The Notebook

The notebook is now deprecated and being replaced by

Please do NOT use the notebook in new games.

Alyssa Concha plays Digital Graffiti Gallery

One of the great strengths of mobile technology is the fact that phones etc. have many tools for documenting the world around us (images, audio, video, text) and coordinating that with other information (GPS, category, context). This can be put to diverse purposes: citizen science, journalism, documenting local culture, commenting on public health issues, scavenger hunts, etc. The Notebook function in ARIS allows an author to specify and introduce a data-collection context: both a way to meaningfully introduce and situate their players (who they might be acting as when they collect something, how to do it well, and why it is important) and provide a means for collective reflection or use of the data later on. Here are a few examples that may give you a clearer idea of some of the immediate uses:

How the Notebook works

All the author needs to do to enable note taking is help their players find and use it within ARIS. If you do not use the Notebook in your design, you may want to learn how to turn off it and other unneeded tabs. Authors may, but do not need to, create tags (really categories) for notes in Game > Tags. In Game > Settings, the author can additionally decide whether to allow players to like and comment on each others' notes.

Players go to the notebook tab in the current ARIS game. There are buttons to make new notes from a piece of media (text pad, audio recorder, camera, or camera roll). The player also sees two other buttons for viewing existing notes:

  • All Notes - See notes all players have made while in the current scene
  • My notes - See all notes made by the current player in all scenes
  • Search by Tag - Tags will only show up for players if the author has created at least one tag.

The Notebook is unfinished at present. In particular,

  • Likes and are not yet implemented
  • Audio Notes do not play back within the client
  • Video thumbnails in notes are always horizontal, making it weird for vertical videos
  • Wait until uploading has finished, especially with videos (spinner next to phone signal goes away). Otherwise upload may silently fail.

What is a Note?

A note is a container that holds (optionally)

  • A piece of media (image, video clip, audio clip)
  • Text
  • Category (called a tag but is categorical, meaning you can associate only one with a note)
  • Location - An alternative and spin-off is a spin off of the ARIS Notebook that just does data collection. If all the context you'd like to establish is already known by those doing the collecting, or if it will fit into a brief paragraph of instructions, siftr might be a good way to go. In addition to a UI designed to avoid clutter, it has the following advantages:

  • Responsive web app - no app to download, cross platform, mobile and desktop—great for collecting and then looking at things together back in the classroom
  • Fancy UI
  • Streamlined interface for authors and users - If all you want to do is data collection, you can be up and running in five minutes with no technical training.
  • Connection to social media - Each item in a siftr can be shared out to the world in common ways
Siftr Editor options

The major shortcomings of siftr in relation to the ARIS Notebook:

  • You can't put any hooks around or establish much experience or context around the data gathering, at least inside the tool. No reason you can't do this with paper though, or maybe even stuff siftr inside an ARIS game via a web page object.
  • You are limited to images and text, and you only get text if you also upload an image.


Clutter exists because every note is marked on the game map for all players. This can be useful for viewing notes later, but it can really get in the way too. ARIS will continue to evolve, so this clutter may eventually be less of a problem. But there are some things that you can do right now as an author to clean things up for your players.

Using Scenes to Limit Clutter

Siftr is great, but it has many limitations as well. If you need the extra affordances of ARIS, there are still many options for cleaning up notes. The first strategy to keep note taking tasks from obscuring everything else on the game map involves using multiple scenes to set appropriate context for your players. Here is the key:

Notes only show up on the map in the scene where they were created.

If you have non-notebook game content, you can segregate it from the notes people leave behind by making sure that your players only are making notes in a different scene than the one where they are following a map to get places.

Example - Turn on the Notebook Only at the End

Here’s a simple example. Let’s say you have a basic tour, at the end of which, you’d like players to leave a video comment by using the notebook.

  • You would create two scenes: Tour and Notes
  • Tour would be the “starting scene” (set in the game’s settings, or when authoring new scenes, or by double clicking the scene title in the Scenes tab interface). All of your tour content would go here.
  • Notes would be where your players make and see notes.
  • You need a “scene change” trigger in the Tour scene that goes to the Notes scene, with a lock that will keep the player in Tour until the appropriate moment.

In this example, let’s say you have a final plaque as part of your tour that thanks the player and invites them to leave a comment. The “scene change” trigger above would have the lock: -player has already seen final plaque-.

Optional - Locking Down the Notebook

In the above example, players would likely be leaving their notes in the Notes scene because you are telling them to and they are not likely to find and use the notebook on their own. However, it is still possible for them to create notes in the wrong scene. But you can prevent this by putting appropriate locks on the Notebook tab.

You can place locks on the Notebook (or any other player UI tab).

To do this, in the Editor,

  1. Go to Game > Tabs.
  2. Select Notebook and click Locks

In this case, you would likely want to use the same lock as your did with the “scene change” trigger.

Another Simple Trick - Using Clones of Your Games

The scene-switching trick should work nicely in many situations to keep authored game content visible even in games where there is a lot of Notebook use. What it doesn’t do is keep the notes themselves from cluttering a map of only notes. The redesign of siftr, like the photo map feature in Instagram, does some nifty things to avoid this problem, and ARIS does not have those features. But depending on your use case, there may be again a way to put a little forethought into your design to limit the impact of note clutter: Having each successive audience play a new clone of your game. In Game > Settings, there is a “Duplicate Game” button. This will create a brand new clone of your game.

  • The clone starts with the exact same title. Make sure to retitle right away so you don’t get confused about which clone is which.
  • Player created content (e.g. notes, player, world, and group item quantities) do not get recreated in the new game.
  • Only the author who creates the clone inherits permission to edit the clone.

If you run your game with successive test groups, separate courses, etc. this may give you a nice way to give each group a pristine experience. If you’re worried about cluttering the “game picker”, just make sure only the current copy is marked as “published” in Game > Settings.

More Complex Fixes

In the first example above, the author controls when the player leaves the tour and starts note taking. This is often a fine way to do things. But in some situations, you may want to give the player (at least some) control over what mode of your game they are in. There are a few ways to do this, to insert a toggle switch of some sort, where the player effects their passage in and out of scenes (and maybe turns on and off the Notebook tab). At least that’s how it would feel for the player. The author has to do some additional work on their end to make it work that way. More on these soon...