The third episode of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy enabled with Media-Sync for iPad increased the use of social media with more opportunities to comment, check in and interact. The producers appear to be tweaking the content feed and timing. The synchronized content feed worked well, but there were some oddities in the non-synchronized photo and video galleries served from the Web.
There were no new types of modules for the February 17, 2011 episode, which I viewed on a TiVo HD two days later, but the mix of modules from the first and second episodes was different. This episode’s synchronized content feed had fewer behind the scenes production notes and more modules for discussion. The “Discussion” module introduced last week in one spot was retitled ‘What Do You Think?” and used five times. This module offers a Twitter-like interface for entering up to 140-characters to answer a question about what’s happening in the show. This week, the discussion module appeared at the start of each TV commercial break. Perhaps that is a strategy to keep viewers more engaged during a break. It also lets them concentrate on typing and reading comments without missing action in the show. You can look at that two ways: 1) It’s a good thing that users aren’t channel flipping/fast-forwarding, or 2) it’s a bad thing that they’re doing something besides watching commercials.
The discussion module remembered the user name I created by last week, so I did not have to log in or see ABC’s legalese again. However, it would be nice to display the user name before you enter text and give you an option to log out. My wife might not want to post a message under my name and would not know why my name appeared since she didn’t see me log in last week. That would also mean she could submit a comment without reading ABC’s legalese on how they own her comment. But that’s not a show-stopper issue.
Last week I counted the comments in the in-line browser and came up with 49 plus my own for a total of 50. This week, every discussion module also had 50 comments, which leads me to conclude I can’t use that as a measure of viewer interaction. It must just show the most recent 50 without a way to see earlier comments. A user can comment multiple times on the same question and some do. Some of the questions were more open-ended than last week’s yes/no topic. A Lexus ad module also appeared at the start of each break and shoved most of the discussion module down below the scroll point. The discussion module fills the entire screen, so you can’t see it and the Lexus ad module at the same time.
I did wonder why a couple of times my comment didn’t appear at the top of the comment list in the in-line browser version. “Glenda” was stuck on top even though my comment was newer.
The synchronized content feed check-ins for Twitter now have the #GreysAnatomy hashtag that was not there previously.
Boolean or Slider Polls?
I’ve mentioned previously that the slider polls seem a bit weird to me. It’s fun to slide something on an iPad to answer a question, but it’s not clear to me if people are saying they are 75% sure that Lucy likes Alex or that 75% think she’s just being mean. Are there only two answers with a slider question or is every point on the slider a different value for the answer? In any case, there was also a poll with only two answers that used conventional buttons to select on or the other. It was interesting to see two formats used for Boolean answers and made me wonder why both types were used. Maybe it was just to keep it interesting.
Handy on Laundry Day
This was laundry day at home and I appreciated the way Media-Sync works. Why did my laundry matter? Because I was constantly pausing the show to move loads and fold clothes. It was good to know that the synchronized content feed would really stay synchronized with audio watermarks since the Grey’s Anatomy app content is produced to match the on-air program.
The “outtake” behind the scenes picture of actress Ellen Pompeo cracking up on set was a nice, candid surprise to the sync feed. You wouldn’t want to show a blooper during a cardiac arrest scene on TV, but in this context it was appropriate and funny enough to make me show the iPad to my wife.
Harder Trivia Questions
The trivia questions were noticeably more difficult this week for me, someone who’s watched the show since the beginning. Fortunately, the quizzes are still forgiving and don’t mind if I just stab at different answers to unlock Backstage Bonus content.
Facebook Commenting Not Intuitive
Modules showing recent Facebook comments were used previously, but I had not tried to actually comment before. I was stumped for a minute because the module was called “Comment on Facebook”, but there was no comment box to let me fulfill the call to action. I had to click on the “View more comments” link to open an in-line browser window and scroll to the bottom of the comments to find a text box.
Lexus Still Driving Ads
Lexus is still the exclusive sponsor and the same advertisement modules were re-used in the synchronized content feed. You would think I could now remember whether Lexus used a tuning fork or a CAT scan to design cars. Sometimes the embedded videos play fine and other times I have buffering issues.
You’re Not Recording This, Are You?
I hit the sleep button once while the Grey’s Anatomy app was running. When I hit the button again to wake up the lock screen, a red horizontal bar appeared that said, “Grey’sAnatomy (Recording).” This could lead some users to think the iPad is actually recording noise in your living room rather than just listening for inaudible audio watermarks. If there is any way to avoid that message or change the color to something besides “red alert,” it would be good. It might be that’s built into iOS by Apple for security so you always know when the microphone is in use.
Non-Sync Content Oddities
The main photo gallery page had one oddity. Each gallery listed the number of photos it contained. Actually, sometimes they listed it. Each time I loaded the page, the number of photos would disappear from one gallery and appear on another gallery.
The video galleries gave me some trouble. I entered the gallery, saw a video of the Chief from the new episode, tapped it, went to a player page and it wouldn’t play. When I backed up to the gallery, that video was no longer listed and only videos from past episodes were listed. I navigated using the tiny “next page” link at the bottom (which I overlooked at first) and found more videos, but not the ones from the new episode. The gallery did display a “next” link even when there were no more videos on the next page.
Next, I tried the refresh button at the top of the browser. The videos on the page changed with almost every refresh. Sometimes I would get the current episode’s videos, sometimes last week’s, and sometimes videos from two weeks ago. If it’s randomizing on purpose, I’m afraid it does not make sense to me as a user. If it’s a technical glitch, I’ve seen that happen when multiple edge servers weren’t in sync or when a server was confusing the session state between multiple users.
I tried going to the same page on my iMac in Firefox (http://ga.staging.gooddogdesign.com/videos) to see if the problem was just with my iPad. The first time, the page came up blank. The second time, I got content from two episodes ago. The next two refreshes gave me a blank page again. The next time gave me episodes from last week. The next refresh was blank. It’s always possible the server was sniffing for iPad clients and not Firefox on an iMac, but I would expect it to behave consistently with each refresh. If this page is really hosting on a staging server as the URL suggests rather than a production server, it’s possible it’s not designed for public access. I know from experience that using a testing or staging environment can be unpredictable due to other projects making changes on the box.
- Were there fewer behind the scenes production notes this week because the content was not available or required too much effort to assemble? Or was it to make room for more social interaction modules?
- The ABC promo for the app shows people sitting together and sharing an iPad to answer polls. That’s not how we use it at my house, but I wonder whether other people do.
Final Synchronized Content Count
- Music of Grey’s Anatomy 4
- Grey’s Anatomy: Did You Know? 1
- Grey’s Anatomy: What Do You Think? Comment Module 5
- Lexus ad banner 6
- Lexus ad banner/video combo 2
- Lexus ad banner/trivia question combo 4
- Grey’s Anatomy: Medical Case File 5
- Grey’s Anatomy: Trivia (quiz – non-bonus) 1
- Grey’s Anatomy: Bonus trivia questions 3 (plus a module a few seconds before each to alert you it’s coming)
- Grey’s Anatomy: Check-In on Facebook or twitter 4
- Grey’s Anatomy: Poll 2
- Comment on Facebook 3
- ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy Sync – Thanks for watching module 1