I wanted to provide an account of our meetup yesterday concerning the indie games in libraries initiative. Thanks to tagsters Kalervo and Michael as well as Valérie Rioux, whom is new to TAG (she is an innovation & games librarian expert) for your insight, ideas and interest in the indie games in libraries initiative!
Results of our discussions
We started the meeting by exploring some ideas on the blackboard (see attached image). During the conversation, we all added components to it, making is (essentially) the product of our collaborative exchange. (Minutes in pictoral form are so much more poetic!)
The initial idea behind the structure of the image was to use a legal/cybernetic/librarianship conceptual framework (partly of my own design) to organize our ideas (data points) for the project. In this structure, we posit “objects” of law (in this case, “games” as copyrightable works, but also the metadata about them) as well as “subjects” of law (indies and their studios, libraries and the people who work there as well as patrons and possible organisations such as games club – notice how there is a dual structure, looking at “physical” persons and “moral” persons – in keeping with how the law looks at society). Then, “vectors” are “ways” to link objects and subjects, through technology, institutional arrangements and other such means. (Are we having fun yet?)
Of course, our conversation was a mix of many threads. We discussed what we had learned from previous iterations of the project, most notably the grand we received in 2015 from the Knight Foundation. We also covered a lot of ground in terms of other topics, here are some of the things that have stuck in my mind, taking from the vector “stack” from the left-hand bottom quadrant:
– Selecting games: how can games scholars contribute to selecting games within the library context? Why can’t libraries just harvest “free” games posted on various platforms? (hint: libraries have to respect contracts and free doesn’t imply consent) Do the interest of indies and libraries intersect in a meaningful way? Should we target academic libraries instead of the public/school library sector? How can selecting games support indie studios and long-term preservation?
– Certification: Pros & cons of online “streaming” platform vs. physical console. Technical specifications to communicate to indies for inclusion on the platform (as a dealbreaker for consideration for acquisition).
– Contextualize: How can games be linked to other elements within a library’s collection? Home use or in-library use. Gaming experience of playing within library context.
(and many more ideas)
One of the threads I wanted to discuss with the group was funding. I’ve spent too much time writing grant applications to finance the development of this project and not enough time “actually advancing” it. So, maybe it is time to consider how we could launch a commercial venture to make this happen instead of tweaking the project to whatever funding opportunity pops up on our radar… Needless to say, we had some great conversations on this thread.
The group discussed the idea that a for-profit venture may be negatively perceived by the indie community. We identified a thriving non-profit ecosystem, both on the indie side (MRGS, Hand Eye society, TAG & other research groups…) as well as the library side (cities, school boards and the like are all state entities and libraries band together in not-for profit associations to deal with ebook licensing). A for-profit venture would allow for commercialization (e.g. licensing) of games in libraries in a nimble and direct fashion. In fact, it could complement the existing not-for profit ecosystem particularly should these non-profits become shareholders in the enterprise. It could also provide for employment opportunities to project participants. (see the top-middle quadrant of the image for the “dual headed” monster illustrating non-profit – NP – organisations holding shares in an incorporated – INC – venture).
I have to admit that I have created a company named Junto Media ™ a few months ago to test these ideas. You see, I research institutional arrangements (contracts, licences and the like) and a company almost becomes a necessary research object. Also, the concept of “profit” is necessary in working with economic rights vested in copyrights but which need to enable a community of not-profit organisations (commons). Profit is certainly the elephant in the copyright room…
Now, I registered Junto Media ™ as offering “other publishing services” within the government’s classification of enterprises. Publishing is what games (and software) companies do, I we can use this structure to test both publishing games as well as licensing them to libraries as a platform (like a bookstore would). Right now, I’ve managed to generate a tiny amount of revenue from the licensing of certain copyrighted works I’m creating for clients – I am willing to put this revenue on the table to support the Indie Games in Libraries project! I also would like to build a “bridge” between TAG and other Not-for-profit organisations and the broader “moral person” ecosystem.
In that sense, this project, as a reflexive internal exercise, also exists in the “commercialization” space within universities. I am wholeheartedly committed to explore this space in an open, transparent, fair and playful manner. In addition to profit, we also discussed concepts as revenue, jobs, community, sharing and redistribution. Of all the things I would never claim to be, I can assert that I tinker with legal code for the betterment of society. Junto Media is the “program” I am hacking on the neoliberal operating system of society, linked to TAG’s API…
I’m hoping the group would help me figure out the “what” and “how” of it all. And help me share the wealth of properly structured institutional arrangements… I hope I won’t be the sole shareholder for long….
In terms of next steps, we are meeting again on Tuesday April 16th at 10am in TAG. Here are my action items:
– connect “team” members by email and collate documentation on a shared drive
– write up the minutes of the meeting (DONE!)
– start thinking how to synthesize all of this information to explain what the project entails…
One of the key milestones in researching a business plan involves identifying the correct industry – or industries, as there may me many – to do some digging. This is important to understand your business idea, its business model and its industry. Here is a video I prepared about this:
A key success measure of this step involves identifying specific industry codes, such as the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Codes. These codes will speed up searching through value added databases licensed by your Library (such as these from Concordia University). Remember: you probably should identify the following industry (NAICS) codes, five (5) digit codes are optimal:
The industry code in which your business “fits”
Industry codes for businesses who pose substantial parallel competition (for example, 51511 Radio Broadcasting vs. 518210 – Data processing, hosting, and related services for music streaming)
Industry codes for suppliers or buyers (if you are in a business-to-business setting) if they are substantially larger than you (which notes business risk based on market power). Looking up and down the supply chain is up to you.
Any other industry code meaningful for your business, particularly those that may disrupt your business environment.
Now to the point: how do you know if you have the right industry codes? Well, this depends entirely on how much effort you are willing to put into researching your business project (arguably, the more codes you have, the more reading you will have to do) as well as, well, the fear of missing out (leaving an industry code “out” of the scope of your research means you run the risk of not getting your hands on key insight for your project). This is entirely up to you and I really can’t weigh in about this. Caveats aside, here are some simple advice to assist you in making your own mind as to which industry codes to pick and how many you need:
Read the definitions of these codes from the Statistic Canada NAICS Codes page. This site sometimes include example activities and excluded activities (arguably, for some older versions of the codes, so the latest edition of the classification schedule may not have example or excluded activities).
Read the IBIS World report for the Canadian industry (NAICS) code and look at the “About this industry — Supply Chain” section. When you access any specific report on IBIS, this is the section shown on the landing page of the Web interface (with the red dot & arrows). On te PDF report, it is located on page 2 – “similar industries” and their NAICS Codes are listed there.
Use a business directory (e.g.: phone book) of small businesses, such as Mergent Intellect (formerly D&B Million Dollar Database) to look for specific companies, such as direct competitors. Industry codes are listed on the information page for a company in these systems. Remember – these directories may be wrong imprecise as companies may be misfiled by the analysts (or algorithms) filing companies in directories… but this is an interesting way to get feedback about the codes you’ve selected for your project.
Search for articles for that specific industry (NAICS) Code – NOT GOOGLE. For example, you can use ProQuest Business Databases and type: NAICS 45391. You usually get articles and market reports on or about this code (sometimes you get a but of noise, but you can easily ignore this). Reading up on news for an industry codes is a great way to determine if this code is interesting or relevant for your project.
At the end of the day, it is up to you to determine if you have the correct industry (NAICS) code(s) and if you have enough of them.
Sixty-three per cent of respondents following a vegan diet—free from all animal-based products—were under the age of 38. Younger consumers are also less likely to believe that eating meat is a fundamental right. (from press release)
Firstly, I like to point out that projects spanning multiple industries, markets, trends or technologies will probably have to pick a few codes, at least 2 or 3 of them. That is the only way to capture the complexity of disrupting an industry – by looking at a few angles.
Secondly, entrepreneurs researching a business plan will have to adapt existing reports and data to their unique idea. Dealing with imprecise information is not easy and simply looking for “perfect” information will usually not yield a comprehensive and authoritative project report. So, cast a slightly wider net and pick the best tidbits, rather than being too discriminating.
A common problem entrepreneurs bring to me has to do with picking the right code for emerging technological fields. Here are the most common NAICS codes in the tech industry and how to navigate between them, drawing from a non-exhaustive list based on my experience:
Electrical equipment, appliance and component manufacturing
IBISWORLD reports: this system is in the “industry analysis” section of the Business Research Portal
ProQuest Business Databases: find articles by searching for the name of the trade associations, major players, industry name or consumer trend concept. Focus on articles from trade journals and academic/peer-reviewed/scholarly journals
Do you really think Google can help you with this one?
3. Consumer analysis: demographics, size of the target market and their consumption process (pre-during-post)
Remember: you’ve already learned so much! Don’t forget to use what you’ve found already!
When launching a new business, information about industries, markets or competitors can be invaluable. In this session, we will cover resources from the Internet as well as licensed market and industry intelligence databases available from Concordia University Library. This is a workshop adapted from the “Entrepreneurship” course at the John Molson School of Business.
Locate industry and market reports from the Internet and the Library
Understand how to use datasets from Statistics Canada (Census & Cansim) and other national agencies
Develop a healthy information diet
Proposed Course Outline
1. Where does information come from?
It is imperative to use both licensed (library) and free web sources to have a complete picture.
Here is a draft outline I just created for a professor teaching an entrepreneurship class for Fine Arts students. Caveat being that these students are not business majors, so we have to spend more time explaining why each resource is useful and how to incorporate these sources in their assignments. Also, the bit about copyright is because they are Fine Arts students and the professor wanted me to cover this as well.
–> Please make sure students bring their devices or borrow laptops from the circulation desk to LB-322 <–
->Total duration: 150 minutes, which leaves room for a 15 minute break <-
1. Basic business & industry information
– Browse NAICS codes related to Fine Arts, enable students to discover their codes by engaging them to state their line of business
– Show the IBIS World system and present a sample report (uses NAICS codes)
– Show the SME Benchmarking system and a sample report (uses NAICS codes)
ACTIVITY: have students retrieve the IBIS World & SME Benchmarking reports. Troubleshoot NAICS codes & interface issues.
2. Basic market information
– Passport GMID
ACTIVITY: Can you identify one trend or statistic that can impact your project from either source?
3. Stats Can
– Census: know your neighbours!
– CANSIM: Household spending & more
– Mention SimplyMap but do not show it
ACTIVITY: What is the average household spending for your product? How do you define your market (geography, demographics, etc.)?
4. Articles (trends, major players…)
– Business Source Complete
ACTIVITY: Locate one article (news, trade or academic) which relates to your project.
– What does copyright mean for you?
– Using copyrighted content as part of your work
Here is a paragraph I sent to a student trying to locate business information:
And please remember my motto about research: Search well and use what you find. Seeking out a little tidbit of information may be (and usually is) a waste of time. Take an hour or two, compile interesting sources from smart searching, and use what you find.
I often get questions about finding very specific (and often unrealistic) bits of information from students. Searching for business information is where students confront theories they learn in classes to the real world, sometimes theories just don’t fit with the data that’s out there!
– Passport GMID from Euromonitor
This is a system we have under subscription at the Library. It now provides top line reports of major cities around the world, including Montreal. Please access the system via this link:
(click on the database name and provide your netname if asked)
Video on using Passport: http://youtu.be/Wpotf4vcJmE?list=PLaqfn26UOsX-OJGT_W_UTOWzvAA5Kb3tG
– Montréal en statistiques
This city of Montréal website provides various reports about the city:
In addition to the various reports, themes and other data available therein, I noticed this very recent economic portrait of the city:
Profils économiques : un portrait à jour de la dynamique économique montréalaise
Looks very interesting.
– Montréal International
This is the international development agency for the city. There are a lot of high-level glossy reports and data on this site, but in particular their publications:
(This agency is one of the few I recommend you build a long-term, low volume but high impact relationship with)
– MEIE, Québec Government
The Ministère de l’économie has a portal devoted to each administrative region of the province, this is the Montréal page:
Make sure you click around in the “Portrait régional” box, which is located on the bottom left-hand section of the page. You get a one or two page report for each theme.
(This agency is one of the few I recommend you build a long-term, low volume but high impact relationship with)
– Conference Board of Canada
I am sorry to report that we do ** not ** have access to the Conference Board of Canada’s e-library, but I did want to mention that they provide detailed forecasting reports at the city level.