’re gearing up to November’s announcements of next year’s theatre events. More news soon.

In the meantime, here’s a great example of a discussion which resulted from a blog post.