MacGuffin - new digital short story project

18th August 2014

MacGuffin is a new digital short story project, initiated by Manchester's Comma Press.

It will be a content-hosting platform and smartphone app for user-generated short stories. Free to use, all the stories on MacGuffin will be in text and audio form, making it perfect it for commuters, audiobook lovers and visually disabled users.

What’s special about it? Well, with MacGuffin, a reader can hashtag other people’s stories, grouping them into genres (e.g. #spec-fic), memes (#lifechangingstories) or reading lists (#jimsfavouritehorrorreads) to share. A writing group can use it to share work in progress (#LeedsUniWriters). A writer can target new work to a specific target audience (#feminist #apocalyptic). And a reader can find something perfect for them (#10minutestories #crime #London). The more people tag, the more it helps discoverability.

MacGuffin will also offer an unprecedented range of analytics that anyone can use, helping writers, publishers, librarians and booksellers to see which stories, genres and memes are being read and shared by readers, and where. You’re a writer, and you want to know where in the world your story has been listened to this past week? MacGuffin can do that! Want to know how many readers stopped reading/listening after the first page? MacGuffin can do that, too.

If you want to know more, please keep an eye on the blog ( – they’ll be posting video diaries about MacGuffin‘s development, including behind-the-scenes insights about the challenges we face along the way.

The project is a collaboration between the award-winning independent publisher Comma Press, the Manchester Metropolitan University School of Computing, Mathematics and Digital Technology, and fffunction, a web design agency specialising in user-experience.

It’s supported by the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts – Nesta, Arts & Humanities Research Council and public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

The Digital R&D fund for the Arts is a Ł7 million fund to support collaboration between organisations with arts projects, technology providers, and researchers. It is a partnership between Arts Council England (, Arts and Humanities Research Council ( and Nesta (

The fund wants to see projects that use digital technology to enhance audience reach and/or develop new business models for the arts sector. With a dedicated researcher or research team as part of the three-way collaboration, learning from the project can be captured and disseminated to the wider arts sector. Every project needs to identify a particular question or problem that can be tested. Importantly this question needs to generate knowledge for other arts organisations that they can apply to their own digital strategies.

Want to get involved? Comma will be hosting a co-design group in Manchester in September, to find out how potential users will interact with MacGuffin, and what features they’d like to see. If you’re interested in spending a couple of hours (evening or weekend) doing this, they’d love to hear from you. They’re also looking for beta-test volunteers for April 2015 – so if you’re a writer or reader and you’d like to to help shape the MacGuffin project, get involved!


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