Don't Shoot the Webbys

This week Nik Roope of Poke London assembled a great gaggle of Internet creatives and players. Billed as “Webby Night at the ICA”, the idea was to promote UK talent and enourage people to enter the internationally recognised Webby Awards (the deadline for entries is December 15th by the way).

On Wednesday night at the Institute for Contemporary Art, some drinks were laid on and a panel was assembled to showcase digital creativity in the UK. But the panel was tarnished by Shooting People which managed to earn the annoyance of the assembled crowd with an unnecessarily long-winded, rambling presentation. When they were eventually riled by a frustrated heckler I found myself hearing what I what really wanted out of them at the start, which was what they actually did: distribute indie films.

By the time they had left the stage, they’d taken up so much time, the crowd was in even less of a mood to listen to the more succinct presentations from award-winning animator Joel Veitch of and Régine Debatty from

But I would like to question the idea that what is coming out of the UK right now in terms of innovation is not culturally lead, but technology lead. In saying this, I am opposing the view that creativity has to be defined purely in terms of an art film or animation – rather I would put creativity in terms of astoundingly clever and useful web sites or mobile services, many of which are becoming world-class players. Look at the design and functionality of or or (to take just three examples) and you’ll see where I am coming from. (And no, none of these have had big budgets, they are all the work of very small teams with very little money and no formal funding).

Viz. Shooting People: Both the business model and the site itself seems to be stuck in a Web world of about 7 or 8 years ago. I can view a profile of a director (here’s Cath Le Couteur, co-founder of Shooting People), but although it links to her work on YouTube, the link is not even live. How basic an error is this?

I also have to ask, hands up who has heard of YouTube and who has heard of Shooting People? YouTube is an aggregator of video uploaded to it and by allowing people to embed the video on other sites it has effectively given away distribution, making it even more pervasive and powerful. Shooting People does none of that and even its member profiles are stuck in the last century.

Furthermore, there is a reason why no-one in the TV world talks about owning the channel anymore. TV programmes are the brands now. That’s why ITV is doing so badly, and only lifts its audience by resorting to torturing celebrities in the jungle – which is what is talked about, not the channel itself. Likewise, we talk about stuff we see on YouTube, not really the site itself. We talk about the community and the content, but the brand would be nothing without this. Conversely, to do anything or view things on Shooting People’s site I have to log in. It’s just so old fashioned.

I sincerely hope that some decent UK sites enter the Webby’s this year and showcase what the UK is really capable of in online creativity.