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Summary:

Watch television and talk about it with your friends: Social TV is a simple concept. But trying early implementations of such projects makes it clear that this is more complicated than we might have thought. Sometimes it’s just a matter of seeing would-be social TV products […]

Watch television and talk about it with your friends: Social TV is a simple concept. But trying early implementations of such projects makes it clear that this is more complicated than we might have thought.

cliqsetboxee

Sometimes it’s just a matter of seeing would-be social TV products in action to understand what they’re lacking. When Verizon FiOS added a Twitter app, it left out the part where people could actually update their statuses, thinking a public stream would do. Verizon said the capacity to contribute simply hadn’t occurred to them, and after users complained added the functionality within two weeks.

Today Cliqset, a well-reviewed FriendFeed-esque startup, launched a Boxee app to give users the ability to talk about the programs they’re watching. Cliqset’s strength is monitoring some 70 social services and combining them in real time. So it built a software library around Boxee to enable real-time activities, which could end up being very cool.

But the app itself was barely usable for me. You have to open Boxee, install Cliqset, then start watching something on Boxee, then open up the app again. As you watch, you can enter in comments that load in real-time on the screen and are visible to other people watching the same content. However, comments are tied solely to the episode, rather than a timestamp within it. So when you load up the episode, you see a stream of comments from other people who have watched the episode or movie. Say the last thing they write about is the big twist at the end? That’s the first thing you’ll see.

This would work if you and your friends all agreed to watch one episode at the same time using Cliqset and Boxee together — of course, anything social requires friends to actually show up. Unlike other social TV projects, Cliqset requires users to sign up for their own accounts (which they can do within Boxee, but still), a further barrier to entry.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not writing off Cliqset’s TV app entirely — but it definitely highlights how hard it will be to bring social TV to the living room in compelling fashion. Other issues to figure out: what to use as a remote, how to make viewing parties happen naturally, how to coordinate various screens and input and managing widget clutter.

  1. It’s a tough problem to solve that’s for sure!

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  2. When I watch TV, I don’t want to be social – I want to watch my show on TV

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  3. I find this blog very interesting as i wasnt aware of how hard watching and dicussing social tv could be. Im however interested in know a lot more about this and the couple applications mentioned here developed to facilitate it. FriendsWeCan.Com http://www.friendswecan.com

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  4. Liz, you nailed the issues (again). We’re just gesturing towards social TV on SetJam because of how hard it is. We can really try to nail the social piece once we can bring you whatever shows you want, whenever and wherever you want them.

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  5. Liz – great topic. One solution to the challenges of Social TV is MediaFriends Chat – check out http://www.mediafriendsinc.com/applications/mfchat.html

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  6. [...] TV Doesn't Have to be this Hard NewTeeVee had an article the other day about the difficulties of Social TV features, and how we may be further away then we thought we were from having a truly viable solution from a [...]

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  7. [...] To be fair, I only spent a short amount of time with the service, which is scheduled to roll out in November (we got a video demo while at Microsoft last month), so I haven’t fully immersed myself in the social media features the gaming platform has to offer. But just as Liz discovered with Cliqset this week, implementing social TV is harder than we thought. [...]

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  8. Is it possible that at this point it’s unrealistic to expect viewers to multi-task while wanting to be entertained? Maybe it’s more an issue of content? If you have programming that is innately social in nature (UFC fights, season premiers, major news events) in so far as it “glues everyone to the screen” at the same time, then I can see a seamless blend of social activity and entertainment. You’re sharing a live moment. But if you just want to watch your episode of Madmen and then hit the sack, how much back and forth chatter are you going to be interested in stoking up? I think at this point it makes sense to focus on the social aspect in regards to large socially engaging content. Not content in general.

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  9. [...] people are trying to zero in on social TV/real-time space — for instance, Frog Design recently launched its tvChatter iPhone app — but big live [...]

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  10. [...] for all the buzz, no one has argued that FiOS really gets it right, just that it is moving in the right direction. Integration with both Facebook and Twitter is [...]

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