The Golden Spruce [Book Review]

While I almost exclusively read Science-Fiction, I've been dabbling in a bit of non-fiction these days. One of the most recent books I've read is The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed.

I had been telling a group of friends about my recent trip to the central coast of British Columbia when one of them recommended the book

At it's heart, it's a book about the history of logging in British Columbia. That might sound a bit dull, but it's fantastically written and a pretty interesting history, at that. It's not until the first half of the book that the story really focuses on Grant Hadwin, a logger-turned conservationist who played a large role in what happened to the fabled Golden Spruce.

I don't want to spoil too much of the story, but I will say that anyone with an interest in history, the outdoors, logging, conservation/environmentalism or just great story should give it a shot. You should even just read it to hear about the legendary exploits of  Grant Hadwin. The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed


iPhone Card Holder

A few weeks ago, the good people at MoGo2Go offered to send me a review version of their new mobile phone wallet. I've been using it since then, and have had a lot of people ask me about it:


We've got a lot of security doors at work, so it's pretty convenient to store my card key in the MoGo2Go instead of in my wallet. Our security cards at work are pretty thick, so I don't think I can fit another card in there but it would probably hold two credit or debit cards easily.

It sticks to the back of an iPhone with some of that fancy 3M stuff, so it won't leave a sticky residue (I previously had a Gelaskin on the back of my phone with the same material, and it peeled off with no problem). Although I've heard that storing cards next to your phone like this can demagnetize them, it seems to only happen to hotel room keys.

If you want one of these for yourself, they're only $4.95 and you can order them online here.




Radar DDB 10am One Thing: A Dangerous Idea

This post originally appeared on the the DDB Canada blog

Wired Magazine called Cody Wilson one of “the 15 Most Dangerous People In the World,” so it stands to reason that the site he runs,, might be the most dangerous website in the world.

At it’s core, it is an easily searchable archive of designs for objects that can be created on a 3D printer. Where it differs from competitor Thingiverse is the that Defcad is willing to host more controversial designs. Specifically, the files needed to print gun parts.

While MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis hosted one of the opening keynotes at #SXSW, Cody Wilson was also at the conference spreading his own brand of libertarianism. “People are going to be able to pass this contraband between one another to the point that ‘contraband’ won’t be a meaningful way of describing it anymore,” he was quoted as saying. For a society still grasping at the legal ramifications of simply copying songs, this is a conceptual leap.

It also demonstrates the fine line between free speech and dangerous ideas, a line that Cody Wilson might just crossed. It’s not for us at to decide, but it’s the type of topic that will factor into debates about what a free and uncensored internet means in the future.

For those interested in how long experts estimate the 3D printing revolution will take, take a look at this infographic.

Radar DDB 10am One Thing: In Game Economics, Real World Politics

The following post originally appeared on the DDB Canada blog as part of the Radar 10am series

In the past few years, one of the most interesting MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games) to emerge has been EVE Online, a game in which each player takes the role of spaceship captain. What’s interesting about it about this game is that the economy is much more open and malleable compared to other games. So much so that the developer had to hire a real economist to help keep things managed as players form consortiums, alliances and trade pacts with other. The result is a capitalist system, one in which players can stand to lose thousands of real world dollars in online, in-game heists and, battles

At least, that’s true for most of the world’s players of EVE Online.

In China, like much of the country, players are behind their own great firewall. Their version of EVE Online only lets them interact with other Chinese players, as The Mittani reports, and that this has resulted in the players creating an in-game economic and political system more like the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China “with long term decisions and diplomacy being made by a politburo comprised of the CEOs of major member corps and a Chairman who handles immediate decisions and day-to-day operations. While fleet commanders have some initiative, it’s ultimately the Chairman who gets the final say on major ops.”

It’s a fascinating insider’s account of an incredibly complex game, and the type of system that the world is starting to pay closer attention to.

It’s been four years since the video game industry surpassed the movie industry, and 90% of Canadian teens and kids are gamers. At Radar DDB, we’ll definitely be staying on top of emerging trends in video games (and getting a few games in of our own when we can).

For more, read “Socialist State Emerges In China’s Alternative EVE Universe

The Reddit Corporate Conspiracy? (Plus some cool Reddit stats)

A few days ago, Ryan Holliday posted an article on BetaBeat about the Fakery of Brands on Reddit. I'm a longtime and active Reddit user, and I disagree with a lot of his article, and the idea that Reddit users will be so easily fooled by marketing trickery here. It's tough to even MENTION a brand without getting a /HailCorporate comment (the fact that the author refers to "HailCorporate" as a tag indicates he doesn't really use Reddit, either).

The examples he cites probably aren't examples of brands trying to work their way in there. If he'd read the comments or had a better idea of how the Reddit community worked, he'd know this.  In the example of the Audi image, many of the commenters clearly point out that a.) it uses the wrong font for Audi b.) it uses an unlicensed poster from Lord of the Rings c.) the Photoshop job is incredibly amateurish. In the example of Subaru getting their content to the front page, the author of that article fails to take into account that it's unlikely Subaru (Canada, Japan, America) would use the username "GodFree."

Similarly, his "TIL" (Today I Learned") examples are weak. People are sharing these things because they are interesting. I didn't know that Volvo invented the 3 point seat belt, but it's a cool fact.

Sometimes good content bombs on Reddit. Sometimes weird shit makes it to the top. There's no hidden corporate conspiracy like this guy makes it out to be.


My Favorite Reddit AMAS:

The Good: 

The team behind the Mars Curiosity Rover:

Why was it good? They used the strength of their team, and showcased their uniqu personalities and areas of expertise to answer questions. Being engineers/etc, they didn't shy away from really technical questions

Louis CK: 

Why was it good? Louis was just Louis, and like all of his projects it showed how human he is, spelling mistakes and all.

Terry Crews: 

Why was it good? Although it was obviously done the same day as the Old Spice "Muscle Music" Vimeo launch to promote the deodorant, Terry didn't just stick to Old Spice-related questions. As with Louis CK, he was simply himself.

My personal favourite: The owner of a cardboard box factory: 

Why was it good? Although probably inspired by the Simpsons episode where they go to a cardboard box factory, it was still a great IAMA on what could have been an otherwise boring topic. He was very patient with the questions, even though he had never seen the episode, went into a ton of detail and kept answering questions long after the standard one-day of IAMAs.

The Bad:

Woody Harrelson:

Why was it bad? He only focused on the current film he was promoting. He only answered a few questions from fans, and kept trying to steer the conversation back to the movie "Rampart."

The Other: 

An Apple Employee who likes his job: 

Why was it meh? It wasn't an officially sanctioned Reddit, but it wasn't particularly enlightening either. Interesting that a lot of the questions went right to the "ethics" of Apple (FoxConn factory employees, etc), even though the guy doing the Reddit was just an employee at the genius bar. Notable as our

Some Reddit Stats

10% of Reddit users are Canadian, so that works out to 3.4 million YEARLY unique Canadian visitors.

The main problem with getting this data from Reddit is that there isn't really anyway to track these users. Reddit doesn't ask for ANY user details, they don't have an ad network. You don't even need an email address to register.

Otherwise, your best bet for data is this blog post. It's self reported data (well, I guess so is Facebook), and focuses on things like what the favourite cheese of Redditors is. Pingdom also has some interesting data which says that 65% of Redditors are male and 58% are under the age of 35.

More information can be found in this blog post about the demographics of Reddit and this blog post about traffic to Reddit.






Simpsons and Advertising

I think that the Simpsons* will always have a special place in my heart. Part of it is because they've got a reference for everything, but partly because I've just grown up with them. Anyways, here are a couple of advertising-related clips that I was thinking of the other day:


"Super Liminal Advertising"

"Rich Creamery Butter"


*Not, of course, the newest seasons.


Technology, Creation and Transferring Money

Jan Chipchase - Red Mat Experiment If you're not already, I strongly recommend reading Jan Chipchase's blog, or at least some of his articles. Jan is a field researcher who used to do work for Nokia, and now works for a company called Frog Design. His area of expertise is studying the way people use mobile phones in developing countries, and I'd wager that a lot of his insights over the past 15 or so years have made their way into the a lot of the Apps and phones we use today.


Some of his recent papers include:


Mobile Money – Afghanistan 

This is an excellent look at the way local Afghani's are using new or different ways of transferring money amongst each other. As Jan writes, "Many people associate mobile banking with cities like London or New York, but it's potential impact is far greater in countries where there is limited access to fixed banking infrastructure." As a result, I think we're likely to see more innovative solutions and work arounds come from these places. His study was done by travelling throughout Afghanistan with a team of researchers and fixers to interview different types of people and agents who use or are involved in the various services of transferring money in the country. Although the report is from 2011, I think it's still highly relevant. Some of the trends (like mobile banking/money lending) are really only in their infancy both there and in more developed countries.


Red Mat – A Design Experiment

"If you're reading this there are some nuances I'm guessing you haven't truly absorbed: as the global economic centre of gravity continues to shift towards China++ many of the multi-national companies that put products on your shelves will increasingly be designing for China 1st, they'll increasingly design out of China; and will increasingly be led by and draw from a pool of highly skilled highly experienced Chinese talent whose design sensibilities appeal to a global consumer base, but which is also ground in and for 'China'….In the next decade we're going see new hybrid products/services that have a global impact on the scale of the mobile phone an nascent social networking social services, but created, designed and manufactured in China, whose primary market is Chinese, that couldn't have been made anywhere else and for whom the Rest of the World is a marketing afterthought," Jan writes as part of the background for this document.


Not content with simply studying the industrial and money transferring economy in China, Jan wanted to be actively involved in it so he set up a bit of a design experiment for himself.

In this report, Jan outlines the steps he took to conduct a design experiment that he developed. The rules he set out for himself were that 1.) It must engage people from across China 2.) Every Chinese person must be able to recognize the final thing that is made 3.) None of the people taking part should understand what is being made, until the exact moment that it is made 4.) Only Chinese people and services can be used. 5.) That the experiment goal and process is reviewed after each step 6.) The process must be transparent in-so-far as it doesn't compromise  rule three.

I don't want to spoil much about the project, but is well worth the read both for a greater understanding of China, but also for the very hands-on and experimental approach Jan takes to learning more about an area both he and his clients are interested in.


One of the things I find most inspiring about Jan's work is that he does research by embedding himself in whatever community it is he is looking at, truly understanding how the native users actually interact with each other and technology.


It's a lesson advertisers can learn. While a lot of the research we do and get in advertising is great, I think it still comes from a place where we're looking at the topics and subjects of advertisers. We shouldn't be looking at what some of the bigger brands and companies are doing that are innovative. We need to be looking more at people and communities, and how they interact and how they don't interact. That's where we'll great insights find success.


Video Games Are Training The Future Work Force

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about how my friend Jay was really good at video games ("How To Ruin Your Life By Not Playing Video Games"). Since then (2007!), a lot has changed but a lot has stayed the same. I think video games are equally as important in the formation of a young persons life today, if not more so. As they become increasingly social, they provide not just an opportunity to hone their fine motor skills, but to also develop social skills. I've been playing a lot of Halo 4 lately, and I can tell you that the team that learns how to cooperate and to use different weapons and vehicles together is the one that wins pretty much every match. Games like League of Legends require even more of this cooperation, and this is definitely becoming the norm. In fact, League of Legends currently boasts some incredibly high numbers for spectators of top-ranked matches.

As Joseph Bernstein wrote recently in Kill Screen: "[with games] we're training for things we don't fully comprehend" and that this goes beyond "creative and puzzle solving."

Technology is already a huge part of the way we interact with the world and each other, and the amount and complexity of this interaction is only going to increase. Those that are better able to understand this interplay between technology and humanity will be set up for success in both the near and far future.


Instagram Badges

I'm a pretty big fan of Instagram these days, so I'm pretty excited that they've introduced both web profiles (check out mine at and badges, like the one below:Instagram


For both myself and a lot of my friends, Instagram is pushing Twitter and Facebook aside as a way to see what my friends are up to and sharing. I'm not saying it will replace either, or that it will last forever, but it's fun for now.


Punk Rock and Bird Watching

What do Punk Rock and Bird Watching have in common? Paul Riss. That's because he has just finished a "big year" (birdwatching lingo for seeing as many bird species as you can in one year) and is making a documentary about it. He's also getting a tattoo of every bird species he spotted, and there's punk rock involved.  Paul is a creative and talented individual at DDB Canada (my employer), so I'm really interested in seeing how this will turn out. Here's what he says about the project:

"I'm most excited about the fact that younger people might take a second look at birding because they always thought it was just for retired people. If they get interested, it generally leads to a love of the environment on a grander scale. "

Follow Paul on Twitter (he's @ThePaulRiss), support Punk Rock Big Year on IndiGoGo or just check out his blog (it's got lots of interesting notes on his bird watching travel and info on ways you can support bird conservation.

How Advertising Helped Set The Stage for The 1972 Summit Series (Hockey)

In Saturday's edition of the Globe & Mail, the Focus section featured an incredible piece by journalist Patrick White, who had whittled down hundreds of hours of interviews with key players and organizers of the 1972 Summit Series between Team Canada and Russia into a few pages. One of the most interesting parts about the article for me (besides Phil Esposito's stories of training camp partying) was the role advertising played in the series. While setting it up, the organizers hired the agency Vickers & Benson to help them promote the games.

In the beginning, it was supposed to be the "NHL All Stars" verus Russia. However, the agencies creative director said no no was interested in this match-up. They had to tell a different story, and it seems his insight was to make it more of an international match-up. From this, one of his copywriters came up with the name "Team Canada." (Interestingly enough, this was the first time this naming convention for national sports teams had been used.)

The other part of the article that I thought was super interesting was that the iconic Team Canada hockey jersey was designed the night before the press conference by the ad agencie's art director. Apparently, he went out and bought one plain white jersey and one plain red jersey and just had his wife sew them together into the famous pattern.

Would we even remember this series if it hadn't been for those jerseys and the very idea of Team Canada instead of the NHL All Stars?

Check out the article and more on the Globe & Mail website. It goes into a lot more detail than the print edition.

Curious About Curiosity - #Mars

I've been obsessing over news about the Mars Curiosity rover ever since it touched down last month. One video, created by someone who worked on the project, captures some of the magic about what was done:

Did you notice some of the animations of the landing in that video? Did you notice how it was LOWERED ONTO THE SURFACE OF MARS WITH A CRANE FROM A ROCKET-POWERED PLATFORM?

Just watch the first few minutes. You'll be blown away.


I also think it's pretty cool that NASA has given Curiosity it's own voice via a Twitter account. This is a great way to more easily connect with those who might be interested in learning more about space exploration.

Finally, there's a really good "Ask Me Anything" on Reddit with a bunch of the engineers from the Curiosity project. The Reddit audience is perfect for this sort of thing, asking a combination of human-interest questions and highly technical questions and making for a better read than anything else on the subject.

For more on all of this, you might also want to check out the Radar DDB 10am One Thing: Space Edition, written by Ed Lee.

Meet The Superhumans

This spot to promote Channel 4's coverage of the Paralympic Games is one of the most amazing advertisements I've ever seen (click through to view on YouTube): It's too bad that the organization wasn't able to get the proper music rights to be able to allow embeds (as per the description on the YouTube link), but I still think that this is a powerful enough video that it will be shared anyways.

It invoked emotion, made me think and perhaps most importantly of all, is driving me to act and try and watch the paralympics. The music choice was great, the footage was cool and the sound editing really helped, but it the real highlight of this video was the inspiring people in it.

Thanks to my friend and colleague Sandra Moretti for sharing this.

"Our Food. Your Questions." = My Summer

If you're a regular reader of BlogCampaigning, you might have noticed that we often slow down our posts during the summer months. Normally it's because I'm outside enjoying the great weather, but this year it was because I was working on an amazing project for McDonald's Canada called "Our Food. Your Questions." You might have seen this video that was part of the campaign:

Or you might have just seen the site,

Or you might have just seen some of the great answers that my team of writers wrote in response to the thousands and thousands of questions that Canadians asked about food at McDonald's Canada:

No matter how you saw it, I hope it gave you new appreciation for the food that McDonald's Canada serves. I also hope that all of the hard work by an incredibly talented Tribal DDB team was able to shine through.




Life, Work and Gaming in Sydney

Ever since I moved to Sydney I haven't really been active on Blogcampaigning. So what have I been up to? (Editors note: Easy question. The answer is "complaining about living near the beach and having a real job") Last year I became the Academic Coordinator for a private multimedia college. It offers, amongst other things, a bachelors degree in game design, programming and animation.

Seeing what students come up with is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job – some projects include great ideas and have commercial potential.

For example,  a group of graduates was able to recently acquire seed funding from Asia to work on a game that helps Asian students learn English. Another project revolves around the gamification of our curriculum by taking advantage of the data in our student management system. Another group is working on a game that helps to drive the agenda of one of Australia's most influential think tanks.

It's not only the students, however, who learn a lot. In the process of supervising these projects, I have learned a lot myself, the more so as they touch upon areas that only just opened up to the possibilities of games and game design.

One can tell that the interest in games is growing, they are more and more asserting themselves as a disruptive technology. I'm confident that in a couple of years the application of gamification principles – beyond their current superficial application – for any form of deeper and meaningful engagement will be the rule rather than the exception.

In this respect, the being able to design these systems will become a very valuable skill. On one hand it's easy to create a game; to create a good game, however, to achieve that delicate balance of a rule based system that fosters great experiences, is very hard. This applies to their traditional commercial application, but even more so to their "serious" application where they have to hit that sweet spot between instructional design and motivation.

I really hope that my students will see these opportunities and take advantage of them. While the Australian game development scene is certainly is flux, there are some amazing opportunities that present themselves, the more so in a country that was traditionally always very open toward the possibilities of new technologies.

Another perk of the job is being able to be in touch with the burgeoning Sydney game development scene. Traditionally the centres for game development in Australia were – and still are – Brisbane and Melbourne. Sydney, however, is catching up.

Not only are there professional studios starting up, attracted by new government funding models, but there is also a growing, very enthusiastic indie scene. Held together by regular meet-ups, a supportive atmosphere and the will to get something off the ground, it gives the impression that something exciting is going to happen rather sooner than later.

If it is, you will hear from me. I promise!


What kind of car should you buy?

Have you ever wondered what kind of car you should by? Check out the autoLyzer, a Facebook App developed by DDB for It works by analyzing your Facebook profile (including Likes, Friends, City, Age and a number of other factors) to determine the perfect car available on the website for you.

Try the app for yourself on the autoTRADER Canada Facebook page, and let me know which cars it chose for you.


Prometheus & The Animated .Gif

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Radar 10am Meetings we hold at the DDB Canada offices. The following blog post was written as a result of one of those meetings, and I'll be sharing others in the future.

If you're like some of the Radar DDB team, you've been pouring over every piece of content that's been created to promote the Ridley Scott film 'Prometheus.' From a powerful TED talk in 2023 with one of the film's characters to a futuristic Facebook-style timeline for the fictional Weyland Industries, the marketing for this movie has lots of highly-shareable pieces of content that provide a rich backstory.

We especially like this animated .gif of Michael Fassbender's android character David 8. This image was released to those who had signed up to learn more about the movie, and was accompanied by more detailed information about character.

Despite having been around since 1987, animated .gifs are seeing a resurgence in popularity and are shared widely on social networks (learn more here). These are frequently user-created, so it is great to see that the team behind Prometheus recognized that they too, could create and use these lo-fi but highly-shareable pieces of content.

See the image here, or visit the Weyland Industries website to learn more about David 8. You can also check out some of the films fans sharing David 8 content on Tumblr.

View this blog post on the DDB Canada website here.

You might also be interested in reading our post about the Renaissance of the Animated .gif


The September That Never Ends

Ever since I took a class called "Cyberculture" while attending Griffith University* in Australia, I've been fascinated by internet lore and the stories of  how the web was built. One of these stories that I recently came across was about "Eternal September." It comes from the thinking that when the internet was mostly restricted to university students, websites were flooded every September with new users that hadn't yet learned netiquette. Over the course of this first month, their upperclassmen taught them how to behave online. The result was what were probably pretty well-run little communities.

In 1993 the web became more accessible to the masses with AOL and Compuserve, with new users not yet savvy in the rules of online behaviour arriving year-round. Thus, September 1993 was dubbed the "Eternal September."

If you're super into this type of thing, it looks like there is a little program that you can download here that will calculate the current day of September, 1993 that we're at (looks like it's day 4242 of Eternal September).




Having Trouble Viewing This Blog Post?

I've never been a huge fan of email marketing and the fancy, HTML newsletters that are such a big part of it.

These are the emails you get that start off by saying "Having trouble viewing this email? View it on our website."

How many other advertising (or communications) formats start off this way?

Somehow, I don't think companies would be willing to invest in TV commercials if we said "This TV commercial is going to be great, but most people won't be able to view it right away - they'll have to push another button, or watch it on our website."

Yet these fancy HTML emails persist. They persist at the expense of wasted hours from talented designers and coders whose time could probably be spent creating something way more beautiful and useful.

For a time, my hosting provider (DreamHost) used to send out plain-text emails. They were very simply formatted. They could be read easily and quickly digested. One of these was even sent from an Apple store on one of the demo versions of the first iPhone.

And yes, I'm sure I could set up my email so that that it always displays images and I always see how great these emails are. But I don't. And I bet a lot of other people don't either.

What do you think about fancy, well-designed HTML emails? Worth it or not? Do you read them? Does your email tool display the images for you, or block them?