Join Ze Frank for an in-depth discussion in this video Color wars, part of Creative Inspirations: Ze Frank, Comedic Digital Savant.
(Music playing.) One thing in creating participatory projects is that there are separate challenges. Sometimes you can tune a project towards having a very high participation rate, so you can make things that are super, super fun to do and try to really delve down on that experience and try to get lots and lots of people to participate.
Another challenge is to get people to participate in the making of something that a wider audience can enjoy. Earlier 2008, Twitter was just starting to bubble up a little bit. It wasn't like massive. It got to the point where I had been receiving enough invites to it and it started popping up on the news, where I thought it would be good to check it out. So I went on and somebody had already reserved my username.
So I raised a huge stink with the guys at Twitter, and at that point they weren't so big that they would ignore me. I kind of felt bad that I had raised such a big stink and wasn't really planning on doing anything with the account. So Color Wars in the end, I started it by testing out the same kind of process that I used in the show, which was to say, let's try to invent what this is together.
So I started it by saying, I am on the Blue team. What team are you on? Color Wars are coming. And I think in 24 hours, 10,000 people had self-selected on the teams. And I didn't have any idea of what was going to happen next. (laughs) So I talked to-- I kind of put out the request to see if someone would help. And Erik Kastner was one of the first people to reply and we just started kind of brainstorming about what you could do with this general idea.
There was a little bit of a background that I was working with, which was I was kind of convinced that there were organizational principles for groups that could transcend platforms. You would have these roaming affiliations and the hope was that we would have these teams, the Red team, the Green team, the Blue team, and we would have these contests all over the web. And it didn't matter where the contest was. You would leave traces of the fact that it was the Red team that did it.
So the idea that we could have a contest in Flicker. As long as it was tagged Red team, we would know and we could somehow mine that data. So Color Wars became conceptually this idea of a completely liberated Internet-wide game. It never really completely got liberated, but we did things like we ended up playing a 2,000 person game of rocks, papers, scissors in Flicker. We created a thing that auto- generated bingo cards and you could DM, direct message, a Twitter account and it would send you a bingo card.
So you get a number of bingo cards and then for a particular hour we all played bingo, on a Thursday. And I was like calling the numbers out, the letters out in Twitter, and then if you got a bingo, you had to send the word bingo to this account and it would auto-check your card to see if it was an actual bingo. Probably the most successful thing in Color Wars was Young Me / Now Me. The challenge was to get people to share images.
It's very hard to get people to just take snapshots of themselves and post them, but it's actually pretty easy to get people to show pictures of themselves as kids. So that was the first stage of the process was getting people to show childhood photos. I showed mine and a lot of people responded. And then the next stage of the project was getting people to restage those children's photos as adults, which kind of frames it really well. And that ended up being a really wonderful series of photos that came back.
One of the cool things was in Color Wars is that companies came and sponsored particular challenges. So they provided-- We had one thing, which was a Google Street View Scavenger Hunt, [00:04:37.1] for things like the loneliest person and all these different sort of odd categories. The prizes were roundtrip tickets on JetBlue. So we could have-- I think it could have turned into something fairly interesting with this idea of having corporate sponsors come in and facilitate game play, but it's just sort of a fundamentally different challenge to build something like that than it is to explore and experiment and play and have fun.
And as the brainstorming was going on for the second round of Color Wars, it kind of became apparent to me anyways that it just wasn't as interesting to try that. Especially what Twitter had become. It was way more popular. Twitter had started really trying to attract famous people. It wasn't ripe for the same kind of exploration.