Link-and-Pause (...plus Bookmarks)
A new paradigm for flexible TV+Web media multitasking in the age of DVRs
more concrete presentation of how this works in practice,
consider a viewing scenario for coactive viewing
using link-and-pause with bookmarks.)
The rise of media
the use of PCs simple and powerful enough for the masses. Link-and-pause
can do the same for media multitasking.
Growing masses of people now surf the Web while watching
TV. This is building on the wide availability of wireless notebooks, and the
readiness of heavy media users (especially younger ones) to multitask. So far, only
a small portion of this multitasking behavior involves a direct relationship between the
TV and Web-based tasks, but that will change.
Using the Web while watching TV can
provide access to a wealth of program-related information of all
including commentary, news
reports, sports statistics, movie casts, audience participation/community, etc,.as well as
TV ad-related interaction and shopping.
- Presently, users must find such content manually to the extent that they are sufficiently motivated and skilled at finding it
which is a hit or miss proposition with uncertain reward.
- Imagine how much better it will be when such content is automatically
linked to from the context of the TV or video program. Just as ordinary links
make the Web easy to use, these "coactive" links can make media multitasking
easy to use.
That kind of automated support will encourage the
creation of more relevant content and links, which will encourage increased levels of
the kind of virtuous cycle that built the Web in the first place.
Media multitasking offers powerful capabilities, but many
still question whether couch potatoes really want to multitask. That is reminiscent
of an earlier question of whether there could be a mass market for PCs
one that rightly raised much skepticism until the introduction of
graphical user interfaces (like the Mac and Windows) radically simplified PC use. (One
of the hallmarks of
user interfaces was the ability to "drag
and drop" items from one place to another.) Bringing the same level of
ease-of-use for TV+Web multitasking is where link-and-pause and bookmarking come in.
Link-and-pause refers to
the ability to initiate an interaction related to a TV program (or movie or other
video or music) and, as
that is done, to pause the program. This can work like a traffic cop to
selectively control multitasking. In this way intervals of interactvity can
alternate with intervals of linear viewing, without either one interfering with the other.
For example, you might link from a movie to the cast and credits to see who an
actor is, and what else you saw him in. Link-and-pause can pause the movie while you
do that. This enables the user to control when both media should be active
concurrently and when
coactive multitasking should take the simpler path of alternating threads of unitasking
The TV industry does not yet
understand how important media multitasking will be. Part of the reason is that they
do not yet appreciate the simplicity and control that link-and-pause offers. Their
concern has been that the TV program will continue on while the viewer interacts with
other content, so the viewer misses the remainder of the program. They fear
that users will have a less satisfying experience, and that TV producers will lose their
along with the audience for their commercial sponsors.
Similar concerns have been a
problem with the original model of Interactive TV (ITV, advanced TV services that lets
users interact with program-related content on their TV screen, using their remote
control). These "one-screen" ITV services have been highly touted at
various times, and are again gaining favor. But many remain concerned about these
problems of simultaneous multitasking, and that is one of the reasons that those services
that have been offered at all are very confined in scope. And that has been a
What has not yet been recognized,
is how the increasing ubiquity of the DVR (Digital Video Recorders like TiVo, also known
as personal video recorders), will largely eliminate the basis for such concerns. As
TiVo's slogan, "TV your way," suggests, the power of the DVR is that it gives
users a new level of control over their viewing. TV producers see things to fear in
this (such as ad skipping), but there are also major new opportunities.
- With DVRs, users need not let
the TV program run on while they pursue a tangential interactive task.
- Most of us now understand that pause
button lets viewers answer the phone, go to the bathroom, or get a beer, without missing
- What is less widely recognized is
that It also lets them pause to check out movie credits, or to get details on a news story
or documentary, or to respond to a commercial (which is where the big money is).
- Right now viewers must do this
manually. They can pause the TV while they pursue a tangent on the Web, then return
to the TV.
- With link-and-pause, this can be
automated, so that links are presented to assist in taking such tangents, and the
actuation of such links can cause the TV to pause (or not, as the user desires).
How do bookmarks
Complemenary to link-and-pause is
the use of bookmarking for coactive links. Link-and-pause gives viewers the
power to control the linear flow of video, and to time-shift it as they desire.
Bookmarking of links provides a similar ability to control the non-linear flow
of hyperlinks that are associated with video. This can be done as just a minor
extension of ordinary Web bookmarking.
When multitasking TV with the Web,
it is often desirable to have links that are triggered by or synchronized with specific
video programs (or even specific time-positions within the video). We may want to be
offered more information about something we just saw, or pursue content that relates to a
particular segment. Similarly, advertisers would love to be able to offer Web links
that are synchronized to their TV ads to provide additional information and to enable sales.
But again, we come back to problem
that such interaction breaks up the flow of a program. Even with the ability to
link-and-pause (so we do not miss anything), we still have an interruption of that video
flow. Sometimes that may be fine, but sometimes it is not. Much of the power
of video as a medium is in its flow its ability to immerse our attention in a story, in a world of
sight and sound. When we are immersed in a continuous medium, we do not want to
That is where bookmarking comes in.
Our media viewing systems can manage triggers, links, or other options for
interaction, to let us decide when and how to use them.
- They can be saved as bookmarks, and
organized to let us find them based on what program they relate to (or by topic or by
- We can be made aware of such links
unobtrusively during viewing, so we can decide whether to respond to them at that timeor to
save them for later. (Or we can turn notification off completely, so we have no
distraction at all.)
- Then after finishing our linear
viewing, we can pull up our bookmarks, search them by program, time, or subject, and
follow them as we like.
By combining link-and-pause with
bookmarking, we get flexible control over multitasking on both sides (the video side and
the Web side). We decide when to follow links, and when to continue viewing.
- When we follow a link, we decide
whether to stop the video and concentrate on the linked material, or to continue the video
- If we ignore a link, we decide
whether to go back to it later.
- If, for example, we are seeking
statistics and color on a live football game, we may want to see and follow some links
while keeping the game video running in real time.
- If, instead, we are engrossed in a
drama, we may want to ignore all links until we have come to the end.
- If we are watching news or a
documentary, or a favorite movie we have seen many times, we may want to link-and-pause
while we follow a tangent.
- When we have finished a video
program, we may want to see what links were skipped. Maybe there is supplementary
information. Maybe there were commercials for products we are interested in.
These links can go from video to
other video, as well. There might be supplementary video segments, like DVD extras,
and they might be linked to specific scenes, allowing for rich hypermedia navigation.
Coactive media and
This rich multitasking could all be
done on a single screen, such as all on the TV or all on the PC.
- Doing it all (TV+Web-like tasks) on
the TV has a certain simplicity (even if implementing it with current TV platforms has
been a quagmire) and it is well suited to simple interactions while we lean
back on our sofas.
- At other times, we might want to do
all of it on our PC, such as in the office, or while travelling when we
are willing to settle for a small-screen TV experience that is less than ideal. (We
might also be pushed to do it all on our PCs, because our TV service providers do not want
to facilitate such independent behavior.)
But full-blown media multitasking
can be far more powerful with a richer, dual-screen, user interface.
- Video is at its best on a big screen
across the room
- Web-like extended text, complex
navigation, and rich transactional services are far more effective on a PC (with keyboard,
mouse, high-res screen, and a full-function Web browser).
This kind of rich multitasking
involves true "coactivity," and is best done with full use of both kinds of
devices. The growing ubiquity of wireless laptops has made that second screen
readily available in our living rooms, with no added cost. Many see great appeal in
this coactivity, as applied to TV+Web use, and many are doing it on their own. But
the powers that be remain concerned about how well such media experiences will flow as a
user experience, and whether more than a small minority of viewers will want that ...and
how it might harm their current revenue streams.
The answer to that concern is this
new combination of user interface featues: link-and pause, and bookmarking.
They bring flexibility and control to coactivity, enabling the user to easily control when
to multitask fully, and when to alternate between TV and Web flows. That makes it
easy for viewers to manage a comfortable pace of coactivity for a wide range of tasks at
whatever degree of intensivity they desire.
- Some users will not try coactivity
- Some will keep it simple most of the
time, with full use of pausing and bookmarks, and may alternate between TV and Web only
- But many will become increasingly
comfortable with rich and complex combinations of activity.
Letting the user decide will lead
us to powerful media and empowered
users. It will make it easy to pursue a rich and flexible mixture of concurrent
and/or alternating use of both video and the Web, following the flow of the user's
attention (both linear and non-linear), enabling a rich form of hypermedia browsing on
multiple linked devices (TV+PC or other combinations) that we might call hypertasking.
The TV industry fears this
paradigm shift as disruptive to their old order. But that old order is rapidly
losing its viability. Those who turn into this new tide with find rich opportunities
to profit from advanced services. They will find that they not only add value for
viewers, but provide a very compelling platform that adds value for marketing and sales by
empowering both viewers and the businesses that seek to serve them.
a more concrete presentation of how this works in practice,
consider a viewing scenario for coactive viewing
using link-and-pause with bookmarks.