Never work with children or animals

This screen grab, taken from the children’s BBC TV show Blue Peter from 1969, captures the slippery moment when a baby elephant caused havoc on live TV.  It could also be the source of the guidance that, in television, it is better not to work with children or animals.  Since I have been familiar with the guidance for so long it leads me to wonder why we recently attempted to work with 200 people of school age to help us assess some of our multi-screen television presentation ideas.

The opportunity came as part of British Science Week, a laudable initiative to engage young people with careers that depend upon education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

We devised a very short test schedule that allowed our young judges to give their opinion of different presentations of football, some single screen and some using three screens. We managed to get 200 test subjects to complete our assessments within about 8 hours of tests over four days.  So in terms of efficiency the method was a success.  We also learned from it:

  • We learned that no one reads instructions
  • We learned that people need to be shown, as well a told, how to fill in forms.
  • We learned that many people have no interest in sport whatsoever – they told us as much
  • We learned that when it comes to three screen presentations of football, well whilst the data are not that conclusive we think they expressed their preference.

Full details of the experiment have been written up and submitted for publication elsewhere.  The results will also find their way into our deliverables in due course.