the Melbourne International Comedy Festival wrapped up, and thus, a couple of months since

Laughtrack Review

So, it’s been a couple of months since the Melbourne International Comedy Festival wrapped up, and thus, a couple of months since LaughTrack went silent. I just want to write up a last batch of statistics, as well as some broader thoughts on how the site went in general.

I should have been doing this back when the festival actually finished, but some things got in the way of catching up on classifying all the tweets, and so I only actually got through the last of it yesterday.

The Leaderboard

A quick look at the top 10 (well, 11, given tied scores), going by quality:

Show Rating
“The Pajama Men: The Last Stand to Reason”: 93
“Nina Conti: Talk to the Hand”: 93
“Ross Noble: Things”: 91
“Jamie Kilstein: Revenge of the Serfs”: 91
“Adam Hills: Mess Around”: 91
“David O’Doherty: David O’Doh-party”: 91
“Good Evening: Shaun Micallef & Stephen Curry”: 91
“Frank Woodley: Bewilderbeest”: 90
“Celia Pacquola: Flying Solos”: 90
“Josie Long: Be Honourable”: 90
“Melinda Buttle: Sista Got Flow”: 90

Most of those are quite established, but it’s worth noting those who are relative newcomers to the comedy scene: Celia Pacquola and Melinda Buttle - and those who are relative newcomers to Australian shores: The Pajama Men and Jamie Kilstein.


Here’s who made the biggest gains by rating over the final two weeks of the festival (I’ve trimmed the list to 8 - there’s another 7 on the next score down):

Show Initial Rating Current Rating Difference
“Poet Laureate Telia Nevile: While I’m Away”: 0 65 65
“Smart Casual: Same Mother, Different Fathers”: 0 60 60
“Spontaneous Broadway”: 27 84 57
“Mark Butler: I’ve Been Watching You Australians”: 0 53 53
“Good News Week”: 0 53 53
“Stevl Shefn and His Translator Fatima”: 0 53 53
“Terry North: Life’s A Joke”: 0 53 53
“Die Roten Punkte: Kunst Rock”: 27 72 45

In most of those cases, it only took a handful of positive tweets to gain some serious quality points. So again, let’s go by tweets instead of rating - because this turns out to be a far better metric for who has been getting a lot of buzz.

Show Initial Count Current Count Difference
“Arj Barker: Let Me Do The Talking”: 43 77 34
“Ross Noble: Things”: 29 62 33
“The Pajama Men: The Last Stand to Reason”: 26 54 28
“Josh Thomas: Surprise”: 17 38 21
“Rich Fulcher: Eleanor the Tour Whore”: 23 42 19
“Tim Key: The Slutcracker”: 32 50 18
“Adam Hills: Mess Around”: 26 44 18
“Sam Simmons: Fail”: 15 31 16
“Jamie Kilstein: Revenge of the Serfs”: 15 30 15
“Josie Long: Be Honourable”: 13 28 15

I’m not going to bother analyse the data from which shows were sold out

  • it’s far from complete.

What’s next?

LaughTrack was a fun experiment for the festival, but I’m not quite sure of its future.

It’s possibly useful for other festivals (especially those with repeat performances - so, Fringe festivals much more than Film festivals), but I don’t quite have the passion for those festivals compared to the MICF. In other words, I’m probably not going to commit the time to keep the site up-to-date for the Melbourne Fringe (for example) without some personal incentive.

The classification system also needs a lot of work. I spent many, many hours classifying tweets, because automating that kind of intelligence into a website is far from easy, and I couldn’t get it to a reliable state without human interaction. I could open the classification out to everyone who visits the site - and if I run this for next year’s MICF, that’s quite likely - but again, it’s additional work.

And it’s worth noting that most tweets that LaughTrack picked up were not reviews - there was a lot of noise, and very little signal (which is the main problem with automating classification).

So where does that leave us? Well, I’m definitely interested in reprising LaughTrack for next year’s Comedy Festival, and hopefully can get the people behind the festival to send some data on ticket sales through.

As for other festivals, I’m going to need some financial support to dedicate any time to adapting and maintaining the site. If you’re interested in sponsoring development on LaughTrack for a festival, then please do get in touch.

I would love to hear feedback on whether you found the site useful during the festival, and how it could improve. From a personal level, I know I found new shows to go see purely by reading the thousands of tweets that came through.

Rose left a comment on 14 Jun, 2010:

Hey Pat,

I found Laughtrack interesting to follow throughout the MICF, though it didn’t influence any of my show choices. The Leaderboard sure is chock full of excellent shows, though I don’t think the Gains is a good indicator of quality. Laughtrack was definitely a good resource to follow the buzz around shows, though I agree it would have been kind of MICF to let you know what shows were selling out, for example. It will be interesting to see in future years how Laughtrack develops as more people join the Twitter bandwagon.


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