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.
  • 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 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."