Page last updated at 10:40 GMT, Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Win for UK story-telling website

By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News, Texas


Representatives of five of the world's hottest young web companies deliver their pitch in the time it takes to ride 26 floors in an elevator.

A small British company has been named Best in Show at the South by Southwest Web Awards, in Austin, Texas.

Six to Start won the top prize for We Tell Stories, an interactive approach to retelling literary classics and redefining modern online story-telling.

The website held off competition from the likes of Hulu - the popular on-demand online TV site - Flickr and geo-location company BrightKite.

Dan Hon, co-founder of Six to Start, said: "It's been unbelievable."

He told BBC news: "We were quite pleased and happy [just] to win the experimental category."

Founded by Mr Hon and his brother Adrian in September 2007, the site was inspired by the "emerging field of alternate reality games (ARG) or cross-platform entertainment; this intersection where you have creativity and technology".

ARGs allowed stories to develop dynamically at almost any point, said Mr Hon.

Activism: Tweet Congress
Amusement: Addictionary
Art: Things I Have Learned in my Life, So Far
Blog: The Bygone Bureau
Business: Jasmax
CSS: ProjectMiso
Classic: Flickr
Community: Lost Zombies
Educational Resource - The Cycle
Experimental: We Tell Stories
Film / TV: Hulu
Games: Why So Serious? The Dark Knight Alternate Reality Game
Mobile: Gigotron
Motion Graphics: NVIDIA Speak Visual
Music - James Zabiela
Personal Portfolio: Ali Felski
Student: Modernity Spirit of Experimentation
Technical Achievement: Aviary
People's Choice Award: Lost Zombies
Best of Show Award: We Tell Stories

"The technology is there to let people dip in and out of stories when they want. And when they run live, they are a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with people."

After working on the ARG Perplex City for Mind Candy, the two brothers set up in business for themselves.

"Our heart lay in creating fantastic experiences that really pushed technology.

"We are seeing a generation of people who have grown up with video games and at same time we are seeing incredible acceleration in technology where the internet is everywhere now," said Mr Hon.

He said the company's ambition was to "to take devices like mobile phones and transport people into a fantastical, magical world that is playful, has great game design and story-telling".

He added: "The one thing which really drives us is trying to make then as accessible as possible."

For Six To Start that means games that do away with controllers or keyboards, and instead allow gamers to interact with characters by just picking up the phone.

"If you could just step into he the world of Harry Potter or Star Wars whenever you wanted, it is a great way to entertain people."

We Tell Stories came about after Penguin's digital publisher heard Mr Hon speak at a conference.

Keen to experiment, Penguin commissioned a series of classic novels to be remixed and retold in the digital age, and with new works redefined for the web generation.

The 21 Steps
There are six different interactive stories on offer

"The big thing for us was telling stories that cannot be done on any other platform," he said.

But this did not mean creating stories for the Kindle crowd.

"E-books are boring - they are just taking a manuscript and turning it into a PDF. It is taking no advantage of the possibilities afforded by the internet and other platforms.

"That's what led to wanting to tell stories on tools like Google Maps."

We Tell Stories worked with six authors on new forms of story-telling.

"They were fantastic and didn't run away from this. They want to do it again. We need that creative talent, great story telling and want them to be excited about the potential of this new medium."

Some of the stories use tools like Twitter and weblogs, telling a more conventional multi-platform tale from different viewpoints.

The husband and wife writers Nicci French wrote live for an hour each day for five days, with readers able to see the story unfold one sentence at a time.

Mr Hon said: "It was terrifying for them. Writing can be a solitary experience and suddenly they were being turned into performance artists."

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