Us and THem - How does my city integrate?

Here's my latest post for the Goethe Institute's Cityscape's blog: “Us and Them - How does my city integrate?" 40% of Sydney's residents were born overseas; the people I work with have Indian, German, Polish, British, and Lebanese backgrounds.

As I explained in last month's entry, one of my colleagues is of Anglo-Indian origin, he was born in India but later moved to the UK. It was in Sydney however, that he finally felt home as everyone here has an "uprooted" background.

Given Australia's history – for a long time the the White Australia Policy was essence of antipodean nationalism – Sydney integrates remarkably well.

Several migration schemes and the final denunciation of the White Australia policy under Whitlam meant that Australia faced the highest rate of incoming migration in the OECD.

Within a very short amount of time Australia and its small and homogeneous base became a diverse country in which 22 per cent of the population were born overseas and another 18.3 per cent have at least one overseas born parent.

This meant that for governments from the 1970s onwards presiding over a multicultural Australia, new representations of identity were required. Waves of migration multiplied the complexities of identity and consequently led to the acknowledgment that any future constructions of the Australian 'national character' had to be plural.

Australia's culture became perpetually emergent, as are all 'new world' nations formed in the cusp of poly-ethnic migration.

However, I would argue that there still is a distinct element of "Australianess", the one element that actually helps to accommodate all these people to their new home.

Australia has always been proud of its egalitarianism, it was the country of the "fair go". The Becoming an Australian Citizen booklet which serves as a preparation for the naturalisation test, explains that "Australia prides itself on being an egalitarian society where no one is regarded as better than anyone else"

It is questionable in how far this egalitarianism expresses itself in social terms. Then again, Australia's egalitarianism was not simply an empty ritual. Australia's democracy centred around an egalitarianism of manners, the only egalitarianism to still exist today.

The manners of public life were traditionally direct, open and non-deferential making Australia's democracy first of all a democracy of manners. It is the way Australians blot out social differences when people meet face to face. It is the feel of Australian society that is so markedly egalitarian, not its social structure.

In contrast to the past, where the fair dinkum Aussie was based on exclusion, this egalitarianism makes makes for a populism of Australia in the multicultural era. It is a non-antagonistic mobilisation of a sense of community.

The only qualification for membership was that you were ordinary and unpretentious. There are some people inhabiting the country that were not really Australian: the pretentious, personalities whose codes of dress, speech and conduct are held to be artificial and distant.

In contrast to the 'primordial' national traditions of the more 'established' European nations with their long history of highbrow culture, the strongest core of Australia's identity was easy to share: anybody could be unaffected and open.

Admittedly, it is an egalitarianism of manners, social division are still strongly translated into spatial divisions, ask the residents of Sydney's west – a part of the city that also sees people living side by side in parallel societies that do not always conform to ideas of democracy and freedom.

And yes, there is also opposition to further migration, some are afraid of a "big Australia" and proclaim that the country is full. Not only do they oversee the potential benefits of a growing population, there's also a certain irony in proclaiming that a continent with 22 million inhabitants is "full".

Overall Sydney came has come a remarkably long way, for the most part its "us and us" than "us and them"


Fashion Friday - Black Leather Heels

Wednesday marked the first ever International Black Patent Leather (BPL) Heels Day! Heels really tell a lot about the lady wearing them and the kind of mood she is in. Is she feeling sassy? Dramatic? Practical? Flashy? Or just straight up stylin'?
I personally have at least 5 or 6 pairs of black heels, and wouldn't hesitate to add more to my ever growing collection if the right pair caught my eye. Honestly, who couldn't use a little more Louboutin or Weitzman in their lives? The perfect pair of black pumps can put the final sparkle on any outfit, dressed up or down, plus they are damn sexy.
Since Wednesday, I have started to take note of ladies and their heels, compiling pictures people posted on BPL Day.  Below are some of my favourites (via @BPLShoes, @StilettoQueenbe and @frankie_nicole):

Do you have a favourite pair of BPL heels? Care to share?

When Is It Okay To Take Off Your Suit Jacket In A Meeting?

I really don't mind wearing a suit and tie. When you're walking around, they're perfect. When you're sitting down, in a meeting, they're less perfect. I find that jacket always bunches up, and since most meeting rooms are at a temperature for shirt sleeves, I find that the extra thick layer of suit jacket always leaves me feeling a little bit warm.

However, you can't just loosen your tie, undo the top button of your shirt, take your jacket off, and roll your sleeves up in the first few minutes of a meeting.

In fact, I'm not even sure you can do any of those things in most meetings.

This normally leaves me with an internal dialogue as I sit across the table in a discussion: "Okay, we've been talking for fifteen minutes... Can I take my jacket off now? Or do I have to wait until someone more senior does so first? Or do I have to wait for a break in the conversation? Or should I wait until there is a break, and then just come back without my jacket, like nothing happened?"

Tired of this endless internal debate, I threw the question to Twitter and got some good responses.

Brad Buset and Greg"Blazer" Blazina both agreed that if you're the client, you can take your jacket off.

Buset also adds that if it is an internal meeting, and the senior colleagues their jacket off first, then it is appropriate.

I still feel like this leaves a lot of times when I'm going to be left sitting down with a suit jacket on.

Any other ways to justify taking it off in a meeting?

Suit-related etiquette tips also appreciated.


The Cultural Background of (German) Digital Games

Over the course of the last two weeks I conducted a couple of interviews for my Ph.D. dealing with the was the perception of digital games differs in Germany and Australia. By talking to just a couple of people you can tell how the cultural history of a country also influences the way modern media is dealt with. The first person I spoke to was Malte Behrmann, attorney, secretary general of the European Games Developer Federation as well chairperson of the German developers association, GAME. Malte is also responsible for digital games getting officially accepted as Kulturby the German Kulturrat, the umbrella organization of the German cultural associations. This push always reminded me of the strategy of the early German Autorenfilm.

In an attempt to conform to bourgeois cultural norms and thus demonstrate cinemas' cultural and social relevance, the Autorenfilm (films based on the works of famous contemporary authors or written by them directly for the screen) mobilized national literary and cultural traditions against the Schundfilm ('trash film') by serving as an incentive to 'respectable' artists from the 'legitimate' stage and literature to lend their prestige to the new medium. It was basically an elevation of the medium to adhere to bourgeois tastes and therefore broaden its social basis.

Asked if he saw any parallels between these two instances, Malte Behrman answered that he wouldn't sit in his office like a spin doctor and think about how a game could be made more socially acceptable by means of "nobilitation". A statement I thought was quite remarkable as it shows how on a subconscious level Germany's long high-culture traditions and its specific socio-cultural influences still assert themselves – in a way that is decidedly different to Australia where, due to the country's different history, I never encountered a similar attitude. Here digital games – and non-hierarchical entertainment in general – never needed any form of cultural legitimation.

German ad for Commodore VC20

Moreover, Germany's cultural background allegedly influenced the way games were designed: They were regarded as overly complicated, complex and not very accessible (think complicated simulations, strategy games and management games [Parker's note: only Germans would be into "management games"]). When I was talking about this with Philipp from Yager he made the point that this might have something to do with the fact that for a very long time German developers mainly created games for the PC.

In contrast to consoles the PC was an open platform everyone could develop for without having to obtain licenses and development kids – and Germany has a very strong history of home computing. I suppose this is because the purchase of a home computer was easier to justify as it allowed its user to go beyond the mere pleasures of play. As the classical ad above puts it: "How do you land safely on Jupiter and in the next class?" With the most successful computer of the world of course! The VC20, not only does it allow you to land on Jupiter as part of a game, it also plays chess and connects people in play. Well, that but it also teaches math, physics and biology… So much for the theory, but then again this probably had more appeal to Germany's cultural history of a country defining itself in terms of Kultur and education.

This eventually also might have had an influence on the design of German games: most of them went beyond mere play but offered an 'added value' by, e.g. teaching about complex economic correlations and challenging the player accordingly. I remember people at school telling me how they refused to play Doom because they thought it was too primitive. As Jens from Ascaron put it in the interview I conducted with him: "Germans liked to play with animated Excel charts".

German Atari 400 ad - good for games AND school!

Obviously this was a competitive disadvantage: These games, on account of their design, hardly sold outside of Germany, probably another sign of their cultural specificity. Just like the (mainstream) American market did not appreciate the Autorenfilm with its intellectualized themes of broken identities, alienation and magic, history repeated itself 80 years later when it refused to play overly complex German games.

Of course this changed in the last couple of years, last not least because of a transition to console gaming. The Wii and especially the DS were godsend gifts - cheap and easy to develop for and… well cynics might point out that Nintendo isn't very strict when it comes to shovelware. Also German developers are amongst the leading ones in the field of mobile and browser games. But eventually it is quite difficult to rid oneself off one's cultural background. I suppose that's what Philipp meant when he said that even though you can have lived in the US for three years you're not quite 'there' yet in terms of an American (uncomplicated, commercially orientated) mindset.

My next interviews will be about support mechanisms. I wonder if the influences I just described also have an impact on how local game developers are supported by the state run institutions. What are the rules and regulations? And do they get applied eventually? Which games will be funded which won't? Would something violent yet potentially successful receive support? I already got a taste of what to expect when I informally talked to someone about these things on a party and was told that 'serious games' apparently play an important role when it comes to funding in Berlin. Not only because they demonstrate potential 'transfer-effects' (locally developed engines used for something… well, beyond play) but also because they function as a mental guide for the people giving out the finds: As a cultural/ technology-beyond-play token that helps to set everything in motion, the 'ox that draws the cart' so to speak.


Games: Empathy Enhancers?

Not only can Tetris apparently cure trauma but videogames can also enhance empathy in children. A new book by psychiatrist and gamer Dr. Kourosh Dini, desribed as the "definitive assessment of video games' impact on children, including on their physical and emotional health, and educational and social development" explains that

Games have lots of benefits, which unfortunately, parents aren't always aware of when the only games they're exposed to are the controversial violent ones targeted to more mature players. Age appropriate multi-player video games can allow children to learn how other people think - a key aspect of empathy. Games can also help a child become more comfortable with new and ever progressing technology (…)

To be sure, there are those who play problematically. Learning how to tell the difference can be critical toward promoting healthy development.

Two things must be taken into consideration here: The games should be age appropriate and they should be multi-player titles as these allow interaction with other, real people. Observing their teammates' play style and reactions under gaming circumstances can help children to grasp an idea of what goes on in their friends' minds.

Basically it's like other play situations, which, as we all might remember, constitute deadly serious affairs for kids and are vital to the healthy development of several skills. It seems that in the case of videogames, these situations are now digitally supplied. A virtual version of cops and robbers, if you will.

Via: Gamepolitics


Back In 09`

Hey there BlogCampaigning fans - Jens and I hope you had a good holiday season, and we're going to start posting a little bit more regularly now that we are both back from vacation. We're also working on a new design for the blog, and we expect to have some great guest posts in the next few months.

Thanks for reading in '08 - we'll try and bring the same quality stuff to '09!

-Parker Mason

Don't Like the Fact that 91% of the Population is Against You? Blame the Research!

South Australian Attorney General Michael Atkinson, the person holding back any progess on the introduction of an R18+ for digital games in Australia, labeled a report commisioned by the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia "absolutely bogus polling" and "trash". The report, which found 91 per cent of Australians support the introduction of an R18+ rating, was conducted by Bond University on behalf of the publisher's lobby group. Its author defended the research pointing out that the it was done impartially by international firm Nielsen and the statistical analysis was performed "following the highest standard of research ethics":

Dr Jeffrey Brand, Associate Professor at the Bond University Centre for New Media Research and Education, told Screen Play today that "the research team for Interactive Australia 2009 would be interested in hearing specific criticisms from Mr. Atkinson with respect to particular flaws he sees in our research methodology".


"All research must be funded and idle claims about the impact of funding influence on research outcomes are less useful than thoughtful considerations of how methodology impacts outcomes," says Dr Brand.

Mr. Atkinson made the assumption that "he who pays the piper calls the tune", but Dr Brand says he approached the IEAA with the proposal for the research in 2004 and was "not seeking to be paid for my views". "I have sought to bring quality national polling research to the table to facilitate discussion about the place of computer games in our society with the one funding source that would be willing to support the research.

"We make no profit from this research. The IEAA simply covers the cost of the research - not even my time is paid for, instead funding pays for Nielsen to field the study and for postgraduate students to help with analyses, build graphs and write up the report."

Damn you inconvenient reality! This outright refusal to take the vast majority of the people seriously really shines a light on Atkinson's understanding of democracy.

Blogs You Aren't Reading But Probably Should: SEOMoz.org

I recently wrote a post on this blog introducing you to Jan Chipchase's Future Perfect blog in an attempt to introduce people to some blogs that might be outside their usual reading scope. Continuing with this series is a post about SEOMoz and why you should be reading it. A concept that has been around for a long time in the web industry but only recently seems to be gaining steam amongst communications professionals is that of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). According to Wikipedia, this is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site via natural or "organic" search results. Basically, the more optimized your website is, the better traffic you'll get to it.

For some reason, many of the people that I have spoken to in the past few months seem to think that there is some sort of alchemical magic or technological wizardry that optimizes a site for search engines.

Put aside those thoughts and start reading the SEOMoz blog, written by some of the world's leading SEO experts. Some of their posts are directed at newcomers to the world of SEO and can offer a great introduction. Others are a little more complicated and technical, and the balance of the two types of posts lets you pick up anywhere and start learning or applying what you already know.

If you're more of a visual learner, they also have a series of posts called Whiteboard Fridays where one of their team members will create a short, casual video explaining some SEO concepts.

One of my favorite posts on SEOMoz is about the Three Cornerstones of SEO. Even though it was published back in mid-September, I'm constantly referring to the great diagram they have that makes it easy to explain the basic concepts of Search Engine Optimization.

So head on over to SEOMoz and find out why can proudly say they've got more than 30,000 subscribers to their RSS feed.


PS: Related is a great post from Ed Lee about why your site sucks in search engine rankings. As I commented there:

"I also think that too many people complicate SEO, particularly in our industry. They think that it is some kind of alchemical magic, when it really comes down to the three simple “pillars” that you mention. I’ve always heard that if you design a site that is easy to navigate by humans, the search engine bots/spiders will also be able to crawl it easily and find your content. If you’re creating relevant content and writing naturally using words that people are likely to search for rather than jargon, people will be able to find your site and are more likely to get something out of it, and subsequently link to it."

Getting Started Online Part Two: RSS

(note: this is a belated followup to the post I wrote almost a month ago about Twitter) A few weeks ago, I told my roommate about the magic of RSS feeds. I also told him about how he could go about subscribing to these feeds using an RSS reader like Google Reader.

Last week, I couldn't help but feel pride when I walked into his room and saw him with Google Reader open, scrolling down through a number of posts.

"This is great, man," he told me. "I'm getting all these updates from sites I like, but I don't have to go back to them to check for new stuff."

With that statement, I knew that he understood the value of RSS. Even though his reading list of Ultimate Fighting news sites probably isn't the same as the list of sites that you check on a regular basis, what matters it that he is able to easily get the information he wants. As Seth Godin recently wrote about the topic of subscribing to information via RSS:

"If you subscribe to a blog, any blog, congratulations. Not only have you figured out how to keep up, for free, with huge amounts of information, you've done it in an elegant and efficient way. While it may be fun to try to remember which blogs you read and then go visit them in some sort of order, RSS and other subscription tools are way smarter."

So right now you're probably thinking that this sounds great, but wondering how it works. Well anywhere you see the RSS logo (normally in orange, but like shells in the Mario games, it can come in a variety of hues), or word 'Subscribe' or 'RSS,' you can sign up to start recieving RSS feeds. Nearly every these days allows you to subscribe via RSS, and those that don't are missing out.

At Toronto's recent WordCamp, I heard Joe Thornley compare subscribing to RSS Feeds to subscribing to magazines. Rather than having to drive all the way downtown to the store and look around to see if his new magazine had arrived, Joe noted that he simply took one of the subscription cards, filled it out, and everytime a new issue of that particular magazine came out it would be delivered right to his house. I think this is a great analogy, except that the best part about subscribing to things via RSS is that they are free and magazines aren't.

Get started by first signing up for (or downloading) an RSS reader. There are plenty out there, but I prefer Google Reader. It is easy to sign up for at http://reader.Google.com and you can start using it right away.

While some sites will require you to manually input the address of the feed you want to subscribe to, clicking on the RSS logo on a page will generally take you right to Google Reader and allow you to subscribe to the RSS feed.

If you use Firefox, the little RSS icon will often appear in the address bar to let you know you can subscribe to that particular site just by clicking on the button, and being brought to Google Reader.

So what else can you do with RSS?

If you perform searches on a regular basis, it might be easier to subscribe to them via RSS. That way, you'll be notified everytime a new search result comes up. Technorati allows you to subscribe to an RSS feed of their search results, as do Twitter and Google.

I also use the Hype Machine to look up music fairly often Since I'm super into an artist named Lykke Li, I subscribe to an RSS feed of search results for her name on the Hype Machine so that I can always get the latest remixes.

For those of you using Yammer for internal communication, you can also subscribe to an RSS feed of your company's conversation so that you can stay in the game.

If you have an account with Delicious, you can also allow people to subscribe to either every bookmark you save, or just ones you save with certain tags. For example, you could subscribe to my Delicious account at http://delicious.com/parkernow and get every single book mark I save or, if you're like my roommate, you could choose to just subscribe to the bookmarks I tag 'music.'

And if you monitor certain Wikipedia pages, you can pay attention to them more easily with RSS. By going to any Wikipedia page and selecting the history tab near the top, you'll be able to bring up another menu down the left-hand side. One of those items is "RSS", and subscribing to it will alert you everytime someone makes a chance. Not only will it let you know that the page has been changed, but it will let you know how the new version compares to the old version. If you start making your RSS reader part of your routine, you'll realize how much time your saving and how much extra information that you're absorbing.

Oh, and Dave Fleet has some great tips for using Google Reader to help you with your media monitoring.

I'm sure I'm missing some RSS tips here...any other suggestions?


On Comments

Since the launch of CNW's Social Media Release a few weeks ago, I've often been asked if including comments on the body of a release are a good idea, and if people should opt for them. Comments are a great tool. If people react to your release in a positive manner, this could be reflected in the comments they leave, supportive of your brand or message.

However, there is the chance that someone will react negatively to your announcement. The fear of them leaving a critical or otherwise nasty comment is what is driving the uncertainty about using comments on a release.

Rather than being seen as a threat, I think that the negative comment should be seen as an opportunity. If one person is critical of your announcement. When they leave a negative comment, you have the chance to respond directly after it and in an official capacity. In a release without comments enabled, unhappy visitors might vocalize their feelings elsewhere, in places you can't reach or might not be aware of. Further visitors to the release who might also be harboring the same feelings might read your response and be swayed.



Email to FTP?

You know what would be awesome? What would be awesome is if someone created an email to FTP service. I'm talking about the kind of system where you could simply email files to your server.

To upload files related to BlogCampaigning, I have to use either an FTP program (using Fetch for Mac right now) or Dreamhosts web-based FTP.

It would be way more simple if I could simply email files to my Dreamhost space. The FTP login information could either be specified in the email body, or set up with an account to which the email is linked. I envision being able to specify the path in the body of the email.

Is there anything like this out there? I've taken a look at YouSendIt, but it isn't exactly what i'm looking for. There could also be a huge flaw with this system that I'm just not seeing.


The CNW Social Media Release!

Yeah, after a few months of wicked hard work from a whole bunch of different people, the CNW Group Social Media Release has arrived! If you're not sure what a Social Media Release is, check out this video that CNW commissioned the amazing Mark McKay to do: If you didn't get it from the video, one of the solid points about the CNW SMR is that everything is embeddable. That's how I got the above video into this blog post.

But what's up with the little round face?

He is CNW SMR - the lines coming out of his mouth represent a message, while the ear represents the comments. Essentially, he's a conversationalist, just like the CNW SMR.

It is also one of the first SMRs to truly offer comments on the body of the release. I'm not sure that everyone will go for this sort of thing, but I think that it is a fantastic idea. If one person has a comment (negative or positive) about your organizations announcement, chances are others will as well. With comments, that one person (or more than one person) can voice their opinion directly on the release, and you as a PR pro can also respond directly on the release. The advantage of being able to have an official reply in an offical place is obvious. (Oh yeah, these comments are RSS enabled as well, meaning that if you want to keep up to the conversation via RSS, you can)

In order to give you social media enthusiasts a better idea of how sweet the CNW SMR is, Todd Defren graciously allowed me to adapt a chart he created a few months ago that aimed to "untangle the various SMR offerings" from major wire services.

What else is cool about the CNW SMR? Well, you should check it out here and see for yourself (or check here for more CNW SMRs). You can also follow @CNWGroupSMR on Twitter to be updated when we issue new Social Media Releases on behalf of our clients.

The whole CNW team was awesome to work with on this project. Product Manger Duane Bayley has done a fantastic job (and if you have any questions, hit him up on Twitter) of working with the design team on getting all the elements right. CNW's in-house graphic designer Kelly also did an amazing job of creating all those little face icons that you see on the release (I've also got a lot of respect for Kelly for being so patient with me and all my last minute suggestions).

I'd also like to give props to Mark McKay for making the kick-ass video above - he was truly a pleasure to work with. And thanks again to Todd Defren (and the SHIFT Communications crew) for letting us adapt their chart and Brian Solis for being a decent enough guy to provide us with both a quote and a photo for our SMR.

So what do you think? Is the CNW SMR the kind of thing you think you would use? Why or why not? Any thoughts on the topic that you can muster up would be greatly appreciated!

Feel free to comment on the release, email me directly (parker dot mason at newswire dot ca) or find me on Twitter.


Disclosure: if it wasn't already obvious, I work for CNW Group. However, this is a personal blog and the views expressed on it may not reflect those of CNW Group. Basically, I'm going to say what I want here, event if what I want to say has a lot to do with my work. Hey, it is my life and my blog. And Jens' blog. And to a lesser extent these days, Espen's blog. But you get the idea. Does anyone even read disclosure statements these days?

"Thanks to this project, my web browser history now looks very questionable indeed": Daniel Floyd explores "Everything you wanted to know about gaming and sex (but were afraid to ask)"

In his Yahtzee inspired video Savannah College of Art and Design student Daniel Floyd explores the shaky relationship between our favorite art form and our favorite past time – which, let's face it, is exploitive, superficial and shallow at best. From tastelessness (Custer's Revenge) over prudishness (Nintendo's NES' content policies) to hypersexualized characters (everything from the 90s to now): Games have not yet come to terms with sex. This sad fact causes Floyd to raise the warranted question: How can you take seriously an art that denies sexuality? And whose fault is this sad state of affairs?

According to him there are several aspects of this: First of all games (still!) suffer from public misperception as being children's toys. Never mind the fact that they never were designed solely with the little buggers in mind – which doesn't stop sensationalist media from reporting on alleged pornographic content even when it's just some harmless making out. After all videogames give traditional media some stiff competition; every hour you play a game is an hour not spend in front of the TV. Sensationalist claims surely come in handy here.

Then there's the problem of legislation. Games with sexual content basically have a subscription for an AO rating (at least in the comparatively prudish US), which virtually amounts to a ban (due to the console manufacturer's as well as retail policies). A further problem: Games which openly flaunt sexual content saw surprisingly (?) poor sales. Just think of titles like BMXXX or Playboy Mansion.

Then there's the developers who, so far, hardly produced any mature material. But these are the people who could reverse the trend – by learning when and how to use sex. Floyd suggests they should draw on films as inspiration. If don't know if game should really orientate themselves towards an older medium to achieve something unique but he makes a good point: Sex scenes can enhance the quality of a movie, they help build a story and reveal characteristics of the protagonists. All the while it's the cause of the game that should dictate what is appropriate (instead of some random cutscenes which hypersexualized models which hardly disclose anything about story or character).

A way to appropriate sex is to explore intimacy in relationships as these provide the context for meaningful interaction between characters. Intimacy is certainly a given in videogames – often on a subtle level, but this subtlety can enhance intimacy even more by revealing less, not more (although this goes for other arts as well).

Floyd concludes with the statement that games should be free to include sex where it belongs without having to fear backlash; a point I raised myself several times as well, also under the viewpoint of games being a burgeoning art which must be afraid to explore this crucial element of human existence (in a hostile media environment and an unfavorable political economy) . After all, as Floyd rightfully points out, sex is one of the defining characteristics of adult entertainment and sets it apart from children's pastime.

A few question remain though. If games are to orientate themselves towards movies in terms of appropriating sex – does this solely apply for cutscenes? Games are an interactive medium after all; therefore they have to deal differently with narrative elements and convey a story differently. Also: How do you design an interface that doesn't make you feel awkward while performing sexual acts in a game? The thought of tenderly treating a thumbstick like a body part to be stimulated certainly has something slightly weird about it… And then there's still the Wiimote...


4 Reasons Why...

...I should be a guest blogger on 4 Reasons Why, a blog that regularly posts of list giving four (or sometimes five!) reasons why something is or should be. 1.) It is a chance to broaden my horizons and improve my writing, as cliched as that sounds. My posts here are fairly eclectic and nothing is stopping me from writing about different topics but I tend to focus on the usual suspects of social media, technology, PR and video games. Writing a guest post for someone else will force me to take a different stance and look more closely at my own writing.

2.) As I've mentioned before in posts like this, Four Reasons Why is one of my favorite blogs these days. Getting the chance to write for them would be like the plot of a Mark Wahlberg movie like Invincible or Rock Star: longtime fan gets the once-in-a-lifetime chance to become famous and live his dreams.

3.) I totally understand where the 4 Reasons Why guys are coming from. After working on BlogCampaigning for almost two years, I can sympathize with the They're looking for help, and I can sympathize with the need to do things like drink beer and play sports instead of trying to come up with content for my blog all the time. And who knows, maybe if I write a guest post from them they'll join the ranks of Paull Young (who wrote a post about Astroturfing for us a while ago) and Rick Weiss (who had a guest post here about video games and PR).

4.) They're looking for guest bloggers.

If you think I should be a guest blogger on 4 Reasons Why, let them know or come up with your own list.


Online Done Right: someecards.com

I can't even remember where I first heard about someecards.com, but I've loved them ever since. Targeting an audience of the Facebook-savvy and millenially-jaded, their slogan of "when you care enough to hit send" is what first drew me in. There are a lot of e-card companies out there, and I'm pretty sure that Someecards is the only one whose copy is memorable. If you haven't had a chance to look at the site and their cards, do so now. I guarantee you'll end up sending one to a coworker, loved one, friend or one-night stand. Those are just the kind of cards they make, and the formula is simple: vintage, semi-contextual graphics on a plain background with one line of hilarious writing. Some of my favourites include one that really calls people out for typing "LOL" in emails and conversations and this one about breaking up. And yes, they've even got a card about Twitter.

So what are they doing right online? Well, as I've mentioned and as you can see, they've got great content.

They have also made it super easy to send cards to your friends from their site without messing about with a registration process (although it would be nice if you could login and the site would remember which cards you sent to who).

While at first they started with just email updates about when they would add new cards, they have recently started a Twitter feed to share new cards and other information about the company. With full understanding of their target audience, the company has also developed a Facebook application for sharing these cards.

Both of these moves are huge, as I think there are very few people that would sign up to receive email updates from a company anymore. Not everyone is on Twitter yet (nor do I think Twitter will replace email), but thinking in alternative distribution directions like that is what will determine whether or not organizations succeed in the online space.

I only really have two problems with the strategy of someecards: First of all, they need RSS support. It would be great if I could be alerted to their news and new cards that way. Secondly, I don't really know how to capitalize or space their company name. Should it be Someecards, or Some E-cards? or someecards? (mesh, among other hot Web.20 entities, has the same problem).

Stay tuned to BlogCampaigning because in the next few days I'll be doing a follow up post, Online Done Wrong.


PS: I promise (threaten?) to send a card from someecards.com to everyone that leaves a comment with a valid email on this post.

Congratulations to Amanda!

A little while ago, I posted here about how my old position as Communications Coordinator was open at CNW Group. As a result of that post, a number of BlogCampaigning readers applied for the position and I'm delighted to say that one of them got the job!

So say hello to Amanda Laird, Communications Coordinator. You can catch her on Twitter and Del.icio.us.

Amanda, if you're reading this and want to do a post about life at CNW, let me know!

To everyone else who applied - I heard that all of the top candidates for the position came as a referral from this blog. Knowing that my readers are such top quality makes me feel great, so thanks everyone.


Wikipedian Coincidences

Over the weekend, Jens wrote a post about how certain topics (like fictional characters) in Wikipedia have unreasonably high word counts when compared to what should be more culturally important issues. For some bizarre reason, Seth Godin wrote about the same topic in the past few days.

Today's edition of XKCD was also quite similar.

I'm thinking about writing a Wikipedia article about this coincidence.


Knowledge of the Masses? The Weird Priorities of Wikipedia or why Knuckles is Seemingly more Important than God.

"Web 2.0 is a term describing the trend in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design that aims to enhance creativity, information sharing, and, most notably, collaboration among users" – one problem being that some people have more time to collaborate than others. 
 Unfortunately this lends itself pretty well towards a somewhat distorted view of the world in which wicked priorities reign supreme.

Gamesradar compiled a frightening list of 15 examples of nerddom gone wrong:

Call of Duty (13069 words) VS World War Two (11844 words)

See what we mean? When the deadliest, costliest war in the history of mankind has been trumped by a videogame franchise about that war, you know something's off. One involved over 50 countries and took over 70 million lives; the other involves button mashing and tea bagging.

On an encouraging note, we did have to add all the Call of Duty games' individual pages together to reach the crazy number above. On a discouraging note, we didn't have to add Call of Duty 4 and its non-WWII setting, which would have brought the total word count to an even crazier 18,927.

Oh, and on a simply ridiculous note? Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare beats "modern warfare"... 5,858 to 2,873.

Also less important than Call of Duty!  • American Revolutionary War = 8,078
 • American Civil War = 11,729
 • English Civil War = 8,030
 • Napoleonic Wars = 7,951
 • Hundred Years' War = 7,992
 • War on Terrorism = 10,674
 • War on Drugs = 7,628
 • Cold War = 10,117
 • "War" = 9,233

It get's worse though:

Knuckles (7832 words) VS God (3,726 words)

At last, we reach the ultimate showdown. In this corner, we have God, who Wikipedia describes as:

"... the principal or sole deity in religion..."
"...the creator and overseer of the universe..."
"... omnipotent and eternal..."
"... the source of all moral obligation, and the greatest conceivable being existent..."

His opponent? Knuckles of Sonic the Hedgehog fame, who Wikipedia describes as: "... a red, teenage, anthropomorphic echidna..."
"... the fourth most popular character in the series..."
"... shy around girls..."

This is exactly why I don't have the slightest problem with quoting Wikipedia in my Ph.D. when it comes to obscure videogame references.


"Why haven't you been blogging as much lately?"

It's a question I've heard often in the past few weeks, and the reason is time. While a number of people have commented that if the CEOs of major companies have time to blog I should as well.

I think the difference is that most blogging CEOs (and many PR bloggers) have the chance to blog as part of their regular work day (no matter how long that work day might be). My work here at BlogCampaigning is certainly related to the work I do at CNW Group but it isn't part of my job description and only takes place outside of work hours.

I'm also a firm believer in what Jeremiah Owyang refers to as "paying yourself first," although I think I have a slightly different spin on it. His priorities are to his blog and getting his message of web strategy out to the masses.

My priority is to enjoy life.

In the summer, that means being outside. It means playing sports (through the TCSSC) and reading books in Trinity Bellwoods park. When I've relaxed and "paid myself first" in this respect, I know that I can focus on the work that I need to do.

I'm also getting tired of blogging about blogging and communications blogging the newest technology. Instead of talking about, I'm trying to put these tools into practice in a couple of side projects (and I'd like to thank Mark Evans - his Four Reasons Why was a bit of inspiration for this post).

To paraphrase an old saying: Those who can create, do. Those who can't blog about how others are creating.


And Now Something Completely Different: Hanover Smells Like Old Ladies and is Just as Exciting. My Odyssey to the Hurricane Festival

What were we doing there in the first place? Our Australian friends from Operator Please were supposed to arrive in Hanover sometime in the morning so we figured we might as well meet them and go to the festival together. After spending the night in a hostel located in a rather dubious area – stores with names like "Super Iran" and stickers on cars praising the one and only true religion didn't inspire confidence that a constitution based on the principles of democracy and liberty was held in high esteem here – one of the first things we did was to try and call the band. No answer. Fair enough, it is a long trip after all, although they would have had a couple of hours of sleep at this stage.

This call was followed by several others. Wasting time was getting more and more difficult. What was there to do? Wandering around aimlessly certainly wasn't inspiring, neither was getting a second breakfast nor strolling down the main shopping street. We were bored out of our brains.

The only relief: The internet. Not only did it offer an escape from the mind numbing mediocrity of the place but it also, via of Operator Please's newsletter, revealed that Qantas employees were on strike and therefore it wasn't sure if the band was going to make it on time for their own show. The good news though: We could finally escape the fourth terrace of the purgatory.

The next stop was Bremen: If Operator Please made it to the festival it would only be an 45 minute drive from there, it they didn't we could spend some time with friends in the city whose university I attended for almost five years.

They made it though, as we found out the next day. And they even organized backstage passes for Jenna and me, the golden ticket.

It was surreal to see them play, in a very good way. About 2 ½ years ago I was telling Ashley, the bass player, about Hurricane festival after they played a gig in a tiny club on the Gold Coast. And now I had the chance to witness them perform there – in my Vaterland, in front of an enthusiastic audience.

If you get the chance: Do yourself a favor and go to see one of their shows or buy their album: they're confident but not cocky, they're sweet but won't rot your teeth, they're cool but could be your friends.

The whole experience was almost as surreal as being backstage. When I saw Dave Grohl I couldn't resist to ask him for a photo. When I was 12 I watched hours of MTV just to tape a single goddamn Nirvana video. Giving me the opportunity to meet one of THE heroes of my youth, someone I absolutely adored growing up in that boring place in the middle of nowhere, someone who at that time was in the biggest band on earth is something I will forever be grateful for (despite me looking like a cartoon of myself on that said photo). That and for the opportunity to wash my hands backstage.

Further highlights include: Seeing the Wombats from the photographers pit; watching the Foo Fighters from the sound tower and overlooking a crowd of tens of thousands people; Jaguar Love, Tocotronic and of course Sigur Ros: the chill out after the apocalypse.

Dust, rain and the fact that we had to sleep in my car because I couldn't organize a tent didn't matter anymore on this dreamlike weekend.

-Jens [Update: Now with 100% more pictures. The one with me and Dave Grohl won't hit the interwebs before I haven't photoshopped it though]