Monday, December 31, 2007

Argleblogle Glop-Glif?

File this one under "huh?" Gizmodo runs a "Microsoft LOL" story about Microsoft's YouTube channel and their decision to leave comments open and uncensored is a "marketing mishap." What? How is allowing people to express opposing opinions without being censored a "marketing mishap?" Unlike other companies - say, Apple - who delete comments they don't like and actively kill blogs they don't like, which is fine as long as they make slick phones with crippled functionality and overly-DRM'd music that looks hip with white earphones - right guys?

Guys?

Full Disclosure: I used to work on Microsoft accounts, but no longer do so. I was in no way connected to setting up this YouTube channel, but I would have strongly encouraged anyone who was to allow comments on the channel without censorship - and to actively engage in meaningful dialogue with the YouTube members who posted comments there, positive or negative. Crazy, I know.

Update: Forgot to give credit - story came via Seth's Shared Items.

Update 2: Apple doesn't kill bloggers, they kill blogs. Big difference! Changed above for accuracy.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Kicking Ass For The Lord

I read this afternoon (via SA) that Pope Benedict is now recruiting "exorcist squads" to "wage war on Satan." Satanism has become such a problem that this calls for squads of priests who can perform exorcisms (in the Catholic faith, as the article correctly states, very few actually know how to do it - remember The Exorcist?) In fact:

    Each bishop is to be told to have in his diocese a number of priests trained to fight demonic possession.
"Extreme Godlessness" is on the rise, and who's to blame but one old scapegoat and a new one:
    The Vatican is particularly concerned that young people are being exposed to the influence of Satanic sects through rock music and the Internet.
Well it's true that the Internet enables people to more closely connect with fringe groups, but rock and roll? What is this, 1967? And aren't there far worse things on the Internet than Satanists - like, I dunno, racist or political hate groups? Al Qaeda? Ron Paul supporters? Yeah, I went there.

Apparently there's good cause for this though. According to the Vatican rep quoted in the article, "We are being bombarded by requests for exorcisms." Apparently demand is outstripping supply and it's time to form some task forces.

Don't get me wrong - I like this. A lot. I don't discuss religion much, but I tend to approach faith - and Christianity in particular - with a very Liberation Theology approach - God helps those who help themselves. This is pure religious action, and I like it.

But I like the idea of some sort of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen coming forth from some secret Vatican base to fight Satanic possession even more. Can you imagine how badass that would be, to have a squad of specially trained exorcists and investigative experts traveling around the globe to fight the paranormal? I realize it's been done before but allow me to present my "dream team" exorcism squad:

Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel in From Dusk Till Dawn)

Why: He's a self-described "mean motherfucking man of God." He's a man of the cloth who lost his faith and rediscovered it, and there's no stronger faith than the one that has been tempered by the fires of doubt. Plus, he's smart enough to bless holy water and put it in Super Soakers to fight vampires, make crosses out of baseball bats and shotguns, and carve crosses onto blessed bullets. The guy really knows his shit.

Why not: Well, he's not technically a priest. But that brings us to:

Father McGruder (Stuart Devenie in Dead/Alive)

Father McGruder plays a very small role in Dead/Alive but it is probably the most memorable role. He's a priest. He kicks ass for the lord. He takes out an entire group of zombies with martial arts. So not only can he perform the exorcism, he can help the party - err, exorcism squad - if things get out of hand.

Why:Here's a video of him in action:


Agent Dana Scully, FBI

Scully should need no introduction, but I offer one anyway. She's the ultimate skeptic although a woman of faith herself, not one to easily fall for trickery. Most investigated exorcisms turn out to be false anyway and someone with a firm grasp of the scientific method and criminal investigative techniques is imperative to the success of the team. Plus she's dead-on-balls accurate with that hand cannon of hers, so any corporeal threats will think twice before fucking with her.

Why: Scientific skills, criminology background, knowledge of medicine, crack shot.

Why not: Has been known to hesitate under pressure. Her whereabouts are currently unknown.

Frederich Nietzsche

Every party - err, squad - needs a lighthearted prankster to lighten their spirits and nothing says lighthearted like old Freddy N. A fun-loving recluse who once joshed that "Christianity is the religion of pity," Nietzsche adds just the right mix of existential honesty, questioning of faith and syphilitic insanity to the group. He may not be able to help with the investigations, but he'll certainly be around to force people to consider what the events mean.

Why: A fun-loving wacky fellow. Who wouldn't want Nietzsche on their side?

Why not: Before he passed away he signed his letters "Dionysus" and exhibited other signs of syphilis. While a hoot to have around, he may be a detriment to actual investigative work.

Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich from Jericho)

Young and inexperienced although more worldly than many others his age, Jake Green offers a pragmatic if youthful angle for the squad. He is the current de facto leader of Jericho (Season 2 starts February 12 on CBS!) and has served in military organizations both government and civilian in war zones. He's good with a gun, full of practical advice and can get things done when necessary without compromising his morals. He's also more attractive than the other squad members (except for Scully) increasing the Exorcism's Squad ratings among the crucial 12-49 year old female audience bracket.

Why: Guns, looks, practical knowledge.

Why not: Not especially spiritual, but has a strong moral compass.

There you go - my dream Exorcism Squad. Agree? Disagree? Think I'm full of shit? Think the Pope looks like Emperor Palpatine? Comment below.

Blast From the Past

Well here's a surprise: googling for pictures of Nietzsche, I come across my old Philosofighter mock-game. The email still links to my old email address and the link goes to my (now-defunct) old website. Kept alive (without credit, but I don't really care) by this chap. Crazyness!

Update: even stranger, the picture appears on this Arabic-language forum, and the text below translates to, according to Google reader:


    Wisdom of the world:

    Not standing on the ground and Teh
    Not climb very high!
    The world is Sightliest
    Go to the mid-high

    Quote says

    Strict and inflexible, and the harsh spectrum
    Familiar and strange, dirty and net
    Later psychiatric and wise
    I, I want to be all that
    At the same time Tabana, pigs and pardon!

    Wisdom violent man

    Not asking for something never! What feasibility Altaoh!
    But please, take the time.

    Another

    I do not like to be the other near me
    For the old and Alacasi highlands!
    Otherwise, I have to be stellar?!

    IN DEPTH

    Researcher Anna! Beware of the word
    I only heavy - and the weight over rate
    There was nothing to do except I always reality
    Finally revoked the order until depths.

    Herakulaitih

    Every happiness on earth
    Dear Chums in the conflict lies!
    Yes astronomical become friends
    To be gunpowder smoke!
    Three had met Mates:
    Brothers want to
    Equal before the enemy
    Free before death.

    Excessive in principle Wiz

    Walking on the capital fingers first
    Embark on four lists
    The passage through the pin hole of the first pass through the doors hole!

    People Alracon

    That play - should be praising!
    But accept higher
    He even lived above the praise
    It is the top!

    On the door of my house

    Held at the Betty
    Start with one of the Aguetdit
    We have mocked Above all teachers
    What scoffed at the same First!

    Resolution

    That would be a wise lady
    Responsive to the advice
    Ahmed God created the world as places Bahmk

    And I took the road
    Including possible mad
    Because of the largest Wise started here
    Because the madness stop here

    All eyes eternal
    Forever resorted
    The same God - you started and where!
    God is not the same without interruption begins

    Arthur Cobinhor
    What he learned demolished
    What could not lived cancelled
    Take for example!
    The teacher never underwent

    That ye love that accompanied
    Love paedophile warmly

    Without home

    Prompted fast horses
    Without confusion without fear
    A spacious dimensions
    Rani and me
    It introduced quail
    Mr. without home!
    Use bold and were veterans
    The kwenye
    Dear Star Buraq, you enjoyed!
    Not dare to one
    After this Fessalni
    Where there are blighted
    I never connected
    Balamknh hours or fugitive
    Eagle as a free I
    Use bold, Be Old
    For the month of May Atakzlni you smart, you enjoyed!
    Nokia to extinction really?
    I accept that the highest violent death?
    That is hardly accept.
    Enter the highest grave
    And refrain from drinking at all?
    Use bold and were veterans
    The kwenye
    Iahelma many colors, you enjoyed!

    Precautionary!

    As long as my body is beautiful, it
    I allowed that I protects!
    Known that God loves women,
    The hostesses were first
    Forgive that, I am sure
    Khoury of the small loves, as some young Akhuriin
    And be for the two sides

    What is Brahb Church!
    Not often that a young red
    Despite the dark and filled with Alskrat
    Balamabat and jealousy
    Hated any disability,
    Loveth not very old,
    How wise was necessary
    Even function on the machine, the father ordered!

    Church mastered life
    Absorbed hearts and faces
    Always want to forgive me
    It is therefore not forgive me?
    Ehmson and slowly, and then all the way
    Carrying with him new sin
    And as soon as the strike old!

    May God bless the Earth
    Who loves beautiful
    And forgive the same willingly
    This type of heart pain.
    As long as my body beautiful
    I allowed it to be Tekaya:
    Chechen be old
    Satan will accept me Research!

    The believer!

    Hate as hate amenable to lead
    The Atia!? No! And never will judge!
    Not for the same terrifying, one does not inspire terror
    Only horror suggests he can lead others.
    I hated the leadership of self time
    I also loved the animal forest and the sea
    Until waste
    Once,
    In Sohar nice sit squat
    I ask self recent term,
    Aggrey alone and self -

    Pious talk

    God created us love it!
    ((God created man!)) As your answer brilliant.
    It does not create loves what?
    It will require created by the undeniable?
    Winding it to the wisdom, it holds attach devil.


    Upward

    -- How can I rise this mountain best?
    -- No wonder continued to emanate!

    Scorner

    I already let many things slip and fall Mona
    For this you Tsfinu Palmzdri
    But drink from cups
    Very full, it will fall a lot and go
    But such can be said about that flouted wine

    Magician against their will

    Delivered, so to spend time, the words
    In the air - were sufficient to inflict woman

    Souls Province

    You hate souls Province
    Where good and slag as well.

    Happy

    Ignored tired of the search
    I learned that I
    Since the wind Glaptni
    Become a club with all the wind

    To a friend pieces

    If you want to for your eyes and your bones
    Stay in the shade to prosecute the sun

    Vade mecum, vade tecum - Lieutenant friend, a friend Lieutenant

    Orchids methods and languages
    Ataatbni, with me anymore?
    Not only yourself and faithfully follow you
    Then Sttbni - Slowly!

    Badminton Takrbc

    Badminton Takrbc: is unbearable
    Amovernm permission Bakherbch?
    Therefore, whenever captured boldly Dwati
    Write Waves of ink
    How Mitra flowing so generously!?
    How successful in everything, no matter how I wrote
    Without doubt, write complaining of the lack of clarity
    Humenny what? Then think of reading what I write?!!!

    Zhou poet

    Give me only Samga
    Sajid wood myself!
    Giving meaning to the four Qguav to Amacolh
    Not a little astonishing!

    Who chooses to taste

    That left me to chose
    A small pleasure
    Central pick paradise
    Or perhaps Bbabh best!
Well that about takes care of my strangeness requirement for the day.

It's The End of the Year As We Know It

I planned to do a spoof "top 10" list but it kind of fell by the wayside as I've been out and enjoying London, so instead I'll do a serious predictions for 2008 post mixed with some reflections on 2007. It's been a hell of a year; I had no idea I'd end up living in London when 2007 dawned. We took a vacation to Spain, I've sorted out some problems in my life and started tackling new ones. I haven't really lost much weight but I haven't gained any either, which I'll accept for the time being. Last year, I was in the midst of launching Windows Vista - two words that still cause my team to tremble in fear - and was looking with hopeful eyes towards the new year, writing poetry of questionable quality and not a hell of a lot else.

Now I'm certainly less stressed out, although I feel my career has taken an interesting turn. The odometer turned to 29 this year and it's time to figure out what the hell I want to do with my life. Do I really want to continue in marketing? Or try my hand at something else? I admit that my enthusiasm from marketing comes partially from the subject matter - clients, accounts or products I find interesting or I care about. When you take that part of the equation away it becomes very rote and dull. I realize that's kind of whiny, but I also realize that I'm getting to the point in my career where I can start to choose the kinds of things I want to work on and the kinds of jobs where I really fit. That doesn't mean anything for the short term, but it certainly gives me a perspective on my destination when we move back to the States.

So with that out of the way, here's my predictions for the new year, covering the areas of my expertise in no particular order:

  • New Marketing has reached an apex. This is already evident: bloggers are either repeating common-sense statements or simply regurgitating nearly verbatim what they hear elsewhere. Which isn't to say there isn't a lot to do in this field yet, but the concept of "new, awesome ideas" is and will rapidly be replaced by merchandising and productizing these concepts instead. This is fueled in no small part by what I was bitching about here - PR people know they need to be on Facebook or want to make a viral video, so new marketing is going to become more of a factory than a workshop to accommodate those demands.
  • In traditional gaming, the industry is going to either stagnate for a while or continue its slow but steady decline. The wildcard: D&D 4th Edition. From what I've heard (very little, admittedly) the changes sound interesting - and I personally can vouch from the last overhaul that having $500 worth of the "old version" doesn't mean you won't eventually upgrade to the "new version." This will undoubedly keep mass market RPGs afloat for a little while, while Indie RPGs will continue to do as well as can be expected. Companies like Green Ronin will step up and take a piece of the pie (full disclosure: I used to play board games with one of the owners of Green Ronin on occasion). There will be no one "must-have" collectible game.
  • Video games: rather than speculate on what console is going to win (full disclosure: it's been more than a year since I worked on the Xbox 360 account, but I should still mention that I worked on it), I'm more interested in what interesting games are coming out. Grand Theft Auto 4 looks pretty solid, but all the "big" games for each platform have already been released. Well, except for whatever the next Metal Gear and Final Fantasy happen to be on the PS3 but somehow I doubt they're really going to have that big of an impact. I played some good games this year, but none of them inspired me to say "holy shit that was awesome" when I put down the controller. BioShock did while I was playing it, but not at the end. I admit I haven't played Drake's Fortune, Mass Effect, Mario Galaxy or Assassin's Creed yet - but somehow I doubt I'm going to have that experience with any of those games either. And I expect next year will be the same. Kind of sad, really.

    Except that Empire: Total War will be out and as formulaic as the series is it will consume a large amount of my time.
  • The US Presidential Election. Who the fuck knows? I know who I hope will win, but otherwise it's anyone's game at this point. 2008 will certainly be interesting in this regard.
So there's my predictions. Now I have a writing prompt for December 30, 2008. That's forward thinking!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Subversive Puppet Show PR Policies

Being in online PR, I'm sympathetic (moreso than some other 'professionals' in this field who will remain unnamed) to the efforts of those who are trying to dip their toes into the wild and woolly world of blogger outreach. Therefore, if you're a PR professional please find the rules for contacting me below. The rules are kind of like a flow chart: if you meet the criteria for the first rule, continue to the second and so forth. If you make it through, please feel free to drop me a line. If not, please don't waste your time contacting me.

  1. I blog as a hobby and am therefore interested in writing about relatively few things. Rather than telling you what I don't want to be contacted about, I'll tell you what I do want to be contacted about. If your product doesn't fit into this list (the exception being Rule 8, below), chances are I'm going to ignore you. The list:
    • Comics, specifically Groo, Hellboy and The Fantastic Four
    • Movies of any type, but horror and science fiction specifically
    • Video games of all kinds, specifically classic and Xbox 360
    • Traditional games of all kinds. Note that I write for some RPG companies on a freelance basis and may not be able (or willing) to talk about a direct competitor to a project upon which I'm working, although it never hurts to ask
    • Books, although I'm not terribly keen on nonfiction unless it's about history or religion
    • Television, but only The Simpsons, Futurama, Jericho and Battlestar Galactica
    • Traveling
    • Good wine and good cheese
  2. Please take the time to find my name. It's not hard. It's on the blog's heading. Use the correct salutation - if your email begins "Dear Subversive" (as an email I received this morning did) that's as far as I'm reading before I hit "delete." Although some would argue it is unwise, I use my real name on this blog for a reason.
  3. Don't pretend to have read my blog if you haven't. When I'm doing PR outreach, I either go out of my way to familiarize myself with a blog - typically because I've been reading it already - or I simply recognize that someone might be interested in what I'm selling and go from there. None of this "I really liked your post about X" that I see in so many outreach templates that pass through my hands. Don't lie to me. People online have higher bullshit detectors than normal, and PR people like me create bullshit. I can smell it a mile off, so don't bother.
  4. If I'm not interested, I'm not interested. If you don't hear from me, one follow-up will suffice. Normally I will at least do you the courtesy of responding but sometimes I simply don't have the time for it. And there's no need to track me down on MSN and Twitter and leave messages for me on Xbox Live and Flickr.
  5. Understand that my company's blogging policies restrict me from talking about competitor's products and often prevent me from talking about PR competitors in all but the broadest terms. I happen to like my job and want to keep it, so please don't get bent out of shape if I can't discuss your competing product here.
  6. If your product is blatant advertisement - IE, an advergame - you're really going to have to impress me before I'll write about it. I've supported enough crappy advergames to know what a shitty situation it is trying to get people to write about one, but this isn't the place. Sorry.
  7. I am not interested in anything racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-religion or hateful. Not only will such things be deleted, you probably won't want the kind of PR I can give you for sending me such a thing.
  8. The Zombie Rule. Zombies override all other rules here. If you're selling zombies, I don't care if it's an Apple-branded Zombie iPhone that uses NeoOffice, you hit me up 20 times on Xbox Live about it and you misspell my last name - I want to hear about it.
These rules are subject to change without notice, so please review them before contacting me. They will also be permalinked from the front page of this blog.

If You Can Read This

Then my home internet is finally working.

Your regularly scheduled puppet show will resume shortly.

Friday, December 21, 2007

To My PR Colleagues

Dear PR Colleagues,

We've got to talk. Our relationship is starting to change, and we need to figure out where it's going. I will say right up front that I don't want to break up with you and I think that we've laid the groundwork for a really good friendship here - so hear me out before coming to conclusions.

Lately you've been making a lot of requests and you haven't been listening to me very well. I think it's great that you realize what I can do and the importance it has to the field currently known as public relations. It's awesome that your clients have heard of the Internet and want to be engaged on Facebook. It shows that you're listening to me and that's good, but I don't think you're necessarily listening beyond the first few bits.

Engaging online means a lot more than making a website or a 'viral' video (note: please stop using that term, OK? I don't call you 'stooges,' so I don't think it's too much to ask that you don't call strategies 'viral' when you're referring to outcomes.) You have to do a little research first. When I ask you what people are saying about you online right now and you look at me with that blank, doe-eyed expression and wonder what that has to do with creating the next Subservient Chicken for your clients, it's very endearing and cute the first time but it's frustrating as hell the 100th time.

Let's face it: creating a 'vibrant, online community around our client's light sour cream' (full disclosure: that is a made-up example) may look great on your Powerpoint presentation to your clients in the pitch, but let's be realistic - just because you promised your client the moon doesn't mean us hard-working chumps down here can deliver, especially if we didn't have any input from the git-go. Because 'vibrant online communities' are great and all, but is your cutesy micro-site, a few emails to bloggers and creating a Facebook page going to create hundreds of threads of conversation where light sour cream enthusiasts come out of the woodwork to sing the praises of your product? Probably not.

What you have to realize is that the kind of 'vibrant, online communities' you're talking about on the Internet are created not around specific products but around people's hobbies and interests. People don't go online looking for communities about things they buy (unless that thing happens to be their hobby - I'll give you that). They go online looking for communities about things they enjoy - movies, cooking, television, games, books, politics. This is the lesson so many people have to learn, and an increasingly desolate landscape of $30,000 Second Life islands devoid of life except for furries doing inappropriate things, forgotten Facebook groups and forums with less than 10 registered users means that people continue to learn the hard way.

You don't have to learn the hard way - just hear me out! Remember that doe-eyed look? You have to know what people are saying about you and where! Maybe instead of creating a 'vibrant, online community' about your particular brand of light sour cream you seek out an existing 'vibrant, online community' about cooking where several users have mentioned your sour cream (I did some Google-Fu just now and found at least two that fit that description) - and talk to them instead? Don't whack them over the head with your PR-ness either. You'll scare them and probably piss them off. Why don't you simply offer your information, offer yourself as a resource and see what happens?

We can't keep going on like this, PR people. Something's got to give in this relationship. I know I don't say this very often, but in this instance I'm right, OK? All I need you to do is listen.

And seriously stooges, stop calling them viral videos!

"Oh Crap"

The problem with wearing your pants twice in a row to save on laundry is that sometimes you see something that makes you mess yourself in more ways than one.

Take, for example, the trailer for Hellboy 2. Does it contain:

  • Awesome mythological monsters? Check.
  • Lots of over-the-top action? Check.
  • Investigating a mystery? Check.
  • The unique touch of Mignola? Check.
I'm not sure sixty seconds of footage have ever made me more excited about anything ever before. Holy god.

Official movie site here: Hellboymovie.com

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Those Who Get It (And Those Who Don't)

Last night was my first real introduction to my London office, where we all gathered for the 40th birthday of Edelman in the UK. Richard Edelman, whom I'd never met, gave a great presentation about the future of PR, which he referred to not necessarily as 'public relations' but as 'public relationships' - as good as way as any to codify where our industry is headed as online and new media begins to achieve greater and greater footholds, like it or not. It's refreshing to see the upper management at my company 'get it.' I also got to meet some people I've only known by name thusfar like David Brain, our European CEO (who also blogs.)

It was timely that on the heels of that presentation the Beautiful Competition sent me this article that made the rounds a few days ago while I was in transit, about a Quorum of Twelve (nerd alert) 'Corporate Bloggers' who got together to, in their words:

    "Deliver a responsible and effective corporate message, but we need to do it in the complicated environment of the blogosphere. We have to speak for a corporation, but never sound 'corporate.' And we have to learn to do it live, and in real-time."
I don't take quite as dim (or to poach a term from the Beautiful Competition, obvious) view as Mashable did of the whole thing, but suffice to say my proverbial monocle fell out of my eye when I saw one of my former clients listed on the Quorum roll-call (ain't sayin' who.)

The optimist in me wants to think that the 'Blog Council' is what it appears on the surface - an effort to become responsible in the new marketing age. But the pessimist realist in me thinks it's more along the lines of what Mashable thinks it is: an attempt to try to control the so-called signal.

Not that there isn't a place for a unified corporate blogging code of ethics; far from it. In fact, an open declaration of transparency would give corporate bloggers a degree of accountability that they currently lack, except through the efforts of attentive online watchdogs.

But I suspect greatly that some of the other aspects of the council relate to some of the things I heard about last night - namely a token effort to participate in online 'conversation' that turns into something more one way. I'm willing to shelve my early opinions, as always, but I'm very curious to see where this is all headed.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Seth's Writing Manifesto

I found this when I was cleaning to move. It's Seth's writing manifesto, dated October 17, 1995, reproduced here with no changes:


    1. To be a writer, one must actually write.
    2. You have to make your own opportunities or, when they come to you, take advantage of them - free lunch isn't served every day.
    3. Be professional. If you don't think you're a writer, no one else will either.
    4. Be creative. If you aren't interesting no one will care because they won't read past the first page.
    5. Distance yourself from distractions but get involved in experiences and closer to material - and learn to determine what is what.
    6. Write for yourself, but write with an eventual audience in mind.
    7. Learn when it's time to let go of an old project; there's revision, and then there's beating an old, beloved friend to death with a ball-peen hammer.
    8. Spend the time to do the research. Other than "what next?" (or in some cases, "whodunit?), questions in the reader's mind are usually a bad thing.
    9. If you have to steal, steal raw material, not finished pieces of work; use events and characteristics, not plots and characters.
    10. Always, always spellchk and check your grammar,
    11. Read, read, and read some more. Try to balance what you're reading: fiction (and various types and genres), nonfiction, newspapers, magazines; it's all food for the Elephant Child.
    12. Be involved in your writing; if an idea or a work-in-progress bores you, it will bore the reader too. Set it aside until you are excited to write it.
    13. Always be thinking in terms of your writing; observe people, objects, and events with an eye for future use in your work.
    14. Write every idea down. Some of your best ideas are lost to the mists of time, and even if it wasn't the best idea you'll be frustrated at losing it.
    15. The most important trait a writer can have is a determination to be a writer; overnight successes and natural born talents are few and far between, while stories of success through hard work are common. Most writers don't make a living at it until they're 35 or older.
    16. Know the market, both its history and its current state. It helps you to know what editors and the public want, it helps you to avoid cliches through repeated exposure, and it lets you stand on the shoulders of the giants of the past.
    17. Find what quirks work for you and embrace them; if you write best in a crowded restaurant, become a regular there; if you write best on a computer in your living room wearing only socks, do that (although be sure you close the blinds.) And, if your quirks stop working, try that quirkiest quirk of all - variety.
    18. Always be writing, and recognize the writing that you do: a grocery list or classroom notes may not be marketable material, but it's writing nonetheless.
    19. Gather around you people whose criticism you respect, not simply those who encourage or praise you; a valid piece of criticism is worth innumerable pieces of praise.
    20. Be critical of your own work; always strive to improve, to be better, through simply continued practice and/or concentrated efforts - a balance of the two seems to work best.
    21. Have opinions; they are the things that give your work emotional depth and that differ your work form every other schmoe who picks up a pen.
    22. Your fear of failure should be offset by the knowledge that if you aren't up to the task there are plenty of more aspiring writers just like you who are perfectly willing to step forward and take their turn at bat.

Friday, November 30, 2007

What Times We Live In

Seth and I went to see Beowulf tonight, a movie that strikes me as remarkable for two reasons: first that for a time the most popular movie in the US was based on one of the oldest stories in the English language and second that it's basically a two-hour video game cutscene. I don't mean the last to be derogatory - I enjoyed the movie immensely - but turning everything into a CGI effect was more distracting than it was cool, as opposed to say 300 earlier this year.

They took some liberties with the story, but understandable liberties; overall it wasn't something that took anything away from the overall enjoyment of the "Beowulf is a fucking badass" premise of the story. You could argue that they aren't liberties at all, because Beowulf was a spoken poem long before it was ever written down and passed through several iterations before it reached the oldest known written form we have today. Oral stories change. Written stories can change. So adapting it to the screen and changing it a bit isn't bothersome at all - it fits completely the spirit of the original type of text. It also added another interesting dimension to the tale, the human side of the hero - which has been so overdone in comics recently it's drifting into cliche territory and Neil Gaiman was one of the writers, so take from that what you will.

I enjoyed it. I cheered for Beowulf, marveled at the effects, drooled at Angelina Jolie, and had a great time. That a poem 1400 years old can inspire that is also remarkable. If you have a chance, check it out.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Matter of Family

Last night was the most difficult so far in this move: I dropped off the cats at their temporary house where they'll live with friends for the next four months. The parting was difficult, but harder is the fact that this is the first time our family has been apart like this. Ever.

Even on the move to Seattle, when I was here alone, Elizabeth and the cats stayed together. It's odd; they are animals, but they are our family too. Family's a funny thing. I've grown to realize that it doesn't just mean your blood relatives, it's the support network of friends and loved ones as much as it is those to whom you're directly related. I just spent a week with my blood relatives and in my last week here I'm spending time with the family that has in one way or another formed here: Brook and Wendi, Angela and John, Seth, Jon, Crabby, Kevin and Kim.

And then off to a distant land where our core family will be reunited and we'll make new friends.

It's too early to be writing these kinds of posts.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Value of Information Age


About the time I was in high school - or possibly before, because I wasn't paying attention - someone declared our modern times the "information age," attempting to indicate that information would become the most valuable commodity. Only recently have I really come to realize some of the deeper implications of that moniker.

Information as a commodity is nothing new; historically speaking, one of the reasons Alexander the Great was so successful was that he constantly scouted ahead to gather intelligence not only on the military strength of a region but on the disposition and current political landscapes of it. Sun Tzu said:

    Thus, what enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is FOREKNOWLEDGE.

    1. That is, knowledge of the enemy's dispositions, and what he means to do.

    Now this foreknowledge cannot be elicited from spirits; it cannot be obtained inductively from experience, nor by any deductive calculation.
    Knowledge of the enemy's dispositions can only be obtained from other men.
Emphasis mine.

In a way, the conversation research aspect of online marketing - the role I increasingly find myself in - is exactly what Sun Tzu is talking about, but rather than our enemies we're gathering information about customers and potential customers. We're not assessing the strength of their armies just by counting troops, we're surveying the political landscape to best figure out how our policies will map to their policies.

But a lot of the research that goes into building out our reports comes from sources that we pay for in one way or another. There are subscription-based news aggregators, and of course our clients pay us for our time. And the information itself, in its raw form, is somewhat useless: we not only play the role of intelligence gathering but we play the role of general to a certain degree, offering advice based on what we can synthesize from the information provided.

And certainly there is value in that, but the not-so-cynical part in my asks: what is the value of other information? Certainly my friends Roger and Angela, who have chosen more academic careers, are doing something very similar to what I do: gathering data, synthesizing it, creating something new. But the nature of academia is that they will never (and trust me when I say this is criminal) make as much as someone in the private sector for doing the same basic kind of work and, arguably, more important work than figuring out how better to sell people things they don't really need anyway.

Which is to say nothing about experiential information. Can you even place a dollar value on the kinds of information and the kinds of synthesis that comes with age and experience? Certainly a job that requires "10-15 years experience" pays more than one that requires "1-2 years" but take, for example, my trip to Spain - is there any way to put an actual value on the experience and perspective I gained from that trip? Somehow I doubt it.

I leave the post open-ended for the Puppeteers to weigh in on if they wish.

Also: thanks to all who commented on my last post!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Not a Blogroll, a Read-roll

My blogroll is seriously out of date. I don't really use it as the one-stop shop control panel I used to when reading other people's blogs. In fact, it's become an artifact of a web 1.0 world. I do my reading through Google Reader now, and only in some rare instances do I go look at the content on the blog itself (for example, when I'm commenting on a post.)

So here's my read-roll - the blogs I've got in my Google Reader. If your blog isn't in here, it may be because a) I don't know your blog, and you should leave me a comment; b) for some reason (Magner, I'm looking at you) your RSS doesn't work right and I still have to read your blog on your site; c) you haven't updated in ages and I took you off my roll.

As of this morning, I read 80 feeds. They are all listed below, with the reasons why I read them. Note: Links go to blogs, not to RSS feeds.


  • A Soviet Poster A Day. Your daily dose of vintage Soviet propaganda.
  • Leah In Chicago|Accidentally Jewish. A coworker's blog who concentrates mainly on the journey of someone converting to Judaism, which is good for my religious curiosity.
  • An American In London. An American Ex-Pat blog, written by a great writer who helped me figure some stuff out about my move. Very well-written posts.
  • Anacrusis. A daily, 101-word story. A great way to creatively kick off my day.
  • Become What You Behold. My friend Roger's blog, mostly discussing scholarly things.
  • Brandon's Shared Items. Brandon's list of Shared items from his Google Reader. (Not a blog.)
  • Boing Boing. General geek interest site, and one of 5 or so blogs everyone should read.
  • Bokardo: Social Web Design. Run by a chap named Joshua Porter. I'm not sure when I added this blog to my Reader, but his thoughts on designing for social spaces are interesting and offer a different perspective from how I typically see the web (and web "spaces.")
  • Brandon's Hodgepodge. Friend and former co-worker Brandon Gribin's blog. He's in Israel right now and posts cool pictures taken with his iPhone.
  • Brother Magneto's Xbox 360 Blog. A feed of my accomplishments on Xbox Live. One of the killer Web 2.0 features of the 360 that the other consoles don't have. Now if only they didn't break so much...
  • CC Chapman's Blog. CC Chapman's personal blog. CC's podcast is the only one I listen to regularly.
  • Cheap Eats In London. One of my most recent adds, so I can figure out where the hell I'm going to eat without breaking my bank in the UK.
  • Chris's Invincible Super Blog. One of a handful of comic blogs I regularly read, and definitely one of the most entertaining.
  • Copy, Right? I'm a big fan of cover songs and this blog is one of the best places to find new ones.
  • Cover Freak. The other great cover song blog out there, it updates less regularly but has some pretty kickass songs on it.
  • Dave's Long Box. Dave's blog has a great premise: he reviews old backissues from his collection. I've found some pretty interesting stuff through reading his posts.
  • Dennis Detwiller's Blog. Game designer and author, Dennis' blog is another recent addition but so far has yielded free Delta Green fiction - what's not to love?
  • Digital Hive. The blog for Digitas, a group that my company's east coast team works with. They really dig into a lot of the technical specifics of new marketing.
  • Doodle A Day. Fellow Alliterate Stan!'s experiment in posting one doodle a day. Updated daily with a funny, usually gaming-related picture.
  • Dthon. Fellow Alliterate Scott's personal blog.
  • DuncanRiley.com. Duncan is one of the founders of Gooruze, a social networking site geared specifically towards new marketers. This is his personal blog.
  • Fallon Planning. A blog discussing branding issues in the online space, but often goes far beyond to broader issues in new marketing.
  • Fallout 3: A Post-Nuclear Blog. News and commentary on Fallout 3, from a community perspective.
  • Francesco Explains It All. Blog of writer/cartoonist Francesco Marciuliano. Topics are all over the place, but are typically funny, good reads.
  • Gamerscore Blog. I like to keep up to date on what my former clients are up to, mostly because I'm a big fan of the Xbox 360.
  • Gibson Blog. William S. Gibson's blog, makes for interesting reading. I'm always curious to read author blogs and see how similar they are to how the author writes books.
  • Grand Text Auto. A great blog about game writing and gaming as an art form.
  • Grubb Street. Fellow Alliterate Jeff's personal blog, and probably my main source for voting information in local elections.
  • Grumpy Gamer. Ron Gilbert of Monkey Island fame's personal blog, updated infrequently but contains interesting analysis of the current state of video gaming when he does write.
  • isleepnow. My friend Angela's personal blog. I wish she'd update with more original content (hint, hint.)
  • HorsesAss. Local liberal political blog.
  • I CAN HAZ CHEEZBURGER. LOLCats. What more do you need to know?
  • It's Not a Lecture. David Wescott's blog about online conversations. Often looks at politics, which I believe really led the "new marketing" revolution back in the FreeRepublic.com days.
  • Jane in Progress. Occasionally I entertain the notion that I could be a screenwriter. Jane, who as written for some of my favorite shows, keeps a great blog about doing just that, geared at newbies.
  • Jericho Blog: The Salty Scoop. It's no secret I like CBS' "Jericho" a lot, so it should come as no surprise that I subscribe to the producers' blog.
  • Kotaku. I don't always read it, but Kotaku keeps me up to speed on gaming news when I do. If only they didn't post so much...
  • Laughing Squid. I found Laughing Squid during the dark times Vista outreach days and really enjoy reading it. It's an eclectic mix of art and various pieces of strangeness.
  • Lifehacker. Run by some of the same people who run Boing Boing, Lifehacker is a great mix of helpful living tips and odd pieces of gadget-related news.
  • LOLTHULHU. LOLCats + The Cthulhu Mythos.
  • Londonist. Gothamist's London branch, and my main source for London news at the moment.
  • Magazine Death Pool. Seth turned me on to this one - a blog devoted to recording magazines that go out of business, primarily as new media is replacing old media.
  • MAKE Magazine. The print version of Lifehacker.
  • Managing the Gray - Marketing for the New Media Professional. CC Chapman's podcast, which Seth originally linked me to once upon a time.
  • Mashable! Social networking news with commentary. Updates several times a day.
  • Media Guerrilla. Mike Manuel's new marketing blog. Quality rather than quantity is the keyword for this blog. Mike doesn't update often but his posts are extremely well-thought-out and offer good insights.
  • My Old Kentucky Blog. One of my favorite music blogs, and another good place to find covers from time to time.
  • Nothing good can come of this... Despite its pessimistic name, Jon's personal blog is a good way to keep up on what's going on in his life.
  • Ober Dicta. Seth's personal blog and one of the key inspirations for whipping the Puppet Show in shape.
  • Paleo-Future. This blog has an awesome premise: a retrospective look at old visions for the future.
  • Passive-Aggressive Notes. A good humor blog to help me keep things in perspective.
  • Penny Arcade. I read it for the comics, and Gabe and Tycho are pretty fucking funny.
  • Permuted Press. Permuted Press publishes zombie novels and this is their blog. I watch it so I'm aware when they open submissions again. Not that I'm waiting for that for any reason or anything.
  • Play This Thing! I know a couple of the people involved in this blog, but I read it because Play This Thing! is a nice roundup of (mostly) casual-type games online.
  • Post-Apocalypse UK News. A blog devoted entirely to post-apocalyptic movie and entertainment news. You can see the appeal for me.
  • Robin D. Laws' Livejournal. Personal LJ for Robin Laws.
  • Roleplaying Tips 2.0. Online e-zine published with RSS about - yup - roleplaying tips. It usually has some excellent content - I found the "five room dungeon" template here.
  • Seattlest. Gothamist's Seattle version, one which will probably drop off my read-roll once I'm in London.
  • Seth Godin's Blog. Despite the fact that he looks like the logo from "You Don't Know Jack" and he's a shameless self-promoter, Seth Godin's blog is a must-read for new marketing folks.
  • Seth's Shared Items: Seth's Google Reader feed.
  • Simon Says. A blog penned by my future London colleague Simon Collister. New Marketing with a UK twist.
  • Slog. The Stranger's Blog, and my second main source for Seattle news.
  • Something Awful. The frontpage feed (there's a frontpage?)
  • Strange Maps. Another quirky favorite, this blog - as its name implies - aggregates strange and unusual maps.
  • Techno//Marketer. Matt Dickman's new marketing blog. I found this one through Gooruze and have found it pretty insightful.
  • Escapist Magazine. I actually get two feeds from this, but Escapist Magazine is a decent read for gaming - and is the current home of Yahtzee's awesome video reviews of games.
  • The Fate of the Artist. Eddie Campbell, illustrator of From Hell and writer/illustrator of many fine comics, blogs here.
  • The Long Tail. Chris Anderson's blog about the changing nature of business, from the perspective of the theory presented in his book "The Long Tail."
  • The Marketing Blagger. Andy Bargery is a new marketing consultant in London. I found this through the London blogger's meetup (even though I am not there to attend one yet) and it's a good read in its own right.
  • The Monkey King. Wolfgang Baur's LJ. Wolf's Kobold Quarterly and his patronage project are two interesting things going on in the gaming world at the moment.
  • The Pirate's Dilemma. Blog for the book/project "The Pirate's Dilemma" about how 'open source culture' is reinventing capitalism. One of my current must-reads.
  • The Total War Center Forum Front Page News Feed. RSS feed of the news that hits the Total War Center forums, mostly mod updates and news about Empire: Total War, the next game in the series.
  • Twenty Sided. Geeky gaming blog, but always a pleasure to read.
  • Web Strategy by Jeremiah. Jeremiah Owyang's blog. Tends to me a little more brand-centric, but ultimately everything blends in new marketing anyway. Updates regularly with great content.
  • XKCD. This webcomic has become a blogosphere favorite, and I admit I read it regularly.
  • Your Daily Awesome. Something awesome, usually every day. Like Boing Boing but less pretentious and better quality.
And there you go. That post took me a week to write. If I missed you (specifically your shared items feed - I love those), drop me a line and I'll add you to my read-roll.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Livin' On Tulsa Time

I thought about posting this to the London Blog since this will be my last visit home before I emigrate but decided it really belongs here. Tulsa is much as I remember (and expect) it to be, except with more stip-mall Middle Americana growing up around 71st and 81st streets. The frozen custard stands have mostly left and there are more Starbuck's to take their place. More restaurants, but old haunts like the 71st Street Depo are still serving 3.2% beer and regrets.

The flight in was the single-worst flying experience I've had; we booked an earlier flight than our original to try to make up some time and to adjust to Liz's schedule, but it ended up being canceled and we were rebooked on our original airline (albeit a later flight.) Our luggage was not; it ended up in Tulsa after us so total time in airports to fly the four hours to Tulsa exceeded 13 hours from arrival to luggage retrieval. We also had the pleasure of arriving the day of Oklahoma's centennial celebration, so I can say I was here for that but I missed Garth (Brooks) and Carrie (Underwood) performing. Next time I guess.

Last night we ran around with some of our old friends. Somehow we ended up at Denny's one last time. Bean and Tosha and Yuill were all there, and if Andy had showed up I wouldn't have been at all surprised. A few tables over a group of high school kids were hanging out after a football game and I realized as I listened to them I was looking at and hearing myself ten years ago. As easy as it is to make fun of home when you're not here, the lure of home once your back can be surprisingly strong.

Life continues much as it always does; my nieces and nephews are getting older, my parents and in-laws are getting older, and I know that I'm getting older too. If anything, this trip combined with the impending move has slowed me down a little, helping to remind me to take a little time and enjoy the company of those around me. After all, if we don't have these things - friends, home, and so forth - we really have nothing at all.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Ten Thousand

It's not going to last, so I have to commemorate my even 10,000 Gamerscore somehow:

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Best Delta Green In Life is Free

Dennis Detwiller posted the text to a new, free Delta Green novel called "Through A Glass Darkly" on his blog. I found it by happy accident, but it gave me both a new blog to read and a new Delta Green novel to read - neither of which are bad things. Spread the word because Dennis' writing is hands-down some of the best gaming-related fiction I've ever read.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

"Times Like These"

    I am a new day rising
    I'm a brand new sky
    to hang the stars upon tonight.
    I am a little divided
    do I stay or run away
    and leave it all behind?

    It's times like these you learn to live again
    It's times like these you give and give again
    It's times like these you learn to love again
    It's times like these time and time again

Friday, November 02, 2007

A Clicky Situation


There's a really good discussion occurring on HCRealms at the moment about HeroClix and the role of the company (in this case, WizKids) in outreaching to and interacting with online communities. I made a post over there that I'm particularly proud of and figured it would be worth sharing here:

So I wanted to compose my thoughts on this, because there are some really good conversations going on here that are very similar to a lot of conversations going on in PR in general right now. PR's in an enormous period of change - probably the biggest "revolution" since we started this field. Before, companies used to simply talk to the press, send reporters goodie boxes full of swag and expect to receive good coverage for these "review" products. There was no accountability because the general public never knew that the good review of that new television, or game, or whathaveyou was written because there was now a brand-new, identical television sitting in the reporter's home.

But that's changing. Companies simply can't get away with that anymore for a number of reasons. First, the "mainstream media" is becoming increasingly irrelevant as more and more people are going online for news and information. Trust of the media is at its lowest levels ever. When's the last time you bought something based on a review in a magazine vs. the last time you went online and found reviews of a product on Amazon, or on a community about your product?

Companies are realizing that what the fans think really does matter because it often (not always, but often) reflects concerns of consumers as a whole. If enough people think something sucks, then there's a very good chance that it does in fact suck. In a lot of ways, WizKids was way ahead of the curve on this count. Since leaving, I've worked with companies that either have no clue what's going on online or in some cases don't want to hear what's happening. I've literally had to edit reports because they were "too negative," because the upper management didn't want to hear about the problems online and would prefer to ignore them. I'm not kidding.

So listening to and reading what the community has to say is the first step, and I think WizKids does pretty well on this count. I know Seth reads these forums often - he linked me to this thread, after all - but the next logical step is community interaction. Sure, we know what people are saying, but what can we say back? There is, as hair10 posted, a hell of an opportunity here to talk directly to the people who are buying your stuff. And it's one I was, quite frankly, given free reign to utilize, sometimes with not-so-great consequences. More than once, my foot went firmly in my mouth.

I believe, however, that a few mistakes are worth the overall gain when talking to the online community. Connecting with fans, being honest with them and straightforward (something I always strove for), acknowledging the limits of what you can appropriately tell people but still keeping them "in the loop" for lack of a better term - all these things are extremely important. Coming online to say "no" isn't really conducive to conversation. More importantly, whomever the representative is has to be OK with some back and forth with the community - that is the basis of conversation, after all.

There are limits, of course. There are some things that for whatever reason I couldn't tell you guys, or really you didn't need to know (just because it didn't matter, not because I was trying to keep anyone in the dark.) But overall the interaction is worth it because it builds community, and it doesn't matter where it happens - on WizKids' own forums, here, or another site. A Facebook group maybe, or a group chat on Xbox Live. There's lots of places to hold these conversations, and if you're limiting yourself to one place you're missing a good deal of conversation elsewhere. I myself was guilty of this when we shifted focus entirely to the WizKids forums and left HCRealms out of the loop for a while.

At the risk of this turning into a novel I should probably wrap it up, but I wanted you guys to at least know what was going on a little "behind the scenes" - but more importantly, I want you guys to know that what WizKids did a few years ago really was innovative. Not a lot of game companies (and certainly very few companies overall) do what WizKids did, and I know that there is some very strong resistance to it from people more entrenched in the "traditional" PR of talking to print media and sending people fancy review swag method. There are people who don't realize that those ways are rapidly dying out but simply don't want to change how they operate because change is hard. Anyone who has ever lived through a website changing its template can attest to that.

I don't mean to make excuses and I don't want this to sound like you guys are ungrateful - that's the exact opposite of what I want to communicate. Overall, WizKids should engage with you guys more. Seth does an admirable job, but he is, in the end, a game designer and spends a lot of his time designing games. In an ideal world there should be another "BrotherMagneto," someone who is brand-agnostic (as opposed to a brand manager not versed in communications) who has the time to engage with the community and let you know what's going on. That doesn't mean spilling details on upcoming sets and dials (although that's certainly one of the more fun parts of the job!) but engaging in conversation, listening to what you have to say and offering the company's perspective on things.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A BioShock Halloween

I'm laid up with some kind of bronchial infection, but in lieu of real content here's an awesome video a coworker sent me of "A BioShock Halloween."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Four Words I Never Thought I'd Say

I like Los Angeles. I'm here for a few more hours as we wrap up our team meeting, and I've found LA to be a surprisingly cool place. It's an essentially American city in that it's one massive piece of sprawl where the term "using space wisely" means nothing. It's about conspicuous consumption and being seen. It's a place where you go to "make it" that isn't New York, but one gets the sense can be just as harsh when you fail. The weather is great and the girls look good.

I remarked to a coworker last night that I can see the appeal of LA, and I never could before. He told me later that LA has no soul; that may be true, but the absence of a soul isn't necessarily a bad thing - in contrast to Las Vegas for example, a city whose soul is so filthy and corrupted it shows in every gilded edifice.

Now I just need to kick this cold and get a good night's sleep back in my own bed and I'll feel like myself again.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Only Winning Move

In my office's breakroom, CNN is running footage of Russian president Putin comparing the US' missile defense shield plans to the "Cuban missile crisis." The article on CNN.com seems less hyperbolic, but having a former KGB agent in charge of a Russia that's increasingly resembling its former communist self in all but name is scary enough without tossing around the closest we've ever come as a species to setting our clocks back a couple hundred thousand years.

Just in case our leaders are reading the Puppet Show (or if any of you Puppeteers need reminding): the only winning move is not to play.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It Finally Arrived!

It's not often I anticipate a book, but I've been waiting patiently for the Hobby Games: The 100 Best since it debuted at GenCon and there was a package waiting for me when I got home with my copy neatly tucked inside. I haven't opened it yet, but it's waiting for me by my bed when I finally turn in tonight. I'm cleaning, and cleaning, and cleaning getting ready to sell this stupid house. I don't think I'll ever be done but in less than 48 hours, I have to be.

But I digress. Hobby Games is shipping, so if you haven't ordered your copy, why don't you try the link in this post. It's good karma.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Who Watches the Gurus?

I read on Mashable the other day about Gooruze, a "Digg for Marketers." Intrigued, I checked out the site which isn't so much Digg for Marketers as it is a specific Linked In / Facebook combination for New Marketers. I'm a little wary of new social networks - I'm on MySpace and Facebook and that's it - but I thought I'd give this one a try and I'm not sorry I did.

Gooruze has a lot of good things going for it. Pretty standard fare like your own blog and the ability to comment and rate other people's content, but you can contribute in three main different ways: asking a brief question to the community, writing an article for the community, and sharing news with the community. All of these can be commented on, and there's an entire Groups feature I haven't even begun to delve into yet. The interface is still a little wonky, but considering the site just launched on Wednesday the 17th I'm not surprised it's still in a 1.0 UI phase.

The value I'm taking away for Gooruze is threefold. On the most selfish level, participating in conversations there has affirmed a lot of my thoughts and feelings on blogger engagement and "PR 2.0." It has also lead me to a lot of blogs I probably wouldn't have discovered before and given me a lot more reading material and food for thought. And third, it's the closest to any kind of professional organization and network I've joined, and seems far more valuable than any "association" you join and pay monthly dues to so you can sit around and sip cocktails in some hotel ballroom every sixty days. Which is to say, it's the kind of networking and collegiate atmosphere I'm looking for.

I predict use of the site is going to explode and then level off with the good content starting to simmer to the top. I've encouraged my coworkers to give it a try, it certainly seems like a good thing to get into, even more so if you can get in on or near the ground floor.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Signs You're Getting Old

When "Jurassic Park" (one of the greatest movies of all time) is on American Movie Classics.

Jesus, I remember when I hid a copy of the book in my 8th grade science textbook so my science (yeah, science) teacher wouldn't get mad I was reading it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

My New (Other) Blog - A Yankee In London

I've created a second blog that may interest you - A Yankee In London. I say, old chap, what an odd name for a blog! It's almost as if it will chronicle an American's journey to and experiences in London!

And you'd be right. As I mentioned before, Elizabeth was offered and accepted a job in London, and we're moving there in a couple of months.

Here's a Q&A that should address queries you might have about this:

Q: When?
A: Between Thanksgiving and the end of the year.

Q: Where?
A: We're not exactly sure yet, but we want to be near one of the major Tube lines in the outlying parts of the city.

Q: What will you do with your house and car?
A: Sell them both. We're not renting our house out from the UK.

Q: What about the cats?
A: They are subject to a six-month quarantine, but will be doing that here with our friends rather than over there in an animal shelter. They'll fly in and join us later.

Q: How long?
A: Two years minimum.

Q: What are you going to do for a job?
A: That's still up in the air right now, but I'm looking at several options.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I haven't been posting much recently - because this has been a logistical obstacle course and nearly every waking moment I'm not at work has been spent getting the house ready to sell.

In the end, it will be worth it!

Buy My Stuff: A Zombie Story

So I finally sat down and forced myself to use Lulu.com's e-distribution tools to try them out. The result is that a short story I wrote a couple of years ago, Some Side Effects May Occur, is now available to purchase as an e-book for the low, low price of $1.30. It's a 6400 word story, so it's a steal at $0.0002 a word! I dare you to find a better deal for zombie fiction / social commentary anywhere. If you do, I'll promote it here!

Warning (for my mother and any other family members reading this) - this story is pretty gory and is intended to be disturbing.

Oh yeah, and I'm not crazy about the cover image but I didn't have any pictures to use so I went with one of Lulu's stock images.

Here's a nice button where you can buy my story too: Support independent publishing: buy this e-book on Lulu.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Viral is Not a Strategy, It is an Outcome

"We want you to make a viral video!"

If I hear this one more time, I think I'm going to slap someone.

To paraphrase Me2: viral is not a strategy, it is an outcome. You don't make viral videos, you make videos that become viral. You may want them to become viral, but there's no magical spell/potion/Harry Potter wand that turns a viral video into the next LOLcat.

That is all.

Just Checking In To See What Condition the Blog is In

I haven't been updating regularly, and I apologize. As some of you already know, my wife was transferred to London (and she's going over in late November) so every waking moment I'm not at work has been devoted to getting the house on the market to sell. Which is why there hasn't been anything in this space recently.

I'll hopefully remedy that soon, so stick with me.

Friday, October 05, 2007

My Picture on a Surface


My Picture on a Surface
Originally uploaded by BrotherMagneto
(Transparency: I work for Edelman representing Microsoft Surface.) I had my Surface demo today, and that's a picture of me and my coworker on the device, after the gentleman doing the demo took our picture and put the camera on the table to pull our picture off. Absolutely amazing. Sorry for the crummy cameraphone quality.

Monday, October 01, 2007

London by William Blake

    I wander thro' each charter'd street,
    Near where the charter'd Thames does flow,
    And mark in every face I meet
    Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

    In every cry of every Man,
    In every Infant's cry of fear,
    In every voice, in every ban,
    The mind-forg'd manacles I hear.

    How the Chimney-sweeper's cry
    Every black'ning Church appalls;
    And the hapless Soldier's sigh
    Runs in blood down Palace walls.

    But most thro' midnight streets I hear
    How the youthful Harlot's curse
    Blasts the new born Infant's tear,
    And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.

It's All About the Content, Baby

A big buzz-term in the Web 2.0 community is "user-created content." By this, people are typically referring to things that online communities create themselves that demonstrate their passion towards something. This blog post is an example of "user-created content."

The New Marketing people were quick to seize on this, and "user-created content" quickly became something quite desirable within New Marketing circles. In this slightly more cynical case, the content they're referring to is something that users have created to show their loyalty to or excitement about a brand or product. A good example would be the "PG version" of the 300 trailer that came out right before the movie. The YouTube video (embedded below) has more than 4.5 million views, and while the users did basically overdub the source material a few times, it was enormously popular, and New Line played along because it's basically free advertising (a trick many companies haven't quite figured out yet.)

I was thinking today about the push towards user-created content, and I think it's a great goal, it's something that's exceptionally hard to create organically unless you specifically give the community tools to do so. But even if you were to allow users to create their own car commercial and share it (as GM did a couple of years ago), will all that have the same effect as one humorous video that's an overdub of the official trailer? It's hard to tell. There's a reason there aren't more Lewis Blacks, Dave Attells and Jon Stewarts out there: doing something funny and relevant, with a wide audience appeal, isn't easy. Empowering community members to do so is great, but one shouldn't expect each video created to be another "300 PG."

Rather, I think New Marketing should focus more on user-chosen content. Empower me to take the things I want and put them in my own space. This blog is a fine example: the content you see on the right nav is either static (the blogroll) or chosen (Google Reader, my Gamertag and its accompanying RSS feed) content. Facebook is an even better example; the entire site is at its heart a colossal crisscross of RSS feeds all picking from and talking to each other. Aside from blog posts and "wall writing" (Facebook's comments), most of the rest of the content there is generated by RSS, and the user chooses what, if anything, is displayed on their page.

The iGoogle landing page is much the same way. It's now so infinitely customizable that there are website contests devoted entirely to who has the best iGoogle landing page. That's powerful stuff, and I suspect we're only beginning to tap the potential of user-chosen content.

That's my thought for a Sunday after a busy weekend.

Friday, September 28, 2007

David Lynch's "A Goofy Movie"

Offered without commentary:

How Not To Do Blogger Outreach, With Translation of PR Nonsense

I have never been contacted by a PR firm to get me to cover something on this blog, but some of my blogging coworkers have. One of my coworkers was recently contacted, although we're a little unclear as to why - he basically blogs about marketing and PR like I do, so the closest we can figure is these guys created a list of "communications/marketing blogs" and spammed them with the same form email, inserting their names and nothing else. Remember when I talked about individual communication? This is the opposite of that. The exchange that follows is priceless. Note that all names have been removed, as have all references to the company and product to protect the innocent.

    Hey there [blogging coworker],

    I have been bursting to tell you about [product] but I have been under embargo until the big press conference in New York this morning. Well, since the embargo has been lifted, both you and I are free to talk or write about [product] until we’re blue in the face, so here’s what [product] is …
    [IRRELEVANT PRODUCT INFORMATION
    If you’re as excited about [product] as I am and think it will appeal to the [coworker's blog] community [note: my coworker's blog does not have a "community"], I hope you’ll take a few minutes to let your audience know all about it.
    Either way, we’re also letting bloggers into our private preview in a few weeks, so that you can have a sneak peek right before [product] opens to the public – but you’ll need to reserve your spot.
    So let me know if you’d like to be added to our private preview list, and feel free to ping me if you have any questions.

    Cheers,

    [PR guy]

    [PR guy's contact information]
    P.S. If you want to learn more before checking out the social media release, here’s the official Press Release.

    [press release pasted]
Um, yeah. So my coworker really doesn't have a "community" (as much as I love you Puppeteers, you're not a community either - not by the new marketing definition of the term anyway). And until he received this, he'd never heard of the product and "bursting at the seams" comes off as so disingenuous and fake it's not even funny (or rather, it is!) My coworker also figured out that the PR guy who sent this added him as a "friend" on Facebook about a half-hour before this email was sent, and did a little detective work to trace this back to an interactive PR company. So my coworker responds with:
    Hey [PR guy] -- sure, would love to check out the preview, thanks for the invite. Not sure if I'll blog about this soon but I am interested in what you are doing.

    FYI, I don't mind the e-mail, but might be better next time to send a private message via Facebook, since that is where you found me, instead of pinging my public e-mail address. If I didn't figure out who you were and who you work for, I might have felt "spammed" :-)

    Best,

    [Coworker]
Now here's where things take a turn for the strange. PR guy comes back with:
    I see where you're coming from. I must admit that that is an issue I deal with because I try to maintain a "list" two which I send "pitches" and I am trying figure out the best way to make this happen so that folks like [NAMEDROP OF FAMOUS NEW MARKETING GUY THIS GUY ACTUALLY WORKS FOR] and you don't feel SPAMMED, but message you indeed were! I cannot deny that -- my only defense is that I only "spam" bloggers, who are public folks, anyway, and I try to be a little bit neighborly about it :)

    Thanks for getting back to me, however!

    [PR guy]
Well intentioned, but I'm guessing this fellow didn't ace writing class. My coworker sends me:
    Okay, help me out -- what the fuck is he saying, that spamming bloggers is cool?
So I have a little fun with this. Here's my translation:
    I see where you're coming from.

    [Oops, you caught me.]

    I must admit that that is an issue I deal with because I try to maintain a "list" two which

    [Twin Acres Community College Education ahoy!]

    I send "pitches" and I am trying figure out the best way to make this happen so that folks like [GUY] and you don't feel SPAMMED,

    [I also spend a lot of time on 4chan, and I have no real clue what I’m doing as far as blogger engagement goes.]

    but message you indeed were!

    [This just doesn’t make sense. “Message” is not a verb as used here, and even if it was this still isn’t grammatically correct.]

    I cannot deny that -- my only defense is that I only "spam" bloggers, who are public folks, anyway, and I try to be a little bit neighborly about it :)
    [Fuck off, spamming a big old list of people I made up is easier than writing them all, but it’s OK because your email is out there publicly so I’m really little more than a spambot farming email addresses, but that’s OK too because I at least personalized the email with your name and created some folksy language that the Bush administration wouldn’t even use.]

    Thanks for getting back to me, however!
    [Eat it.]
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how not to do blogger engagement. I hope you had a good chuckle at least - we did.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Amazon.com: 1. Steve Jobs: 0

One of my only complaints about Apple and the iTunes / iPod format (aside from the shitty, shitty hardware - "just works" my ass) is the DRM'd music you "purchase" from their store - not that I want to share it, but because it locks me into buying Apple products so I can continue to play my purchases. I love my iPod, but I can imagine a day when another company makes a viable alternative and my brand loyalty only goes as far as what's most functional in my life. But Apple was smart, because the couple hundred dollars (at least ) of DRM'd music I've purchased from them must be played on Apple devices until the end of time. Considering that includes at least one exclusive Peacemakers album, I'm loathe to switch.

But today, Amazon.com launched their own MP3 online music store. What's the difference? A slightly smaller selection than iTunes, a crummier search function (it never was Amazon's strongest point), but DRM free, 256KBS MP3s. Often for the same price (and many times cheaper) than iTunes' DRM'd songs.

And I can just drag and drop them into iTunes, and they're good to go. Or into whatever other future service I might want to use, on a future player that hasn't been released yet.

iTunes just lost a customer today. Congrats, Amazon.

Also, the other thing I don't like about the iPod / iTunes? No multiple genre tags. That, and the crappy quality of the hardware that has necessitated the replacement of the device even though I'm hardly what I'd consider a "hardcore" user. But man, those iPod Touches are sexy.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Life Toxic


After my last series of posts, I had a reader ask me a very good question: how do you deal with a toxic community? A community so entrenched in its negativity that anything you say or do with them will be turned around, thrown in your face or used against you?

Do such places exist? Are there really people out there who devote a good deal of their time online to complaining, albeit passionately, about something? Yes, there are. I've seen several varieties of these kinds of communities in my time. Here are a few off the top of my head. I've kept things general and intentionally not linked to anything, and none of these examples represent any of my current clients:

  • A blog by an ex-employee of a company that claims insider information of wrongdoing, but offers no hard evidence. Any press release made by the company is dissected and twisted by the blogger, who claims to want "open discussion" - but blocks the company's IP addresses from viewing the blog, thus shutting out the institution they claim to want to change.
  • A forum devoted entirely to how biased and unfair the moderators on another, much larger forum are, populated largely by people kicked off the larger forum for breaking rules.
  • A blog devoted entirely to how biased one particular moderator on a forum is - with daily updates of the moderator's posts and moderating decisions, often deriding the moderator for his "stupidity" and bias.
  • A forum created by a "clan" or group of gamers who were annoyed enough at the game company's decisions to change their game that they created their own forum where they could openly criticize nearly every decision the company made.
  • A blog whose writers posts news neutrally, but then offer consistently negative commentary which is echoed by the community members, with comments often numbering in the dozens to the hundreds on each post.
Also, since I'm getting a lot of traffic from Fallout communities following my use of Fallout as an example, I need to clarify that none of those examples are a Fallout community.

So to my reader's question - how do you engage with a community like this? The short answer is, you don't. Period. Sometimes, there is no strategic advantage to engaging with a community so toxic and hostile that they have the time, effort and inclination to do nothing but be negative on the Internet, especially towards a company or a product. While it's true that there are companies out there that certainly deserve ire, consider the kind of person who would make a blog only to post about how awful a game company (rather than, say, a political figure) is and then update it constantly, regardless of whether anyone aside from a small number of like-minded individuals actually read it. That's the kind of mindset you're dealing with.

But rarely do communities get this bad, and a little research will typically be more than enough warning to avoid a truly toxic community. Note to fellow PR stooges: this is why you can't just do "parachute bloggerism" and expect results. You send your email to the wrong community, and they're really going to make you regret it. So step one is avoiding communities like this.

Step two is realizing that not all community members out there are this way. Nine times out of ten, there are other outlets for discussing a passion, be they blogs, Facebook groups, forums, Listserves or something else. Find those communities instead, and engage there. The toxic community members will either close themselves off further - in which case you lose nothing - or take an interest in engaging you outside of their comfort zone, on another site, where you have at least gained their attention. That's progress.

Step two and a half is what happens if there isn't another place to engage. This is not an either-or situation, and the image above comes from one of my favorite Star Trek references: the Kobayashi Maru, or the "unwinnable scenario." In Star Trek, a Starfleet cadet is introduced to a simulation where they are forced to choose between rescuing a ship in the Klingon Neutral Zone and destroying their own ship and killing their crew, or ignoring the ship's distress call and abandoning the people aboard to certain death. Kirk was the only cadet to ever pass the test (as of Star Trek II anyway) by coming up with a unique solution: he reprogrammed the simulator to let him win. The lesson of the Kobayashi Maru is that there's typically another solution to any seemingly dualistic problem - and in this instance, you have to fiddle with the community a bit to win.

I don't mean hacking into the toxic forums. Rather, create your own community. Not for the control over its members, but for the initial control over its content. This can be as simple as starting a blog where you have well-defined rules about low-content, hostile comments and delete such as necessary. Or it can be the creation of a forum where you start driving conversation, and let things evolve naturally on their own. Or - and I don't mean to bandwagon here - a Facebook or Gather discussion group was made for this sort of thing, and they're not that hard to create.

The best way to deal with a toxic community is to simply remove it from the equation. I don't mean ignore it, because often times a company's harshest critics can provide it with some of the best feedback. But there's also no reason to set yourself up for failure when engaging with a community that tends to be toxic. The fact of the matter is, it's just not worth it. Sure, there may be more of them than there are of your positive community when you first begin engaging - but that demographic will change over time. And the payoff is worth it.

Note: Thanks to Mike Reed's famous Flame Warriors for the picture above. Support his work, it's seriously awesome.

A Rare Occasion

I'm marking this event with a blog post because frankly it happens less than me being hit on by hot Hollywood actresses. Last night, President Bush said something I agreed with regarding the invitation and subsequent circus of Iranian President Ahmadinejad at Columbia University:

    When you really think about it, he's the head of a state sponsor of terror, he's—and yet an institution in our country gives him a chance to express his point of view, which really speaks to the freedoms of the country.
Well said (uh, kind of) Mr. Bush. My first thought when I heard of this stunt was that there's now way a university in Iran would ever extend the same invitation to President Bush - and if they did, how many assassination attempts could radical Muslims squeeze into one visit? The very fact that America allows people of all varieties, even the most repellent anti-gay, Holocaust-denying, woman-abusing elected heads of state, their say is a testament to why I at the bottom of my heart love this country and the freedoms upon which it was founded.