Et cetera

I'm Done! Adventures in Ph.D. Land

As some of you may have noticed I didn't contribute much to BlogCampaigning lately (Editor's note: Yeah, I noticed). Not only was I busy working in my new job but I also prepared for my last Ph.D. exam: the oral disputation of my thesis. Once my supervisors completed their written reports on my thesis, I was a given a date to orally defend it. I had 15 minutes to introduce my thesis to a panel made up of my supervisors, an observer for the protocol, lecturers and other students (it was a "public" event, i.e. any student of the school could attend the disputation). After the 15 minutes were over, my supervisors and the observer asked me questions regarding different aspects of – and issues with – my work.

Overall, the whole procedure lasted a bit longer than an hour. Once everything was over, I was awarded a "magna cum laude".

However, officially I can't call myself "Herr Dr. Schröder" yet, the reason being that I didn't yet publish my thesis. This is a usual procedure at German universities, you are only awarded the doctorate once you can proof that your work is available to the public. There are different ways to meet my university's requirement in this regard; however, the most common way is to publish the thesis as a traditional book. Dead trees it is!

The problem is not so much finding a publisher, but rather a publisher with a good reputation – and reasonable prices. The thing is, you have to pay them. There's a constant and huge supply of dissertations, and let's face it, most academic books won't sell like hotcakes. So you basically have to buy yourself into a (reputable) publisher.

So far I have been offered contracts ranging from 0 to 4,000 Euros. If you don't really care about your future renown in the academic world, you might as well go with the lowest offer. However, given that these publishers and their print-on-demand model will spam the market with pretty much everything – including course papers – don't expect much credit for you work. I heard of a uni that won't hire lecturers if they published their work with one of those vanity press companies.

As you can imagine, if the publisher is somewhat renowned, this is also reflected by their prices. These (ideally!) also reflect their services and the advertising measures they plan to undertake. Will they, for example, send out review copies? Which measures do they undertake to announce the publication of your work? Do they offer help in regard to proofreading or formatting your thesis? Can you reach your publisher by phone? (Apparently some publishers regard personal contact as obstructive to their work flow!) Which other marketing issues are planned and do they make sense?

I came across a publisher that was offering to advertise new academic releases on hip postcards. Somehow I doubt that this will help to increase sales. As much as I think that I wrote a good thesis that – for an academic work – is of comparatively broad appeal, I don't think that that this measure will encourage the public to spontaneously buy a 173,000 word book. Basically, it seemed like a good excuse to squeeze out some more money from their authors.

(Considering that my thesis was completely in English, publishers from the English speaking world also seem like an option. The problem is that some of them ask you to change parts of your work to give it more mass appeal [the ones I talked to anyway.] Unfortunately that is not an option as my uni's Ph.D. regulations state that you have to publish exactly the same text you handed in.)

The publisher I'm likely to go with seems fulfills most of the important criteria: Their author's support is good (personal phone calls!), they have several (sensible) marketing mechanisms in place, their prices – while high – are still comparatively reasonable, and they would also make my work available as an e-book; something I attach great importance too considering that my thesis is also of appeal to the Australian market.

There's also some light at the end of the financial tunnel. Some of the money you have to pay to get your work published is offset by the amount you get when you register with the VG Wort, a collecting society for authors. Since your work will get photocopied etc. you get reimbursed via a one-off payment – currently this would cover about two thirds of my costs. However, you only get this money the year after your book is released.

Of course I would also like to make my work available on the net but this is a bit of an issue – most academic institutions still highly value the cultural capital attached to traditionally published books and don't appreciate them being available for free. I will, however, try and find out if I can publish parts here on Blogcampaigning. After all, I want as many people as possible to read my work.

PS If you want to know more about writing a doctoral thesis make sure to check out the illustrated guide to a Ph.D.


Fashion Friday: Shoes Without Socks

I don't know if this is a new trend or simply something unique to Toronto but for most of the summer I noticed that a lot of dudes weren't wearing socks. Its not like these people are at the beach - they were at the office and wearing shoes.

While the professionalism of this trend is debatable, I'm more worried about the personal hygiene aspect. Leaving the house in the morning without socks means that you're probably headed towards 9-10 hours of sweaty feet during the hottest months of the year. Doing this day in, day out in the same pair of shoes just seems like an awful idea.

However, Michael at Avoid Robots makes some good points about the issue. He even suggests that men invest in some shoe-liners (mini-socks) so they can rock the sockless look without the sweat worry.

Is this a trend I just don't get? Or is it actually a fashion mistake?


Staying Organized

I'd say that the two most important skills to have these days is that of staying organized. Everyone has their own system, tips and tricks.

One thing I like to do is write a list of what I have to do the next day before leaving the office. That way, I go home with an idea of what I'm heading into the next morning. Checking off even the smallest items on the list brings a feeling of accomplishment, and it makes sure I'm not forgetting anything. While some bigger projects might not get crossed off in a day, having them on the list is still a good reminder of what needs to get done.

Do you have any tips for staying organized?


PS: Yes, my hand writing is atrocious.

Fashion Friday: The Turbonegro Jean Jacket

Turbonegro was a Norwegian rock band that exploded onto the scene in the mid-1990s. Jello Biafra even called their 1997 masterpiece Apocalypse Dudes, a wild mixture of glam, rock'n'roll and classic 1970s US punk, possibly the most important European record ever. Yet there was something else that set the band apart from the rest, their denim-mustache-Tom-of-Finland-look, basically a move to piss of the Norwegian metal scene which couldn't be shocked by much. Except homosexuality.

During their 1998 Darkness Forever tour the mental problems of singer Hank von Helvete became such an issue that the band broke up in the waiting room of a psychiatric emergency ward in Milan, Italy.

After their split they slowly developed into a cult phenomenon. A tribute album was recorded and the momentum from their old records would continuously grow. Part of this resurrection was the blossoming of the so called Turbojugend (Turbo youth), a fan club with chapters all over the world.

What started as a joke became the Turbo equivalent to the Kiss Army. My dentist was in it (seriously!).

A Turbojugend member can be recognized by their specially-made denim jackets with the Turbonegro logo and "Turbojugend [name of chapter]" stitched on the back. In the late 1990s Turbonegro's German label Bitzcore would print up Levi's jackets with the "Turbojugend Oslo" logo on it, but eventually changed Oslo to St. Pauli.

After a while these jackets became so sought-after, so that Bitzcore-run Turbonegro mailorder would start printing up Levi's jackets with different chapter names on them.

The jackets are also known as a "Kutte", a German word originally referring to denim jackets/vests worn by metal fans. There's one crucial rule about the Kutte; it must never be washed. The only exception is when someone pukes on it, then the owner is allowed to clean it with lukewarm water and cover the smell with a fragrant.

I got mine at a festival in Germany about seven or eight years ago. I hasn't been washed ever since (but then again I haven't worn it in the last… three years or so).


1172 NASA Pictures

A few years ago, Jens gave me a CD with some files on it that I needed for a school project. Also on the CD was a folder titled "NASA - 1172 Pictures (Black Magic Alchemy Illuminati Nwo)."

Knowing what I did about Jens at the time, I wasn't super surprised. I also thought that the contents of the folder were awesome and, for the most part, exactly as advertised: over 1000 old-school space and rocketry pictures. There are photos of astronauts, galaxies, and the earth from space. There are diagrams of rocket trajectories, and landscapes of the moon and mars.

Some of them seem to be pictures from magazine articles, while others seem to be scans of official slides. They're all amazing.

When I asked Jens where he got them, he said he didn't even know about the folder, and that he'd originally gotten the CD from another friend of his.

Wherever they came from, they were too awesome to keep bottled up on a hard drive and I decided to upload them to Flickr.

Enjoy them.


Mesh 2010: Hits and Misses

The Mesh 2010 Conference was in full swing last week. Overall, the organizers did a great job of gathering some of the finest digital marketing and social media minds under one roof to share, collaborate and learn from one another. That said, there is always room for improvement. Below are my Mesh Hits and Misses for 2010:
Miss #1: Swag bags x 2

I arrived at Mesh bright and early on Tuesday morning. After picking up my name tag and agenda, I was handed a big bag of swag. Two bags actually, one laptop bag (similar to the one I received last year) and a second smaller lunch bag. Both were filled with a bunch of swag that I'll probably never use, and definitely don't need. Not to mention I had also brought my own bag, so I was now left with 3 bags to cart around and no coat check or drop space to leave them in. I am definitely down with receiving free goodies from sponsors, but why not introduce the concept of digital swag (this being a digital media conference and all). It would have been so much cooler to receive a login and user code where I could peruse and select free digital gifties online. I wouldn't have had to cart any extra gear around with me all day, and I would probably have actually made use of and paid attention to the sponsors' freebies.
Hit #1: Keynotes

Great Keynote presenters and topics on Day 1! Day 1 was all about privacy and security. The first keynote was Chris Thorpe from The Guardian, who spoke about their decision to open up their content and data to developers. Great session (expect a detailed blog post in days to come). The second keynote was Joseph Menn, who spoke about his new book Fatal Systems Error, and went on to tell gangster stories of  digital crime lords—very cool!
Miss # 2: No visibility

You couldn't actually see any of the presentation if you sat toward the back of the main auditorium rooms. Mesh set up large screens behind the speakers and then just projected the Mesh logo. Great as it is, it would have been so much better to project the speakers onto those screens. It's so much more engaging when you can both see and hear the panels.

Hit #2: Food and drink

There wasn't a break that went by that didn't offer snacks, meals, drinks, and tasty treats. Everything from ice cream sandwiches to giant pretzels were supplied along with your choice of juice, coffee, and even Red Bull. Mesh organizers did a great job to make sure us meshies never went hungry or thirsty.

Miss #3: Sessions and Tracks

Mesh would benefit and keep people coming back for years six, seven, and eight if they divided tracks and sessions geared toward beginners and more experienced digital marketers. I totally understand the need to have 101 and base-level sessions, but unless Mesh sessions continue to expand and geek out as we do, numbers will start to drop off. One thing I heard from a five-year mesh goer was that the first year it changed her life, her entire career path, and way of thinking, but five years on the level of education she was receiving was really tapering off. DON'T LET IT TAPER OFF! Offer some more in-depth, geeked-out sessions next year!
Mesh Hit #3: Mesh Live

Mesh Live encouraged people to share their Mesh experiences, photos, and videos online, direct to the Mesh website. This feature was a great idea. Hopefully going forward there will be more photos and videos of actual Mesh presentations; sometimes it was hard to choose between sessions, and it would be amazing to have access to the sessions we missed (hint hint).
Did you go to Mesh this year? What did you think? Any suggestions of how to improve the experience for next year?

Fashion Friday: When To Wear A Blazer

A couple of months ago, I asked readers of BlogCampaigning when it is okay to take off your suit jacket in a meeting. There was some great discussion around that topic, and I've decided to follow it up with what I hope is another question that can help me out:

When is it okay to wear a blazer?

Not being incredibly fashion-forward, my original phrasing of this question to a friend was, "What's the deal with guys that wear suit jackets with different coloured slacks? That just looks tacky." My friend quickly pointed out that these guys are wearing blazers, and that these are less formal ("sportier") versions of the suit jacket.

My take on it is that if you're going to bother putting on a suit jacket (sporty or not), match the pants to it. Otherwise, it looks like you just pulled out the first two things you saw in your closet. The fact that 3 of the first 10 results in Google for "When is it okay to wear a blazer?" are for how women should wear them doesn't instill a lot of confidence in me that this is an appropriate look. has an article titled Men's Blazers: 6 ways to wear them. In order, these ways are:

1. With a deep V-neck cardigan

2. With a plaid shirt

3. With a chunky patterned knit

4. With heavily distressed denim

5. With cargo pants

6. With combat boots

And none of these six ways seem like good ideas, despite coming from "The Number 1 Canadian Men's Lifestyle Portal".

So what's the right situation for wearing a blazer? Am I completely wrong to think that it isn't a professional look?

My Trip to Australia

As you may have noticed, I haven't contributed much to blogcampaigning lately. The main reason is that I was organizing a trip to Australia. Now that I have finished my Ph.D. thesis about the differences in perception of digital games and mass media in Germany and Australia, I'm going to introduce it at several Aussie universities. If there're any Australian readers out there, I'd love to meet you!

I'll be in Queensland from 1 April to 11 April. I'll be giving a presentation at QUT on 7 April (Z2 Block, Level 3, Room 306, Creative Industries Precinct, 2pm – 4pm). Later that day, I'll probably be at the Mana Bar.

From 11 April to 15 April I'll be in Sydney. On 13 April I'll give a talk at the Centre for Independent Studies. It's not game-related, but it'll deal with the question why Europeans often see Australians as the plebeians of the Western world.

On 15 April I'll arrive in Melbourne. I'll be at the University of Melbourne on the 16th, at Monash at on the 19th and at RMIT on the 20th. I don't know the exact times yet, but let's hope I'll be able to get to sleep in.

I'll continue to Adelaide on the 21st. No talks this time, but I'll meet Melanie Swalwell who has done a lot of research on the history of digital gaming in Australia. I'm looking forward to some exciting talks with her. Maybe I'll also get to meet the people behind the Gamers4Croydon party.

On 24 April I'll fly to Perth. My presentation at Murdoch University will be either on the 27th or 28th. Again, some details still have to get figured out.

In the first week of May I'll give a talk at my alma mater, the Gold Coast campus of Griffith University.

And that's pretty much it. For further details check my twitter account, as I'll be posting updates about the times and dates of the talks.


Posting, Pitching and PR: The Presentation (#TalkIsCheap)

Last week, I gave a presentation at Centennial College's Talk Is Cheap unconference. The talk was Music Blogging: Posting, Pitching and PR, and if that sounds familiar, its because I wrote a blog post with the same title a few months ago. I've gone to #TalkIsCheap for the past few years, and I've always had a great time. I think it's one of the better social media events in Toronto these days, and the organizers deserve a round of applause. (Thanks for letting me speak!)

The gist of my talk was that as much as I enjoy writing the occasional post here on BlogCampaigning, I don't really like writing about PR, and I don't like reading about PR and and communications. By the informal polls I did of the audience, it seems like most people agreed with me. (I mean, c'mon: do you REALLY enjoy reading about PR and communications?)

I went on to talk about how much more I enjoyed writing about electronic music and science fiction for my other blog, and how doing that has taught me way more about PR and online communications than writing posts for BlogCampaigning.

While I didn't get too deep into the details of music blogging, I did talk about some of things I'd learned about PR from my other blog:

1. Your pitches don't have to be personalized – I feel like PR and communications pros who blog are the only ones who insist on pitches being personalized. The rest of the blogging world will post about something if they feel its relevant to their audience. Personalized pitches can help, but they aren't necessary.

2. Your pitches should be well targeted – if they aren't, you're just wasting everyone's time. When talking about this, I used an example of a PR person that sent me an album to review for my music blog. I normally only blog about electronic music, but the album was folk guitar. I'm going to ignore every e-mail I get from that PR person from now on, because I'll just assume it is the same type of music.

3. Don't send fancy HTML emails - once again, you're wasting everyone's time. They don't show up well on mobile devices, Outlook frequently blocks the images and even Yahoo! and Gmail don't seem to like them.

4. Don't follow up – it just pisses people off. While admittedly I've gotten some great coverage out of following up with a journalist, and have also posted something just because some guy followed up so often that I started to feel guilty, nobody feels good about a PR pitch being followed up. It's one of those things that everyone just feels awkward about. In the case where you have a good relationship with a journalist or a blogger, then its probably alright to follow up because you'll know when it is appropriate. As someone else commented during my presentation, if you're pitches are well targeted then you probably shouldn't have to do a lot of follow-up.

In the end, I tried to encourage the audience to start a blog about something they care about. For example, if they want to work in PR for one of the big car companies, they should start a blog about cars. If they want to work in fashion PR, they should start a fashion blog. Seeing the world in the eyes of an online journalist will be far more valuable than writing the occasional post about something like the "intersection of PR and social media".

So what do you think—should students blog about their thoughts on the PR industry, or should they be blogging about something they care about?

Have you started a blog, and given up after a while because it was about something you weren't interested in?


Mr. Anderson?

Last week I found myself in the middle of one of those conversations that keeps you thinking into the wee hours of the night. By no means did we reach a resolution; however, I'll do my best to recount some of the main positions and posits of the conversation. Hopefully you can provide some insights of your own. Like most brain busters it began simply enough. My friend told a story of how she had been in the car with her dad watching him manoeuvre between his cellphone, blackberry, MP3 player, and the steering wheel. "He was like a zombie", she said, "doing a million virtual things at once", barely even conscious of the conversation he was supposedly having with her. In that instant, almost all of her dad's faculties were fulfilling virtual obligations over a variety of virtual networks.

Envision a matrix, each technology filling a virtual space around us, connecting slowly but surely with other virtual spaces until we are in fact living most of our conscious lives in a virtual realm. Kinda scary, but not that far-fetched.

This brings in the discussion of augmented reality, the real-time intrusion of technology into our physical environment. However, I am not talking about overlaying our environment with technical or digital information. I'm speaking more about disconnecting from our physical environment altogether.

Forget the notions of Second Life, where users are still quite present in the physical realm. The reality of our current situation mirrors science fiction, whereby our physical selves are not necessarily needed for much of our day-to-day lives. The matrix of different networks is definitely starting to fill out, taking more and more of our consciousness with it.

The law of conservation of energy states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. We put so many hours of energy into virtual worlds and networks every day—tuned to our laptops, iPhones, and Blackberries so as not to miss a single nanosecond of social networking, emails, video games, online shopping, or music. If the law above holds true (and it does), where does this energy go? Does it flow out the other side in the form of new creations, products, events, and innovations? Or does it get trapped behind the screens in a virtual space awaiting our next visit? If we are engaging in three or four or five different mediums at a time, giving small pieces of ourselves to each one, how much of our conscious minds are "here", and how much is already residing in virtual space? And more importantly, what end are we all working towards?

We need to ground ourselves and remember that at least for the time being we are existing in the physical realm. It is important to turn yourself off of social networks, cellphones, and other virtual devices every day. Spend some time and energy with your feet rooted in the soil.

What do you think? Have you found yourself having this same conversation? Did you get any further in your discussion than we did?

BlogCampaigning: Movin' On Up

Congrats to a few members of the BlogCampaigning crew: The official notice of Heather Morrison's new position at Sequentia Environics went out (over the newswire, no less) last week, saying that she'll "supervise the daily operations and performances of client service teams." A good move indeed; Sequentia is  a digital communications firm that "focuses on the online relationships between companies and their customers." It's also part of the Environics Group.

In other celebratory news, Jens "Schredd" Schroeder sent me an email last week to say that he handed in his doctoral thesis last Monday. "I can't really believe it's over... " he wrote. "But I suppose you never reach the point where you're convinced that it's the right moment to hand in a project of this size." The paper is titled 'Killer Games' versus 'We Will Fund Violence' :The Perception of Digital Games and Mass Media in Germany and Australia, and Jens is hoping to make it available here on BlogCampaigning sometime soon.


RSS Problems in Wordpress

Last week, I realized that there was an error with BlogCampaigning's RSS feed. Although some feedreaders were still able to grab the content, others were getting XML Parsing Errors. As I often do when I get a warning message I don't quite understand, I Google it. Chances are, someone else has had the same problem as me and figured it out.

Quick Online Tips helped me fix the problem. The error was caused by some blank spaces in one of my .php files. Since I often muck around in the theme, this could easily have been caused by me or one of the plugins I added.

Going through thousands of lines of code didn't seem like a good way to spend my afternoon, so I installed the Fix RSS Plugin. It scanned all my code, and quickly fixed the error. While the appeal for a $4.99 donation to the creator of the plugin is the first time I've seen something like that in Wordpress, I think it is worth the money.

The lesson to learn here is that even if you think your site is working perfectly, other people might be having problems with it. After making any major changes, you need to thoroughly check to make sure everything works (or have a good team of writers that occasionally check things for you).

Thanks for reading BlogCampaigning—and if you notice any other errors, let me know!



Everything I Need To Know About Social Media I Learned From The Globe and Mail (THE VIDEO!)

A few months ago, I gave a presentation as part of the Canadian Institute's Managing Social Media Conference titled "Everything I Need To Know About Social Media I Learned From The Globe and Mail." A few weeks ago, the good folks from the Canadian Institute were kind enough to give me that presentation in video format so that I could share it with my readers.

I pretty much walked straight from the presentation to a job interview at MAVERICK PR, where I now work.

For more on this presentation (including my explanatory notes and the slides), please see this post or visit

Anyways, it looks like the Canadian Institute has another Managing Social Media conference coming up in Calgary in March. I'm sure it will be good, so if you're in town you should check it out.


PS: You should totally follow BlogCampaigning on Twitter. It is twice as easy as RSS, and all the cool kids are doing it.

The Bottom-up Perspective and Public Relations

Over the past few months, I've really come to enjoy reading Timothy B. Lee's blog. The computer programmer, writer and think-tank worker bee is now pursuing a PhD in computer science, and is blogging his thoughts about "bottom-up" thinking. What is bottom-up thinking? Its not something racy, nor is it about chugging beer. As Tim says:

"I’m convinced that Silicon Valley’s fundamental strength is the fact that it embodies what I’ll call a bottom-up perspective on the world. The last couple of decades have brought us the dominance of the open Internet, the increasing success of free software, and the emergence of the free culture movement as an important social and political force. More generally, Silicon Valley is a place with extremely low barriers to entry, a culture of liberal information sharing, and a respect for the power of individual entrepreneurs."

For the most part, Tim's posts have reinforced some of my own opinions about the way things should work. He has also occasionally caused me to second-guess my own actions; but never as much as a few weeks ago when he wrote a critique of the Public Relations industry ("The PR Firm As Anti-Signal").

"PR people seem to be floundering in this new environment," he writes, before going on to explain that hiring a PR firm sends the message that your company "doesn't get the web." Tim feels that if your product or company is good enough, you don't need PR. People will talk about you, write about you, and do business with you. It was particularly tough to swallow considering I'd just made the move from Product Management to Public Relations (the two really aren't as different as you'd think).

However, upon closer inspection, it seems that his complaint is about PR companies that also don't "get the web". You know, the kind that we always complain about, the ones that send the cookie-cutter pitches to thousands of reporters on the very off-chance that they might write about their client.

What Tim doesn't understand is that PR isn't just about sending pitches. Its about communicating.

Tim is fortunate enough to be able to write clearly, and I'm going to guess that this isn't a skill that every computer sciences PhD candidate has. In fact, I bet that Tim is a bit of a renaissance-man rarity in his world.

But at the same time, there aren't very many Public Relations professionals that know much about computers (seriously, as a group, we're not as tech-savvy as we like to think we are).

Computer programmers (coders, developers, etc.) need PR pros to help them tell people about their product, explain what it does and communicate with the user base. They need designers to make it look nice. They need sales people to sell it.

And the patent lawyers that Tim talks about, the ones that he recommends start a blog instead of getting their PR people to offer to comment on various issues? If they're really experts, they're probably too busy with cases to start a blog. But a PR team could help lawyers set one up, and teach them how to write concise posts that draw on their knowledge but require a communicator's skill to make them more palatable to a wider audience.

As I heard someone say about this same issue a year or so ago, "Sure I can paint my house myself, but why wouldn't I just hire professionals who can do a better job?"

Tim, if you read this I hope you give PR a second chance. We're not perfect, but we're learning. And there are some public relations practitioners who are redefining the profession using the bottom-up thinking you preach.


The Least I Could Do To Prevent Theft

Least I Could Do is a web comic by Lar Desouza and Ryan Sohmer that I really enjoy reading. They post very regularly—at least a couple of times a week—and they make their income from selling print books of the comics and through ads on the site. From what I can tell, Least I Could Do seems to have a pretty big following and has let the duo live comfortably. Earlier this week, Sohmer wrote a blog post called "Thanks for Stealing" in which he expresses his displeasure for the fact that someone has created an iPhone application that allows people to easily view the comics that Sohmer writes. The maker of this app earns money from the sale of the app ($0.99) and from ads within the app. Sohmer's displeasure stems from the fact that he isn't seeing any of this money, and that someone is essentially profiting off of his hard work.

At first, I completely agreed with him. Then I read the rebuttal posted in the comments section by AsmodeusLore (clearly a student of the Masnickian school of economics) in which he constructs and airtight argument as to why Sohmer should not be concerned about this iPhone app.

The essence of his comment is that the comics haven't been "stolen" but rather "copied" (something quite different), and even though this app isn't driving any traffic back to Sohmer's website, it is still serving as a promotional tool for the comic. Existing fans are able to enjoy it in another way, and at least some of the new fans will want to know more and will eventually end up at Sohmer's site or buy one his books.

Read the post from Sohmer, then read at least one of AsmodeusLore's comments below it and see how you feel.

I think there is a huge opportunity for Sohmer to partner with the creator of this app. For example, offering to promote the app on his site if the developer changes the app so it links back to the site, or share revenue with him. Not everything needs to end up with a lawsuit or take-down notice.

So what do you think? Is it still stealing? What does this make you think about the "piracy problem" facing the entertainment industries?


BlogCampaigning Is Back (Again)

I think that anyone who has been blogging for a significant amount of time understands the concept of blog fatigue. You get tired thinking up new posts all the time; you wonder where it is all leading. It has happened to me a few times. In fact, when I first started to write the title to this post, I thought it felt awfully familiar. Then I remembered that I wrote a similar post almost exactly two years ago ("BlogCampaigning Is Back") where I said that "Jens has been trying to sort out his life back in Germany, and Espen pretty much went AWOL in Norway."

Some things never change, eh?

The good news is that after a month of contemplation, I've added a fresh coat of paint coding to the ol' blog, I've got some good posts lined up, and we've even got a new author starting in the next week or so.

Added on to the fact that Heather and I both started new jobs, Jens is almost finished his thesis and it seems like a pretty good time to get a fresh start.

Thanks for continuing to read BlogCampaigning!


Thirsty Thursday Is Back! (Non-denominational Holiday Edition)

Picture 1Join Toronto's PR community for an informal gathering at Pauper's Pub on Thursday, December 3rd. We'll be there from 6:30pm until at least 10pm. We'll be celebrating ourselves, the holiday season, and Scotty Mac's (pictured left) transition from professional communicator to accounting student. For more information, check out the Facebook Event (and let us know you're coming so we know that there's enough space). While you're at it, join the Thirsty Thursday Facebook group.

Hope to see you there!


Left 4 Dead in the Aussie Censorship System

It looks like Left 4 Dead 2 has been banned in Australia. The reason: [C]lose in attacks cause copious amounts of blood spray and splatter, decapitations and limb dismemberment as well as locational damage where contact is made to the enemy which may reveal skeletal bits and gore.

This was not deemed suitable for 15-year-olds.

Despite the average Australian gamer being 30, the country is the only Western democracy not to embrace an adult rating for video games.

This is the result of a 1996 piece of legislation that followed a moral panic over the Sega CD game Night Trap. It was basically grounded in the belief that only kids and teens play games. (For more info see this thesis [PDF] and this excellent article.)

In 2009, Aussie gamers still have to endure the result of this obsolete thinking (which was never accurate in the first place).

The sole person responsible for maintaining Australia's status as one of the few Western countries without an adult rating is West Australia's attorney general, Michael Atkinson. He has plenty of reasons, none of them overly convincing—at least not to the vast majority of the Australian population.

Several games have been banned before or—in the case of Fallout 3—had to be reworked to suit the criteria. But Left 4 Dead 2 is the first high profile title to endure this fate.

Given that other highly violent zombie titles like Dead Rising (banned from sale in Germany) and House of the Dead Overkill (not released in Germany) passed the rating process without problems, this will surely lead to more intense discussions about the future of Australia's censorship system. Hopefully for the better.


Some Thoughts on Changing Media

On the weekend I met two former Australian lecturers of mine – Jason Nelson and Ben (whose last name neither Parker nor I can remember) – when the conversation turned to the demise of newspapers. Ben's argument was that they probably would stay around, after all we're still listening to the radio. Something about that argument felt wrong, even though at that moment I couldn't articulate it. Thinking about it more, I realised that this view is very ahistoric. When radio started, people would schedule their lives around it. They would wait for a certain programme to be broadcasted to gather the whole family around it and consciously absorb what the wireless had to say.

Then television arrived and took over exactly that role. Now people were staying at home to watch evening shows and sometimes were even attired to underline the specialness of the moment. It was like going to the theatre, only in one's own home.

Radio couldn't compete with that. Instead it started to serve a different purpose: It served as background noise, something that tootles along while you're in the office or driving to work. No one scheduled his life around the broadcast schedule anymore, instead the interchangeable format radio became the norm. "Five songs in a row with no ads or talking!" That function is certainly different to the one of the printed press whose products you'd have to consciously read in order to make meaning of them.

As Parker pointed out this doesn't mean that media is dying, it's just changing. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, even though traditional media certainly serves its purposes; e.g. it helps to bring important developments to the conscience of the public by helping to spread them. It's a catalyst. Without you never might have noticed that Facebook changed it terms of use – not everyone is reading tech blogs after all.

Then again this isn't a process that couldn't be democratised with the help of internet, the best examples being sites like digg or reddit. Here the users decide which information enters the front page which in turn acts like a catalyst again (just like sites serve as means of democratisation of something as elitist as 'style')

These 'democratic catalysts' certainly aren't without problems. Power users might dominate which content gets voted for, fads become more important than news and a net-savvy, educated elite could dominate the political discourse and use these sites like an echo-chamber.

But the same could be said of newspapers: They certainly aren't free of interest but rely heavily on advertising; human interest matters more than serious reporting; again an educated elite perpetuates world views (otherwise there wouldn't be conservative and liberal papers) Which begs the question: Why not have 'democratic catalysts' of different political nature? The certainly is room for a conservative counterpart to reddit.


Kiwi Government Censor: Prosecute Parents Who Give Violent Games to Kids

What's up with the other end of the world all of a sudden? First Australia plans to spend millions of dollars on an inane net fiter that is perfectly suited to censor free speech and would make one of the slowest internets of the Western world even slower; then New Zealand contemplates to introduce a draconian copyright law.

And now this: New Zealand's chief government censor has called for the prosecution of parents who give their children access to violent video games. Anyone letting his children play GTA could face up to three months in prison or a fine of $10,000.

His reasoning:

They might think the offence is silly, but it ain't... That's what the law says, but... you're not going to have police officers in every bedroom... There would certainly be some shock value to prosecuting a parent who gives their under-18 child access to a restricted game. It would send out a message that the enforcement agency means business.

I think the word 'game' can mislead people for sure. It's not checkers. For the first time in history, kids are more savvy with technology than parents... parents need to get up to speed on the digital divide. They need to look at what their kids are playing and doing...

It should be the pleasure in being able to sleep at night knowing that you have done the right thing by your kids. That should be the motivating factor.

As Destructoid points out, this proposal would make videogames even more tightly restricted than alcohol, since it would apply to what happens within the family home. So while it's legal for a child to imbibe booze behind closed doors, a medium whose links to violence at the end of the day cannot not be verified is not. Cheers to that!